Comments On The Second Book Of Samuel

From Family Hour

Leslie M. Grant


This Book continues the history, but finds David no longer an exile fleeing for his life. God's word concerning Saul has been fulfilled, and there remains no real obstacle to David's return to Judah, where he reigned over that tribe for 7 ½ years before the rest of the tribes accepted his authority. Thus it took time to bring about the subjection of his own people Israel, then much time afterwards to subdue other nations, so that David was characteristically a man of war. For this reason God did not allow him to build the temple, but reserved that privilege for Solomon, whose name means peaceableness.

David is therefore a type of Christ as gaining the kingdom by warfare and conquest, as will be the case through the Tribulation Period. Solomon is typical of Christ also, but as reigning in peace during the millennium. 2nd Samuel however illustrates the painful truth that man always fails to rightly represent the Lord Jesus. While David is a type of Christ, yet after chapter 10 we see him as being too greatly in contrast to his Lord in much of his history. He has to learn by painful experience that God's blessing him is only because of pure sovereign grace.


Verse 1 shows us that David's slaughter of the Amalekites took place at about the same time as the Philistine defeat of Israel. David had been two days at Ziklag when a man came from the scene of this defeat with outward signs of mourning, his clothes torn and earth on his head. Coming to David, he fell down, ostensibly giving David a place of honor (v.2). David evidently sensed there was something about the man that was not genuine. He was trying to make an impression and the only impression he made was that he was trying to make an impression.

In answer to David's question, he said that he had escaped out of the camp of Israel. David was of course deeply interested and asked what had taken place in the battle. He replied that the people (Israel) had fled from the battle, many being killed, including Saul and Jonathan.

David wanted clear evidence especially as to the death of Saul and Jonathan (v.5), and the young man told him that he had happened by chance to be on Mt. Gilboa and found Saul leaning on his spear, while horses and chariots were pursuing. He claimed that Saul had called him, asking who he was (v.8). Then he revealed the fact that he was an Amalekite, apparently not actually engaged in the battle at all, but happening to be in the vicinity. He further said that Saul entreated him to kill him because he was in great pain; and he had done so because he was sure that Saul could not live, also taking Saul's crown and bracelet to bring to David. It seems strange that Saul had worn his crown in battle.

Since we have been told in 1 Samuel 31:4-5 that Saul had fallen on his own sword, and his armour bearer saw that Saul was dead, then it appears that the Amalekite was lying. Saul had first been wounded, and after falling on his sword, if he was not actually dead, as the armour bearer thought, he would hardly be standing, leaning on his spear. Likely the Amalekite thought that David would reward him for this reported "mercy-killing," specially since it would clear the way for David to reign. The man was an opportunist. One wonders if he had gone to the scene of battle looking for a possibility of this kind, and therefore was ready to take advantage of it. If he had found Saul dead and told the truth about it, his end might have been different, but his lie incriminated him.

However, before we read of David's taking action against him it is good to see the way David and his men were affected by the death of Saul and Jonathan. Tearing their clothes, they mourned and wept, not eating for the rest of the day. Though it would be a relief to David to know that Saul would not pursue him again, yet his sorrow for Saul's death was very real. Of course also they mourned for the large number of people who died in battle, and for Israel because of her crushing defeat. This sorrow of David and his men stands in refreshing contrast to the heartless rejoicing of the Philistines over the slaughter of Saul and his sons.

David now confirms from the messenger who brought news of Saul and Jonathan's death the fact that he was an Amalekite, the son of a stranger, and asked him, "How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the Lord's anointed?" David would by no means agree to a so-called "mercy killing." This was not actual mercy, but a manifest lack of faith in God who is the Giver and Sustainer of life. David therefore instructs one of his young soldiers to kill the Amalekite, which he does (v.15). David well knew that a friend of this kind would be no friend at all: he could just as easily betray David if a case arose whereby he could profit by it. Whether the man had lied or not as to his killing Saul, yet by the words of his own mouth he was condemned (v.16.)

David was not so anxious to attempt to take the throne of Israel as to neglect the chastening of his own soul before God in view of the sadness of the death of Saul and Jonathan. He genuinely lamented over them with a lamentation recorded from verse 19 to 27. But verse 18 first mentions that David gave orders that Israel's warriors should be taught the use of the bow. It was through archery that Saul was wounded, and this was possibly the deciding factor in the victory of the Philistines (from a human point of view). Israel now must learn this long-range warfare.
"The beauty of Israel is slain on you high places: how the mighty have fallen" (v.19). From a natural point of view Saul and Jonathan presented an attractive appearance. In this Israel was certainly not behind any other nation. Yet the "high places" were those in which they fell. The desire of Saul for a place of high honor was increased by his having the throne, but his fall was that much greater.

Though David expressed the desire that the sad news should not be told in the chief cities of the Philistines (Gath and Askelon), we have heard already that it was published in the land of the Philistines (1 Sam.31:9): the daughters of the uncircumcised were already rejoicing in triumph. As to verse 21, we do not know if David's words were fulfilled, though they may have been for a time at least. He felt that the mountains of Gilboa should be deprived of dew or rain, because Saul had fallen there as though he had not been anointed by God as king.

In verse 22 David credits Jonathan first with success in battle, but Saul also in his measure. Genuine love always desires to give every commendation it possibly can honorably, though in this case David cannot commend as much in Saul as he might desire to do. Still, he speaks of these as "lovely and pleasant in their lives," and in their death as not being divided. He does not mention that they had been divided as regards their attitude toward David, for David did not retain any selfish resentment over this. Their being "swifter than eagles and stronger than lions" of course refers to their prowess in war.

David even calls upon the daughters of Israel to weep over Saul (v.24), for his government evidently had some beneficial effects in providing a good standard of living for the nation.

"How are the mighty fallen in the midst of the battle," David laments, and adds, "0 Jonathan, thou wast slain in thine high places." David felt this, that Jonathan had not taken the place of lowly rejection with David, but in choosing the place of exaltation briefly with Saul, he was humbled from it in a way he had not anticipated (1 Sam.23:17-18).

But David has more to say approvingly of Jonathan than he could of Saul. He was specially distressed at Jonathan's death, for Jonathan had been true, devoted friend in spite of his father's opposition. David speaks here as directly to Jonathan himself (v.26), appreciating Jonathan's love toward him that passed the love of women.

He completes his lamentation with the painful words, "How are the mighty fallen and the weapons of war perished!" This is the expression of the sad end of the best that man in the flesh can offer. His greatness is brought down to nothing and his ability for conquest totally destroyed. Only Christ will remain: He alone will have the honor of subduing all things under Him.


David was by no means in a hurry to take advantage of the situation that had been brought about by Saul's death. Though he had not enquired of the Lord as to going down to king Achish at Gath (1 Sam.27:1:2), he does enquire now as to leaving Ziklag and returning to Judah. The Lord tell him to do so. Yet in a spirit of felt dependence, he further inquires as to what city. God's answer, "Hebron" is not merely intended to indicate a favorable location. Its name means "communion," which would be a strong reminder to David that if he is to reign as king, he will need the place of constant communion with God.

In coming to Hebron David's circumstances are completely changed. His two wives accompany him and all his men with their households. These were dispersed throughout the towns surrounding (v.3). David being of the tribe of Judah, and having before attracted the approval of the people through his faithfulness and ability, it is not surprising that the men of Judah came to him to anoint him king (v.4). The rest of Israel was however not ready to accept him in this way at the time.

When David heard the news that it was the men of Jabesh-Gilead who had buried Saul, he sent messengers to them to express his appreciation of this expression of their regard for the throne of Israel established by God. He shows the confidence that the Lord would bless them for this kindness, while promising that he also would reward them with kindness (vs.5-6). He encourages them also to be strengthened and valiant, though Saul had died, and informs them that the tribe of Judah had anointed him king over them. Of course Jabesh-Gilead was far north of Judah and had not acknowledged David's rule, but David made no issue of this: he simply informed them of Judah's action.

Abner, the captain of Saul's army, could only understand natural succession. He did not seek the will of God, but decided to elevate Ish-bosheth, Saul's son, to the throne of Israel (vs.8-9). How many since him have thought that the military has the right of such decisions! But this is God's prerogative, and He had already anointed David as king of Israel (not only of Judah). Abner made Mahanaim the headquarters of Ish-bosheth's kingdom. Mahanaim means "two camps," therefore emphasizing the fact that Israel was divided. God would not allow this to continue, but Ish-bosheth did reign over Israel for two years, during which time there was "long war" between Judah and Israel. David reigned in Hebron seven and a half years (v.11). It seems that, after his being recognized as king by Israel (ch.5:1-3), he must have remained for a time in Hebron before going up to Jerusalem to reign there.

This history illustrates the necessity of the Lord Jesus first subduing His own people under Him before subduing His enemies. Abner was the strong man in Israel: Ish-bosheth was of no significance. Abner of course wanted to see Judah subject to him too, and desired to initiate a test of strength. He came to Gibeon with some of his men (v.12). Joab, the captain of David's army, was fully willing for the test, and went out with his men, they sitting down on one side of the pool of Gibeon with Abner and his men on the other side. But the occasion is not to be a discussion of their differences. Abner asks that the young men should hold a contest (v.14) and Joab readily responds. Twelve men from each side then meet in deadly combat.

Verse 15 seems to indicate that all these men, on both sides, were prepared to catch each other by the head, each one simultaneously piercing the other with his sword, so that they fell down together. They did not stop to consider that they were all Israelites, and therefore brethren. But since that time the people of God have too often used the sword of the word of God cruelly against others of God's people when they might have used it for the positive good of others.

The contest decided nothing, but was only the beginning of a battle that involved both armies, so that many more were dead before it was over. Nor did the battle make any real difference in the situation, though it was won by Judah. Only God's work can bring about unity among His people.

Judah pursues Israel in the battle, and Asahel, the brother of Joab and Abishai, picks out Abner to pursue him. Being very swift of foot, he could easily keep up with Abner. If Joab had been in his place, he would not have hesitated to kill Abner, but Asahel was evidently not a practiced man of war, and only wanted to be sure that Abner did not escape. Abner suspected it was Asahel who followed him, and when he was assured of it, he told him to leave him and follow someone else (v.21). Abner did not want to fight it out with Asahel and kill him, because he was afraid that if he did so, he might incur the special animosity of Joab.

Asahel, however, after a second warning from Abner, refused to listen to him. He continued to follow very close behind him, and was not prepared for Abner's cunning expertise in war. Abner suddenly pushed his spear backward, causing its butt end to pierce Abner under the fifth rib. He fell down and died. Asahel did not lack zeal, but did lack knowledge and wisdom as to warfare. The pursuers following Asahel were so shocked at finding him dead that they stopped their pursuit of Israel. They considered that Israel had been totally defeated, and to find that they had struck back in killing Asahel evidently gave them second thoughts.

Joab and Abishai continued their pursuit, both of them being capable warriors (v.24). However, Abner was able to regroup as the Benjamites came to him, and all ascended to the top of a hill. From there Abner calls to Joab, desiring a cessation of hostilities. He does not offer to surrender, but asks, "Shall the sword devour forever? do you not know that it will be bitter in the end?" This was true, for continued fighting would not resolve the issue as to who should be king. Yet Abner conveniently forgot that it was he who had initiated the battle. Still, Joab knew it would be wise to cease from battle, and tells Abner that if he had not spoken the battle would have ended by the next morning anyway (v.27). As if happened, however, Abner's speaking was an admission of defeat, though not in so many words.

Joab blew a trumpet to cause all his men to no longer pursue Israel. Abner and his men travelled all that night to return across the Jordan to Mahahaim

Returning from the war, Joab found that twenty men of Judah (including Asahel) had died in this sad conflict, but of Abner's men 360 were killed. Yet this had no decisive consequences, though it indicated a gradual weakening of Israel's opposition, which will be true also at the time of the Tribulation, when Israel's rebellion against the Lord Jesus will be worn down until an occasion of great public significance breaks them utterly in repentance and faith.

Asahel received an honorable burial, and Joab and his men returned by night to Hebron. This is significant in telling us that Judah must remain in "communion" with the Lord, to await His clear leading as to re-uniting the nation.


Though Saul had died, yet there continues long war between his house and the house of David. We have seen that Saul stands for the energy of the flesh, which does not easily give up though it is doomed. The house of David waxes stronger and stronger, but the flesh cannot but expose its own weakness when it is given time.

We are told now of David's having six sons, each by a different wife (vs.2-5). Never was it God's intention that a man should have more than one wife. At the beginning He had said, "Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother and shall cleave unto his wife" -- not "his wives." Yet under law God bore with bigamy and polygamy because of the hardness of men's hearts (cf.Mt.19:8). Also, far above men's natural thoughts, God used this occasion to illustrate various distinct characteristics of the Lord Jesus in His coming kingdom. Those who are interested to check this in detail will find the Numerical Bible (2 Samuel, pages 405-407) most enlightening. This enforces the striking truth that God can overrule man's failure in order to serve the greater purpose of highly exalting His beloved son, and reminds us that there will be certain precious fruits showing themselves in the Lord Jesus in "communion" (Hebron) before He reigns in glory.

The combination of Abner with Ish-bosheth seems to indicate the opposition of anti-christ in the Tribulation period, Abner showing his strength and Ish-bosheth his weakness (v.6). For the anti-christ will put on a show of strength that will in the end prove to be weakness, so that he will have an ignominious fall, as did both Abner and Ish-bosheth.

Verse 7 shows the beginning of the fall of Israel's government. How many since Abner have ruined themselves by similar moral infractions! When Ish-bosheth made an issue of Abner's having taken one of Saul's concubines, Abner was furious that the question was even raised (v.8). He has no defense, but attacks Ish-bosheth as being ungrateful for Abner's having elevated him to the place of king. He thinks Ish-bosheth should ignore his moral evil since he had backed up Ish-bosheth. Actually it was not really kindness to Ish-bosheth that had moved Abner, but jealousy for his own position of power.

Therefore his kindness quickly turns to bitter animosity. He will show Ish-bosheth who is in authority by just as quickly deposing him as he had exalted him. He would translate the kingdom from the house of Saul to the house of David, and thereby fulfil the word that God had sworn to David, that David would be king of all Israel (vs.9-10). Abner had known God's expressed oath as this matter, but until this time had brazenly defied it. Even now he was not changing because of any real regard for the word of God, but because Ish-bosheth had questioned his character. In changing he was of course counting on David's favor toward him.

This withering outburst was too much for Ish-bosheth: he was totally silenced from fear of Abner (v.11). If he had been a wise man he would have before refused to listen to Abner, to take any part in ruling Israel, for he knew he was not qualified for it. He loses everything.

But Abner does not intend to lose out. He immediately contacts David by Messenger, urging him to make a league with Abner, who would on his part bring all Israel into subjection to David (v.12). David responded also by messengers who told Abner that a league could be formed, but only on condition that Michal, Saul's daughter should be returned to David as his wife. David confirmed this to Ish-bosheth by insisting that Michal, whom he had purchased by his slaughter of 100 Philistines, should be given back to him (v.14, Though the Lord does not comment on whether David should have done this, yet the subsequent history (ch.6:16-23) shows that their relationship was far from satisfactory. In fact, Michal had shown no fidelity to David in 1 Samuel 19:17, when she told her father that David had threatened to kill her if she did not let him escape from Saul. Why should he want her returned when she had proven undependable? Was it only his own rights he was thinking of? He could have reasoned too that since he had not taken the initiative, in putting her away, the Deuteronomy 24:1-4 would not apply. But that passage does say that the first husband was not to take his wife back after she had been defiled by marrying another man (v.4). If David had sought wisdom from God, this scripture might have been a protection for him.

At Ish-bosheth's order Michal was taken from her husband, Phaltiel (v.15). Though she was not his in the first place the wrong was only compounded by her being taken from him and given again to David. When Phaltiel follows her weeping, Abner summarily tell him to return home. Saul had given Michal to Phaltiel but Abner does not have to reckon with a living Saul any longer. He wants David's patronage.

Verse 17 tells us that Abner had already spoken with the elders of Israel, reminding them that before this they had desired David as king. He knew this, yet he had tried to overrule it by exalting Ish-bosheth. When this did not work out, then he can easily ignore his mistake and ignore Ish-bosheth by telling the elders of Israel to now accept David as king. In this he appeals to what God had already said: "By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies" (v.18).

In verse 19 we are told that Abner boldly took the message of his decision to turn the kingdom over to David, to the tribe of Benjamin. These of course would likely be slow to accept David, since Saul (and of course Ish-bosheth) were Benjamites. Being a strongly influential man (in contrast to Ish-bosheth), Abner was able to persuade them, so that he could go to David as representing Israel and the whole house of the Benjamites. He therefore made an agreement with David that he would gather Israel in order that they might make a covenant with David. David approvingly sent him away with this understanding (v.21).

Joab knew nothing of this until he returned from a raid in which he and his men had been successful in gaining "much spoil." However, when he heard of David's favorable reception of Abner, he sensed danger, -- not actually danger to David, but danger as regards his own position in David's government. He would see Abner as a threat to his prominence. Immediately he went in to David and remonstrated strongly with him (v.24). He made it clear that he thought David ought to have killed Abner when he had the opportunity, or to have at least imprisoned him. He claims that Abner came as a spy to deceive David and learn of David's activities in order to take advantage of him. Of course this was not true, but Joab wanted an excuse for getting rid of Abner. Nothing is said of how David responded to Joab's accusation.

Joab saw his opportunity to act quickly. Without David's knowledge, he sent messengers after Abner to bring him back. Abner, fully unsuspecting, came back willingly. Joab was ready to meet him at the gate of the city, and there took him aside as though to speak privately to him, and immediately plunged him through with his weapon "under the fifth rib," as Abner had done to Asahel (ch.2:23), killing him instantly with this blow to the heart (v.27).

Joab no doubt considered that he was "the avenger of blood" on behalf of Asahel, his brother, and was able to kill Abner just outside Hebron, the city of refuge (Josh.20:7-9). Inside the city Abner would have been safe. Joab ignored the fact that Asahel had been killed in battle, and he killed Abner when showing himself outwardly on friendly terms with him. Joab had reproved David for being deceived by Abner, but he practiced far more cunning deception himself in dealing with Abner.

