Thursday, June 27, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 10

    2 Samuel 10 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Some time later, King Nahash of Ammon died, and his son Hanun became king.
  2. David said, "Nahash was kind to me, and I will be kind to his son." So he sent some officials to the country of Ammon to tell Hanun how sorry he was that his father had died.
  3. But Hanun's officials told him, "Do you really believe David is honoring your father by sending these people to comfort you? He probably sent them to spy on our city, so he can destroy it."
  4. Hanun arrested David's officials and had their beards shaved off on one side of their faces. He had their robes cut off just below the waist, and then he sent them away.
  5. They were terribly ashamed. When David found out what had happened to his officials, he sent a message and told them, "Stay in Jericho until your beards grow back. Then you can come home."
  6. The Ammonites realized that they had made David very angry, so they hired more foreign soldiers. Twenty thousand of them were foot soldiers from the Aramean cities of Beth-Rehob and Zobah, one thousand were from the king of Maacah, and twelve thousand were from the region of Tob.
  7. David heard what they had done, and he sent out Joab with all of his well-trained soldiers.
  8. The Ammonite troops came out and got ready to fight in front of the gate to their city. The Arameans from Zobah and Rehob and the soldiers from Tob and Maacah formed a separate group in the nearby fields.
  9. Joab saw that he had to fight in front and behind at the same time, and he picked some of the best Israelite soldiers to fight the Arameans.
  10. He put his brother Abishai in command of the rest of the army and had them fight the Ammonites.
  11. Joab told his brother, "If the Arameans are too much for me to handle, you can come and help me. If the Ammonites are too strong for you, I'll come and help you.
  12. Be brave and fight hard to protect our people and the cities of our God. I pray that the LORD will do whatever pleases him."
  13. Joab and his soldiers attacked the Arameans, and the Arameans ran from them.
  14. When the Ammonite soldiers saw that the Arameans had run away, they ran from Abishai's soldiers and went back into their own city. Joab stopped fighting the Ammonites and returned to Jerusalem.
  15. The Arameans realized they had lost the battle, so they brought all their troops together again.
  16. Hadadezer sent messengers to call in the Arameans who were on the other side of the Euphrates River. Then Shobach, the commander of Hadadezer's army, led them to the town of Helam.
  17. David found out what the Arameans were doing, and he brought Israel's whole army together. They crossed the Jordan River and went to Helam, where the Arameans were ready to meet them.
  18. The Arameans attacked, but then they ran from Israel. David killed seven hundred chariot drivers and forty thousand cavalry. He also killed Shobach, their commander.
  19. When the kings who had been under Hadadezer's rule saw that Israel had beaten them, they made peace with Israel and accepted David as their ruler. The Arameans were afraid to help Ammon any more.

    God had promised to give David rest from his enemies but the fulfillment of this promise did not result in total lack of military engagements. Rather it came by giving David victory in every engagement and instilling fear of Israel in the hearts of their potential enemies. Chapter 10 gives another example of this involving the Ammonites and Arameans, or Syrians.

    King Hanun's father had died and David sent his emissaries to extend his condolences. It was simply a friendly gesture, but Hanun's advisors told him they were probably scouts sent to spy on the city and overthrow it. Rather than merely turning away the emissaries, they mistreated them by shaving off half their beards and cutting "their clothes in half at the hips." (10:4) Not a very wise move! The emissaries were so humiliated David had them stay in Jericho until their beards grew back.

    Somehow King Hanun realized he had made himself "repulsive to David" and prepared to do battle with the Israelites by hiring foot soldiers from the Syrians (Arameans of Beth-rehob and Zobah, king of Maacah, and men from Tob). David sent  Joab and all the fighting men only after he heard of this military build up. This leaves us to wonder if he would have attack the Ammonites at alll had they not taken this action. This was another point at which King Hanun might have acted more wisely. Once he realized his first action had made him repulsive to David he might have sent his own emissaries to apologize and seek peace. Instead his actions signaled a declaration of war, particularly when combined with his treatment of David's emisssaries.

    When Joab arrived on the scene with his fighting men he found himself facing an army both in front of him and behind, with the Ammonites in front and the Syrians behind. So he divided his men to engage both armies assigning his brother, Abishai, to command the men fighting the Ammonites while he commanded those fighting the Syrians. He and his brother agreed to help the other out should they become overpowered by enemy forces. This turned out to be unnecessary since the Syrians were turned back by Joab's forces causing the Ammonites to retreat into their city when they saw this happen. Joab was satisfied not to pursue the two armies any further and took his men home.

    The Syrians were not satisfied to end the matter with a defeat so they regrouped, calling in more of their troops from other areas. When David heard of this he called together "all Israel" and led them himself to go against the Syrians. The Lord gave him a sound victory and the Syrians decided to make peace and become subjects of Israel. Thus, David's rest from his enemies was further advanced. We might note that at no time in Israel's history did the nation seek to expand her territories. God had given her Canaan and that was enough. She was not an aggressive nation but only sought peace with her neighbors which often came at a military price.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 9

    2 Samuel 09 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. One day, David thought, "I wonder if any of Saul's family are still alive. If they are, I will be kind to them, because I made a promise to Jonathan."
  2. David called in Ziba, one of the servants of Saul's family. David said, "So you are Ziba." "Yes, Your Majesty, I am."
  3. David asked, "Are any of Saul's family still alive? If there are, I want to be kind to them." Ziba answered, "One of Jonathan's sons is still alive, but he can't walk."
  4. "Where is he?" David asked. Ziba replied, "He lives in Lo-Debar with Machir the son of Ammiel."
  5. David sent some servants to bring Jonathan's son from Lo-Debar. His name was Mephibosheth, and he was the grandson of Saul. He came to David and knelt down. David asked, "Are you Mephibosheth?" "Yes, I am, Your Majesty."
  6. (SEE 9:5)
  7. David said, "Don't be afraid. I'll be kind to you because Jonathan was your father. I'm going to give you back the land that belonged to your grandfather Saul. Besides that, you will always eat with me at my table."
  8. Mephibosheth knelt down again and said, "Why should you care about me? I'm worth no more than a dead dog."
  9. David called in Ziba, Saul's chief servant, and told him, "Since Mephibosheth is Saul's grandson, I've given him back everything that belonged to your master Saul and his family.
  10. You and your fifteen sons and twenty servants will work for Mephibosheth. You will farm his land and bring in his crops, so that Saul's family and servants will have food. But Mephibosheth will always eat with me at my table."
  11. Ziba replied, "Your Majesty, I will do exactly what you tell me to do." So Ziba's family and servants worked for Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth was lame, but he lived in Jerusalem and ate at David's table, just like one of David's own sons. And he had a young son of his own, named Mica.
  12. (SEE 9:11)
  13. (SEE 9:11)

    God was giving David rest from his enemies allowing him to think of things other than the security of the nation. His mind went to his covnenat with his friend, Jonathan, Saul's son. Jonathan, realizing God's hand was on David to be king and that his father would at some point be deposed from office and uncertain of what that meant for himself, made a covenant with David, saying, "don't ever withdraw your faithful love from my household--not even when the LORD cuts off every one of David's enemies from the face of the earth." (1 Samuel 20:15)

    In light of this covenant David inquired whether anyone remained of Saul's family he could "show kindness to because of Jonathan?" (9:1) He was told of Jonathan's son, Mephibosheth who was lame in both feet. David sent for him and restored to him land that had belonged to Saul and invited him to eat at the king's table. In addition, he assigned Ziba, who had been a servant of Saul's family, along with his sons, to farm the land given to Mephibosheth.

