Monday, April 25, 2016

Reading in Samuel This Week #3 (2 Sam. 1-12)

Samuel coverWe are continuing to read through Samuel (originally it was one book) accompanied by 1 and 2 Samuel, The College Press NIV Commentary, by James E. Smith.  The first part of the book of 2nd Samuel tells the story of David’s rise to kingship and the covenant blessings God gave to him and brought to Israel through him. However, David flawed actions will ultimately bring disaster to the nation. The previous posts on Samuel can be seen here and here. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

2 Samuel begins with rise of David to the kingship of all Israel, as God had promised. First, David makes it clear that he did not have a part in killing Saul and that God had raised him to the kingship. He then follows God's direction to go to Hebron where he is made king of Judah and reigns for 7 years. Most of these years are full of conflict as he battles with Abner, Saul's general, who supported Saul's son as king of most of Israel. David does everything he can to make peace and resolve the conflict in a way that keeps the tribes together, but David's associates, Joab and Abishai, take personal revenge and foil David's attempts for peaceful resolution. David is seen as a good and wise king by the people and does many things well, but small defects can be seen - he gathers at least 6 wives into a harem like the Canaanite kings - which will cause problems later. Nevertheless, David's greatest trait was that he refused to do any unethical activity to gain the kingship. He trusted God to make it happen.

For David the greatest curse which could befall the earth was the incapacity to render service to the Lord. 2 Samuel 1.21-22, 344

Ish-Bosheth was a mere tool in the hands of Abner who by kindred, office and personality was the natural champion of the house of Saul... Abner made him king, perhaps with the concurrence of the tribal elders (cf. 2 Sam 3:17). The kingship of Ish-Bosheth had no religious sanctions attached to it, and its only foundation was the hereditary principle. 2 Samuel 2, 349–350

One of the great qualities of David was his willingness to recognize the virtues possessed by opponents. He spoke of Abner as a prince and a great man in Israel. 2 Samuel 3.38-39, 366

Clearly the sons of Rimmon miscalculated David’s attitude to the house of Saul. The king began his response to Recab and Baanah with a solemn oath formula, "as surely as the LORD lives" to which is added the clause "who has delivered me (lit., “my soul”) out of all trouble." These words suggest that one who trusts in God has no need to commit crimes for his own defense, or sanction such crimes by others. 2 Samuel 4.9-11, 369

Chapter 5 begins the story of David's reign with his anointing and recognition by all the tribes of Israel and then provide "highlights" of his reign, which include the blessing on his family (although his many wives would lead to the downfall of the nation), pivotal battles, establishment of the capitol in Jerusalem and, most importantly, the return to the new capitol of the real king, YHWH, as the ark was brought into Jerusalem and it was established as the worship center of the nation.

David had a divine appointment to be Israel’s ruler. The belief that God had promised the kingship to David may have been based on rumors of his anointing by Samuel (cf. 1 Sam 16:13), and/or the signs he had given of being possessed by God’s Spirit (cf. 2 Sam 3:18). The course of events seemed to confirm the divine appointment of David since no viable alternative to him existed. The verb shepherd is used here for the first time with reference to a king in Israel. 2 Samuel 5.1-2, 372

Chapters 6-7 are the pivotal chapters of 2 Samuel. In them David shows his devotion to God by enthroning the ark of God in Jerusalem. God responds in chapter 7 by naming David and his family as the human rulers under his authority. David has to learn his lesson, as he brings the ark into the city, that everything must be done in God's way. When David wants to build a temple for God, God tells him that he will build a dynasty for David. David's humble submission to God, which Saul's daughter despised, is the faith response God desired to create covenant with David. Chapter 8 relates that God gave the nation peace and victory, which is the result of the human ruler's faith and submission to God. Chapters 5 and 8 frame this section with accounts of victories over Israel's old enemies.

The ark was called by the Name of the Lord Almighty, it belonged to him. Name connotes that which the Lord has revealed about himself, especially his personal presence. The ark was his throne. He sat, as it were, on the mercy seat which was between the cherubim, the wings of which were stretched out over the ark. Thus the ark was the visible symbol of Yahweh’s presence and of his covenant with his people. 2 Samuel 6.1-2, 384

Chronologically, ch. 7 is not in order. Most likely the chapter relates an event which occurred fairly late in David’s reign. The Narrator has placed this incident here for topical reasons. He has just spoken of the moving of the ark to Jerusalem. Now he relates how David wished to build a house for that ark. Here is a pivotal text in Old Testament theology. The Nathan oracle constitutes the title-deed of the Davidic house to rule Israel and Judah. 2 Samuel 7, 391

The narrative places in stark contrast the spirit of Saul’s house in which Michal had been brought up, and that of David. During Saul’s reign the ark had been neglected, and the instruments of true religion had been ignored. Why Michal found David’s actions so disgusting is not stated. Perhaps for the first time she was observing the depth of David’s devotion to the Lord. Then again, perhaps her idea was that the king should avoid mixing with the people, and be aloof and inaccessible. In any case, the basic problem was that Michal did not share her husband’s enthusiasm for the ark. 2 Samuel 6.16, 388

Numerous prophecies, based upon the promises made here, announced the coming of a glorious ruler from the house of David. The “foreverness” of these promises points beyond David’s son Solomon. Jesus the Messiah is a son of David. He is God’s son par excellence. He is currently building a spiritual temple. On the cross he experienced the disciplinary rod of God, not for his own sins, but for the sins of others. He sits even now upon the throne of God in the heavenly places. 2 Samuel 7.16, 396–397

Chapter 9 moves its focus to David's dynasty and is known as the "succession narrative." It begins well with victories over formidable enemies, but David's flaws begin to show again as he abuses his authority to take what he wants (Bathsheba) with no regard for what God says, or for the loyalty of a faithful soldier. "Uriah drunk is more pious than David sober" (424). David's actions here will turn the succession into several bloody civil wars, lead to the division of the kingdom in the next generation and, in the long run, sow all the seeds for the exile and destruction of the kingdom. Disregard for God's boundaries and misusing God-given authority for personal gain almost always lead to disaster even though God's forgiveness and grace are available.

The account of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth serves several purposes: (1) It demonstrates that David kept his word to Jonathan. (2) It introduces two characters (Ziba and Mephibosheth) who figure prominently in David’s later struggles. (3) The account also underscores that David sensed no threat from the former royal family. (4) The kindness toward this son of Jonathan also indicates the soft side of David’s personality. 2 Samuel 9, 412

The Bible in no way glosses over the heinousness of David’s sin. The ugly episode recorded in this chapter is the key to the history of the rest of David’s reign. Herein lies the explanation of the sudden gloom which settles over his kingdom. 2 Samuel 11, 419

The point is that David must act honorably even with regard to the Lord’s enemies. God would punish him by taking away from him the child who recently had been born. Thus the visible occasion for any further blasphemy against the Lord and his people would be removed from the scene. This is not the case of an innocent child being punished for the sins of the father, for that concept was abhorrent to Mosaic faith (Ezek 18). The death of the adulterous offspring would demonstrate to all skeptics that the righteous rule of Yahweh could reach and punish the king himself. 2 Samuel 12.1-14, 430

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