David was deeply affected by this news, and disavowed on behalf of himself and his kingdom all responsibility for the death of Abner. He does virtually ask for the intervention of God in discipline to Joab and to his family, that they might suffer as a consequence of this. But did David forget that he was king, and responsible to carry out some judgment against Joab? Joab had actually been guilty of cold-blooded, premeditated murder, and for this he deserved the death penalty. David very soon after ordered the death of the two men who murdered Ish-bosheth (ch.4:10-12). The murder of Abner was just as serious, but evidently because Joab was captain of his army, David made a difference. There is no word of David even speaking directly to Joab about this, let alone exercising more serious discipline. In this the weakness of David's kingdom is evident from the beginning.

Verse 30 also involves Abishai in the death of Abner, though we are not told exactly what part he had. We are reminded again that they killed Abner in reprisal for Abner's killing Asahel "in the battle," a far different matter than deception in a time of peace.

David does tell Joab and all the people to rend their clothes and put on sackcloth in mourning for Abner. So far as Joab and Abishai were concerned, this would only be a false show, for they had no regrets for the death of Abner. But David, following the coffin, wept at the grave of Abner, and the people followed his example. His lamentation would no doubt make Joab feel uncomfortable: "Died Abner as a fool dieth? Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put in fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou" (v.34). If Abner had been on guard, he would have been sure to at least get inside the city of refuge before meeting Joab, for he had before anticipated that he would incur Joab's anger by his killing Asahel (ch.2:22). wisdom deserted him at that time, and he fell as "before wicked men." But his wisdom deserted him at that time, and he fell as "before wicked men."

The genuineness of David's mourning was further proven by his refusal to eat until the sun was down (v.35). The people were impressed by this and fully realized that David did not approve the killing of Abner. He said that Abner was "a prince and a great man" in Israel, and his fall was not an asset to David's kingdom, but rather weakened David, though he was anointed king. He tells the people also that the sons of Zeruiah (Joab and Abishai) were too hard for him, and that the Lord would justly reward their acts of wickedness.


Abner's death left Ish-bosheth helpless, and all Israel in a state of troubled perplexity (v.1). Two men, however, who were captains of bands in Ish-bosheth's army, saw an attractive opportunity at this time. They could plainly see that David would gain the ascendancy, and they thought they could gain David's favor by killing Ish-bosheth. But they acted on the false assumption that David was as wicked as they were. They were brothers, and of the tribe of Benjamin.

In verse 4 a note is inserted to tell of Saul having another son, Mephibosheth, who had become lame on both feet when his nurse had dropped him in her haste to escape when she heard of the death of Saul and Jonathan. The boy was five years old at this time. We shall hear of David's kindness to him a little later (ch.9).

The two brothers, Rechab and Baanah, came at noon to the house of Ish-bosheth, who was lying on a bed. Pretending to be coming for wheat, they had easy access to the house. They pierced Ish-bosheth through "under the fifth rib" (the third person to whom this was done within a short time), then beheaded him and escaped, carrying his head with them (vs.5-7). It was a long trip when from Mahanaim to Hebron, taking the rest of the day and all night. Perhaps they thought it was worth it, but things did not work out as they had planned.

Bringing Ish-bosheth's head to David, they told him this was the head of the son of Saul, David's enemy, who sought to kill David. Thy cunningly bring the Lord's name into the matter also, saying that the Lord had taken vengeance on the house of Saul. Yet they had remained servants to Ish-bosheth for two years after the death of Saul!

David immediately discerned their callous deceit and greed. He had no room for this kind of friends He knew that they could just as easily turn against him as they had turned against Ish-bosheth, if the occasion arose. He told them that it was the living Lord who had redeemed his soul out of all adversity (not man's deceitful wickedness). Then he told them of the man who had brought news of Saul's death to David, considering that David would think of this as good news and expecting that David would reward him for it, but that instead David had put him to death (ch.1:2-15).

"How much more," he adds, "when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed" Their guilt was worse than that of the other. He would therefore righteously require the blood of Ish-bosheth from them by taking their life from the earth. In this case, not only did the young men kill them, but cut off their hands and feet and hung them up over the pool in Hebron. Their hands had been swift to shed blood and their feet had been swift to culminate this evil in boldly bringing their master's head to David. They were hung up likely as a declaration of David's abhorrence of their evil act and as a warning to any who might be inclined to resort to tactics such as theirs. Ish-bosheth's head was buried in Abner's grave.


Yet the sovereign wisdom of God has been over all these matters, and David's way becomes clear without his fighting for it. God's time had now come for the voluntary submission of the other tribes to David's dominion. They came to him at Hebron, presenting three reasons for their recognizing him as king (v.2). First, they were related to him as Israelites; secondly, thy knew his reputation, even while Saul was king, that it was David who was really the leader of Israel's forces; and thirdly, they knew that the Lord had promised the kingdom to David. The last of these three was conclusive, though they had been slow to recognize it in their allowing Abner to dominate them.

David willingly made a league with them, and they anointed David king there in Hebron. This is the third time we read of his being anointed; first by Samuel in 1 Samuel 16:13; secondly in Hebron by Judah (2 Sam.2:4); and in this case by all Israel. This is a picture of God's having first anointed the Lord Jesus at the river Jordan when He was baptized by John (Mt. 3:16), then of His eventually being recognized by Judah as King (Zech.12:7-10), and afterwards by the rest of the tribes (Ezekiel 37:21-22) when they will be joined together with Judah after centuries of separation.

The years of David's preparation for reigning were not lost. He took the throne at the age of 30, the same age as the Lord Jesus was when He began His public ministry (Luke 3:23). It may seem that those 30 years of quiet obscurity are out of proportion to the short 3 ½ years of the public ministry of the Lord Jesus. But God's ways are not ours. Private life is far more important than we often think. Yet David reigned for forty years altogether, dying at 70 years of age. In Hebron he reigned 7 ½ years, then 33 years in Jerusalem.

Though Israel had anointed David king, when he went to Jerusalem the inhabitants (Jebusites) were quite haughty in refusing him entry into the city. They told him that the blind and the lame would have sufficient power to drive them away (v.6). There is a lesson here typical of the future establishing of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus. The spiritual blindness and lameness of many in Israel will seem to be in formidable opposition to the blessed Lord of glory. Will it be so great that the true King of Israel cannot overcome it? When He came in grace to Israel, He showed His living power in healing the blind and the lame. Will He be any less capable when He comes in great power and glory? Jerusalem's opposition was nothing to David. He took the city and from that day it has been called "the city of David" (v.7).

In the N.A.S.B. verse 8 is translated "And David said on that day, Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him reach the lame and the blind, who are hated of David's soul, through the water tunnel." When the gates were barred, the watercourse was a way of entering the city that the Jebusites overlooked. How true is this typically also. The fresh water supply is typical of the living word of God. If we attack evil in the vital power of God's word, it cannot withstand us. The blindness of Israel to the truth of God, and their lameness as to walking in the paths of righteousness have been great obstacle to the blessing of the nation. If the blind and the lame of Israel will not bow to the authority of the Lord Jesus in order to be healed, then the opposers, remaining blind and lame will be "hated of his soul," and bear their well deserved judgment. "Therefore they say, The blind or the lame shall not come into the house." While many in Israel will be saved in the coming day of the Lord's glory, yet two thirds, remaining in unbelief, "will be cut off and die" (Zech.13:8). They will never know the blessing of the house of God.

David then dwelt in Jerusalem, called "the stronghold" and "the city of David," and built up the city, evidently to strengthen its defenses. "The Millo" is mentioned here, which was evidently a citadel or tower in the city which was of significant importance. From this time David's greatness increased (v.10), only a faint type of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus, of whom we read "There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace" (Isa.9:7).

Verse 11 tells of Hiram, King of Tyre, sending messengers to David and supplying cedar trees, carpenters and masons in order to build David a house. Tyre was famous as a merchant city, always on the alert for profitable business.

By this time David recognized that the Lord had established his kingdom, all Israel being subject to him (v.12). In fact, his rule was for the sake of God's people Israel: they were blessed by having such a king. The nations surrounding Israel were not yet subdued, as they would be eventually, but the unity of Israel under David was a vitally important prerequisite to this end.

However, David could not rightly bear the greatness of the glory given to him. He took advantage of his greatness to take more wives and concubines, though he already had seven wives (ch.3:2-5; 13-16). From the very first of Israel's history of the kings, we see this sad fact, that neither Saul nor David, nor any kings that followed, could rightly bear the glory that comes with exalted authority. There is only One, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will be able to properly bear the great dignity of ruling over men. "He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory" (Zech.6:13).

Added to David's six sons born in Hebron are the eleven born in Jerusalem (vs.14-16). There were daughters also born to him, but we are not told how many. Some of his sons caused him great sorrow, however, and he had to confess how great was the contrast of his own house to that of the promised Messiah: "My house is not so with God" (2 Sam.23:5).

As soon as he was anointed king over Israel, the animosity of the Philistines was freshly awakened. These were their closest neighbors, and their most constant enemies. Their name means "wallow," and they are typical of those who merely "wallow" in Christianity, those who have the forms and language of the Christian "religion," but not the vital, personal knowledge of the Lord Jesus. For this reason images and idols are prominent among them, as we know is true of various companies one of the most persistent enemies of true Christianity, and just as David found it necessary to be continually on guard against the attacks of the Philistines, so such formalistic religion calls for our constant watchfulness and spiritual energy in withstanding this persistent enemy of our Lord.

When David heard of the Philistine advance, he "went down to the hold," evidently going toward the Philistines rather than remaining in Jerusalem, which was also called "the hold," but it was not "down." It is an interesting expression, that the Philistines "spread themselves" in the valley of Rephaim. They like at least a show of taking possession But David sought the face of the Lord as regards guidance. Should he go and meet the Philistines? Would God give him the victory over them? The answer from God is positive. He is to go with thorough confidence that God would deliver the enemy into his hand. The exercise of waiting in dependence on God will always bring an answer from God that will give confidence in acting on it.

David's victory is there complete (v.20). He give the Lord the credit for breaking forth upon his enemies as the breach of waters, as though a dam was breached and the flood waters overwhelmed the enemy. He therefore named the place "Baal-Gerazim," meaning "Lord of the breaches." The Philistines had brought their images with them even into battle. But the images were no help, and in their haste to retreat they left them behind. David and his men did not take them, nor the materials of which they were made, but burned them (v.21).

However, religious zeal does not easily die out of man's heart. The Philistines later returned to the same location and with the same display of strength (v.22). It is good to observe that David did not rely on his past experience in meeting this fresh attack. The same circumstances do not always call for the same method of meeting them. In every case we must depend on the Lord Himself. David again inquired of Him, and received different instruction. This time they are not to attack as before from the front, but to circle around behind the enemy near to a group of baca trees. Then they would hear the sound of marching in the tops of the baca trees, which would be the signal for them to attack the Philistines, for the Lord would go before them to accomplish the victory (v.24). Whatever spiritual significance there is in the baca trees, at least we are to learn that when we discern the evidence of the Lord's leading we may go forth in confidence. the details of the victory are not necessary to be told us, except the distance they pursued the Philistines in defeating them, from Gibeon to Gazer, about 20 miles.


David's kingdom having been established, he is rightly concerned that God should have His true place as in highest authority over Israel. The ark was the symbol of the throne of God, yet had been in the obscurity of the house of Abinidab in Baale (or Kirjath-Jearim -- Joshua 15:9). Thus, through the history of Saul, God's authority was obscured, but David wants this in the place of highest prominence. He therefore gathers thirty thousand chosen men of Israel in view of his commendable purpose. But he made the tragic mistake of not inquiring from the Lord about this first. Since, as he knew, God was in authority, how inconsistent it was for him not to consult that authority on the matter of bringing the ark up to Jerusalem. Certainly that was where it should be, but David had forgotten God's appointed means of transporting the ark, and evidently the priests, who should have known this well, were not concerned to inform him.

They set the ark on a new cart (v.3), apparently thinking this was giving it due honor. Were they merely following the example of the Philistines when they returned the ark to Israel after having captured it and suffered for doing so (1 Sam.6:7-9)? God's method was only for the Levites of the family of Kohath to carry the ark by means of the staves (Ex.25:13-14; Num.3:27-32), though named "priests" in Joshua 4:16-17. Philistines might ignore this, but Israel must not. In fact, the Philistines gave more credit to God than did the Israelites on these occasions, for the Philistines left the cart without drivers and without a man going before it. They decided to let God direct the oxen, and there was no difficulty. The Israelites had two drivers as well as the man before. No doubt they thought they should take every human precaution to see that the ark was well conducted. This was not faith.

With great joy David and many minstrels played numbers of instruments to celebrate the coming of the ark to Jerusalem. But this was suddenly and shockingly interrupted when Uzzah, a driver, reached out to steady the ark when it was shaken by the oxen. God immediately struck him dead (vs.6-7). Uzzah was the son of Abinidab in whose house the ark had remained for many years (1 Sam.7:12), but neither Uzzah nor anyone else in that house had touched the ark before, or they would have been killed. No doubt what he did was on the spur of the moment and with concern that the ark should not fall, but the throne of God does not need the steadying of men's hand.

Though Uzzah, in reaching for the ark to steady it, acted without premeditation, yet his effort was an actual insult to God's authority, and he died. This was a lesson needed by David and all Israel. The responsibility for bearing witness to God's sovereign authority (as symbolized in the ark) is not to be placed upon oxen and a cart, but upon the shoulders of the Levites, the sons of Kohath (Num.3:27-32). Today every believer too, as the Levite Kohathites were, is responsible to bear Christ upon his shoulders as the One who sustains the throne of God's glory. They actually did not touch the ark, but bore it with staves. This witness is not to be left to any organization that man devises, a new cart with its impersonal "oxen" to energize it. Too often God's people leave their responsibility to their "denomination" and bear no personal witness to Christ in His place of gracious sovereign authority. Let us carry the ark by its staves on our own shoulders, while having utmost respect in not daring to touch it, that is, to give Christ His place of highest sanctification, altogether above the need of our defending or protecting Him.

David was not only subdued before God that day, but displeased (v.8). Were his motives not right in ringing the ark to Jerusalem? If so, why should God kill Uzzah for doing a very natural thing? But right motives alone do not secure God's approval. They must be accompanied by obedience to God's Word. David did not yet realize that the ark should be carried by the Kohathites, and it is more sad still that the priests did not discern the reason for this tragedy. David feels that the Lord is telling him that he ought not to bring the ark to Jerusalem. Why did he forget to consult the Lord at this time at least? For this failure he deprived himself of the privilege of having the ark at Jerusalem for three months. He decided to have it placed in the house of Obed-edom a Gittite (vs.10-11)

It appears evident that Obed-edom treated the ark with becoming respect while it was in his house, and during its three months there God signally blessed him and his household. The news soon reached David that because the ark was in Obed-edom's house the Lord had specially blessed him, so that David now decided that he would have the ark brought to Jerusalem, which was done with gladness (v.12).

It is not reported here that David had realized his mistake at this time, But 1 Chronicles 15:12-13 shows this plainly, that the Lord had made a breach because "we sought Him not after the due order." This time, therefore, we read of those who "bore the ark" (v.13) and that they had only begun to walk when David offered sacrifices to the Lord. This indicates a more becoming attitude than previously, for it involves the putting down of the flesh in order that Christ may be exalted. Our only real relationship to God is on the basis of the sacrifice of Christ. David accompanied this with his own personal dancing before the Lord, not with his kingly garments, as though he was of any importance in comparison to what the ark signified; but being clothed with a linen ephod (or tunic). This speaks simply of practical righteousness, a far more important thing than man's dignified outward position of honor. David's whole heart was manifestly in what he was doing.

As the procession came into the city with the shouting of the people and accompanied by at least one trumpet, Michal, the daughter of Saul, was only interested enough to look through a window. She had not the concern of a godly Israelite to be present to take part in giving God His place in the kingdom. The whole matter meant nothing to her, and when she saw David taking a lowly place at this time, she despised him in her heart. This is merely the unholy pride of the flesh. Her father Saul would never have done what David did: he was too interested in maintaining his own royal dignity.

The ark was set in a tent that David had pitched for it in Jerusalem. This was God's center, and yet there was to be no temple for the ark until the days of Solomon. Nothing is said of the character of this tent, as to whether it was the same as "the tabernacle in the wilderness." But when the ark was set there David again offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord. This is the important reminder that God's presence in Israel is only to be enjoyed on the basis of the value of the sacrifice of Christ. The burnt offerings speaks of what God receives from that sacrifice, and the peace offering involves both God's and man's sharing in the value of it, in vital concord.

When God is given His true place, it is inevitable that the people will be blessed. David delighted to bless them in the name of the Lord of hosts. More than this, he gave to every individual adult in Israel, women as well as men, a loaf of bread, a good sized piece of meat and a cake of raisins. This shows too that those who give the Lord His place will also be glad to be generous toward others.

Following David's placing the ark in its tent and his blessing of Israel, he returned to bless his own household. But Michal was in no condition to be blessed. She was ready with her caustic, sarcastic tongue to grossly insult her husband, the king: "How glorious was the king of Israel today, uncovering himself in the eyes of the maids of his servants, as one of the base fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!" (v.20). Of course this uncovering only referred to David's divesting himself of his royal apparel. Michal was so spiritually blind as to have no discernment that the greatest of human beings has no place of special honor before God: all are on the same humbled level.

David therefore answered her that what he had done was "before the Lord," a vitally important matter. More than this, he reminds her that the Lord had chosen David as king above her father Saul and above all Saul's house. God's choice was a man who would humble himself before God, not one who always sought to proudly exalt himself Therefore David would celebrate before the Lord (v.21).

The only right way to do this was in the humbling of self, and David would be willing to be more undignified than this for the sake of the honor of the Lord. As to the maidservants of whom Michal spoke, he knew that this would not depreciate the honor they would give him (v.22). They had more sense than did Michal, for they would recognize that the man who takes a lowly place before the Lord is the one who can be trusted in the place of authority over men.

God's government also intervened in this serious matter, and He decided that Michal would have no children to the day of her death. A woman who ignores the things of God, shows little respect for her husband, and has no children, must surely have a miserable existence. But it is a mercy she had no children, for she could not have taught them the humility of true faith in the living God.


The Lord having given grace to David to subdue the nations surrounding Israel, it is understandable that David's thoughts turned to a serious consideration of what is due the God of Israel. Why should David enjoy a house of cedar while the ark of God was housed in a tent (v.2)? This is a case similar to the previous chapter, where David's godliness deceived him. Of course his godliness was commendable, but it is not to be depended on for guidance. A godly man, out of genuine desire for the glory of God, may do the wrong thing, just because he has not first sought God's direction. We must be constantly reminded that God's Word alone can be trusted. David had forgotten this in the way in which he first sought to bring up the ark to Jerusalem: now he forgets it in reference to having a permanent building prepared for the ark.