    David's actions continued to demonstrate his godly heart, using his position as king for the benefit of those he ruled rather than for his own benefit.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 8

    2 Samuel 08 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Later, David attacked and badly defeated the Philistines. Israel was now free from their control.
  2. David also defeated the Moabites. Then he made their soldiers lie down on the ground, and he measured them off with a rope. He would measure off two lengths of the rope and have those men killed, then he would measure off one length and let those men live. The people of Moab had to accept David as their ruler and pay taxes to him.
  3. David set out for the Euphrates River to build a monument there. On his way, he defeated the king of Zobah, whose name was Hadadezer the son of Rehob.
  4. In the battle, David captured seventeen hundred cavalry and twenty thousand foot soldiers. He also captured war chariots, but he destroyed all but one hundred of them.
  5. When troops from the Aramean kingdom of Damascus came to help Hadadezer, David killed twenty thousand of them.
  6. He left some of his soldiers in Damascus, and the Arameans had to accept David as their ruler and pay taxes to him. Everywhere David went, the LORD helped him win battles.
  7. Hadadezer's officers had carried their arrows in gold cases hung over their shoulders, but David took these cases and brought them to Jerusalem.
  8. He also took a lot of bronze from the cities of Betah and Berothai, which had belonged to Hadadezer.
  9. King Toi of Hamath and King Hadadezer had been enemies. So when Toi heard that David had attacked and defeated Hadadezer's whole army, he sent his son Joram to praise and congratulate David. Joram also brought him gifts made of silver, gold, and bronze.
  10. (SEE 8:9)
  11. David gave these to the LORD, just as he had done with the silver and gold that he had captured from
  12. Edom, Moab, Ammon, Philistia, and from King Hadadezer of Zobah.
  13. David fought the Edomite army in Salt Valley and killed eighteen thousand of their soldiers. When he returned, he built a monument.
  14. David left soldiers all through Edom, and the people of Edom had to accept him as their ruler. Wherever David went, the LORD helped him.
  15. David ruled all Israel with fairness and justice.
  16. Joab the son of Zeruiah was the commander in chief of the army. Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud kept the government records.
  17. Zadok the son of Ahitub, and Abiathar the son of Ahimelech, were the priests. Seraiah was the secretary.
  18. Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was the commander of David's bodyguard. David's sons were priests.

    God promised to destroy all David's enemies and make a name for him as the greatest in the land and give him rest from his enemies. (7:9-11)  In this passage we see God bringing this to pass. David had huge victories over the Philistines, who had been a perennial enemy of Israel, and also over the Moabites and Syrians. He made vassals of these people forcing them to pay tribute to him and enriching Israel's coffers. Hearing of the defeat of Hadadezer's army, the king of Hamath sent tribute to David with congratulations on his victory over Hamath's enemy. Some believe King Toi also capitulated to become Israel's vassal.

    Verse 14 makes clear the source of David's success: "The LORD made David victorious wherever he went." Verse 15 tells us that David's rule administered "justice and righteousness for all his people." He was a benevolent ruler. Further reading of 2 Samuel and other accounts of David's rule will reveal that David made huge mistakes, but his heart was with God and Israel never strayed to other gods during his reign.

    We are all sinful people who will never rise fully above our sin. But as long as we remain close to God we have benefit of His forgiveness and correction along with His Spirit in us to help us overcome temptation. But if we stray from God we become slaves to our sin and our downfall is inevitable. Furthermore, by straying we turn our backs on the one who made us and loves us and has blessed. This is why God was so adamant about Israel's idolatry. He could deal with her other sins and help her turn from them but idolatry separated them from God and His help.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 7

    2 Samuel 07 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. King David moved into his new palace, and the LORD let his kingdom be at peace.
  2. Then one day, as David was talking with Nathan the prophet, David said, "Look around! I live in a palace made of cedar, but the sacred chest has to stay in a tent."
  3. Nathan replied, "The LORD is with you, so do what you want!"
  4. That night, the LORD told Nathan
  5. to go to David and give him this message: David, you are my servant, so listen to what I say. Why should you build a temple for me?
  6. I didn't live in a temple when I brought my people out of Egypt, and I don't live in one now. A tent has always been my home wherever I have gone with them.
  7. I chose leaders and told them to be like shepherds for my people Israel. But did I ever say anything to even one of them about building a cedar temple for me?
  8. David, this is what I, the LORD All-Powerful, say to you. I brought you in from the fields where you took care of sheep, and I made you the leader of my people.
  9. Wherever you went, I helped you and destroyed your enemies right in front of your eyes. I have made you one of the most famous people in the world.
  10. I have given my people Israel a land of their own where they can live in peace, and they won't have to tremble with fear any more. Evil nations won't bother them, as they did
  11. when I let judges rule my people. And I have kept your enemies from attacking you. Now I promise that you and your descendants will be kings.
  12. I'll choose one of your sons to be king when you reach the end of your life and are buried in the tomb of your ancestors. I'll make him a strong ruler,
  13. and no one will be able to take his kingdom away from him. He will be the one to build a temple for me.
  14. I will be his father, and he will be my son. When he does wrong, I'll see that he is corrected, just as children are corrected by their parents.
  15. But I will never put an end to my agreement with him, as I put an end to my agreement with Saul, who was king before you.
  16. I will make sure that one of your descendants will always be king.
  17. Nathan told David exactly what he had heard in the vision.
  18. David went into the tent he had set up for the sacred chest. Then he sat there and prayed: LORD All-Powerful, my family and I don't deserve what you have already done for us,
  19. and yet you have promised to do even more. Is this the way you usually treat people?
  20. I am your servant, and you know my thoughts, so there is nothing more that I need to say.
  21. You have done this wonderful thing, and you have let me know about it, because you wanted to keep your promise.
  22. LORD All-Powerful, you are greater than all others. No one is like you, and you alone are God. Everything we have heard about you is true.
  23. And there is no other nation on earth like Israel, the nation you rescued from slavery in Egypt to be your own. You became famous by using great and wonderful miracles to force other nations and their gods out of your land, so your people could live here.
  24. You have chosen Israel to be your people forever, and you have become their God.
  25. And now, LORD God, please do what you have promised me and my descendants.
  26. Then you will be famous forever, and everyone will say, "The LORD God All-Powerful rules Israel, and David's descendants are his chosen kings."
  27. After all, you really are Israel's God, the LORD All-Powerful. You've told me that you will let my descendants be kings. That's why I have the courage to pray to you like this, even though I am only your servant.
  28. LORD All-Powerful, you are God. You have promised me some very good things, and you can be trusted to do what you promise.
  29. Please bless my descendants and let them always be your chosen kings. You have already promised, and I'm sure that you will bless my family forever.

    This passage from 2 Samuel 7 denotes a new day in the history of Israel. A day of which God had spoken in past promises to Israel's patriarchs. It required a leader who was fully devoted to God and faithful to seek and obey His commands. David fit this requirement as no other leader had since Joshua, but under Joshua's leadership Israel was not yet ready for the glory God intended for her through David's leadership.

    We see a glimpse of David's character in the first two verses. Now that David was in his new palace, he was not comfortable with the fact that the ark of God was still residing in a tent. He shared his discomfort with the prophet Nathan who spoke prematurely in telling him to "Go and do all that is on your heart, for the LORD is with you." (7:3) After all, it seemed like a no-brainer. Why would God not be pleased to have David build Him a house for the ark? This was evidently not an idea that seemed necessary to take before the Lord. But as well-meaning an idea as it was, it was not God's desire for David to build a house for the ark. Yes, a house for the ark would be built, but it would be built by David's son. That night, after David shared his idea with Nathan, God revealed His plan to the prophet in a vision. A plan that did not include David in the building of the house of God.

    Nevertheless, God had wonderful plans for David. He reminded David of his lowly roots as a shepherd boy and then how He had destroyed all his enemies before him. God told him he would "make a name for you like that of the greatest in the land." (7:9) God would also give David rest from his enemies and would establish his house and kingdom forever. Since Israel has not had a ruler on the throne since prior to her Babylonian captivity, one may wonder if God changed His mind about this promise. But prophecy reveals that God has not changed His mind but rather will fulfill this promise when Christ returns to earth and takes His place of rule on the throne of David as a descendant of David.

    God's vision to Nathan also revealed that when David's son ruled after him, God would be like a father to him, and when he did wrong God would discipline him but His "faithful love will never leave him as I removed it from Saul; I removed him from your way." (7:15) Why would God remove His love from Saul when he did wrong and not from Solomon, David's son? We can only guess at this answer, but I suspect it has to do with the fact that Saul was not God's intended king for Israel in the first place. He gave in to the desires of the people to have a king prematurely and gave them Saul to be king. But when he messed up, I suspect God thought it best to remove him and move on to His original plan.

