April 28, 2015.
Daily Reading: II Samuel 1-4.
Background: I Samuel 26-31.
Concepts and Connections.
1. A tragic lie: As we open up the book of II Samuel (picking up right where I Samuel leaves off), Saul and Jonathan have just died in battle and the news is about to be brought to David at Ziklag. The news is brought by a man from Saul’s camp, the apparent son of a sojourning Amalekite, who claims to have found Saul mortally injured, but not dead. Staging it as an act of mercy, the man tells David that Saul asked him to kill him to end his misery, which he did and then brought the crown and armlet that Saul had to David. This Amalekite may have been seeking some reward from David for bringing him the news of the death of Saul and the king’s crown. It is likely that he came across the body of Saul soon after he had killed himself and made up the story to make himself look good in the eyes of David (see I Samuel 31 for the actual account of Saul’s death). This lie, however, proved tragic for the man, as he did not know about David’s loyalty to the Lord’s anointed (for he himself would not lift his hand against Saul, even when Saul was trying to kill him, see I Samuel 24, 26). David had this man killed because he said his own words had testified against him, for he had said he had killed the Lord’s anointed.
2. David’s lament: After hearing the news of Saul and Jonathan’s death, David sings a lament for the two (as he often does to express his emotion) to honor their lives. David has nothing but good things to say about Saul, even though his relationship with him was not the best from Saul’s perspective. He honors their lives together, and specifically mourns deeply for his very close friend Jonathan, who had showed him great love and been with him through the difficult times. He truly was a friend who stuck closer than a brother to David (see Proverbs 18:24). This news was not easy for David to hear (which might have been the reason for the drastic action taken against the Amalekite), and this is certainly David’s style of dealing with difficult times.
Political unrest: After the death of King Saul, there was understandably a lot of confusion and a bit of chaos amongst the children of Israel. David, after inquiring of the Lord, went up to Hebron (a city in Judah) where the men of Judah came out to crown him king over them. He would reign over Judah for seven and a half years before he would reign over all of Israel. Though David was made king in Hebron, the house of Saul followed Ish-bosheth after Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, took him and set him up as king in Benjamin and all Israel. It is interesting to see a rudimentary division between Judah and Israel here even in the time of the united kingdom, as later we will see this distinction made more clearly (though Benjamin would be on the opposite side of the line) when the kingdom is divided under Rehoboam, son of Solomon, son of David (see I Kings 12). There would be a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David, and this conflict seems to begin here as Abner and the sons of Zeruiah, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel, initiated a fight involving 12 of their young men each, what ultimately resulted in a larger conflict that would result in 20 men of David dying and 360 men of the house of Saul dying. Amongst the men of David, however, it is important to note the death of Asahel here at the hand of Abner (though he was trying not to kill him) as it will play an important role in the next chapter. It almost seems like Asahel treated this conflict as a game, and it cost him his life because he wouldn’t stop pursuing Abner. The land of Israel would experience a fair amount of political unrest for the next few years.
Mixed loyalty and unwise decisions: In the time that followed David reigning in Hebron and Ish-bosheth reigning over the house of Saul, there was a long war between the two of them. Abney was the commander of Ish-bosheth’s army and Joab was the commander of David’s army. We then get a very interesting dialog between Ish-bosheth and Abner, where Ish-bosheth accuses Abner of going into his father’s concubines. One cant help but suspect that Abner may have been guilty of this, as his response to Ish-bosheth seems very defensive and over the top. Abney responds by citing his locality to Ish-bosheth, and then basically vowing to give the reign of Isreal into the hands of David, joining forces with him. Ish-bosheth could not answer Abner because eh feared him. Abner indeed set out on the course to convince Israel to side with David instead of Ish-bosheth, which course proved very successful. Abner met with David himself and made a covenant with him, that he would go to the house of Saul and be a go between for David and the house of Saul. David sent Abner away in peace. However, when Job got back from a raid and learned that David had sent Abner away in peace, he was very upset with David. He claims that this was because he thought Abner only came to David to spy out him and his land, but the deeper reason why Joab was mad was because he wanted Abner to die on account of him killing this brother Asahel. Thus, Joab sent mesengers to Abner and brought him out to the gate of the city he was staying at. It is important to note that Hebron was a city of refuge for the manslayer, a place where once could go to be safe until the elders of the city could give you a trial if you had killed someone without the intent to do so. But Joab called Abner to the gate of Hebron, and Abner foolishly came out to him, where Joab killed him. David relinquished himself from the death of Abner, for he did not know that Joab had pursued him, nor had he issued the death of Abner. David even brings a curse on Joab for what he has done. But it was Abner’s foolish decision that caused his death, and all of Israel recognized that it was not the will of the king that Abner was put to death. This was a very good thing for David, for he was just then building a relationship with all of Israel to be king over them.
Misreading the situation: In this chapter, we get another story of some people who made an unwise decision that would cost them their lives. Rechab and Baanah, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, two men of Saul, set out to kill Ish-bosheth because of the political unrest that was in Israel. They carried out this deed, beheaded Ish-bosheth, and brought his head to David at Hebron, thinking that they would be commended for their actions, as they had taken out David’s competition and paved the way for him to reign over all Israel. They assumed that Ish-bosheth was David’s enemy, and by killing him, they would be doing a service for David. What they didn’t count on, however, was David’s dedication to the Lord’s anointed and his family. If he had killed the Amalekite who had supposedly killed Saul out of mercy, how much more so would he do to these two sons of Rimmon for killing the son of Saul in cold blood? This is what David tells Rehab and Baanah before he has them put to death as well. They had certainly misread the situation, and this mistake cost them their lives. The head of Ish-bosheth was buried in the tomb of Abner at Hebron. Though he did not plan for it to happen this way, David was now poised to sit as the king over all of Israel, just as the Lord had said (see I Samuel 16).
Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 48-50.
Grace and peace.