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2 Samuel 5:1
Then came all the tribes of Israel. As Ishbosheth reigned only two years, and David's reign at Hebron lasted for seven years and a half, there is an interval of more than five years to be accounted for; and we have given reason for believing (see note on 2 Samuel 2:10) that it must be placed after the death of Ishbosheth. The treacherous murder of Abner, and the tragic fate of Ishbosheth following upon it so rapidly, must have filled all Israel with horror, and made them look upon David as "a bloody man" (2 Samuel 16:8). But gradually his innocence became clear to all except inveterate partisans, and as the prejudice against him passed away, the evident advantage of union under so able a ruler would force itself upon their attention, and their decision would be hastened by the advantage which the Philistines would be sure to take of their anarchy. How much they had profited by it we gather from the haste with which they endeavoured to crush David's kingdom. The enormous gathering at Hebron to anoint David king proves not merely the unanimity of the tribes, but that his election was the result of long preparation and arrangement. We have fuller details of it in 1 Chronicles 12:23-40, where we learn that the people assembled in large numbers, the total being computed in the 'Speaker's Commentary' at 348,222; and it is remarkable that of this vast array only sixteen thousand nine hundred came from the tribes of Judah, Simeon, and Benjamin, which were situated in the neighbourhood of Hebron. On the other hand, the two and a half trans-Jordanic tribes sent no less than a hundred.and twenty thousand men, and the three unimportant tribes of Zebulun, Asher, and Naphtali mustered a hundred and eighteen thousand; while Issachar was content to send only two hundred, who were all, however, "men that had understanding … and their brethren were at their commandment." These words suggest the probable explanation of the disparity in the numbers, which to many seems so strange that they think they must be corrupt. Each tribe settled for itself in what way it would be represented, and the more distant sent a large proportion of their men of military age on what would be an enjoyable holiday. As they spent three days at Hebron, the expedition would occupy, even for those most remote, little more than a week; and it was well worth the while of the tribes thus to come together. It made them feel the value of unity, and gave them a knowledge of their strength. Their tribal independence during the time of the judges had made them too weak even to maintain their liberty; but now, welded by the kingly power into a nation, they soon, not only won freedom for themselves, but placed their yoke upon the shoulders of their neighbours. As for the difficulty of supplying them with food, all would bring victuals from home; and the neighbouring tribes showed great hospitality. Especially we read that those who were nigh unto Hebron, "even as far as Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, victual of meal, cakes of figs, and clusters of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep in abundance: for there was joy in Israel" (1 Chronicles 12:40). It was a grand national festival, joyously kept because the people saw in the election of David an end to all their troubles; and so vast a gathering overbore all opposition, and gave both to them and their king the consciousness of their might. But while we find in the Book of Chronicles the account of this mighty multitude, it is here (1 Chronicles 12:3) expressly said that it was the elders who made a league with David, and anointed him king. The people by their presence testified their joyful assent to what was done; but David's election was made legitimate by the decision of the constituted authorities in each tribe. It would be most interesting to know the various steps taken, and how the agitation grew and spread from tribe to tribe, until all hesitation and resistance were overcome. But the object of this book is to show us the great qualities, the sin, the repentance, and the punishment of the man who added to the old routine of sacrifice bright services of song, and who was the author of that book of devotion which to this day best expresses the feelings of the heart, as well in the joys as in the sorrows of life. The manner of his election throws no light upon his character, and is passed over. Enough to know that in those five years after Ishbosheth's murder David won the approval of all Israel, and that his appointment to the kingdom was by the free choice of the tribes, acting in a legitimate manner, and sending each their elders to Hebron to notify to David their consent; and that their decision was ratified by this joyful gathering of a mighty multitude from all parts of the land. Three reasons are given by the elders for David's election, and we may be sure that they represent the arguments used in their popular assemblies. The first, that they were David's bone and flesh. In other words, the tribes were all of one race, and united by the closest ties of relationship. For the descendants of a common ancestor to be at war with one another was both morally and politically wrong. The second, that David had been their actual leader in war even in Saul's time. His personal qualities, therefore, justified their choice of him to be their deliverer from the evils which had overwhelmed the land after the disastrous defeat at Gilboa, when Saul had no longer the aid of David's presence. The third, that Jehovah had by the mouth of his prophet given the throne to David. It is remarkable that the elders place this last. Their view probably was that the Divine command must be proved by outward circumstances, that so reason might confirm faith. So Saul's public appointment by Samuel was ratified by the people only after he had shown himself worthy to be a king by the defeat of the Ammonites.
2 Samuel 5:2
Thou shalt feed. In biblical language the pastoral office is that of the civil and not of the spiritual ruler. Captain; Hebrew, nagid, prince; so the Revised Version (and see note on 1 Samuel 9:16). The word refers not to military matters, but to the civil administration. David had proved himself a competent leader in war when Saul was king. What Jehovah now gives is the government of Israel in time of peace. The Authorized Version renders "captain" from not perceiving that the Divine promise ensured to David far more than a military chieftainship.
2 Samuel 5:3
A league. The early kings of Israel were not invested with despotic power. Thus, on Saul's appointment, "Samuel wrote in a book the manner of the kingdom". The revolt against Rehoboam was the result of the too great extension of the royal power in the days of Solomon (1 Kings 12:4). Though subsequently the kings seemed to have retained their supremacy, yet when the good and patriotic Jehoiada restored the family of David to the throne, he reverted to the old ways, and "made a covenant between the king and the people" (2 Kings 11:17). Besides personal rights, the tribes, accustomed to their own leaders, and unused to yield obedience to a central authority, would certainly stipulate for a large measure of tribal independence, and the management of local matters by themselves. They anointed David king. This was the public ratification of Samuel's anointing, and by it David became de facto, as well as de jure, king. The prophets could not give any right over the people without the consent of the people themselves. But all religious men would see in the Divine command an obligation upon their conscience to accept as their king the man whom the prophet had anointed; and Saul acted in an irreligious manner in seeking to frustrate God's will. And this impiety culminated in his murder of the priests at Nob, which was the open avowal that he would trample all scruples of conscience underfoot.
2 Samuel 5:4
David was thirty years old. As David was probably about eighteen or nineteen years of age at the time of his combat with Goliath, the events recorded in 1 Samuel 17-31, must have occupied about ten or eleven years.
2 Samuel 5:6
The king and his men went to Jerusalem. This expedition took place immediately after David's coronation, and probably he was moved to it by the presence of so large a number of the warriors of Israel. He had long foreseen the arrival of the time when he would be king of all the tribes, and must have debated in his mind the problem of his future capital. He could not remain in Hebron, as it was too far to the south, nor would haughty tribes such as Ephraim have consented to be merged into Judah. On the other hand, he could not move far away, as Judah was his main strength. But living in its neighbourhood, he must often have noticed the remarkable position of the city of Jebus, and admired its rock girt strength (Psalms 48:2). Though the Jebusites had been conquered by Joshua (Joshua 11:3), and Jerusalem captured (Judges 1:8), yet, as the children of Judah did not occupy it, but "set the city on fire," it seems to have been soon repeopled by its old inhabitants, who there maintained their independence, and, owing to the impregnable nature of its site, could not be treated as Saul treated the Gibeonite inhabitants of Beeroth. Even subsequently, the Jebusite chief who possessed what probably was Mount Moriah, still bore the titular rank of king; for the words in Joshua 24:23 literally are, "All this did Araunah the king give unto the king." The explanation of this long independence of the Jebusites is to be found not only in the feebleness of the tribes during the troubled times of the judges, but even mere in the conformation of the site of their stronghold. Jerusalem is situated on the edge of the precipitous wall which forms the western boundary of the valley of the Jordan, and occupies a promontory, on three sides of which are ravines so abrupt and steep that, were it not for their vast depth, they might seem to have been the work of man. On the north side alone it is open to attack, but even there, when the besieger has obtained an entrance, he finds the city divided by another ravine into two parts; whereof the western portion contains the strong citadel of Mount Zion, while the eastern and smaller portion contains the less elevated mountain of Moriah. Though actually raised above the sea level several hundred feet less than Hebron, it seems to the eye more emphatically a mountain-city; and being well nigh encircled by the valleys of Ben-Hinnom and Jehoshaphat, it seems to sit enthroned above the Jordan valley, compared with which it enjoys a cool and refreshing climate. To its inhabitants it was "beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth" (Psalms 48:2, Revised Version); to the exiles it was "the city of God," to which their hearts ever turned; to us Christians it is the type of Christ's Church on earth, and of his kingdom in heaven. It was an act worthy of David's genius to foresee the great future of the place, and to inaugurate his kingdom by its capture. We gather from Ezekiel 16:45 that at the time when the Hittites were the dominant race in Syria, Jerusalem was one of their fortresses. The name is a dual, literally Yerushalaim, and probably the town was so called because it consisted of two parts—the upper and the lower city. Shalaim means the "two Salems," thus carrying our minds back to the city of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18). In Psalms 76:2 Salem is apparently contrasted with Zion, and so would be the lower town, containing Mount Moriah. Of the other part of the word, Yeru, numerous derivations are given, of which the only probable one is that which connects it with "Yehovah-yireh"—"God will see to it," the name given to the spot where Abraham on this mountain offered a vicarious sacrifice for his son. We must, however, bear in mind that towns retain the names which they bore in primitive times, and that the name of a Hittite fortress belongs probably to the language of that people. Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither. These words have been a sore puzzle to commentators, and many strange explanations have been given. Rashi says that the blind meant Isaac, and the lame Jacob, and that the words referred to an old compact by which Abraham gave Jerusalem to the Jebusites, and that Isaac and Jacob had confirmed this agreement. Unless, then, David was prepared to violate this covenant, he must abstain from the attack. We get no help from 1 Chronicles 11:5, as the words are there omitted, probably because they were not supposed to have any important meaning. The Orientals delighted in dark sayings, and possibly there was here some local reference which the people of Jerusalem would understand, but which is lost for us. But evidently it was a boastful defiance, and may mean that the Jebusites pretended that it would be enough to post only their feeblest men, the blind and the lame, for defense, and that David would try in vain to break through them. Thinking; Hebrew, to say; answering to our phrase "that is" It should be translated, "meaning."
2 Samuel 5:7
The stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David. Zion was the hill on the southwestern side of the city; but we learn from 2 Samuel 5:9 that the Jebusites had not occupied the whole of it, but a part only, which was their stronghold, round which there would be scattered dwellings, as the whole tribe dwelt there. The total area of the hill top was about sixty acres, and it was now quickly covered with houses, and called "the city of David," after its captor. The view of Dr. Birch and others, that the stronghold of Zion was Ophel, is rendered untenable by the fact that this southern tongue of Mount Moriah is completely commanded by other parts of the hill. According to Gesenius, Zion means "sunny;" others render it "the dry hill;" others, "lofty;" and Furst, "the castle." None of these derivations is of any real value, as the word is probably Hittite.
2 Samuel 5:8
Whosoever getteth up to the gutter. The word rendered "gutter" occurs elsewhere only in Psalms 42:7, where it is translated "waterspout." Josephus thinks that it was an underground passage or drain. Ewald argues that it was a precipice, and others that it was a dent or hollow in the rocky face of the ravine, which David had noticed and thought practicable. The view of Josephus, suggested to him probably by his knowledge of the way in which the site of Jerusalem is honeycombed by tunnels, has been wonderfully confirmed by the discoveries made by Sir C. Warren. At the northern end of the Pool of Siloam he found an arched passage gradually narrowing down from a considerable height, till finally there was a passage of only fourteen inches, and as there was a depth of ten inches of water, there were left but four inches of space for breathing. But through this his men struggled, and, at the end of four hours' labour, they reached the light of day at the spring called the Virgin's Fount. Beginning here on a subsequent day, they went along a passage sixty-seven feet in length, and came to a perpendicular shaft leading up through the solid stone of the hill; and, having scaled this, they next came upon a sloping passage, which finally conducted them to a spot on the hill of Ophel within the fortifications. Now, there are reasons for believing that this passage is older than the wall built by Solomon, and through it, or some such tunnel, Joab and a few men may have worked their way, and so have effected an entrance into the city, which otherwise was impregnable. It was probably the entrance near the Virgin's Fountain which they had observed, and David's words mean, "Whoever will undertake this dangerous enterprise, let him try this underground passage, and when he has entered the fortifications by its means, let him smite the lame and the blind, that are hated of David's soul," because of the beast of the Jebusites, that their cripples were a match for his heroes. It must be noticed, however, that the K'tib, or written text, has "who hate David's soul;" and as this is what the Jewish Massorites found in the manuscripts, it has more authority than their correction. These Jebusites had probably, in their boastful insult, spoken of David with contempt, and even said, like Goliath, that they would give his flesh to the vultures (1 Samuel 17:44). We learn from 1 Chronicles 11:6 that David promised the office of commander of the host to the man who undertook this exploit; and when Joab had volunteered and succeeded, he regained thereby the post which he had forfeited by the murder of Abner. The blind and the lame shall not some into the house. The proverb is one of contempt for these poor cripples, and forbids the exercise of hospitality to them. Such people, if they took to mendicancy, were to meet with refusal, though at their own homes they were fit objects of charity. This way of describing tramps as "the blind and lame" arose, we are here told, from this Jebusite taunt.
2 Samuel 5:9
David dwelt in the fort. It was the stronghold or citadel of Zion which David took for his abode; but as he needed space for the dwellings of his mighty men, and for those who would soon flock for trade and security to the capital, David proceeded to fortify the whole of the summit. His works began from "the Millo," rendered "the citadel" by the LXX. Many, deriving the name from a Hebrew root signifying to fill, think that it was a mound, but Nature had herself supplied fit heights for defence, and it is evident that the place was called "the Millo" when David captured the city. We find "Beth-Millo" also in Judges 9:6, Judges 9:20, where it signifies those who held the citadel of Shechem; and this Mills at Jerusalem was without doubt the old Jebusite keep, and the explanation of its name must be sought in the Jebusite language. As it formed one of the strongest defences of the city, it was rebuilt by Solomon (1 Kings 9:24; 1 Kings 11:27), and repaired by Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:5) in preparation for the Assyrian attack. Probably it stood at a corner, whence the phrase, "round about from the Millo and inward," or, as it is expressed in 1 Chronicles 11:8, "from the Millo inward," that is, starting from. the Millo, the walls enclosed the space behind it. In the parallel place (1 Chronicles 11:8) we find an interesting addition to the narrative, namely, that "Joab repaired the rest of the city." It appears from this that the Jebusites had occupied a good deal of the ground with their habitations, though probably the number of the tribe was not great; or possibly there remained old buildings which were the remains of the Hittite city, and which, being of massive construction, were easily made fit once again for human habitation. We see also proof of Joab's great ability in peace as well as in war. He it was who had captured the stronghold, and it was now his office to arrange the streets and plan of the city, and to assign dwellings to David's mighty men. This would be a work sure to cause jealousy and heart burnings, and no one but Joab, their old commander, could have satisfied them. We find that he assigned to one of them, Uriah the Hittite, a space of ground for a dwelling close to the royal palace. We may suppose, then, that David was now fully reconciled to the "hard sons of Zeruiah" (2 Samuel 3:39), and in the stern wars which followed David's election, he needed and had the full benefit of their vigour and ability.
