Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Reflections on 1 Kings 3

    1 Kings 03 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Solomon signed a treaty with the king of Egypt and married his daughter. She lived in the older part of Jerusalem until the palace, the LORD's temple, and the wall around Jerusalem were completed.
  2. At that time, there was no temple for worshiping the LORD, and everyone offered sacrifices at the local shrines.
  3. Solomon loved the LORD and followed his father David's instructions, but Solomon also offered sacrifices and burned incense at the shrines.
  4. The most important shrine was in Gibeon, and Solomon had offered more than a thousand sacrifices on that altar.
  5. One night while Solomon was in Gibeon, the LORD God appeared to him in a dream and said, "Solomon, ask for anything you want, and I will give it to you."
  6. Solomon answered: My father David, your servant, was honest and did what you commanded. You were always loyal to him, and you gave him a son who is now king.
  7. LORD God, I'm your servant, and you've made me king in my father's place. But I'm very young and know so little about being a leader.
  8. And now I must rule your chosen people, even though there are too many of them to count.
  9. Please make me wise and teach me the difference between right and wrong. Then I will know how to rule your people. If you don't, there is no way I could rule this great nation of yours.
  10. God said: Solomon, I'm pleased that you asked for this. You could have asked to live a long time or to be rich. Or you could have asked for your enemies to be destroyed. Instead, you asked for wisdom to make right decisions.
  11. (SEE 3:10)
  12. So I'll make you wiser than anyone who has ever lived or ever will live.
  13. I'll also give you what you didn't ask for. You'll be rich and respected as long as you live, and you'll be greater than any other king.
  14. If you obey me and follow my commands, as your father David did, I'll let you live a long time.
  15. Solomon woke up and realized that God had spoken to him in the dream. He went back to Jerusalem and stood in front of the sacred chest, where he offered sacrifices to please the Lord and sacrifices to ask his blessing. Then Solomon gave a feast for his officials.
  16. One day two women came to King Solomon,
  17. and one of them said: Your Majesty, this woman and I live in the same house. Not long ago my baby was born at home,
  18. and three days later her baby was born. Nobody else was there with us.
  19. One night while we were all asleep, she rolled over on her baby, and he died.
  20. Then while I was still asleep, she got up and took my son out of my bed. She put him in her bed, then she put her dead baby next to me.
  21. In the morning when I got up to feed my son, I saw that he was dead. But when I looked at him in the light, I knew he wasn't my son.
  22. "No!" the other woman shouted. "He was your son. My baby is alive!" "The dead baby is yours," the first woman yelled. "Mine is alive!" They argued back and forth in front of Solomon,
  23. until finally he said, "Both of you say this live baby is yours.
  24. Someone bring me a sword." A sword was brought, and Solomon ordered,
  25. "Cut the baby in half! That way each of you can have part of him."
  26. "Please don't kill my son," the baby's mother screamed. "Your Majesty, I love him very much, but give him to her. Just don't kill him." The other woman shouted, "Go ahead and cut him in half. Then neither of us will have the baby."
  27. Solomon said, "Don't kill the baby." Then he pointed to the first woman, "She is his real mother. Give the baby to her."
  28. Everyone in Israel was amazed when they heard how Solomon had made his decision. They realized that God had given him wisdom to judge fairly.

Solomon had made a good start in his reign primarily because he, like his father, had a heart to worship and obey the Lord. We see in this passage God's special blessing on him because of this. But we also see a decision by Solomon that is the beginning of what will become his downfall, though no hint is given in the passage of the disobedience involved in the decision. I refer to Solomon's decision to take an Egyptian wife. Over time he filled his harem with hundreds of foreign wives in disobedience to the law leading to his alienation from the Lord.

For now, Solomon's heart was with the Lord which is evidenced by the great sacrifice he made to the Lord. He went to Gibeon and there offered 1,000 burnt offerings. This pleased the Lord and He appeared to Solomon in a dream. In the dream God invited Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted. He requested that God give him "an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil." (3:9) This also pleased the Lord and He told Solomon that since he asked for discernment rather than long life or riches He would not only give him discernment but, "I will give you what you did not ask for: both riches and honor, so that no man in any kingdom will be your equal during your entire life." (3:13) And, if Solomon was faithful to walk in God's ways and keep His statutes, God also promised to give him long life.

The chapter concludes with an account provided to illustrate Solomon's new gift of discernment. Two prostitutes came to him in a dispute over a baby. Both women had given birth to babies three days apart so the babies were just new-borns. One women had killed her baby while sleeping with it and accidentally laying on it. She then exchanged her dead baby for the living baby of the other women. The mother of the living baby knew the difference and they had come to Solomon to settle the dispute. Solomon's judgment was based, not on the words presented to him, but on an understanding of human nature. He ordered that a sword be brought and the baby cut in half to give both women. The real mother protested and even offered to give the live baby to the other woman to keep him alive. At this, Solomon knew which was the mother of the baby and made his judgment accordingly.

Wisdom will serve us so much better than wealth. Besides, without wisdom wealth may well slip quickly through our fingers. True wisdom comes only from God and offers us much better quality of life than does wealth.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reflections on 1 Kings 2

    1 Kings 02 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Not long before David died, he told Solomon:
  2. My son, I will soon die, as everyone must. But I want you to be strong and brave.
  3. Do what the LORD your God commands and follow his teachings. Obey everything written in the Law of Moses. Then you will be a success, no matter what you do or where you go.
  4. You and your descendants must always faithfully obey the LORD. If you do, he will keep the solemn promise he made to me that someone from our family will always be king of Israel.
  5. Solomon, don't forget what Joab did to me by killing Abner son of Ner and Amasa son of Jether, the two commanders of Israel's army. He killed them as if they were his enemies in a war, but he did it when there was no war. He is guilty, and now it's up to you to punish him
  6. in the way you think best. Whatever you do, don't let him die peacefully in his old age.
  7. The sons of Barzillai from Gilead helped me when I was running from your brother Absalom. Be kind to them and let them eat at your table.
  8. Be sure to do something about Shimei son of Gera from Bahurim in the territory of Benjamin. He cursed and insulted me the day I went to Mahanaim. But later, when he came to meet me at the Jordan River, I promised that I wouldn't kill him.
  9. Now you must punish him. He's an old man, but you're wise enough to know that you must have him killed.
  10. David was king of Israel forty years. He ruled seven years from Hebron and thirty-three years from Jerusalem. Then he died and was buried in Jerusalem.
  11. (SEE 2:10)
  12. His son Solomon became king and took control of David's kingdom.
  13. One day, Adonijah went to see Bathsheba, Solomon's mother, and she asked, "Is this a friendly visit?" "Yes.
  14. I just want to talk with you." "All right," she told him, "go ahead."
  15. "You know that I was king for a little while," Adonijah replied. "And everyone in Israel accepted me as their ruler. But the LORD wanted my brother to be king, so now things have changed.
  16. Would you do me a favor?" "What do you want?" Bathsheba asked.
  17. "Please ask Solomon to let me marry Abishag. He won't say no to you."
  18. "All right," she said. "I'll ask him."
  19. When Bathsheba went to see Solomon, he stood up to meet her, then bowed low. He sat back down and had another throne brought in, so his mother could sit at his right side.
  20. Bathsheba sat down and then asked, "Would you do me a small favor?" Solomon replied, "Mother, just tell me what you want, and I will do it."
  21. "Allow your brother Adonijah to marry Abishag," she answered.
  22. Solomon said: What? Let my older brother marry Abishag? You may as well ask me to let him rule the kingdom! And why don't you ask such favors for Abiathar and Joab?
  23. I swear in the name of the LORD that Adonijah will die because he asked for this! If he doesn't, I pray that God will severely punish me.
  24. The LORD made me king in my father's place and promised that the kings of Israel would come from my family. Yes, I swear by the living LORD that Adonijah will die today.
  25. "Benaiah," Solomon shouted, "go kill Adonijah." So Adonijah died.
  26. Solomon sent for Abiathar the priest and said: Abiathar, go back home to Anathoth! You ought to be killed too, but I won't do it now. When my father David was king, you were in charge of the sacred chest, and you went through a lot of hard times with my father.
  27. But I won't let you be a priest of the LORD anymore. And so the promise that the LORD had made at Shiloh about the family of Eli came true.
  28. Joab had not helped Absalom try to become king, but he had helped Adonijah. So when Joab learned that Adonijah had been killed, he ran to the sacred tent and grabbed hold of the corners of the altar for protection.
  29. When Solomon heard about this, he sent someone to ask Joab, "Why did you run to the altar?" Joab sent back his answer, "I was afraid of you, and I ran to the LORD for protection." Then Solomon shouted, "Benaiah, go kill Joab!"
  30. Benaiah went to the sacred tent and yelled, "Joab, the king orders you to come out!" "No!" Joab answered. "Kill me right here." Benaiah went back and told Solomon what Joab had said.
  31. Solomon replied: Do what Joab said. Kill him and bury him! Then my family and I won't be responsible for what he did to Abner the commander of Israel's army and to Amasa the commander of Judah's army. He killed those innocent men without my father knowing about it. Both of them were better men than Joab. Now the LORD will make him pay for those murders.
  32. (SEE 2:31)
  33. Joab's family will always suffer because of what he did, but the LORD will always bless David's family and his kingdom with peace.
  34. Benaiah went back and killed Joab. His body was taken away and buried near his home in the desert.
  35. Solomon put Benaiah in Joab's place as army commander, and he put Zadok in Abiathar's place as priest.
  36. Solomon sent for Shimei and said, "Build a house here in Jerusalem and live in it. But whatever you do, don't leave the city!
  37. If you ever cross Kidron Valley and leave Jerusalem, you will be killed. And it will be your own fault."
  38. "That's fair, Your Majesty," Shimei answered. "I'll do that." So Shimei lived in Jerusalem from then on.
  39. About three years later, two of Shimei's servants ran off to King Achish in Gath. When Shimei found out where they were,
  40. he saddled his donkey and went after them. He found them and brought them back to Jerusalem.
  41. Someone told Solomon that Shimei had gone to Gath and was back.
  42. Solomon sent for him and said: Shimei, you promised in the name of the LORD that you would never leave Jerusalem. I warned you that you would die if you did. You agreed that this was fair, didn't you?
  43. You have disobeyed me and have broken the promise you made to the LORD.
  44. I know you remember all the cruel things you did to my father David. Now the LORD is going to punish you for what you did.
  45. But the LORD will bless me and make my father's kingdom strong forever.
  46. "Benaiah," Solomon shouted, "kill Shimei." So Shimei died. Solomon was now in complete control of his kingdom.