    David was humbled at the message from God Nathan revealed to him and went into the tent of the Lord to be in the Lord's presence and speak with Him. He spoke to God of his amazement that God would bring him this far to be king of Israel. He praised God for His greatness and for establishing Israel as His people as He had done with no other people. Through them God would reveal His greatness and make a name for Himself. David concluded his prayer by requesting that God fulfill His promise to David "so that Your name will be exalted forever." (7:26)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 6

    2 Samuel 06 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. David brought together thirty thousand of Israel's best soldiers and
  2. led them to Baalah in Judah, which was also called Kiriath-Jearim. They were going there to get the sacred chest and bring it back to Jerusalem. The throne of the LORD All-Powerful is above the winged creatures on top of this chest, and he is worshiped there.
  3. They put the sacred chest on a new ox cart and started bringing it down the hill from Abinadab's house. Abinadab's sons Uzzah and Ahio were guiding the ox cart,
  4. with Ahio walking in front of it.
  5. Some of the people of Israel were playing music on small harps and other stringed instruments, and on tambourines, castanets, and cymbals. David and the others were happy, and they danced for the LORD with all their might.
  6. But when they came to Nacon's threshing-floor, the oxen stumbled, so Uzzah reached out and took hold of the sacred chest.
  7. The LORD God was very angry at Uzzah for doing this, and he killed Uzzah right there beside the chest.
  8. David got angry at God for killing Uzzah. He named that place "Bursting Out Against Uzzah," and that's what it's still called.
  9. David was afraid of the LORD and thought, "Should I really take the sacred chest to my city?"
  10. He decided not to take it there. Instead, he turned off the road and took it to the home of Obed Edom, who was from Gath.
  11. The chest stayed there for three months, and the LORD greatly blessed Obed Edom, his family, and everything he owned. Then someone told King David, "The LORD has done this because the sacred chest is in Obed Edom's house." Right away, David went to Obed Edom's house to get the chest and bring it to David's City. Everyone was celebrating.
  12. (SEE 6:11)
  13. The people carrying the chest walked six steps, then David sacrificed an ox and a choice cow.
  14. He was dancing for the LORD with all his might, but he wore only a linen cloth.
  15. He and everyone else were celebrating by shouting and blowing horns while the chest was being carried along.
  16. Saul's daughter Michal looked out her window and watched the chest being brought into David's City. But when she saw David jumping and dancing for the LORD, she was disgusted.
  17. They put the chest inside a tent that David had set up for it. David worshiped the LORD by sacrificing animals and burning them on an altar,
  18. then he blessed the people in the name of the LORD All-Powerful.
  19. He gave all the men and women in the crowd a small loaf of bread, some meat, and a handful of raisins, and everyone went home.
  20. David went home so he could ask the LORD to bless his family. But Saul's daughter Michal went out and started yelling at him. "You were really great today!" she said. "You acted like a dirty old man, dancing around half-naked in front of your servants' slave-girls."
  21. David told her, "The LORD didn't choose your father or anyone else in your family to be the leader of his people. The LORD chose me, and I was celebrating in honor of him.
  22. I'll show you just how great I can be! I'll even be disgusting to myself. But those slave-girls you talked about will still honor me!"
  23. Michal never had any children.

    Sometime after David had established Jerusalem as the royal city, he determined to bring the ark of God to Jerusalem from Baale-judah and also establish Jerusalem as the center for worship. In his zeal to do this, David failed to inquire of God or investigate the proper method for transporting the ark. This cost the life of Uzzah, one of the men helping transport the ark. David chose to use a new cart pulled by oxen to transport the ark which was the method used by the Philistines who moved it from their territory to Baale-judah. This was not, however, the prescribed method, for it was to be carried on the shoulders of the Levites using poles made for that purpose. We have to wonder why the Levites did not instruct David on this point.

    Transported by the cart, the oxen stumbled when crossing an outcropping of rocks at Nacon's threshing floor and Uzzah instinctively reached out to steady the ark and "the LORD's anger burned against Uzzah, and God struck him dead on the spot for his irreverence." (6:7) David was angry with the Lord for this outburst and was unwilling to move the ark any further. So he left it at the house of Obed-edom. Three months later David heard that the Lord was blessing Obed-edom and his family and considered this a sign that the ark could be moved on to Jerusalem. In 1 Chronicles 15:13, it is recorded that David confessed to the Levites that on their first attempt to move the ark, "we didn't inquire of Him about the proper procedures."

    This time the ark was carried by the Levites and brought to Jerusalem. David was exuberant in his joy over bringing the ark to Jerusalem and danced before the Lord wearing a linen ephod as the ark was brought into the city. This was observed by his wife Michal, Saul's daughter, and she "despised him in her heart." Later, when he returned home, she admonished him for it saying, "How the king of Israel honored himself today! He exposed himself today in the sight of the slave girls of his subjects like a vulgar person would expose himself." (6:20) David defended himself saying that he was "dancing before the Lord" and he would not be deterred from doing so. Though she would not honor him for his worship to the Lord, the slave girls of, whom she spoke, would do so. Verse 23 states that Michal had no children "to the day of her death," suggesting that this was God's punishment for her attitude toward David. A critical spirit toward the manner in which one choses to worship God is indicative of one's own lack of true worship.

    God's outburst against Uzzah for touching the ark seems a bit harsh to us and also to David. Especially so since the Philistines moved the ark in this manner without incident. But we are reminded that judgment begins "with God's household." (1 Peter 4:17) However, Peter goes on to say, "if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who disobey the gospel of God?" Those who should know better are judged first. Those who are not a part of God's household and not aware of His instructions, judgment comes later but also more harshly for their avoidance of God altogether.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 5

    2 Samuel 05 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Israel's leaders met with David at Hebron and said, "We are your relatives.
  2. Even when Saul was king, you led our nation in battle. And the LORD promised that someday you would rule Israel and take care of us like a shepherd."
  3. During the meeting, David made an agreement with the leaders and asked the LORD to be their witness. Then the leaders poured olive oil on David's head to show that he was now the king of Israel.
  4. David was thirty years old when he became king, and he ruled for forty years.
  5. He lived in Hebron for the first seven and a half years and ruled only Judah. Then he moved to Jerusalem, where he ruled both Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.
  6. The Jebusites lived in Jerusalem, and David led his army there to attack them. The Jebusites did not think he could get in, so they told him, "You can't get in here! We could run you off, even if we couldn't see or walk!"
  7. David told his troops, "You will have to go up through the water tunnel to get those Jebusites. I hate people like them who can't walk or see." That's why there is still a rule that says, "Only people who can walk and see are allowed in the temple." David captured the fortress on Mount Zion, then he moved there and named it David's City. He had the city rebuilt, starting with the landfill to the east.
  8. (SEE 5:7)
  9. (SEE 5:7)
  10. David became a great and strong ruler, because the LORD All-Powerful was on his side.
  11. King Hiram of Tyre sent some officials to David. Carpenters and stone workers came with them, and they brought cedar logs so they could build David a palace.
  12. David knew that the LORD had made him king of Israel and that he had made him a powerful ruler for the good of his people.
  13. After David left Hebron and moved to Jerusalem, he married many women from Jerusalem, and he had a lot of children.
  14. His sons who were born there were Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon,
  15. Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia,
  16. Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet.
  17. The Philistines heard that David was now king of Israel, and they came into the hill country to try and capture him. But David found out and went into his fortress.
  18. So the Philistines camped in Rephaim Valley.
  19. David asked the LORD, "Should I attack the Philistines? Will you let me win?" The LORD told David, "Attack! I will let you win."
  20. David attacked the Philistines and defeated them. Then he said, "I watched the LORD break through my enemies like a mighty flood." So he named the place "The Lord Broke Through. "
  21. David and his troops also carried away the idols that the Philistines had left behind.
  22. Some time later, the Philistines came back into the hill country and camped in Rephaim Valley.
  23. David asked the LORD what he should do, and the LORD answered: Don't attack them from the front. Circle around behind and attack from among the balsam trees.
  24. Wait until you hear a sound like troops marching through the tops of the trees. Then attack quickly! That sound will mean I have marched out ahead of you to fight the Philistine army.
  25. David obeyed the LORD and defeated the Philistines. He even chased them all the way from Geba to the entrance to Gezer.

    Ish-bosheth's death cleared the way for David to rule over all Israel, including the northern tribes who had remained loyal to Saul and his sons. However, the people of the northern tribes recognized that David was God's anointed to "shepherd My people Israel and be ruler over Israel." (5:2) Like David, though, they did not take it into their own hands to displace Saul or Ish-bosheth in order to make David ruler. Now that Ish-bosheth was gone the people of the northern tribes went to David and made a covenant with him and anointed him king. This was his third anointing. The first was by God and the second was by the southern tribes of Judah.