2 Samuel 5:10
David went on, and grew great. This is the Hebrew phrase for "David grew greater and greater." In this and the six following verses (10-16) we have a summary of David's reign, telling us how he increased in prosperity because of the blessing of "Jehovah God of hosts." The birth of Solomon even is recorded in it, though it took place long afterwards. The insertion in this summary of Hiram's acknowledgment of David proves that this event made a great impression upon the minds of the people.
2 Samuel 5:11
Hiram King of Tyre. At first sight it seems as if the Hiram who so greatly aided Solomon in the building of the temple was the same person as David's friend (1 Kings 5:10; 2 Chronicles 2:3), but this identification is disproved by the express statement in 2 Chronicles 2:13, and by the chronology. For granting that this account of Hiram's embassy occurs in a general summary, yet David would not long defer the erection of a palace, and in the history of Bathsheba we find, as a matter of fact, that it was then already built (2 Samuel 11:2). But as Solomon was grown to manhood at his father's death, David's sin must have been committed not more than nine or ten years after he became king of all Israel. Now, we are told by Josephus ('Contr. Apion,' 1.18), on the authority of Menander of Ephesus, that Hiram reigned in all thirty years. But in 1 Kings 9:10-13 we have an account of a transaction with Hiram in Solomon's twentieth year. In another place ('Ant.,' 8.3. 1) Josephus tells us that Hiram had been King of Tyre eleven years when Solomon, in the fourth year of his reign, began the building of the temple. He would thus have been a contemporary of David for only the last seven or eight years of his reign. But the history of this embassy is given as a proof of David's establishment in his kingdom, and cannot therefore be referred to so late a period in his lifetime, when it would have lost its interest. The improbability of two successive kings having the same name is not, after all, so very great, especially as we do not know what the word Hiram, or Haram, exactly means. Nor is Menander's statement conclusive against it, where he says that Hiram's father was named Abibal—"Baal is my father." This would probably be an official name, borne by Hiram as the defender of the national religion, or as a priest king. There is, therefore, no real reason for rejecting the statement in 2 Chronicles 2:13 that Hiram, or as he is there called Huram, David's friend, was the father of the Huram who was Solomon's ally. Cedar trees. Cedar wood was greatly valued both for its fragrance and durability, owing to the resin which it contains preserving it from the attacks of insects. Its colour also is soft and pleasing to the eye, as may be seen in the Jerusalem Chamber in Westminster Abbey, the panels of which are of cedar. It did not grow in the Antilibanus, or eastern part of Lebanon, which belonged to Israel, but only in the western part, which belonged to Tyre. Cedar from the time of David became the favourite material at Jerusalem for the interior of houses (Jeremiah 22:14), and Isaiah charges the people of Samaria with pride for not being content with the native sycomores which had satisfied their fathers, but substituting for it this costly foreign timber (Isaiah 9:10). Carpenters and masons. The necessity of importing "workers of wood, and workers of stone for walls," as the words literally mean, proves how miserable was the social state of Israel in David's time. Though they had been slaves in Egypt, yet at the Exodus the Israelites had men capable of working in the precious metals and jewelry, in weaving and embroidery, in wood carving, and even in the cutting of gems (Exodus 35:30-35). During the long anarchy of the judges they had degenerated into a race of agricultural drudges, whom the Philistines had debarred from the use of even the simplest tools (1 Samuel 13:19). Possibly in Saul's time there was a faint restoration of the arts of civilized life (2 Samuel 1:24); but when we find Joab killing Absalom, not with darts, but with pointed stakes (2 Samuel 18:14), the weapons probably of most of the foot soldiers, we see that not much had been done even then in metallurgy; and here earlier in his reign David has to send to Tyre for men who could saw a plank or build a wall. When, then, we call to mind the high state of culture and the magnificence of Solomon's reign, we can form some idea of the vigour with which David raised his subjects from a state of semi-barbarism.
2 Samuel 5:12
And David perceived. We may well believe that David had many seasons of despondency and misgiving after he became king. His subjects were brave and energetic, but turbulent, unwilling to obey, and but half-civilized. His election had put an end to civil war at home, but only to arouse the hatred of the enemies who had long oppressed them. The tragical fate, too, of Saul, who, after so many heroic struggles, had seen the earlier glories of his reign fade away, and had sought deliverance from his misery by suicide; all this must have often depressed his spirits. But gradually his fears passed away; and when he had twice defeated the Philistines, and been able to establish his rule, and with it some degree of orderly government throughout the twelve tribes, David saw in all this, and in the embassies from foreign nations, the proof, not of his own ability, but of Jehovah's purpose to exalt his kingdom for his people Israel's sake. In this David was still a man after God's own heart, in that he felt himself to be only an instrument for the doing, not his own will, but the purpose of his Divine Master.
2 Samuel 5:13
David took him more concubines. Thus with increase of power came also the increased gratification of David's weakness and sin. Well for him would it have been if, like Saul, he had been content with one wife. But this enlargement of his harem was gradual, and the list includes all the sons born at Jerusalem. Of these four, namely, Shammuah, Shobab, Nathan, and Solomon. were his children by Bathsheba (see 1 Chronicles 3:5, where the names are differently spelt). Besides a variation in the spelling, two sons are mentioned in Chronicles, Nogah and an earlier Eliphelet, whose names are not given here, perhaps because they died young. From 1 Chronicles 3:9 we learn that only the names of the sons of wives are given in these tables.
2 Samuel 5:17
But when the Philistines heard. After the battle of Gilboa the Philistines became the virtual rulers of much of the country west of the Jordan, and probably even David and Judah paid them tribute. On its eastern bank, though Abner kept them from molesting Ishbosheth's kingdom, yet the rule of Saul's house in Ephraim and Benjamin must have been nominal only, and the Philistines would have seen him with pleasure wasting his strength in civil war. After Ishbosheth's death they had tightened their grasp over the central districts of Palestine, though probably content with exacting tribute. They must now have seen with displeasure the consolidation of the tribes under one able ruler. Even in their divided state, the natural strength of the country and the bravery of the people had made it a task too great for the Philistine power entirely to crush Israel's independence. But if they could destroy David before he had had time to establish himself in his kingdom, they would at least prolong indefinitely that feebleness of Israel which had made it so long subject to their dominion. Of this supremacy the Philistines have handed down a token forever in giving to the whole country the name of Palestine, the Philistines' land. David … went down to the hold. Many commentators identify the hold with the cave of Adullam, and certainly the account of the brave deed of three of David's heroes, in breaking through the Philistine garrison of Bethlehem to bring him water thence, gives great probability to this view. For we read there that "the Philistines were encamped in the valley of Rephaim, and that David was then in the hold" (2 Samuel 23:13,2 Samuel 23:14, where note that the word "hold" has the definite article). There are, however, many difficulties connected with this view; for the cave of Adullam was in the valley of Elah, on the road from Hebron to Philistia (1 Samuel 22:1), but the valley of Rephaim is close to Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8), abutting, in fact, upon the valley of Ben-Hinnom. Baal-Perazim also is in the same neighbourhood, being the rocky height which forms the border of Ben-Hinnom, and bounds the valley of Rephaim on the north. Still, the passage in 2 Samuel 23:13, 2 Samuel 23:14 seems too precise to be lightly set aside, and we must suppose, therefore, that the Philistines, alarmed by the gathering of half a million of men and women at Hebron, sent messengers throughout their country to assemble their warriors. It was the weakness of ancient warfare that its vast hosts of people melted away as rapidly as they had gathered. For provisions were soon spent, and the men had to return to their farms and their cattle. Thus David, having used some of that large concourse of strong men for the capture of Jerusalem, was left immediately afterwards with no other protection than that of his "mighty men." Saul had endeavoured to have always round him three thousand trained men (1 Samuel 13:2), and David subsequently had probably quite as many (2 Samuel 15:18); but at this early stage he had probably not many more than he had brought with him from Ziklag to Hebron. He could not, therefore, make head against the Philistines coming with all the militia of their land; but, leaving his wives and the wives of his mighty men in the Jebusite stronghold of Jerusalem, we may well believe that he sped away to gather the warriors of Israel. But what seems strange is that he should have gone to the rear of the Philistines, especially as they had come in such vast numbers as to occupy the whole country—a garrison, for instance, being posted at Bethlehem, and doubtless at other fit spots. Still, this country was well known to David, and he could gather there old friends, whose bravery he had often tried before. And while thus waiting for the mustering of such as God would move to help him, in deep distress at so terrible a reversal following so quickly upon his exaltation, a strange longing for water from the well of his native town seized him. He was suffering apparently from fever of body as well as from distress of mind, and soon there was relief from both. For three of his heroes heard the words burst from his parched lips, and, hastening to Bethlehem, broke through the Philistine garrison, and filled a waterskin from the well at the gate of the city. Such an act naturally made a great impression upon David. What room was there for despair when he had such men around him? Pouring out, then, the water as a drink offering to Jehovah, his heart was now filled with hope, and inquiring of the Lord whether he might attack the Philistines, he received the assurance which he had already gathered from the exploit of his heroes, that God would deliver them into his hand.
2 Samuel 5:18
The valley of Rephaim. This fruitful valley (Isaiah 17:5) is about three miles in length, and two in breadth. Occupying it in vast numbers, the Philistines sent out bodies of men to plunder the whole country, while a sufficient force watched Jerusalem, intending to take it by famine. The Rephaim were an aboriginal race, first mentioned in Genesis 14:5, and evidently in early times very widely spread in Palestine. The idea that they were giants has no more to be said in its favour than that they were ghosts—the meaning of the word in Isaiah 26:14, Isaiah 26:19. No sensible philologist will endeavour to explain the names of these primitive races and of their towns by Hebrew roots, though there has been too much of this craze in past times. The Rephaim seem. however, to have been physically a well-developed people, and several races of Canaan of great stature are described in Deuteronomy 2:11 as having belonged to them, as did Og, who was a man of extraordinary dimensions (Deuteronomy 3:11).
2 Samuel 5:20
Baal-Perazim; literally, possessor of breaches, that is, the place where the attack burst forth. It is called Mount Perazim, "the hill of breaches," in Psa 28:1-9 :21, and as we have seen, it was the rocky height on the north of the valley of Rephaim. David must, therefore, have stolen round the army of the Philistines, creeping, probably by night, up to this ridge of Ben-Hinnom, and thence at the dawn of day have rushed down upon the camp. And his onset was sudden and irresistible, like the rush of the waters of some mountain lake when, swollen with rains, it bursts through the opposing dam, and carries hasty destruction to everything that lies in its way.
2 Samuel 5:21
They left their images. This is a further proof of the suddenness of the attack, and the completeness of the Philistine discomfiture. For images we find "gods" in the parallel place in 1 Chronicles 14:12, and the word used here is rendered "idols" in 1 Samuel 31:9. As the Philistines supposed that these images of their deities would ensure their victory, they would set great store by them, as the Israelites did by the ark (1 Samuel 4:4), and the French by the oriflamme. Their capture, therefore, was a feat as great as the winning of the eagle of a Roman legion. David and his men burned them; Hebrew, took them away. This translation of the Authorized Version, made to force the words into verbal agreement with 1 Chronicles 14:12, is utterly indefensible; and, like most wrong things, it is absurd. The Bible cannot be improved by frauds, and really the two narratives complete one another. David and his men carried off these images as trophies, just as the Philistines carried off the ark (1 Samuel 4:11). But the ark proved mightier than the Philistine gods, and in terror the people restored it to Israel. But no avenging hand interfered to rescue these gods, and, after being paraded in triumph, they were made into a bonfire.
2 Samuel 5:22
The Philistines came up yet again. Their first defeat had probably not been accompanied by much slaughter; for David's men were few in number, though brave as lions. Retreating then to some distance, the Philistines called in their garrisons, and waited also for reinforcements from home, and then advanced again to the same spot. And as David was prepared to attack them in front, he also must now have gathered round him the chivalry of Israel.
2 Samuel 5:23
Thou shalt not go up. The attack in front is forbidden, and the answer shows that the priest with the ephod did more than give a mere affirmative or negative reply. For David receives full instructions. Taking advantage of the valleys, he is to creep round into the rear of the Philistines, and approach them under cover of a thicket of baca trees. Mulberry trees; Hebrew, baca trees. This suggests the idea that David's place of attack was the Baca valley (Psalms 84:6), and that there was such a valley, though this is not certain. For the Revised Version translates "valley of weeping," concluding that baca is not there a proper name. By baca trees the LXX. and Vulgate "pear trees," but as bacah means "to weep," it is probably some balsamic shrub, from which a resin exudes. The Revised Version puts here in the margin, "balsam trees." Dr. Tristram thinks it was a sort of aspen, but the authority of the.Vulgate is great in such matters, as Jerome obtained his information in Palestine itself.
2 Samuel 5:24
The sound of a going; Hebrew, a marching. Under the cover of this thicket David was to wait until he heard the sound as of the regular tramp of an army in the tops of the baca trees. It would be in the morning that the wind would shake the treetops, but the sound was to be something more than the soft whispers of a gentle breeze. A gale was to put them into sudden motion, and then the soldiers would know that their Jehovah had gone forth to battle, and David must immediately bestir himself. The enthusiasm of his men must not cool down, but as soon as the wind rustled he must charge the enemy, and his warriors, feeling that they were going with the host of God, would break down all resistance by their impetuous onset.
2 Samuel 5:25
From Geba until thou some to Gazer. In 1 Chronicles 14:16 "Gibson" is substituted for "Geba," and it is one of those corrections which a commentator is inclined to adopt, because it makes all things easy. For Gibeon lay directly on the road from the Rephaim valley towards Gazer, and the armies must have passed it in the fight. But if "Geba" be the right reading here, then the battle must have been most sternly contested. For it is the "Gibeah of Benjamin," Hebrew, "Geba of Benjamin," described in 1 Samuel 13:16. The Philistines had a garrison there in Saul's time (1 Samuel 13:3), and had probably again occupied it as a military post after their victory at Gilboa. To reach it the line of retreat would go nine miles northward over difficult ground; but this was not disadvantageous to a retreating army as long as it remained unbroken, and the Philistines would expect to be able to make a successful defense at a strong citadel like Geba, held by a garrison of their own troops. But when driven by David's "mighty men" from this fortified hill, being hemmed in by the defile of Michmash on the east, they would have no choice but to hurry down the valleys to the west, and, still passing by Gibson, so flee to Gazer. Thus the reading "Geba" implies a stout and long resistance ending in a most complete victory. And confessedly this was a decisive battle, fought with larger forces, and causing far larger loss to the Philistines than that at Baal-Perazim, where, attacked by only a few men, they were seized with panic, and saved themselves by a headlong flight. Gazer lay upon the border of Ephraim, and was one of the royal cities of the Canaanites, and so strong that it was left in the hands of its old possessors (Joshua 16:3, Joshua 16:10; Judges 1:19). Subsequently Solomon fortified it (1 Kings 9:17), as being the key of the defiles which led from Ekron and the plain of Philistia up to Jerusalem. We also find it mentioned as an important military post in the days of the Maccabees (1 Macc. 9:52). The pursuit would naturally stop here, as the fugitives would now be in their own country, and succour would be close at hand. Probably, too, the Canaanites who held the fortress were friendly to them, and gave them shelter.