David realized his death was approaching and summoned Solomon to instruct him much as did Moses with Joshua just before his death. Though Solomon had already become king this was somewhat of a "passing of the mantle," so to speak, with the succession of rule. First, David told Solomon the secret of a successful reign. "Be strong and brave," he said, "and keep your obligation to the LORD your God to walk in His ways and to keep His statutes, commandments, judgments, and testimonies." (2:2, 3) The secret lay in his faithfulness and obedience to God. As Moses said to Joshua, David told him to "be strong and brave." It takes both strength and courage, or bravery, to be faithful to God. Obviously, it is inner strength rather than physical strength that is required. To remain faithful to God will require one to make choices at times that go contrary to the actions, choices, and counsel of others and will require courage as well as inner strength.

Next, David instructed Solomon about what he must do to assure peace for his reign. This required dealing with enemies of both David and Solomon. The list included Joab who had been David's faithful commander of the army. But Joab had murdered two innocent men for which David had not taken action. He had also turned against David in the end and given his loyalties to Adonijah in his attempt to take the throne. Also included was Shimei who had cursed David when he fled Absalom's attempt to take the throne. Though Shimei had met David on his return to Jerusalem on that occasion and David had granted him mercy, David evidently still did not trust the man. But David also requested that Solomon "show loyalty to the sons of Barzillai" who had supported David when he fled from Absalom. He wanted Barzillai's descendants to share in the king's favor.

David died soon after this talk with Solomon. He had reigned 40 years, 7 of which had been over Judah and then 33 over all Israel. Even after David's death and Solomon's actions to follow the counsel of his father, Solomon did not execute a bloody house cleaning. He continued to extend mercy toward his enemies and let them seal their own fates. The first to seal his fate was Adonijah. Though Solomon could have rightfully executed Adonijah for his attempt on the throne he had ruled that "not a single hair of his will fall to the ground, but if evil is found in him, then he dies." (1:52)

Solomon took no action against Adonijah until he attempted another plot. On the surface it seemed quite innocent and drew in Bathsheba to provide help for his scheme. Adonijah went to Bathsheba to petition her to go to Solomon and request on his behalf that Abishag be given to him as a wife. Abishag had been the beautiful young woman who was David's nurse in his later years. Though he did not have an intimate relationship with her, she had become a part of the king's harem. This request, though seemingly innocent, was, in Solomon's words, the equivolence of asking for the kingship. Solomon realized the people would interpret this as a claim to the throne. Therefore, he immediately ordered Adonijah's execution.

Adonijah's plot indicated there was still sentiment alive to depose Solomon. So Solomon didn't stop with Adonijah, he also exiled Abiathar the priest, who had supported Adonijah, to his "fields in Anathoth." His next action would have been to deal with Joab, but Joab got word of Solomon's actions against Adonijah and Abiathar and knew he was next. So he fled to the tabernacle and took hold of the horns of the altar. The altar offered refuge for all but murderers, so Joab sought its protection in vain. Solomon sent Benaiah, his replacement for Joab as commander of the army, to execute Joab, and when he would not come away from the altar he was slain there at the altar.

Finally Solomon dealt with Shimei who had cursed David. Instead of killing him he told him to build a house in Jerusalem and not leave the city. If he did so he would surely die. If he left the city he would be liable of going to his home to stir up insurrection among the Benjamites. All went well for three years, but then some of Shimei's slaves escaped and he went after them, showing his lack of respect for the king's orders. When word came to Solomon, he called Shimei to him, reviewed his orders to him, and then had him executed. The chapter concludes with the words, "So the kingdom was established in Solomon's hand." (2:46)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Reflections on 1 Kings 1

    1 Kings 01 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. King David was now an old man, and he always felt cold, even under a lot of blankets.
  2. His officials said, "Your Majesty, we will look for a young woman to take care of you. She can lie down beside you and keep you warm."
  3. They looked everywhere in Israel until they found a very beautiful young woman named Abishag, who lived in the town of Shunem. They brought her to David, and she took care of him. But David did not have sex with her.
  4. (SEE 1:3)
  5. Adonijah was the son of David and Haggith. He was Absalom's younger brother and was very handsome. One day, Adonijah started bragging, "I'm going to make myself king!" So he got some chariots and horses, and he hired fifty men as bodyguards. David did not want to hurt his feelings, so he never asked Adonijah why he was doing these things.
  6. (SEE 1:5)
  7. Adonijah met with Joab the son of Zeruiah and Abiathar the priest and asked them if they would help him become king. Both of them agreed to help.
  8. But Zadok the priest, Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, Nathan the prophet, Shimei, Rei, and David's bodyguards all refused.
  9. Adonijah invited his brothers and David's officials from Judah to go with him to Crawling Rock near Rogel Spring, where he sacrificed some sheep, cattle, and fat calves.
  10. But he did not invite Nathan, Benaiah, David's bodyguards, or his own brother Solomon.
  11. When Nathan heard what had happened, he asked Bathsheba, Solomon's mother: Have you heard that Adonijah the son of Haggith has made himself king? But David doesn't know a thing about it.
  12. You and your son Solomon will be killed, unless you do what I tell you.
  13. Go say to David, "You promised me that Solomon would be the next king. So why is Adonijah now king?"
  14. While you are still talking to David, I'll come in and tell him that everything you said is true.
  15. Meanwhile, David was in his bedroom where Abishag was taking care of him because he was so old. Bathsheba went in
  16. and bowed down. "What can I do for you?" David asked.
  17. Bathsheba answered: Your Majesty, you promised me in the name of the LORD your God that my son Solomon would be the next king.
  18. But Adonijah has already been made king, and you didn't know anything about it.
  19. He sacrificed a lot of cattle, calves, and sheep. And he invited Abiathar the priest, Joab your army commander, and all your sons to be there, except Solomon, your loyal servant.
  20. Your Majesty, everyone in Israel is waiting for you to announce who will be the next king.
  21. If you don't, they will say that Solomon and I have rebelled. They will treat us like criminals and kill us as soon as you die.
  22. Just then, Nathan the prophet arrived.
  23. Someone told David that he was there, and Nathan came in. He bowed with his face to the ground
  24. and said: Your Majesty, did you say that Adonijah would be king?
  25. Earlier today, he sacrificed a lot of cattle, calves, and sheep. He invited the army commanders, Abiathar, and all your sons to be there. Right now they are eating and drinking and shouting, "Long live King Adonijah!"
  26. But he didn't invite me or Zadok the priest or Benaiah or Solomon.
  27. Did you say they could do this without telling the rest of us who would be the next king?
  28. David said, "Tell Bathsheba to come here." She came and stood in front of him.
  29. Then he said, "The living LORD God of Israel has kept me safe. And so today, I will keep the promise I made to you in his name: Solomon will be the next king!"
  30. (SEE 1:29)
  31. Bathsheba bowed with her face to the ground and said, "Your Majesty, I pray that you will live a long time!"
  32. Then David said, "Tell Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah to come here." When they arrived,
  33. he told them: Take along some of my officials and have Solomon ride my own mule to Gihon Spring.
  34. When you get there, Zadok and Nathan will make Solomon the new king of Israel. Then after the ceremony is over, have someone blow a trumpet and tell everyone to shout, "Long live King Solomon!"
  35. Bring him back here, and he will take my place as king. He is the one I have chosen to rule Israel and Judah.
  36. Benaiah answered, "We will do it, Your Majesty. I pray that the LORD your God will let it happen.
  37. The LORD has always watched over you, and I pray that he will now watch over Solomon. May the LORD help Solomon to be an even greater king than you."
  38. Zadok, Nathan, and Benaiah left and took along the two groups of David's special bodyguards. Solomon rode on David's mule as they led him to Gihon Spring.
  39. Zadok the priest brought some olive oil from the sacred tent and poured it on Solomon's head to show that he was now king. A trumpet was blown and everyone shouted, "Long live King Solomon!"
  40. Then they played flutes and celebrated as they followed Solomon back to Jerusalem. They made so much noise that the ground shook.
  41. Adonijah and his guests had almost finished eating when they heard the noise. Joab also heard the trumpet and asked, "What's all that noise about in the city?"
  42. Just then, Jonathan son of Abiathar came running up. "Come in," Adonijah said. "An important man like you must have some good news."
  43. Jonathan answered: No, I don't! David has just announced that Solomon will be king.
  44. Solomon rode David's own mule to Gihon Spring, and Zadok, Nathan, Benaiah, and David's special bodyguards went with him. When they got there, Zadok and Nathan made Solomon king. Then everyone celebrated all the way back to Jerusalem. That's the noise you hear in the city.
  45. (SEE 1:44)
  46. Solomon is now king.
  47. And listen to this! David's officials told him, "We pray that your God will help Solomon to be an even greater king!" David was in his bed at the time, but he bowed
  48. and prayed, "I praise you, LORD God of Israel. You have made my son Solomon king and have let me live to see it."
  49. Adonijah's guests shook with fear when they heard this news, and they left as fast as they could.
  50. Adonijah himself was afraid of what Solomon might do to him, so he ran to the sacred tent and grabbed hold of the corners of the altar for protection.
  51. Someone told Solomon, "Adonijah is afraid of you and is holding onto the corners of the altar. He wants you to promise that you won't kill him."
  52. Solomon answered, "If Adonijah doesn't cause any trouble, I won't hurt him. But if he does, I'll have him killed."
  53. Then he sent someone to the altar to get Adonijah. After Adonijah came and bowed down, Solomon said, "Adonijah, go home."

    1 Kings continues the history of Israel's kings from where 2 Samuel ends. At this point in time David had become feeble and bedridden. Since he died near the age of 70 he was evidently approaching that age at this time. This seems a rather early age at which to be so feeble, but scripture does not hint at anything other than age causing this condition. Even with blankets heaped on him he could not get warm. A beautiful young girl by the name of Abishag was found to attend to him and keep him warm at night.

    With it so apparent that death was approaching for David, his son, Adonijah, took matters into his own hands to assert himself as the succeeding king. Adonijah was probably the oldest living son of David and might normally have expected to succeed his father as king, but both God and David had chosen his younger brother, Solomon. (1 Chronicles 22:8-10)  It is not known if Adonijah was aware of this but he obviously thought that his only way to the throne was to take the initiative himself.

