In chapter 8, verse 11, we read that David defeated the Ammonites, however in this chapter Hanun becomes king of the Ammonites and decides to to things a little differently. David sent a delegation to express sympathy to Hanun on the death of his father the king. David was being kind, as usual. But Hanun had some rather stupid advisors who encouraged Hanun to believe the worst of David and that he was sending these men to spy.
Hanun completely humiliated the men by shaving halve their beards and hair off, as well as cutting half their clothing away. David told the men to stay in Jericho while their beards grew back to save them the humiliation of coming back to court. Then David appeared to wait, perhaps he was waiting on God. He certainly was not a man to be easily provoked.
Then Hanun hired twenty thousand Aramean soldiers from Beth Rehob and Zobah, a thousand men from the king of Macaah and twelve thousand from Tob. Now David responded by sending Joab with the entire army. Joab and his brother Abishai succeeded in driving the Arameans away and the Arameans fled back inside their city. Joab returned to Jerusalem – job done.
But now Hadadezer joined the Arameans with more fighting men. He had obviously been waiting to get a rematch with David. Shobach, Hadadezer’s commander now lead the army at Helam. David took all Israel (I hope this means the whole army) across the Jordan to meet this force. Shobach was killed along with fifty seven thousand of their soldiers and charioteers.
At this time the vassals of Hadadezer made peace with David and the Arameans did not support the Ammonites again.
David sought out Ziba who had been Saul’s servant and asked whether anyone had survived from Saul’s family. He discovered that Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, was alive. He was lame because his nurse had dropped him when they were fleeing attackers (chapter 4). David wanted to show kindness to Mephibosheth for the sake of Jonathan, his dear friend.
David restored Saul’s land to Mephibosheth, who had been living at the house of Makir so had not had a home of his own. David also told Ziba that he, his sons and his servants would now serve Mephibosheth and work his lands so that he was cared for. He also invited Mephibosheth to eat at his own table daily.
It is credit to David’s behaviour thus far that anyone would tell him where Saul’s family lived. They knew he was not going to kill Mephibosheth as was the usual procedure when faced with a challenge to his position as king. Perhaps they were less worried because Mephibosheth was lame and could not lead an army, so David could not possibly see him as a threat. But Mephibosheth had a son, Mica, who could have potentially become the focus of a pro-Saul faction. However I think it was that everyone knew David was a man of his word and also that he had killed the men who came to him with the death of Saul and his family on their hands, and this is why they so easily told him about Jonathan’s son.
In this chapter we can see why God wanted David to focus on the building of the country. There were many wars to fight, many neighbours to subdue:
- David completely defeated the Philistines, taking Metheg Ammah from them.
- David defeated the Moabites, killing 2 out of every 3 lengths of them. He used a really weird form of subjugation – making them to lie down and measuring them with cord to select those to die and those to live by every third length.
- He fought Hadadezer, King of Zobah, to take control of the Euphrates.
- He soundly beat the Arameans of Damascus when they came to help Hadadezer.
He collected gold from Hadadezer and bronze from the towns of Tebah and Berothai belonging to Hadadezer.
- David received tributes from Tou, king of Hamath, on the dedeat of Hadadezer. He sent his son Joram to give David silver, gold and bronze.
- Then he beat the Edomites, placing garrisons in their cities to keep them subjugated.
All the tributes and loot was brought to Jerusalem for God. David established a just kingdom. Joab was still his commander (in spite of David’s concern of his power). Jehoshaphat was the recorder. Zadok and Ahimelech were the priests. Benaiah lead the Kerethites and Pelethites. David’s sons were involved in his court too.
David’s consistency and loyalty to his people shows in these appointments, for example Ahimelech was the son of Abiathar the priest who helped David when he was first fleeing Saul and was killed by Saul for it. Also he is not trying to control everything himself, he involves others including his sons. Hopefully they learned how to lead under God from him, but that is for another day and another a chapter.
David had been thinking and had a conversation with Nathan, the prophet, about building a permanent place for the Ark. David felt that it was inappropriate for him to live in a beautiful palace whilst God’s home with Israel was still a tent. Nathan told him:
“Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.” (verse 3)
But during the night God came to Nathan with very clear instructions for David: God would use David to create peace in Israel and He would always be with David’s family, establishing His throne through David forever. But it would be David’s son who would build the house of God not David. Nathan must have leapt out of bed and rushed to David because he knew David to be a man of action and who knows what David could start the next day?
When Nathan gave David the news, David went in and sat before God. I love this little description. David did not stand, or bow down or prostrate himself before God, he went and sat with God as with a close friend or family member. David poured out his awe and thanks to God, bewildered that God should choose him and his family to bless so greatly. David never imagined that he was deserving of God’s blessing, his life and his successes were all by the grace of God.
The order and process in this story interests me. Why did David not go and talk to God about building a temple himself? This was his usual method of making decisions. Which leads met to think he was actually discussing it with Nathan rather than deciding. Nathan’s reply is perhaps useful to us: Nathan thought that since David followed God so closely then what David was thinking was probably in line with God’s will. Anyway who could imagine that building something for God would be the wrong course of action? And Nathan probably expected David to get a word from God saying this was not the plan should God not want it and David would hear God and listen – so he gave his human view on the matter.
I think this approach could be useful to us because sometimes we don’t hear clearly from God and are not clear what to do. Sometimes we do need to keep praying and listening but move forward trusting God to quickly intervene if it isn’t his plan. But then how do we know whether to wait on God’s reply as David had done so often in the past? Perhaps it was simple for David – he would not fight unless God told him to – but building a temple was a very long process that would give God lots of time to intervene in case David was doing the wrong thing. In any event God intervened within hours – makes you think doesn’t it?