2 Samuel 5:1-10
The facts are:
1. The tribes of Israel come to Hebron to formally acknowledge David as rightful king.
2. They assign three reasons for their united action.
(1) That David was of their kindred.
(2) That he had rendered valuable services in times of need.
(3) That God had expressed his will.
3. A solemn league being made between David and the tribes, they anoint him king over Israel.
4. The question of the crown being settled, David applies himself to the acquisition of Jerusalem as the seat of government.
5. Being proudly defied by the Jebusites, on account of the strength of their position, he challenges his officers to take the lead in the subjugation of the fortress.
6. Acquiring possession, he calls the place after his name, and extends the fortifications.
7. The continued favour of God ensures to him great prosperity.
The triumph of patient fidelity.
The first three verses bring into view the realization of David's most cherished desires, the ripe consummation of all his wearying toils and cares. The goal on which Samuel had directed his eye (1 Samuel 10:1; 1 Samuel 16:1-13) was now attained. The wisdom of his self-restraint when persecuted, and of his trusting more to Divine care than to human weapons, was now fully justified. The historian places together the human popular view of the situation, and the Divine purpose that had to be effected. The being bone of their bone, and the great services rendered to Israel in days of trial, were the natural and political facts which warranted the great gathering at Hebron on that day; and the treasured up saying of the Lord that this very man should feed his people and be their captain, was the Divine declaration now seen by them to harmonize with the natural and political facts. There is here the language of expediency, and a kind of apology for past opposition to David; for the fact that God had so spoken ought from the first to have prevented all controversy and rendered the nation one in enthusiasm for the divinely chosen man. The acceptance of the authority of the declaration is not absolute, but because they now see what they profess not hitherto to have seen—that by nature and services he is fit to be the shepherd and captain of Israel.
I. GOD'S APPOINTMENTS ARE BASED ON NATURAL PRINCIPLES. The selection of David out of the sons of Jesse was not a mere arbitrary act warranted by no considerations of propriety and fitness. He was the best of the family and of the nation for the specific purpose to be wrought out. His qualities were not bestowed after the call to the position though grace would abound for development of what was already possessed; they were in him by nature. God uses up what he has prepared in the working out of ordinary natural processes. When the people said, "We are thy bone and thy flesh," they were referring to one prominent instance of natural fitness for the position of authority then assigned to David; his common kinship with them would ensure the sympathy which ought ever to exist between ruler and ruled. The Divine appointment rested, among other fitnesses, on this natural basis. The formal fitness lay in the fact of kinship; but God saw also that in the case of this man the sympathies natural to the fact of kinship were exceptionally strong and deep and broad. There was also a Divine recognition of those other natural qualities of statesmanship and valour and generosity, which would render a decree that he should be king but the formulation of a natural adaptation plus the information to men that the Supreme Being will so regulate affairs that this natural adaptation shall manifest itself. We may be sure that the same holds good of all that God ordains. He uses up what is best in nature for the ends in view. Abraham was the fittest man to be commissioned to found a family through which Messiah should come. The choice of Moses to lead the people out of Egypt, and administer law among a people hitherto without law, was evidently based on his natural and acquired qualities. That which may seem to be an exception to this rule is no exception, namely, the appointment of plain and unlettered men to first establish the kingdom of Christ after his ascension. For looking at the spiritual nature of the kingdom, that it is diffused by the spiritual renovation of men by the power of the Holy Spirit, it was befitting that men who had no brilliant gifts wherewith to dazzle others, and so induce the impression that the new cause was one in which human wisdom prevailed, should become the channels through which the power of God might assert itself (1 Corinthians 1:23-31; 1 Corinthians 2:4, 1 Corinthians 2:5). The most illustrious instance of the truth before us is that in the case of our Saviour. By condescending to become bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh, made like unto his brethren, there is laid a natural fitness for his becoming the Feeder of his people and the Captain of our salvation. The sympathy of nature thus rendered possible sets forth the wisdom which appointed him to be a Prince and a Saviour. History reveals no exceptions to the rule.
II. THE EVIDENCE TO MEN OF DIVINE APPOINTMENT WILL LIE IN SERVICES ACTUALLY RENDERED. The original Divine appointment of David was prior even to his appearance before Goliath; for God's purposes are not the product of changes in time, and the declaration by Samuel to David was only for his guidance and encouragement in view of the troubles that were coming. David had to act so as to render the words of Samuel credible to the people; he had to make his "calling and election sure" by a line of conduct that would destroy the supposition that possibly Samuel the prophet, in this instance, was mistaking the surmisings of his own mind for the purpose of God. Those long years from the day he left the sheepfold to the death of Ishbosheth, formed the period in which he was to bring out before men the great wisdom of God in his selection. As the other Anointed One later on lived among men in such a way as to show to them that he was from the Father, that he had a work to do for the people of God, and was, in fact, appointed to be the Redeemer of the race, so David had to justify all that Samuel bad said, and all that was implied in the prior Divine choice. It is a noble thing when a man believes that God has ordained him to a work in the world, and strives to so regulate his life that every act shall be a demonstration of the wisdom and fitness of the Divine appointment. How David did this, by sympathy with all classes, by carrying on his heart the sorrows of his people, by deeds of valour which broke asunder the chains of Philistine oppression, by gentle forbearance toward those who sought his life, by abstention from pride and acts of violence to further his interests, also by patient trust in the covenant keeping God during days of terrible suffering, as by wise administration among his own followers,—the history of his early life fully records. However obstinate, for personal and political reasons, men were in refusing him as successor to Saul, they could not but yield at last to the force of evidence that he was the man for the position, and so far demonstrated to be the chosen of God. By a similar method, Christ is creating history which will be the vindication of his claim to be Lord of all. Likewise the Church, as the body of Christ, answers to her calling and duty only so far as she does deeds and manifests a spirit that will furnish unanswerable evidence of the Divinity of the Christian religion. "By their fruits ye shall know them." The test of salt lies in the presence of its peculiar savour.
III. THE REALIZATION OF GOD'S PURPOSE THROUGH THE LOYALTY OF HIS SERVANTS IS ONLY A QUESTION OF TIME. It would have seemed that when Samuel made known the will of God it would have been enough at once to have secured the abdication of Saul and the hearty concurrence of the chosen race. But there was the same free way of dealing with Divine declarations, the same perversity of understanding, as in the days of Christ; so that men did not thoroughly accept and act upon what was said. Jonathan and a few elect souls read aright the Divine intent, and rejoiced therein; but the rest found reasons for doubt, as men always can when the spirit is not thoroughly humble and devout. Occasionally, as we have seen in the case of Abner (2 Samuel 3:9, 2 Samuel 3:10), there was a recognition of truth generally suppressed. A man of less faith than David would have despaired of witnessing the day when the whole nation would, by a solemn act of coronation, fall in with the purpose of God. But through the loyalty of David and the few devout men who were the companions of his heart, the issue was brought to pass. It was not a question of truth or falsehood, of national policy or individual striving; the word of God had gone forth, true and unchangeable, that so it was to be; whether scheming politicians fell in with it or not, the course of nature was the course of God. Time would prove to be the element for solving all. Faithfulness to God has the power, in a mysterious way, of winning over the forces of nature and society to its side. The hour came when all Israel simply met to do what God all along intended should be done. Herein do we see, on a small scale, what is yet to be illustrated on the grandest scale. It is a question of time. The hour is coming when every knee shall bow to the Anointed of the Lord, and every tongue confess that he is the Christ, to the glory of God the Father. The world will then simply recognize, as a whole, what now the faithful followers of Christ know to be true. In spiritual firings the world does not acquire truth; it simply comes to admit to be true what Christ's people all along have affirmed is true. The Church is not outstripped; its conclusions are accepted.
1. We cannot fully estimate the cumulative force of Christian consistency in bringing about the final triumph of Christianity.
2. There is a parallel between our modern religious conflicts with unbelief and the struggle of many in Israel against the revealed purpose of God, and we may rest assured that the truth with us, long resisted, will in the end be accepted.
3. It behoves every Church and private Christian to consider how much the solution of our modern difficulties depends on our own faithfulness in daily life.
4. It is helpful to the observance of obligations that we recognize them with the solemn sanctions of religion, "before the Lord" (2 Samuel 5:3).
The acquisition and building up of Zion.
This narrative exhibits David as a new man—free from the old trials and embarrassments, and with a clear course before him to raise up the government which should embody the religious principles of the theocracy, and be prospective of a grand spiritual development in the distant future. As one relieved from great cares and conscious of vast unexpended energy, he at once applies himself to the adoption of the means which at that stage of affairs seemed most conducive to the attainment of ulterior issues. The principles on which he acted, while excellent for the circumstances of the time, admit of a wider application to human affairs, and with this in view we may indicate the wisdom of his conduct and the bearing of the narrative on other matters by a succession of single terms suggestive of both facts and principles.
I. INITIATION. All along, even in exile, David had learnt to regard his life as linked in the providence of God with some great events in the far distant future. His mission to the world and his own nation was understood to be the raising of his own people to such a position of social order and righteousness as should fit them to be most perfectly instrumental in hastening on the latter day glory. Now that he was made king, and had the confidence of the people, he devises those initiatory measures which, being well planned and executed, will render the attainment of remoter ends more probable. The record tells us of the facts, and we have to fill in the mental processes by which David was led to the particular course recorded. His work was great, far reaching, and, full of energy and faith and confidence, he makes a beginning in the work of consolidation and administration. The first movement was born of faith in his call to service—faith in the bearing of his life's work on the destinies of men, faith in the existence of a Divine purpose which had to be wrought out in connection with the chosen race, faith in the value of human labour in relation to Divine purposes, and faith in the presence and help of God in all undertaken in his service. How wisely and broadly the foundation was now about to be laid we may notice further on; the fact here to be noted is the laying of a foundation in deeds for subsequent efforts. All wise rulers and governments, when entering into recognized power, take initiatory measures as their wisdom may suggest. The first stages of action bear an important relation to what follows. The same holds good of other departments of human activity. This reminds us of the initiatory work of the kingdom of Christ; how his life, sufferings, death, and resurrection may be regarded as the initiation of that long course of activity by which the king in Zion will wondrously affect the destinies of the world. We know with what clear prevision, what sense of being sent of God, what faith in the value of human effort and in the presence and blessing of the Eternal, all that was done which constituted the beginning of the reign of the Anointed of the Lord.
II. CLEARANCE. In making a survey of the inheritance into which, as king, he had come, David saw that the presence of alien Jebusites, defiant of himself and worshippers of blind and lame idols, was an evil which ought at once to be got rid of. For such an alien element to occupy a stronghold in the very heart of the country was a most galling thought to one intensely patriotic and brave, and could not but have suggested to him the defective courage and faith of his ancestors in Israel, who allowed such a thing to be possible. It was no mere love of fighting, no desire to create a diversion on acceding to power, that induced him to challenge his best men to seize the position; it was statesmanship, regard for the purity of the national life, and the honour of him who originally gave the land to Israel for an inheritance. The people of God must be separate from the heathen. Powers of darkness must not dwell in the land of light. A beautiful example this to all who have an inheritance to hold for Christ. Our nature is a holy land, in which he alone is to be honoured, and it is a prime duty that we take strenuous measures—call upon the cooperation of our best powers—to cast out the evil elements from the centre of our nature, so that there may be nothing within that defileth, or is an abomination, or that maketh a lie. The work may be difficult, the forces strong and defiant, and faint hearted rulers may suffer the evils to remain from sheer lack of courage and confidence; but their removal at an early stage of life is a condition of a prosperous government, in the name and service of God, of the powers that make up our human nature. In one respect also we see an analogy in our Lord's work. His mission in its widest reach is to gather into one all things in himself (Ephesians 1:10), to sway a blessed sceptre over a perfected humanity, to maintain a kingdom of peace and righteousness that shall never end (Psalms 72:1-20.); and his first work on ascending the throne is to seek the casting out from the heart and life of humanity of the alien spirit, the Jebusite, that so long has usurped the place of influence, and done serious injury to all. The work is now going on, and the Jebusite will be cast down from his stronghold, and the entire world won at last to the Prince of Peace.
III. CONSTRUCTION. In reformation and restoration there is a negative and a positive side. David had to clear out the foe of his people, and so secure free scope for their activities and their happiness. But a positive work had to follow the removal of the evil forces. Hence, in his sagacity, he resolved to construct on the site cleared of the alien a stronghold that should serve the important ends of commanding the entire country from an impregnable position, of giving local prominence to his seat of government, and of facilitating the administration of affairs. The possession of Zion, and the immediate development of its military advantages, were positive advances in the rearing of the stable state which was to stand out so markedly in contrast with the disintegration and weakness of Saul's time. True wisdom is constructive. Evil is destructive and disintegrating. Men prove their capacity to lead and govern by what they can gradually build up. The aim and effort of David all through his reign evidently was to form a national life on solid foundations, and richly developed in all that constitutes true greatness. How truly typical of the Son of David, who, by supremely wise acts in the establishment of his kingdom, laid the foundation for a superstructure of human good which is ever going on toward perfection! How suggestive of the true wisdom of missionary enterprise—laying solid foundations, in central positions, with a view to bless whole lands with the peace and blessedness of the gospel, and then gradually adding to the first work by positive developments of the same stable character! Likewise in education and in individual self-culture in godliness, construction should be ever aimed at, ever going on, proceeding upon definite solid foundations of success, laid with care in the very centre of the heart and intellect. Hereby also do we learn the extreme importance of getting supreme mastery of those powerful central forces of our nature which are to the details and outward aspects of our personal life what the stronghold of Jebus was to the varied hills and valleys of the land of Israel.
