The Sword From Your Own House
2 Samuel 15
After David’s sin with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah, Nathan the prophet declared to King David, “The sword will never leave your house” (2 Sam. 12.10). The “sword” of the father’s legacy of sins against the husband and wife nearly destroyed David’s family. Ammon raped his sister Tamar (2 Sam.???), Absalom killed his brother Ammon and rebelled against his father. Ironically, the name “Absalom” means “father of peace,” yet Absalom nearly destroyed David’s reign.
What lessons may twenty-first believers learn from Absalom’s rebellion?
First, the passage teaches us about the danger of refusing to reconcile (2 Sam. 14.12-15.6). After killing his brother Ammon, Absalom fled from the king’s court for three years. The interposition of David’s advisor Joab moved David to allow his exiled son to return to Jerusalem. When Absalom returned to Jerusalem, he lived in the capital city for two years and never saw his father’s face (2 Sam. 14.28). David’s trusted aide Joab helped Absalom come before the presence of King David. Absalom bowed in homage to his father. 2 Samuel 14 concludes with the words, “The King kissed Absalom” (2 Sam. 14.33). 2 Samuel 15.1 describes Absalom’s response, “After this, Absalom got himself a chariot, horses, and fifty men to run before him.” (Years later, Absalom’s younger brother Adonijah with support from David’s commander Joab and priest Abiathar followed the same public display of rebellion (1 Kings 1.5-8). After years of exile and not being allowed to see his father even though he lived in the capital city, Absalom launched his rebellious attempt to take the kingship from David. Ahitophel, probably Bathsheba’s grandfather, supported Absalom’s rebellion (2 Sam 15.31).
Absalom undertook six actions to promote himself as king. First, he acted with royal pomp as he rode his chariot through the streets of Jerusalem with fifty-man entourage going before to attract an audience. Second, he stationed himself at the city gate, a phrase that resonated in an ancient culture like our phrase “the Halls of Justice.” Third, he listened to the complaints of people that felt they needed justice in personal legal matters. Fourth, he told every man seeking justice “your claims are good and right (v.3). Fifth, he publicly let it be known that David was responsible for the failure of justice (v. 3). Sixth, he declared that he would be a good judge (v. 4). As a result, Absalom “stole the hearts” of the people.
Second, the passage warns readers of the dangers of not “understanding the times (2 Sam. 15.7-16). At a particular moment in Israelite history, the Bible describes men from the tribe of Issachar as men “who understood the times and knew what Israel should do (1 Chron. 12.32). David neither understood the times nor his own family. Absalom approached his father with a request for permission to travel to Hebron to offer sacrifices. The city of Hebron has numerous historical connections to key events in Israelite history that should have warned David. Hebron was Abraham’s home and burial spot of Sarah, a city of refuge, the location at which Samson picked up the city gates and moved them, as well as Absalom’s birthplace (2 Sam. 3.2-3) and the location where David received anointing as king (2 Sam. 2.4). As one scholar commented, “Go in peace opened the way for Absalom to war!” Absalom’s plot included the recruitment of David’s trusted advisor Ahithophel, most likely Bathsheba’s grandfather. Thus, prominent members of Bathsheba’s family joined the revolt against David. The conspiracy grew, and an unnamed person informed David of Absalom’s success, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom” (2 Sam. 15.12). David and his supporters fled.
Third, the passage affirms the importance of trusting God (2 Sam. 15.24-30). David fled from Saul; now he flees from Absalom. As he fled, however, David sought God. During this flight from Absalom, David wrote Psalm 3. In the Psalm, David modeled a believer’s response when we are at our wit’s end. First, David focused on the truth of God (Ps. 3.3). God is s a shield of protection. Second, David cried out to God for help (Ps. 3.4). Third, David experienced the sustaining power of prayer (Ps. 3.5). Fourth, David celebrated God as the deliverer (Ps. 3.8).
Belial verses the Battering Ram
2 Samuel 20
I chose the title I have given this lesson based on the character of the two protagonists – Sheba and Joab. The CSB states that Sheba was a “wicked man.” The Hebrew terms translated “wicked man” is the term “Belial.” The Hebrew term occurs twenty-seven times to describe a wicked, corrupt individual that is a detriment to society. Paul used this term as a description of Satan. “What agreement does Christ have with Belial?” (2 Cor. 6.15). Satan stands behind every worthless, corrupt person that threatens the moral fabric of society. The name “Joab” means “God is my Father,” yet he acted in ways that destroyed other people. In 2 Samuel 20, Joab built battering weapons to destroy the wall of the city Abel of Beth-maacah. As the Bible describes the actions of Joab, he functioned like a battering ram destroying people opposed to him. Joab killed Abner (2 Sam. 2-3), Uriah (2 Sam. 11), David’s son Absalom (2 Sam. 18.14), and David’s relative Amasa (2 Sam. 20). What lessons can believers learn from two bad examples from the Old Testament?
