While David was a great king in many ways, we have seen that
David was not perfect and that his sins affected his kingdom for the worse. One
of the punishments for his sin with Bathsheba was that David would have evil against him in his house. In carrying out
this theme further from last week, we will look at Joab and Adonijah, two men
in David’s house who were evil from time to time.
First, we see that
David’s nephew (cf. 1 Chron 2:13–16) Joab
vengefully murdered multiple people. Joab murdered Abner to avenge the
death of his brother Asahel (2 Sam 3:26–30). Then, Joab killed Absalom against
David’s orders (2 Sam 18:1–8). Finally, Joab killed Amasa, his own cousin (cf. 1
Chron 2:17). Absalom had set Amasa over his army (2 Sam 17:25), Amasa was kept
as general by David (2 Sam 19:13), and Joab murdered him in order to take back
his position over David’s army (2 Sam 19:41–20:23).
Second, we see that
David’s fourth son Adonijah attempted to
usurp the throne. Seeing that David was old and near death, Adonijah
conspired with others to usurp the throne (1 Kgs 1:1–10). Nathan and Bathsheba
approached David about Adonijah and asked for Solomon to be declared king (1
Kgs 1:11–26). David confirmed Solomon to be king, sent out a procession to do
so, and Adonijah was granted mercy by Solomon (1 Kgs 1:27–53).
The deaths of these
men go together. After David’s death, Adonijah requested to marry David’s concubine
Abishag. Along with being Solomon’s older brother and his alliance with
Abiathar and Joab, this was an attempt to take the throne again. For this,
Solomon put Adonijah to death (1 Kings 2:13–25). Linked to Adonijah’s
conspiracy, Joab pled for mercy but was likewise put to death (1 Kings 2:28–35).
with other areas in life, violence can
come back to haunt the aggressor. “The violence of the wicked will sweep them away,
because they refuse to do what is just” (Proverbs
Although David became great within his kingdom, he alsosinned with Bathsheba, murdered Uriah, and wrongfully ordered a census. Thefirst two of these sins were linked, and we shall see that David’s sin led to corrosion within the kingdom.
Let’s look, first of all, at how David sinned with Bathsheba and murdered Uriah. This took place because David stayed home from battle, saw Bathsheba bathing, called her to his palace,and adulterously impregnated her. In trying to cover up the situation, he conspired her husband Uriah’s murder, all of which displeased the Lord (2 Sam 11:1–26;cf. 1 Chron 20:1–3).
In response, God sent Nathan to tell a parable to condemn David for his murder, taking Bathsheba, and murdering by way of the Ammonites. David’s punishment would be threefold—he would have evil against him in his house, his wives would be defiled, and his child through Bathsheba would die (2 Sam 12:1–15a).
As foretold, the child did die (2 Sam 12:15b–23). Bathsheba then had Solomon through David (2 Sam 12:24–25), and David rejoined Joab in battle to conquer the Ammonites (2 Sam 12:26–31).
As time went on, David indeed experienced evil in his house
as foretold by Nathan. It began when David’s firstborn son Amnon (his mother was Ahinoam) raped
his half-sister Tamar, incurring the wrath of her brother Absalom (their
mother was Maacah; 2 Sam 13:1–22). Absalom orchestrated the murder of Amnon to
avenge Tamar and fled to his grandfather, Talmai, king of Geshur (2 Sam
Absalom later tried to usurp David’s throne. In the events leading up to the matter, Joab used a wise woman to persuade David to bring back Absalom from Geshur. Two years later, Absalom forced the attention of Joab to let him back into David’s favor (2 Sam 14:1–33).Absalom then stole the hearts of Israel for four years, conspired to take David’s kingship while in Hebron, and forced David to shamefully flee from Jerusalem (2 Sam 15:1–16:14).
God providentially arranged for Absalom’s demise, however.
