2 Sam 1 — The Death of Saul and Jonathan and David’s Lament
2 Sam 2:1-7 — David Anointed King of Judah
2 Sam 2:8-32 — Ish-bosheth Made King of Israel, Battle of Gibeon
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As we continue to make our way through these difficult sections, full of bloodshed and pain, we see David begin the transition from hiding to King, but not as one would hope. If we were writing the story, we’d probably have the people carry David in triumphantly and have him ascend to the throne of kingship where people gladly serve him. That is far from reality. We are presented with details of more death, more deception and even a civil war. We can read through this section and wonder how people can be so cruel, but do we remember less than 200 years ago when we fought a civil war here in this country? How many stories in modern history recant tales of brother against brother, family against family. These are sad and hard stories. Nothing to rejoice about, rather something to somberly consider and learn from.
Interesting that Pastor Kevin should choose 1 Sam 15 for his discussion yesterday, where Saul did not completely wipe out the Amalekites as God commanded (1 Sam 15:3). Here we see an Amalekite standing before David with the story of Saul’s fate and his bold admission that “I stood beside him and killed him” (2 Sam 1:10). Perhaps the messenger thought he would find favor in David’s eyes for such a detailed report and for delivering the crown and band from Saul to David, but that was not the case. David “mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the army of the Lord and for the nation of Israel…” (2 Sam 1:12). Not just for Saul and Jonathan, but for the nation of Israel. The Philistine victory is not something to be happy about at all, there is no joy here. Again David asks, “where are you from?” as if to confirm the death sentence, “why weren’t you afraid to lift your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” (2 Sam 1:13-14). David has the messenger put to death.
David seeks the Lord’s direction and is told to go to Hebron, where he recognized as king to rule over the tribe of Judah (2 Sam 2:1-4). At the same time, Ish-Bosheth (son of Saul who escaped death) is crowned king of Israel with Abner’s support. Abner, “the commander of Saul’s army” (2 Sam 2:8) is either loyal to the throne or trying to secure his place in the new kingdom (the latter appears more likely). The battle of Gibeon begins with Abner, Saul’s uncle (1 Sam 14:50) foolishly fighting Joab (one of David’s leaders) in a 12 on 12 fight which ignites the civil war. All 24 die in this Hunger Games style battle and war ensues. The battle ends with David’s men killing more than Abner’s. We’ll pickup this story tomorrow.
From Proverbs 24:17-18 we read, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when they stumble, do not let your heart rejoice, or the Lord will see and disapprove and turn his wrath away from them.” David does not gloat or boast that Saul is dead. Surely his days of hiding are done, yet he does not rejoice. Instead “he ordered that the people of Judah be taught this lament of the bow” (2 Sam 1:18) where he concludes, “how the mighty have fallen! The weapons of war have perished!” (2 Sam 1:27). Saul and Jonathan are thus memorialized with great honor and dignity.
I’m no historian by any stretch, but I am thankful that these stories are preserved in the Bible to remind us of the pain and suffering of our forefathers. Thankful, not happy. I pray that we can learn from the harsh histories and become better as brothers and sisters. Modern history shows we haven’t learned much on a global scale. The sinful nature of man still exists and continues to seek and destroy. Jesus demonstrated a completely new way to win God’s favor. The stark comparison of blood and battle to Christ’s teachings gives me a vivid visual. We must be repulsed by war and killing. Though Hollywood movies portray killing as honorable, death as victorious, we must remember this is not the heart of Christ. We are to love God and love our neighbors. Lord help me to remember, help me to be more like Christ.