First, Satan, the “wicked one,” seeks to divide the people of God (2 Sam. 20.1-2). Saul, the first king of Israel, was from the tribe of Benjamin. Apparently, even after the death of Saul, the tribe of Benjamin did not favor David. Jacob described the descendants of Benjamin as “ravenous wolves,” perhaps because of the skills of the tribe in warfare (Gen. 49.27). The majority of the tribe supported Saul over David. Sheba announced an intention to separate from the kingship of David – We have no portion in David, no inheritance in Jesse’s son. Each man to his tent, Israel! (2 Sam. 20.2). When the northern kingdom of Israel officially separated from Judah, they used the same terminology (1 Kings 12.16). The term “son of Jesse” has a negative connotation (1 Sam. 20.27, 30, 31; 22.7, 8, 13). Sheba called for succession from David’s kingdom. Sheba, the wicked one followed Satan the original Belial, for the purpose of dividing the people of God. As a result, the tribe of Judah alone remained loyal to David.
Second, wisdom provided a means to avert war (2 Sam. 20.14-21). The battering ram Joab attacked Abel-Beth-Maacah. The Bible notes Joab’s success in conquering cities (2 Sam. 11.1;12.26). The name Abel-Beth-Maacah means “house of pressure.” Joab applied pressure as he besieged the city and planned to destroy the city wall. The situation for Sheba was desperate. “So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bichri, but the men of Judah . . . . (2 Sam. 20.2). When Joab surrounded the city, Sheba’s followers were limited to his family clan. “All the Berites came together and followed him” (2 Sam. 20.14). [Berites is an alternate form of Berichi in 2 Sam. 20.1.] According to the Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, the residents of Abel of Beth-maacah were noted for their wisdom (2 Sam. 20.18). The unnamed woman based her appeal for the preservation of the city on three points. First, she noted the reputation of the town for wisdom (2 Sam. 20.18). Second, she claimed that the town was loyal to David. She speaks as a peaceful and faithful representative of the city. Third, the action of destroying the town was an unreasonable one since the town belonged to the Lord’s inheritance given to his people. Why would the general do such an action? To destroy God’s inheritance equaled fighting against God. One wise woman saved the city from destruction. While the Bible connects “wisdom” with ethical decision making, the wisdom of this woman appears to be worldly wisdom. She agreed to Joab’s demand for the death of Sheba to save the population of the city.
2 Samuel 21:1-14
Modern day readers of the Bible often fail to realize the significance of the covenant concept in Scripture. The Bible highlights key covenants that reveal principles of the relationship between God and humans as well as communicate key concepts in the redemption narrative. Key divine covenants include the Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, and the New Covenant. Covenants stipulated the nature, terms, and, in some cases, the stipulations for violations. For example, the Mosaic covenant outlined covenant blessings and curses in a special ceremony (Deut ???).
What does this passage teach about the nature and ways of God?
First, God is a God of accountability. The phrase “during the David’s reign” lacks chronological detail. Since members of Saul’s family remained, the time of the famine must have been early in David’s reign prior to the events of 2 Samuel 9 in which David search for descendants of Saul. As a result of a three-year famine, the king of Israel sought a personal audience with the King. God revealed that the famine was a judgment due to the actions of Saul. “It is due to Saul and to his bloody family, because he killed the Gibeonites.”
The Bible does not describe Saul’s atrocious actions against the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites were descendants of a Canaanite people group that lived about eight miles from Jerusalem. During an encounter with deceptive Gibeonites Joshua failed to consult the Lord (Josh. 9.14) and entered into a covenant treaty with them (Josh. 9.15). Saul violated the terms of the treaty and attempted to destroy the Gibeonites. Saul’s violation of the sacred treaty brought guilt upon the entire nation.
Second, God is a God that provides a way of release from guilt. After God revealed to David the reason for the famine judgment, After God revealed the divine cause of the famine, David sought to correct matters in the relationship between Israel and the Gibeonites -“How can I make atonement?” Or how can I make things right?
From the brief description of the narrative, Saul inflicted great bloodshed on the Gibeonites. The Gibeonites requested the death of seven representative descendants of Saul to make things right. Seven probably serves as a symbolic number for completeness. The seven descendants of Saul represent the complete lineage of Saul.
Was David’s action of killing Saul’s descendants the right action? By acquiescing to the request of the Gibeonites, potential rivals to David’s throne were eliminated. Should David have consulted God regarding the means of setting matters right rather than asking the Gibeonites? The Bible does not provide any negative evaluation on David’s granting of the Gibeonites request.