Nathan was no more careful than David in this matter, however. He told David to do all that was in his heart because the Lord was with him (v.3). Nathan too was depending too much on David's reputation for godliness. In general it was true that the Lord was with David. But Nathan ought to have advised him to seek God's special guidance for a matter so special as the building of a temple. Indeed, we needed this not only for large matters, but for those smaller too!

That night God spoke decisively to Nathan to tell him to completely change his message to David. He must tell David, "Would you built a house for Me to dwell in?" (v.5) Then He reminds him that ever since God brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt a tabernacle had been His dwelling (v.6). God had been virtually a Sojourner on earth. Did He not also expect His people to realize that earth is no lasting place of rest? Had He ever suggested to any one of all the leaders of Israel that they should build Him a permanent house (v.7)? If God had expressed Himself in this way, then certainly David would have been right to do it. But he had no word from God on which to act.

As to David personally, God has to remind him that it had been God's own work to bring David from his lowly shepherd employment and make him ruler over His people Israel (v.8). David had no initiative in this whatever. More than this, God had been with him through all this. God had cut off his enemies and had given David a great name to compete with any other great men of the earth. Let David learn in all this that it is God's sovereign will alone that is to be trusted.

"Moreover," God adds, "I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own and move no more; nor shall the sons of wickedness oppress them any more" (v.10). Here is a promise of remarkable blessing for Israel such as they have never seen to this day, and yet which will be fulfilled in absolute perfection in God's time.

When David wanted to do something for the Lord, he had to be reminded that God Himself had done things for him and for Israel and would do great things for them in the future. "Also," He says to David, "the Lord tells you that He will make you a house" (v.11). Although David personally was not worthy of this, as he admits in 2 Samuel 23:5, yet this promise of the Lord is absolute. The reason for it is that God chose David to be a type of Christ, and to be the king from whose line Christ would come, according to the flesh (Romans 1:3). thus, the virgin Mary and her husband Joseph were of the house of David (Luke 1:27) and Mary was told that the Lord God would give to her child Jesus the throne of His father David (Luke 1:32).

Verse 12 then shows that after David's death God would set up David's seed who would come from his body, and would establish his kingdom. This speaks directly of Solomon, David's son who reigned after him in greater splendor than any other ruler. But this was simply as another type of the Lord Jesus, not as a sufferer, but as He will be in His future exaltation in millennial glory.

Solomon would also build a house for God's name (v.13). God had decreed this. David was not to be permitted to build the house because he was a man of war and had shed much blood (I Chron. 22:8). In this way he had been a type of Christ in subduing all His enemies. The building of the house must not be connected with war and bloodshed, but with peace established after conquest, a character in which Solomon was a type of the Lord Jesus.

"And I will establish the throne of His kingdom forever." Of course this did not refer to Solomon personally, but only as a type of Christ. for Solomon's kingdom was torn in two almost immediately after his death, and to this day there has been no recovery from the resulting ruin. But our verse speaks of the future kingdom of the Lord Jesus, which will stand forever.

"I will be His Father and He shall be My son." This is quoted in Hebrews 1:5 as referring to the Lord Jesus, which is of course the most important matter. In a secondary way it was true of Solomon, but not in the vital, eternal way that it is true of Christ. "If he commits iniquity, I will chastise him with the rod of men, and with the blows of the sons of men." This cannot refer to the Lord Jesus as it does to Solomon, who did commit iniquity in having many wives and even worshiping their idols (2 Kings 11:8). He suffered for this under the governing hand of God (1 Kings 11:11-14).

In spite of Solomon's grievous failure, God's mercy did not depart from him as it did from Saul, whose kingdom abruptly ended with his death (v.15). Solomon's kingdom continued through his descendants, and Matthew 1:6-7 shows him in the lineage of the Messiah, though this was only officially, not actually, for Joseph was not the actual father of the Lord Jesus, but only officially so, as Matthew 1:16 says, "Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus who is called Christ."

In this way David's house and David's throne should be established forever (v 16). How great an honor this was for David! No other line of all mankind could have this signal dignity. But it was dependent altogether upon the grace and counsels of God, not on David's faithfulness or work.

When Nathan had given this message of God to David, David was deeply subdued and went in to sit before the Lord (v.18). His sitting would imply that he had no work to do, but he is rather calmly considering the work of God. He becomes a worshiper rather than a doer. First, he takes his own place of being fully unworthy of all that God has done for him and of all that He would yet do. "Who am I, 0 Lord God? and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?" Why had David been chosen to be taken from the lowly work of sheep herding, to come through experiences that are most unusual and to be exalted to the place of ruling a nation whom God had chosen as His own people? It was certainly only right that he should remain little in his own sight.

Yet he realizes (v.19) that this was comparatively only a small thing in God's sight, for God had spoken of His purposes as to David's house "for a great while to come" -- far beyond all the days of David's life, reaching to a "manner of man" whom David realizes to be far greater than he. This King -- God's choice of Messiah for Israel -- would be of David's house, yet infinitely greater than David. Indeed, as the Lord Jesus pointed out to the Pharisees, David in writing of the Messiah, called Him "Lord" (Mt.22:41-45), quoting from Psalm 110:1. Though He is David's son, yet He is David's Lord.

After hearing such great things from God, David (in verse 20) shows himself to be at a loss for words by which to respond to the Lord, yet takes comfort in the fact that God knew His servant well. He sees too (v.21) that God was not doing all these things merely for David's blessing, but for His word's sake and according to His own heart. The glory of God is the highest consideration in this matter God's Word is to be absolutely fulfilled in accordance with the counsels of His own heart. Of course, when the name of God is supremely honored, there will be marvelous blessing for His creatures too. But His glory is first. David also deeply appreciates the fact that God has kindly acquainted His servant with His wonderful counsels of grace.

Since God has spoken to David concerning his house "for a great while to come" (v.19) and has "done all these great things" (v.21), David's fitting response is, "Therefore Thou art great, 0 Lord God" (v.22). He gives God personally the place of supreme greatness, none being like Him or none even in a little lesser place beside Him. Absolute, solitary dignity and grandeur are His.

Yet this great God has seen fit to bless one nation in an outstanding way. No other nation was like Israel whom God had taken the great pains to redeem from the bondage of Egypt in order to make them His own people (v.23). By this unusual work He had accomplished a name of high honor for Himself as well as doing great and awesome deeds for the sake of His land, in the sight of His people whom He had redeemed out of Egypt -- in fact from the nations and their gods. He had clearly separated Israel from all the nations and from their widespread idolatry.

In all this work of God He had made Israel His very own people forever. In spite of centuries of failure and disobedience on their part since that time, this purpose of God has not failed. They will be restored to greater blessing that they have ever known in the past, and will rejoice with unspeakable joy in the knowledge that the Lord is their God.

In verse 25 David shows the faith that receives and submits to the Word of God with the expressed desire that it should be accomplished simply as God had said, both concerning David himself and concerning his house. In comparison to God's Word, all David's wisdom and energy becomes nothing.

More than this, and consistent with it, he adds, "So let Thy name be magnified forever", saying, "The Lord of hosts is the God over Israel" (v.26). What God has revealed is that which rightly magnifies the glory of His name, and as "Jehovah of hosts". He is the God over Israel. Though Israel may seem small compared to the great population of other nations, their God is "the Lord of hosts." Then, in connection with the honor due God's name, he again asks that the house of God's servant should be established before the Lord.

It is evident (v.27) that David takes deeply to heart the significance of the two expressions, "the Lord of hosts" and "God of Israel." Both designations are full of meaning to him in reference to the revelation God has given him that He would build a house for David. For this reason, as he says, it was laid upon his heart to pray as he did.

In verse 28 he uses another expression, which he uses six times (see J.N.D.'s translation) in this prayer, "Lord Jehovah." As Lord He is in absolute authority; as Jehovah He is seen in covenant relationship with Israel, showing great goodness to them. All these expressions are necessary in different connections, to give some adequate knowledge of our great God. He is not only great, but full of grace and truth, and David finds delight in affirming that God's words are true in promising such great goodness His servant.

Therefore, in glad confidence he asks for the fulfillment of what God had promised, in blessing the house of David forever (v.29). This can only be because the Messiah of Israel would be of the house of David. David can do nothing but give his thankful "Amen" to the clearly declared Word of God.

While David had desired to build a house for God, God made it clear that a mere material building was nothing in comparison to what God had planned. The house of David refers to people redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, a house in which God's name would receive the highest honor through "a manner of man" infinitely greater than David, but the Son of David. God would build this house, requiring much more time than the building of a material temple. We know today too that while the house of David will be great in the millennial earth, God's house today, the Church, is more wonderful in many respects than the house of David on earth will be.


God's declaration to David of His sovereign counsels in chapter 7 and David's submission and worship had good practical effect. Notice it is "after this" (v.1) that David defeated and subdued the Philistines, taking control of their capital city (Gath). Saul had never been able to do this: in fact he was soundly defeated by the Philistines and killed in his last battle with them (1 Samuel 31). The reason for this was that he was more interested in his own self-importance than in the counsels of God. He never learned to honestly depend on the living God, therefore he could not be depended on to fight God's battles. May we, like David, learn to fully submit in adoring worship to the truth of the authoritative Word of God. Only in this way shall we gain victories for Him. The Philistines picture mere formal religion over which only faith can gain the victory, for the things of God are vital and real to a man of faith, not a matter of empty ritual.

In verse 2 David is seen fully defeating Moab also. The character of this enemy of God is defined for us in Jeremiah 48:11 "Moab has been at ease from his youth; he has settled on his dregs, and has not gone into captivity. Therefore his taste remained in him, and his scent has not changed." Moab is therefore a picture of such religion as is seen in Laodicea (Rev.3:14-22), self-satisfied, boasting in material riches, easy going, settling down in the world without the exercise of trying circumstances. His taste for the things of the flesh remains in him, and there is no change in his scent. He is a stranger to the change that new birth brings.

There may be a question as to what is literally meant by David's measuring them with a line (v.2), but the spiritual significance of this is important. The self-indulgent religion pictured by Moab has no concern for the discipline that keeps one within proper lines of limitation. Never having learned self-discipline, people of this kind will be made to feel the discipline of God in measuring them precisely as they are, when the Lord Jesus takes the reigns of government. Evidently two thirds were cut off in death as a result of this measuring, while one third were preserved alive. This seems to indicate that the Lord Jesus will clearly discern and divide between those who have given themselves up to self-indulgent religion and those who, though identified with such religion, are not wholly given up to it. This is observing the principle, "on some have compassion, making a distinction" (Jude 22).

Next we are told of David's defeating the king of Zobah, which was in northern Syria (v.3), as he (David) went to establish his authority in the area of the Euphrates River. David evidently desired to extend his kingdom as far as God had decreed Israel's boundaries will be eventually (Gen.15:18). Syria is a picture of the materialistic principle that absorbs all the blessings God gives and takes the credit for them as though they had originated them. Its name means exalted.

David captured from them 1000 chariots, 700 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers. What he did with the soldiers we are not told, but he hamstrung all the horses except sufficient for use in 100 chariots. Of course, the hamstrung horses could not again be used for war.

The Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer, but only to be defeated also by David, who killed 22,000 of them (v.5), and put garrisons in their country, subduing them and putting them under tribute (v.6). This again was a more complete victory than Saul had ever accomplished. The reason is simple and clear. The Lord was with David in all his wars.

Shields of gold (v.7) were not the proper possession of Hadadezer and his servants. For gold speaks of the glory of God, and Syria cannot honestly claim to be seeking God's glory as is true of God's chosen King, the Lord Jesus Christ. A large among of bronze was also taken from two of the cities of Hadadezer (v.8). This speaks of the holiness of God. Some religions claim to be the possessors of holiness, but again it is the proper possession of only the Lord Jesus, as He will prove when He takes His great power to reign. Mere human religion never uses holiness rightly, but abuses it.

Toi, king of Hamath (v.9) is typical of those Gentiles who will willingly submit to the authority of the Lord Jesus when He is manifested in glory. Hearing of David's conquest of Hadadezer, Toi sent his son to greet and congratulate David, and sent with him gifts of silver, gold and bronze. It was not necessary for David to take these things through warfare, for they were willingly given to him. Isaiah 60:3 addresses the Lord Jesus in regard to the day of manifestation: "Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising." David dedicated all these gifts to the Lord along with the silver and gold he had taken from other nations which he had subdued.

David's victories were many in his subduing the surrounding nations. Verse 13 speaks of his killing 18,000 Syrians in the valley of salt, which evidently enhanced his reputation. Then we are told that he put garrisons throughout all of Edom. Edom (which is only Adam with the vowels changed) is a picture of the flesh. While we are on earth the flesh will not leave us, but garrisons are necessary to restrain it from acting as it pleases. The authority of the Lord Jesus over His own involves His restraining hand to keep the flesh under control. In the millennial kingdom righteousness will not dwell (2 Peter 3:13), but "a King will reign in righteousness" (Isa.32:1): nations will be subdued and under the control of the Lord Jesus.

Verses 15-18 gives a summary of the administration of David in its righteousness and justice for all the people. Comparatively speaking, his reign was far more equitable than is common among nations. Yet David was guilty of sad failure too, so that he is only a faulty type of the Lord Jesus, who will reign in perfect righteousness. Joab was David's commander in chief of army, a typical soldier, hard and determined, not the kind of servant the Lord Jesus would choose. Jehoshaphat was recorder, a responsible position, requiring strict honesty in maintaining records. Zadok and Ahimelech were priests. Zadok is given a little more place in the history of David, yet the work of these priests does not seem to be given much significance. Seraiah was appointed as the scribe (or secretary), another important (though not prominent function. Benaiah (a trustworthy servant) was in charge of the Cherethites and Pelethites, David's bodyguard. David's sons too were given places of some prominence in government, as "chief ministers," though some of them were not qualified for such positions. Samuel's sons did not walk in Samuels ways (1 Sam.8:3), and Absalom certainly did not walk in David's ways (2 Sam.13:28-29). In the kingdom of the Lord Jesus there will be no favoritism shown: all will be perfect justice and truth.


When David's kingdom was established, he was not infatuated with his self-importance, as many men would be. Some would be inclined to get rid of every possible challenger of his position, particularly those of the house of Saul, who had reigned before him.

In contrast to this, David desired to show kindness to someone of the house of Saul who remained living (v.1). He proposed this "for Jonathan's sake," whose attachment to David was not to be forgotten. This history is a beautiful picture of the gospel of the grace of God, and reminds us of God's showing kindness to sinners "for Jesus' sake." A servant of Saul's house is found, named Ziba (v.2), whom David asks if there is one left of Saul's family to whom he may show the kindness of God.

Ziba knew of one son of Jonathan, lame on both his feet (v.3). We have read of him before in 2 Samuel 4:4, which tells us that he was crippled through a fall. This is spiritually true of all mankind. Because of Adam's fall, all his children have inherited his crippled, sinful condition. The man, Mephibosheth, was living at Lo Debar (meaning "no pasture") (v.4), in other words, a place of desolation with typically no food for the soul. We have all been at one time in this place, needing the grace of God.

The meaning of Mephibosheth's name is "shame out of the mouth." When the gospel of grace is preached, it is this "shame out of the mouth" that people usually strongly resist. They justify themselves rather than confessing the shame of their sinful condition. Their unseemly pride becomes the great hindrance to their being sinful condition. Their unseemly pride becomes the great hindrance to their being saved. When Mephibosheth was brought before David he did not act with the bold defiance of human pride, but fell before him prostrate (v.6). This is the only becoming attitude for anyone to assume before the face of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God. David addressed the cripple man by name, and he answered, "Here is your servant." No doubt he was afraid, when summoned into the king's presence, that he might even be put to death. Similarly, when we who know we are sinners are called to face our Creator, we are fearful of the eternal consequences. Just as Mephibosheth did not know the heart of David at first, so a guilty sinner does not at first realize how great is the love of God in Christ Jesus.

David immediately sets him at ease, telling him not to fear, and adding, "I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father's sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather; and you shall eat bread at my table continually" (v.7). What a lesson for us is this, that God is not only merciful in forgiving our sins, but in over abounding grace He enriches every believer with far more than he could ever imagine he would receive! He "has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph.1:3)

When David announces to Mephibosheth the many kindnesses he would show him, the response of Mephibosheth is just what is to be expected from everyone who comes to the Lord Jesus for salvation. Do we fully echo the words of Mephibosheth, "What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as 1?" A dog is unclean: being dead it is corrupt. Both things are true of us in our natural sinful condition.

The man who was virtually destitute is given abundant riches. David instructs Ziba, Saul's servant, to care for the land that Mephibosheth is given as an inheritance (v.9). Ziba in fact had 20 servants of his own, so that all would be well cared for, with the fruit of the land rendered to Mephibosheth in its due time. But not only were his needs to be met: he was to have the privilege of eating continually at David's table. The Lord Jesus does not only supply what is necessary for us: He desires our company in fellowship with Him. He is not only kind to us: He loves us. Mephibosheth ate at the kings table "like one of the king's sons" (v.11).

Verse 12 informs us that Mephibosheth had a young son named Micha, and that all who lived in the house of Ziba were servants to Mephibosheth. Then verse 13 reminds us again that Mephibosheth ate at the king's table continually, indicating that this is something that should engage our special attention. Again also it is mentioned that he was lame in both feet. Though the grace of God blesses us with innumerable blessings, this does not mean that all our health problems will disappear, as Paul was reminded when he prayed for relief from his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Cor.12:7-9) when the Lord answered him, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." The lame feet also illustrates the fact that the flesh remains in us while we live on earth. However, some one has well observed that when Mephibosheth ate at David's table, his feet would be hidden from view under the table. So long as we are honestly enjoying communion with the Lord Jesus, the flesh will not show itself.


The Ammonites were of the family of Lot (Gen.19:36-38). We have seen in 1 Samuel 2: 1 that in Saul's day their king was called "Nahash," which means "serpent." It is thought likely that this was a flattering title given to Ammonite kings because the serpent was considered to be the symbol of wisdom. Of course the wisdom of the world is "devilish" (James 3:15): this is not true wisdom, but subtlety. Ammon is the picture of satanically false religion. Its wicked cruelty was rewarded by a crushing defeat by Saul in 1 Samuel 11:11. if the "Nahash" then ruling was killed in that battle, then Nahash, the father of Hanun was likely his son. Yet it may be the same Nahash, who could be cunning enough to outwardly show kindness to David because of David's separation from Saul. At any rate, the kindness of an Ammonite is always deceitful, and David was not wise to seek to encourage friendship with this enemy of God.