    As with David's sons, Absalom and Amnon, David's failure to discipline them played a role in Adonijah's behavior. Although Adonijah was "exalting himself, saying, 'I will be king!'" and assembling chariots and cavalry and men to run ahead of him, David "never once reprimanded him by saying, 'Why do you act this way?'" (1:5, 6) So Adonijah became bolder in his assertions and eventually conspired with Joab, David's former army commander, and Abiathar the priest, who had been David's advisor, to have a feast and proclaim himself king. He invited to this feast "all his royal brothers and all the men of Judah, the servants of the king." (1:9) The feast was held at En-rogel, one of two springs outside Jerusalem.

    Meanwhile, Nathan the prophet stepped up to head off placement of Adonijah on the throne. He knew that Solomon was to succeed his father as king and he knew that both Solomon and his mother, Bathsheba, were in danger if Adonijah were made king. So he went to Bathsheba and made her aware of Adonijah's actions and of the urgency of her acting quickly. She was to go to the king and make him aware of Adonijah's feast and remind David of his promise to make Solomon king. Then Nathan was to appear right behind her to confirm what she was saying.
    The plan worked, prompting David to action. He called for Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah his commander of the army. He instructed them to take the elite troops with them and have Solomon ride the king's own mule and go to Gihon, the other of the two springs outside Jerusalem. This gathering was about one-half mile from Adonijah's feast. The priest and prophet were to anoint Solomon king and blow the ram's horn officially announcing his anointing and then take him back to the palace to immediately assume the throne and his position as king.

    When these instructions were followed, those with Adonijah heard the ram's horn and commotion of the throng proclaiming Solomon as king and wondered what was happening. Soon, Jonathan, son of Abiathar the priest, arrived at Adonijah's feast and Adonijah assumed he came with good news. But Jonathan told him it was not good news and apprised the gathering of the anointing of Solomon and that he had already "taken his seat on the royal throne." (1:46) Adonijah's guests quickly "got up trembling and went their separate ways." (1:49) while Adonijah went to the tabernacle to take hold of the horns of the altar to seek asylum. All of them were at risk of execution for treason.

    Solomon proved to have his father's character and offered mercy to Adonijah promising not to harm him as long as no "evil is found in him." Otherwise he would die. (1:52)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 24

    2 Samuel 24 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. The LORD was angry at Israel again, and he made David think it would be a good idea to count the people in Israel and Judah.
  2. So David told Joab and the army officers, "Go to every tribe in Israel, from the town of Dan in the north all the way south to Beersheba, and count everyone who can serve in the army. I want to know how many there are."
  3. Joab answered, "I hope the LORD your God will give you a hundred times more soldiers than you already have. I hope you will live to see that day! But why do you want to do a thing like this?"
  4. But when David refused to change his mind, Joab and the army officers went out and started counting the people.
  5. They crossed the Jordan River and began with Aroer and the town in the middle of the river valley. From there they went toward Gad and on as far as Jazer.
  6. They went to Gilead and to Kadesh in Syria. Then they went to Dan, Ijon, and on toward Sidon.
  7. They came to the fortress of Tyre, then went through every town of the Hivites and the Canaanites. Finally, they went to Beersheba in the Southern Desert of Judah.
  8. After they had gone through the whole land, they went back to Jerusalem. It had taken them nine months and twenty days.
  9. Joab came and told David, "In Israel there are eight hundred thousand who can serve in the army, and in Judah there are five hundred thousand."
  10. After David had everyone counted, he felt guilty and told the LORD, "What I did was stupid and terribly wrong. LORD, please forgive me."
  11. Before David even got up the next morning, the LORD had told David's prophet Gad
  12. to take a message to David. Gad went to David and told him: You must choose one of three ways for the LORD to punish you: Will there be seven years when the land won't grow enough food for your people? Or will your enemies chase you and make you run from them for three months? Or will there be three days of horrible disease in your land? Think about it and decide, because I have to give your answer to God, who sent me.
  13. (SEE 24:12)
  14. David was really frightened and said, "It's a terrible choice to make! But the LORD is kind, and I'd rather have him punish us than for anyone else to do it."
  15. So that morning, the LORD sent an angel to spread a horrible disease everywhere in Israel, from Dan to Beersheba. And before it was over, seventy thousand people had died. When the angel was about to destroy Jerusalem, the LORD felt sorry for all the suffering he had caused and told the angel, "That's enough! Don't touch them." This happened at the threshing place that belonged to Araunah the Jebusite.
  16. (SEE 24:15)
  17. David saw the angel killing everyone and told the LORD, "These people are like sheep with me as their shepherd. I have sinned terribly, but they have done nothing wrong. Please, punish me and my family instead of them!"
  18. That same day the prophet Gad came and told David, "Go to the threshing place that belongs to Araunah and build an altar there for the LORD." So David went.
  19. (SEE 24:18)
  20. Araunah looked and saw David and his soldiers coming up toward him. He went over to David, bowed down low,
  21. and said, "Your Majesty! Why have you come to see me?" David answered, "I've come to buy your threshing place. I have to build the LORD an altar here, so this disease will stop killing the people."
  22. Araunah said, "Take whatever you want and offer your sacrifice. Here are some oxen for the sacrifice. You can use the threshing-boards and the wooden yokes for the fire.
  23. Take them--they're yours! I hope the LORD your God will be pleased with you."
  24. But David answered, "No! I have to pay you what they're worth. I can't offer the LORD my God a sacrifice that I got for nothing." So David bought the threshing place and the oxen for fifty pieces of silver.
  25. Then he built an altar for the LORD. He sacrificed animals and burned them on the altar. The LORD answered the prayers of the people, and no one else died from the terrible disease.

    This last chapter of 2 Samuel is a little puzzling when it tells us, "The LORD's anger burned against Israel again, and it stirred up David against them." (24:1) Why was the Lord angry with Israel and why did He stir up David to sin? 1 Chronicles 21:1 offers some help in attributing David's temptation to Satan instead of God: "Satan stood up against Israel and incited David to count the people of Israel." God's part, then, was to allow Satan to do this as in the case of Job. On first reading one may come away with the impression that this was all about David and the people had to suffer because of his sin. Though David sinned and 70,000 died as a result, the first verse tells us the Lord was angry with Israel, not David, and that David was stirred up against "them," meaning Israel. So this whole incident was punishment for Israel for some unidentified sin which begs the question as to why the Lord didn't just punish Israel rather than have it come as a result of David's sin?

    Nevertheless, David was tempted and succumbed to taking a census. Though verse 1 states that David was stirred up to count the people, David's instructions to Joab were to, "Go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beer-sheba and register the troops." (24:2) The report he received was that, "There were 800,000 fighting men from Israel and 500,000 men from Judah." (24:9) As soon as David received this report his conscience bothered him and he confessed his sin to the Lord, "I have sinned greatly in what I've done." (24:10) What was the sin in this? The passage only hints at this, but was most likely a matter of pride so he could boast of his military strength rather than simple dependence on God for military strength. Joab touched on this in his reply to David's orders to take the census: "May the LORD your God multiply the troops 100 times more than they are--while my lord the king looks on! But why does my lord the king want to do this?" (24:3) God could multiply the troops however much was needed. There was no need to count them.

    David, having confessed his sin, was sent a message from the Lord through the prophet Gad: "I am offering you three choices. Choose one of them, and I will do it to you.'" (24:12) So David got to choose the punishment. The choices were three years of famine, three months of fleeing from enemies, or three days of plague. David chose the plague saying, "Please, let us fall into the LORD's hands because His mercies are great, but don't let me fall into human hands." (24:14) It was a wise choice, for God stopped the plague before doing its ultimate damage. Even then, "70,000 men died." (24:15) The fact that only men died suggests that it might have been men from the troops who had been counted. If so, God was diminishing the military strength upon which David placed his pride and maybe also his dependence.

    The number of casualties might have been much higher except that as the angel spreading the plague approached Jerusalem the Lord said, "Enough, withdraw your hand now!" (24:16) The angel was at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite when he stopped. It was there David was instructed to build an altar and sacrifice to the Lord. The account tells of how Araunah offered to give David the threshing floor and everything he needed to offer the sacrifice, but David refused the gift saying, "I will not offer to the LORD my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing." (24:24)

    Historians tells us that the threshing floor of Araunah was the likely spot where Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice and also the site where Solomon built the temple. In this whole account I am prompted to ask myself, "what of mine am I inclined to take stock of to assess my strength or abundance either to assuage my pride or to offer security in place of God's security?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 23

    2 Samuel 23 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. These are the last words of David the son of Jesse. The God of Jacob chose David and made him a great king. The Mighty God of Israel loved him. When God told him to speak, David said:
  2. The Spirit of the LORD has told me what to say.
  3. Our Mighty Rock, the God of Jacob, told me, "A ruler who obeys God and does right
  4. is like the sunrise on a cloudless day, or like rain that sparkles on the grass."
  5. I have ruled this way, and God will never break his promise to me. God's promise is complete and unchanging; he will always help me and give me what I hope for.
  6. But evil people are pulled up like thornbushes. They are not dug up by hand,
  7. but with a sharp spear and are burned on the spot.
  8. These are the names of David's warriors: Ishbosheth the son of Hachmon was the leader of the Three Warriors. In one battle, he killed eight hundred men with his spear.
  9. The next one of the Three Warriors was Eleazar the son of Dodo the Ahohite. One time when the Philistines were at war with Israel, he and David dared the Philistines to fight them. Every one of the Israelite soldiers turned and ran,
  10. except Eleazar. He killed Philistines until his hand was cramped, and he couldn't let go of his sword. When Eleazar finished, all the Israelite troops had to do was come back and take the enemies' weapons and armor. The LORD gave Israel a great victory that day.
  11. Next was Shammah the son of Agee the Hararite. One time the Philistines brought their army together to destroy a crop of peas growing in a field near Lehi. The rest of Israel's soldiers ran away from the Philistines,
  12. but Shammah stood in the middle of the field and killed the Philistines. The crops were saved, and the LORD gave Israel a great victory.
  13. One year at harvest time, the Three Warriors went to meet David at Adullam Cave. The Philistine army had set up camp in Rephaim Valley
  14. and had taken over Bethlehem. David was in his fortress,
  15. and he was very thirsty. He said, "I wish I had a drink from the well by the gate at Bethlehem."
  16. The Three Warriors sneaked into the Philistine camp and got some water from the well near Bethlehem's gate. But after they brought the water back to David, he refused to drink it. Instead, he poured it out as a sacrifice
  17. and said to the LORD, "I can't drink this water! It's like the blood of these men who risked their lives to get it for me." The Three Warriors did these brave deeds.
  18. Joab's brother Abishai was the leader of the Thirty Warriors, and in one battle he killed three hundred men with his spear. He was as famous as the Three Warriors
  19. and certainly just as famous as the rest of the Thirty Warriors. He was the commander of the Thirty Warriors, but he still did not become one of the Three Warriors.
  20. Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a brave man from Kabzeel who did some amazing things. He killed two of Moab's best fighters, and on a snowy day he went down into a pit and killed a lion.
  21. Another time, he killed an Egyptian, as big as a giant. The Egyptian was armed with a spear, but Benaiah only had a club. Benaiah grabbed the spear from the Egyptian and killed him with it.
  22. Benaiah did these things. He never became one of the Three Warriors, but he was just as famous as they were and certainly just as famous as the rest of the Thirty Warriors. David made him the leader of his bodyguard.
  23. (SEE 23:22)
  24. Some of the Thirty Warriors were: Asahel the brother of Joab Elhanan the son of Dodo from Bethlehem Shammah from Harod Elika from Harod Helez the Paltite Ira the son of Ikkesh from Tekoa Abiezer from Anathoth Mebunnai the Hushathite Zalmon the Ahohite Maharai from Netophah Heleb the son of Baanah from Netophah Ittai the son of Ribai from Gibeah of the tribe of Benjamin Benaiah from Pirathon Hiddai from the streams on Mount Gaash Abialbon from Beth-Arabah Azmaveth from Bahurim Eliahba from Shaalbon Jashen Jonathan the son of Shammah the Hararite Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai from Maacah Eliam the son of Ahithophel from Gilo Hezro from Carmel Paarai the Arbite Igal the son of Nathan from Zobah Bani the Gadite Zelek from Ammon Naharai from Beeroth, who carried the weapons of Joab the son of Zeruiah Ira the Ithrite Gareb the Ithrite Uriah the Hittite There were thirty-seven in all.
  25. (SEE 23:24)
  26. (SEE 23:24)
  27. (SEE 23:24)
  28. (SEE 23:24)
  29. (SEE 23:24)
  30. (SEE 23:24)
  31. (SEE 23:24)
  32. (SEE 23:24)
  33. (SEE 23:24)
  34. (SEE 23:24)
  35. (SEE 23:24)
  36. (SEE 23:24)
  37. (SEE 23:24)
  38. (SEE 23:24)
  39. (SEE 23:24)