IV. INSPIRATION. The step taken by David was the natural outflow of his own enthusiasm. The force was latent in him, and now came the occasion for its manifestation. It was a new thing for the tribes to see a man of spirit, conscious of a high destiny to work out and urged, as by a Divine inspiration, to dare deeds not dreamt of for many generations (Joshua 15:63; Judges 19:10-12). The man rose with his position. The consciousness of new and heavy responsibilities developed heroism. Even the barbarous occupants of the stronghold (2 Samuel 5:8) seemed surprised that any one should dream of touching them. The strong expression, "hated of David's soul," only reveals the high and all commanding spirit that could not brook the defilement of the holy land by idolatrous feet. But the infection of an enthusiastic spirit is rapid, and this action of the king at once raised the national tone. It made men feel that, as a people, they were entering on a new era; the possibilities of a great future opened before them; an ambition of a lofty kind was enkindled; the dismemberment of the nation, the low political status of Saul's time, when they could scarcely hold their own against heathen tribes, must cease to be imagined, and the great ideas of Abraham and of Moses once more must become regnant in their minds. Possibly on that day of coronation, when the elders of the tribes would come into close conference with David, he would speak out from his own clearer vision of their function in the world as the people of God and his own strong faith in the presence of Jehovah, so that the deeds on Mount Zion would illustrate in impressive form words of power (Psalms 40:9, Psalms 40:10). Likewise the inspiration given to the Church in days of the founding of the kingdom of Christ has raised the tone and put a strong and masterful confidence in the heart of man. None can fully estimate the widespread and mighty influence exerted by the lofty spirit displayed by our Lord. It has raised new hopes, developed a bolder courage, fixed men's eyes more steadily on the glorious future, and produced the feeling that the faithful are engaged in an enterprise not only sanctioned by God, but pervaded by the very life giving presence of the Lord of all power and glory. In so far as we each enter on our appointed work for Christ in the same spirit, we carry on the inspiration and swell the moral forces that are to win the world for God.
V. MEMORIES. David, as we know from his early experience and from the Psalms, was a man of much meditation—one who was well versed in the memorials of his nation and deeply imbued with the spirit of devotion. Was it nothing to him that the seat of Melchizedek's reign as King of Salem was possibly this spot where now the impious Jebusites dwelt? Could he forget that here it was Abraham displayed the marvellous faith which, more than anything, won for him the name ever to be cherished, "father of the faithful"? It was creditable to his religious instincts and to his sagacity that one of the first acts of his reign was to recover a place so sacred to the memory, and to gather the associations of the place around his own seat of government. Piety, poetry, and statesmanship are here combined. Great and hallowed associations tend to beget corresponding deeds; and doubtless it was with the fond hope that as king he might still further consecrate that sacred spot, that he made it the centre of his administration. History tells us how age after age memories clustered more and more richly and often sadly, yet instructively, around that holy hill, until the name of Zion has become, perhaps, more rich in pathetic story and suggestive splendour and bliss than any word in human language—next, of course, to the one "Name that is above every name."
"Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God;
He whose Word cannot be broken
Formed thee for his own abode."
2 Samuel 5:11-25
The facts are:
1. The King of Tyre, being friendly with David, supplies him with means of building his house on Mount Zion.
2. David regards the varied successes of his enterprises as confirmation of his belief that he was indeed appointed by God to reign over Israel.
3. He establishes a court on a larger scale, after Oriental style.
4. The Philistines, hearing of his accession to the throne, prepare for an attack upon him, whereupon he seeks guidance of God, defeats them at Baal-Perazim, and destroys their images.
5. Subsequently the Philistines come to a second attack, but on inquiring of God, David is not allowed to assail them in front.
6. Adopting the strategy recommended him, David secures the overthrow of the enemy unto Gazer.
Divine favour vouchsafed to imperfect men.
The Bible teaches that the hearts of kings and people are in the hands of the Lord, and that he turns them so as to advance the great purpose he is working out. The friendly attitude of so important a personage as Hiram must be regarded as a mark of God's favour to David. To us the record makes clear that David was indeed called of God, and had the special help of the Almighty, and yet 2 Samuel 5:12 suggests that there were hours when he himself felt the need of confirmatory signs. Some of the Psalms indicate the same. He is here represented as overcoming any doubts and fears arising from his own deep consciousness of moral imperfection, by considering the unmistakable blessings wherewith his efforts so far were crowned. It was all of the Lord. He was not in error in supposing that he was in the path of duty. And yet the very next verses of the narrative (verses 13-16) tell us of a weakness in David's character—an inferiority to much that later on was attained to by others—so that we cannot but note this conjunction of great and manifold favours conferred on one whose standard of moral and social life was, relatively to ours, very inferior. To the right understanding of this we have to observe ―
I. DOMESTIC RELATIONSHIPS ARE MATTERS OF POSITIVE ENACTMENT. Moralists distinguish rightly between obligations moral in their own nature and obligations created by precept. Obviously there is not the same kind of obligation for a man to have only one wife as there is to love God with all his heart. The one depends on considerations subsequent to the existence of more than one person; the other holds from the very nature of the feeling, and cannot but be the right thing. That it is wisest, best, most conducive to personal moral perfection and to social welfare that men should not have plurality of wives, is certain; but that arises from the constitution of society and the particular purposes God intends to work out by means of the domestic institution, and consequently the prohibition to have more than one wife partakes of the nature of a positive precept. Had man not been told what he should do, he would not have felt and known absolutely that only one wife must be taken. Had he not been told what he should do, he would nevertheless have felt and known that to love not God, to disobey God, to prefer vileness to purity, was wrong. David, left to himself, would see evil in aversion to God, but he would not so distinctly and certainly see evil in having many wives.
II. THE SOCIAL CONDITIONS OF LIFE IN ANCIENT TIMES WERE INHERITED. Inheritance does not make wrong right, but being over a long series of generations it tends to prevent those who are the subjects of it from seeing the evils which others fresh to the facts might soon discover. This applies especially to those forms of evil which are so in a secondary sense, being the opposite of what is termed good by positive precept. Polygamy was a custom very ancient, running through long generations of good men, and among sheiks and heads of nations it became one of the marks of distinction and an inevitable appendage of wealth. That, of course, does not make it useful or morally right, but it accounts for good men adopting it with as little compunction of conscience as others, in modern times, have bought and sold slaves, or sold drink, which are known to be the occasion of great evils.
III. THE MEANS OF EDUCATING MEN TO MORE PERFECT FORMS OF SOCIAL LIFE ARE GRADUAL IN OPERATION, AND THE FORCE OF PRECEPTS CONCERNING THEM IS NOT AT ONCE RECOGNIZED. No doubt monogamy was the will of God—the common law from the beginning (Matthew 19:4, Matthew 19:5). The subsequent practice of polygamy by good men was tolerated, but it was the evident design of the Mosaic regulations to moderate and minimize it (Deuteronomy 17:17; Exodus 21:10, Exodus 21:11; Deuteronomy 21:11-17). The elevation of the people above the degrading practice was a slow process, and, according to the Talmudists, even the distinct precept (Deuteronomy 17:17) was understood in a non literal sense. It is possible, therefore, that David, inheriting practices straight from Abraham, should be disposed to anticipate the Talmudic interpretation, and understand "multiply" to refer to an "inordinate number," and the reason assigned to be a matter of discretion. The same difficulty in educating men to rise to the full recognition, in social relations, of some of our Saviour's precepts set forth in Matthew 5:1-48. and 6; is obvious to us even now. In the case of Oriental polygamy in Old Testament times the difficulty was greater from the circumstance that the wife in chief held her place, and others improperly called in English "concubines" were secondary, and often served in court as "maids of honour" do now.
IV. IT IS THE METHOD OF GOD TO WORK BY IMPERFECT AGENTS UP TO A HIGHER FORM OF LIFE. All things in the earlier stages of constructive work are in an elementary condition, and in that sense inferior. Out of the elemental forms organisms arise, and from the lower organisms higher types have appeared. Out of our own imperfect mental condition there arises, by use of that imperfect condition, a superior form of mental life. The same holds good of our moral habits. By use of the weak and inferior, with a tendency upwards, there comes to pass a moral elevation that can never descend to the old conditions out of which it sprang. Likewise, in constructing a perfect human society on the purest and noblest gospel principles, it is God's way to use men as he finds them, with their inherited notions and tendencies, and by precept and inspiration gradually raise them above themselves, and so make them instruments of raising others to a higher level of life. Had God waited till men became as clear in their conceptions of social proprieties and utilities and as strong in purity as Christ, nothing would have been done for the world. He is a Father who pitieth his children. He remembereth that we are but dust. It is, therefore, in unison with general principles of government that David, though a polygamist, was blessed, and for the same reason many a slave owner's life has been attended with spiritual blessing. Were it not so, who of us dare hope for favour?
V. THE BLESSING OF GOD IS RESTRICTED BY OUR IMPERFECTIONS. Had David risen to the dignity of true monogamy, and, with clear vision and firm spirit, entered on a domestic life in keeping with gospel principles, he would doubtless have exerted a wider and more powerful spiritual influence. But as it was, the kind and measure of prosperity vouchsafed to him were proportionate to his imperfect domestic life. God's blessing is only restrained by the channel through which it has to flow. The more we can anticipate the more holy and consecrated and enlightened future by our present elevation of life, the more surely will the blessing rest on us and our deeds. According to our faith and love, as seen in perfect conformity of feeling, perception, and action to the blessed life of Christ, so may we expect the favour and blessing of God.
1. It becomes us every now and then to make careful scrutiny of our lives, to see what elements there are in them derived from an ungodly inheritance and resting on mere fashion and custom.
2. The best light by which we may discover what is merely traditional and perhaps morally defective in our characters is that derived from a close study of the spirit that animated our Saviour and the ideal he set up for our model.
3. In our anxiety to know whether we are really accepted of God and are enjoying his favour, we may safely reckon prosperity in our calling, if only, like David, we are conscious of going forth in his Name and not for personal ends.
4. We may, like David, after seasons of long trial for the sake of Christ, well take courage when the tide of success flows freely in, and should be careful at such times to ascribe all to God.
5. We see how the essence of religion, namely, trust in God, desire to know and do his will, and maintenance of righteousness in all affairs according to the measure of light obtained, is distinguishable from the form of social morality which custom or tradition may have generated.
The renunciation of human strength and wisdom before God.
The historian is here fragmentary in his records. Having noted David's first efforts towards consolidation of his power and his general prosperity, he refers to the troubles that arose in consequence of the assaults of the Philistines. These natural enemies of Israel had doubtless observed with satisfaction the gradual decay of Israel's power during the reign of Saul, and probably were hopeful that the threatened civil war between the adherents of David at Hebron and the friends of Ishbosheth would still further place the people at their mercy. The seizure of Jebus was, however, so startling an event as to awaken the fear that the near settlement at Hebron and removal of the court to Jerusalem might be the beginning of trouble for themselves. The remembrance of the prowess of David in years gone by must have intensified this fear. It was therefore in accordance with the best human policy that they should bring all their forces together and seek to crush him by a single blow. It is interesting to observe the conduct of David under those circumstances.
I. THE STRONG AND SAGACIOUS MAN SEEKS THE GUIDANCE AND HELP OF GOD. That David was a man of courage, brave, hardy, and capable of great endurance, is the record of his life. Naturally he was capable of great things. Also his whole conduct revealed a remarkable sagacity, such as fitted him for military leadership and statesmanship. If there was one in Israel who, reckoning on personal qualities and acquired renown, was justified in facing the Philistines in sole dependence on his own gifts, David was the man, and yet, instead of that, he turns at once to his God, and seeks guidance and help of him. This was not an act of superstition; not the result of sudden change of character, in which fear took the place of courage and mental confusion the place of calmness. It was the product of enlightened piety—a policy of profound wisdom, a sagacious estimate of all the facts and probabilities of the case. He was the servant of Jehovah, bound to carry out his purposes and cause his great Name to be reverenced in all human affairs. Therefore it was due to the ever present and ruling Lord to honour him by seeking to know his will and trusting in his aid. Past successes in his Name suggested the same. It was true then as now that the Eternal Spirit could act on masses of men and their leaders so as to change the course of events; and for aught David knew to the contrary, it might have been the Divine will to force them back by some other agency than by his arms. Prudence, reason, piety, all sound principles and sentiments, concurred in renunciation of all human powers before the Eternal, that his power might be manifest. This is the course pursued by every strong and wise man in whom piety is a force. The Apostle Paul was a notable instance of strong will and great general ability laid prostrate before Christ, that his power might work through human channels (2 Corinthians 4:6, 2 Corinthians 4:7). The more distinguished the man in natural gifts and in grace, the more thoroughly is God sought, as in the case of Augustine. Men of strong will and great force of intellect who refuse to depend on God are not strong and wise all round; they are morally weak and spiritually blind. The more perfectly the whole man is developed the more complete will be the turning to God for guidance and help.
II. THE STRONG AND SAGACIOUS MAN FOLLOWS THE LIGHT GIVEN. David learnt that it was God's will that the national foe should be smitten, not by pestilence or sudden terror subjectively produced, but by the national arm; and in the two cases by different methods of procedure. Whatever was the method of learning the will of God, and whatever degree of distinctness the revelation, the fact to be noted is that David was not "disobedient to the heavenly vision." His generalship was regulated thereby. We have no Urim to consult, no high priest to receive special communication for specific emergencies; but in our times of danger to business, domestic interests, Church affairs, and personal religious life—to say nothing of national events—we can seek God by prayer, by reading his will in the pure conscience, in the steady lines of providence, and in the principles of his written Word. It should be a cardinal truth with us that God is interested in our affairs, and has ways of making himself known to the earnest spirit. Especially does it behove each Christian and the Church as a body to seek guidance and help when assaults are being made on our holy faith, and the enemy threatens to deprive us of our goodly heritage. There are ways and methods of meeting the foe which God can reveal, and our success will depend on the care with which we adopt the methods approved of God. Infidelity and atheism are to be confronted or attacked in the rear on principles Divine, not on maxims of human expediency.
III. THE STRONG AND SAGACIOUS MAN IS WILLING TO LET GOD WORK, SO THAT THE HAND OF MAN SHALL NOT BE MOST CONSPICUOUS. David acquiesced in the front attack when enjoined, and equally in the restrained action of himself when (Matthew 5:23, Matthew 5:24) an unseen influence was brought to bear on the foe. In this lies the beauty of true godliness, that it is content, when God wills it, that man should not be seen if only the purposes of God are carried through. David cared not for military distinction if the finger of God could only be seen. His strategy in this case was Divine. He stood aside for Providence to work till the hour for human action arrived. This was the apostolic spirit in the early days of Christianity, based in its exercise on the truth that the living God was the great Worker on the souls of men. The same feeling and belief should ever actuate us in all our endeavours to subdue enemies to the cross. We are only instruments, and a true estimate of ourselves will lead us to rejoice in our being counted as nothing and lost sight of in the display of saving power straight from God. Perhaps there is less success because we want to appear in front of the "mulberry trees."