David therefore erred in his too gracious desire to return this kindness by sending men with a message of sympathy concerning the death of the father of Hanun (v.2). The princes of Ammon were suspicious, just as people of false religions are suspicious of the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. False doctrines never give honest credit to the grace of God, but emphasize the legal principle of man's self-righteousness. Its motives are selfish, therefore it suspects the same selfish motives in others. These princes decide that David's men were merely sent as spies (v.3).

They therefore resort to the gross folly of treating David's men with insulting contempt, shaving off half of their beards and cutting off their garments in the middle as far as their hips, sending them away deeply humiliated (v.4). When David heard this he first gave the men a vacation at Jericho until their beards grew. Nothing is said of how David himself responded to this offensive insult that was leveled at him and at Israel, nor are we told of any move that David made with a view to attacking Ammon before Ammon began preparations for battle.

The Ammonites knew perfectly well that David and Israel would greatly resent this insult, and decided to prepare to take the offensive rather than to wait to defend themselves. They were not confident of their own power to defeat Israel, so that they sent to the Syrians to hire a total of 33,000 soldiers to help them. It may be that the Syrians wanted an opportunity to revenge their former defeat by Israel. These armies gathered together against Israel before we read of David's taking any action. The Ammonites came to "the entrance of the gate," but we are not told what city this was. The Syrians were in the field. Thus Israel was faced with a two-front formidable array.

When Joab went out to meet the Ammonites and Syrians, he evidently considered the Syrians a greater threat than the Ammonites, for he chose choice men to go with him against Syria while the remaining soldiers he sent with Abishai to engage the Ammonites (vs.9-10). They each agreed to help the other if the need arose (v.11). Though it seems doubtful that Joab was a born again man, his words. here (v.12) are good. He knew it was important to give God His place in the battle, and that God would work His own will. Applying this in a personal way is a different matter.

When Joab and his men attacked, the Syrians were quickly put to flight (v.13). We are not told at this time how many were killed, but the Ammonites, seeing the Syrians flee, were themselves taken with fear and turned to flee into the city, which appears to be an Ammonite city (v.14). The victory was gained with apparently not too much bloodshed, and Joab and his army returned to Jerusalem.

However, Syria was still not willing to admit total defeat. Hadadezer, the Syrian king of Zobah, of whom we have read in Chapter 8:3-8 as being soundly defeated by David, was evidently thirsting for revenge and mustered a larger army, enlisting Syrians from east of the Euphrates River to supplement his own large company (v.16).

When David received information of this assemblage, he did not wait for the Syrians to cross the Jordan to attack Israel, but gathered all Israel to cross the Jordan going eastward, to meet the enemy before they came near Jerusalem (v.17). This gave them no time to plot any special strategy. The battle was evidently not very prolonged. The Syrians again fled and David's men killed 700 charioteers and 40,000 horsemen, an enormous decimation of an army that had not previously boasted that total number (v.6). The Syrian commander, Shobach, was among those killed. The Ammonites had evidently faded into the background: they are not even mentioned in this battle, though they had started the whole thing.

Hadadezer and the kings under him could do nothing but accept defeat: they made peace with Israel and submitted to their authority, having been taught a serious lesson not to help the Ammonites (v.11).


The account with Ammon had by no means been settled, and in the Spring David sent Joab and the armies of Israel to battle the Ammonites and to besiege their capital city, of Rabbah. We are told specifically that this was the time when kings go out to battle, but David remained at home. lt is possible his servants advised this so that their king would not be exposed to danger (ch.18:3), but David's energy of faith had waned so that he was exposed to greater danger by remaining at home.

Evident idleness led to his shameful fall, for he rose from his bed in the evening while it was still light enough for him to see from his rooftop a woman bathing herself (v.2). Honest self-judgment should have turned his eyes and his thoughts away immediately, but he was allured by her beauty. Inquiring about her, he found she was another man's wife. Why did this fact not stop him? He already had seven wives. He knew the law of God, that an adulterer should be put to death (Deut.22:23-24), but took advantage of his own position as king to break over the law of God. The woman's husband, Uriah, was a soldier in Joab's army, therefore away from home, and David sent messengers to bring her to him. After their shameful guilt of adultery, she returned to her own home (v.4).

David may have hoped that this was the end of the matter, but God intervened in His righteous government. Bathsheba sent word to David that she had become pregnant (v.5). Alarmed at this, David conceived a subtle plan to keep his sin from being discovered. He sent orders to Joab to send Uriah back to Jerusalem. Uriah may have wondered what reason David had for bringing him back, for David only inquired how the battle was going, then told Uriah to go to his house and wash his feet, for a soldier's feet need special care. When Uriah left, David sent a present after him (v.8). Whether Uriah received it did not go there, but stayed overnight with others of David's servants in the servants' quarters.

On hearing this, David questioned Uriah as to why he did not go to his house when he had opportunity after some time of being away from home (v.10). Uriah's reply must have been a pointed lesson to David as to self restraint. He had decided that, since the ark and Israel were in temporary shelters, and that Joab and the army were camping in the open, engaged in serious combat for the sake of Israel, he was not going to relax and enjoy himself at home as though he was not a part of Israel defense: he would virtually remain "on guard."

When David failed to get Uriah to go to his home the first night, then he tried another tactic, telling Uriah to stay in Jerusalem for two more days, but having him eat and drink with him till Uriah became drunk, David thinking in this way to tempt Uriah to go to his home. But this plan failed too: Uriah again slept with the servants.

David's desperation then gave birth to the awful thought of plotting to have Uriah killed. Uriah was given a letter to carry to Joab that was intended to seal his own doom. This was the reward of his devotedness to the cause of Israel! David did not even try to veil his intentions concerning Uriah: he told Joab to place him in the front line of the fiercest battle, then have all others withdraw, so that Uriah would be left as the only target for the enemy, and thus be killed (v.15). Not only would David make himself guilty of the murder of Uriah, but he would implicate Joab and others in this too. Joab of course would say he had to obey his master, but in this case he ought to have had a conscience toward God that would not allow him to obey David.

However, in besieging the city, Joab put Uriah in the greatest place of danger, evidently close to the wall. Men from the city saw an advantage in coming Out to fight, having the protection of the city behind them, and Joab's plan worked well, not for the good of Israel, but to have Uriah killed. Others also fell before the enemy, but Joab knew this was a risk he must take in order to be sure that Uriah was killed (v.17).

Joab may not have been so quick to report to David the conduct of the war if it had not been for Uriah's death. When he sends a messenger, he instructs him to tell first the events that transpired, and wait for a response from David before saying any more (v.19). Then if David was angry because of Joab's endangering his army by coming too close to the wall (a tactic Joab, as well as David, knew was dangerous), the messenger was to add that Uriah the Hittite was dead also (v.21). Joab intended to impress on David the fact that he had planned this unwise ploy because David wanted Uriah killed.

However, the messenger did not follow Joab's orders precisely. He reported what had happened in the battle, that men had come out from the city and Israel pressed them close to the gate, with the result that archers could shoot from the wall, and some of David's men were killed. But he did not wait for a response from David before telling him that Uriah was among the dead (v.24). Perhaps he saw no reason for Joab's instructions and did not want to see David's anger rise.

Of course the only news that interested David at the moment was that of Uriah's death. Likely the messenger wondered why David did not criticize Joab's action in the battle, but David only mildly told the messenger to tell Joab not to be discouraged by this setback, because "the sword devours one as well as another" (v.25). In this way he tried to disguise the relief he felt at news of Uriah's death, but this would be plainly apparent to Joab. David only added that Joab should increase the intensity of the battle so as to overthrow the city.

Of course Bathsheba did not know that David had planned her husband's death. She did mourn for her husband for a certain time (v.26). When the days of mourning were over, David sent for her and took her as his eighth wife, and she bore a son. But we are assured that what David had done was evil in the sight of the Lord. This could not go unpunished.


David did not immediately confess his sin to God, and Psalm 32:3-4 shows that the Lord waited for some time at least before sending the prophet Nathan to him, likely over nine months, for a son had been born to Bathsheba. He was giving David opportunity to voluntarily confess his sin, and in that time, as David says, "day and night" God's hand was heavy upon him. How could his conscience have any rest? The misery of this experience continued until God finally sent Nathan to him with a very pointed parable. David did not know it was a parable concerning him until he was told it was.

The great difference between the rich man and the poor man is emphasized. The rich man had everything: the poor man had nothing but a little lamb which he had cared for tenderly, so that it was like a daughter to him. But when the rich man wanted a lamb to prepare a meal for a visitor, he stole the poor man's lamb in spite of having flocks of his own. In the parable there was just enough in the way of difference from David's case as to not make it too apparent. Yet the parable greatly understated the fact that David himself must be called upon to face, for the case of this rich man was not nearly so serious as that of David, who was guilty, not only of stealing, but of adultery and murder.

When David heard Nathan's parable he was indignant at hearing of the selfish greed of the rich man, and immediately passed judgment that the rich man Should be put to death for this, and that the poor man should be given a fourfold restoration (vs.5-6). David little realized that he was sentencing himself to death! How stern and decisive we can be as to the faults of others, while forgetting our own!

But Nathan delivers God's verdict with shocking force, "You are the man!" Faithfully he declares what God has to say to David. Six verses are occupied with the summary of evidence and of the solemn sentence of judgment that was to shake, not only David, but all his house. First God reminds David that He had in pure grace anointed him as king of Israel, delivering him from King Saul's efforts to kill him More than that, God had given Saul's house and his wives into David's keeping, and had also brought both Judah and all Israel into subjection to David In fact, He would have given David yet more if David felt he did not have enough (vs.7-8). All of this was to remind David how totally dependent he was on the great grace of God

But despite this abundant incentive to be fully subject to the authority of the Lord, David had despised the positive commandment of the Lord. He is told, "You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword: you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon" (v.9). The Lord's verdict is clear and positive: David is guilty. He could not dare to make the slightest excuse for himself.

Nor would he escape the terrible consequences of his crime. God would raise up serious trouble against him from within his own house. He had grossly violated the sanctity of another man's house. What a shock it must have been to David to be told that a neighbor of his would commit adultery with David's wives, not secretly, but with brazen contempt for David and with the full knowledge of the people. How much more shocking it would have been if at this time the Lord had told him that the neighbor would be his own son (ch.16:21-22)! David had sinned secretly, wanting to keep his actions from the people, but God would recompense him publicly before all the people (v.12). When the Lord Jesus warned his disciples against hypocrisy, He told them "There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known" (Luke 12:1). How deeply humiliating a principle! But the light of God must reveal everything as it really is. We do well to take this seriously to heart.

What could David say? Could he offer any excuse? Could he suggest that someone else might be partly to blame for his sin? Could he plead circumstances that aggravated the temptation to do evil, as is the general case with many criminals today? No! He stood exposed before God, and could only respond, "I have sinned against the Lord" (v.13).

This is no easy place for anyone to take, and specially for a king of a large nation. But simple honesty must acknowledge one's personal guilt, and plead no extenuating circumstances, no excuses whatever. This is one important reason that David is called a man after God's heart. Two psalms of David (32 and 51) show us something of the depth of his repentance, and that he took time in the Lord's presence alone to thoroughly judge the wickedness of what he had done. He was a totally broken man. This was much different than Saul's confession, "I have sinned; yet honor me now, please, before the elders of my people and before Israel" (1 Sam.15:30). Saul did not actually feel the dishonor he had done to God, but used a confession with the object of getting his own way.

Nathan knew that David's confession was real. He immediately assured David that the Lord had put away his sin, and he would not die, as justice would demand. Yet, while forgiveness is full and free, this did not absolve David from suffering the governmental results of his sin. As well as the ensuing trouble in his own house, he was told by Nathan that because his sin gave occasion to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme, the child that had been born to Bathsheba would die. Nathan, as a true prophet, has delivered only the message from God, then he leaves David alone with God.


God, in His faithful government, did not take the child away immediately, but inflicted him with serious illness. This deepened the soul-exercise of David, keeping him in prayer and fasting for the seven days of his son's illness. Evidently he thought that the earnestness of his prayer might change God's mind. His servants did everything they could to divert him from the intensity of his prostrate distress. But he would not listen until he heard them whispering together, and questioning them, found that the child had died.

When David know that his child had died, he changed his attitude completely, rose and washed, anointed himself and changed his clothes, went to the house of God and worshiped. Then he returned to his own house and ate (v.20) His servants were puzzled by this, for they had the usual impression that death would call for far more distress and sorrow than sickness would. To their questions David replied that while the child was alive there was some hope that he might recover, and to this end he had prayed and fasted. But now that death had taken place, prayer and fasting could never bring the child back again. He adds, "I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me." Actually, he might have realized that all his prayers and fasting would not result in the healing of his son, for God had positively told him through Nathan that the child would die.

However, though it was by means of wickedness that David obtained Bathsheba, yet the grace of God transcended this in David's later having a son by her, whom we are told "the Lord loved." In fact, Solomon was destined to succeed David as king of Israel, and from this line the official genealogy of Christ the Messiah is traced down to Joseph the husband of Mary, who as a virgin, gave birth to the Lord Jesus. Against all the darkness of man's sin, how beautifully the grace of God shines out!

Verse 26 brings us back to consider the conquest of the Ammonites, a matter that Should have engaged David's energies at the time he had been idle at home, which led to his sad fall. Joab and the army continued their fight and took possession of Rabbah, the royal city of Ammon. It seems his triumph was only partial at the time, however, evidently gaining an entrance into the city, but with "mopping up" operations still necessary to be carried out. Joab therefore sent to David, asking him to bring the rest of his army and finish the taking of the city. He tells David that if he (Joab) took the city it might be called after his own name (v.28). it is not likely that Joab was averse to such honor, but he evidently wanted to stir up David to a sense of his own responsibility.

David accepted the admonition (perhaps because the question of his own honor was involved), and went to battle, having evidently no difficulty in subduing the city. If he had gone with Joab in the first place, the victory may have been won more quickly, for David was a capable man of war. Typically, this was a victory over satanic doctrine, and God intended the entire army to be engaged in this, for it is no light matter to Him. All the people of God are to be fully united in such a conquest

The crown of the king of Ammon, weighing one talent of gold set with precious stones, was taken from his head and placed on David's head (v.30). Smith's Bible dictionary reckons a golden talent to weigh almost 200 pounds, though David's Dictionary lowers this to 131 pounds. It seems incredible that this would be sustained on a man's head, but perhaps it is what we call "an exceeding weight of glory!" We might well wonder at David's being so desirous of honor as to wear something like this.

The people of the city were taken Out and given manual employment with saws, sharp implements of iron (such as harrows, or possibly picks and axes), and in the manufacture of bricks. This was appropriate, for the Ammonites picture those who are high-minded and intellectual, priding themselves on their religious superiority. Such people need good, practical work to bring them down to a proper level. David did the same with the people of all the Ammonite Cities. This work being accomplished, he returned to Jerusalem with the army.


David did not have to wait long to see the sad governmental results of his sin begin to be manifest in his own family His son Ammon was so attracted by the beauty of his half sister Tamar that he became sick in entertaining thoughts of her, though he knew well that his lust was improper.

When a friend of his, Jonadab, enquired about the cause of his indisposition, he confided in him about his lustful thoughts. Jonadab had no sense of moral decency, and was so crafty as to suggest a deceitful means of Ammon's getting his sister alone into his bedroom and forcing her. Ammon foolishly followed his advice, not thinking of the probable consequences. The deceit he used reminds us of the deceit of David in trying to cover his own sin. in spite of the earnest pleading of Tamar not to force her, her warning him that this would bring disgrace upon his own head as well as covering with shame the one he thought he loved, he went through with his evil intentions. This too reminds us of David's virtually forcing Bathsheba, for he brought her to his own house and since he was king she no doubt thought she could not withstand him.

Ammon having been guilty of the cruel rape of Tamar, his professed love for her was proven utterly false, for he turned against her with vicious hatred. This is what will often occur when one is led by infatuation. He knew he had done evil, and the one he had wronged is the one who becomes the object of his worst hatred. From then on, every time he saw her, his conscience would burn. For this reason he wanted her out of his sight, just as some men are hateful enough to murder a woman after they have raped her.

Tamar realized and told Ammon that his hateful action in wanting to get rid of her was worse than his first evil (v.16). But he called his servant and told him to "put this woman out," and to bolt the door behind her. Then he was left to himself to face the bitter trauma of an accusing conscience.

But the anguish and shame of what Tamar had borne gave her grief and sorrow. She had to tear her beautiful robe with which the king's virgin daughters were clothed, put ashes on her head in token of humiliation and mourning, and went away crying bitterly. How tragically sad is the fact of the great number of young women who have been similarly humiliated by the cruelty of wicked men!

Absalom, her full brother, discerned immediately what had happened (v.20). He did not apparently show any anger. His character was more cold and calculating. He tried to quiet Tamar by telling her to forget it. But he himself did not intend to forget it, but to recompense Ammon in his own way.

David heard of the incident and was very angry (v.21). Ought it not rather to have deeply humbled him before God in brokenness of heart and feeling the guilt as though it had been his own? Surely he had not so quickly forgotten his own dreadful sin. He did nothing. In fact, Absalom also did nothing at the time, but nursed a bitter hatred toward Ammon (v.22) that would wait opportunity to do the worst.

Two full years did not serve to change Absalom's hatred toward Ammon. At this time he plotted to get Ammon on to his own property, and he invited David and all his brothers at a time when he was having his sheep sheared and would be realizing large profits. David considered this too much for Absalom to handle and declined the invitation. But at Absalom's insistence that Ammon and his other brothers be permitted to go, David consented (v.27). No doubt both David and Ammon were off guard by now, for they would expect nothing after two years had elapsed. But they little knew Absalom's character.

Sheep shearing was a time of celebration, and Ammon joined in the wine drinking without suspicion. Absalom did not himself commit the murder, but had his servants do this at the opportune time (vs.28-29), when the wine had dulled Ammon's senses. Notice two things here that remind us of David's sin. He had used wine to try to influence Uriah (ch.11:13), and he had killed Uriah by the hands of other men (ch.12:9). David's house was indeed suffering because of David's sin, and this was by no means the end.