    This third chapter in the appendix of 2 Samuel recorded the last inspired song David wrote along with a few accounts of David's men of valor and a listing of his mighty men known as "The Thirty."

    In David's song he eludes to his progression from "son of Jesse,"  who was a shepherd boy to his anointing by "the God of Jacob" to be king. It tells of God speaking through him of the value of one who rules with justice, which might be considered the centerpiece of David's reign. Then it points to God's covenant with him in which God made an everlasting commitment with him and his house for their well-being. This covenant, he said, was "ordered and secured in every detail."

    Following David's song the record goes on to give accounts of David's men of valor. Six accounts of valor are given:

    • Josheb-Basshebeth slew eight hundred men at one time.
    • Eleazar fought off the Philistines when his fellow soldiers had retreated.
    • Shammah stood alone against the Philistines when the men of Israel had fled.
    • Three unnamed mighty men risked their lives to break through the lines of the Philistine army to get water at the well of Bethlehem and take it to David.
    • Abishai killed three hundred men.
    • Benaiah killed two lion-like heroes of Moab. He also killed a lion in a pit on a snowy day, and an Egyptian who was better-armed than he.

    The chapter concludes with a listing of "the thirty," though it actually includes 37 names.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 22

    2 Samuel 22 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. David sang a song to the LORD after the LORD had rescued him from his enemies, especially Saul. These are the words to David's song:
  2. Our LORD and our God, you are my mighty rock, my fortress, my protector.
  3. You are the rock where I am safe. You are my shield, my powerful weapon, and my place of shelter. You rescue me and keep me from being hurt.
  4. I praise you, our LORD! I prayed to you, and you rescued me from my enemies.
  5. Death, like ocean waves, surrounded me, and I was almost swallowed by its flooding waters.
  6. Ropes from the world of the dead had coiled around me, and death had set a trap in my path.
  7. I was in terrible trouble when I called out to you, but from your temple you heard me and answered my prayer.
  8. Earth shook and shivered! The columns supporting the sky rocked back and forth. You were angry
  9. and breathed out smoke. Scorching heat and fiery flames spewed from your mouth.
  10. You opened the heavens like curtains, and you came down with storm clouds under your feet.
  11. You rode on the backs of flying creatures. You appeared with the wind as wings.
  12. Darkness was your tent! Thunderclouds filled the sky, hiding you from sight.
  13. Fiery coals lit up the sky in front of you.
  14. LORD Most High, your voice thundered from the heavens.
  15. You scattered your enemies with arrows of lightning.
  16. You roared at the sea, and its deepest channels could be seen. You snorted, and the earth shook to its foundations.
  17. You reached down from heaven, and you lifted me from deep in the ocean.
  18. You rescued me from enemies who were hateful and too powerful for me.
  19. On the day disaster struck, they came and attacked, but you defended me.
  20. When I was fenced in, you freed and rescued me because you love me.
  21. You are good to me, LORD, because I do right, and you reward me because I am innocent.
  22. I do what you want and never turn to do evil.
  23. I keep your laws in mind and never turn away from your teachings.
  24. I obey you completely and guard against sin.
  25. You have been good to me because I do right; you have rewarded me for being innocent by your standards.
  26. You are always loyal to your loyal people, and you are faithful to the faithful.
  27. With all who are sincere you are sincere, but you treat the unfaithful as their deeds deserve.
  28. You rescue the humble, but you look for ways to put down the proud.
  29. Our LORD and God, you are my lamp. You turn darkness to light.
  30. You help me defeat armies and capture cities.
  31. Your way is perfect, LORD, and your word is correct. You are a shield for those who run to you for help.
  32. You alone are God! Only you are a mighty rock.
  33. You are my strong fortress, and you set me free.
  34. You make my feet run as fast as those of a deer, and you help me stand on the mountains.
  35. You teach my hands to fight and my arms to use a bow of bronze.
  36. You alone are my shield, and by coming to help me, you have made me famous.
  37. You clear the way for me, and now I won't stumble.
  38. I kept chasing my enemies until I caught them and destroyed them.
  39. I destroyed them! I stuck my sword through my enemies, and they were crushed under my feet.
  40. You helped me win victories and forced my attackers to fall victim to me.
  41. You made my enemies run, and I killed them.
  42. They cried out for help, but no one saved them; they called out to you, but there was no answer.
  43. I ground them to dust, and I squashed them like mud in the streets.
  44. You rescued me from my stubborn people and made me the leader of foreign nations, who are now my slaves.
  45. They obey and come crawling.
  46. They have lost all courage and from their fortresses they come trembling.
  47. You are the living LORD! I will praise you! You are a mighty rock. I will honor you for keeping me safe.
  48. You took revenge for me, and you put nations in my power.
  49. You protected me from violent enemies, and you made me much greater than all of them.
  50. I will praise you, LORD, and I will honor you among the nations.
  51. You give glorious victories to your chosen king. Your faithful love for David and for his descendants will never end.

    Included in this appendix to 2 Samuel, which begins in chapter 21, is a song from David praising God for delivering him from his enemies. It was written after David was established on the throne in Israel and the nation became united under his leadership. David was overwhelmed at what God had done for him in delivering him from Saul through all the years Saul tried to kill him, then delivering him from national enemies and solidly establishing him as king over a united Israel. He seemed amazed that people he didn't even know served him and foreigners submitted to him and that at his name they lost heart and came to him trembling.

    David saw only one reason for his salvation from enemies and his position as head of nations - the Lord had done it. Through all those years he had feared for his life at the hands of Saul the Lord had been "my God, my mountain where I seek refuge. My shield, the horn of my salvation, my stronghold, my refuge, and my Savior." (22:3) David could call "to the LORD, who is worthy of praise, and I was saved from my enemies." (22:4) And when David called to the Lord for help, the Lord brought into play all His powers that had created the universe: "Then the earth shook and quaked; the foundations of the heavens trembled." (22:8) In dealing with David's enemies the Lord, "shot arrows and scattered them; He hurled lightning bolts and routed them." (22:15)

    The Lord's actions on David's behalf were not simply arbitrary, though. He acted because David had proven himself righteous. He "kept the ways of the LORD and have not turned from my God to wickedness." (22:22) Therefore, "the LORD repaid me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in His sight." (22:25) But David is not the only one on whose behalf the Lord will act. "With the faithful You prove Yourself faithful; with the blameless man You prove Yourself blameless; with the pure You prove Yourself pure, but with the crooked You prove Yourself shrewd." (22:26-27)

    In conclusion David stated, "Therefore I will praise You, LORD, among the nations; I will sing about Your name." (22:50) This, of course, was the purpose of this song.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 21

    2 Samuel 21 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. While David was king, there were three years in a row when the nation of Israel could not grow enough food. So David asked the LORD for help, and the LORD answered, "Saul and his family are guilty of murder, because he had the Gibeonites killed."
  2. The Gibeonites were not Israelites; they were descendants of the Amorites. The people of Israel had promised not to kill them, but Saul had tried to kill them because he wanted Israel and Judah to control all the land. David had the Gibeonites come, and he talked with them.
  3. He said, "What can I do to make up for what Saul did, so that you'll ask the LORD to be kind to his people again?"
  4. The Gibeonites answered, "Silver and gold from Saul and his family are not enough. On the other hand, we don't have the right to put any Israelite to death." David said, "I'll do whatever you ask."
  5. They replied, "Saul tried to kill all our people so that none of us would be left in the land of Israel.
  6. Give us seven of his descendants. We will hang these men near the place where the LORD is worshiped in Gibeah, the hometown of Saul, the LORD's chosen king." "I'll give them to you," David said.
  7. David had made a promise to Jonathan with the LORD as his witness, so he spared Jonathan's son Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul.
  8. But Saul and Rizpah the daughter of Aiah had two sons named Armoni and Mephibosheth. Saul's daughter Merab had five sons whose father was Adriel the son of Barzillai from Meholah. David took Rizpah's two sons and Merab's five sons and
  9. turned them over to the Gibeonites, who hanged all seven of them on the mountain near the place where the LORD was worshiped. This happened right at the beginning of the barley harvest.
  10. Rizpah spread out some sackcloth on a nearby rock. She wouldn't let the birds land on the bodies during the day, and she kept the wild animals away at night. She stayed there from the beginning of the harvest until it started to rain.
  11. Earlier the Philistines had killed Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa and had hung their bodies in the town square at Beth-Shan. The people of Jabesh in Gilead had secretly taken the bodies away, but David found out what Saul's wife Rizpah had done, and he went to the leaders of Jabesh to get the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan.
  12. (SEE 21:11)
  13. David had their bones taken to the land of Benjamin and buried in a side room in Saul's family burial place. Then he gave orders for the bones of the men who had been hanged to be buried there. It was done, and God answered prayers to bless the land.
  14. (SEE 21:13)
  15. One time David got very tired when he and his soldiers were fighting the Philistines.
  16. One of the Philistine warriors was Ishbibenob, who was a descendant of the Rephaim, and he tried to kill David. Ishbibenob was armed with a new sword, and his bronze spearhead alone weighed seven and a half pounds.
  17. But Abishai came to the rescue and killed the Philistine. David's soldiers told him, "We can't let you risk your life in battle anymore! You give light to our nation, and we want that flame to keep burning."
  18. There was another battle with the Philistines at Gob, where Sibbecai from Hushah killed a descendant of the Rephaim named Saph.
  19. There was still another battle with the Philistines at Gob. A soldier named Elhanan killed Goliath from Gath, whose spear shaft was like a weaver's beam. Elhanan's father was Jari from Bethlehem.
  20. There was another war, this time in Gath. One of the enemy soldiers was a descendant of the Rephaim. He was as big as a giant and had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.
  21. But when he made fun of Israel, David's nephew Jonathan killed him. Jonathan was the son of David's brother Shimei.
  22. David and his soldiers killed these four men who were descendants of the Rephaim from Gath.