    As king over all of Israel, one of David's first actions was to move the capitol from Hebron to the more central location of Jerusalem. However, the city was inhabited by the Jebusites so he had to remove them. Jerusalem was so impenetrable that the Jebusites taunted David for even trying to take it, saying, "Even the blind and lame can repel you." (5:6) But David found a way into the city through a water tunnel and overtook the Jebusites. David took up residence in the city and began to develop it.

    King Hiram of Tyre helped to build a palace for David by providing cedar logs along with skilled carpenters and stonemasons. Becoming established in Jerusalem along with the support of King Hiram convinced David and the people that the Lord truly "established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom." (5:12) One practice of the ancient Near Eastern world that David adopted was the acquisition of a large harem, a practice that cannot be defended on David's behalf and one that eventually caused him considerable grief. It was a clear violation of the Lord's covenant with Israel.

    By this time the Philistines realized that David was not the ally they thought him to be and they pursued him, spreading out their army in the Valley of Rephaim. David inquired of the Lord whether he should go to war against them and the Lord told him to go. He did and defeated them, but some time later they returned. Again, David inquired of the Lord, and the Lord sent him against them again with a different strategy. This time David defeated them even more decidedly. It is noteworthy to point out that David was not satisfied to seek the Lord's guidance only once for both engagements with the Philistines, but sought it each time. Though David was no doubt a capable leader in his own right, his success as king and military leader was due to his pursuit of God rather than his leadership ability.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 4

    2 Samuel 04 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Ishbosheth felt like giving up after he heard that Abner had died in Hebron. Everyone in Israel was terrified.
  2. Ishbosheth had put the two brothers Baanah and Rechab in charge of the soldiers who raided enemy villages. Rimmon was their father, and they were from the town of Beeroth, which belonged to the tribe of Benjamin.
  3. The people who used to live in Beeroth had run away to Gittaim, and they still live there.
  4. Saul's son Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth, who had not been able to walk since he was five years old. It happened when someone from Jezreel told his nurse that Saul and Jonathan had died. She hurried off with the boy in her arms, but he fell and injured his legs.
  5. One day about noon, Rechab and Baanah went to Ishbosheth's house. It was a hot day, and he was resting
  6. in his bedroom. The two brothers went into the house, pretending to get some flour. But once they were inside, they stabbed Ishbosheth in the stomach and killed him. Then they cut off his head and took it with them. Rechab and Baanah walked through the Jordan River valley all night long.
  7. (SEE 4:6)
  8. Finally they turned west and went to Hebron. They went in to see David and told him, "Your Majesty, here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul who tried to kill you! The LORD has let you get even with Saul and his family."
  9. David answered: I swear that only the LORD rescues me when I'm in trouble!
  10. When a man came to Ziklag and told me that Saul was dead, he thought he deserved a reward for bringing good news. But I grabbed him and killed him.
  11. You evil men have done something much worse than he did. You've killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed. I'll make you pay for that. I'll wipe you from the face of the earth!
  12. Then David said to his troops, "Kill these two brothers! Cut off their hands and feet and hang their bodies by the pool in Hebron. But bury Ishbosheth's head in Abner's tomb near Hebron." And they did.

    With Abner dead, the northern kingdom was unstable. Ish-bosheth, who wore the crown, did not wield the power. That was Abner's role, and with him gone Ish-bosheth lost his courage leaving Israel in dismay. The people were not in doubt of who was actually in charge so they recognized their country was effectively without leadership. As is often the case, when there is a leadership vacuum there are those who will take advantage of it for their own benefit. In this case it was two men who "were leaders of raiding parties." (4:2) We have no clue as to whether these were raiding parties sanctioned by the king or not, but probably not, which would make these men rebels who were opportunists tooking advantage of this lack of leadership. The fact that they were able to sneak in and out of the king's dwelling so easily showed the vulnerability of the king at this time. The two killed the king and beheaded him, taking the head with them.

    To this point their plot had gone as planned, but they had not sufficiently assessed David to accurately determine his response to bringing him Ish-bosheth's head. This was a fatal mistake for David persisted in looking to the Lord for his protection and for bringing about his rule over all Israel. He had not and would not lift a finger to grasp power. If God wanted to expand his rule he would leave it to God to bring it about. David responded to their "gift" as he had to the one who brought him news of Saul's death and then embellished the account by inserting himself as the one who, at Saul's request, gave the final blow to speed up Saul's death. This little embellishment cost him his life as was the case with these men who had killed "a righteous man in his own house on his own bed!" (4:11) David gave the order and his men killed the two. They had, no doubt, expected to be given a reward for this "favor" to the king and were greatly disappointed.

    The ungodly are ill equipped to predict the actions of those who seek the Lord for they do not understand them. Nor did these two understand the wisdom and discernment provided one who seeks the Lord's guidance.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 3

    2 Samuel 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. This battle was the beginning of a long war between the followers of Saul and the followers of David. Saul's power grew weaker, but David's grew stronger.
  2. Several of David's sons were born while he was living in Hebron. His oldest son was Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam from Jezreel. David's second son was Chileab, whose mother was Abigail, who had been married to Nabal from Carmel. Absalom was the third. His mother was Maacah, the daughter of King Talmai of Geshur. The fourth was Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith. The fifth was Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital. The sixth was Ithream, whose mother was Eglah, another one of David's wives.
  3. (SEE 3:2)
  4. (SEE 3:2)
  5. (SEE 3:2)
  6. As the war went on between the families of David and Saul, Abner was gaining more power than ever in Saul's family.
  7. He had even slept with a wife of Saul by the name of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah. But Saul's son Ishbosheth told Abner, "You shouldn't have slept with one of my father's wives!"
  8. Abner was very angry at what Ishbosheth had said, and he told Ishbosheth: Am I some kind of worthless dog from Judah? I've always been loyal to your father's family and to his relatives and friends. I haven't turned you over to David. And yet you talk to me as if I've committed a crime with this woman.
  9. I ask God to punish me if I don't help David get what the LORD promised him!
  10. God said that he wouldn't let anyone in Saul's family ever be king again and that David would be king instead. He also said that David would rule both Israel and Judah, all the way from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south.
  11. Ishbosheth was so afraid of Abner that he could not even answer.
  12. Abner sent some of his men to David with this message: "You should be the ruler of the whole nation. If you make an agreement with me, I will persuade everyone in Israel to make you their king."
  13. David sent this message back: "Good! I'll make an agreement with you. But before I will even talk with you about it, you must get Saul's daughter Michal back for me."
  14. David sent a few of his officials to Ishbosheth to give him this message: "Give me back my wife Michal! I killed a hundred Philistines so I could marry her."
  15. Ishbosheth sent some of his men to take Michal away from her new husband, Paltiel the son of Laish.
  16. Paltiel followed Michal and the men all the way to Bahurim, crying as he walked. But he went back home after Abner ordered him to leave.
  17. Abner talked with the leaders of the tribes of Israel and told them, "You've wanted to make David your king for a long time now.
  18. So do it! After all, God said he would use his servant David to rescue his people Israel from their enemies, especially from the Philistines."
  19. Finally, Abner talked with the tribe of Benjamin. Then he left for Hebron to tell David everything that the tribe of Benjamin and the rest of the people of Israel wanted to do.
  20. Abner took twenty soldiers with him, and when they got to Hebron, David gave a big feast for them.
  21. After the feast, Abner said, "Your Majesty, let me leave now and bring Israel here to make an agreement with you. You'll be king of the whole nation, just as you've been wanting." David told Abner he could leave, and he left without causing any trouble.
  22. Soon after Abner had left Hebron, Joab and some of David's soldiers came back, bringing a lot of things they had taken from an enemy village.
  23. Right after they arrived, someone told Joab, "Abner visited the king, and the king let him go. Abner even left without causing any trouble."
  24. Joab went to David and said, "What have you done? Abner came to you, and you let him go. Now he's long gone!
  25. You know Abner--he came to trick you. He wants to find out how strong your army is and to know everything you're doing."
  26. Joab left David, then he sent some messengers to catch up with Abner. They brought him back from the well at Sirah, but David did not know anything about it.
  27. When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab pretended he wanted to talk privately with him. So he took Abner into one of the small rooms that were part of the town gate and stabbed him in the stomach. Joab killed him because Abner had killed Joab's brother Asahel.
  28. David heard how Joab had killed Abner, and he said, "I swear to the LORD that I am completely innocent of Abner's death!
  29. Joab and his family are the guilty ones. I pray that Joab's family will always be sick with sores and other skin diseases. May they all be cowards, and may they die in war or starve to death."
  30. Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.
  31. David told Joab and everyone with him, "Show your sorrow by tearing your clothes and wearing sackcloth! Walk in front of Abner's body and cry!" David walked behind the stretcher on which Abner's body was being carried.
  32. Abner was buried in Hebron, while David and everyone else stood at the tomb and cried loudly.
  33. Then the king sang a funeral song about Abner: Abner, why should you have died like an outlaw?
  34. No one tied your hands or chained your feet, yet you died as a victim of murderers. Everyone started crying again.
  35. Then they brought some food to David and told him he would feel better if he had something to eat. It was still daytime, and David said, "I swear to God that I'll not take a bite of bread or anything else until sunset!"
  36. Everyone noticed what David did, and they liked it, just as they always liked what he did.
  37. Now the people of Judah and Israel were certain that David had nothing to do with killing Abner.
  38. David said to his officials, "Don't you realize that today one of Israel's great leaders has died?
  39. I am the chosen king, but Joab and Abishai have more power than I do. So God will have to pay them back for the evil thing they did."