The concept of “atonement” is one of the key theological concepts in the Bible. Atonement entails both satisfaction of a wrong committed as well as making matters right with an injured party. The cross of Christ serves as the greatest picture of the meaning of the biblical concept of atonement. Atonement involves a penal judgment; Christ suffered the judgment of God for our sins. Atonement involves substitution; Christ died as our substitute. The Gibeonites, therefore, requested that David provide substitution for a penal judgment for a grievous wrong committed against them.
Third, God is a God that affirms the honorable treatment of the dead. Based upon the demand of the Gibeonites, David killed the two sons of Rizpah, Saul’s concubine. For several months, the grieving mother watched over the bodies of the seven descendants of Saul to prevent their desecration by animals. Her response challenged (or perhaps shamed) David to provide a honorable burial for the seven as well as Saul and Jonathan. The Philistines had desecrated Saul’s body by cutting off his head and hanging his body on a city wall (1 Sam. 31.9-10). Men from Jabesh-Gilead traveled fifty miles to retrieve the body of Saul and provide a burial. David reinterned the bodies of Saul and his descendants.
2 Samuel 21 begins with a description of a severe famine. The famine was the judgment of God due to the sinful actions of Saul. David made amends to correct the issues caused by Saul’s actions. David’s final action of the honorable burial of Saul’s family brings resolution. “After this, God was receptive to prayer for the land (2 Sam. 21.14). The famine ended.
A Biblical Model of Thanksgiving
2 Samuel 22:26-36,50-51
For many people, thanksgiving comes hard. There may be two reasons for the problem of thanksgiving. First, some people have a problem with thanksgiving because disappointments in life. Life involves struggle, challenges, and difficulties. Second, other people have a problem with thanksgiving because they are self-made people.
In the biblical story of the epilogue or end of David’s life (2 Sam. 21-24), the author incorporates a psalm that David wrote when he experienced deliverance from Saul’s grasp (v 1). The Psalm, therefore, assists the readers to interpret the sad ending of David’s life in light of this earlier psalm of praise. (David’s song in 2 Samuel is reduplicated in Psalm 18).
How does David’s song provide a model for biblical thanksgiving?
First, David celebrated God as Holy and Just in the manner in which He responds to people (2 Sam. 22.26-29). In terms of our personal relations with others, we all have felt at times, “I did not deserve that.” No individual can say that God has treated him or her unfairly. David’s song lists three attitudes that pleases God: faithfulness, integrity or blamelessness, purity, and humility. Faithfulness is a term that describes commitment to a relationship- a loyalty to the covenant with God. The Hebrew term translated “blameless” described a hero – a moral hero or moral champion. An individual that remained faithful in the battle arena of personal choices and societal pressures. “Purity” does not refer to the ritual purity required of worship; rather “purity” described pure in lifestyle. God responds to the faithful, blameless, pure person with faithfulness, blamelessness, and purity. One Old Testament scholar described this as divine reciprocity. God rewards the faithful by letting them experience His faithfulness in a way that unfaithful people never will.
David also described two attitudes with which God is displeased, namely, crookedness and pride. “Crookedness” describes a person twisted or perverted by sin. Sin warps us! Sin corrupts us! Often a crooked person is shrewd (CSB). The Hebrew term describes someone acting foolish. God responds to the foolishness of sin by proclaiming a message of redemption that appears foolish to human wisdom. God responds to prideful people by humbling them.
Second, David celebrated God as a Shield, a Rock, and a Warrior (2 Sam. 22:30-36). God’s way is perfect (v. 31). As God guides David in His way, God makes David’s way perfect (v. 33). The basic concept of the Hebrew term translated “perfect” is “complete.” God has a “complete way” for David (v. 33). How may David know the way God has for him? God provides a lamp to make the path visible (v. 29). God provides the pure Word to guide David in the path (v. 31). God also provides protection for a believer walking in His way (shield – v. 31, rock – v. 32, and a refuge – v. 33). Not only does God provide a way and protection, God provides strength to the believer by making the believer’s “feet like a deer” – an imagery of stability. God will keep a believer from missteps. God enabled David to “burst forth beyond his own limitations” as one scholar expressed the meaning of this section.
Third, David proclaimed the greatness of God’s salvation (2 Sam. 22. 47-31). Believers express thanksgiving to God in two ways. First, like David, believers can verbally express thanksgiving to God. – “I thank you God.” Second, believers can proclaim to others the greatness of God and His salvation. David expressed thanksgiving to God among the nations (or Gentile unbelievers – v. 47). While biblical thanksgiving is addressed to God, divine thanksgiving needs to be shared. Thank God by telling others about Him!
Notice the emphasis on God’s salvation throughout David’s song of praise. God is the horn of my salvation (v. 3), the shield of salvation (v. 36), the rock of salvation (v. 47), and the tower of salvation (v. 51). All the images – horn, shield, rock, and tower – depict security.
God provided His salvation through the “anointed” descendent of David – the Lord Jesus the King – as God fulfilled His promise of a King and a Kingdom through David’s lineage.