This chapter seems to have two strands – David’s relationship with God and his wife Michal as well as the return of the Ark to the king’s side.
David had got his fortress city and soundly defeated the Philistines, he wanted to move the Ark from Balaah where it had been since the Philistines returned it to Israel. Everyone had been to fearful to move it since that time.
David got a new cart for the ark and David lead the celebratory worship procession. All went well until Uzzah reaches out to steady the Ark as the oxen stumble near Nacon’s threshing floor. God killed Uzzah for his irreverent act of touching the Ark. David was angry and scared to decided to leave the Ark with Obed-Edom the Gittite (wasn’t it closer to Nacon’s house? Maybe Nacon said no?).
For 3 months, David left the Ark there. But he got reports of the wonderful blessings which God was giving Obed-Edom. So he decided to try again. So he made really big plans (and probably checked the road before each step of the oxen). After the procession had moved only 6 steps, David sacrificed a bull and calf. Then David lead the procession in worship, singing and dancing before God. David was dressed only in a linen ephod, presumably to be as humble as possible.
David had pitched a special tent for the Ark and made more sacrifices before blessing the people in God’s name. He then headed home, to bless his household. It is not said who else from his family had not been part of the procession, but we know that Michal had simply watched David enter the city and not participated (verse 16). It is noted that Michal despised David when she saw him dancing before God. Could it have been jealously and knowing that God would always be David’s first love, that drove her next comment? Michal sarcastically berated David before the household, suggesting that he did not behave as a king but a commoner in dancing before God as he had done.
David’s reply is cutting (but true) and he points out that God chose him and not any one from her father’s house to be king and he, David, would celebrate before God. He even said that he would become more undignified that this, but that the commoners would honor him. Reading this exchange so many thousand years’ later, it seems so harsh and vicious. It is the kind of row that only happens between people who intimately know each other. But the difference here is that the final verse is:
“And Michal daughter of Saul had no children to the day of her death.”
It could have been that David never slept with Michal again, but since barrenness was so closely linked to God I think it was more likely seen as a sign that God closed her womb because of her attitude to Him and David.
At this stage, the whole of Israel asked David to become king. David was 30 years’ old when he became king of Judah and 37 when he became king of all of Israel. He ruled for 40 years in total. This means that the years’ David spent on the run, he was still a young man and he must have been leading men who were older than him when you check men who had served Saul and still served him. The length of his reign and the powerful position he started ruling in were strongly grounded in his leadership being publicly and personally based on God. I am sure some one must have written about the leadership lessons we can gain from David as King and renegade.
But David’s reign started in the same way as most of his life thus far since Samuel anointed him – battles and war. He decided to take Jerusalem and, in spite of the Jebusites’ conviction they were safe, he took the city. It is the only city in Israel that I have noticed was described as a fortress city so it makes sense that he wanted it under his control. In verse 10 it says:
“And he [David] became more and more powerful, because the Lord God Almighty was with him.” (NIV)
David’s good diplomatic relationships start to bear fruit and Hiram king of Tyre assists David to build a palace providing logs, carpenters and stonemasons. I guess Israel had not had time to build palaces or learn these skills yet, they are only a few decades out of the desert as nomads and probably focused on being shepherds, farmers and warriors for survival. And David fills his palace with more wives and children including the following born there: Shammua, Shibab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet. (It is interesting to note that Solomon is mentioned now although the story of how David wooed his mother is still to come).
But this idyllic peace was shattered pretty quickly because the Philistines are out for David’s blood. They probably feel doubly keen on war with David because since killing Goliath and fighting for Saul, David had been living in Ziklag on their land and presumably under their protection before he left to become king of Judah and then Israel. They could conceivably felt a little played by him, certainly Achish must have felt a bit cross and been criticized for nurturing the future king of Israel on his land.
Nevertheless, David with God’s guidance on every stage soundly defeated the Philistines. David sought God’s advice on battle tactics in these battle as before, and God’s guidance is given the credit for the victories. In fact in verse 24 God is quoted as saying that He was strike the Philistines ahead of David’s men. There is no sense of the fear and stress that seemed to follow Saul from battle to skirmish to feast. Perhaps David’s calm and clear leadership under God also helped the men to fight better. Certainly David’s courage and history as a skilled leader in battle could not have done any harm to the morale of his men.
Again we hear how David is consistent in his behaviour. Rimmon and Baanah come to him with Ish-Bosheth’s head, having killed him when he was asleep, and David orders them executed. Before he tells them of their fate, he emphasised that it is God who has always delivered him from trouble suggesting that he does not need any man to kill for him to reach the throne. His decision about not killing God’s anointed and his family continued through this civil war.
What I find a little confusing is that these two Beerothites had not heard about the fate of the Amalekite who said he killed Saul. I know that was in Ziklag and this is in Hebron, but I would think that David’s reaction must have been talked about ALOT.
On reflection, God had time to work with David before he became king in contrast to Saul who was thrust into a position that no one in Israel had ever been in before. David had lived on the run and learnt to turn to God for everything. I personally think that the combination of generosity and wisdom that David had shown already was a product of his closeness to God. It makes me a little sad to think in those times in Israel that David’s relationship with God was the exception. God’s Spirit was with the few, who we of course can learn from. But since Jesus we can all have that close relationship to Him as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – we are truly blessed.