1. We have to hold our own heart and our Church life against the inroads of our natural enemies, "the world, the flesh, and the devil," and the remembrance of this should always make us watchful.
2. In times of great stress in this conflict we should make special requests to God, and not simply proceed on the prestige of former achievements.
3. In dealing with modern forms of attack on Christianity, we have need to ponder well the methods and principles of procedure; and the entire Church should make it a matter of special thought and prayer.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
2 Samuel 5:1-3
(1 Chronicles 11:1-3). (HEBRON.)
David anointed king of all Israel.
1. About twenty years had elapsed since David was anointed by Samuel, seven years and a half since he was anointed King of Judah; and at length, at the age of thirty-seven, his faith and patience were rewarded, every obstacle was removed out of his path, and the Divine purpose concerning his royal destination fulfilled. "In the fulness of time, at the right moment, in perfect vigour of mind and body, he grasped the supremacy which was offered to him, having passed through every outward stage of power and honour, and every inward test of heavy trial and varied strife" (Ewald).
2. His anointing (performed by prophet or priest) took place at the instance of the elders (2 Samuel 5:3) as the representatives of all the tribes (2 Samuel 5:1), in accordance with the former summons of Abner (2 Samuel 3:17, 2 Samuel 3:19, 2 Samuel 3:21), and doubtless after consultation in their national assembly (1 Samuel 8:4); now desirous and even eager (after long resistance) to accomplish the purpose of God, having "learnt by experience" the kind of king they needed, and being constrained by the pressure of circumstances.
3. "By his anointing by Samuel he acquired jus ad regnum, a right to the kingdom; and by his present anointing he had a jus in regno, authority over the kingdom" (A. Clarke). It was not merely a designation, but an inauguration to his office; a recognition and acceptance of his Divine appointment, as well as a symbol of his Divine endowment with all needful gifts (see 1Sa 10:1, 1 Samuel 10:10; 1 Samuel 16:12); and it distinguished his person as sacred (1 Samuel 24:6; 1 Samuel 26:11), inasmuch as he represented the authority and power of the Divine King of Israel. His anointing for the third; time marks one of the greatest days of Israel's history (2 Samuel 2:4; 1Sa 9:1-27 :28; 1 Samuel 10:24; 1 Samuel 11:15); and, in connection with it, observe—
I. THE REASONS ASSIGNED BY THE ELDERS FOR THEIR PROPOSAL.
1. His personal relationship. "Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh" (Genesis 29:14), expressive of their claims upon him, and of his qualification to rule over them; to understand their wants, sympathize with their aspirations, and promote their welfare (Deuteronomy 17:15). "The elders speak as if they had not been very sure whether they were to regard David as a Hebrew, or as a naturalized Philistine; but now their doubts are gone, they dwell on his blood relationship to them as a conclusive evidence that he would be out and out a Hebrew—that, therefore, he was worthy of the Hebrew crown" (Blaikie). So "in all things it behoved" the Captain of our salvation "to be made like unto his brethren" (Hebrews 2:17).
2. His proved ability and eminent services (2 Samuel 5:2), indicative of his proper calling and the general esteem in which he was held (1 Samuel 16:5); "the bond of fellowship and love which had bound him to them, even under Saul, as leader in their military undertakings."
3. His previous designation. "According to the word of the Lord by Samuel" (1 Chronicles 11:3); making it their duty to seek his leadership as well as his to undertake it. "Why should they refer to God's choice of David?
(1) Because, although they had known all along that David had been fore-appointed to the throne, they had yet been struggling against that arrangement; and so it was fitting now that they should express their repentance and declare their readiness to receive him in God's name, and as from God's hand.
(2) Because they wished to remind him and themselves that the royal king of their nation was Jehovah, and that he and they were in allegiance to him" (W.M. Taylor). He did not "take this honour unto himself" without being "called of God" and desired by the people. It sought him rather than he it. And the grounds of his acceptance of it were (as is not always the case with those who assume royal office) unselfish, patriotic, and devout.
II. THE COVENANT MADE BY THE KING WITH THE ELDERS. "And King David made a covenant with [to] them before the Lord" (2 Samuel 5:3). This covenant, agreement, or promise:
1. Expressed directly and chiefly an engagement, on his part, to rule over them according to the Divine will (Deuteronomy 17:16-20; 1 Samuel 10:25). He was by no means to be an absolute and irresponsible monarch, or "a king ruling arbitrarily as in heathen kingdoms, where at most a few nobles, the populace, or an imperfect oracular system limited his power;" but to be subject to the Law and to the voice of prophecy.
2. Involved the obligation, on their part, to obey him according to the same will (2 Samuel 3:21). "The Law of God was the rule and square of his government, whereunto both prince and people are sworn; which was a bridle against his absolute power or their rebellious manners" (Guild).
3. Was ratified in the most solemn manner—"in a form in which the theocratic principle is distinctly recognized." "The end and cause why God imprints in the weak and feeble flesh of man the image of his own power and majesty is not to puff up flesh in the opinion of itself; neither yet that he that is exalted above others should be lifted up by presumption and pride, and so despise others; but that he should consider he is appointed lieutenant of One whose eyes continually watch upon him and see and examine how he behaves himself in his office" (John Knox).
III. THE SPIRIT DISPLAYED BY THE PEOPLE, not only by the presence of the elders but also by that of the armed hosts, the flower of the nation, who marched to Hebron from all parts of the country, numbering (in addition to his "mighty men," 1Ch 11:10-47; 2 Samuel 23:8-39; and those who had come to him during his exile, 1 Chronicles 12:1-22) 339,600, with two hundred chiefs of Issachar "and all their brethren," one thousand chiefs of Naphtali, and Zadok and twenty-two chiefs (1 Chronicles 12:23 1 Chronicles 12:40). "All these men of war that could keep rank came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel; and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king."
1. Voluntary submission. "Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power" (Psalms 110:3).
2. National unanimity; such as is celebrated in Psalms 133:1-3. (written subsequently), 'Brotherly love'—
"Behold! how good and lovely it is
That (those who are) brethren should also dwell together!"
3. Enthusiastic devotion. "And there they were with David three days, eating and drinking; for their brethren had prepared for them," etc.
4. Abonnding joy. "For there was joy in Israel." This "gathering of the people" (Genesis 49:10) was a most memorable one (verses 4, 5). In it the good hidden in their reprehensible desire for a king (l Samuel Psa 8:4 -22) becomes apparent; we see the fruit of past labour, conflict, chastisement, and the seeds of future enterprise, success, advancement. "The kingship, as administered by David, appears neither as a necessary evil nor an improved constitution, but as a new ethic potency". "His career constitutes the culmination of that general advancement towards which the people of Israel had been aspiring with increasing energy for more than a century" (Ewald).—D.
2 Samuel 5:2, 2 Samuel 5:10, 2 Samuel 5:12
(1 Chronicles 11:2, 1 Chronicles 11:9; 1 Chronicles 14:2). (HEBRON.)
The shepherd king.
This is the first occasion on which we find the occupation of a shepherd made use of to describe the office of a king. Jacob, who had "fed Laban's flocks," spoke of "the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel" (Genesis 49:24; Genesis 48:15); Moses, who had "kept the flock of Jethro," prayed that Jehovah would "set a man over the congregation" as his successor, so that they might not be "as sheep having no shepherd" (Numbers 27:7); here the elders declare that Jehovah said (through Samuel) to David, who "fed his father's sheep at Bethlehem," concerning his royal destination, "Thou shalt feed [raah, equivalent to 'tend,' 'act as shepherd towards'] my people Israel" (2 Samuel 7:7; Psalms 78:70-72; Isaiah 44:28; Jeremiah 23:1-40.; Jeremiah 50:5; Ezekiel 34:1, Ezekiel 34:23; Micah 5:4; Zechariah 13:7, etc.). "The business of a shepherd is a preparation for the office of a king to any one who is destined to preside over that most manageable of all flocks, mankind; for which reason kings are called shepherds of their people, not by way of reproach, but as a most especial and pre-eminent honour" (Philo, 'Life of Moses'). "Shepherds are not owners of the sheep; but their office is to feed and govern: no more are kings proprietaries or owners of the people. 'The nations,' as the Scriptures saith, are 'his inheritance;' but the office of kings is to govern, maintain, and protect people. And that is not without a mystery that the first king that was instituted by God, David (for Saul was but an untimely fruit), was translated from a shepherd" (Bacon). What was said to David applies to every king, ruler, magistrate, master, in the sphere over which he has legitimate authority. Consider—
I. THE DIVINE IDEA OF HIS OFFICE. It is an office in which authority and power:
1. Are entrusted by the ordination of God, the Proprietor, Ruler, Chief Shepherd of the people; not self-derived nor unlimited; yet investing every under shepherd with dignity.
2. Should be exercised according to the will of God (Psalms 101:1-8.), in affectionate interest in the people; intimate acquaintance with them, guiding them, providing for them, defending them, restoring them, and, generally, seeking their welfare with diligence, considerateness, tenderness, patience, self-denial, and self-sacrifice. "Chrysostom writeth that the shepherds in Cappadocia have such love unto their flock, that sometimes for three days together, in following them, they are overwhelmed with snow, and yet they endure it; and in Lydia, how far they travel with the sheep for a month together in the waste deserts and parching heat of the sun; who herein do teach such as are shepherds of men that they should even not spare their own lives for the common good" (Willet).
3. Must be accounted for, as to their use, before the presence of God. "These sheep, what have they done?" (2 Samuel 24:17). "A king is a mortal god on earth, unto whom the living God hath lent his own name as a great honour; but withal told him he should die like a man, test he should be proud and flatter himself that God hath with his name imparted unto him his nature also" (Bacon).
II. THE DIVINE SOURCE OF HIS PROSPERITY. "And David went on going and growing" after the conquest of the stronghold of Zion, etc. (2 Samuel 5:6-10), which he achieved as captain, "leader and commander of the people" (as well as their shepherd) "waxed greater and greater" (2 Samuel 7:9) in power and fame; "and Jehovah the God of hosts" (1 Samuel 1:3) "was with him" (as his Shepherd, Psalms 23:1, and Captain, 2 Samuel 22:35-37).
1. Approving of the manner in which he devoted himself to his calling. Fidelity is the necessary condition of the special favour of God; which is ever testified in the heart and conscience, and often shown by outward events (Genesis 39:2, Genesis 39:21).
2. Assisting him in the performance of the duties of his calling; strengthening, upholding, directing, protecting him.
3. Accomplishing the aim of his endeavours in his calling; for no skill nor effort, without Divine cooperation, can ensure success. "Except the Lord build the house," etc. (Psalms 127:1). While God was with him (1 Samuel 10:11) Saul prospered; when left to himself he lost his kingdom and his life.
III. THE DIVINE PURPOSE OF HIS EXALTATION AND ESTABLISHMENT IN HIS OFFICE. "And David perceived," from the friendly aid of Hiram, the erection of his palace (2 Samuel 5:11), which he appears to have regarded as a pledge of the stability of his kingdom (Psalms 30:1-12; inscription), and his continued prosperity, "that Jehovah had established him," in accordance with his former choice, "king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom" (1 Chronicles 14:2, 1 Chronicles 14:17) "for his people Israel's sake;" because he had chosen them to be his people, "the sheep of his pasture" (Psalms 100:3), and sought their prosperity and exaltation, according to his faithful promises (2 Samuel 7:23) that through them all nations might be blessed, and the whole earth filled with his glory. A faithful servant recognizes in his successes:
1. An immediate purpose of good toward himself; beholding therein the hand of God and "the kindness and truth" by which it is directed; ascribing his prosperity, not to himself, but to the Lord.
2. An ulterior and larger purpose of good toward others, for whose benefit rather than his own he is exalted (2 Samuel 7:8, 2 Samuel 7:16).
3. A powerful incentive to thankfulness, hopefulness, and fresh consecration to the service of God and his people. "It was the successiveness, the continuity of the steps, in his history, which assured him that God's hand had been directing the whole of it. Had David, instead of maintaining the crown, which circumstances pointed out to him as his, seized violently that which was not his, he would not have perceived that the Lord had made him King of Israel; he would have felt that he had made himself so, and would have acted upon that persuasion. The government which a man wins for himself he uses for himself; that which he inwardly and practically acknowledges as conferred upon him by a righteous Being cannot be intended for himself. And thus it is that the early and mysterious teaching of David while he was in the sheepfold bore so mightily upon his life after he became king.. The deepest lesson which he had learnt was that he himself was under government; that his heart and will was the inmost circle of that authority which the winds and the sea, the moon and the stars, obeyed" (Maurice).
1. The lowliest occupation is often a preparation for the highest; and he who shows fidelity in the least is rewarded with opportunity for its exercise in the greatest.
2. The possession of authority and power severely tests men's characters, and sometimes proves their destruction.
3. It is a good sign when one who is exalted shows more concern about performing the duties than enjoying the honours of his position.
4. God sends good rulers out of his regard for the welfare of the people.
5. The best rulers are those who sympathize most with the Divine purposes, and most humbly and faithfully "serve their generation."
6. Even the best are imperfect, and often fail to attain their loftiest aims or fulfil their early promise.
7. In One alone do we behold the perfect Shepherd-King (John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 7:17).—D.
2 Samuel 5:6-9
(1 Chronicles 11:4-9)
David's first act after his anointing amidst the assembled tribes (1 Chronicles 12:38-40) was to place himself at the head of his army, and march against Jebus, the capital of the Jebusites. With this place he was familiar from his boyhood, and often, perhaps, wondered why it was suffered to remain so long unsubdued (Joshua 1:3, Joshua 1:4). He perceived its advantages as a site for the capital of his kingdom, and the necessity of its reduction in order to the establishment and extension thereof. His enterprise, whatever may have been its immediate cause, was completely successful. Henceforth supreme interest centres in Zion, the city of David, Jerusalem ("foundation of peace"), beyond any other city mentioned in sacred history, poetry, or prophecy. "Jerusalem was destined to become the seat of the Hebrew government, and the scene of the most extraordinary events, and more strange and awful vicissitudes, than any other city of the universe, not excepting Rome" (Milman). Note—
I. ITS PECULIAR SITUATION. In the heart of the country, remote from the great roads of communication with the East; on a mountainous table land, and entrenched on a cluster of hills, the highest of which was crowned with the stronghold, rock fortress, or acropolis of Zion (2 Samuel 5:7); on the borderline between Benjamin and Judah, belonging equally to both parts of the now united kingdom. Its selection was a striking proof of David's military ability and political insight, and was probably determined by a higher wisdom (Deuteronomy 12:5; 2 Chronicles 6:6). "God intended not Jerusalem for a staple of trade, but for a royal exchange of religion, chiefly holding correspondency with heaven itself, daily receiving blessings thence, duly returning praises thither; besides, God would not have his virgin people the Jews wooed with, much less wedded to, outlandish fashions" (Thos. Fuller).