The murder of Ammon was a shock to the other sons of David, who immediately fled from the scene of the crime (v.29), perhaps to remove themselves from any stigma of being linked with the murder, for their own lives were not threatened. But the report quickly reached David that Absalom had killed all the king's sons, not one being left. Such exaggerations are common when evil is reported. This news prostrated David with utter grief, as he tore his garments in token of humiliation and self-judgment before God (v.31). His servants followed him in tearing their garments, but remained standing.

Then Jonadab, David's nephew, the same young man who had given Ammon the deadly advice (v.35), told David that not all the king's sons were dead, but only Ammon, and that this murder had been determined by Absalom from the time that Ammon had forced his sister Tamar. Jonadab evidently showed no regret that he had influenced Ammon, and showed little sorrow at losing one who was his friend. Since he apparently knew of Absalom's intention, why did he not warn his friend Ammon?

Meanwhile, either Absalom's conscience or his fear of consequences drove him away from his own home. His father had not punished Ammon's wickedness: now Absalom had sinned in taking the law into his own hands, with the result that David did nothing about this either. His other sons return, all weeping, and David weeps with them. Absalom becomes a voluntary exile, going to Geshur, meaning "proud beholder" (v.37). This intimates the pride of observing others and condemning them, while seeing no wrong in self. In contrast to David, there is no indication that Absalom ever repented of his crime. He remained at Geshur for three years, during which time David longed after his son.


David's concern for Absalom became known to Joab. Joab was a man not too concerned about truth and justice, but rather about the outward prosperity of the kingdom of Israel, for he knew that his own position depended on this. He considered that if Absalom could be brought back, the kingdom would have a better appearance of unity under David. But he did not know what danger he was inviting when he employed a wise woman to speak to David by means of a parabolic form of speech that was cunningly conceived.

He asks the woman to act before David as though she was a mourner, having mourned for a long time for a dead relative. He told her what to say, and she was the kind of woman who could play the part well. When he came to David she appeared to be in deep distress, prostrating herself before him and entreating his help. In response to his question she answered that she was a widow having had two sons, and that the two had fought together in the field where no-one was present to intervene, and one had struck the other fatally.

Of course Joab meant this to apply to the case of Absalom's killing of Ammon. But the cases were not parallel. First, David had more than two sons. Secondly, they did not fight together: one had deliberately planned to kill the other and did so in cold blood, the other being totally off guard.

She says her whole family was determined that her remaining son should be put to death and this would leave her alone and with no heir. David's family had not demanded death for Absalom: in fact three years had elapsed, and people generally would not be thinking any more about the matter. No doubt Absalom's fear had kept him away all this time, and also David's own conscience (not his relatives) told him that it would not be right to receive Absalom back as though he was not guilty Yet neither David nor anyone else was demanding that Absalom should die.

David wisely told the woman to return to her home and wait for David's consideration of her case (v.8). but the woman wanted an answer immediately. She knew she could not afford to have David enquire of others about her case. Therefore she tells him, in effect, that she and her father's house would accept the blame for anything that might result from David's making a decision immediately, and he and his throne would be guiltless (v.9). How well she know how to influence David's feelings! Yet he ought to have known well that he could not depend only upon the witness of one woman who was manifestly partial to her own cause. Still, he went half way on her behalf, telling her that anyone who pressed her with this matter she should bring to David, and he would see that she was not pressured again.

Having gained this much ground, being assured that David would protect her, she would not desist until she had his assurance as to her son also. She pleads with him, appealing to his regard for the Lord, his God, that he would not permit the avenger of blood to destroy her son. Of course it was Absalom she had in mind, but no-one was urging that he should be destroyed. However, David, without any inquiry as to the full truth of the case, made a decision and gave her his word, binding it with an oath by God's name, that her son would not be harmed.

Her hardest task of getting this committal from David had been accomplished. Now she respectfully asks his permission to speak a further word; and takes advantage of this to apply David's committal to his relationship with Absalom. She asks him why he had planned such a thing against the people of God. This was bold language, and not an accurate representation of the facts, for David was not planning to kill Absalom. But she implied that people might think so because David had not brought Absalom back again. She refers to Absalom as "his (David's) banished." She speaks of the king as being "faulty" because his own pronouncement as to her son was not carried out with his own Son. But David should have seen that her whole comparison was incorrect: the cases were by no means parallel.

She uses truth in her argument, for in verse 14 she says, "we shall surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again." She is really asking, is there to be no recovery before the inevitable end of our lives in death? God does not take away a life, she says, but devises means by which His banished might not be expelled from Him. She seeks to express the truth of 2 Peter 3:9, that "God is not willing that any should perish," but she does not include with it "but that all should come to repentance." It is true also that God has, in the cross of Christ, devised a wonderful means of restoring banished, sinful souls. But even this does not apply to those who will not repent. This was the one fatal flaw in applying these things to Absalom. Even David knew perfectly well that Absalom had not shown any sign of repentance.

The wise woman continues to speak (in verses 15-17) as though she had accurately portrayed her own case, telling David that the people had made her afraid and this moved her to come to David, feeling she could possibly count on him to protect her and her son. Further than this, in verse17 she says she had told herself that she could have confidence in the word of the king to give her comfort in his discerning of good and evil. This was flattery in order to gain her point with David. She was really telling him that he was wise enough to discern that her argument was good, and to back this up she adds, "may the Lord your God be with you." She was the kind of woman who knew how to "wrap people around her finger."

Her persistence in transferring the whole matter to Absalom's case could not but raise David's suspicions that Joab was involved in this, for he knew that Joab wanted Absalom brought back to Jerusalem. In answer to his question about this, she now has to admit that the whole thing was planned by Joab, though she flatters David by telling him that he was as wise as an angel of God in his discerning of this.

But again David was not so wise in his acting before sober consideration of this matter before God. Wisdom would have discerned the serious discrepancies in Joab's illustration, and have left Absalom where he was until there was some evidence of repentance on his part. but David allowed his feelings for Absalom to take precedence, and told Joab to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem.

Joab was highly pleased that David had listened to his advice and even prostrated himself in thanksgiving before him (v.22). How mistaken he was in thinking that such action would consolidate the unity of the kingdom! Outwardly it might seem so, but Absalom's haughty pride was a grave danger to the kingdom, and Joab was totally blind to this. David however still had a very serious reserve, telling Joab to send Absalom to his own home, but refusing to see Absalom himself (v.24). How could he rightly express any fellowship with Absalom when the young man was still hardened in self-righteousness?

We are told now Absalom's attractive physical appearance, so outstanding that he drew the attention of all the people. "From the sole of his foot to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him." Physically this was true, but Absalom ought to have known that spiritually "from the sole of the feet even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrifying sores" (Isa.1:6). He was evidently proud of the growth of his hair also, for he let it grow for a year before cutting it. Long hair is a glory to a woman, but a shame to a man (1 Cor.11:14-15). It is intended to signify subjection, but this was only hypocrisy on Absalom's part. So proud was he of its luxuriant growth that he weighed his hair when he cut it! its weight was the equivalent of 5 ½ pounds! Philippians 3:19 speaks of such people as those "whose glory is in their shame." it is added also that Absalom had three sons and a beautiful daughter whom he named after his sister Tamar (v.27).

Two more years passed, which made five years in which David had been waiting for some sign of repentance on Absalom's part. Absalom knew perfectly well why his father did not want to see him, but he apparently counted on time healing the rupture without his acknowledging any wrong.

Finally Absalom took the initiative, sending for Joab to act as an intermediary. But Joab would not come. Twice he refused to come to Absalom. But Absalom was a determined young man, and his purposes would not be served until he was restored fully into the favor of the king -- at least outwardly before the people. He told his servants to set fire to a field of ripened barley belonging to Joab (v.30). This brought Joab to Absalom in protest, though we do not read of Absalom 's ever paying Joab for his loss.

Absalom however insists to Joab that he should be permitted to see David's face. He says it would be better for him to be still in Geshur if this is not to be allowed. But his attitude was still defiant and self-righteous. He makes not the slightest admission of wrong on his part, but says that if there was any iniquity in him, the king could execute him. The king, being informed by Joab of Absalom's demand, yielded to this pressure, though we may be sure it must have been with uneasy thoughts. Joab called for Absalom to come to David, and "the king kissed Absalom" (v.33). This is all that is said. There is no mention of any pleasant conversation between them. How different the case of the prodigal son when he returned in genuine repentance. His father "ran and fell on his neck and kissed him" (Luke 15:20). But David sought to show love while compromising righteousness. This could not possibly bring good results, as the following history proves.


Absalom knew how to take full advantage of his outward acceptance by his father Now there was no difficulty in beginning to exalt himself in the eyes of Israel. His chariots and horses and fifty men to run before him (v.1) were all intended as a show of his importance. If David was troubled by this, we read nothing of it.

More than this, Absalom was adept in influencing the people personally. Others ought to have seen through his activities, and to have warned David, but he got away with his intercepting of people who came early in the morning to the gate of the city to look for judgment in cases of personal problems. He would be most friendly, beginning by asking where their home was. Then whatever grievance they had, he told them their case was right, but added that there was no-one appointed by the king to handle these matters. If this was true, Absalom should have suggested to the king that he should appoint someone to this work, but his object was to plant in the people seeds of discontent and distrust toward David and to worm his way into the affections of the people. He succeeded in this without David apparently suspecting anything (v.6).

In verse 7 it is said that after 40 years Absalom approached the king. It is considered that this may be an error in copying from the earliest manuscripts, and that four years seems more likely. Though he had only treachery in his heart, Absalom was able to speak in such a pious way as to deceive David. He said he had vowed a vow to the Lord in Geshur to the effect that he would serve the Lord if the Lord brought him back to Jerusalem. Now he wanted to go to Hebron to fulfil the vow. David still does not suspect his hypocrisy, and does not even question as to why he was choosing Hebron as a place to serve the Lord.

But Absalom was making the most solid plans he knew how to. Hebron was the first place in which David reigned, and Absalom was making an appearance of returning to the original principles of the kingdom. Also, the place would be enshrined in people's affections because of its close association with Abraham's history. He went to Hebron and sent spies throughout all Israel to inform them that, when the trumpet sounded, Absalom would be reigning in Hebron. When he left Jerusalem he also brought 200 men with him who had no idea what he had in mind, but followed him apparently because they like him (v.11).

How great are the multitudes today who are merely followers of men! They have no serious exercise as to the principles of the truth of God, but are influenced by what appeals to their own comfort or convenience. In many cases their choice is not only unwise but links them with what is absolute wickedness in opposition to God, as was true of these followers of Absalom.

Absalom then sent for Ahithophel, who was David's counsellor, and who willingly came. No doubt he had strong feelings against David that had been suppressed until now, for his later advice to Absalom was to brazenly use David's concubines, then to concentrate only on killing David (ch.16:21-22; 17:1-3). The reason for this strong enmity was likely that Ahithophel was the grandfather of Bathsheba ( and 23:34). In this God was again making David feel the results of his great sin. Absalom's conspiracy was well planned, and it grew strong with many people carried by the current.

Having been unaware of all this, David was finally awakened by a messenger who told him that the hearts of the men of Israel had been led to follow Absalom in revolt. Of course David realized that an attack on the city of Jerusalem was imminent. But he was not prepared to defend the city, nor to send an army to meet an attacking company. His only recourse was to flee the city. David did have servants who were not so easily moved by Absalom's popularity, and the king left with his household, though leaving ten concubines to take care of the house (v.16). On the outskirts of the city David took time to review all the people who were with him. His servants who had remained loyal to him are mentioned as passing before him, then the Cherethites and the Pelethites who had been chosen as David's bodyguard. After these came 600 men from Gath, led by Ittai (v.18).

Of course Gath was a prominent Philistine city, and it would be an unusual thing for Philistines to stand true to Israel at a time like this. Not many Palestinians today would be devoted to Israel! David therefore questions Ittai as to why he was going with him, since he was a foreigner and had only recently identified himself with David. David gave him fullest opportunity to return with his brethren and be identified with whatever king reigned in Jerusalem (which appeared to be Absalom at this time.).

However, Ittai shows convincing evidence that the Lord had worked within his heart to give him a genuine love for David (v.21). He speaks with firm decision that, as the Lord lives and David lives, he chooses to be in the place where David is, whether this should mean life or death.

In this present day of grace it is sometimes refreshing to witness cases similar to that of Ittai. Some who have had an outwardly near position in the testimony of God for some years, have, when troubles came, given up any such testimony, while others who have newly come in fresh, vital affection toward the Lord, are not moved by difficulties, but prove their stedfast devotion by whole heartedly continuing with the Lord. David therefore welcomes the help of lttai and his men (v.22).

There was deep distress and weeping as the people and the king himself crossed over the brook Kidron. Zadok and Abiathar the priests and all the Levites with them had also come, bearing the ark of God. but David realized that he had no right to have the ark accompany him. He knew he was under the chastening hand of God and should bow to this rather than giving the people the impression that the ark should leave its proper place in Jerusalem just because David was in exile. He tells Zadok and Abiathar to return with the ark, and that God could simply restore David to Jerusalem if it was His will, while if He did not do so, His will was still to be accepted He also told them to keep their two sons with them and use them to send David any useful information (vs.27-28)

In all of this David was no doubt showing a proper spirit of submission and faith, and in verse 30 we are told that he showed signs of penitence, having his head covered in humiliation and his feet bare, an admission of weakness and dependence before God, not preparing for battle. When he heard that Ahithophel had joined Absalom's conspiracy he was no doubt alarmed, for he knew Ahithophel to be a shrewd and capable counsellor. He prayed immediately that God would turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness (v.31).

However, instead of leaving this matter entirely with God, David saw an opportunity, when Hushai came to him, of planting his own secret agent in Absalom's court. Hushai was also a counsellor, and though he was willing to suffer rejection along with David, David told him he has no need of him, but that if he returns to the city and professes allegiance to Absalom, he might defeat the counsel of Ahithophel (v.34). This was not faith on David's part, for he told Hushai to lie to Absalom in declaring that he would be Absalom's servant just as he had been David's servant. Actually, the matter did work out as David hoped, but he might have seen God work in a more miraculous way if he had simply trusted Him.

David had already arranged that Ahimaaz and Jonathan could bring secret intelligence from the priests, so he tells Hushai to use them in order to give David information. Naturally speaking, David was able to make well grounded plans in the very short time he had. Hushai then returned to Jerusalem, and in a short time Absalom with all his retinue walked in to take possession of the city without any resistance.


Passing over the mountain, David was met by Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who had with him two donkeys carrying a large provision of bread, raisins and summer fruits, as well as a skin of wine. Questioned by David Ziba told him that these things were for David's men. David was puzzled that Mephibosheth's servant should come with these things that evidently belonged to Mephibosheth yet Mephibosheth was not there. Ziba then reported that Mephibosheth had chosen to remain in Jerusalem with the expectation that the kingdom of Israel would be handed over to him (v.3).

David ought to have immediately suspected that there was something questionable in Ziba's words. Ziba was evidently not bringing these things with Mephibosheth's permission. But more than this, Mephibosheth's attitude toward David had before proven admirable. Would he change so drastically? Also, how would he ever expect to have the kingdom when he was crippled on both feet and Absalom was an attractive, popular man who had gained the admiration of the people? In fact, later it was proven that Ziba's accusation was totally false (ch.19:24-30). He had taken advantage of Mephibosheth's lameness to see that he had no way of coming to David. But Mephibosheth had been in such mourning for David's absence that he had not trimmed his beard nor cared for his feet nor even washed his clothes all the time David was away. David had not fully appreciated Mephibosheth's attachment to him, as he ought to have.

However, David was so deceived by Ziba's false words that he judged the matter without inquiry. He told Ziba that now all Mephibosheth's property was to belong to Ziba. This was an unjust judgment simply in the fact that he was taking away from Mephibosheth all that rightly belonged to him and giving it to a servant who had no right to it at all. Of course it was worse than this, as the subsequent history proved. The fawning reply of Ziba was only hypocrisy, "I humbly bow before you, that I may find favor in your sight, my lord, 0 king." In this matter, David's wisdom failed him greatly.

ln contrast to David's sad failure of wisdom in the case of Ziba's deception, in the succeeding incident David shows a wisdom and self-judgment that is most commendable. A man named Shimei, of the house of Saul, came out from Bahurim cursing David and throwing stones at him and his servants (v.6). His words too were insulting and bitter, calling David a "bloodthirsty man" and " a man of Belial" (worthlessness), and declaring that the Lord was now bringing judgment on David because David reigning in place of Saul. He was inferring that David was guilty of the deaths of the men of Saul's house, and now God was punishing him for this.

What he was saying was not actually true, but David discerned that there was some underlying truth m the fact of David's having shed blood without proper cause. Abishai was anxious to immediately cut off Shimei's head, and urged David to let him do it (v.9). But David's response is one that every believer should take deeply to heart. He refuses the very suggestion, for he sees beyond Shimei, to realize that God had told him to curse David. Of course Shimei's bitter attitude did not have God's approval, but God had not hindered him from cursing, and David knew that he deserved cursing, even though Shimei was going beyond what was even true. How much better then for David to learn from God in this matter rather than to silence Shimei by killing him. In fact, he says that his own son Absalom was doing far worse than Shimei, seeking David's life (v.2). He had already been mourning before God in recognizing God's serious dealings with him in this painful experience. If he was to bow to God's governing hand in Absalom's case, then surely he was to do the same in the case of Shimei.

What he says therefore in verse 12 was true. If one bows to the government of God, to leave matters in the hand of God in such cases is the way of true blessing in the end. David proved it in experience.

David's attitude therefore stands in sharp contrast to that of Shimei, who had reason to be surprised that David did not lower himself to the same offensive bitterness in defending himself. Yet Shimei continued his cursing, throwing stones and kicking up dust for some time. Shimei was evidently very certain that David would never regain the throne and therefore did not hesitate to abuse him when he was down. When David did return, Shimei found himself humiliated to the pont of having to recant and apologize to David (ch.19:18-20).

After the long day's trip the king and all the people with him became weary and took time while still on the road to refresh themselves.

In the meantime Absalom , Ahithophel and the many conspirators had taken possession of Jerusalem. Absalom was surprised by the presence of Hushai, who greeted him enthusiastically, "Long live the king! Long live the king!" Of course we know that Hushai really meant King David, but he knew Absalom would not see through this. Yet Absalom knew that Hushai was a close friend of David. and asks the pointed question, "is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?" (v.17). Hushai's answer, not at all being a lie, was yet a masterpiece of deception. He knew Absalom's pride and took advantage of this in his speaking. "No," he says, "but whom the Lord and this people and all the man of Israel choose, his will I be, and with him I will remain." Of course Absalom thought this applied him. Hushai had confidence that really applied to David. More than this, he adds "Whom should I serve? Should I not serve in the presence of his son? As I have served in your father's presence, so will I be in your presence." This was so worded that Absalom thought Hushai would serve in devotion to Absalom, but Hushai had in mind that even in Absalom's presence he would still be serving David, just as he had done before. Absalom accepted him without further question.