    Chapter 21 begins a section made up of the last four chapters of 2 Samuel that form an appendix relating various incidents during David's reign, particularly the later part of his reign. The first incident related is rather puzzling in present day standards and a little difficult to understand. Israel experienced a three-year famine which David discovered, by inquiring of the Lord, was caused by Saul's breaking of the covenant Joshua made with the Gibeonites. Saul had killed many of them in an apparent attempt to annihilate them. The covenant promised them no harm in exchange for their servitude to Israel. The Gibeonites had fulfilled their end of the covenant faithfully and peaceably.

    Action was required to break the curse brought on by Saul's sin so David asked the Gibeonites what would satisfy them in this situation. It would seem that he should have asked the Lord what would break the curse instead of the Gibeonites but evidently the ones wronged were given that privilege. The desire of the Gibeonites was not for money but for blood retribution - the death of Saul's descendants in exchange for the deaths of their people. The main difficulty in this situation is that those whose lives were required in this exchange had not been involved in the deaths of the Gibeonites. They were innocent. The law did require a blood sacrifice for remission of sins. Though for most sins this was an animal sacrifice, in the case of humans the life of the one who took that life was required. Some understanding can be made from this line of reasoning but one must wonder also if the curse would have been broken had the Gibeonites asked for money rather than blood retribution. The text gives the impression that the answer to this question would be 'yes'. I am thankful that we are no longer under the law but under grace due to the blood of Jesus Christ.

    Once the descendants of Saul were hanged, the famine was broken and rain came. Rizpah, mother of two of those hanged, camped out where the bodies remained hanging to protect them from birds and animals until the rain came, signaling the end of the famine and breaking of the curse. Then the bodies were taken down and buried. David was prompted by her action to also claim the bodies of Saul and Jonathan from the leaders of Jabesh-gilead so they could be buried in their own family tomb. The leaders of Jabesh-gilead had rescued their bodies from the Philistines and provided them burial in their territory.

    The concluding verses of the chapter chronicle the extinction of the Philistian giants, descendants of Goliath. It also notes David's advancing age and his inability to handle the rigors of battle. His exhaution from battle, due to his age, nearly got him killed by one of the giants. But Abishai, commander of his troops, rescued him. His men then encouraged him to never go to battle again. His death, they said, would "extinguish the lamp of Israel." (21:17)

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 20

    2 Samuel 20 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. A troublemaker from the tribe of Benjamin was there. His name was Sheba the son of Bichri, and he blew a trumpet to get everyone's attention. Then he said, "People of Israel, David the son of Jesse doesn't belong to us! Let's go home."
  2. So they stopped following David and went off with Sheba. But the people of Judah stayed close to David all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.
  3. David had left ten of his wives in Jerusalem to take care of his palace. But when he came back, he had them taken to another house, and he placed soldiers there to guard them. He gave them whatever they needed, but he never slept with any of them again. They had to live there for the rest of their lives as if they were widows.
  4. David said to Amasa, "Three days from now I want you and all of Judah's army to be here!"
  5. Amasa started bringing the army together, but it was taking him more than three days.
  6. So David said to Abishai, "Sheba will hurt us more than Absalom ever did. Take my best soldiers and go after him. We don't want him to take over any walled cities and get away from us."
  7. Abishai left Jerusalem to try and capture Sheba. He took along Joab and his soldiers, as well as David's bodyguard and best troops.
  8. They had gone as far as the big rock at Gibeon when Amasa caught up with them. Joab had a dagger strapped around his waist over his military uniform, but it fell out as he started toward Amasa.
  9. Joab said, "Amasa, my cousin, how are you?" Then Joab took hold of Amasa's beard with his right hand, so that he could greet him with a kiss.
  10. Amasa did not see the dagger in Joab's other hand. Joab stuck it in Amasa's stomach, and his insides spilled out on the ground. Joab only struck him once, but Amasa was dying. Joab and his brother Abishai went off to chase Sheba.
  11. One of Joab's soldiers stood by Amasa and shouted, "If any of you like Joab, and if you are for David, then follow Joab!"
  12. Amasa was still rolling in his own blood in the middle of the road. The soldier who had shouted noticed that everyone who passed by would stop, so he dragged Amasa off the road and covered him with a blanket.
  13. After this, no one else stopped. They all walked straight past him on their way to help Joab capture Sheba.
  14. Sheba had gone through all of the tribes of Israel when he came to the town of Abel Beth-Maacah. All of his best soldiers met him there and followed him into the town.
  15. Joab and his troops came and surrounded Abel, so that no one could go in or come out. They made a dirt ramp up to the town wall and then started to use a battering ram to knock the wall down.
  16. A wise woman shouted from the top of the wall, "Listen to me! Listen to me! I have to talk to Joab! Tell him to come here!"
  17. When he came, the woman said, "Are you Joab?" "Yes, I am," he answered. She said, "Please, listen to what I have to say." "All right," he said. "I'll listen."
  18. She said, "Long ago people used to say, 'If you want good advice, go to the town of Abel to get it.' The answers they got here were all that was needed to settle any problem.
  19. We are Israelites, and we want peace! You can trust us. Why are you trying to destroy a town that's like a mother in Israel? Why do you want to wipe out the LORD's people?"
  20. Joab answered, "No, no! I'm not trying to wipe you out or destroy your town!
  21. That's not it at all. There's a man in your town from the hill country of Ephraim. His name is Sheba, and he is the leader of a rebellion against King David. Turn him over to me, and we will leave your town alone." The woman told Joab, "We will throw his head over the wall."
  22. She went to the people of the town and talked them into doing it. They cut off Sheba's head and threw it to Joab. Joab blew a signal on his trumpet, and the soldiers returned to their homes. Joab went back to David in Jerusalem.
  23. Joab was the commander of Israel's entire army. Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of David's bodyguard.
  24. Adoram was in charge of the slave-labor force. Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud kept government records.
  25. Sheva was the secretary. Zadok and Abiathar were the priests.
  26. Ira from Jair was David's priest.

    The quarrel that flared up at Gilgal between the troops of Judah and those of Israel as David was returning to reclaim the throne in Jerusalem was suddenly escalated by "a wicked man, a Benjaminite named Sheba," (20:1) who blew the ram's horn and announced that "We (Israel) have no portion in David, no inheritance in Jesse's son. Each man to his tent, Israel!" (20:1) Just like that, the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba. Although the text says that "all the men of Israel" deserted David, in the end it appears that it was only a small contingent that followed Sheba. Nevertheless, this rebellion presented a rather large concern as David pointed out, "Sheba son of Bichri will do more harm to us than Absalom." (20:6)

    David ordered Amasa, his replacement of Joab as commander of the army, to "Summon the men of Judah to me within three days and be here yourself." (20:4) One has to wonder at the wisdom of David appointing Amasa in place of Joab without addressing the situation with Joab. He reportedly made the appointment of Amasa to gain the support of Judah for his return to the throne but it may also have been motivated by anger at Joab for killing Absalom and/or speaking angrily with David about his mourning Absalom's death instead of encouraging his troops. Whatever his reasons for appointing Amasa he apparently dealt with Joab by ignoring him. But Joab was too strong a personality to simply fade into the background while someone else took his place.

    When Amasa did not return from summoning the men of Judah within the appointed three days, David placed Abishai, Joab's brother, in charge of the elite troops and sent them to deal with Sheba and his followers. Time was of the essence if they were to stop Sheba before he retreated to a fortified city and eluded them. David was a man of action in his dealings with others but seemed unable to take action with those close to him as was the case with his sons and now with Joab who was also related to him.

    Joab was among those following Abishai in pursuit of Sheba. When they met Amasa and the men he had gathered at Gibeon Joab approached him as if to speak with him. As he approached Amasa his sword fell from his belt and he picked it up, which placed it in his hand without alarming Amasa. Then he grabbed Amasa by the beard as if to kiss him and instead thrust the sword into him, killing him.

    After Joab killed Amasa all the men suddenly followed Joab as if that were the plan all along. It would seem there should have been confusion since first Amasa and then Abishai had been appointed to lead. But with Amasa dead it was Joab they turned to apparently without question. So Joab and the army resumed their pursuit of Sheba and found him holed up in the city of Abel. They built an assault ramp against the outer wall in preparation to lay siege to the city, but a "wise woman" called out from the city asking to speak with Joab. She told Joab that the city of Abel was known as a place for settling disputes and she was a peaceful person, so why was he trying to destroy the city. He assured her that his intent was only to capture Sheba. If they would deliver him to Joab they would withdraw from the city. The woman said they would throw Sheba's head over the wall to them and delivered on this promise. Joab was also good on his word to withdraw, and the rebellion was ended as suddenly as it was begun. The time period from beginning to end was approximately a week.