    Transition of the northern kingdom that remained under the rule of Saul's son, Ish-bosheth, to David's rule finally took place. During the years of Ish-bosheth's rule of the northern tribes, his kingdom grew weaker while David's grew stronger. During this time the two kingdoms warred with each other, presumably each side seeking to gain control of all Israel. Abner, commander of the northern army, was the real power behind the king and obviously coveted that power. He would have probably been the king himself had he thought those loyal to Saul would give it to him over Saul's son. Abner knew, though, that David was God's intended king for all Israel and yet he persisted in keeping rule of the northern tribes from himself and attempted to take even the southern tribes from David.

    But events took a sudden turn. Ish-bosheth accused Abner of sleeping with his father's (Saul's) concubine, which was likely a charge that he was trying to take over the throne. Abner was incensed by the charge and vowed to hand over rule of the northern tribes to David. He immediately acted on his vow by sending messengers to David offering to make a covenant with him to "hand all Israel over to you." (3:12) David agreed to the covenant with Abner, but as an act of faith, insisted that Abner not come to him to finalize the covenant without bringing Michal, Saul's daughter who was promised to be his wife. Then David sent the request to Ish-bosheth that Michal be given to him and Ish-bosheth sent for her. This action by David served as a test to see if this covenant was only with Abner or also with the king, Ish-bosheth. Ish-bosheth no doubt felt he was powerless to do anything but go along.

    Abner was good to his word in handing over the kingdom to David, conferring with the elders of Israel saying, "In the past you wanted David to be king over you. Now take action, because the LORD has spoken concerning David: 'Through My servant David I will save My people Israel from the power of the Philistines and the power of all Israel's enemies.'" (3:17-18) Abner was not unaware of God's intended king for all Israel. He just was not willing to this point to surrender to God's intent.

    David's army commander, Joab, was not happy when he learned that Abner had visited David and been allowed to leave in peace. Joab wanted revenge for the death of his brother at Abner's hands. He protested to David to no avail and then chose to take the matter into his own hands. He sent messengers to bring Abner back to Hebron, then took Abner aside as if to confer with him secretly, and killed him. David was not at all pleased with his commander. By killing Abner, Joab put at risk this whole effort to unite all Israel under one rule. David pronounced a curse on Joab and his family and called all Israel to mourn Abner's death. David made a very public display of mourning, walking behind the funeral procession, singing a lament for Abner, and refusing to eat until sundown. The people were touched by his demonstration of mourning and convinced he had no part in the death of Abner.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 2

    2 Samuel 02 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Later, David asked the LORD, "Should I go back to one of the towns of Judah?" The LORD answered, "Yes." David asked, "Which town should I go to?" "Go to Hebron," the LORD replied.
  2. David went to Hebron with his two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail. Ahinoam was from Jezreel, and Abigail was the widow of Nabal from Carmel.
  3. David also had his men and their families come and live in the villages near Hebron.
  4. The people of Judah met with David at Hebron and poured olive oil on his head to show that he was their new king. Then they told David, "The people from Jabesh in Gilead buried Saul."
  5. David sent messengers to tell them: The LORD bless you! You were kind enough to bury Saul your ruler,
  6. and I pray that the LORD will be kind and faithful to you. I will be your friend because of what you have done.
  7. Saul is dead, but the tribe of Judah has made me their king. So be strong and have courage.
  8. Abner the son of Ner had been the general of Saul's army. He took Saul's son Ishbosheth across the Jordan River to Mahanaim
  9. and made him king of Israel, including the areas of Gilead, Asher, Jezreel, Ephraim, and Benjamin.
  10. Ishbosheth was forty years old at the time, and he ruled for two years. But the tribe of Judah made David their king,
  11. and he ruled from Hebron for seven and a half years.
  12. One day, Abner and the soldiers of Ishbosheth left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon.
  13. Meanwhile, Joab the son of Zeruiah was leading David's soldiers, and the two groups met at the pool in Gibeon. Abner and his men sat down on one side of the pool, while Joab and his men sat on the other side.
  14. Abner yelled to Joab, "Let's have some of our best soldiers get up and fight each other!" Joab agreed,
  15. and twelve of Ishbosheth's men from the tribe of Benjamin got up to fight twelve of David's men.
  16. They grabbed each other by the hair and stabbed each other in the side with their daggers. They all died right there! That's why the place in Gibeon is called "Field of Daggers."
  17. Then everyone started fighting. Both sides fought very hard, but David's soldiers defeated Abner and the soldiers of Israel.
  18. Zeruiah's three sons were there: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Asahel could run as fast as a deer in an open field,
  19. and he ran straight after Abner, without looking to the right or to the left.
  20. When Abner turned and saw him, he said, "Is that you, Asahel?" Asahel answered, "Yes it is."
  21. Abner said, "There are soldiers all around. Stop chasing me and fight one of them! Kill him and take his clothes and weapons for yourself." But Asahel refused to stop.
  22. Abner said, "If you don't turn back, I'll have to kill you! Then I could never face your brother Joab again."
  23. But Asahel would not turn back, so Abner struck him in the stomach with the back end of his spear. The spear went all the way through and came out of his back. Asahel fell down and died. Everyone who saw Asahel lying dead just stopped and stood still.
  24. But Joab and Abishai went after Abner. Finally, about sunset, they came to the hill of Ammah, not far from Giah on the road to Gibeon Desert.
  25. Abner brought the men of Benjamin together in one group on top of a hill, and they got ready to fight.
  26. Abner shouted to Joab, "Aren't we ever going to stop killing each other? Don't you know that the longer we keep on doing this, the worse it's going to be when it's all over? When are you going to order your men to stop chasing their own relatives?"
  27. Joab shouted back, "I swear by the living God, if you hadn't spoken, my men would have chased their relatives all night!"
  28. Joab took his trumpet and blew the signal for his soldiers to stop chasing the soldiers of Israel. Right away, the fighting stopped.
  29. Abner and his troops marched through the Jordan River valley all that night. Then they crossed the river and marched all morning until they arrived back at Mahanaim.
  30. As soon as Joab stopped chasing Abner, he got David's troops together and counted them. There were nineteen missing besides Asahel.
  31. But David's soldiers had killed 360 of Abner's men from the tribe of Benjamin.
  32. Joab and his troops carried Asahel's body to Bethlehem and buried him in the family burial place. Then they marched all night and reached Hebron before sunrise.

    With Saul dead and Israel without a king David could safely return to Israel. Rather than arbitrarily doing so, David inquired of the Lord: "Should I go to one of the towns of Judah?" The Lord told him to go, and when David asked where, he was told to go to Hebron. With this guidance from the Lord, David moved his whole enourage to Hebron. Once he was settled there the men of Judah came and anointed him king over Judah. When David learned the men of Jabesh-gilead had given Saul and his sons an appropriate burial, he commended them for this deed. This was a wise and diplomatic move on his part.

    Though David was finally installed as king over Judah, it was not yet time for him to rule over all of Israel. With three of Saul's sons dead the matter of succession was less complicated, but there remained one son who survived the death of his father and brothers. His name was Ish-bosheth. He was the weaker of Saul's sons and may not have pursued the throne except for Saul's military commander, Abner. Abner coveted power and probably held Saul's contempt for David, so he took Ish-bosheth to Mahanaim where he made him king over the northern tribes of Israel.