The counsel of Ahithophel to Absalom in verse 21 can only be disgusting to any upright heart, but Ahithophel was determined to sacrifice decency to his cause of vindictive hatred against David. He wanted to be sure that the rift between Absalom and David would be irreconcilable. This was necessary if Absalom's kingdom was to be established. Absalom accepted his counsel and a tent was spread on the top of the house (the very place where David's sin with Bathsheba began), where everyone knew that Absalom was committing fornication with David's concubines. Thus it was made clear that Absalom was absolutely rejecting his father. Yet what a reminder is this of God's words to David in chapter 11:11-12 that the results of David's sin would be emblazoned before the eyes of the people!

Verse 23 assures us that the counsel of Ahithophel was regarded with highest respect, as though he had the wisdom of God behind him David had valued his counsel, and so it was with Absalom also. Of course he did not speak as God's oracle, but his counsel was given with unusual discernment of what would best serve the interests of the kingdom, for he saw his own interests as bound up with this.


Ahithophel discerned clearly that if Absalom was to gain any victory over David he must strike quickly. Satan knows that the only way to establish the anti-christ in power is to destroy the true Christ. So Ahithophel urges that he be allowed to take with him 12,000 men (in contrast to the few hundred who had gone with David) and immediately the same night pursue David. He well reasons that such an attack would scatter David's men and leave David unprotected, so that they could kill him alone. Thus he says, "I will bring back all the people to you," as though the people had left Absalom! (v.3). Wickedness can succeed only by striking quickly: it cannot afford to wait for calmly judicious deliberation. This counsel pleased Absalom and his men, for this was the plan most likely to succeed.

However, Absalom considered it an advantage to have another counsellor also, and he called for Hushai and told him what Ahithophel had counselled, asking him if he concurred with this or not. Of course Hushai knew it was the best thing from Absalom's point of view, but he was there to serve David. He therefore tells Absalom that Ahithophel's counsel "is not good at this time." He gives reasons that were convincing to Absalom, first, that David and his men were men of war and at the time enraged in their minds like a bear robbed of her cubs, so that their resistance would be furious. But also, that David would be hidden somewhere apart from the people, for he knew how to survive alone in rugged circumstances. Then if at first there was slaughter of some of Absalom's men, the people would hear the report of it (v.9), and tend to become apprehensive and fearful. He pressed the fact that, all Israel knew David's reputation for powerful conquest and that he was surrounded by valiant men (v.10).

Then he uses his most convincing argument so far as Absalom was concerned, giving his counsel that Absalom should take time to have all Israel gathered in subjection to him, the whole country from Dan to Beersheba being persuaded that Absalom was the best choice for king (v.11). Then when the kingdom was in this way established, they would have no difficulty in eventually apprehending David (vs.12-13). Hushai embellishes this with some details of how they would complete the matter, since by then Absalom would be in undisputed authority over the country.

Hushai knew perfectly well that this time delay would benefit David rather than Absalom. But he also knew that Absalom was proud enough to think that all Israel would gladly welcome him as king when they had considered the matter. Thus Absalom's pride was his downfall. He and all his men accepted the counsel of Hushai. The self-confidence of Absalom and his followers stands in sharp contrast to David's humble confidence in God. it is added also the Lord had purposed to defeat the wise counsel of Ahithophel in order that Absalom might be brought down to ruin.

Hushai then gave information to Zadok and Abiathar as to the counsel of Ahithophel and his contrary counsel, so that David would be urged to put as much distance as he could between his company and Absalom, rather than hiding in a nearby proximity. The message then was to be relayed to Jonathan and Ahimaaz by a girl. No doubt this was considered safer than using a man. Jonathan and Ahimaaz had remained outside the city to avoid any kind of suspicion (v.17). However, a boy saw them as they started on their way to meet David, and he told Absalom.

They apparently knew they had been seen, and when they came to Bahurim considered it necessary to hide. A woman was friendly, and had them go down a well, which she covered over, spreading grain on top of the covering. This of course was very effective, so that when Absalom's servants came, it was plain to them that the young men were not there. When they asked, the woman told them they had gone over the water brook. Of course their search was fruitless, so they returned to Jerusalem.

When all was clear, Jonathan and Ahimaaz came up out of the well and made their way to David, who by this time had descended to the Jordan valley. They urged him to cross over the Jordan, for Ahithophel had counselled immediate pursuit and the killing of David. But Hushai's counsel had delayed this, therefore there was time for David to cross over if Absalom and his men had immediately pursued, they might have caught them as they were crossing the river and therefore would be unable to conceal themselves. They took advantage of the respite therefore, and all had crossed over the river by daylight of the following morning.

Ahithophel was clear thinking enough to realize that, since his counsel had been refused, the cause of Absalom was totally lost. He knew that Absalom could succeed only if David were killed, and David's having time to regroup would be fatal to Absalom's cause, for the people generally would not be persuaded to follow Absalom in preference to David, in spite of the pride of Absalom in expecting this. Therefore Ahithophel returned to his home, put his affairs in order and committed suicide by hanging himself (v.28). Tragic end for an intellectual man!

David went on north to Mahanaim. No doubt some time had elapsed before Absalom and his army crossed the Jordan also and encamped in the area of Gilead, not far from David. Verse 25 tells us that Absalom made Amasa captain of his army, a man who had a certain relationship with Joab.

From areas east of the Jordan there was time given for three friends of David to bring supplies to him. Shobi was of the people of Ammon, the nation David had subdued with much slaughter. They must have had servants with them, for they brought beds, basis, earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds, honey, curds, sheep and cheese (vs.27-29). This consideration of the needs of David's men was most commendable and must have been deeply appreciated by David.


David had taken full advantage of the delay that Hushai had counselled to Absalom, with large numbers of the people being gathered to David. Now the time comes for war with Absalom, who has considered himself strong with support of many of Israel also. David divides his men into three bands, well organized and ready for battle. Joab is in charge of one band, Abishai his brother in charge of a second, and Ittai over the third.

David's purpose to go out to battle also was however strongly opposed by his men, who knew that Absalom was most anxious that David should be killed (v.3). If his men should have to flee, David would be more likely to be caught and killed. At their insistence he agrees to remain behind (v.4). However, he urged all three leaders to deal gently with Absalom. Evidently he was confident that they would gain the victory, but was also concerned about his son who only wanted to kill his father. It is an instance where personal feelings were stronger than his sense of justice. His orders were heard by the people also (v.5).

The battle took place in the woods of Ephraim, so that evidently both opposing armies crossed back over the Jordan before the engagement took place (v.6).

The victory of David's men was swift and decisive, with 20,000 of Absalom's army killed in one day. The battle was scattered over the whole countryside, and rather than the woods being a protection for those who fled, we are told the woods devoured more than were killed by the sword. Clearly, it was God's intervention that caused this. If others were riding on animals, as Absalom was, the frightened animals might well have done the same as Absalom's mule, with riders striking their heads on branches etc., and being killed.

God's solemn judgment is clearly seen in the case of Absalom, whose mule, running under a terebinth tree, left him hanging by his head in the branches (v.9). Evidently a forked branch caught him around the neck. What shock and injury he had sustained would leave him too weak to extricate himself. Thus God saw fit to bring down the headstrong pride of the would-be king!

One of Joab's men informed him of his seeing Absalom caught in this way. Joab immediately censored the man for not killing Absalom, in fact telling him he would have give him ten shekels of silver and a belt if he had done so. The man strongly resisted this, saying he would not kill Absalom for 1000 shekels of silver, since David had plainly commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai in the hearing of all the people not to touch Absalom. The man positively tells Joab also that Joab himself would take sides against him if he had killed Absalom. The man evidently knew something of Joab's character!

Joab impatiently set the man aside, and took three spears and thrust them into Absalom's heart in the tree. Then Joab's ten-man bodyguard made sure of completing the death of Absalom. Of course, Joab and all his men knew that Absalom was the one cause of this conspiracy against David, and that it was virtually imperative that Absalom should be killed if David was to be preserved.

Since Absalom was dead there was no longer need to pursue his followers. Joab blew a trumpet to signal a cessation of warfare. Absalom was given no honor whatever in his burial (v.16). The soldiers threw his body into a large pit in the woods and covered it with a very large heap of stones. Perhaps Absalom had expected that others would give him no honor in his death, for he had earlier set up a pillar with the object of perpetuating his name, since he had no son (v.18). He sought his own honor, as thousands of others have done both before and after him, and his monument was really only a reminder of his haughty, proud character and of his ignominious death. What an example he was of the Lord's warning words, "Whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased" (Luke 14:11). In contrast, let us follow the example of the Lord Jesus, of whom it was preeminently true, "He that humbleth himself shall be exalted."

News of the battle against Absalom must be sent to David. Ahimaaz the son of Zadok the priest was eager to bear the message, but Joab knew him to be a tender-hearted man, and that he would not want to tell David of the death of Absalom. Therefore Joab chose another man, the Cushite, to do so. He immediately began his long run. But Ahimaaz was anxious to give good news to David, and urged Joab to also let him run. 0 course this was not necessary, but at the persistence of Ahiumaaz, Joab gave him permission (v.23). Apparently the Cushite had taken a mountain trail, which would be rugged, though possibly shorter than by way of the plain, which Ahimaaz chose. This would at least be easier running, and the speed of Ahimaaz was such as to out-distance the Cushite.

David was waiting anxiously for news, sitting between the gates of the city. As the watchman saw a man running alone, David knew that he was bringing news. As he came nearer the watchman saw another following. Then the watchman discerned the first to be Ahimaaz, and David; knowing the man, expected him to bring good news.

Indeed, Ahimaaz was so anxious to set the king's mind at rest that he called out "All is well." Then he gives God the honor for having delivered up the man who had raised revolt against David. Of course, David would know by this that the victory was decisive. However, his greatest concern was for his son, and he asks, "Is the young man Absalom safe?" Ahimaaz knew he had been killed, but was afraid to tell David this, so he rather told him that he had seen a great tumult, but did not know anything of its outcome. In other words, the goodness of the character of Ahimaaz influenced him to compromise the faithfulness of the message.

The Cushite, closely following, also first gave David the good news of the victory of his armies, but at David's questioning as to Absalom, he told him, "May the enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against you to do you harm, be as that young man is!" No doubt this way of speaking was just as considerate as can be expected in telling the truth of the matter.

David's appreciation of the victory was apparently completely overshadowed by his grief at the death of Absalom. No doubt if Absalom had shown any sign of faith in the living God, David may have had some consolation in the fact of his death, but it was sorrow unspeakable to think of Absalom's going out into the darkness of eternal judgment. David's sorrow for his son utterly overwhelmed him, and he wept with an anguish that keenly wished he had died in Absalom's place. If this had happened, Absalom would have had further time in which to repent, but Israel would have been subjected to the cruelty of his ruling them according to his own will, with God firmly ignored. But God knew Absalom would never repent: he had formed a determined self-righteous character. Though David was hurt deeply, yet to bow under God's hand would have been wiser than his loud mourning before the people, and a true evidence of faith.


Joab hears of David's mourning for Absalom, and the people take this as an indication that perhaps it was wrong to win the battle. At least it subdued their pride of winning. We all need to take to heart the exhortation of Proverbs 24:7, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls." While we may be rightly thankful that the Lord Jesus will subdue all His enemies, yet we ought to feel the sorrow of their having to be judged. In some measure this was no doubt good for the people, but David carried it too far.

Joab, hard, callous warrior as he was, had no sorrow whatever for Absalom; he was glad he was dead, and had no sympathy for David nor for his mourning. He came to the king with sharply reproving words (vs.5-6), telling him that he had disgraced his servants who had saved his life and the lives of his entire household. In fact, he goes further, declaring that it is evident to Joab that David loved his enemies and hated his friends. Of course it was true that Absalom was David's enemy, but Joab did not consider at all the fact that Absalom was also David's son. He tells him that if all David's men had died and Absalom had lived, David would have been pleased But if this had happened, David too would soon have been killed.

He strongly urged David to cease his mourning and go to the gate to speak encouraging words to his servants. He added the strong warning that otherwise David would lose the allegiance of all his people that very night. Joab swore by the Lord in declaring this (v.7), though he was exaggerating, in which case we should never dare to use the Lord's name Still, David was shaken enough to do as Joab demanded, and went to sit in the gate. This drew the people back from their tents to come to listen to what the king might have to say, but his words are not recorded. Of course David was still in some town east of the Jordan River. Apparently scripture does not consider the name of the town important enough to mention it.

The victory over Absalom's rebellion being accomplished, there was still the necessity of some work in the hearts of the people who had sided with Absalom before David would be welcomed back as king. There was disputing, but God moved in such a way as to exercise them to realize they had no other leader (now that Absalom was dead) except the king who had before saved them from their enemies. Many were asking why David was not therefore brought back to Jerusalem.

David, hearing of this movement among the people, sent to Zadok and Abiathar, asking them to speak to the elders of Judah, to ask them as to why they were so slow in bringing the king back when the common people were urging it. He presses the fact too that Judah was David's own tribe, virtually his bone and his flesh. Why when the delay? He also uses a further influencing tool, by declaring that Amasa should be appointed commander of his army in place of Joab. This was rather a bold step on David's part, for Amasa had sided with Absalom in his conspiracy, and it might be a serious question as to whether he could he trusted as commander of David's army. But David wanted to show a conciliatory spirit toward those who had joined Absalom, and he also considered that Joab had proven himself too hard a man to rightly represent the king as commander of his army. He had spoken of Joab's hardness before (2 Samuel 3:28-29; 38-39); and at this time his thoughts were no doubt further aggravated by his knowledge that Joab had killed Absalom in spite of David's charge to him.

The hearts of the people were swayed by this message, and though previously ready to reject David, they send word to him to return to Jerusalem with his servants (v.14). The message to him is followed by a gesture of good will by the men of Judah in coming to meet him, even crossing the Jordan in order to escort him back.

As to individuals, Shimei is first mentioned as coming to meet the king, but with him 1000 men of Benjamin, all accompanying the men of Judah. Then Ziba is spoken of, with his sons and servants. He had before come to the king when he fled, now apparently went over Jordan before David. The king's household was brought across the Jordan by ferryboat.

Shimei, who had cursed David when he was in deep distress, comes to meet him with a totally different attitude. Of course, he was afraid that he might suffer some just consequences of his wickedness now that David had regained his throne. He falls down before the king and confesses his wrong in the way he had insulted him, asking him not to impute this iniquity to him or remember against him the wrong he had done. He says he knows that he had sinned, therefore he is the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet the king. We are told in Chapter 16:5 that Shimei was of the house of Saul, which is of course from Benjamin, and verse 16 says he was a Benjamite. It seems strange therefore that he would speak of himself as being of the house of Joseph.

Abishai, as zealous and harsh as his brother Joab, urges David that Shimei should be put to death because he cursed the Lord's anointed. But David decisively reproves Abishai for his attitude, for he has no intention of putting anyone to death now that God has in grace restored him to the throne. If he thought that it was his own ability or prowess that had recovered his authority, he might be likely to take advantage of his authority, but he knew it was God who had made him king, and on this occasion at least he wanted to rightly represent God. He tells Shimei he will not die. David would not, for his own sake, take revenge, though later, when nearing death, he charged Solomon to see that Shimei suffered for his wickedness (1 Kings 2:8-9). This was simple righteousness, for after David's death, there would be no question of David's merely seeking revenge. Similarly, God may allow evil men to live today, but future eternal judgment awaits them.

Another individual of a different character (though also of Saul's house) now comes to David. Mephibosheth had been evidently able to find help to enable him to come down to the Jordan to meet David. He had not cared for his lame feet nor trimmed his moustache nor washed his clothes during all the time that David had been away. This itself was fullest proof before David's eyes that Ziba's report of Mephibosheth had been false. Mephibosheth had no aspirations whatever to be king. When David questions him as to why he did not go with David (v.25), his answer is quite simple. He had told his servant Ziba that he wanted a donkey to ride to follow David, but Ziba deceived him, so that he was given no means of coming to David at that time. What he says as to Ziba's slandering him is plainly true, and he declares his deep appreciation of David himself, as though he were an angel of God, remembering that David had shown him unusual grace at a time when Saul's house was in danger of extermination (v.28). He tells David therefore that he has no right to expect anything of him.

David's answer to Mephibosheth was sadly lacking in grace and truth. Evidently David was irritated because he did not like to admit his blunder in accepting Ziba's slander of Mephibosheth. He ought to have apologized to Mephibosheth for this, and to have faced Ziba with the seriousness of his falsehood, but he dismissed Mephibosheth with no real courtesy, and told him he had decided that he and Ziba should divide the property that actually belonged to Mephibosheth, but which David had assigned to Ziba when he brought his false report. Though David is a type of Christ, yet in this case he badly misrepresented the righteousness of the Lord Jesus in the administering of his kingdom.

How much better than this was Mephibosheth's response to David in this matter. He was not interested in the property, but in David himself. Let Ziba take all the land, he says, since David had come back in peace to his own house. Mephibosheth had not asked for his land back, though he was certainly entitled to all of it. He does not even suggest that Ziba should be punished for his falsehood and for his greed, but is willing to let him take everything. This is a refreshing picture of true Christian character today, for Christ Himself should certainly be "everything" to us. One would think that when David heard this he would be deeply ashamed of the irritable way in which he had spoken to Mephibosheth.

David was much more king in his treatment of Barzillai, whose devotedness brought him to show his thankfulness for David's return, and accompany him over the Jordan (v.31). His riches had enabled him to furnish David with supplies during his exile from Jerusalem, and now David wants to return his kindness by providing for Barzillai at Jerusalem. But Barzillai wisely declines this. At his advanced age of 80 years there was no good reason for his leaving his accustomed home to seek to enjoy the pleasures of royal living. He would go across the Jordan in order to enjoy the king's company for this brief time, but desired to return to his own home (vs.36-37). However, he asks that his servant Chimham should be given the favor of the king's kindness in this way. The younger man would no doubt have opportunity of advancement when brought to the king's court. Barzillai requests that David do for him as David saw fit. But David answers that he would do for Chimham whatever Barzillai desired, and anything more that he might request. Leaving David after crossing the Jordan, he would of course have to return back over the Jordan to his home in Gilead (v.39).