    The closing verses of the chapter list the officials of David's administration with Joab as the commander of the whole army of Israel as if nothing had changed.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 19

    2 Samuel 19 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Someone told Joab, "The king is crying because Absalom is dead."
  2. David's army found out he was crying because his son had died, and their day of victory suddenly turned into a day of sadness.
  3. The troops were sneaking into Mahanaim, just as if they had run away from a battle and were ashamed.
  4. David held his hands over his face and kept on crying loudly, "My son, Absalom! Absalom, my son, my son!"
  5. Joab went to the house where David was staying and told him: You've made your soldiers ashamed! Not only did they save your life, they saved your sons and daughters and wives as well.
  6. You're more loyal to your enemies than to your friends. What you've done today has shown your officers and soldiers that they don't mean a thing to you. You would be happy if Absalom was still alive, even if the rest of us were dead.
  7. Now get up! Go out there and thank them for what they did. If you don't, I swear by the LORD that you won't even have one man left on your side tomorrow morning. You may have had a lot of troubles in the past, but this will be the worst thing that has ever happened to you!
  8. David got up and went to the town gate and sat down. When the people heard that he was sitting there, they came to see him. After Israel's soldiers had all returned home,
  9. everyone in Israel started arguing. They were saying to each other, "King David rescued us from the Philistines and from our other enemies. But then we chose Absalom to be our new leader, and David had to leave the country to get away. Absalom died in battle, so why hasn't something been done to bring David back?"
  10. (SEE 19:9)
  11. When David found out what they were saying, he sent a message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. It said: Say to the leaders of Judah, "Why are you the last tribe to think about bringing King David back home?
  12. He is your brother, your own relative! Why haven't you done anything to bring him back?"
  13. And tell Amasa, "You're my nephew, and with God as a witness, I swear I'll make you commander of my army instead of Joab."
  14. Soon the tribe of Judah again became followers of David, and they sent him this message: "Come back, and bring your soldiers with you."
  15. David started back and had gone as far as the Jordan River when he met the people of Judah. They had gathered at Gilgal and had come to help him cross the river.
  16. Shimei the son of Gera was there with them. He had hurried from Bahurim to meet David. Shimei was from the tribe of Benjamin, and
  17. a thousand others from Benjamin had come with him. Ziba, the chief servant of Saul's family, also came to the Jordan River. He and his fifteen sons and twenty servants waded across to meet David.
  18. Then they brought David's family and servants back across the river, and they did everything he wanted them to do. Shimei crossed the Jordan River and bowed down in front of David.
  19. He said, "Your Majesty, I beg you not to punish me! Please, forget what I did when you were leaving Jerusalem. Don't even think about it.
  20. I know I was wrong. That's why I wanted to be the first one from the northern tribes to meet you."
  21. But Abishai shouted, "You should be killed for cursing the LORD's chosen king!"
  22. David said, "Abishai, what will I ever do with you and your brother Joab? Is it your job to tell me who has done wrong? I've been made king of all Israel today, and no one will be put to death!"
  23. Then David promised Shimei that he would not be killed.
  24. Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, also came to meet David. He had missed David so much that he had not taken a bath or trimmed his beard or washed his clothes the whole time David was gone.
  25. After they had gone back to Jerusalem, Mephibosheth came to see David, who asked him, "Why didn't you go with me?"
  26. He answered, "Your Majesty, you know I can't walk. I told my servant to saddle a donkey for me so I could go with you. But my servant left without me, and
  27. then he lied about me. You're as wise as an angel of God, so do what you think is right.
  28. After all, you could have killed my whole family and me. But instead, you let me eat at your own table. Your Majesty, what more could I ask?"
  29. David answered, "You've said enough! I've decided to divide the property between you and Ziba."
  30. Mephibosheth replied, "He can have it all! I'm just glad you've come home safely."
  31. Barzillai came from Rogelim in Gilead to meet David at the Jordan River and go across with him.
  32. Barzillai was eighty years old. He was very rich and had sent food to David in Mahanaim.
  33. David said to him, "Cross the river and go to Jerusalem with me. I will take care of you."
  34. Barzillai answered: Your Majesty, why should I go to Jerusalem? I don't have much longer to live.
  35. I'm already eighty years old, and my body is almost numb. I can't taste my food or hear the sound of singing, and I would be nothing but a burden.
  36. I'll cross the river with you, but I'll only go a little way on the other side. You don't have to be so kind to me.
  37. Just let me return to my hometown, where I can someday be buried near my father and mother. My servant Chimham can go with you, and you can treat him as your own.
  38. David said, "I'll take Chimham with me, and whatever you ask me to do for him, I'll do. And if there's anything else you want, I'll also do that."
  39. David's soldiers went on across the river, while he stayed behind to tell Barzillai good-by and to wish him well. Barzillai returned home, but
  40. Chimham crossed the river with David. All of Judah's army and half of Israel's army were there to help David cross the river.
  41. The soldiers from Israel came to him and said, "Why did our relatives from Judah sneak you and your family and your soldiers across the Jordan?"
  42. The people of Judah answered, "Why are you so angry? We are the king's relatives. He didn't give us any food, and we didn't take anything for ourselves!"
  43. Those from Israel said, "King David belongs to us ten times more than he belongs to you. Why didn't you think we were good enough to help you? After all, we were the first ones to think of bringing him back!" The people of Judah spoke more harshly than the people of Israel.

    When the messengers reported to David the outcome of the battle between his forces and those of Absalom and then revealed that Absalom had been killed, David went into the gate chamber and mourned Absalom's death. He remained there as the troops returned. In their approach to the city it was reported that the king was mourning over Absalom and so instead of entering the city in celebration for their victory, they entered "like people come in when they are humiliated after fleeing in battle." (19:3) Joab, the commander, went to David and angrily told him "Today you have shamed all your soldiers." (19:5) Instead of commending the soldiers for saving him and his family and kingdom, Joab told him, "Today you have made it clear that the commanders and soldiers mean nothing to you." (19:6) Joab warned him that if he didn't get up and go out to encourage his soldiers that by nightfall they would all abandon him and his situation would become worse than it was before. So David got up and sat in the city gate and received the people.

    The country was left in confusion not knowing what to do. The Israelites began to discuss restoring David as king but Judah was saying nothing. When David heard of Israel's interest but nothing from Judah he sent the priests, Zadok and Abiathar, to the elders of Judah to ask why they were the last to restore the king. In addition, David offered to make Amasa commander of the army in place of Joab. Amasa had commanded Absalom's troops but was of the tribe of Judah so this made them happy and they sent word to the king to return.

    When David came to cross the Jordan River on his return to Jerusalem, a large gathering from the tribe of Judah awaited him there. Both Shimei and Mephibosheth were in the gathering and came to David to make amends. Shimei had cursed David when he fled Jerusalem and Mephibosheth had been reported by his servant Ziba to have abandoned David hoping to gain the throne himself. David forgave both men. He also commended Barzillai who had fed David's entourage when they fled Jerusalem.

    David went on to Gilgal where a large gathering of Israelites joined in his reception. But a dispute broke out between the Israelites and Judiates over who had greatest claim to the king. We see here a rift that was developing between Israel and Judah that would eventually split them into two kingdoms.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 18

    2 Samuel 18 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. David divided his soldiers into groups of a hundred and groups of a thousand. Then he chose officers to be in command of each group.
  2. He sent out one-third of his army under the command of Joab, another third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, and the rest under the command of Ittai from Gath. He told the soldiers, "I'm going into battle with you."
  3. But the soldiers said, "No, don't go into battle with us! It won't matter to our enemies if they make us all run away, or even if they kill half of us. But you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better for you to stay in town and send help if we need it."
  4. David said, "All right, if you think I should." Then in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, he said, "Joab! Abishai! Ittai! For my sake, be sure that Absalom comes back unharmed." David stood beside the town gate as his army marched past in groups of a hundred and in groups of a thousand. The war with Israel took place in Ephraim Forest.
  5. (SEE 18:4)
  6. (SEE 18:4)
  7. Battles were being fought all over the forest, and David's soldiers were winning. Twenty thousand soldiers were killed that day, and more of them died from the dangers of the forest than from the fighting itself.
  8. (SEE 18:7)
  9. Absalom was riding his mule under a huge tree when his head caught in the branches. The mule ran off and left Absalom hanging in midair. Some of David's soldiers happened by,
  10. and one of them went and told Joab, "I saw Absalom hanging in a tree!"
  11. Joab said, "You saw Absalom? Why didn't you kill him? I would have given you ten pieces of silver and a special belt."
  12. The man answered, "Even if you paid me a thousand pieces of silver here and now, I still wouldn't touch the king's son. We all heard King David tell you and Abishai and Ittai not to harm Absalom.
  13. He always finds out what's going on. I would have been risking my life to kill Absalom, because you would have let me take the blame."
  14. Joab said, "I'm not going to waste any more time on you!" Absalom was still alive, so Joab took three spears and stuck them through Absalom's chest.
  15. Ten of Joab's bodyguards came over and finished him off.
  16. Then Joab blew a trumpet to signal his troops to stop chasing Israel's soldiers.
  17. They threw Absalom's body into a deep pit in the forest and put a big pile of rocks over it. Meanwhile, the people of Israel had all run back to their own homes.
  18. When Absalom was alive, he had set up a stone monument for himself in King's Valley. He explained, "I don't have any sons to keep my name alive." He called it Absalom's Monument, and that is the name it still has today.
  19. Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, "Joab, let me run and tell King David that the LORD has rescued him from his enemies."
  20. Joab answered, "You're not the one to tell the king that his son is dead. You can take him a message some other time, but not today."
  21. Someone from Ethiopia was standing there, and Joab told him, "Go and tell the king what you have seen." The man knelt down in front of Joab and then got up and started running.
  22. Ahimaaz spoke to Joab again, "No matter what happens, I still want to run. And besides, the Ethiopian has already left." Joab said, "Why should you run? You won't get a reward for the news you have!"
  23. "I'll run no matter what!" Ahimaaz insisted. "All right then, run!" Joab said. Ahimaaz took the road through the Jordan Valley and outran the Ethiopian.
  24. Meanwhile, David was sitting between the inner and outer gates in the city wall. One of his soldiers was watching from the roof of the gate-tower. He saw a man running toward the town
  25. and shouted down to tell David. David answered, "If he's alone, he must have some news." The runner was getting closer,
  26. when the soldier saw someone else running. He shouted down to the gate, "Look! There's another runner!" David said, "He must have some news too."
  27. The soldier on the roof shouted, "The first one runs just like Ahimaaz the son of Zadok." This time David said, "He's a good man. He must have some good news."
  28. Ahimaaz called out, "We won! We won!" Then he bowed low to David and said, "Your Majesty, praise the LORD your God! He has given you victory over your enemies."
  29. "Is my son Absalom all right?" David asked. Ahimaaz said, "When Joab sent your personal servant and me, I saw a noisy crowd. But I don't know what it was all about."
  30. David told him, "Stand over there and wait." Ahimaaz went over and stood there.
  31. The Ethiopian came and said, "Your Majesty, today I have good news! The LORD has rescued you from all your enemies!"
  32. "Is my son Absalom all right?" David asked. The Ethiopian replied, "I wish that all Your Majesty's enemies and everyone who tries to harm you would end up like him!"
  33. David started trembling. Then he went up to the room above the city gate to cry. As he went, he kept saying, "My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! I wish I could have died instead of you! Absalom, my son, my son!"