II. ITS PREVIOUS HISTORY. As the city of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18; Psalms 77:2; Josephus, 'Wars,' Psalms 6:10), traditions of whose ancient greatness may have lingered around the spot, and fired the poet's imagination (Psalms 110:4); of Adonizedec the Amorite (Joshua 10:1), a man of different character, lille Adonibezek (Judges 1:7); smitten by Judah, occupied by Benjamin conjointly with the Jebusites (not, perhaps, driven out of their citadel), and afterwards entirely by the latter (Joshua 15:63; Judges 1:8, Judges 1:21; Judges 3:5-7; Judges 19:10-12). "Joshua, and Deborah, and Samuel, and Saul, and David must have passed and repassed the hills, and gazed on the tower of the city, unconscious of the fate reserved for her in all subsequent time" (Stanley, 'Sinai and Palestine').
III. ITS HEROIC CONQUEST. David found little resistance in taking the lower city, in contrast With the upper city or citadel (Josephus), the defenders of which, relying on the strength of their position, said, derisively, that "blind and lame" were sufficient to repel his attack. But:
1. Self-confidence is fraught with danger. (1 Samuel 14:22.) "The enemies of God's people are often very confident of their own strength, and most secure when their day to fall draws nigh" (Matthew Henry).
2. Scorn is a spur to a resolute spirit. "And David said on that day—
'Whoso smiteth a Jebusite (first),
Let him hurl down the precipice (watercourse)
Both the lame and blind,
Who are hateful to David's soul.'"
And "he shall be chief and captain" (1 Chronicles 11:6).
3. Great inducements procure great achievements.
4. The prize is sometimes won by those for whom it is least intended. "So Joab the son of Zeruiah went first up, and was chief," his power, of which David bitterly complained (2 Samuel 3:39), being thereby confirmed.
5. The language of contempt comes back on those who employ it, to their lasting humiliation. It became a proverb: "The blind and lame [ironically applied to the over confident] shall not come into the house [succeed in anything]."
6. Severity should be joined with mercy. Although a hard fate befell some, yet most of the Jebusite inhabitants were incorporated into Israel (Zechariah 9:7), and one of them (2 Samuel 24:18) dwelt peacefully on an adjacent hill (2 Chronicles 3:1).
7. One victory is often followed by many. The capture of a fortress by national and world-wide consequences.
IV. ITS PERMANENT OCCUPATION, STRENGTHENING, AND EXTENSION. "And David dwelt in the stronghold [of Zion], and called it the city of David". "And David built round about from Millo ['the citadel,' LXX.] and inward" (verse 9). "And Joab restored the rest of the city" (1 Chronicles 11:9). "The erection of the new capital at Jerusalem introduces us to a new era, not only in the inward holms of the prophet king, but in the external history of the monarchy" (Stanley, 'Jewish Church;' Ewald).
V. ITS THEOCRATIC RELATION, WHICH WAS ITS CHIEF DISTINCTION. AS the metropolis of the chosen people, the residence of the Lord's Anointed (Messiah), the seat of government, the centre of religion and Divine service, the source of far-reaching influence, it was "the city of the great King" (Matthew 5:35), where he dwelt, reigned, manifested his glory, and "commanded his blessing, even life forevermore." So Jerusalem was described by psalmists and prophets, and won the passionate attachment of her children, in which love of country and home, devotion to God, and hope for the world were inseparably blended. "Glorious things are spoken of thee, O city of God".
VI. ITS EXTRAORDINARY VICISSITUDES. "In the fifteen centuries which elapsed between those two points (Judges 1:8; Luke 21:20), the city was besieged no fewer than seventeen times; twice it was razed to the ground; and on two occasions its walls were levelled. In this respect it stands without a parallel in any city, ancient or modern" (Smith's 'Dictionary'). What a scene did it present during these ages of military, political, religious strife, of prophetic activity and demoniacal wickedness, of mercy and of judgment (Amos 3:2)! With its rejection of "the Son of David" its lingering theocratic glory departed, and its walls became a desolate heap. "O Jerusalem!" (Luke 13:34; Luke 20:41-44).
VII. ITS SPIRITUAL FORESHADOWING. "In the progress of the city of God through the ages, David first reigned in the earthly Jerusalem as a shadow of that which was to come"; "Mount Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (Hebrews 12:22); the spiritual kingdom of which Christ is King, the general assembly and Church of which he is the Head; the lofty, free, mother city of us all (Galatians 4:25, Galatians 4:26); "the holy city, new Jerusalem" (Revelation 21:1); glorious, unchanging, everlasting (Hebrews 11:10; Hebrews 13:14). "O holy Zion! where all is abiding, and nothing passes away!"
"O happy harbour of the saints!
O sweet and pleasant soil!
In thee no sorrow may be found,
No grief, no care, no toil."
2 Samuel 5:12
(1 Chronicles 14:1)
Hiram, King of Tyre.
Hiram was another of those heathen princes with whom David stood in friendly relation (Achish of Gath; the King of Moab, 1 Samuel 22:3; Talmai of Geshur, 2 Samuel 3:3; Tel, or Tou, of Hamath, 2 Samuel 8:9; Joram, or Hadoram, his son, 1 Chronicles 18:10; Nahash, the Ammonite king of Rabbah, 2Sa 10:1, 2 Samuel 10:2; Shobi, his son, 2 Samuel 17:27). He was king of "the strong (fortified) city, Tyre" (Joshua 19:29); chief of those Phoenician cities "whose flag waved at once in Britain and the Indian Ocean" (Humboldt); celebrated alike for its maritime enterprise, commercial activity, and mechanical arts (Isaiah 23:8; Ezekiel 27:1-36.). "Hiram, like David, had just established his throne securely upon the ruins of the rule of the shophetim, or judges, and raised the country to a position of power and independence which it had not previously enjoyed" (A.S. Wilkins, 'Phoenicia and Israel'). Notice:
1. His political sagacity. In seeking to secure a "commercial treaty" with the King of Israel, by means of which his people might receive corn, oil, etc. (Acts 12:20), in exchange for manufactured goods, Tyrian purple, articles of tin and bronze, weapons of war, jewellery, etc; and might not be prevented from continuing their commercial pursuits along the great caravan lines of traffic with Egypt, Arabia, Babylon, and Assyria, that ran through the country.
2. His peaceable disposition. In sending "messengers" with friendly communications, either of his own accord, or in response to an embassy. "How little David resembled the later Assyrian, Chaldean, and Persian disturbers of the world is most immediately and clearly shown by the fact that he did not, like these great conquerors, seize upon the Phoenician maritime towns, but always remained on the best terms with the little Phoenician states, which were entirely occupied in commerce and the productive arts, and readily sought peace with him" (Ewald).
3. His generous appreciation. Without jealousy or suspicion of David, of whom, doubtless, he had heard much, on account of his ability, energy, and integrity, confirmed by personal intercourse. "God knows how to incline toward pious rulers the minds of neighbouring princes and kings, that they may show them all friendly good will" (Starke).
4. His valuable assistance. With "cedar trees" (from Lebanon, as subsequently, 1 Kings 5:1-18.), "and carpenters, and masons," in building a "house of cedar" (2 Samuel 7:2; 2Sa 6:16 : 2 Samuel 9:13; 2 Samuel 11:2), or stately palace in Zion, the city of David; perhaps in erecting and adorning other houses in the city, and generally promoting the arts and industries of Israel (1 Chronicles 22:2). The intercourse thus commenced was immensely beneficial, though it ultimately proved an occasion of evil. "Many have excelled in arts and sciences that were strangers to the covenants of promise; yet David's house was never the worse nor the less fitting to be dedicated to God for its being built by the sons of the stranger" (Matthew Henry).
5. His steadfast friendship with David during his life, afterwards with Solomon, contributing to the maintenance of peace and the increase of prosperity among both peoples. "Hiram was ever a lover of David" (1 Kings 5:1).
6. His reverential spirit. "Blessed be Jehovah," etc. (1 Kings 5:7). Without entirely renouncing the worship of "the Lord Melkarth [king of the city], Baal of Tyre," he was drawn to the faith of Israel; and, to that extent, represented the gathering of the Gentiles to "the Desire of all nations" (Psalms 45:12; Matthew 15:27; Acts 21:3-6). He was an extraordinary man, eminent in life, honoured in death (by the erection of "the tomb of Hiram," Robinson, 2.456); and he will "rise in the judgment and condemn" the unfaithful under higher privileges (Matthew 11:21).—D.
2 Samuel 5:17-20
(1 Chronicles 14:8-11). (THE VALLEY OF REPHAIM.)
Victory over the Philistines.
(References: 2 Samuel 8:1, 2 Samuel 8:12; 2Sa 21:15, 2 Samuel 21:18, 2 Samuel 21:19; 2Sa 23:9, 2 Samuel 23:11, 2 Samuel 23:13; 1 Kings 2:39.) "Therefore he called the name of that place Baal-Perazim" (2 Samuel 5:20). So long as David reigned over a single tribe and was at war with the house of Saul, he was left unmolested by the Philistines (1 Samuel 29:1-11), whose suzerainty he, perhaps, acknowledged; but when they heard that he was chosen king over all Israel, that an immense army had gathered around him not far from their own border, and that the Jebusite "stronghold of Zion" had fallen before him, they took alarm, mustered all their forces, marched up "to seek [attack] David" (the chief object of their suspicion and fear), and "spread themselves in the Valley of Rephaim" (near Jerusalem). In the condition and conduct of David (as representing the servants of God in conflict with their adversaries) we observe—
I. PERILOUS EMERGENCY, which:
1. Often occurs after unusual success and honour; being adapted to check undue self-confidence and self-security. "Lest I should be exalted above measure," etc. (2 Corinthians 12:7).
2. Clearly manifests the spirit which men possess, whether of faith and courage, or of fear and cowardice (1 Samuel 17:11).
3. Makes personal effort indispensable. The conflict was forced upon David. It could not be avoided without disobedience (2 Samuel 3:18), dishonour, and destruction. And it is the same in other cases. "Ye approach this day unto battle against your enemies," etc. (Deuteronomy 20:3).
II. PRUDENTIAL ACTIVITY. "And David heard of it, and went down to the hold," the stronghold of Zion (2 Samuel 5:7), from his residence on the highest and safest part of the mountain ridge; or more probably the stronghold in the desert of Judah, where he had formerly found refuge (1Sa 22:5; 1 Samuel 24:22; 2 Samuel 23:14). It may be sometimes necessary to "sit still" and quietly wait for Divine deliverance; but we should:
1. Not remain inactive through sloth, vain-confidence, or presumption.
2. Nor rush into conflict rashly, or enter upon new courses unadvisedly.
3. But after due consideration adopt those measures which afford the fairest prospects of safety and success. "A prudent man," etc. (Proverbs 22:3).
III. PRAYERFUL INQUIRY. "And David inquired of the Lord," etc. (2 Samuel 2:1; 2 Samuel 16:23; 2 Samuel 21:1).
1. After the utmost thought and endeavour of our own, we often find ourselves in perplexity as to the course we should pursue.
2. Our best resource in perplexity is to seek Divine counsel; and those who have had experience of its efficacy will not fail to do so (1 Samuel 14:16-23; 1 Samuel 23:1-12).
3. Nor shall we fail to find adequate directions and encouraging promises if we seek it in a right manner. "Go up," etc. "David did not seek Divine counsel (by consulting the Urim) whether to attack Jebus, apparently, because his mind was clear that the enterprise was advantageous. But when Ziklag had been burned by the Amalekites, and now when a dangerous army is at hand, he is glad of such advice. It would appear that he regarded it as a Divine aid in times of perplexity, but only to be sought for in such times. He had no idea of abdicating his duties as a military leader, and putting the movements of his army into the control of the priest. Hence, perhaps, it is that, as his confidence in his troops and in his own warlike experience increased, he ceased altogether to consult the sacred Urim, for we hear no more of it in his later wars "(F.W. Newman).
IV. PRACTICAL OBEDIENCE TO THE WORD OF THE LORD. "And David came," etc. When. the path of duty is made plain, nothing remains but to walk therein with:
1. Humility, simplicity, alacrity; as a soldier at the word of command. The habit of immediate and absolute obedience to the will of God is essential to "a good soldier of Jesus Christ."
2. Dependence on Divine strength and confidence in Divine promises.
3. Courage, concentration of purpose and energy in performance. "Do it with thy might." David's attack was made with such impetuosity that it was like the breaking forth of water, a torrent or inundation which bursts through, disperses and sweeps away whatever opposes its course.
V. PUBLIC THANKSGIVING AND PRAISE. "Jehovah hath broken forth upon mine enemies … Therefore he called the name of that place Baal-Perazim." i.e. properly, lord, master, possessor, and, tropically, place (which possesses or is distinguished by something) of breaches, inundations, dispersions, defeats (Gesenius).
1. The spirit in which success is really sought appears in the manner in which it is used. When sought by and for God it will be ascribed to him. "Not unto us," etc. "His right hand and his holy arm hath gotten him the victory" (Psalms 98:1).
2. The help which is graciously and openly vouchsafed by God should be gratefully and openly acknowledged by men (Psalms 50:14, Psalms 50:15).
3. Of Divine benefits a record should be made by those who receive them, for the instruction of "the generation to come" (Psalms 78:4); and the place which is distinguished by them should become a permanent memorial of Divine power and goodness. This victory was long remembered. "For Jehovah will rise up as on the mountain of Perazim," etc. (Isaiah 28:21). "The military stamp of the first part of David's reign is the preindication of the military character of the whole of it. In the Psalms of David we hear the echo of this warlike and victorious theocracy. They are mostly songs of conflict and victory in praise of the God who saved his people from their enemies" (Erdmann).—D.
2 Samuel 5:21
(1 Chronicles 14:12). (BAAL-PERAZIM.)
The destruction of images.
The religion of the Canaanite people was "an apotheosis of the forces and laws of nature; an adoration of the objects in which those forces were seen and where they appeared most active" (Movers). The Philistines carried (probably on sacred carts) their images or gods (commonly regarded as identical) into battle, expecting victory by their aid; but so sudden was their defeat, and so hasty their flight, that they were compelled to leave them behind, and "David and his men took them away;" and "David gave a commandment, and they were burned with fire." "When the ark fell into the Philistines' hands it consumed them; but when these images fell into the hands of Israel they could not save themselves from being consumed" (Patrick). In their destruction we see:
1. A proof of the vanity of idols. These images (atsabim, equivalent to "things fashioned with labour") were only "the work of men's hands" (Psalms 115:4-8), and "profitable for nothing" (Isaiah 40:19; Isaiah 41:7; Isaiah 44:9-20; Isaiah 46:6, Isaiah 46:7), disappointing completely the confidence reposed in them. Who could henceforth regard them or others with fear or respect?