    David made no attempt to force his rule over all of Israel. That was a matter for God to determine. He was satisfied to leave it in God's hands. Abner was not so inclined, and obviously he was the power behind the throne rather than Ish-bosheth. He marched his soldiers to Gibeon to challenge David, though he approached it as a friendly competition, suggesting "the young men get up and compete in front of us." (2:14) Joab, David's commander, agreed. So 12 soldiers from each side were selected and immediately killed each other leaving none of them standing. There was nothing friendly about it. It is not clear what Abner's intent was for this competition unless it was what happened: the two sides launched into a fierce battle. Abner's cunning was no match for David's soldiers. Abner and his men were defeated, losing 360 soldiers while Joab lost only 19.

    As Abner and his men retreated, Asahel, one of Joab's brothers pursued him and Abner killed him. Then Joab and another brother pursued Abner intent on avenging their dead brother. But at sunset Abner's men rallied around him outnumbering his pursuers and the chase was called off with Joab and his men returning home and Abner returning home with his men.  There would be another day for Joab to avenge his brother's death.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 1

    2 Samuel 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Saul was dead. Meanwhile, David had defeated the Amalekites and returned to Ziklag.
  2. Three days later, a soldier came from Saul's army. His clothes were torn, and dirt was on his head. He went to David and knelt down in front of him.
  3. David asked, "Where did you come from?" The man answered, "From Israel's army. I barely escaped with my life."
  4. "Who won the battle?" David asked. The man said, "Our army turned and ran, but many were wounded and died. Even King Saul and his son Jonathan are dead."
  5. David asked, "How do you know Saul and Jonathan are dead?"
  6. The young man replied: I was on Mount Gilboa and saw King Saul leaning on his spear. The enemy's war chariots and cavalry were closing in on him.
  7. When he turned around and saw me, he called me over. I went and asked what he wanted.
  8. Saul asked me, "Who are you?" "An Amalekite," I answered.
  9. Then he said, "Kill me! I'm dying, and I'm in terrible pain."
  10. So I killed him. I knew he was too badly wounded to live much longer. Then I took his crown and his arm-band, and I brought them to you, Your Majesty. Here they are.
  11. Right away, David and his soldiers tore their clothes in sorrow.
  12. They cried all day long and would not eat anything. Everyone was sad because Saul, his son Jonathan, and many of the LORD's people had been killed in the battle.
  13. David asked the young man, "Where is your home?" The man replied, "My father is an Amalekite, but we live in Israel."
  14. David said to him, "Why weren't you afraid to kill the LORD's chosen king? And you even told what you did. It's your own fault that you're going to die!" Then David told one of his soldiers, "Come here and kill this man!"
  15. (SEE 1:14)
  16. (SEE 1:14)
  17. David sang a song in memory of Saul and Jonathan,
  18. and he ordered his men to teach the song to everyone in Judah. He called it "The Song of the Bow," and it can be found in The Book of Jashar. This is the song:
  19. Israel, your famous hero lies dead on the hills, and your mighty warriors have fallen!
  20. Don't tell it in Gath or spread the news on the streets of Ashkelon. The godless Philistine women will be happy and jump for joy.
  21. Don't let dew or rain fall on the hills of Gilboa. Don't let its fields grow offerings for God. There the warriors' shields were smeared with mud, and Saul's own shield was left unpolished.
  22. The arrows of Jonathan struck, and warriors died. The sword of Saul cut the enemy apart.
  23. It was easy to love Saul and Jonathan. Together in life, together in death, they were faster than eagles and stronger than lions.
  24. Women of Israel, cry for Saul. He brought you fine red cloth and jewelry made of gold.
  25. Our warriors have fallen in the heat of battle, and Jonathan lies dead on the hills of Gilboa.
  26. Jonathan, I miss you most! I loved you like a brother. You were truly loyal to me, more faithful than a wife to her husband.
  27. Our warriors have fallen, and their weapons are destroyed.

    The book of 2 Samuel begins where 1 Samuel ended. David had been sent home to Ziklag from fighting with the Philistines against Israel, a turn of events that was no doubt providential, relieving David of having to fight his own people. Upon returning to Ziklag he found the city in ruins and all the people and livestock gone.  he pursued the Amalekites who destroyed the town and soundly defeated them, recovering the plunder they had taken from their raid of the Negev, including his family and those of his men.

    This first chapter of 2 Samuel reports David's return from defeating the Amalekites who had destroyed Ziklag. After a two-day rest, a messenger appeared "from Saul's camp." (1:2) This messenger, who identified himself as an Amalekite, did not realize his timing in appearing before David after he had sought revenge on this troop of marauding Amalekites. He knew something of David but not enough to save his life and gain the reward that he no doubt sought. He knew David was to become king and that Saul had relentlessly pursued him and tried to kill him. He assumed that David would rejoice at Saul's death and reward him for bringing the news along with Saul's crown. He was seriously mistaken. Furthermore, he took his life in his own hands when he lied about having mercifully killed Saul at Saul's request.

    When David heard the news of Saul's death and that of Jonathan, he tore his clothes and mourned the rest of the day. At evening he called for the messenger and had him executed, saying to him, "How is it that you were not afraid to lift your hand to destroy the LORD's anointed?" (1:14) Then David sang a "lament for Saul and his son Jonathan." (1:17) Had there been any doubt of David's continued loyalty to Saul when he went to stay in the Philistine territory, his actions in learning of Saul's death should put those doubts to rest.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 31

    1 Samuel 31 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Meanwhile, the Philistines were fighting Israel at Mount Gilboa. Israel's soldiers ran from the Philistines, and many of them were killed.
  2. The Philistines closed in on Saul and his sons, and they killed his sons Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua.
  3. The fighting was fierce around Saul, and he was badly wounded by enemy arrows.
  4. Saul told the soldier who carried his weapons, "Kill me with your sword! I don't want those worthless Philistines to torture me and make fun." But the soldier was afraid to kill him. Saul then took out his own sword; he stuck the blade into his stomach, and fell on it.
  5. When the soldier knew that Saul was dead, he killed himself in the same way.
  6. Saul was dead, his three sons were dead, and the soldier who carried his weapons was dead. They and all his soldiers died on that same day.
  7. The Israelites on the other side of Jezreel Valley and the other side of the Jordan learned that Saul and his sons were dead. They saw that the Israelite army had run away. So they ran away too, and the Philistines moved into the towns the Israelites had left behind.
  8. The day after the battle, when the Philistines returned to the battlefield to take the weapons of the dead Israelite soldiers, they found Saul and his three sons lying dead on Mount Gilboa.
  9. The Philistines cut off Saul's head and pulled off his armor. Then they put his armor in the temple of the goddess Astarte, and they nailed his body to the city wall of Beth-Shan. They also sent messengers everywhere in Philistia to spread the good news in the temples of their idols and among their people.
  10. (SEE 31:9)
  11. The people who lived in Jabesh in Gilead heard what the Philistines had done to Saul's body.
  12. So one night, some brave men from Jabesh went to Beth-Shan. They took down the bodies of Saul and his sons, then brought them back to Jabesh and burned them.
  13. They buried the bones under a small tree in Jabesh, and for seven days, they went without eating to show their sorrow.

    Saul finally came to his end at the hands of the Philistines. His three sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, also died in the battle that took Saul, leaving no chance that anyone would attempt to place one of them on the throne, keeping David from it. Evidently the three sons were killed outright, but Saul was "severely wounded" by archers and feared the Philistines would find him and torture him. To avoid this possibility he took his own life after asking his armor-bearer to kill him and he refused.

    Verse 6 gives the impression that Saul's whole army was killed in this battle, "So on that day, Saul died together with his three sons, his armor-bearer, and all his men." With their army destroyed and no leadership, the citizens of Israel began running for their lives and abandoning their cities, leaving them to the Philistines who settled in them. The Philistines beheaded Saul and took his body, and those of his sons, back with them to place on display and celebrate their victory over the Israelites.