    Absalom's plan was to send word throughout Israel to muster an army. We are not told what the turnout was nor the size of the army he brought against David's forces. Neither are we told the size of David's forces or from where they came. David at least had a sizeable enough army that he could appoint "commanders of hundreds and of thousands." (18:1)  He divided them into thirds with one-third each under the commanders Joab, Abishai, and Ittai. We are not told how this strategy was used against Absalom's forces. David intended to serve as the overall commander but was dissuaded from this by the people. It wouldn't matter too greatly if even half the soldiers died in battle, but if David was killed the cause was lost. So David took their counsel and remained behind, sitting at the city gate to await the outcome. He instructed the three commanders to "Treat the young man Absalom gently for my sake." (18:5) This was heard also by the people.

    The battle took place in the forest of Ephraim which was such rough terrain that "the forest claimed more people than the sword." (18:8) There were 20,000 casualties. During the retreat Absalom encountered David's soldiers and attempted to run from them on his mule. But as he ran his head became caught in a large tree and the mule ran out from under him leaving him hanging. Though one of David's soldiers who saw him hanging there was unwilling to kill him because of David's instructions, Joab was not so reluctant. He thrust three spears into Absalom's heart and then 10 of his armor-bearers struck him as well. Joab was wise enough to realize that until Absalom was out of the picture there would be no rest for Israel. To avoid this turmoil for the nation he was willing to risk David's ire.

    Unfortunately it was David's unwillingness to deal wisely with his sons, both Amnon and Absalom, that had brought the nation to this point. Had he done what was necessary the lives of both sons might have been spared along with this duress to the nation. True, God foretold all of this would happen as a result of David's sin but it was because He knew how David would handle all of this as a result of his sin.

    An interesting account is given of how two runners ended up taking the news of the battle to David. Once David learned of Absalom's death, though, he retreated to the gate chamber to be alone and mourn. He would have preferred to be the one who died instead of Absalom. No doubt he felt it especially hard since he realized his sin had precipitated this outcome.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 17

    2 Samuel 17 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Ahithophel said to Absalom: Let me choose twelve thousand men and attack David tonight,
  2. while he is tired and discouraged. He will panic, and everyone with him will run away. I won't kill anyone except David,
  3. since he's the one you want to get rid of. Then I'll bring the whole nation back to you like a bride coming home to her husband. This way there won't be a civil war.
  4. Absalom and all the leaders of the tribes of Israel agreed that Ahithophel had a good plan.
  5. Then Absalom said, "Bring in Hushai the Archite. Let's hear what he has to say."
  6. Hushai came in, and Absalom told him what Ahithophel had planned. Then Absalom said, "Should we do what he says? And if we shouldn't, can you come up with anything better?"
  7. Hushai said: This time Ahithophel's advice isn't so good.
  8. You know that your father and his followers are real warriors. Right now they are as fierce as a mother bear whose cubs have just been killed. Besides, your father has a lot of experience in fighting wars, and he won't be spending the night with the others.
  9. He has probably already found a hiding place in a cave or somewhere else. As soon as anyone hears that some of your soldiers have been killed, everyone will think your whole army has been destroyed.
  10. Then even those who are as brave as a lion will lose their courage. All Israel knows what a great warrior your father is and what brave soldiers he has.
  11. My advice is to gather all the fighting men of Israel from the town of Dan in the north down to the town of Beersheba in the south. You will have more soldiers than there are grains of sand on the seashore. Absalom, you should lead them yourself,
  12. and we will all go to fight David wherever he is. We will fall on him just as dew falls and covers the ground. He and all his soldiers will die!
  13. If they go into a walled town, we will put ropes around that town and drag it into the river. We won't leave even one small piece of a stone.
  14. Absalom and the others liked Hushai's plan better than Ahithophel's plan. This was because the LORD had decided to keep Ahithophel's plan from working and to cause trouble for Absalom.
  15. Right away, Hushai went to Zadok and Abiathar. He told them what advice Ahithophel had given to Absalom and to the leaders of Israel. He also told them about the advice he had given.
  16. Then he said, "Hurry! Send someone to warn David not to spend the night on this side of the river. He must get across the river, so he and the others won't be wiped out!"
  17. Jonathan and Ahimaaz had been waiting at Rogel Spring because they did not want to be seen in Jerusalem. A servant girl went to the spring and gave them the message for David.
  18. But a young man saw them and went to tell Absalom. So Jonathan and Ahimaaz left and hurried to the house of a man who lived in Bahurim. Then they climbed down into a well in the courtyard.
  19. The man's wife put the cover on the well and poured grain on top of it, so the well could not be seen.
  20. Absalom's soldiers came to the woman and demanded, "Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?" The woman answered, "They went across the stream." The soldiers went off to look for the two men. But when they did not find the men, they went back to Jerusalem.
  21. After the soldiers had gone, Jonathan and Ahimaaz climbed out of the well. They went to David and said, "Hurry! Get ready to cross the river!" Then they told him about Ahithophel's plan.
  22. David and the others got ready and started crossing the Jordan River. By sunrise all of them were on the other side.
  23. When Ahithophel saw that Absalom and the leaders of Israel were not going to follow his advice, he saddled his donkey and rode back to his home in Gilo. He told his family and servants what to do. Then he hanged himself, and they buried him in his family's burial place.
  24. David went to the town of Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan River with the army of Israel.
  25. Absalom put Amasa in Joab's place as commander of the army. Amasa's father was Ithra from the family of Ishmael, and his mother was Abigal, the daughter of Nahash and the sister of Joab's mother Zeruiah.
  26. The Israelites under Absalom's command set up camp in the region of Gilead.
  27. After David came to the town of Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash came from Rabbah in Ammon, Machir the son of Ammiel came from Lo-Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite came from Rogelim.
  28. Here is a list of what they brought: sleeping mats, blankets, bowls, pottery jars, wheat, barley, flour, roasted grain, beans, lentils, honey, yogurt, sheep, and cheese. They brought the food for David and the others because they knew that everyone would be hungry, tired, and thirsty from being out in the desert.
  29. (SEE 17:28)

    Ahithophel, who had previously been David's adviser, had now become Absalom's adviser and the advise he gave was considered as a word from God. His first piece of advise to Absalom, once he arrived in Jerusalem to command the throne, was to sleep with David's concubines. This was advise Absalom followed, even doing so publicly from the rooftop of the palace.

    Next Ahithophel advised Absalom to "Let me choose 12,000 men, and I will set out in pursuit of David tonight. I will attack him while he is weak and weary, throw him into a panic, and all the people with him will scatter. I will strike down only the king and bring all the people back to you. When everyone returns except the man you're seeking, all the people will be at peace." (17:1-3) This plan would very likely have been successful, but God was answering David's prayer to confound Ahithophel's advise. After hearing Ahithophel's plan Absalom sent for Husahi, who was David's plant among Absalom's staff for the very purpose of confounding Ahithophel's advise. When Absalom told Husahi of Ahithophel's advise Husahi said that Ahithophel had not given good advise this time. He then offered his own plan along with reasons why it was better than Ahithophel's. In reality, Husahi's plan offered David time to prepare and also placed Absalom in the fray providing the opportunity for him to be killed.

    Once Absalom accepted Husahi's plan over that of Ahithophel, Husahi sent word to David along with the advise to "Get up and immediately ford the river." (17:21) The rendezvous‎  between the servant girl appointed to take messages to the messengers, Jonathan and Ahimaaz, was spotted by a young man and reported to Absalom, thus the messengers were nearly captured before they could deliver their message. However, God again intervened and a woman hid them in a well and told Absalom's men that the two had already passed that way headed toward "the water." Then the messengers climbed out of the well and delivered their message to David.

    David immediately crossed the Jordan with all his people and fled to Mahanaim, a fortified city. There he found people friendly to his cause who provided food and bedding for his people. Meanwhile, Ahithophel, despondent over the rejection of his advise, went to his hometown and hanged himself. This action may also have been motivated by the realization that by following Husahi's advise Absalom would be defeated and he would be executed by David. It is those with selfish motives who commit suicide when defeated rather than those following what they believe to be a just cause for the purpose of helping that cause succeed. This was no doubt the case with Ahithophel.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 16

    2 Samuel 16 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. David had started down the other side of the Mount of Olives, when he was met by Ziba, the chief servant of Mephibosheth. Ziba had two donkeys that were carrying two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred handfuls of raisins, a hundred figs, and some wine.
  2. "What's all this?" David asked. Ziba said, "The donkeys are for your family to ride. The bread and fruit are for the people to eat, and the wine is for them to drink in the desert when they are tired out."
  3. "And where is Mephibosheth?" David asked. Ziba answered, "He stayed in Jerusalem, because he thinks the people of Israel want him to rule the kingdom of his grandfather Saul."
  4. David then told him, "Everything that used to belong to Mephibosheth is now yours." Ziba said, "Your Majesty, I am your humble servant, and I hope you will be pleased with me."
  5. David was near the town of Bahurim when a man came out and started cursing him. The man was Shimei the son of Gera, and he was one of Saul's distant relatives.
  6. He threw stones at David, at his soldiers, and at everyone else, including the bodyguards who walked on each side of David.
  7. Shimei was yelling at David, "Get out of here, you murderer! You good-for-nothing,
  8. the LORD is paying you back for killing so many in Saul's family. You stole his kingdom, but now the LORD has given it to your son Absalom. You're a murderer, and that's why you're in such big trouble!"
  9. Abishai said, "Your Majesty, this man is as useless as a dead dog! He shouldn't be allowed to curse you. Let me go over and chop off his head."
  10. David replied, "What will I ever do with you and your brother Joab? If Shimei is cursing me because the LORD has told him to, then who are you to tell him to stop?"
  11. Then David said to Abishai and all his soldiers: My own son is trying to kill me! Why shouldn't this man from the tribe of Benjamin want me dead even more? Let him curse all he wants. Maybe the LORD did tell him to curse me.
  12. But if the LORD hears these curses and sees the trouble I'm in, maybe he will have pity on me instead.
  13. David and the others went on down the road. Shimei went along the hillside by the road, cursing and throwing rocks and dirt at them.
  14. When David and those with him came to the Jordan River, they were tired out. But after they rested, they felt much better.
  15. By this time, Absalom, Ahithophel, and the others had reached Jerusalem.
  16. David's friend Hushai came to Absalom and said, "Long live the king! Long live the king!"
  17. But Absalom asked Hushai, "Is this how you show loyalty to your friend David? Why didn't you go with him?"
  18. Hushai answered, "The LORD and the people of Israel have chosen you to be king. I can't leave. I have to stay and serve the one they've chosen.
  19. Besides, it seems right for me to serve you, just as I served your father."
  20. Absalom turned to Ahithophel and said, "Give us your advice! What should we do?"
  21. Ahithophel answered, "Some of your father's wives were left here to take care of the palace. You should have sex with them. Then everyone will find out that you have publicly disgraced your father. This will make you and your followers even more powerful."
  22. Absalom had a tent set up on the flat roof of the palace, and everyone watched as he went into the tent with his father's wives.
  23. Ahithophel gave such good advice in those days that both Absalom and David thought it came straight from God.