Traveling south the king follows the river to Gilgal, being escorted by the men of Judah and "half the people of Israel." Ironically, it is at Gilgal that the fleshly quarrel breaks out between the Israelites and the men of Judah (vs.41-43). Gilgal was the place of judgment of the flesh -- its cutting off by circumcision, -- and yet there the selfishness of the flesh on both sides is seen in its most repulsive character. Israel accuses Judah of stealing away the king because Judah had come to escort him to Jerusalem.

But the men of Judah had no regard for the truth that "a soft answer turneth away wrath," and they respond that they have a right to precedence over the men of Israel because David was from Judah The men of Israel answer this by claiming that they have ten shares in the king, since they were ten tribes while Judah and Benjamin were only two, and also insist that they were the first to advise the return of David. All of this is merely childish arguing over a matter of no consequence, but similar folly has too often caused sad ruptures in families, among friends, and even in the assembly of God. Why did David not pour oil on the troubled waters? Could he not have called the leaders on either side to sit down with him and to iron this matter out in a spirit of true concern for the welfare of all? But the men of Judah became more fierce in their words than the men of Israel.


Satan is always ready to take advantage of such occasions among God's people, and he had a man there of worthless, ambitious character, Sheba, the son of Bichri was actually a Benjamite, not from any of the other ten tribes, but he saw an opportunity to exalt himself. Blowing a trumpet, he made the bold declaration, "We have no part in David, nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, 0 Israel!"

Since the Israelites were already incensed against Judah, Sheba's loud voice and confident tone swayed all Israel to follow him without any consideration of the character of their leader. What a lesson for the people of God! Friction and quarreling can lead to men's accepting the leadership of a wicked and worthless man! Sects are easily formed in this way. Where indeed were the peacemakers who are called "the sons of God" (Mt.5:9)? The men of Judah remained loyal to David, but still, they had also shown too much of a sectarian spirit in their treatment of Israel. Self-judgement on their part therefore was just as important as it was on the part of Israel. But the rift between the tribes had taken place, and it must be faced.

Arriving at Jerusalem, David's first act was to put his concubines in seclusion. Since Absalom had violated them, David knew it would be wrong for him to have any sexual relations with them again. He did support them, however, but they lived in virtual widowhood.

As David had intimated, he ignored Joab as to the assembling of his army, and gave Amasa (the formerly appointed leader of Absalom's rebels) orders to gather the men of Judah within three days (v.4). But Amasa had no experience such as Joab had, and delayed longer than he was told (v.3).

David therefore told Abishai (not Joab) to take soldiers with him and pursue Sheba the son of Bichri before he was able to establish himself in fortified cities and present a formidable opposition to Judah. Of course Abishai, the brother of Joab, was also an experienced man of war.

But verse 7 tells us it was Joab's men, with the Cherethites and the Pelethites (David's bodyguard) who went with him. Joab himself was not going to be left out, whatever David's orders were. They started on their way to pursue Sheba.

A short distance north (at Gibeon) Amasa met them. Whether he had done anything at all in gathering Judah we are not told. But Joab saw the opportunity he wanted. Amasa was totally unsuspecting, though he ought to have remembered Joab's murder of Abner (2 Samuel 3:26-27), and he should have known perfectly well that Joab would strongly resent Amasa's promotion above him to the rank of commander of David's armies. Joab was dressed in battle armor, and though he had a sword in his left hand, Amasa did not even notice this, and specially since Joab spoke to him in friendly terms, "Are you in health, my brother?" and came close to kiss him. But "the kisses of an enemy are deceitful" (Prov.27:6), and Joab plunged his sword into Amasa's chest at the same time, making sure he killed him with one stroke.

Joab and Abishai continued their pursuit of Sheba, leaving Amasa lying in a pool of blood, with one of Joab's men left behind to urge those following to catch up with Joab. But in seeing Amasa's body the people were shocked and stood still. The man therefore removed the body from the highway and covered it with a garment. The gruesome evidence being thus covered up, the men continued on their way to follow Joab. Joab had taken the place of commander, which evidently Abishai willingly gave him.

Sheba had apparently been unable to organize any army whatever, and had travelled as far north as he could in Israel, taking refuge in the city of Abel in Beth-Maachah. We are not even told how may followers were with him. but Joab and his men had no difficulty in finding where he was. The gates of the city were barred, an evidence to Joab that the city was protecting Sheba. Under the protection of a siege mound Joab and his men attacked the city wall, intending to break through it.

However, there was one wise woman in the city who called out to request in interview with Joab. He willingly listened. She then tells him that in former times the city of Abel had a reputation for settling disputes, and indicated that there were still considerate people in the city, including herself, she being one who was peaceable and faithful in Israel. Now she says Joab is seeking to destroy a city and a mother in Israel. Why should he bring the inheritance of the Lord down to ruins?

Joab replies that he has no such intention, but that one man, Sheba, is harbored in the city, and since he has raised insurrection against David, if he is delivered up to Joab, then the city will be spared. The woman is quite confident of the outcome, and tells Joab that Sheba's head will be thrown over the wall. She therefore simply told the citizens, either have the city destroyed in order that Sheba should be killed, or else give up Sheba alone to death and save the city. Of course it would have been only folly to protect the rebel, so they cut off his head and threw it over the wail to Joab.

Thus Joab was successful in quelling that revolt of Sheba without any warfare, and he and his men returned to David at Jerusalem. What was David to do? He had demoted Joab in raising Amasa to take his position. Amasa proved inefficient in his first commission. Then Joab murdered Amasa in cold blood, and Joab without David's instruction, took up Amasa's commission and carried it out quickly and efficiently, relieving David of the threat of a broken kingdom. From a practical viewpoint Joab had done well for David's kingdom, but it was the prosperity of the kingdom for which he was zealous, not for the honor of God. David had refused to have Saul killed by his men, but Joab had not hesitated to kill Abner, Absalom and Amasa.

David could certainly not approve of this, yet at this time he did nothing about it. Joab took his place again as general over all the army (v.23). Yet later David gave orders to Solomon that Joab must suffer death for his crimes (1 Kings 2:5-6). Joab himself provided the occasion for this when he followed Adonijah in his attempt to take David's throne (1 Kings 1:5; 2:28-34).

Benaiah (v.23) was a different character than Joab, a trusted man who was over David's bodyguard, the Cherethites and the Pelethites. The names of others also are given us in verses 24-26 as those in place of administration in David's kingdom. The list here is similar to that in Chapter 8:16-18, yet there are some differences. That in Chapter 8 is given in connection with the highest point of David's honor in his kingdom while this is given after serious failure and sin had left its blot on that kingdom. In these later years, instead of David's kingdom being consistently a type of that of the Lord Jesus, much of the history is a sad contrast to the pure truth and dignity of the coming kingdom of our Lord. Notice for one thing that in Chapter 8 David's sons are listed as chief ministers, but now only "Ira the Jairite" is mentioned as "chief minister under David." The principle of natural succession has only brought miserable failure. All of this teaches us solemnly that government given into the hands of men (even the best of men) can never succeed. Only the Lord Jesus can be trusted with this high honor. What a relief it will be to the whole creation when He takes His great power and reigns!


We cannot say with certainty when the events of this chapter occurred, for they are not necessarily chronological, but spoken of as having taken place "in the days of David." God sent a famine in the land for three successive years before David finally inquired of the Lord for the reason of this. How insensitive even a believer may be to the reasons for God's dealing with him, -- in fact insensitive to the fact that his deeply felt trials are the dealings of God!

God answers David that the famine was His own governmental judgment because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house having killed some of the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites had been allowed by Joshua and the elders of Israel to live in the land, though they were Amorites. They had deceived Joshua into thinking they were from another territory, and Joshua swore by the Lord in making a league with them (Joshua 9). Once this was done, it could not be changed, but Saul was zealous for Israel and Judah, and decided he could kill off these people who were not Israelites. This was not zeal for God, for it involved breaking an oath of God, and though God delayed punishment for this, Israel had to feel the responsibility for it in the infliction of famine.

David then called the Gibeonites to inquire of them what ought to be done to make amends for this wrong treatment. it is most regrettable that David did not instead inquire of God as to this serious matter. A victim of a crime cannot be depended On to decide what punishment the criminal should suffer. This should certainly have been referred to the righteous Judge. This is another case of failure on David's part, of which there are too many in this later history of his kingdom.

At least the Gibeonites were not greedy of gain, like many present day lawyers who sue for millions of dollars over matters like this, but neither did they ask for the death of those who had actually killed the men of Gibeon. David promised to do whatever they asked before he knew what it would be. They ask that seven men of the descendants of Saul Should be given to them in order that they might hang them, as they say, "before the Lord." They consider this righteous retribution on the house of Saul, and David immediately agrees.

Was this right? David did not stop to think of two matters that should have stopped him cold. First, Deuteronomy 24: 6 plainly declared that the children were not to be put to death for the sins of their fathers. Secondly, David himself had sworn to Saul that he would not cut off Saul's descendants (1 Samuel 24:21-22). Had he completely forgotten this? He did spare Mephibosheth because of his oath to Jonathan, but was his oath to Saul not just as binding?

However, David chose two sons of Saul borne to him by Rizpah, Saul's concubine, and five grandsons, borne to Saul's daughter Merab when she had been give to Adriel, though the children had been brought up by Michal for David. Merab must have died before she was able to bring her children up. One may wonder, if Michal had borne sons to David, would he have been so willing to have them put to death? The seven men were however delivered to the Gibeonites, who hanged them as they had desired. But all this was simply to ingratiate the Gibeonites on account of their hurt pride. If David had sought the guidance of God there would certainly had been a different solution.

David seems to have had little regard for the utter heartbreak of Rizpah. Her husband had been killed not long before, now her two sons are taken and executed with no proper reason. She took sackcloth (the sign of mourning) and spread it on a rock, rather than wearing it herself. She evidently intended to keep it there until the drought should be over the rain came.

In spreading sackcloth on a rock, Rizpah continued to keep the birds of prey and animals from resting on it, intending to do so until the rain came again. Was this intended in some way to speak to David's conscience? At least scripture tells us that David was told of it.

If there had been true mourning before God and self judgment on the part of David and Israel, continued until the drought was over, would this not have been a more appropriate solution than the public execution of Saul's sons? 'The birds of prey symbolize Satan's efforts to thwart true self judgment, by means of such drastic action as devouring the prey (as in the death of Saul's sons) and the wild animals would speak of men who act like beasts in defeating the purpose of self judgment, also by violent action. Rispah's keeping them away tells us that we should not allow ourselves to be diverted from true self judgment until God's government has achieved its purpose.

When David heard of Rispah's action he went and brought the bones of Saul and of Jonathan from Jabesh Gilead, then gathered the bones of the seven men who had been hanged. They then buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan in Zelah of Benjamin, in the tomb of Saul's father Kish. In this way David publicly identified himself with Saul and his house, acknowledging that his kingdom was really an extension of Saul's kingdom and therefore taking responsibility for Saul's previous wrong actions. This would no doubt ease some of Rizpah's distress, but more than that, it caused God to answer prayer in ending the drought. The slaughter of the seven men had not only been useless, but was disobedience to God's word. This following action of David was of more real value in the eyes of God.

War again takes place after this, and now the men of David's kingdom prove stronger than David. This is a great reversal from David's bold faith in going against Goliath when no-one else would think of it. Of course physical strength had waned with age, and he must learn his limitations while others become stronger. He had become faint, not able to move quickly and effectively, so that lshbi-Benob, son of the giant, was ready to kill him, and no doubt would have done so if Abishai had not been near to come to his rescue. Abishai was vigorous enough to kill the giant

This experience was sufficient to persuade David's men that David must not be allowed to go to battle again. In spite of this, David's men were able to accomplish significant victories over various giants. The faith of David in the first place in going against Goliath had no doubt had a lasting effect in encouraging his men to face these giants boldly. When we too see the Lord Jesus going fearlessly against the power of His enemies (during His life on earth and in all the circumstances surrounding the cross), does this not stimulate our courage of faith to meet enemies boldly?

The four giants we read of from verse 18 to 22 are all related, evidently all the sons of one man. A giant is really a monstrosity, not normal, but indicating the pride that exalts itself above the rank and file of mankind. They are Philistines, who typify the formal traditional religion that is determined to glorify itself in the eyes of the world. Those who have a lowly character of true devotion to the Lord Jesus are looked down upon by such high-minded, self-important champions of mere religion. They give to men honors and dignities that belong only to God, calling them by flattering religious titles, thus making them objects of virtual worship. They introduce doctrines that add to the word of God, but in result only subtract from the plain truth of that word. Their great, imposing buildings and their magnificent ceremonies all combine to persuade people how great they are.

No doubt each one of these giants pictures some particular aspect of this ritualistic religion, which is probably indicate in the meanings of their names. On the other hand, the four courageous men who defeated them typify various principles of truth by which faith overcomes the formidable opposition of unbelief. Abishai (v.17) meaning "father of gift" reminds us that God is the source of every good gift, not men's "ordination." The meaning of Sibbechai (v.18) is questionable, so that we cannot speak with certainty about this. Elhanan (v.19) means "God is a gracious giver," a great contrast to the way in which formal religion represents God as dealing with men on a legal, bargaining basis. Jonathan (v.21) was a nephew of David, and his name is similar in meaning to Elhanan, "Jehovah is giver." Therefore, whether we think of God as the great Originator of all things, or whether we look at Him as Jehovah, in relation to His dealings with mankind, He is always a giver, not a merchant seeking gain from others. Let us in faith stand firmly for this truth, and withstand the strong opposition of men who so boldly misrepresent the God of glory.

David had before killed Goliath. David's name means "beloved." When God has given us the assurance of His perfect love toward us (1 John 4:18), this casts Out fear and gives boldness of true faith in standing for Him. David's victory then was the first of five victories over the gigantic evils that threaten the people of God.


This chapter presents David's song of triumph after God had subdued all his enemies under him. It is almost identical to Psalm 18, though with some variations. Of course faith realizes that God has a wise reason for the differences, though we may find ourselves unable to explain them.

Appropriately David begins his song with a number of the wonderful aspects of God's nature and character. Jehovah is his rock, the symbol of unchanging stability. 1 Corinthians 10:4 tells us "That Rock was Christ, for He is God over all, blessed forever." "My fortress" speaks of the place of impregnable defense. David, in his time of exile, learned how valuable a fortress was. Added to this is "my deliverer." When endangered on more than one occasion, when it seemed the enemy was on the verge of capturing or killing him, God intervened to deliver him from harm. He was also "the God of my strength." At times when weakness became overpowering, it was God who renewed his strength. If we are to prove this in experience we must learn to "wait upon the Lord" (Isa.40:31), and the renewal of strength will appear to be virtually miraculous. "My shield" speaks of God's protection when face to face with the enemy, while "the horn of my salvation" speaks of the power of God in saving him from enemies and from adversity.

God being his "stronghold and refuge" involves kindred thoughts, the stronghold speaking of His protecting power, the refuge emphasizing the grace of that protection. Finally David calls God "my savior," a lovely term that finds a fuller meaning in the new Testament when we consider the great work of the Lord Jesus in suffering at Calvary to provide eternal salvation for the lost. God had saved David from violence on various occasions when he was in imminent danger of death. But the Lord Jesus saves from the greater violence of eternal judgment by virtue of His sacrifice.

Verse 3 has told us, "in Him will I trust," and verse 4 adds, "I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised." Therefore, with calm assured confidence he may affirm, "so shall I be saved from mine enemies." 2 Samuel 22:4. There is no uncertainty about this.

Beginning with verse 5 the language goes beyond what was true of David. While he may have felt deeply the sorrows of which he speaks, yet only the Lord Jesus can speak these words as being fully true of His own sufferings and sorrows. "When the waves of death encompassed Me, the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded Me, the snares of death confronted Me." In the case of the Lord Jesus "the waves of death" were infinitely worse than David or we have ever experienced, for this went far beyond the sufferings with which ungodly men abused Him. He "endured the cross, despising the shame" (Heb.12:2). Men's contempt was nothing to Him compared to the agony of His being forsaken by God on account of our sins.

Verse 7, in the case of the Lord Jesus, preceded verse 5. He called upon God in His deep distress in the garden of Gethsemane, before His suffering. Knowing well all that He would have to bear, "having offered up both supplications and entreaties to Him who was able to save Him out of death, with strong crying and tears; (and having been heard for His piety)" (Heb.5:7). He was not saved from dying, but was saved "out of death" because God had heard Him even before He suffered and died.

Verses 8 to 16 show God's answer to the value of the death of the Lord Jesus. These things will have their complete fulfilment in God's judgment of the world at the time of the great tribulation, but there were portents of it at the very time of the resurrection of Christ. Men may dismiss any thought of the seriousness of His death, but God has not forgotten, and will yet bring the whole world to give account of their crucifixion of His Son. He will judge the world in righteousness.

"The earth shook and trembled: the foundations of heaven moved and shook." Then the Lord died there was and earthquake (Mt.27:51) and again when He rose from the grave (Mt.28:2). Yet the greatest of all earthquakes is foretold in Revelation 16:18. In each case God shakes the earth because of His anger against men for having rejected and crucified His Son. Smoke and devouring fire are particularly connected with the judgment, but the resurrection of Christ is itself a warning of coming judgment (John 16:9-11).

"He bowed the heavens also and came down." Bowing the heavens speaks of the great voluntary humbling of the Lord of glory in His first coming to earth in lowly grace, but also of His coming in solemn judgment at the end of the tribulation. "Darkness was under His feet" involves the character of His judgment as being undiscerned by the eyes of the ungodly. Verse 11 indicates the swiftness of his judgment, the Cherub signifying the principle of pure justice in His government. "The wings of the wind" speak of the swift, irrestible power of the Spirit of God (John 3:8).

"He made darkness canopies around Him" (v.12) Though God is manifestly working behind the scenes, yet He Himself is not seen, so that people who have not faith are blinded by the darkness. But the "dark waters and thick clouds" are still witnesses to the fact that it is the God of creation who is speaking. In fact there is brightness as well as the darkness, just as in a violent storm there may be flashes of bring shining between the clouds, or brilliant lightning may flash suddenly, often kindling "coals of fire."