2. A testimony to the power of Jehovah, the living and true God, the Holy One of Israel. It was against him that the Philistines fought in attacking his people; and by him they and their idols were overthrown, as aforetime (1 Samuel 5:3; 1 Samuel 7:7; 1 Samuel 17:38-54). Yet how persistent was their opposition (2 Samuel 5:22)!
3. An expression of abhorrence of idolatry, and zeal for the worship of God alone; the personal fidelity of David to the fundamental principle of the theocracy (Psalms 16:4). During his reign idolatry found no place in Israel.
4. A fulfilment of the injunctions of the Law. "Thou shalt utterly overthrow them, and quite break down their images" (Exodus 23:24), "and burn their graven images with fire" (Deuteronomy 7:5). Idolatry was a direct crime against the state, high treason against the Divine King of Israel, and might not be tolerated in any form.
5. A precaution against exposure to temptation, by the influence of their presence, forms, names, associations, on hearts always too prone to go astray. "Thou shalt not desire the silver or gold that is on them, nor take it unto thee, lest thou be snared therein," etc. (Deuteronomy 7:25, Deuteronomy 7:26). No sacrifice was too great to avoid such a snare (Acts 19:19). "Here, perhaps, the admirer of ancient sculpture will be ready to drop a tear of regret over the fine statues and other monuments of antiquity theft must have been destroyed in consequence of the Mosaic mandate; but he may safely dry it up, for the chef d'oeuvres of this period were not worth sparing" (Michaelis). Even if they had been the finest specimens of art, their preservation from the flames would have been an ill compensation for the moral evil which it would have induced.
6. A representation of the design of the true religion. "To destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8), and to maintain and extend the knowledge, love, and service of God; not, indeed, by force, but by the truth (2 Corinthians 10:4; see 1 Samuel 5:3).
7. A prophecy and an earnest of the complete demolition of idols (Isaiah 2:18-20), and the earth being "filled with the glory of the Lord" (Numbers 14:21). "Thou hast kept me to be head of the heathen," etc. (2 Samuel 22:44, 2 Samuel 22:50).
"All nations whom thou hast made,
Shall come and bow themselves down before thee, O Lord;
And shall give glory to thy Name."
(Psalms 86:9; Psalms 22:27; Psalms 97:7; Psalms 96:3, Psalms 96:5, Psalms 96:10.)
Conclusion. Those who are zealous in destroying the idols of others should not spare their own. What is an idol? That object which a man sets up before his face or in his heart, and which he thinks about, delights in, and relies upon, more than God. "Flee from idolatry!" (1 Corinthians 10:14; Colossians 3:5; Philippians 3:19; 1 John 5:21).—D.
2 Samuel 5:22, 2 Samuel 5:23
(1 Chronicles 14:13, 1 Chronicles 14:14). (THE VALLEY OF REPHAIM.)
1. The life of a godly man on earth is a warfare which is perpetually renewed. Hardly has one conflict been passed through before another awaits him with old or new and more formidable foes: the world, the flesh, the devil; ignorance, idolatries, oppressions, sin and misery of all kinds (1 Samuel 17:1-11). Yea, each day the "good warfare" begins afresh. "The approach of duty is as a battlefield" (Essenian maxim). "On awaking in the morning, the first thing to be observed by thine inward sight is the listed field in which thou art enclosed; the law of the combat being that he who fights not must there lie dead forever" (Scupeli).
2. Signal success in one conflict does not ensure the like in the next; and it ought, therefore, to be always associated with humility, watchfulness, and prayer; from lack of which many a victory has been turned into a defeat, it was a motto of King Alfred ("Si modo victor eras," etc.) ―
"If today thou be conqueror, beware of the fight of tomorrow;
If today thou be conquered, prepare for the fight of tomorrow."
3. One victory affords ground for the confident expectation of another, when the latter is looked for in the same spirit as the former, with dependence on the strength of God, submission to his will, devotion to his glory and the good of his people. "David inquired of the Lord again."
4. The special means to be employed in every new conflict must be adapted to the special circumstances of the case; and both the wisdom to perceive them and the might to make them effectual are from the Lord. "Thou shalt not go up" (directly, in front of them, as in the former conflict, and as he was about to do again); "go round about them to their rear, and come upon them opposite the mulberry trees" (a spot, probably well known to David and his men, where a cluster or grove of baca trees would favour their attack), etc. "The words teach us that in our own strength, and merely with the human weapons of reason and science, we are not to make war against the adversary. Success can only be calculated upon when the conflict is undertaken under the influence of the Holy Spirit of God breathed forth, and in the immediate blessed experience of the gracious presence of the Lord and of the truth of his Word" (Krummacher).—D.
2 Samuel 5:24, 2 Samuel 5:25
(1 Chronicles 14:15-17). (THE VALLEY or REPHAIM.)
"The sound of a going" (as of footsteps, Judges 5:4; 2 Samuel 6:13) "in the beginnings" (on the tops or at the entrance of the grove) "of the baca trees," which David heard, was a sign appointed by God, occurring, either by his extraordinary and miraculous operation for a special purpose; or by his ordinary operation in nature and providence (the rustling of the leaves in a still season by a fresh breeze, such as, in the East, usually springs up about day dawn), and made use of by him for that purpose. It is not stated that it was intended for or perceived by any one else but David. To him it was "the sound of his Master's feet" (2 Kings 6:32); the "going out before him" of "the Captain of the Lord's host" (Joshua 5:14) at the head of legions of angels "to smite the Philistines," and summoning him to follow. And the enemy, wrapped in slumber, and attacked at an unexpected time and place, was surprised and routed. Are there now no signs of a similar nature?
1. They are needed at certain seasons—in order to the proper understanding, enforcement, and application of the truths and duties contained in the written Word; especially when iniquity abounds, love waxes cold, labour is vain, and fear and perplexity prevail; when "we see not our signs" (Psalms 74:9), nor receive "a token for good" (Psalms 86:17).
2. They are afforded in various ways—by a striking concurrence of events with the Word (1 Samuel 10:7) or their peculiar combination; by manifest tendencies, vivid impressions, spiritual suggestions, or an Unusual expectancy; sometimes with "a still small voice," sometimes with "the sound of a trumpet," "thunder and vain" (1 Samuel 12:17), or "a rushing mighty wind." They are never wholly absent; but do we hear or see them?
"Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees takes off his shoes."
Consider them as—
I. PERCEIVED BY A VIGILANT OBSERVER. "When thou hearest the sound of a going," etc. Having "inquired of the Lord," and received the promise of aid, David watched for the sign thereof. "I will stand upon my watch," etc. (Habakkuk 2:1). Such a watchman:
1. Fixes his attention on the spiritual realities by which the world of sense is surrounded, supported, pervaded; and becomes conscious of what is hidden from others, whose attention is wholly absorbed in earthly things; hearing a voice they cannot hear, and seeing a hand they cannot see.
2. Relies upon the promises which have been graciously spoken by "him who is invisible."
3. Looks for their fulfilment with fervent desire and unwearied patience, "more than they that watch for the morning" (Psalms 130:5, Psalms 130:6), until at length the sign and then the reality which it denotes are fully revealed. Everything depends upon a thoughtful, believing, waiting spirit!
"Signs summon not Faith: but they wait for her call;
For in her own right she holds nature in thrall.
Where sense sees a blank space, with nought to inspire;
She, seer-like, finds horses and chariots of fire.
Sense ransacks all space for the proofs of a God;
Faith finds them at home, at the end of her rod.
And he who complains of no God-prints below
Will find nothing but sense-prints where'er he may go."
"There are chemical experiments, in which, if a certain condition be wanting, the element sought for cannot be elicited. It is present, waiting, ready to leap into activity the moment the condition is present. But as long as that is wanting, the element is imprisoned, separated by an impassable barrier, and might almost be said to be nonexistent. Similarly, the preoccupied mind might sleep at the very gate of heaven—no celestial dreams would visit it. The worldly mind might final itself in the house of God, in the holiest of all; but the cloud of glory would sweep by it unnoticed. A mind keen after earthly objects, and engrossed by the interests of time, might live here three score years and ten, with the powers of the world to come all the time surrounding it, soliciting it, pressing in upon it; and yet never once recognize a single indication of the Divine presence. And he who finds nothing of heaven on earth would find nothing but earth in heaven" (J. Harris).
II. POSSESSING INVALUABLE SIGNIFICANCE. "Then will Jehovah go out before thee," etc. The sign in itself is little; the thing signified, as it is revealed to the waiting soul, is great, inasmuch as it relates to the Lord of hosts, and includes:
1. His presence with us in a very special manner (2 Chronicles 14:11; 2 Chronicles 20:12; 2 Chronicles 32:6-8). If a soldier is inspired with courage and strength by knowing that his commander is near and his eye upon him, much more should we be similarly inspired by the conviction of the Divine presence.
2. His working for us and in us. "The Lord is my Helper," etc. (Hebrews 13:6).
3. His will concerning us, with respect, not only to our welfare, but also to our duty, the spirit we should cherish, the conduct we should pursue, the manner, place, and time of our activity. There is no greater joy to a faithful servant of God than to feel assured that he is where God would have him to be, and doing what God would have him to do. And this joy is his strength.
III. REQUIRING PERSONAL EXERTION. "Then bestir thyself; go out to battle. And David did so as Jehovah commanded him." There is a time to work and fight as well as to pray and watch. As it is presumptuous and vain to stir before the signal for action is given, so it is slothful and ruinous to wait after it is received. "Wherefore chriest thou unto me? … Go forward" (Exodus 14:15; Joshua 7:10). Divine assistance is not meant to supersede our exertion, but to quicken it. Because God works we must work, with a feeling of grateful obligation, reverence, and confidence (Philippians 2:12). "The Captain of our salvation" goes out before us that we may follow him (Revelation 19:14) with:
1. Implicit obedience to his every direction and movement (see 1 Samuel 13:1-7).
2. Strenuous effort and whole-hearted devotion.
3. The utmost promptitude, Now or never. The opportunity, if allowed to slip, returns no more. "Consider that this day ne'er dawns again" (Dante).
"'Charge!' was the captain's cry.
Theirs not to make reply;
Theirs not to reason why;
Theirs but to do or die."
IV. CONDUCTING TO IMPORTANT ISSUES. "And he smote the Philistines," etc. By such. a victory:
1. The imminent danger that threatened is removed.
2. The final overthrow of the enemy is assured (2 Samuel 8:1).
3. The firm establishment and wide extension of the kingdom are promoted.
It became possible to bring up the ark to Zion (2 Samuel 6:2) and to subdue surrounding adversaries. "And the fame of David went out into all lands," etc. (1 Chronicles 14:17). God fails not to fulfil his promises; disappoints not the trust that is placed in him; but makes the faithful "more than conquerors."
APPLICATION. With reference to:
1. The individual.
2. The family.
3. The Church.
4. The nation.
"Can ye not discern the signs of the times?"—D.
HOMILIES BY G. WOOD
2 Samuel 5:1-3
Tardy acceptance of a divinely appointed ruler.
Abner and Ishbosheth being dead, and Mephibosheth incapable from his lameness, the eleven tribes that for upwards of seven years had not only held aloof from David, but waged war with him, now come to the conclusion that it is best to become his subjects, and again be united with Judah in one kingdom. They accordingly make their submission to him and solemnly accept him as their sovereign.
I. THE GROUNDS OF THEIR ACCEPTANCE OF HIM.
1. Close relationship. "Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh" (comp. Ephesians 5:30). God has given to us a King who is one with us in nature. The Ruler of the Church, yea, of all things, is a Man; the throne of the universe is filled by a human form (see Hebrews 2:5, et seq.)—a fact which endears the Christ to his willing subjects.
2. Previous service. (2 Samuel 5:2.) "In time past," etc. In which service David had both displayed and increased his capacities for ruling men. With this may be compared Christ's period of service when on earth, especially during his public ministry and last sufferings. By these he was trained and prepared for his throne (made "perfect through sufferings," Hebrews 2:10); and it is in and by these that he reveals himself and attracts the hearts of men.
3. Divine appointment. (2 Samuel 5:2.) "The Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed ['shepherd,' 'be the shepherd of'] my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain [literally, 'foremost man, leader'] over Israel." A king is to be as a shepherd to his subjects, not only ruling them, but caring for, watching over, protecting, guiding, uniting them; guarding and preserving the weak from violence and oppression, as a shepherd his lambs. The image was natural to the Hebrews, and runs through the Scriptures, extending even to the visions of heaven (Revelation 7:17). The king was also to be leader in peace or war, ever "to the front," worthy to be followed, first and foremost in all noble deeds, accepting courageously the perils of such a position. David was such a king, imperfectly; Christ is such a King, perfectly. Both were divinely designated to the office of Ruler of God's people, Kings by Divine right in the strictest sense. As such David is here recognized at length by the tribes of Israel, as before by the tribe of Judah. As such the Lord Jesus is recognized by his followers. These reasons had existed and should have been as powerful immediately after Saul's death; but they had not been allowed to operate. But the experience of these tribes whilst holding aloof from David, their present disorganized condition, possibly also their knowledge of the benefits of David's rule to Judah, combined to open their eyes, and so impress these considerations on their hearts as to produce a general willingness to accept him whom they had been rejecting. And thus it is with many in respect to the great King. His claims are known, but other lords are preferred, until, after delay more or less protracted, they become convinced of their sin and folly, and surrender themselves to him. Let those who are thus procrastinating beware lest they become convinced too late.
II. THE SOLEMNITIES BY WHICH THEIR ACCEPTANCE OF DAVID, AND HIS OF THEM, WERE SIGNIFIED,
1. A mutual covenant. He engaging to rule them, and they to serve him according to the Law of God (Deuteronomy 17:14-20). In like manner, when men receive Christ as their King, promising loyalty and obedience, he on his part promises to be to them all that his gospel represents him. These Israelites, indeed, may have imposed special stipulations not expressed in the Law; but we, in accepting Christ, have simply to submit to the terms of the Divine covenant, as we are not in any degree independent parties.
2. The anointing of David as king. The third time he was anointed—once by Samuel, once by the tribe of Judah, and now by the rest of the tribes. For the people could in a measure give him authority over them. But our King Jesus can receive no authority from us. He is the Christ (the Anointed) of God; we have simply to recognize his Divine authority.
3. The presence of God was recognized. "Before the Lord." This was fitting, as he was supreme Monarch, to whom both king and people were bound to submit, whose blessing was necessary to render the union happy; and an engagement made as in his sight would be felt as peculiarly binding. So should we, in accepting Christ, place ourselves in the presence of God, first in secret, then in his house, and at the Lord's Table.