Instead of listening to the advice of Ahithophel to immediately go after David
with 12,000 men, Absalom chose the advice of Hushai and waited to gather many
men and attack David with a stronger force. Seeing that David would have time
to recover from the attempted coup, Ahithophel hung himself, likely to avoid
execution (2 Sam 15:15–17:29). Ahithophel had been the one to instruct Absalom
to violate David’s concubines in the sight of all Israel, fulfilling one of the
three judgments foretold by Nathan (2 Sam 16:21–22).
David gathered his men and fought back, and against David’s
orders, Joab killed Absalom along
the way (2 Sam 18:1–18). This was not only a death of a son of David, but also
by the hands of a nephew of David, Joab, the son of David’s sister Zeruiah (cf.
2 Chron 2:13–16). David was told of Absalom’s death and mourned in response (2
Sam 18:19–33). Joab rebuked David for shaming Israel over Absalom’s death by
mourning for someone who acted as an enemy, and then David promised Israel
Amasa as general to sway the tribes back under his kingship (2 Sam 19:1–15),
which would lead to trouble, as we shall see in the weeks ahead.
From the above, the evil in David’s house included a number
of events: Amnon raped Tamar; Absalom murdered Amnon; Absalom fled his home;
Absalom attempted a coup when he returned; Joab killed Absalom; and David had
friction with Joab. Surely evil had come to his house.
From the above, we learn some very practical lessons.
First, idleness can lead
to sin if we are not careful. David should have been fighting with Joab.
Instead he was walking around with an ability to see what he should not see,
leading him to trouble.
Second, sin will take
you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and
cost you more than you want to pay. Such was the experience of David for
his sins of adultery and murder.
Third, even the best of men are at best, men. David was the standard by which later kings would be measured, but he was not the greatest of kings, Jesus, who is the greatest of our examples. And not only is Jesus our greatest example, we take hope that He is the greatest King who is our Savior and one day coming again.
We have seen that David became great as a king (2 Sam 3:1; 5:10) through the diminishing influence of the house of Saul, through moving his throne to Jerusalem while fending off his enemies, through the return of the ark to Jerusalem, and through the covenant in which God promised David an eternal dynasty.
While some battles relate to the themes above, others relate to David’s greatness in that David became great outside of Israel by defeating his enemies.
Several examples draw this theme out: David defeated the Philistines,
Moabites, Zobahites, Syrians, Edomites, and Amalekites and put up garrisons (2
Sam 8:1–17; cf. 1 Chron 18:1–16); David defeated the Ammonites and their Syrian
allies (2 Sam 10:1–19; cf. 1 Chron 19:1–19); Shimei cursed David during
Absalom’s attempted coup (2 Sam 16:5–14), but David overcame and pardoned
Shimei (2 Sam 19:16–23); David won four
wars against Philistines (2 Sam 21:15–22; cf. 1 Chron 20:4–8); and tribute is
given to David’s “mighty men” as well (2 Sam 23:8–39; cf. 1 Chron 11:10–47).
As 2 Samuel comes to a close, David
gives a psalm declaring God’s victory through him (2 Sam 22:1–51; same as Ps
Immediately thereafter, we have
David’s last words, an oracle extolling God for His victory over his enemies,
based upon God’s eternal covenant with David (2 Sam 23:1–7).
From David’s last words, we see that
a healthy fear of God and righteousness
in our dealings with and especially over people may prosper both us and those
around us. As Jesus said, “In the same way, let your light shine before
others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who
is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16 ESV).
Over the last couple of weeks, we saw that David became great as a king (2 Sam 1–7, 21; cf. 3:1; 5:10) through the diminishing influence of the house of Saul, having become king in Jerusalem while fending off his enemies, and the return of the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem. Another reason that David became great as a king was that God promised David an eternal dynasty and thus greatness forever.
Instead of David building house of earthly materials for the Lord, the Lord promised to build a house of descendants for David—an eternal dynasty (2 Sam 7:1–17; cf. 1 Chron 17:1–15). In response, David went to the tabernacle and prayed a prayer of thanksgiving (2 Sam 7:18–29; cf. 1 Chron 17:16–27).
Though not called a covenant in 2 Sam 7:8–16, it is elsewhere (cf. 2 Sam 23:5; Pss 89:35; 132:12). Specifically, the Davidic covenant was a promissory covenant or a royal grant, that is, an agreement in which God promised specific blessings or granted them to David as his King with no conditions that David had to meet in order to receive these blessings.
What was promised to David could be broken up into two categories:
First, David was given three promises that were fulfilled during his earthly life—a great name, a place for Israel to live, and rest from all his enemies (2 Sam 7:9, 10, 11a).
Second, David was given three promises that would be fulfilled after his lifetime. The first promise was that the Lord would make of his descendants a house (2 Sam 7:11b), that is, a house of people in contrast to a physical house, like the one David wanted to build for the ark of the covenant. The second promise was that God would raise up David’s offspring after him (2 Sam 7:12). This offspring included Solomon, every Davidic descendant thereafter, and eventually Jesus the Messiah. The third promise was that the Lord would establish the kingdom of David’s descendant forever (2 Sam 7:13). Since sinful men cannot live forever (e.g., Solomon), only Jesus can fulfill this promise. When He comes again some day, He will!1
From these promises that David received and how he responded to them, we learn that, whenever God is gracious—giving us what we do not deserve—we should always thank Him!
See Michael A. Grisanti, “The Davidic Covenant,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 10 (1999) 233–50. Available online at https://tms.edu/m/tmsj10p.pdf. [↩]
Last week, we saw that David became great as a king (2 Sam 1–7, 21; cf. 3:1; 5:10) in part by the diminishing influence of the house of Saul. This week, we consider that David also became great because he became king in Jerusalem and fended off his enemies.
Among the dead of David’s opposition were Saul and his relatives, as well as any military commanders who might have attempted to usurp the throne. As a result, all Israel came to Hebron to David to submit to his kingship (2 Samuel 5:1–5; cf. 1 Chronicles 11:1–3). Many men joined themselves to David’s army at this time (1 Chronicles 12:23–40).
Now over all Israel, David took Jerusalem from the Jebusites, lived there, established his house, and increased his family (2 Samuel 5:6–16; 1 Chronicles 11:4–9; 14:1–7).
David’s greatness also increased because the ark returned to Jerusalem.
Though the ark was touched by Uzzah and temporarily waylaid at the house of Obed-edom as a result, it eventually returned from Baale-judah (Kiriath Jearim; cf. Joshua 15:9) to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 6:1–15; cf. 1 Chronicles 13:1–14; 15:1–16:43).
Michal rebuked David for his dress and dance when the ark came into Jerusalem, but he in turned rebuked her. She never had any children, eliminating the possibility of David somehow continuing the line of Saul through her (2 Samuel 6:16–23; cf. 1 Chronicles 15:29–30).
As to lessons we could learn from these narratives in David’s life…
First, no enemy will stand in the Lord’s way when He desires His people to prevail. God had promised David a kingdom. The Jebusites and Philistines had no chance of winning against him.
Second, one sin often leads to another. David’s failure to properly transport the ark led to Uzzah’s disregard in touching the ark (cf. Numbers 4:5–6, 15; 7:9). David should have inquired of the Lord as he did just previously for battle and not his fellow Israelites (cf. 2 Samuel 5:19, 23; 1 Chronicles 13:1–4).
Third, a holy God will not be mocked without consequences. Michal despised David for dressing like a priest and showing an intense joy over the ark’s return. She herself was then despised by David and had no children as a result.
So far, we have considered David’s life in 1 Samuel 16–31. Throughout this section of Scripture, we know that he was to succeed Saul as king. Themes that come within this overarching storyline is that David was the better of the two men as one who truly had a heart for God. Also, many passages demonstrate that Jonathan accepted David’s anointing by Samuel, and though David’s kingdom was on the run, it would be established in time.
In 2 Samuel 1–7, we see that David became great within Israel. Three themes that support this point are that (1) the possibility of the kingship staying in the house of Saul was removed, (2) David became king in Jerusalem and fended off external enemies, and (3) the ark returned to Jerusalem.
Let’s look at the first of these themes and explore how David’s greatness was promoted through the removal of the house of Saul. As Saul’s next of kin were removed in various ways, so also was the threat to David’s kingship.
First, Saul and some of his sons died in battle (1 Sam 31; 2 Sam 1:1–27). Returning from slaying the Amalekites, David learned of Saul’s death from an Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul. David mourned and had him executed (2 Sam 1:1–16). David lamented for Saul and Jonathan, “How the mighty have fallen!” (2 Sam 1:17–27; vv. 19, 25, 27).
Second, intrigue between the houses of Saul and David led to the death of Saul’s son Ish-bosheth who ruled in Israel (2 Sam 2:1–4:12). While David ruled in Hebron (for a total of 7.5 years), Ish-bosheth ruled over Israel for 2 years (2 Sam 2:1–11). During these 2 years, the intrigue began with Saul’s uncle Abner and his men provoking Joab and his men to battle. While Joab’s men won the day (20 dead on his side compared to 360 for Abner), Joab’s brother Asahel was slain by Abner himself (2 Sam 2:12–32). War continued between the houses of Saul and David, and David became stronger (2 Sam 3:1–5).
In time, however, Abner rebelled against Ish-bosheth, leading to Ish-bosheth’s death. As Abner became powerful within the house of Saul, he slept with Rizpah, one of Saul’s concubines, which could have been taken as an attempt to take the throne. He was angered when Ish-bosheth asked about Rizpah and made peace with David as a result, even meeting the condition of returning David’s wife Michal. However, Joab was angry over the situation, mistrusted Abner, and murdered him to avenge his brother Asahel (2 Sam 3:6–30). David mourned and fasted to communicate that it was not his will to kill Abner. (2 Sam 3:31–39).
Seeing that Abner was dead and that Ish-bosheth’s kingdom was quickly crumbling, Baanah and Rechab, two generals, murdered Ish-bosheth, brought his head to David, and were executed for their wicked deed (2 Sam 4:1–12). Ish-bosheth was no longer a threat to the throne of David.
Third, with Michal as his wife again, there was the possibility of David having a child through her and mixing his house with that of Saul and thus letting Saul’s line continue to the throne. however, due to Michal’s response to David’s dancing at the ark’s return, she had no children (2 Sam 6:16–23).
Fourth, Jonathan’s son (and thus Saul’s grandson) Mephibosheth was removed from any potential to take David’s throne as well. David initially showed kindness to Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9:1–13). Later, however, David gave Ziba the property of Mephibosheth on the charge that Mephibosheth went to Jerusalem to retake Saul’s throne (2 Sam 16:1–4). Upon hearing Mephibosheth’s account of the matter, it seems that David was probably not sure of what to think of either Ziba or Mephibosheth’s words. David gave Mephibosheth back half of his land (2 Sam 19:24–40).
Fifth, David hung seven sons of Saul at the request of the Gibeonites to alleviate the three-year famine God gave in response to Saul’s attack upon the Gibeonites (2 Sam 21:1–14).
In various ways, God removed many within Saul’s household who were powerful or could have tried to assert themselves for David’s throne. As a result, David increased in greatness in Israel.
Various lessons can be learned from David becoming great in Israel:
First, God is powerful enough to providentially use (while not authoring) sin to bring about His purposes. David became strong through the sins of many men.
Second, God places men in power, not men, and when men greedily seek power for themselves, their greed for power leads to further sin. We saw immorality (Abner with Rizpah), murder (the generals killing Ish-bosheth), and lies (Ziba and Mephibosheth).
Third, we should listen to both sides of the story before settling a dispute. David’s decision to give everything to Ziba and then half back again to Mephibosheth seems to indicate that he was not quite sure who to believe and maybe should have done things differently the first time around.
Within 1 Samuel, we see from many passages that David’s kingdom was on the run but would be established in time. In 1 Samuel 18–20, Saul unsuccessfully tried to kill David. 1 Samuel 21–31 then records how David was on the run. The reader would see that, just as promised (1 Samuel 16:6–13; cf. 13:14; 15:28), David’s kingdom would come in spite of Saul’s opposition (cf. 1 Samuel 16:18; 18:12–17; 21:11; 24:17–21; 25:28–29; 26:25; 28:17; 29:5).
After finding relief at Nob, David was almost caught by the Philistine Achish in Gath (1 Sam 21:1–15). David then began to acquire the nucleus of his kingdom—a ragtag, 400-man army and his family except for his parents who went to the king of Moab. Having fled to Judah (1 Sam 22:1–5), David protected the city of Keilah but then fled to Ziph. Saul continually searched in vain for David whose army had grown to 600 men (1 Sam 23:1–14).
Saul again sought David in Maon. The two were on opposite sides of a mountain when Saul was called away to battle. David then went to Engedi where he spared the life of Saul (1 Sam 23:19–24:22). While in Maon, David was poorly treated by a man named Nabal but spared his life at the request of Nabal’s wife Abigail. God killed Nabal ten days later, and perhaps he foreshadowed Saul’s end (cf. 1 Sam 25:26, 28–31). David married Abigail and Anihoam, and his wife Michal married another (1 Sam 25:1–43).
Back in Ziph, David was hunted again by Saul who David spared again (1 Sam 26:1–5). David at last went to Gath, made an alliance with Achish, was sought no more by Saul, and killed his enemies for a year and four months (1 Sam 27:1–12). While retrieving his people and possessions from the Amalekites (1 Sam 28:1–30:31), many men joined to David (1 Chron 12:1–22), and Saul was slain in Gilboa, making way for David to become king (1 Sam 31:1–13).
David became king, overcoming all obstacles by God’s help. Two lessons stand out:
First, God is always faithful to His promises. Just as God promised David he would be king, though it may have seemed unsure to David at times, it was never in doubt for God.
Second, whatever this world may look like now or in the future, Christ will come again and reign. Just as David waited for his throne, hurdling difficulties until then, so also we await the coming of our Lord while this world lies in the power of the prince of darkness. Just as God placed David on the throne, so also will He one day send His Son to claim His earthly throne as well.
Last week, we saw that 1 Samuel 16-31 covers a time when, though anointed by Samuel to be king, David was not king while Saul still had the throne. During this time, one of the themes in David’s life is that Jonathan, David’s most faithful of friends, accepted David’s kingship.
After David slew Goliath, Jonathan and David fast became faithful friends (1 Sam 18:1–5). While Saul refused to accept David as his successor, Jonathan did. In his attempt to protect David, Jonathan secured a vow from Saul to not attempt to kill David (1 Sam 19:1–7), which was later broken multiple times (1 Sam 19:8–24).
As Saul’s hunt for David continued, Jonathan and David worked out a plan to protect David and made another covenant. After Saul tried to spear Jonathan, Jonathan informed David of Saul’s treachery, and David left (1 Sam 20:1–42).
In one last meeting, Jonathan spoke peace and covenanted with David again at Horesh (1 Sam 23:15–18). Jonathan “strengthened his hand in God” with the words “You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you” (1 Sam 23:16-17 ESV).
Lessons from King David and Jonathan’s Acceptance of His Kingship
First, encouragement can come from unexpected places. As David sought to be faithful to God, he was repeatedly encouraged by the sons of the king who wanted to kill him.
Second, God providentially protects us as He desires. While Jonathan could have conspired with his father to kill David to let the throne come to him, he was a humble, God-fearing Israelite who helped David escape to be king one day.
The life of David is covered in 1 Sam 16–31, 2 Sam 1–24, 1 Kgs 1–2, and 1 Chron 11–29, 61 chapters in all, which is over 5% of the Bible’s 1,189 chapters. Add his 73 psalms to this number (now 134 chapters), and David is the author or focus of 11.3% of the Bible’s chapters. Likewise, Moses is the author and focus of 188 chapters, 15.8% of the Bible’s chapters. Only Jesus enjoys more of a focus in the Bible as it is Him to whom the OT points (in part through the life of David) and about Him that the NT records, explains, and anticipates.
In covering many themes from David’s life, the first we will explore is David’s Succession to King Saul (1 Sam 16–31). Though anointed but not yet king, David served and then ran from Saul. Others accepted David as king, including Saul’s son Jonathan.
Within 1 Sam 16–31, we see the sub-theme that David was better than Saul. David was shown to be, as God said to Saul, “better than you” (1 Sam 15:28; cf. 13:14; 16:7; 24:71; 28:17), meaning one who had a heart to obey the Lord. Though chosen by Samuel to replace Saul as king (1 Sam 16:1–13), David found himself under Saul for a time, showing him to be better than his predecessor in multiple ways:
He had the Spirit and calmed Saul’s harmful spirit (1 Sam 16:13–23).
He fought Goliath while Saul watched on (1 Sam 17:1–58).
Saul tried to kill David, but the Lord made David successful (1 Sam 18:6–16).
Though Saul married off Merab and tried to kill off David by having him kill Philistines, David persevered and married Michal (1 Sam 18:17–30).
David repaid Saul’s evil with good by sparing his life in a cave in Engedi, took only a part of his robe, and swore that he would not cut off Saul’s offspring. Saul left (1 Sam 24:1–22).
pursued again by Saul, David took his spear and water jug, returned to his camp, and spoke with Saul from a distance. Saul acknowledged his sin and left (1 Sam 26:1–25).
While willing to fight and keep his alliance with Achish, David was providentially hindered from fighting Saul by the mistrust of the Philistines and having to rescue his people and possessions from the Amalekites who attacked Ziklag in his absence (1 Sam 28:1–30:31). It was here that many men joined to David (1 Chron 12:1–22).
From these examples, we learn some easily stated yet invaluable lessons from David:
God knows our hearts.
God rewards those who set their hearts after His own.
We express a heart matched to His own through faithfulness to Him.
May we keep these truths in mind and live as David did, one whose faithfulness stemmed from a heart that followed after God’s own.
With one last look at Saul, these notes are somewhat scattered and more or less center on the death of Saul. His death seemed to be foreshadowed, was prophesied, took place, and was given a commentary after the fact.
David spared Nabal at Abigail’s request, but God killed him ten days later. Perhaps Nabal foreshadows Saul, especially in view of Abigail’s speech (1 Sam 25:26, 28–31).
Samuel rebuked Saul for his use of a witch to call him up and foretold the death of Saul and his sons to be the next day (1 Sam 28:15–25).
At Gilboa (cf. 1 Sam 28:4), Saul, his sons, his armor-bearer, and all his men died on the same day. Cities were abandoned, and the bodies of Saul and his sons were desecrated, recovered, burned, and buried (1 Sam 31:1–13). This record is repeated in 1 Chron 10:1–12.
1 Chron 10:13–14 comments that this death and loss of the kingdom was for his disobedience and seeking guidance from a medium.
Lessons from King Saul
Saul was impatient for a sacrifice and eventually consulted a witch. He died soon after the second of these sins. The first and third of this saying came true in his life: “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay.” “Evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse” (2 Tim 3:13), and “An evil man is ensnared in his transgression” (Prov 29:6).
If David was anointed in 1022 BC and became king after Saul’s death in 1010 BC, he waited 12 years for his kingdom. Sometimes God has us wait for good things. For Saul, “One’s pride will bring him low,” and for David, “but he who is lowly in spirit will obtain honor” (Prov 29:23).