    The residents of Jabesh-gilead could not stand for this desecration of their former king when they heard of it and their "brave men" went by night to retrieve the bodies of Saul and his sons and buried them appropriately. These events bring the book of 1 Samuel to a close along with closure on a significant chapter in Israel's history. The chapter on their first king.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 30

    1 Samuel 30 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. It took David and his men three days to reach Ziklag. But while they had been away, the Amalekites had been raiding in the desert around there. They had attacked Ziklag, burned it to the ground,
  2. and had taken away the women and children.
  3. When David and his men came to Ziklag, they saw the burned-out ruins and learned that their families had been taken captive.
  4. They started crying and kept it up until they were too weak to cry any more.
  5. David's two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail, had been taken captive with everyone else.
  6. David was desperate. His soldiers were so upset over what had happened to their sons and daughters that they were thinking about stoning David to death. But he felt the LORD God giving him strength,
  7. and he said to the priest, "Abiathar, let's ask God what to do." Abiathar brought everything he needed to get answers from God, and he went over to David.
  8. Then David asked the LORD, "Should I go after the people who raided our town? Can I catch up with them?" "Go after them," the LORD answered. "You will catch up with them, and you will rescue your families."
  9. David led his six hundred men to Besor Gorge, but two hundred of them were too tired to go across. So they stayed behind, while David and the other four hundred men crossed the gorge.
  10. (SEE 30:9)
  11. Some of David's men found an Egyptian out in a field and took him to David. They gave the Egyptian some bread, and he ate it. Then they gave him a drink of water,
  12. some dried figs, and two handfuls of raisins. This was the first time in three days he had tasted food or water. Now he felt much better.
  13. "Who is your master?" David asked. "And where do you come from?" "I'm from Egypt," the young man answered. "I'm the servant of an Amalekite, but he left me here three days ago because I was sick.
  14. We had attacked some towns in the desert where the Cherethites live, in the area that belongs to Judah, and in the desert where the Caleb clan lives. And we burned down Ziklag."
  15. "Will you take me to those Amalekites?" David asked. "Yes, I will, if you promise with God as a witness that you won't kill me or hand me over to my master."
  16. He led David to the Amalekites. They were eating and drinking everywhere, celebrating because of what they had taken from Philistia and Judah.
  17. David attacked just before sunrise the next day and fought until sunset. Four hundred Amalekites rode away on camels, but they were the only ones who escaped.
  18. David rescued his two wives and everyone else the Amalekites had taken from Ziklag.
  19. No one was missing--young or old, sons or daughters. David brought back everything that had been stolen,
  20. including their livestock. David also took the sheep and cattle that the Amalekites had with them, but he kept these separate from the others. Everyone agreed that these would be David's reward.
  21. On the way back, David went to the two hundred men he had left at Besor Gorge, because they had been too tired to keep up with him. They came toward David and the people who were with him. When David was close enough, he greeted the two hundred men and asked how they were doing.
  22. Some of David's men were good-for-nothings, and they said, "Those men didn't go with us to the battle, so they don't get any of the things we took back from the Amalekites. Let them take their wives and children and go!"
  23. But David said: My friends, don't be so greedy with what the LORD has given us! The LORD protected us and gave us victory over the people who attacked.
  24. Who would pay attention to you, anyway? Soldiers who stay behind to guard the camp get as much as those who go into battle.
  25. David made this a law for Israel, and it has been the same ever since.
  26. David went back to Ziklag with everything they had taken from the Amalekites. He sent some of these things as gifts to his friends who were leaders of Judah, and he told them, "We took these things from the LORD's enemies. Please accept them as a gift."
  27. This is a list of the towns where David sent gifts: Bethel, Ramoth in the Southern Desert, Jattir, Aroer, Siphmoth, Eshtemoa, Racal, the towns belonging to the Jerahmeelites and the Kenites, Hormah, Bor-Ashan, Athach, and Hebron. He also sent gifts to the other towns where he and his men had traveled.
  28. (SEE 30:27)
  29. (SEE 30:27)
  30. (SEE 30:27)
  31. (SEE 30:27)

    After Achish, the Philistine king, sent David and his men home to Ziklag rather than fighting with the Philistines against the Israelites, David found his city in ashes and everything gone. All the women and children along with all the livestock had been taken by the Amalekites who had raided the Negev. Their raid had included both Israelite as well as Philistine towns. David and his men were distraught at the loss of their families. His men even threatened to stone him maybe thinking that if he hadn't led them off to fight with the Philistines they could have protected their city.

    We see David's true character shine forth in his response to this crises. These are the times when a person's true character can be seen. Various commentaries are critical of David's actions in choosing to live among the Philistines and planning to go to war with the Philistines against Israel. But I don't believe David's faith or his loyalties ever waivered. Instead, I believe God was guiding him and preparing him for his role as king of Israel. Distraught over their losses, David turned to the Lord.  He had Abiathar the priest bring him the ephod.  The ephod contained the Urim and Thummim which were sacred stones used to discern the will of God. At David's inquiry about what to do, God told him, "Pursue them, for you will certainly overtake them and rescue the people." (30:8)

    So David pursued the Amalekites and found them spread out over a large area "eating, drinking, and celebrating because of the great amount of plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and the land of Judah." (30:16) David and his men soundly defeated the Amalekites allowing only 400 of them to survive who managed to escape on camels. They rescued all of the women and children and all the plunder the Amalekites had taken, including what they had taken from other towns they had raided. Following this victory David's men went from wanting to stone him to shouting, "This is David's plunder."

    Dividing the spoils of victory was a delegate situation which David handled very wisely. His wise leadership had developed during this period of his preparation for kingship. First David made the policy among his fighting men that those who stayed behind with the supplies would share equally in the spoils with those who fought the battle. Then, in this particular situation, David sent portions of the plunder to elders in Judah whose towns had been raided by the Amalekites along with the message, "Here is a gift for you from the plunder of the LORD's enemies."  (30:26) Those to whom he sent portions of the plunder included the places where David and his men had roamed during their period of running from king Saul.

    Whether David was intentionally paving the way for his eventual claim to the throne in Israel or simply being generous and considerate, he was definitely establishing support for the day in which he would take the throne. A day that was drawing near.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 29

    1 Samuel 29 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The Philistines had brought their whole army to Aphek, while Israel's army was camping near Jezreel Spring.
  2. The Philistine rulers and their troops were marching past the Philistine army commanders in groups of a hundred and a thousand. When David and his men marched by at the end with Achish, the commanders said, "What are these worthless Israelites doing here?" "They are David's men," Achish answered. "David used to be one of Saul's officers, but he left Saul and joined my army a long time ago. I've never had even one complaint about him."
  3. (SEE 29:2)
  4. The Philistine army commanders were angry and shouted: Send David back to the town you gave him. We won't have him going into the battle with us. He could turn and fight against us! Saul would take David back as an officer if David brought him the heads of our soldiers.
  5. The Israelites even dance and sing, "Saul has killed a thousand enemies; David has killed ten thousand enemies!"
  6. Achish called David over and said: I swear by the living LORD that you've been honest with me, and I want you to fight by my side. I don't think you've done anything wrong from the day you joined me until this very moment. But the other Philistine rulers don't want you to come along.
  7. Go on back home and try not to upset them.
  8. "But what have I done?" David asked. "Do you know of anything I've ever done that would keep me from fighting the enemies of my king?"
  9. Achish said: I believe that you're as good as an angel of God, but our army commanders have decided that you can't fight in this battle.
  10. You and your troops will have to go back to the town I gave you. Get up and leave tomorrow morning as soon as it's light. I am pleased with you, so don't let any of this bother you.
  11. David and his men got up early in the morning and headed back toward Philistia, while the Philistines left for Jezreel.

    David was in an awkward position. He had been told by the Philistine king that he and his men were to fight alongside the Philistine troops against Israel and king Saul. David was no doubt playing the part of a loyal Philistine subject when he replied to king Achish, "Good, you will find out what your servant can do." (28:2) What would David have done? Would he have fought against his own people, the Israelites, or turned against the Philistines in the heat of battle? As persistent as David had been not to harm God's anointed, king Saul, it would be inconsistent for him to have actually fought against king Saul.