4. A joyful feast concluded the proceedings. (See 1 Chronicles 12:39, 1 Chronicles 12:40.) It was to the whole people a suitable occasion for rejoicing. They were again one nation. Their union would be cemented by eating and drinking together. They would the better retain the feeling of union when they had separated to their various localities and homes, and would be the better prepared to perform their common duties to the king and the nation. Thus also our Lord enjoins his subjects to eat and drink together in his Name, that they may recognize each other as his, rejoice together in their privileges, and be more closely united to him and the whole "Israel of God."
1. Happy is the nation whose rulers and subjects alike recognize God as the supreme Ruler over them, and his will as their supreme law; act as in his sight, and invoke his blessing.
2. Closer union amongst Christians must spring from more thorough acceptance of the royal authority of Christ. They are one in him, and they will become more completely, more consciously, and more manifestly one in proportion as they, all alike, renouncing merely human authorities, come to Christ himself, listen to him, and submit to his authority in all things.—G.W.
2 Samuel 5:10
"And David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him." The growing greatness of David was owing to the presence and favour of God, and was accompanied with them. It was, then—
I. GREATNESS WELL-DERIVED. All greatness is in some sense from God; but all does not spring from his favour. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction" (Psalms 73:18). He that becomes "a great man" through unjust violence, the oppression and swallowing up of the weak, low cunning, unscrupulous ambition, insatiable avarice, or an absorbing activity of mind and bevy which excludes God from thought and life, cannot rightly attribute his success to the blessing of God. Such greatness is disastrous, and carries a curse with it. It is reached by serving Satan, and accompanied with slavery to him and participation of his doom. He was not altogether lying when he said (Luke 4:6, Luke 4:7) that the power and glory of the world were given by him to those who would worship him. The world abounds in instances of greatness so won. But the greatness which is a gift of God's favour is reached by paths of truth and uprightness and piety; by the strenuous employment of all the powers, indeed, but in harmony with the Divine will; not so much, therefore, with the purpose to grow great as to be of service to others. It is rather accepted as a gift of God than sought; and is accepted "with fear and trembling," lest the strong temptations which accompany all worldly greatness should become victorious. Such greatness is accompanied with a good conscience, and may be without serious peril to the soul. It may foster principles of godliness and benevolence. It qualifies for high service of others, and, so employed, enlarges the heart and elevates instead of degrading the character. It thus ministers to the truest greatness—that which is spiritual and eternal.
II. GREATNESS WELL-ACCOMPANIED. Some, the greater they grow the less of God they enjoy; they gradually forsake him, and he at length abandons them. But there are those of whom it may be said, as they grow great in this world, still "the Lord God of hosts is with them."
1. How the great may secure this blessing. By:
(1) Humility (Deuteronomy 8:13, Deuteronomy 8:14; Psalms 138:6; James 4:6).
(2) Devotion of their enlarged powers to the service of God and of man.
(3) Constant prayer. On the other hand, pride, selfishness, and prayerlessness will separate them from God.
2. The benefits they will derive from it.
(1) The highest and purest enjoyment to which worldly honours and resources can minister.
(2) Preservation from the perils of their position.
(3) The power to gain the best kind of good. from it.
(4) And to do the most good by it.
(5) Greatness thus accompanied is likely to be lasting.
Finally, spiritual greatness combines in a pre-eminent degree the two excellences of being God derived and God accompanied. It springs from the favour of God, and secures its constant enjoyment. It consists in abundance of spiritual wisdom, holiness, and love, and consequent power for good; in the honour which these bring from God, and in the confidence, affection, and respect with which they inspire men. It has the advantage of being accessible to all, its conditions being, first, faith in Christ and God; and then the fruits of faith, such as love, humility (Matthew 18:4), obedience to God (Matthew 5:19), self-control (Proverbs 16:32), self-denying service (Matthew 20:20-28). Such greatness is intrinsic and essential. It is best for ourselves and best for others. It is inseparable from the man himself, and, surviving all worldly distinctions, goes with him into eternity, and abides forever (see 1 John 2:17).—G.W.
2 Samuel 5:12
Perception of Divine agency and purpose.
These words are introduced after the narration of the taking of the fortress of Zion, the erection of additional buildings around it, and especially the building of a royal residence for David. It was the establishment of a metropolis for the whole kingdom, and both evidenced and promoted a settled state of things. David's thoughts upon the matter are given in the text. He recognized that it was God who made him king, and that his exaltation was for the sake of God's people Israel.
I. THE FACTS PERCEIVED.
1. The Divine operation. God had raised David to the throne and settled him on it. At every step the hand of God was clear; especially clear was that hand as the whole series of steps, their connection and issue, were regarded.
2. The Divine purpose. All was "for his people Israel's sake." Not for the sake of David and his family, that they might be rich, luxurious, and honoured; but for the good of others. That the tribes might be united and consolidated as one nation, free, settled, safe, prosperous, and glorious. That the people might be elevated in their moral and religious life; and that they might be better fitted to fulfil the great end of their election as God's people, witnessing for him, maintaining his worship, preserving his truth, showing forth his praise, and promoting his kingdom in the world; and that ultimately from them might come the Saviour and salvation. Similarly, the Son of David is exalted, not for himself alone, but that he may deliver, "gather together in one" (John 11:52), teach, sanctify, elevate, and eternally save, the people of God. He is "Head over all things to the Church" (Ephesians 1:22). In like manner, all power, elevation, authority, etc; with which men are endowed are given to them for the sake of others, and ultimately for the sake of God's people, to whom in Christ all things belong (1 Corinthians 3:21-23), that they may be blessed and be made a blessing to mankind.
II. DAVID'S PERCEPTION OF THESE FACTS.
1. He recognized that his exaltation was from God. This would check pride and produce humility and gratitude.
2. He recognized that his exaltation was for the sake of the people. This would check selfish ambition and produce cordial devotement to the good of the nation. And thus should we seek to have a clear perception and deep impression of the agency and purpose of God in our lives. We should regard all we have of being, faculty, position, or possessions, temporal and spiritual alike, as from him; and all as given us, not merely or chiefly for ourselves, but for the sake of others, especially for their salvation—that they may become, if they are not, God's people, and that as God's people they may prosper, be united, victorious over all the foes of God and man, and powerful to bless mankind. For this is the Divine purpose, and as we make it our own we become intelligent coworkers with God, and our lives are filled with meaning, dignity, and worth, and a fitting preparation for the world where all are consciously, willingly, and habitually engaged in doing the will of God (Matthew 6:10).—G.W.
2 Samuel 5:19
Divine assurance of victory.
The enlargement and establishment of David's kingdom, while a joy to Israel, was a grief to their old and formidable enemies, the Philistines. These came in great numbers into the territory of Israel, hoping to seize David himself (2 Samuel 5:17), as the shortest way of putting an end to the newly united state. So formidable was the invasion that the king found it desirable to leave his new city and go "down to the hold," the fortress probably of Adullam, with such forces as he could collect; and when the enemy "spread themselves in the Valley of Rephaim," he sought direction and promise of victory from God before attacking them, and received the answer, "Go up," etc. Christians are called to a warfare with powerful enemies, who are the enemies of Christ and his kingdom; and it is their satisfaction that they have received Divine assurance of victory. They have to fight against the world, the flesh, and the devil, as they assail themselves and endanger their salvation, and as they prevail in the world and even invade the Church. They are powerful foes, with many resources at command, and their onset is at times alarming. As the Philistines with David, they may be expected to make specially violent assaults when special prosperity has been attained, but the results are not yet fully established. But it is the joy of Christ's warriors that victory is certain. Each faithful soul shall successfully fight his own way to heaven, and the Church shall gain final and complete success in the battle with evil.
I. HOW THE ASSURANCE OF VICTORY IS IMPARTED. How does God assure us that we shall be successful in the Christian war?
1. By the intuitions of the soul. When we distinctly place before our minds the combatants, we cannot doubt which will ultimately be victorious. It is a conflict between good and evil, truth and error, right and wrong, holiness and sin, God and Satan. Evil is mighty, but good is almighty, because the living, true, and holy God is almighty.
2. By the promises and prophecies of his Word. These assure victory to every faithful soul in his own personal contest (see 1 Corinthians 10:13; Ephesians 6:10-13; James 4:7; Matthew 24:13), and triumph to the Church in the conflict with error and sin in the world, notwithstanding the deep and firm hold they have upon men, their extensive prevalence, their long reign. These assurances abound throughout the Scriptures, culminating in the descriptions of the conflict in the Apocalypse, and of the victories of the great Leader and his forces, and summed up in the triumphant shout of the great voices in heaven: "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever" (Revelation 11:15).
3. By the mission and work of our Lord Jesus Christ. He came as our "Leader and Commander" (Isaiah 55:4), and, by his personal conflict, endurance, and conquests, not only led the way for his followers, but secured victory for them. "Be of good cheer," he says, "I have overcome the world" (John 16:33; see also Hebrews 2:9, Hebrews 2:10, Hebrews 2:14-18; 1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Corinthians 15:25).
4. By the victories already won. The gift of the Holy Spirit and his mighty operations in apostolic times and all through the Christian centuries. The victories over the old paganism; the Reformation; the revivals of religion at various periods; the successes of modern missions. Every true hearted Christian has in his own experience not only a pledge of final victory for himself, but an encouragement to seek the salvation of others.
II. THE EFFECT WHICH SUCH ASSURANCE SHOULD HAVE UPON US. "Go up." Engage in the battle with evil; and do so with:
1. Confidence and courage.
2. Resolute zeal and determination.
3. Persistency, notwithstanding all delays, discouragements, and partial failures.
4. Songs of victory. Not only forevery advantage gained, but for the final and complete victory already to faith as good as won. If the hope of victory in other conflicts produces such effects, much more should the absolute certainty which the soldiers of Christ have. An altogether ill effect is that which the Divine assurances produce on some. They say that, as the battle is the Lord's, and he is sure to conquer, their efforts are needless. As relates to a man's own salvation, such a persuasion is fatal; for victory is promised only to the earnest combatant, and the assurance of Divine operation is made a reason why we should "work out our own salvation" (Luke 13:24; 1 Timothy 6:12; Philippians 2:12, Philippians 2:13). And as respects the spread and triumph of the kingdom of Christ, such a feeling indicates ignorance, indifference, indolence, and unfaithfulness, rather than faith in God. It is quite inconsistent with both Scripture and reason, and will deprive those who cherish it of all share in the joy of final victory, even if they are not utterly cast away as "wicked, slothful, and unprofitable" (Matthew 25:26, Matthew 25:30).—G.W.
2 Samuel 5:24
Divine omens of coming victory.
"When thou hearest the sound of marching … then is the Lord gone out before thee," etc. (Revised Version). The Philistines were a brave and determined people, not easily beaten. Repulsed and scattered "as the breach of waters," they reunite and return. David, inquiring of God, receives directions differing from those given him on the former occasion. He is instructed not to "go up" to the higher ground occupied by the Philistines, but to make a circuit to their rear, where was a plantation, and when he hears a sound as of marching on the tops of the trees, then to attack the foe with spirit and energy, knowing that God was gone before to give him certain victory. The enemies of the Christian and the Church are similarly persistent, and must be assailed and defeated over and over again. Indeed, the conflict is continuous. There are, however, certain times when we are specially to "bestir" ourselves, with assurance of conquest; and these are often indicated by special signs that the supernatural powers are "marching" on to lead us and give us success.
I. IN RESPECT TO THE WHOLE CHRISTIAN WARFARE AND WORK, THE SUPERNATURAL EVENTS BY WHICH OUR RELIGION WAS INAUGURATED MAY BE THUS REGARDED. In the incarnation of the Son of God, his supernatural revelations, the miracles of his life, death, resurrection, and ascension, in the all-sufficient sacrifice he offered for sin, and in the descent and operations of the Holy Spirit, God went before his people to lead them on to victory. They were not for the men of that age only, but for all ages. We, recalling them to mind, may ever take courage in the assurance that we are following where God has led and still leads. Evermore they remain as calls to us to "bestir" ourselves with confidence of success; the eternal motives to energy and hope; the eternal armoury, too, from which we draw the offensive and defensive arms we need in the war.
II. IN RESPECT TO OUR OWN PERSONAL SALVATION, THERE ARE AT TIMES SPECIAL INDICATIONS THAT GOD IS GOING BEFORE US TO GIVE US SPECIAL HELP AND BLESSING. We ought not, indeed, to wait for these. The knowledge of our duty, the memory of Christ, the promise of Divine aid, the experiences of the past, constitute sufficient reasons for habitual diligence, prayer, and hope; and special inspirations may be most confidently expected by such as are thus ever "exercising themselves unto godliness," ever striving against evil and for the attainment of greater good. But there are moments of peculiar sensibility which afford peculiarly favourable opportunities and special calls to "bestir" ourselves that we may secure the blessings which they promise. Startling events which deeply move the conscience and heart; personal afflictions which compel retirement and produce impressions favourable to religious exercises; bereavements which bring face to face with death; losses which make the uncertainty and insufficiency of earthly good felt; sermons which unusually touch the heart; earnest appeals of a friend which produce deep emotion; whatever, in a word, brings God and eternity, Christ and salvation, nearer, and creates a sense of their supreme importance, whatever excites a craving for a higher good, are signs that God is working for us, and calls to "bestir" ourselves by special meditation, prayer, etc. We may at such seasons obtain more spiritual blessing in an hour than at others in a month.
III. IN RESPECT TO THE WARFARE AND WORK OF THE CHURCH FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, THERE ARE SIMILAR SIGNS FROM HEAVEN ADAPTED TO STIMULATE AND ENCOURAGE. Such are:
1. Remarkable openings made for the entrance of the gospel. The operations of Divine providence preparing a way for the operations of Divine grace. These may be on a small scale, laying open to Christian effort an individual, a family, or a neighbourhood; or on a large scale, opening a continent crowded with scores of millions of the human race. The discoveries of travellers, and the removal of barriers and obstacles by military conquests, are thus to be regarded. India, China, Japan, and Africa furnish instances of God going before his people, and calling on them to "bestir" themselves and follow whither he leads.
2. Impressions favourable to religion. In one person, or in a family, a congregation, a town, or a nation. Impressions by sickness, by war, pestilence, or other calamities; or by signal displays of the Divine goodness. By these God goes before, and prepares the way for his people to publish more diligently and earnestly the gospel, with good assurance of success.
3. Unusual religious earnestness in Christians themselves. Extraordinary emotions of love and zeal towards God and Christ and the souls of men, and of longing to rescue the perishing and enlarge the Church, however they may have been excited, are to be regarded as the yearnings of God's Spirit in the Christian heart, and as calls and encouragements to exertion. The sign that God is working and leading his people to victory is more conspicuous when these emotions are shared by many.
4. Successes in the Christian war summon to new efforts and encourage the hope of new successes. They show that God is working, and assure us that he will continue to work with his faithful servants.—G.W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 5". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany