NOTES on Hebrews
11:32-34 E (click here for
During the time of the judges there were only three prophets recorded in Israel and only five revelations. "The word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions." (1 Samuel 3:1) Into this barrenness God brought the prophet Samuel. Through Samuel, God established the monarchy when Israel clamored for a king. Samuel anointed Saul from the tribe of Benjamin as the first king of Israel. When Saul apostatized, God instructed Samuel to anoint a new king from the tribe of Judah: David, son of Jesse. In spite of Samuel's grief over Saul and reluctance to replace him, he followed God's orders.
Jesse was the grandson of Boaz and Ruth. He had eight sons, the youngest of whom was David. David herded the family sheep. When Samuel visited Jesse at God's direction preparing to anoint the next king of Israel, David was the one son who did not attend the feast. God told Samuel not to anoint any of the other seven, and at Samuel's insistence, Jesse sent for David. "He was ruddy, with a fine appearance and handsome features." (1 Samuel 16:12)
When David appeared, the Lord said to Samuel, " 'Rise and anoint him; he is the one.'
"So Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the Lord came upon David in power." (1 Samuel 16:12-13)
Since Saul was still the reigning king, David's anointing had to be kept confidential. Only his family witnessed it. The handful of witnesses, however, still provided proof of God's choice and Samuel's involvement if David should ever be accused of usurping the throne.
God sealed David's anointing by placing His Spirit upon him. Even though it would be years before he would ascend the throne, he was God's chosen king, and God would bless him in ways that would make it clear that David was not operating with the power of an ordinary man.
Concurrently with David's blessing of the Holy Spirit, "the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord tormented him." (1 Samuel 16:14) Saul had also received the Spirit of the Lord upon him when he was anointed king. In fact, Samuel told Saul, "The Spirit of the Lord will come upon you in powerand you will be changed into a different person." (1 Samuel 10:6)
When Saul left Samuel to return home, "God changed Sauls' heart. The Spirit of God came upon him in power." (1 Samuel 10:9,10)
Saul turned from the Lord, however, and after repeatedly refusing to obey the Lord's commands to him, God selected David to succeed him as king. The Spirit of God, which came upon people in the Old Testament and did not indwell them, finally left him. David now carried the legacy of God's choice.
Not only did the Spirit of God leave Saul, however, but he was also tormented by an evil spirit from the Lord. When these attacks of torment would come upon Saul, he was miserable and behaved intolerably. Finally his court attendants said, "See, an evil spirit from God is tormenting you. Let our lord command his servants here to search for someone who can play the harp. He will play when the evil spirit from God comes upon you, and you will feel better." (1 Samuel 16:15-16)
They found their harpist. His name was David, son of Jesse. He was a shepherd, and he bore the mark of God's anointing-the Spirit of the Lord was upon him.
"He is a brave man and a warrior. He speaks well and is a fine-looking man," one of Saul's servants said of David. "And the Lord is with him." (1 Samuel 16:18)
Thus began David's introduction to the court of Israel. He still lived at home and tended sheep, but as he was needed, he traveled to the court and played the harp for Saul. (see 1 Samuel 17:15)
"Saul liked him very much, and David became one of his armor-bearers.Whenever the spirit from God came upon Saul, David would take his harp and play. Then relief would come to Saul; he would feel better, and the evil spirit would leave him." (1 Samuel 22-23)
Not yet knowing of David's divine appointment, the people in Saul's court as well as in his family began to know and trust David. God's presence upon him was evident, and the royal community began to see David as a significant member. This natural growth in understanding and trust of David was crucial. Royal succession was expected to pass from the king to his son. Anyone outside the royal line would be considered a usurper to the throne. God prepared the hearts of Israel so that when the time came to make David the next king, they would acknowledge the Spirit of God on him and accept God's sovereign appointment. He would not be a dark horse appearing from nowhere; people would know, recognize and trust his leadership and military strength and wisdom.
Evil Spirit from the Lord
Many of us grew up rationalizing statements such as the ones in 1 Samuel 16:14, 15, and 23 that refer to "an evil spirit from the Lord" tormenting Saul.
"God does not cause evil," we said; "God didn't literally send evil spirits to people; Satan does that. Israel believed that God was responsible for everything, so they said God sent an evil spirit just to explain to themselves that God is in charge. Such tormenting, however, is not from God; it's from Satan. "
Such rationalizing, however, does not acknowledge God's sovereignty over everything, including evil. The Old Testament has several references to God being in charge of evil spirits. Besides the ones in 1 Samuel 16, another passage in 1 Samuel 18:10-12 refers to Saul's tormenting spirit:
"The next day an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul. He was prophesying in his house, while David was playing the harp, as he usually did. Saul had a spear in his hand and he hurled it, saying to himself, 'I'll pin David to the wall.' But David eluded him twice."
In Judges 9 we find the story of Abimelech, the son of Gideon and his slave girl. Abimelech hired some "reckless adventurers" (Judges 9:4) to help him and the people of Shechem kill all seventy of Gideon's other sons. Only one, Jotham, escaped. Abimelech convinced his clansmen to crown him king, and for three years he governed Israel. Then "God sent an evil spirit between Abimelech and the citizens of Shechem [who had helped kill the 70 and who had helped crown him king], who acted treacherously against Abimelech. God did this in order that the crime against Jerub-Baal's [Gideon's] seventy sons, the shedding of their blood, might be avenged on their brother Abimelech and on the citizens of Shechem, who had helped him murder his brothers." (Judges 9:22-24)
The story ends with Abimelech destroying Shechem, then being mortally wounded by a millstone a woman dropped on his head. God was responsible for Abimelech and his followers turning on each other and destroying each other.
Another provocative story occurs in 1 Kings: 22:19-23. Ahab, king of Israel, was asking Jehoshaphat, king of Judah to ally with him against the king of Aram to take back Ramath-Gilead. Jehoshaphat agreed on the condition that they sought the will of God first. Only one true prophet of the Lord was in Israel, Micaiah. Ahab, though, didn't want to consult him because "he never prophesies anything good about me, but always bad." (1 Kings 22:8)
Ahab had summoned about 400 other prophets, and they all encouraged him to go to war. Micaiah, however, was the lone voice against such a battle. After prophesying that he saw Israel scattered like sheep without a shepherd, Micaiah continued, "Therefore hear the word of the Lord: I saw the Lord sitting on his throne with all the host of heaven standing around him on his right and on his left. And the Lord said, 'Who will entice Ahab into attacking Ramoth Gilead and going to his death there?'
"One suggested this, and another that. Finally, a spirit came forward, stood before the Lord and said, 'I will entice him.'
" 'By what means?' the Lord asked.
" 'I will go out and be a lying spirit in the mouths of all his prophets,' he said.
" 'You will succeed in enticing him,' said the Lord. 'Go and do it.'
"So now the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouths of all these prophets of yours. The Lord has decreed disaster for you." (1 Kings 22:19-23)
At this, one of Ahab's false prophets stepped forward and slapped Micaiah on the face, and Ahab ordered Micaiah to be thrown into prison and fed nothing but bread and water.
Ahab went to battle at Ramoth Gilead, and as Micaiah had prophesied, he was killed.
God's Sovereignty over Evil
Another example of God being sovereign over evil is the story of Job found in Job 1:6-2:10. The angels gathered before God, and Satan came with them. When God asked him where he came from he replied, "From roaming through the earth and going back and forth in it." God pointed out that his servant Job was on earth, and he "is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil."
Satan challenged God. He's only loyal to you, Satan said in effect, because you've protected him. If you were to remove your protection, he would curse you.
"The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything he has is in your hands, but on the man himself do not lay a finger.' " (Job 1:12)
At this point, Job began to suffer the loss of everything he treasured. He lost his livestock, his servants, his camels, and all his children. Rather than cursing God, he praised His name.
The next time Satan appeared before God, he challenged God by saying if Job suffered in his own body, he would curse God.
"The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, he is in your hands; but you must spare his life.' " (Job 2:6)
The rest of the story comprises the rest of the book of Job. He suffered intense pain and skin infections, yet he did not curse God. Even though Job did not understand why he was suffering and could think of no cause for it, he still trusted God and did not curse him.
Satan had God's permission to harass Job-within limits God set. Evil was under the authority of God's sovereignty.
God is sovereign over even Satan and his minions. The Old Testament writers were not being simply metaphorical when they wrote about evil spirits being sent from God.
When Saul apostatized and God withdrew his Spirit from him, part of Saul's consequence was that an evil spirit took the place of the Holy Spirit in Saul's spirit. This exchange was not something that happened outside God's jurisdiction at Satan's autonomous behest. Saul's harassing spirit was part of God's judgment on Saul. It was part of God's way of demonstrating to Saul that he could not sin successfully forever without consequences. The price of rejecting the Holy Spirit is high. God sovereignly permitted Satan to harass Saul as a consequence of his turning away from God. It was part of Saul's punishment decreed by God.
Jesus addressed this phenomenon in his parable of the man who is delivered of an evil spirit. The parable is in Matthew 12:43-45.
"When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."
The reason the evil spirit could re-enter that man and bring seven more with it is that the man did not fill the vacuum left when the evil spirit departed. Only by asking God's Spirit to fill his heart and live in him could he have kept the evil spirit out. His heart would have been occupied.
A person cannot be neutral. Either he belongs to God or Satan claims him. When Saul lost God's Spirit, he made a choice that put him in a dangerous spiritual position. He rejected God, and he thus opened himself to evil. God in his sovereignty commissioned an evil spirit to harass Saul and to make him experience the seriousness of his choice. Saul's suffering at the harassing of an evil spirit might have made him realize his danger and turn back to the Lord.
God also, in his sovereignty, provided a means of relief for Saul that probably could have led him to repent of his apostasy. God sent David, Saul's successor, to play the harp for him. David had the Spirit of God on him, and when Saul's harassing spirit came upon him, David, inspired and empowered by the Spirit of God, would play for Saul in his presence. Saul would become calm.
The calming effect on Saul was more than simply the music. The evil spirit in Saul could not withstand the Spirit of God David brought with him, and the music brought God's healing touch to Saul. God gave Saul a source of redemption. Through His servant David, God sought to reach Saul and stir in him repentance and love. Temporarily Saul would respond, but he always let his anger overcome him. He resisted the healing touch of the Spirit of God that God provided for him.
Great Controversy Fallacy
Understanding that God is sovereign over evil and that evil must operate within God's boundaries and do God's bidding reinforces the fallacy of the Great Controversy theory many of us believed. Jesus is not engaged in a battle with Satan which Satan has a chance to win. Satan has absolutely no chance to win. He is already a defeated foe, disarmed and condemned by the cross of Jesus. (see Colossians 2:15) Satan is not prowling the universe without controls. He is subject to the Lord God. Yes, Satan is powerful, but his power is simply the result of his operating in a physical dimension different from ours. His power is DERIVED power, not intrinsic power. Even Satan's power is given by God.
While we can rest in the certainty that Satan cannot do what God does not allow, we must also not become complacent. We are vulnerable to Satan's deception and seduction and attacks. We need always to keep ourselves in relationship with Jesus. We need to consciously choose to let the Holy Spirit direct us when we're confronted with life's unfairness and attacks. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to fill the places in our hearts where we have hidden bitterness or shame or guilt or anger. We need to ask the Holy Spirit to fill the places in our hearts where we have been deceived.
Satan is the author of deception and sin. Whenever the Holy Spirit sheds light on deception or sin we've been hiding in our hearts, we must ask God to replace it with himself. Even in leaving the Seventh-day Adventist church, as so many of us have done, we need to ask God to put his Spirit in the place in our hearts where Satan has claimed us through the deception of Adventism. When we recognize and renounce evil in our lives, we must not leave a vacuum. We must be willing to commit to truth, not simply to deny evil. As Jesus' parable taught, to deny evil without committing to truth leaves us open to deception and enslavement worse than we had at first.
David the Warrior
Meanwhile, as David grew in favor with Saul, Israel was still skirmishing with the Philistines. The two nations prepared for yet another battle about 15 miles west of Bethlehem near the Philistine border.
The Philistines had adopted a successful intimidation technique. They had a warrior named Goliath who was over nine feet tall; his coat of armor weighed about 125 pounds, and his spearhead alone weighed about 15 pounds. Goliath would shout to the Israelites, "Why do you come out and line up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not the servants of Saul? Choose a man and have him come down to me. If he is able to fight and kill me, we will become your subjects; but if I overcome him and kill him, you will become our subjects and serve us." (1 Samuel 17:8-9)
Of course, no one accepted his impossible challenge issued every morning and evening for forty days.
David's three oldest brothers had joined Saul's army, and they were camped, intimidated with the rest of Israel, unable to muster the courage for war. Jesse packed some food and sent David, who was dividing his time between the sheep and Saul, to check on his brothers stationed with the army. When David saw and heard Goliath's arrogant challenge he said, "What will be done for the man who kills this philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?" (1 Samuel 17:26)
Daivd's brothers were furious with him and jealous, and they said, "Why have you come down here? And with whom did you leave those few sheep in the desert? I know how conceited you are and how wicked your heart is; you came down only to watch the battle." (1 Samuel 17:28)
The men informed David that the king had promised "great wealth to the man who kills [Goliath]. He will also give him his daughter in marriage and will exempt his father's family from taxes in Israel." (1 Sam. 17:25)
Saul heard that David challenging Israel not to be frightened by the pagan giant who had no right to defy the armies of God. He sent for David, and David said to Saul, "Let no one lose heart on account of this Philistine; your servant will go and fight him." (1 Samuel 17:32)
Saul refused, but David told Saul that as a shepherd he had killed a bear and a lion which had tried to carry off his sheep. "The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine," he said. (1 Samuel 17:37)
Saul said, "Go, and the Lord be with you."
Refusing to wear Saul's personal armor, David went to meet Goliath with only his slingshot and five smooth stones. Enraged, Goliath roared curses at David.
David, unafraid, said, "Today I will give the carcasses of the Philistine army to the birds of the air and the beasts of the earth, and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel. All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the Lord saves; for the battle is the Lord's and he will give all of you into our hands." (1 Samuel 17:46-47)
As Goliath charged him, David slung a stone from his slingshot and hit the giant in the forehead. Goliath fell facedown. David ran to him, pulled Goliath's own sword from its scabbard, and cut off his head.
Terrified, the Philistines fled for their lives with the Israelite army in hot pursuit. That day they conquered the Philistines, and "their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron." (1 Samuel 17: 52)
David, the Darling of Israel
His conquest of Goliath changed the pattern of David's life. Saul had Abner, commander of his army, bring David to him, and from that day on David did not return to his father's house but lived in Saul's court. Everything David did was so successful that Saul gave him a high position in the army. All Israel and all Saul's officers were pleased with David's promotions. The people loved David's authority and fearlessness.
When the Israelite army returned home from decimating the Philistines following David's slaughter of Goliath, the women of Israel came dancing with tambourines to meet the conquering heroes. Their song reflected the general feeling of most of Israel:
"Saul has slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands." (1 Samuel 18:7)
Clearly David was indispensable, but his popularity infuriated Saul. "What more can he get but the kingdom?" he thought, "and from that time on Saul kept a jealous eye on David." (1 Samuel 18:8)
The next day "an evil spirit from God came forcefully upon Saul." David was playing the harp for him, as usual, but Saul refused to be soothed. He had a spear in his hand, and "he hurled it, saying to himself, 'I'll pin David to the wall.' But David eluded him twice." (1 Samuel 18:11)
"Saul was afraid of David, because the Lord was with David but had left Saul. So he sent David away from him and gave him command over a thousand men, and David led the troops in their campaigns. In everything he did he had great success, because the Lord was with him. When Saul saw how successful he was, he was afraid of him. But all Israel and Judah loved David, because he led them in their campaigns." (1 Samuel 18:12-16)
Saul had never made good his promise to give David his daughter in marriage or to release his family from taxes. He tried to fulfill his promise by attaching a condition to it. He offered his older daughter Merab to David in exchange for fighting his battles, hoping that the Philistines would kill him. David, however, refused, pleading that he had no standing to justify becoming the kings son-in-law.
Finally, however, Saul did honor his promise by giving David his second daughter Michal who "was in love with David." (1 Sam. 18:20)
Saul required a mere 100 Philistine foreskins as a bride price for Michal, certain that David would be killed in the process of such extensive personal combat. David, however, produced the required foreskins before the allotted time was up, and he married Michal.
David's military success and popularity grew, and Saul abandoned trying to have David killed in battle to plotted instead to kill him directly. Michal, however, warned David, placed a dummy in his bed to fool the assassins, and saved David's life.
During David's move into Saul's court and his meteoric rise to hero status, an unlikely but crucial loyalty grew between Saul's family and David. Saul's son Jonathan was the crown prince. Jonathan himself was a great warrior and had led Israel in successful attacks on the Philistines, and the people were loyal to Jonathan. (see 1 Samuel 14)
When David moved permanently to Saul's court, however, Jonathan made a covenant with David. Inspired undoubtedly by God, Jonathan recognized David's integrity and God's blessing on his life. 1 Samuel 18:1-4 says, "Jonathan became one in spirit with David, and he loved him as himself.And Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan took off the robe he was wearing and gave it to David, along with his tunic, and even his sword, his bow and his belt."
Jonathan's covenant and ratifying gifts were symbolic of giving himself to David. It seems possible by this exchange-especially the giving of his sword, bow, and belt-that already Jonathan recognized David would be the next king, not himself. By the time Jonathan helped David escape Saul's court to save his life, Jonathan recognized that God was giving the kingdom to David. Saul even appealed to Jonathan to work with him to eradicate David or Jonathan would not inherit the throne, but Johathan would not collaborate with him. (1 Samuel 23:18)
Jonathan, however, renewed his covenant with David before David went into self-imposed exile. "Go in peace," he said to David, "for we have sworn friendship with each other in the name of the Lord, saying 'The Lord is witness between you and me, and between your descendants and my descendants forever.' " (1 Samuel 20: 42)
Both Saul's heir, Jonathan, and his daughter Michal loved David. They knew he was a political threat to their ever more crazy father and to their own position in Israel. Customarily, if a king not of the established royal line took the throne, he killed everyone from the previous king's family as well as his courtiers. But God placed love and loyalty in their hearts for David early in David's introduction to Israel, and that loyalty grew as David's popularity grew.
Part of God's blessing on David was that he not only caused all Israel to love David, but he also established deep bonds of friendship and love between David and Saul's family. If Saul's family had been jealous of David, they could have made trouble that could have amounted to civil war when David came to the throne. But God paved the way for all Israel to see Saul's demise into evil and insanity while developing deep loyalty and admiration for David.
Preserving His Life
After Jonathan warned David that Saul was actively trying to kill him, David spent the next period of his life hiding and fleeing from Saul. Some significant events took place during this time.
Those of us who have studied to understand the Sabbath in the new covenant have encountered an episode from this period of David's life. Jesus referred to this episode when he was discussing the Sabbath with the Pharisees.
He said to them, "Haven't you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread-which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests." (Matthew 12:3-4)
Jesus went on to make the point that the law was not the greatest thing in reality-God is. Jesus trumped the law!
That event to which Jesus referred happened right after Jonathan warned David that his life was in danger. They had sworn undying loyalty throughout their generations, and David fled. He and his men went to Nob, and David went to see Ahimelech the priest.
Ahimelech was frightened when he saw David alone, and David did not tell the priest he was fleeing for his life from Saul. He said, "The king charged me with a certain matter and said to me, 'No one is to know anything about your mission and your instructions.' " (1 Samuel 21:2)
He then asked for bread, but Ahimelech said he had none to give except the consecrated bread of the Presence that had been removed for hot bread that day. It was Ahimelech who suggested he take the consecrated bread, providing that his men had "kept themselves from women," thus ensuring they were ritually pure.
Although David was God's anointed, he was not yet physically the king. He was not even on a glorious mission. He was fleeing for his life and lying about it, yet the priest saw his need as superceding the legal requirement that the consecrated bread be kept for the priests. And Jesus saw this event as illustrating his point that the law was not the greatest authority in the universe. No law can individually minister to each person's specific needs on a moment by moment basis. Only God can do that.
Honoring God's Sovereignty
During this period of David's hiding, he spared Saul's life twice. (The stories are found in 1 Samuel 24 and 26.) On one occasion he cut off the corner of Saul's robe while he slept, leaving Saul's life untouched. On the other occasion, David and Abishai, one of his warriors, found Saul asleep with his spear stuck into the ground. David asked Abishai to get the spear and Saul's water jug, and then they left. On both occasions David refused to keel Saul as his men urged him to do.
"The Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord's anointed," he said. (1 Samuel 26:11)
On both occasions Saul was contrite when he realized David had spared his life. In his contrition, he acknowledged his long and close relationship with David, and he also acknowledged God's choice of David.
On the first occasion when Saul realized that David had refused to kill him, he wept. "Is that your voice, David my son?" as asked. "You are more righteous than I."
Then he said, "I know that you will surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel will be established in your hands. Now swear to me by the Lord that you will not cut off my descendants or wipe out my name from my father's family." (1 Saumel 24:21)
"I have sinned," Saul said to David after the second occasion. "Come back, David my son. Because you considered my life precious today, I will not try to harm you again. Surely I have acted like a fool and have erred greatly." (1 Samuel 26:21)
David returned Saul's spear, then repeated to Saul that he would not lay a hand on the Lord's anointed.
"Then Saul said to David, 'May you be blessed, my son David; you will do great things and surely triumph.' " (1Samuel 26:25)
David was already anointed for his role as king. He was the Lord's anointed. But David still honored God's choice and anointing of Saul as well. As long as Saul lived, he was king of Israel, and David knew that only God could decide when Saul's reign should end.
In contrast, Saul knew that God had appointed David to be the next king. He knew the throne was passing out of his family, and he was angry. He tried desperatelybut unsuccessfully- to kill David and thwart God's plan. When Saul encountered David's respect for God's anointing of him, even though God's Spirit had departed from him, he was humbled. Being in the presence of David
David's respect for God actually drew out Saul's respect for God's plan as well. Again God offered Saul, through his servant David, a chance to repent of his anger and obstinance. Saul was moved by David's reverence, but Saul rejected the chances to repent.
A Good Wife
Between David's two episodes of sparing Saul's life, he had a momentous exchange with a wise woman named Abigail. David had organized a band of warriors remembered as the "Adullam band". These men became quite organized and eventually provided protection from foreign invaders for outlying Israelite settlements.
A certain very wealthy man named Nabal (which means "fool"), a descendant of Caleb (a name that can also mean "dog"), was shearing his sheep at Carmel. David sent his men to greet Nabal, to remind him that he and his band had protected his shepherds, and to ask him for some food. David was well-known in Israel, and he knew that Nabal should recognize who he was when he sent his men in his name.
Nabal, however, was churlish and mean-spirited. In fact, the author of 1 Samuel tells the story of Nabal as a way of typifying Saul and of exposing the evil and foolish workings of Saul's heart by describing those motives in Nabal as he interacted with David.
Nabal claimed not to know who David was and refused to offer food. When David heard his men's report, he told his men to arm themselves, and they set off to avenge themselves against Nabal.
Nabal had one priceless asset besides his wealth: a wife named Abigail who was intelligent and beautiful. She received a message one day from one of Nabal's servants. He told her that Nabal had "hurled insults" at David's men. He told her how David's band had protected them when they had been herding, and he concluded by saying, "Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such wicked man that no one can talk to him."(1 Samuel 25:17)
Abigail immediately packed "two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five seahs of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys." (1 Samuel 25:18) She sent her men ahead with the food and followed them, but she did not tell Nabal she was going.
When Abigail met David, she bowed and took responsibility for Nabal's rudeness. "My lord, let the blame be on me alone. Please let your servant speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. May my lord pay no attention to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name-is name is Fool, and folly goes with him. But as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my master sent." (1 Saumel 25:24-25)
She pointed out that God was keeping him from the bloodshed of avenging himself on Nabal and his household, and she called a curse onto David's enemies who would try to harm him as Nabal did. She stated, "Please forgive your servant's offense, for the Lord will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the Lord's battles." (1 Sam. 25:28)
She ended with this confident statement, "When the Lord has done for my master every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him leader over Israel, my master will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord has brought my master success, remember your servant." (1 Samuel 25:30-31)
David was disarmed by Abigail's indirect appeal to his dignity and his position as future king. He recognized that God saved him from avenging himself by sending Abigail, and he accepted her gift and told her to go home in peace. He understood that she was, in addition to saving her own family, preserving his integrity as the future king of Israel.
"I have heard your words and granted your request," he said. (1 Sam. 25:35)
When Abigail returned home, Nabal, was partying drunkenly. "Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him and he became like a stone. About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died." (1 Samuel 25:38)
When David heard the news of Nabal's death, he praised God for upholding his cause against Nabal and also for preventing him from acting in vengeance. He also sent word to Abigail, asking her to marry him.
She agreed without hesitation.
At the end of this story, we learn a final bit of interesting information: "David had also married Ahinoam of Jezreel, and they bother were his wives. But Saul had given his daughter Michal, David's wife, to Paltiel son of Laish, who was from Gallim." (1 Sasmuel 25:43-44)
The story of Nabal serves as an allegory of the way God preserved and honored David in his dealing with Saul. Saul and Nabal, both foolish, were unconcerned about David's identity as God's anointed. They both treated him wickedly and undeservingly. David had cared for both men, and they rewarded him with disdain.
In both cases, David had justifiable outrage against the men, but God preserved his integrity and kept David from killing them. The story of Nabal illuminates David's natural tendency to get revenge, but Abigail prevents him from being impulsive. This story, sandwiched between the two stories of David preserving Saul, accentuates David's restraint in dealing with Saul. It also points out that God's hand was on David, preserving him from sinning in anger. In each instance, God himself avenged David and brought ignominy to the foolish men, rewarding David with the power the other men had corrupted.
Saul had even taken his daughter, David's wife, away from him and given her to someone else. God, however, rewarded David with another good and beautiful wife.
Fair Practice Statute
During David's "exile" period, he instituted a spoils-sharing policy which became an abiding ordinance in Israel. The Amalekites had raided the Negev and Ziklag, and they had taken plunder and all the people in the town. David and his men found their wives and children gone and the city of Ziklang burned to the ground. David and his men pursued the Amalekites with the help of an escaped Egyptian slave who showed him where Amalekites were camping. They fought the Amalekites "from dusk until evening of the next day," and all were killed except 400 who escaped on camels. They retrieved everything that had been stolen, including all the wives and children.
Two-hundred men had been too exhausted to go into battle with David, so they had stayed behind to guard the supplies. Some opportunists among the warriors proposed not giving the 200 any of the spoils except their wives and children. David refused to allow such a thing.
"No, my brothers," he said, you must not do that with what the Lord has given usThe share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike."
Saul and his sons again fought the Philistines. The Philistines killed Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malk-Shua, Saul's son, and they critically wounded Saul. Saul, afraid the Philistines would come and finish him off at close range, fell on his own sword and died. David grieved for Saul, and the first chapter of 2 Samuel contains the lament David wrote for him and for Jonathan.
David consulted God as to what to do after Saul's death. God told him to go to Hebron in Judah. There "the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah." (2 Samuel 2:4)
This public acknowledgment, however, did not mean David was king over all of Israel. Saul's followers and heirs were fighting to retain the throne. Abner, chief of Saul's army, had somehow survived the last battle with the Philistines along with Saul's fourth son, Ish-Bosheth. Ish-Bosheth was a weak man, and Abner tried to fill Saul's vacancy by quickly crowning Ish-Bosheth king over "Gilead, Ashuri, and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel." (2 Samuel 2:9)
David reigned over the house of Judah, but Saul's people tried desperately to keep control of Israel. Ish-Bosheth was forty when Abner crowned him, and he reigned two years.
Civil war between the house of David and the house of Saul festered "a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker." (2 Samuel 2:1) While David was in Hebron, he apparently acquired more wives, a symbol of his prosperity, and six sons were born to him.
Abner, who had been the force behind the house of Saul, became angry with Ish-Bosheth because he accused Abner of sleeping with one of Saul's concubines. In outrage, Abner deserted Ish-Bosheth, and he sent word to David that he would make an agreement with him and "bring the all Israel over to [him]." (2 Samuel 2:12)
Daivd agreed to meet on one condition: Abner was to bring with him David's first wife Michal whom Saul had taken and given to another man.
"Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, 'Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistines foreskins.'
"So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, 'Go back home!' So He went back." (2 Samuel 3:14-16)
David and Abner reached an agreement, but Joab, David's general, became angry when he learned of their agreement. Abner had killed Joab's brother in a battle, and Joab nursed a grudge against him. Without telling David, Joab pursued Abner and murdered him, avenging his brother's death.
David quickly sought to put distance between himself and Abner's murder. He ordered "Joab and all the people with him" to put on sackcloth and to go into mourning for Abner. David himself walked behind Abner's bier and sang a lament for him.
"So on that day all the people and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner." (2 Samuel 3:37)
Ish-Bosheth became frightened at Abner's death. He knew he was dependent upon Abner for his own strength and for his position. All Israel became alarmed when Ish-Bosheth lost courage. Two men who were leaders of Ish-Bosheth's raiding bands snuck into Ish-Bosheth's house one day following Abner's death and stabbed Ish-Bosheth to death. Thinking David would welcome them, they cut off Ish-Bosheth's head and took it to him. David, however, killed them for killing an innocent man.
Finally, however, all opposition to David's authority was gone. "All the tribes of Israel came to David and Hebron and said, 'We are your own flesh and blood.'" (2 Samuel 5:1) The elders anointed David king over all Israel.
"David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six month, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years." (2 Samuel 5:4-5)
When the Philistines heard that their arch-enemy David had become king, they went searching for him to kill him. They were more concerned about his becoming king over Israel than they had been about his ruling only over the house of Judah because they controlled much of the land in the north following Saul's death. David asked God if he should attack them, and God told him He would "hand the Philistines over to [him]." (2 Samuel 5:19)
David fought the Philistines at Baal Perazim, and he defeated them. Again the Philistines prepared for attack, and again David asked God for directions. This time God gave David strange advice.
"Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army." (2 Samuel 5:23-24)
David followed God's advice, and "he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer." (2 Sam. 5:25)
The marching David heard in the balsam trees was the army of God preceding David into battle. Just as God fought Joshua's battles and conquered the land of Canaan for him, so God fought David's battles. These battles were God's battles, and David's were a continuation and a completion of the battles Joshua had begun. Under David the land of Canaan was secured for Israel.
When David became king, one of his first and most significant conquests was that of Jersalem. The city of Jerusalem belonged to the Jebusites, and they had built a nearly impenetrable fortress.
"You will not get in here," they said to David; "even the blind and the lame can ward you off." (2 Samuel 5:6-7)
Joab, who became the commander of David's army, led the attack, and the Israelites used a tunnel that ran under the city walls to enter the city. They conquered Jerusalem, and "David then took up residence in the fortress and called it the City of David.And he became more and more powerful because the Lord God Almighty was with him." (2 Samuel 5:10)
Following David's conquest, Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David with cedar logs, carpenters, and stonemasons to build a palace for David. Tyre was a Phoenician city, and Hiram knew it was crucial for him to have good relations with David because Israel dominated the inland trade route to Tyre. Tyre also depended upon Israelite agriculture for much of its food. Hiram was the first monarch to recognize and celebrate David's position.
After David established himself as king with Jerusalem as his capital city, he went with 30,000 men to Judah to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He was bringing together the seat of the kingdom and the seat of God. He recognized the ark as the earthly throne of God, and he desired to be a "theocratic king" and to have God's dwelling where he lived and thus be under His command.
The years of turmoil and apostasy in the kingdom had taken their toll, however, and David did not, apparently, even think to look up God's commands in Exodus regarding moving the ark. Instead, he used the Philistine tradition and placed the ark on a new cart to transport it from Judah to Jersalem.
On the way, the cart wobbled, and the unfortunate Uzzah reached up to steady it, only to be stricken dead. David became both angry frightened, and he parked the ark in the home of Obed-Edom the Gittie.
"How can the ark of the Lord ever come to me?" he said. (2 Samuel 6:9)
The ark stayed with Obed-Edom for three months, and God blessed his family greatly. When David saw Obed-Edom's great blessings, he became reassured, and this time he checked the law, instructed the Levites to purify themselves (see 1 Chronicles 15:13-15), and brought the ark the rest of the way to Jerusalem carried on the shoulders of Levites. Along the way, David stopped the procession to offer sacrifices.
God re-established with David and all Israel that his law was non-negotiable. They were to take God seriously and obey his commands. They could not re-interpret the law according to their understanding or whimsy, appeasing God with offerings later. It was not permissible to break God's law, as David had when he moved the ark the wrong way, and plead ignorance and good intentions. As a king leading a nation in honoring God, David was responsible for being obedient and for representing God and his law truthfully. God is not capricious, unlike the pagan gods. He is immutable and sovereign. He people can rest in the knowledge that he will not change or relinquish his authority to them.
David was so excited about bringing the ark of God home to his city that he took of his kingly robes and wore a linen ephod, a hip-length garment worn by the priests, and dancing in the streets in front of the ark, celebrating its return.
"David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the Lord with all his might, while he and the entire house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets." (2 Samuel 6:15)
After the ark rested in the tent David had erected for it, he "sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord." Then he blessed the people in God's name and gave gifts of bread, dates, and raisins to each person in the crowd.
One significant person, however, despised David when she saw him dancing in the streets. Michal, Saul's daughter who became his wife, "wathed from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart." (2 Samuel 6:16)
When David returned home to bless his own household, Michal came out to meet him in cold disdain.
"How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, disrobing in the sight of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would," she harped at him.
David replied, "It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord's people Israel-I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor." (2 Samuel 6:20-22)
The contrast between Michal's attitude at this time and her attitude toward David at the beginning of his public career is striking. When he was being hailed as a great warrior, coming home to the singing and dancing of the women in Israel, she loved him. Now, as he sings and dances before the ark of God, she despises him.
No doubt many things conspired to bring about her change of attitude. In the first place, coming home as a conquering hero does not imply indignity as did removing his kingly robes and wearing the sleeveless linen garment of a common priest and dancing in the streets. Michal did not understand Davd's deep emotion and sense of worship that lay behind his removing the outward signs of his royalty and humbling himself before God.
Second, Michal had been used as a political pawn from the time of her marriage to David until this time. Saul had given Michal to David as the fulfillment of a vow, hoping that the marriage would result in an occasion to kill David. When Saul was unsuccessful in getting rid of David, he took Michal away from him and gave her to another man. The Bible does not say how long she had lived with David and how long she had lived with her second husband, but it does say that when David finally became king of Israel, he demanded Michal back.
The brief story of her return is heart-wrenching. Found in 2 Samuel 3:15-16 it says, "So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, 'Go back home!' So he went back."
Michal had no choice in these sovereign decisions. As a woman, even if she was a daughter of a king and the wife of a king, she had to do what she was told. First she was taken from David, her first husband whom she had loved, and given to another. Then she was arbitrarily taken from her second husband and returned to David. From Paltiel's weeping we can deduce that he probably loved Michal very much, and the implication is that she might also have loved him. At any rate, we can assume that Michal undoubtedly experienced resentment and bitterness at the way she was treated without regard for her own feelings.
As the daughter of Saul, according to the laws of the time, Michal was subject to whatever David wished to do to her. Usually when a person took over the throne from another family, the incoming king killed all the outgoing king's family. He could have legally had Michal killed. He was well within his rights to reclaim her as is wife. The problem, obviously, was that Michal's feelings were not considered. She probably experienced a mixture of grief, resentment, and even some pride that the king still wanted her. But the pure love of her youth was gone. She had been married to another man for whom she also had feelings, and David was no longer the man that challenged the authority of her rage-prone father. He was the king, and he no longer represented to her an exciting alternative to her rigid life. He was now the monarch, and she had to do whatever he wished regardless of how it affected her. She had been freed of her angry father, but now she was tied to another king.
When she saw him dancing in front of the rejoicing young girls in the kingdom, no doubt remembering her own earlier awe of him, her resentment overflowed. Her pride and her suffering consumed her, and instead of trusting God and allowing him to bring meaning and healing into her life, she became bitter.
This story of David's joy and Michal's disdain ends with these words, "And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death." (2 Samuel 6:23) The implication is that her barrenness was a punishment for her pride. It also suggests that God's judgment on the house of Saul was continuing.
Priest and King
"After the king was settled in his palace," says 2 Samuel 7:1, "the Lord gave him rest from all his enemies around him"
David's reign was finally established, and the centuries-old struggle with the surrounding enemy nations was finally calmed. David's kingship foreshadowed that of Jesus, the Prince of Peace and Lord of lords. Never before in the history of Israel had the nation had rest from its enemies. Saul's entire reign was checkered with Philistine battles. Now David, the king from the tribe of Judah, was ruling finally over a united kingdom in peace.
David now began to contrast his own palace and comfort with the accommodations for the ark of God.
"Here I am, living in a palace of cedar," he said to Nathan the prophet, "while the ark of God remains in a tent." (2 Samuel 7:2)
That night God gave Nathan a message for David. Through the prophet he told David that he was not to build the temple for God; rather his offspring would do that. God reminded David of His sovereignty with an ironic contrast. "This is what the Lord says: 'Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in?The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom.Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever." (2 Samuel 7:5, 11, 12, 16)
This promise to David found its immediate fulfillment in Solomon his son who enjoyed a peaceful and prosperous reign and who built the temple in Jerusalem. The bigger fulfillment of this prophecy, however, is realized in Jesus, descended from David, who has built a new temple for God-Christ followers saved from eternal death, the home of the Holy Spirit. Jesus will yet reign over his people in a physical kingdom.
Besides being the king who officially established the kingdom of Israel for God and established the house of Judah as the royal line, however, David also gained a role normally reserved for the descendants of Levi. When he conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites and brought the ark of God to the city, he established Jerusalem as the political and religious capital of the nation. He and Solomon his son, who later built the temple, took on many duties and worship-focused activities normally reserved for the priests.
David oversaw the ark, traditionally a function of the priests, and arranged for its care and transport to Jerusalem. Solomon oversaw the building and furnishing of the new temple in Jerusalem. David appointed men to be in charge of the music "in the house of the Lord" (1 Chronicles 6:31), and he appointed specific jobs for the Levites (1 Chronicles 16:4-42; 23:3-31). The authority of this role of priestly responsibility extended even over the high priest, and David's descendants continued exercising it.
The significance of David's capture of Jerusalem becomes clearer with a look backward. When Abraham returned from the battle of the kings, he met Melchizedek, the king-priest of God at Salem, the ancient site of Jerusalem. Abraham gave Melchizedek a tenth of his spoils as an offering to God. (Genesis 14:17-20) This event happened before there was a person named Levi or his family of pirests. Abraham, the one to whom God promised Seed, land and blessing, had not yet had his promised son Isaac from whom Jacob and his twelve sons would descend. Melchizedek was not an Aaronic priest. He was not even an Israelite-there were no Israelites yet!
Melchizedek, however, was a priest of a unique order, and Abraham worshiped God before him.
Psalm 110 has the next reference since Genesis to the Melchizedek priesthood. This is a coronation psalm which David wrote, probably for his son Solomon. New Testament writers, however, especially in the book of Hebrews (see Hebrews 1:13; 5:6-10; 7:11-28) have interpreted this psalm as foreshadowing Jesus. This psalm also applies to David and to his son Solomon in that they both assumed priestly roles by taking responsibility for religious leadership in Israel. David was the one who brought the ark, the physical dwelling place of God's presence, back to Jerusalem. He was the one who established ceremonies and rituals for worship. He established Jerusalem as the spiritual center of the kingdom. David was the first person since Melchizedek to be both king and religious leader, a priestly position, in Jerusalem.
"The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." (Psalm 110:4)
The unique thing that emphasizes David and his sons as Melchizedek priests is that they were from the tribe of Judah. By definition they were not priests because the tribe of Levi was set aside for the priesthood. Yet because of his love for God, David as king functioned in a priestly role, and for the first time since the enigmatic Melchizedek, the roles of king and religious leader met in one person. David's son Solomon continued this dual function.
The author of Hebrews pointedly applies this role of king-priest to Jesus. "For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears, one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life. For it is declared, 'You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.' And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he becam a priest with an oath when God said to him: 'The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: "You are a priest forever." ' " (Hebrews 7:14-20)
Jesus, the Son of David, is a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek. David, the first king from the tribe of Judah, conquered Jerusalem from the pagans and established it as the political and religious center of Israel. David's foreshadowing of Jesus is striking in that he embodied, for the first time, the roles of king and priest in Jerusalem. He and his son Solomon were, in a sense, Melchizedek priests from whom Jesus, the true fulfillment of the Melchizedek priesthood, descended.
David's reign was thriving. His enemies were not seriously threatening Israel's borders, and the nation was prospering as was David himself. Although David still engaged his troops in battles, the surrounding nations recognized David's success and power, and the battles were dealing with isolated groups of pagans, such as the Ammonites in 2 Samuel 11, who were not yet conquered but who no longer had the alliance of surrounding nations. One sign of David's prosperity was that he acquired more wives and had more children.
In the middle of his prosperity and success, David succumbed to temptation and forever affected his reign and the reign of his descendants. The story of David and his temptation named Bathsheba is in 2 Samuel 11.
One evening David went to the flat roof of his palace to enjoy the cool evening air. While he was walking, looking at the city around him, he saw a beautiful woman bathing. He sent someone to find out who she was. The word came back that she was Bathsheba,the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.
Bathsehba's father, it seems likely, was the same Eliam who was a member of David's personal bodyguard. Eliam's father, Ahithophel, was David's counselor. Uriah was also a member of David's bodyguard, and although he was a Hittite, his name means "My light is the Lord". Apparently Uriah had converted and become an Israelite.
David immediately sent for Bathsheba. "She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.)" (2 Samuel 11:4)
The reason the text specifically points out her ceremonial purification from her monthly, seven-day period of uncleanness is to make it clear that she was not already pregnant by Uriah. Uriah, at this time, was with the Israelite army fighting the Ammonites. (see 1 Samuel 11:1) There is no reason to think Bathsheba was not a willing participant in this liaison.
Within a few weeks, Bathsheba sent word to David, "I am pregnant." (2 Samuel 11:5)
Immediately David sent for Uriah to come to him. Joab, the commander of David's army, sent Uriah to Jerusalem, and David inquired about the war and about the rest of the soldiers.
"Then David said to Uriah, 'Go down to your house and wash your feet.' So Uriah left the palace, and a gift from the king was sent after him." (2 Samuel 11:8)
The understood meaning of David's directive to "goand wash your feet" was, "go home, relax, and enjoy your evening." The Hebrew word for "gift" in this passage has the connotation of "food". David was trying to get Uriah to sleep with Bathsheba so her pregnancy would be thought to be his.
Uriah left the palace, but he did not have a leisurely evening with Bathsheba. Instead, "he slept at the entrance to the palace with all his master's servants and did not go down to his house." (2 Samuel 11:9)
David asked him the next day why he did not go home. Uriah replied, "The ark and Israel and Judah are staying in tents, and my master Joab and my lord's men are camped in the open fields. How could I go to my house to eat and drink and lie with my wife? As surely as you live, I will not do such a thing!" (2 Samuel 11:11)
David, quietly desperate, tried again. He asked Uriah to stay one more night before going back to the army. That evening he invited Uriah to eat with him. David urged food upon Uriah and made him drunk, hoping to get Uriah to relent and go home to Bathsheba. Uriah, however, did not go home. Again he slept with the servants outside the palace.
Uriah's loyatly and commitment to his duty stands in sharp contrast to David's self-indulgence and manipulation. The ark-God's physical presence-was in the field with the army, and David, at home while his men were out on his mission, was entertaining temptation, using his power and position to get what he wanted, and wreaking havoc in the family of one his most trusted soldiers.
By now David was probably frantic. Both he and Bathsheba knew that the law required the death penalty for their indulgence, and now there would be no way to hide their secret. David moves from the sins of coveting and adultery and plots Uriah's death. He sent a letter to Joab by means of Uriah.
"Put Uriah in the front line where the fighting is fiercest. Then withdraw from him so he will be struck down and die," the letter said. (2 Samuel 11:15) Uriah, ignorant of the letter's contents, delivered his own death sentence from David, whom he trusted.
Joab put Uriah where he knew he would meet the strongest enemy attacks, and he died along with a few others of David's army. Joab sent a messenger to David to report on the battle, telling him explicitly to let David know Uriah was dead.
When Bathsheba heard the news, she mourned for her husband. When the days of mourning were over, "David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the Lord." (2 Samuel 11:27)
David's sins of coveting, adultery, and murder not to mention the self-indulgence and manipulation he practiced while his best soldiers were away at battle met with immediate and long-term consequences.
David was God's chosen person for the monarchy. The Spirit of God had been on him since his anointing as a youth. God had blessed David in amazing ways, bonding the hearts of Israel in loyalty to him. The people trusted his military prowess and his leadership. They knew he was a musician and psalmist. Under David's leadership, worship of the one true God became established firmly in Israel, and the capital of the nation became the home of the ark of God. Under David, the kingdom began to enter a time of relative peace and political stability.
At the pinnacle of his success, David, in an undisciplined moment of self-indulgent coveting and lust, made a decision that propelled him into adultery and murder. This decision caused a fallout of intra-family anger and distrust that eventually split the nation's loyalty.
God sent the prophet Nathan to confront David with his sin. Nathan told David a story of a wealthy man who stole a ewe from a poor man to feed a traveler. David was furious with the man, and then Nathan lowered drove home his point, "You are the man!" (2 Samuel 12:7)
"This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says," Nathan said; 'I anointed you king over Israel, and I delivered you from the hand of Saul. I gave your master's house to you, and your master's wives into your arms. I gave you the house of Israel and Judah. And if all this had been too little, I would have given you even more. Why did you despise the word of the Lord by doing what is evil in his eyes?" (2 Samuel 12:7-9)
Then Nathan prophesied the consequences David would live with: "You killed[Uriah] with the sword of the Ammonites. Now, therefore, the sword will never depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own.' " (2 Samuel 12:10)
The consequences didn't stop there, however. Nathan continued, "Before your very eyes I will take your wives and given them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel." (2 Samuel 12:11-12)
David, convicted, cried out, "I have sinned against the Lord." (2 Sam. 12:13)
At this point Nathan spoke of the amazing grace of God. "The Lord has taken away your sin," he said; "you are not going to die. But because by doing this you have made the enemies of the Lord show utter contempt, the son born to you will die." (2 Samuel 12:14)
God removed David's sin, and the penalty of the law-death-was lifted from him. God's grace and mercy covered David in his repentance, and God spared him. God did not, however, remove the consequences of David's decisions.
When Nathan went home, the child Bathsheba bore to David became ill. Although David fasted and prayed for the life of the child, it died on the seventh day. When the baby died, however, David cleaned up and asked for food. When his servants asked him why he was not mourning, David said, "Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me." (2 Samuel 12:23)
God's Continued Blessing
Even though David had sinned and had set in motion dynamics that could not be undone, even though he and his descendants would suffer because of his sin, God loved David. Even now, in the middle of David's grief and repentance, God blesses David and reassures him that He loves him.
After the child had died, "David comforted his wife Bathsheba, and he went to her and lay with her. She gave birth to a son, and they named him Solomon. The Lord loved him; and because the Lord loved him, he sent word through Nathan the prophet to name him Jedidiah." (2 Samuel 12:24-25)
The name Jedidiah means "loved by the Lord". Nathan's message to David reassured him that God's blessing and love rested on this child born to him and Bathsheba. Although they had to suffer the loss of the child of their illicit tryst, although their marriage came about by means of a murder, God honored their repentance. He blessed them with the child who would become the next king of Israel and perhaps the wisest man ever to live. This message of God's love for this new baby also reassured David that God still loved him and would not remove the monarchy from him.
In spite of his sin and of the consequences he was now beginning to experience, David still received the blessing of God. Unlike Saul, whose guilt and rage consumed him and came between him and the Spirit of the Lord, David repented of his sin. Even though he could not escape the results of his choice, he did submit his sin to God, and God forgave and blessed him. One of the most noticeable blessings God gave him was the defeat of "all the Ammonite towns." (2 Samuel 12:31) His men plundered the cities, and the Ammonites became manual laborers for Israel.
The Prophecy Plays Out
The moral and spiritual weaknesses of parents affect and partially shape their children. Without the redemptive work of God's Spirit, the sins of fathers and mothers taint and victimize their children who, in turn, taint and victimize their children, and so on. David's moral weakness affected his children. His repentance did not remove the legacy of his sin. When a parent repents, God can enter that area of spiritual need and begin to heal and build it in His love. But the repentance does not erase the legacy of and example of sin already passed on to the children. The children, in their turn, must desire truth and turn to God for their healing. At whatever point a person turns to God in repentance and trust, however, God will begin to mediate grace and restoration to him or her and to that person's relationships.
David's legacy of moral weakness first became obvious in his eldest son Amnon. Amnon, the crown prince, was the son of David's wife Ahinoam of Jezreel (see 2 Sam. 3:2), and he fell in love with his half-sister Tamar. Tamar was the beautiful full sister of Absalom, David's third son, who was born to Maacah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur.
Amnon became obsessed with his desire for his virgin sister Tamar. Because she was an unmarried virgin, "it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her." (2 Samuel 13:2) His frustration increased until he became sick.
Amnon had a cousin, the son of one of David's brothers, who was his good friend. The cousin, Jonadab, "was a very shrewd man." (2 Samuel 13:3) His shrewdness was as morally undisciplined as was Amnon's desire, and Jonadab helped Amnon plan a way to rape Tamar.
Pretending to be sick, Amnon got David's attention. When his father asked what he needed, he said he wanted his sister Tamar to fix him some food and feed it to him. David obligingly told Tamar to go to Amnon's house, so she went, baked the bread in front of him, and served him when it was done. Amnon, however, refused to eat. He sent everyone out except Tamar whom he asked to come to his bedroom and feed it to her. When she went, he grabbed her and said, "Come to bed with me, my sister." (2 Samuel 13:11)
Tamar tried to dissuade Amnon. "Don't, my brother!" she said to him. "Don't force me. Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don't do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel." (2 Samuel 13:12-13)
But Amnon "refused to listen to her," and he raped her. After the deed, "Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had lover her. Amnon said to her, "Get up and get out!" (2 Samuel 13:15)
No longer a virgin, Tamar now had no chance of being married. No self-respecting Israelite would accept damaged goods as his wife, even if she were the daughter of the king. Her brother Absalom tried to calm her and quietly began to plan his own revenge. He took her into his house where she lived as "a desolate woman". (2 Sam. 13:20)
When David heard about this situation, "he was furious" (2 Sam. 13:21), but he did nothing about it. David was quick to punish people for misdeeds such as assisting in his enemy Saul's death and for killing Ish-Bosheth who tried to keep the throne from David (2 Samuel 1 and 4). But when his own son, the crown prince, raped his sister, stealing not only illicit intimacy but her entire future, David simply stewed in impotent fury. Perhaps Amnon's crime too closely resembled his own for him to feel free to punish it. Whatever the case, David allowed his son's legal and moral outrage to go unpunished. If David had dealt with this sin of his firstborn, he might have averted years of anger and revenge within his own family and within the nation.
Absalom, enraged at Amnon's crime and no doubt deeply angry that David did not deal with it, took matters into his own hands. Two years later Absalom received David's permission to invite Amnon to his sheep shearing festival. David asked why Amnon needed to go, but he granted permission when Absalom urged him. While Amnon was feasting and drinking, Absalom had his men kill Amnon.
Jonadab, Amnon's cousin and friend, told David that this murder had been Absalom's plan ever since Amnon raped Tamar.
David's Passive Aggression
Absalom fled and put himself into self-imposed exile after he killed Amnon. For three years he remained absent, hiding in Geshur. David longed for Absalom, "for he was consoled concerning Amnon's death." (2 Samuel 13:39) His longing notwithstanding, David made no move to reconcile with Absalom.
The law in Israel was that if a man killed another, the dead man's next-of-kin was to kill the murderer and avenge the victim's death. (See Numbers 35:12; Deut. 19:11-13) David refused to deal with the problem of Absalom. By allowing him to remain in exile, he was punishing him and avenging Amnon passively. Absalom, however, was now David's oldest living son, a fact which made him heir to the throne. By David's refusing to deal with him, either by forgiving him and bringing him home or by officially punishing him, David was putting the royal succesion at risk.
Joab, the commander of David's army, realized the political instability that could result if David and Absalom's relationship was not resolved. He hatched a plan to stir David to action, and he sent a woman to David with an allegory that finally brought David face-to-face with his own passivity. He finally had Joab bring Absalom back to Jerusalem, but even then David did not fully reconcile. He said, "He must go to his own house; he must not see my face." (2 Samuel 14:24)
Absalom returned, but now he lived in a semi-banished state imposed by his father this time instead of himself. Never during the time since Amnon's death did Absalom indicate repentance.
After two years in Jerusalem, forbidden to see his father, Absalom sent for Joab. After refusing to see Absalom twice, Joab finally went when Absalom burned his barley field. He asked Joab to go to David with this question, " 'Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me if I were still there!' Now then, I want to see the king's face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death." ( 2 Samuel 14:32)
Finally, after a five-year estrangement, David sent for his son, "and the king kissed Absalom." (2 Samuel 14:33)
David reconciled Absalom to the royal family, but he refused to deal with the issues of justice and with Absalom's repentance. Grief and feelings of guilt undoubtedly played a part in David's passive refusal to deal with Absalom's crime just as he had refused to deal with Amnon's crime earlier. He restored Absalom to his role of crown prince without Absalom's having to suffer any official consequences for killing not just his brother but the heir to the throne of Israel.
David's passivity as a father was undoubtedly influenced by his own moral weaknesses which he saw emerging in his sons. David, strong in battle, strong as a king, failed to provide strength in his own family. His personal weaknesses became most pronounced when he had to confront the sins of those he most loved. His passive aggression which we first see years before when Amnon raped Tamar peaked in his refusal to be strong regarding Absalom's crime. His denial about Absalom's growing hostility toward him and about the consequences for the kingdom which that hostility would breed probably contributed to Nathan's prophecy being fulfilled. The sword would not depart from his family.
Absalom did not reconcile with David. He despised David's weakness, and he used it to ingratiate himself with the people of Israel. He began to stand by the city gate and waylay people coming into town with grievances for the king to settle. Abaslom was very handsome, and he heard the people's complaints. He would tell them their concerns were valid, and then he would say, "There is no representative of the king to hear you. If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that he gets justice." (2 Samuel 15:3-4)
Besides promising the people justice, Absalom created an image for himself. He began traveling in a chariot with horses and 50 men to run before him. In consummate politician style, he began kissing those who bowed to him. He intercepted all those who came to have the king hear their cases, "and so he stole the hearts of the men of Israel." (2 Samuel 15: 6)
Finally, under false pretenses, Absalom secured David's permission to go to Hebron. While he was there he organized a conspiracy against his father. At the center of his conspiracy was Ahithophel, David's counselor and Bathsheba's grandfather, who had defected and joined Absalom's plot, perhaps out of revenge for the way David had killed Uriah and taken Bathsheba.
A messenger came to David and informed him that "the hearts of Israel are with Absalom." (2 Samuel 15:13) David quickly organized an evacuation of the capital, leaving ten of his concubines to care for the palace.
After David and his court had fled Jerusalem, Absalom and his band entered. He asked Ahithophel for advice, and he replied, "Lie with your father's concubines whom he left to take care of the palace. Then all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench in your father's nostrils, and the hands of everyone with you will be strengthened." ( 2 Samuel 16:21)
Not only was Absalom's sleeping with David's concubines an act of aggression and disrespect, it was also a symbol of Absalom's taking control of the royal household. David had inherited Saul's wives when he became king. It was standard procedure for a new king to receive the old king's wives as a statement of his new authority.
"So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof, and he lay with his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel." (2 Samuel 16: 22)
Absalom's insubordination was complete.
David and Absalom both organized their men for battle. They engaged in the forest of Ephraim, and David's men defeated the army of Israel. There were 20,000 casualties that day. Absalom was riding his mule during the battle, and it passed under a huge oak tree. "Absalom's head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midari, while the mule he was riding kept on going." (2 Samuel 18:9)
David had commanded his men to "Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake." (2 Sam. 18:5) When Joab heard of Absalom's predicament, however, he was in no mood to be gentle. He realized that Absalom threatened the king, the throne, the nation, and Joab's own position. David's sentiment did not reflect the real danger they faced. Joab thrust three javelins into Absalom's heart while he was still alive, and "ten of Joab's armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him." (2 Samuel 18:15)
When David heard the news, he plunged into abject mourning. "O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you-O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:33)
David's grief over Absalom was nearly his ruin. Joab realized that David's closeting himself with his agony was a heinous insult to those who had defended him. He went to David and jolted him back into reality:
"Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the Lord that if you don't go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come upon you from your youth till now." (2 Samuel 19:5-7)
David got up, went out to meet his troops, and averted disaster.
While grief for Absalom was normal for a father to experience, David's reaction was unhealthy and not grounded in reality. His grief over Absalom far exceeded his grief over Amnon whom Absalom had murdered. Further, David had many more living children than merely Absalom. He also had wives and concubines, some of whom Absalom had violated. In fact, he had a whole nation of people, many of whom had risked their lives and shown intense loyalty to him during Absalom's conspiracy.
David was emotionally enmeshed with his evil son. While grief and sadness were inevitable, the all-consuming intensity of his mourning was misplaced. He ignored and disrespected the loyalty and love of his family and subjects who loved him, spending his feelings prodigally on a man who wanted to kill him.
If David had not abdicated his authority in his family years before, he might not have come so near to ruin in the face of Absalom's cruelty. If David had dealt with Amnon's rape of Tamar, he would not have earned such disrespect from Absalom. If David had disciplined Absalom for his murder of Amnon, Absalom would undoubtedly have respected David's authority and not dared to attempt to take over-if he remained alive.
David enabled his sons to abuse those around them. By refusing to discipline the rape and the murder within the family, he tacitly approved such behavior. Absalom lost respect for David, and he "punished" him by turning his rage onto his passive, permissive father. Instead of taking hold of himself and standing for truth and justice, David allowed Absalom to attack and nearly ruin his kingdom. He passively allowed evil to prosper, and he put the rest of the family at risk. Undoubtedly, David's own moral weaknesses and guilt convinced him he didn't have the right to punish his guilty sons. He probably felt he had no right to punish what he recognized as his own weakness playing out in them.
It took politically savvy Joab to jolt him out of his guilt and self-pity and inspire him to act like a king.
After Absalom's death David faced another revolt from the tribe of Benjamin, the relatives of Saul. He also succumbed to temptation and took a census of his army. As a consequence of the census, God sent a plague on Israel in which 70,000 people died. David purchased a threshing field, built an altar there, and sacrificed to God. "Then the Lord answered prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped." (2 Samuel 24:25)
When David was old and near death, one of his sons, Adonijah son of Haggith, started to build support to take over the throne. He was very handsome, and he was born next in line to Absalom.
David never questioned him regarding his behavior, and as he met with no official resistance, he continued to build a following and to develop an image, even having himself declared king.
David had neglected to designate his own successor, and once again his family and his dynasty faced schism because of his passivity. Nathan the prophet once again appeared to intervene. This time he visited Bathsheba, telling her that he had a method whereby she could save her own life and that of Solomon.
Although 2 Samuel does not record such a statement, it appears that David had previously declared his intention that Solomon would succeed him. Nathan told Bathsheba to go to David and remind him, "My lord the king, did you not swear to me your servant: 'Surely Solomon your son shall be king after me, and he will sit on my throne'? Why then had Adonijah become king?" (1 Kings 1:13-14)
Nathan further promised to come in as Bathsheba was speaking and confirm what she said.
Because of Nathan's and Bathsheba's intervention, David had Solomon anointed and officially introduced as king. Adonijah was terrified when he heard, and he ran to the altar and grabbed it. Solomon told him to go home.
When Adonijah refused to fully concede to Solomon's reign and tried to obtain Abishag, David's young handmaiden, as a wife, Solomon had him killed. Had Adonijah succeeded in obtaining Abishag, he would have had a legal foothold as David's successor because he would have had part of the royal harem.
Apparently not troubled by his father's passivity, Solomon was able to protect his throne from domestic threats. He also carried out David's instructions and had Joab killed as well as Shimei the Benjamite who had called down curses on David. After taking care of these executions, the kingdom was solidly in Solomon's hands.
Man of God
In spite of his egregious sins, David was repentant, and God called him a man after his own heart. In spite of his lack of discipline with his children, and in spite of his sins of coveting, adultery, and murder, David trusted God. He accepted the love and discipline of his Father.
In spite of his personal weaknesses and the undisciplined way he raised his sons, David loved God. Even when he became mired in the fallout of his own foolishness, David turned to the Lord and submitted to his will and to his discipline. When faced with a choice of consequences after taking a census of the military, David chose to suffer at the hands of God rather than at the hands of men.
The Psalms are full of David's cries and praises to God:
"Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold." (Ps. 69:1)
"My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him." (Ps. 62:1)
"I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips." (Ps. 34:1)
"Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame" (Ps. 35:1, 4)
"Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name." (Ps. 103:1)
"O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent, for wicked and deceitful men have opened their mouths against me; they have spoken against me with lying tongues." (Ps. 109:1-2)
"The Lord says to my Lord: 'Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.' " (Ps. 110:1)
"O Lord, what is man that you care for him, the son of man that you think of him? I will sing a new song to you, O God; on the ten-stringed lyre I will make music to you, to the One who gives victory to kings, who delivers his servant David from the deadly sword." (Ps. 144:3, 9-10)
God did not keep David from making big mistakes even though David loved him. The thing that made David a man after God's heart was that David trusted him and was repentant. David had a relationship with God that transcended even his weaknesses and sins. Because David was willing to submit to God and acknowledge his sins, God forgave him and redeemed those mistakes.
God's redemption of David's sins, however, did not exclude him from their consequences. David lived out his life with violence and heartache in his own family. His sin with Bathsheba yielded broken relationships that could not be restored to perfection. His own shame and weakness made him reluctant to discipline his sons, and as a result he lost two of them to violent deaths at the hands of people close to him. He ended his life with two of his sons struggling for the throne, and after David died one of those sons killed the other.
God blessed David, however, in spite of his sins. Because David loved God and submitted to him, because he did not rebel against God's discipline after his sin with Bathsheba against Uriah, God blessed them. In the middle of their heartbreak over their son's death and as a reassurance in spite of the prophecy that a sword would not depart from the family, David and Bathsheba had another son, Solomon, whom God loved and set apart to continue the dynasty. Although David sinned against Uriah and Bathsheba, although he set an immoral example to all of Israel, God forgave him and accepted his repentance.
In contrast with Saul, David did not allow his sins to define him. He knew God, and he accepted God's definition of him. Even though he succumbed to temptation over and over again, he still was willing to trust God and to relinquish what came between him and God. Instead of becoming evil as Saul did, David became more and more committed to God. His relationship with God developed in him a heart that could experience both pain and love-a heart that could trust.
We may find ourselves identifying any one of several of the people in the story of David. We may be like Saul, bitter and resentful and paranoid, living in fear and fighting hopelessly to keep ourselves in a one-up position. We may be like Absalom, carrying the pain of a victimized family member and finding no help where help should be forthcoming. We may be living out the results of growing up with a weak or temperamental parent who was distant when decisions or justice needed to be addressed but maudlin when things went wrong. We may identify with Michal, a pawn in the family, useful for the power of others but never considered as a person in her own right. We may feel like Tamar, violated by someone we should have been able to trust, having our lives forever changed and our futures shaped by hidden violence.
We may also identify with Bathsheba, giving in to seduction partly because the tempter was powerful, rich, and attractive and partly because she felt unable to say no to a person in authority over her. We may feel like David, deeply desiring to be God's person but having our lives checkered with great sin. We may regret the way we reared out children, acutely aware that our own weakness and sin damaged them. We may have great sin against others in our lives; we may have used our power or position or opportunity for our own benefit without thought of how we would hurt those we touched. We may have disrespected life in exchange for our own convenience.
All of us are living with the results of our sin. God is calling us, however, to be give it all to him. He knows how deep and twisted our wounds are, and he knows how our wounds have twisted our own hearts. Nothing about us is hidden from him. He calls us to himself KNOWING how bad we are.
God desires to heal our deep wounds and to redeem the sins we have committed against others and ourselves.
God is asking you not to let your sins define you. The memories that make you cringe are not who you are. They are real, and you must take responsibility for the things you have done, but God does not leave you to wallow in your brokenness. He calls you to look up, away from yourself and your desperate scheming, and let his love illumine your life.
Jesus has forgiven you for all your sins and self-indulgence. He took all of it onto himself and died the death that is yours. He calls you now to trust him, to risk allowing his love to break through the brittleness of your guilt and shame. He calls you to accept his death as yours, to accept his forgiveness as final, to live your life in freedom from shame and guilt.
Nothing you have done is too awful for Jesus to forgive. Nothing is too big to come between you and him. If you had weak or absent parents, God says he will be your father (Psalm 68:6). If you have suffered at the hands of someone who should have loved and protected you, Jesus carries your sorrow. (Isaiah 53:4) If you have sinned against others who trusted you, the Lord Jesus will forgive your sin (Isaiah 1:18).If you have used your talent or power to manipulate people to benefit yourself, God will give you a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26).
Let God's love melt your shame and self-protection, and open yourself before him in repentance. Let his love and his death cleanse you from your guilt and fear. Don't try to hide from God or from yourself. Let his love bring the truth of your life to light. Let his mercy heal your weary heart and give you peace.
You, like David, can be a person after God's own heart. You can choose to be loyal to Jesus and allow Him to forgive you. Jesus will redeem your past as you choose to face the truth. No longer does it need to lie hidden deeply in your memory, unconscious but not forgotten. He will bring the truth to light, and he will give you his strength and courage to face it. You can submit to God's discipline because you know God's love.
Psalm of Praise
"Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits-who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle's.
"The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovehe does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us." (Psalm 103:2-5, 8, 10, 11-12)
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!
1. The NIV Study Bible
2. New Bible Dictionary, third ed.; Ed. Marshall, Millard,Packer,
Wiseman; Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England; 1996
All contents copyright (c) 1999-2001 Graphics
Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised September 3, 2001.