    God intervened, however, and spared David this difficult situation. The Philistine commanders were not at all happy about having these Hebrews, David and his men, among their ranks while they fought the Hebrews. Out voted by his commanders, king Achish summoned David and sent him back to his home at Ziklag. David made a feeble protest at this order but obeyed without further protest. It is difficult to believe David meant what he said to king Achish: "what have you found against your servant to keep me from going along to fight against the enemies of my lord the king?" It was "my lord the king" against whom David had previously refused to fight against. It is highly unlikely his sentiment in this regard had changed. This is confirmed in the first chapter of 2 Samuel in David's reaction to news of Saul's death.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 28

    1 Samuel 28 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Samuel had died some time earlier, and people from all over Israel had attended his funeral in his hometown of Ramah. Meanwhile, Saul had been trying to get rid of everyone who spoke with the spirits of the dead. But one day the Philistines brought their soldiers together to attack Israel. Achish told David, "Of course, you know that you and your men must fight as part of our Philistine army." David answered, "That will give you a chance to see for yourself just how well we can fight!" "In that case," Achish said, "you and your men will always be my bodyguards."
  2. (SEE 28:1)
  3. (SEE 28:1)
  4. The Philistines went to Shunem and set up camp. Saul called the army of Israel together, and they set up their camp in Gilboa.
  5. Saul took one look at the Philistine army and started shaking with fear.
  6. So he asked the LORD what to do. But the LORD would not answer, either in a dream or by a priest or a prophet.
  7. Then Saul told his officers, "Find me a woman who can talk to the spirits of the dead. I'll go to her and find out what's going to happen." His servants told him, "There's a woman at Endor who can talk to spirits of the dead."
  8. That night, Saul put on different clothing so nobody would recognize him. Then he and two of his men went to the woman, and asked, "Will you bring up the ghost of someone for us?"
  9. The woman said, "Why are you trying to trick me and get me killed? You know King Saul has gotten rid of everyone who talks to the spirits of the dead!"
  10. Saul replied, "I swear by the living LORD that nothing will happen to you because of this."
  11. "Who do you want me to bring up?" she asked. "Bring up the ghost of Samuel," he answered.
  12. When the woman saw Samuel, she screamed. Then she turned to Saul and said, "You've tricked me! You're the king!"
  13. "Don't be afraid," Saul replied. "Just tell me what you see." She answered, "I see a spirit rising up out of the ground."
  14. "What does it look like?" "It looks like an old man wearing a robe." Saul knew it was Samuel, so he bowed down low.
  15. "Why are you bothering me by bringing me up like this?" Samuel asked. "I'm terribly worried," Saul answered. "The Philistines are about to attack me. God has turned his back on me and won't answer any more by prophets or by dreams. What should I do?"
  16. Samuel said: If the LORD has turned away from you and is now your enemy, don't ask me what to do.
  17. I've already told you: The LORD has sworn to take the kingdom from you and give it to David. And that's just what he's doing!
  18. When the LORD was angry with the Amalekites, he told you to destroy them, but you didn't do it. That's why the LORD is doing this to you.
  19. Tomorrow the LORD will let the Philistines defeat Israel's army, then you and your sons will join me down here in the world of the dead.
  20. At once, Saul collapsed and lay stretched out on the floor, terrified at what Samuel had said. He was weak because he had not eaten anything since the day before.
  21. The woman came over to Saul, and when she saw that he was completely terrified, she said, "Your Majesty, I listened to you and risked my life to do what you asked.
  22. Now please listen to me. Let me get you a little something to eat. It will give you strength for your walk back to camp."
  23. "No, I won't eat!" But his officers and the woman kept on urging Saul, until he finally agreed. He got up off the floor and sat on the bed.
  24. Right away the woman killed a calf that she had been fattening up. She cooked part of the meat and baked some thin bread.
  25. Then she served the food to Saul and his officers, who ate and left before daylight.

    God's timing for the transfer of the kingship from Saul to David was at hand. The Philistines gathered their full military force to fight against Israel. What prompted this event we are not told, but regardless of their reason, God was orchestrating the events. When king Saul saw the huge Philistine army encampment he was terrified and tried to inquire of the Lord for help, but the Lord was silent. Saul was not prone to consulting the Lord, but, like most of us are inclined to be, turned to God he was in trouble. We are reminded in verse 3 that Samuel had died, so Saul did not have him or any other man of God to whom he could turn to aid him in consulting the Lord. He was very much alone. No doubt he sensed the time of his removal had come. He had surely lived in fear of this for many years, ever since the Lord told him through Samuel, "the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel." (15:26)

    Saul had "removed the mediums and spiritists from the land." (28:3) Possibly he had attempted to gain the Lord's favor by bringing spiritual reform to Israel. But it was to this dark side that Saul now turned for help. Disguising himself, Saul went by night to Endor where he knew a medium still existed. He was desperate. Even the medium was not prepared for what happened, for the Lord intervened and Samuel actually appeared. Whatever the medium had intended to conjure up, it clearly was not the actual appearance of the prophet. Samuel had no comfort to offer Saul. It was time for the kingship to be torn "out of (Saul's) hand and given it to (his) neighbor David." (28:17) Now Saul and his troops would be handed over to the Philistines. Samuel told Saul, "Tomorrow you and your sons will be with me, and the LORD will hand Israel's army over to the Philistines." (28:19)

    There was nothing left for Saul to do but to accept his fate. Meanwhile, David's fate to become king in Saul's place was also being played out. The Philistine king told David he was expected to march out with the Philistine army to fight against the Israelites. David replied by saying, "Good, you will find out what your servant can do." (28:2) Was David pretending loyalty to the Philistine king and boasting of what he could do? Or did his statement hint of his intention to turn against the king?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Reflections on 1 Samuel 27

    1 Samuel 27 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. but he thought to himself, "One of these days, Saul is going to kill me. The only way to escape from him is to go to Philistia. Then I'll be outside of Israel, and Saul will give up trying to catch me."
  2. David and his six hundred men went across the border to stay in Gath with King Achish the son of Maoch. His men brought their families with them. David brought his wife Ahinoam whose hometown was Jezreel, and he also brought his wife Abigail who had been married to Nabal from Carmel.
  3. (SEE 27:2)
  4. When Saul found out that David had run off to Gath, he stopped trying to catch him.
  5. One day, David was talking with Achish and said, "If you are happy with me, then let me live in one of the towns in the countryside. I'm not important enough to live here with you in the royal city."
  6. Achish gave David the town of Ziklag that same day, and Ziklag has belonged to the kings of Judah ever since.
  7. David was in Philistia for a year and four months.
  8. The Geshurites, the Girzites, and the Amalekites lived in the area from Telam to Shur and on as far as Egypt, and David often attacked their towns.
  9. Whenever David and his men attacked a town, they took the sheep, cattle, donkeys, camels, and the clothing, and killed everyone who lived there. After he returned from a raid, David always went to see Achish,
  10. who would ask, "Where did you attack today?" David would answer, "Oh, we attacked some desert town that belonged to the Judah tribe." Sometimes David would say, "Oh, we attacked a town in the desert where the Jerahmeel clan lives" or "We attacked a town in the desert where the Kenites live."
  11. That's why David killed everyone in the towns he attacked. He thought, "If I let any of them live, they might come to Gath and tell what I've really been doing." David made these raids all the time he was in Philistia.
  12. But Achish trusted David and thought, "David's people must be furious with him. From now on he will have to take orders from me."

    David grew weary of being chased by Saul. He had no assurance that it would end even though Saul had acknowledged David was destined for the throne. Saul had made this acknowledgement before and then returned to chasing David. Finally, David concluded he should escape to "the land of the Philistines," for "One of these days I'll be swept away by Saul." (27:1) Was this decision to leave his own country to escape from Saul a lapse in David's faith that God would protect him? Many say "yes," pointing out that God had miraculously delivered him from Saul numerous times and would have continued to do so if David had the faith to remain in Judah.

    Scripture is silent as to whether David's decision was right or wrong. Either way, his time among the Philistines ingratiated him with these people and gave him opportunity to develop his leadership and combat skills. Furthermore, David used this period to destroy some of the people God had instructed Israel to destroy but they had failed to do so. Though it might be argued that David could have done this from Judah, in Judah he could not move about freely without being detected and reported to Saul, plus it would not have been safe for him to leave his women, children, and livestock unprotected while he and his men raided these other territories. In Philistine, on the other hand, David made an agreement with Achish, king of Gath, and was given the city of Ziklag in which to live and to rule. He could move freely without fear of Saul's detection and pursuit.

    David was deceptive with king Achish, however, leading him to believe that David's raids against the Geshurites, Girzites, and Amalekites were actually against his own people. This led Achish to believe that David could never return to Judah and would forever be his vassal.