    Through this troubling time for David he remained humble and submissive to God's plans for him. Whatever insults people might direct at him he received as though God intended it. This was the case with Shimei, who belonged to the house of Saul. He did not think David should have been king in Saul's place so he considered David's situation as well-deserved. As David and his party went by, Shimei went along with them yelling curses and throwing stones. David did not allow his officers to kill the man as they suggested saying the Lord had told Shimei to curse him. At no point did David suggest that he was being treated unjustly or fight for control of the throne. Instead he accepted all that happened as just treatment from God and held on to the hope that God might restore him after a period of time.

    Such occasions often reveal the true character of people. This, of course, was the case for David, but it was also the case with others such as Ziba. Ziba had been appointed by David to serve as Mephibosheth's servant to care for the land David had given him. Mephibosheth was the lame son of Jonathan, Saul's son and David's loyal friend. Ziba met David with donkeys and food as gifts for David's entourage. When David asked where his master, Mephibosheth, was, Ziba told him Mephibosheth had gone to Jerusalem in hopes of having the throne restored to him as a member of Saul's family. This was a lie which David accepted as truth and thus gave all of the land to Ziba he had bequeathed to Mephibosheth.

    The last part of the chapter records the fulfillment of the prophet Nathan's prophecy in which God said, "I will take your wives and give them to another before your very eyes, and he will sleep with them publicly." (12:11) When Absalom arrived in Jerusalem and took control of the throne he quickly asked Ahithophel, his advisor, what he should do first. Ahithophel told him that as an act to prove to the people he was in no way connected to his father he should sleep with his father's concubines. Absalom took this a step further and pitched a tent on the roof of the palace and slept with them in full view of the public.

    Ahithophel's advice was considered to be like "a word from God," but his counsel would soon be confounded. Hushai, who David had sent to do just that, arrived on the scene as Absalom arrived in Jerusalem. He went to Absalom and voiced his support for the new king. Absalom was curious as to why Hushai had not gone with David but Hushai told him "I am on the side of the one that the LORD, the people, and all the men of Israel have chosen." (16:18) Absalom accepted this and Hushai was then in position confound Ahithophel's counsel.

    Repercussions of David's sin were being played out, but God was preparing the way to restore David because David continued to demonstrate his faithfulness as God's servant in spite of his lapse into sin.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Reflections on 2 Samuel 15

    2 Samuel 15 (Contemporary English Version)
  1. Some time later, Absalom got himself a chariot with horses to pull it, and he had fifty men run in front.
  2. He would get up early each morning and wait by the side of the road that led to the city gate. Anyone who had a complaint to bring to King David would have to go that way, and Absalom would ask each of them, "Where are you from?" If they said, "I'm from a tribe in the north,"
  3. Absalom would say, "You deserve to win your case. It's too bad the king doesn't have anyone to hear complaints like yours.
  4. I wish someone would make me the judge around here! I would be fair to everyone."
  5. Whenever anyone would come to Absalom and start bowing down, he would reach out and hug and kiss them.
  6. That's how he treated everyone from Israel who brought a complaint to the king. Soon everyone in Israel liked Absalom better than they liked David.
  7. Four years later, Absalom said to David, "Please, let me go to Hebron. I have to keep a promise that I made to the LORD,
  8. when I was living with the Arameans in Geshur. I promised that if the LORD would bring me back to live in Jerusalem, I would worship him in Hebron."
  9. David gave his permission, and Absalom went to Hebron.
  10. He took two hundred men from Jerusalem with him, but they had no idea what he was going to do. Absalom offered sacrifices in Hebron and sent someone to Gilo to tell David's advisor Ahithophel to come. More and more people were joining Absalom and supporting his plot. Meanwhile, Absalom had secretly sent some messengers to the northern tribes of Israel. The messengers told everyone, "When you hear the sound of the trumpets, you must shout, 'Absalom now rules as king in Hebron!' "
  11. (SEE 15:10)
  12. (SEE 15:10)
  13. A messenger came and told David, "Everyone in Israel is on Absalom's side!"
  14. David's officials were in Jerusalem with him, and he told them, "Let's get out of here! We'll have to leave soon, or none of us will escape from Absalom. Hurry! If he moves fast, he could catch us while we're still here. Then he will kill us and everyone else in the city."
  15. The officials said, "Your Majesty, we'll do whatever you say."
  16. David left behind ten of his wives to take care of the palace, but the rest of his family and his officials and soldiers went with him. They stopped at the last house at the edge of the city.
  17. (SEE 15:16)
  18. Then David stood there and watched while his regular troops and his bodyguards marched past. The last group was the six hundred soldiers who had followed him from Gath. Their commander was Ittai.
  19. David spoke to Ittai and said, "You're a foreigner from the town of Gath. You don't have to leave with us. Go back and join the new king!
  20. You haven't been with me very long, so why should you have to follow me, when I don't even know where I'm going? Take your soldiers and go back. I pray that the Lord will be kind and faithful to you."
  21. Ittai answered, "Your Majesty, just as surely as you and the LORD live, I will go where you go, no matter if it costs me my life."
  22. "Then come on!" David said. So Ittai and all his men and their families walked on past David.
  23. The people of Jerusalem were crying and moaning as David and everyone with him passed by. He led them across Kidron Valley and along the road toward the desert.
  24. Zadok and Abiathar the priests were there along with several men from the tribe of Levi who were carrying the sacred chest. They set the chest down, and left it there until David and his followers had gone out of the city.
  25. Then David said: Zadok, take the sacred chest back to Jerusalem. If the LORD is pleased with me, he will bring me back and let me see it and his tent again.
  26. But if he says he isn't pleased with me, then let him do what he knows is best.
  27. Zadok, you are a good judge of things, so return to the city and don't cause any trouble. Take your son Ahimaaz with you. Abiathar and his son Jonathan will also go back.
  28. I'll wait at the river crossing in the desert until I hear from you.
  29. Zadok and Abiathar took the sacred chest back into Jerusalem and stayed there.
  30. David went on up the slope of the Mount of Olives. He was barefoot and crying, and he covered his head to show his sorrow. Everyone with him was crying, and they covered their heads too.
  31. Someone told David, "Ahithophel is helping Absalom plot against you!" David said, "Please, LORD, keep Ahithophel's plans from working!"
  32. When David reached the top of the Mount of Olives, he met Hushai the Archite at a place of worship. Hushai's robe was torn, and dust was on his head.
  33. David told him: If you come with me, you might slow us down.
  34. Go back into the city and tell Absalom, "Your Majesty, I am your servant. I will serve you now, just as I served your father in the past." Hushai, if you do that, you can help me ruin Ahithophel's plans.
  35. Zadok and Abiathar the priests will be there with you, and you can tell them everything you hear in the palace.
  36. Then have them send their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan to tell me what you've heard.
  37. David's advisor Hushai slipped back into Jerusalem, just about the same time that Absalom was coming in.

    Repercussions of David's sin with Bathsheba reached their pinnacle with Absalom's attempt to take the throne which occurs in the account of chapter 15. Absalom was living in Jerusalem after David permitted him to return, but David was not associating with him and he was idle, no doubt living off the king's support. So he eventually "got himself a chariot, horses, and 50 men to run before him" and began to establish himself with the people. He was definitely shrewd in his dealings, meeting people who approached the royal city to bring a grievance to the king and suggesting the king didn't have time for them or sufficient judges to listen to their grievance. If only he were appointed chief judge he could see that they received justice. He was also quite affectionate with the people further gaining their favor.

    After four years Absalom felt he had a sufficient base of support to attempt his claim to the throne. He requested permission of his father to go to Hebron under the guise of fulfilling a vow he had made while in exile in Geshur. With the king's permission he put his plan in place, sending throughout Israel the message that: "When you hear the sound of the ram's horn, you are to say, 'Absalom has become king in Hebron!'" (15:10) He took with him to Hebron 200 men, who knew nothing of Absalom's intent, and also summoned David's adviser, Ahithophel, to join him as his own adviser. Ahithophel was also Bathsheba's grandfather which may offer some explanation as to why he turned against David. Verse 12 tells us "the conspiracy grew strong, and the people supporting Absalom continued to increase."

    Even as the storm of rebellion grew in intensity God was preparing the way to quell the rebellion and to restore David. The first step in this was the report to David of an informer telling him, "The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom." David wished to spare Jerusalem and its people a destructive battle between himself and his son's forces, so he took his entire household and left the city, but left behind 10 concubines to take care of the palace. As he went others, loyal to him, joined him. This included 600 Philistines who had followed him since his days in Gath running from Saul. The Levites also joined him carrying the ark, but he sent them back saying, "If I find favor in the LORD's eyes, He will bring me back and allow me to see both it and its dwelling place." (15:25) He also asked Zadok the priest to return and gather whatever information he could and send word to him by way of Zadok's son and Abiathar's son.

    When David learned that his adviser, Ahithophel, had joined Absalom, he prayed that God would turn his counsel into foolishness. Then Hushai joined him and David asked him to return to Jerusalem tell Absalom, "I will be your servant, my king! Previously, I was your father's servant, but now I will be your servant." (15:34) In this way Hushai could counteract Ahithophel's counsel. He, too, could send word to David through the sons of the priests.

    David was placing himself in God's hands. He was submissive to whatever God intended. God would use this to restore him. Already God was giving David wisdom in dealing with the rebellion. Rather than planning to use force against Absalom, he simply sought to confound his plans.