Verses 14 to 16, speaking of the Lord thundering from heaven, tells of His clear intervention after man has done his utmost in crucifying God's Son. God's Solemn response to this will be seen in all its terror in "the day of the Lord," but by faith we recognize His response when we see it in the resurrection of Christ. The angel rolling away the stone at the grave was like the arrows to scatter the guards and vanquish them. The Pharisees and Sadducees were panic stricken at hearing the news of the Lord's resurrection. It was like lightning bolts to their hardened consciences.

The channels of the sea were seen. "Psalm 77:19 tells us, "Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known." The great waters speak of the depths and mystery of suffering, and specially of the sufferings of the Lord Jesus. Now the channels of the sea being seen indicates the wondrous divine design to bring blessing by means of the deepest suffering, so that we are privileged to see something of God's great wisdom in the anguish of the cross, though it is only "the channels" we see: the depths are still beyond our vision of comprehension.

"The foundations of the world were uncovered." All the world's basic enmity against the Father and the Son has been laid bare in its ugliest light in the death and resurrection of Christ. No wonder ungodly men, in their attempt to defend the world, have strenuously fought against the truth of the resurrection, for that truth exposes the very foundations of the world, its basis character of proud defiance against God. For the resurrection of Christ is a rebuke from God to a world that has crucified His Son. Only the breath of His nostrils is a blast that strikes terror into men's hearts.

"He sent from above, He took me, He drew me out of many water." The many waters do not speak of the Lord's suffering from men, but of the dark depths of anguish suffered from God on account of our sin. The great work of atonement being finished, God intervened to raise His Son from among the dead. Nevermore will He suffer the deep waters of judgment. Besides this, "He delivered me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me." Satan did all he could against the Lord Jesus, but in his apparent victory he was defeated. For God delivered His Son, not from dying, but from death, therefore both from Satan and from all who followed him in the abuse of the blessed Christ of God. "For they were too strong for me." The Lord in lowly grace was "crucified through weakness." Outwardly His enemies were too strong for Him, but how completely were the tables turned! They confronted Him in the day of His calamity, but Jehovah was His support.

"He also brought me Out into a broad place." He was "straitened" (or confined) until His great work was finished. But in resurrection He has the place of the Head of a new creation, a sphere of infinitely great blessing in which all of His own have part. "He delivered me because He delighted in me." Everything about Him -- His character, His words, His work, drew the fullest approbation of the Father. His raising Christ from among the dead is the clear proof of this. He is rewarded according to His righteousness and recompensed according to the cleanness of His hands. This was true of David only in a very limited way, and of course not true of him at all in reference to the question of resurrection. All saints will of course be raised eventually, but not as a reward for righteousness: it will be pure grace that raises them to enjoy eternal glory with Christ.

Only One has fully "kept the ways of the Lord" and has not in any detail wickedly departed from God. He always kept all the judgments of God in view, never in any way departing from His statutes, but blameless before Him. The expression "I kept myself from my iniquity" implies that if He had succumbed to it, this would have been iniquity on His part, but He kept himself fully from it. Therefore the Lord recompensed Him because of His perfect righteousness and cleanness in the eyes of God.

Verses 26 and 27 indicate the absolute justice of God's ways. He has justly recompensed the Lord Jesus, who Himself has been merciful and gracious, upright and pure. God has shown Himself similarly toward His Son. On the other hand, if one shows himself perverse, then God will show Himself "contrary" (J.N.D.trans.), recompensing the perverter in just judgment. "You will save the humble people." Not only does the Lord Jesus speak of Himself here, but of others also who become identified with Him by virtue of His death and resurrection. They take the humble place with Him, in contrast to those who haughtily exalt themselves.

In the midst of a world darkened by sin, the Lord Jesus depends on Jehovah as His lamp, who illumines all His path (v.29). By the power of God He had run through a troop, the power of the enemy being virtually paralyzed. He had leaped over a wall also, the obstacle in the way being reduced to nothing by God's power. He had chosen only God's way and proclaims it as being "perfect." Linked with God's way is the word of the Lord which has proven totally dependable when tried. Thus God becomes a shield of protection for all who trust Him.

"For who is God save Jehovah?" Elijah proved this to all Israel (1 Kings 18:36-39) when he was opposed by 850 false prophets. All the people then acknowledged, "The Lord, He is God." "And who is a Rock save our God?" The rock is the symbol of solid stability. 1 Corinthians 10:4 tells us, "that Rock was Christ," a clear testimony that Christ is God. "God is my strong fortress," the place of His defense. Just as God's way is perfect, so "He makes my way perfect," the Lord Jesus can say. Believers may say this too, but only in a limited measure.

"He makes my feet like hinds' feet," able to scale precipitous heights with ease and agility. This is the energy of faith that rises above the level of earthly circumstances, no matter how difficult they seem. The high places for Him now are the courts of the Father's house, and believers are identified with Him, "seated in heavenly places in Christ" (Eph.2:6). True warfare also is connected with heavenly places (Eph.6:10-12). On this level our hands are taught to make war, with strength to bend a bow of bronze. The shield of God's salvation is also given Him. Against this nothing can prevail. Man chooses proud, arrogant aggression to force his way to greatness, but God reduces all of this kind of thing to nothing, and showing Himself gentle in the lowly history of the Lord Jesus, has made this to issue in the greatness of His present exaltation above all heavens. Though the way has before seemed narrow and confined, each step He takes finds the way enlarged and He does not slip.

ln verse 38, taking the offensive, He pursues and destroys His enemies. This will be fully accomplished when He comes again in sovereign power. The devastation will be complete: the enemy crushed never to rise again, falling under the feet of the mighty Conqueror. He gives God the honor for having girded Him with strength for the battle and for subduing under Him all who rose against Him. For it is as Son of Man He speaks, fully dependent upon His God and accomplishing God's will. God made His enemies to turn their backs in defeat. For their hatred He no longer shows kindness and patience, but brings the destruction they have more than deserved. Wherever they looked, they found no one to help. They even sought Jehovah, as desperate men will even after having treated Him with contempt.

But they are too late God's patience with their folly comes to an end and the judgment upon them is swift and complete: they are beaten as line as the dust of the earth (v.43): they return to the dust from which they came, reduced to total humiliation.

God has delivered Him from the strivings of His people. When He was on earth there was continual striving concerning Him, many striving against Him, eventually to the point of His being rejected and crucified. The Jews also contended among themselves as regards Him (John 6:52; 7:2,43; 10:19). In resurrection He is delivered from this personally, though there is still such striving in the world concerning Him, but His eventual there is still such striving in the world concerning Him. Following His resurrection this has been true in a striking way: Gentiles have been brought to Him at a time when Israel had refused Him. But it will be completely fulfilled when He judges the world and Israel is restored. Then Gentiles nations will be brought to submit to Him in His millennial reign.

The foreigners or "strangers" of verses 45 and 46 are evidently stranger nations who have not been involved in the suffering of Israel in the tribulation period, but when they hear of Christ will emerge from their obscurity and come clinging to Him, in apparent forced obedience, which is not likely genuine.

Verses 47 to 51 provide a final summary of the victory of God or behalf of the Man of His counsels. "The Lord lives!" How magnificently this is proven in the resurrection of Christ! "Blessed be my Rock," the solid, unchanging dependable foundation of all blessing. "Let God be exalted." The resurrection of the Lord Jesus has magnified God as "the rock of my salvation." God has avenged Him of His enemies, and will subdue all the people under Him, His resurrection being the promise of this. Therefore He will give thanks, even among the Gentiles, and sing praises to God's name. For He has shown mercy to the Son of David, His King.


In the last words of David (vs.1-7) we see far more clearly than in Chapter 22 the sharp distinction between David personally and David's Son Messiah. The first verse presents David himself as son of Jesse, raised up to the throne of Israel as the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel. All of this blessing given to him is mainly for the purpose of his bearing witness to the future King of Israel, the Lord Jesus.

Verse 2 shows that David was not only writing from the viewpoint of his having learned in experience the ways of God, but rather from that of having had a direct revelation from the Spirit of the Lord, who spoke by David, His word being on his tongue. It was the God of Israel, the Rock of Israel who spoke.

"The ruler over men shall be just, ruling in the fear of God." In comparison with other rulers, this was in measure true of David. But there were many things in which he fell short of this, as we have seen in this book, and as he confesses in verse 5. in Christ in His lowly humiliation we find perfect righteousness, perfect truth: He has proven His character in His experiences of sorrow and rejection. This same truth and justice Will shine out in beautiful magnificence when He takes His throne over all creation. As Man He will rule in the fear of God, in perfect consistency with the character of the God of Israel and of the universe.

"He shall be like the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, like the tender grass springing out of the earth, by clear shining after rain. This advent of the Lord Jesus at the beginning of the millennium is also depicted in Malachi 4:2 as "the Sun of Righteousness" arising "with healing in His wings." In a very real sense the sun reigns over the earth: without it everything would be left in a total deep-freeze at absolute zero, and in darkness. The rule of the sun is by no means simply the rule of authority, but provides welcome light and warmth, as well as living chemical action that produces growth in vegetation.

If there were no rain, no moisture at all, of course the sun's heat could become unbearable, with everything dried up and desolate. The rain is typical of the refreshing showers of the word of God, without which our own souls would be dried up and parched. But when once the rain has come, followed by the clear shining of the sun, how good it is to see the fresh green grass springing up from the earth. Thus, the coming of the Lord Jesus in glory will be like such a day, with Israel springing forth in spiritual prosperity, the word of God being precious to them, and the coming of their Messiah a marvellous joy.

Sadly, in verse 5 David has to acknowledge that his house is not so with God: he could not in any way quality as this just person ruling in the fear of God. Yet in spite of this, God had made with David an everlasting covenant, ordered in perfection, and absolutely sure. In this David saw all his salvation and his every desire, and asks the question, "Will He not indeed make it grow?" (NASB). For what is of God will grow, while men's works will come to nothing, as verses 6 and 7 indicate. The sons of Belial ("worthlessness") are as unwelcome thorns, discarded because they cannot be handled with human hands. Contact with such men requires a heavy defensive armour, with a spear also to take the offensive. But such harmful influences will not be tolerated in God's kingdom: they will be burned with fire.


Nearing the end of David's history, it is appropriate that this chapter provides a picture of the judgment seat of Christ, at which every work for Him will be rewarded. The commendations of these mighty men of David teach us that what victories we may accomplish for the Lord will receive full recognition at His judgment seat. Their weapons were of course carnal, or fleshly, and their victories were not spiritually profitable, as ours should be. The armour of the Christian is seen in Ephesians 6:10-18, and this involves the self-discipline that keeps the flesh from exerting itself, but allows the Spirit of God liberty to produce proper spiritual fruit in our lives. All the details here will not be found easy to interpret, though there is no doubt that they are significant of what is commendable in the way in which a believer meets his conflicts. One man stands out in the first place, Adino, the Eznite. He is called "The Tacmonite who sat in the seat." When we consider that in Ephesians 6:12 our warfare is seen to be "in the heavenlies," then the connection with Ephesians 2:6 is most striking. Here we are told that believers are "raised up together" and made to "sit together in the heavenlies in Christ Jesus." This is our place "in Christ." All believers have this, and yet all believers do not enjoy it and act consistently with it. If so, we should experience far more real triumph over evil in our lives. Let us be like Adino in a practical way, sitting in the seat of our heavenly position, thus overcoming the world and its seductions.

Eleazar is seen in the second place of honor (vs.9-10), a man who did not retreat when the rest of Israel retreated, but boldly carried on the battle with the Philistines alone, and for so long that his hand struck to the sword he was using. By his energy of faith the Lord accomplished a great victory, for the Lord honors the faith of one who will not be intimidated by the enemy even when no one else stands with him. The people afterward returned after him to reap the benefits of his faith.

The third one of the most outstanding three was Shammah (vs.11-12). The Philistines attacked with the object of either taking for themselves a field of lentils or destroying it. Shammah took his stand in the middle of the field and killed the attackers, thereby giving the Lord the victory. This illustrates the faithfulness of a believer in fighting to keep the food of the word of God from being stolen from God's people. May we stand firmly and decidedly against anything that will deprive the saints of God of the food of His word that is so necessary for their sustenance.

Three other men are now spoken of (vs.13-16) who show their devotedness to David himself in an unusual way. The garrison of the Philistines had taken possession of Bethlehem while David was in exile in the cave of Adullam. Saul did not have the energy to expel the Philistines from Bethlehem (the house of bread), and David expressed the longing for a drink of water from the well of Bethlehem. No doubt there was no thought in his mind of expecting anyone to take this seriously enough as to risk their lives in order to secure a drink of water for him, and he certainly gave no command as to this. Yet these three mighty men, purely out of devotedness to David, were willing to venture their lives in breaking through the army of the Philistines with the object of drawing water from the well of Bethlehem. They did so successfully and brought the water to David.

This is a refreshing picture of the faith that delights to please the Lord in a spirit of willing self-sacrifice. David however appreciated their devotion more than he desired the water. He considered that he was not worthy of so great devotion, and he poured the water out as a drink offering to God, who alone is worthy of such sacrifices (vs.16-17).

Abishai, the brother of Joab, has a significant place as chief of these three men. Sadly, Joab himself is not mentioned as being given any honor at all in this final summation of David's mighty men. He was a capable warrior who gained many victories, but his one fatal flaw was the fact that his motives were proven to be selfish. It was not God's honor that he sought, but his own. David knew this, and advised Solomon that Joab must be put to death (1 Kings 2:5-6). Joab's treachery could not be ignored because of his many victories.

Benaiah is another one of the second three, a man who showed unusual courage whether in fighting men or beasts. Certainly the exploits of both of these are typical of spiritual victories, little as we may be able to interpret their significance. We are not told the name of the third man of this group, but we are reminded in verse 23 that the first three are accorded higher honor than the second three or all that follow them. These are mentioned by name only, and any spiritual lessons to be learned from them can be gleaned only from the meanings of their names.


The reason for God's anger burning against Israel (v.1) is not told us: if there is no public occasion for it, then it must be due to the moral and spiritual condition of the nation. Very likely that condition was represented in the pride that led David to desire to have Israel numbered. The nation had grown from a small people of no significance in the world's eyes into a strong empire. Had this humbled the people in thankfulness for the grace of God in so blessing them? Apparently not. We too easily glory in numbers, as though our increase in numbers makes us more distinguished than others. God allowed David to follow his natural inclinations of pride in being the king of so great a nation. No doubt Israel had the same proud thoughts, and God saw that this needed some serious humbling. When David gave instructions to Joab to number the people. Even Joab, self-centered man as he was, realized that David's desire stemmed only from pride, and protested that, while it would be good to see Israel increased one hundred fold, yet to take delight in the number of the people appeared unseemly in his eyes. It is often true that an unbeliever can see through the inconsistent ways of a believer.

David insisted on his having the people numbered, though the commander of the army as well as Joab did not agree. It was they who were required to do the job, and they travelled through all the country, taking nine months and twenty days to complete their task (v.8). Yet 1 Chronicles 21:6 tells us that Joab did not count Benjamin and Levi because of being disgusted with David's order. The number given, however, is not that of all the people, but only of their military strength, 800,000 soldiers in Israel and 500,000 in Judah. Judah's population was proportionately much higher than that of the other nine tribes.

After he is told the number, David's conscience finally wakens to cause him sharp pain in reflecting on the seriousness of what he now calls sin and foolishness. It is at least good to see that he confesses this candidly to God and asks Him to take away this iniquity.

Certainly God hears his prayer, but there must be some governmental results from the wrong-doing of man of authority. God therefore sends the prophet Gad to David to ask him to choose one of three alternatives, either seven years of famine in the land, or three months of Israel's retreating before their enemies, or three days of a deadly plague in the land.

Any one of these prospects was greatly disturbing to David, but he chose to fall in the hand of God, and accept the three days of plague, because God's mercies are great in contrast to the cruelty of men. The judgment falls with terrible severity throughout the whole land, and 70,000 die in the plague. The destroying angel comes to Jerusalem, ready to inflict judgment there, and God Himself intervenes in mercy, saying, "It is enough." David had rightly depended on His mercy.

Nevertheless, when David had seen the angel and the destruction, his heart was deeply broken up in confession and self-judgment before the Lord. "Surely I have sinned, and I have done wickedly: but these sheep, what have they done?" He realizes that he ought to personally suffer the consequences. But this is a lesson for anyone who has a prominent place among God's people. The people will suffer for the failure of the leaders.

There is wonderful instruction for us, however, in the plague being arrested at the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite. The judgment of God only goes as far as the threshing floor. In other words, when God judges, it is with the object of bringing out the grain from the chaff. The process may be deeply painful, but the resulting blessing for genuine believers is unspeakably precious. The Jebusites had been true to their name, "treaders down" of the city God had declared to be His own center, that is, Jerusalem. But Araunah is one whose character has been changed by the grace of God, a prodigal of the Gentiles, spared when the judgment was impending over his head. Indeed, he is a picture of all Gentiles who are saved by the grace of God.

The prophet Gad is sent to David to instruct him to build an altar to the Lord in the threshing floor of Araunah. When Araunah sees the king and his servants coming, he willingly takes the lowly place of bowing before the king to ask the reason for his coming to a man so insignificant. When David desires to buy the threshing floor, Araunah offers it to him without charge, as well as oxen for sacrifice and wood for its burning.

The picture here becomes most beautiful as we come to the end of this book. Israel has been spared by the grace of God, the Gentile drawn to God in such a way that his heart is opened with desire to give up his own possessions. The king, on the other hand, insists on full payment to Araunah for that which he desires to offer to God. With a full heart the king offers burnt offerings and peace offerings, a reminder of the great value of the sacrifice of Christ, both as perfectly glorifying God (the burnt offering) and as accomplishing peace between God and man (the peace offering). The burnt offering comes first, for it speaks of that aspect of the sacrifice of Christ in which all goes up in fire to God, that is, God's glory is the first and foremost object of that sacrifice. When this is observed, then the place of the peace offering is appropriate, for this offering the priest and the offerer were each given part, while another part was for God (Lev.7:15:15,16,31,32).

Wonderful will be that day when Israel turns to the Lord to acknowledge the value of the sacrifice of Christ so long ago offered. For centuries the plague of God's disapproval has been upon that nation, because of their pride in themselves and their rejection of their true Messiah and His one perfect sacrifice. It is that sacrifice alone that can remove the plague from Israel, just as, at the present time, this perfect sacrifice alone removes the guilt of our many sins, bringing peace and rest and joy. Israel will rejoice in that coming day, and we shall rejoice with them.