THE BOOK OF 2 SAMUEL
Lesson 3: Chapters 7-10
The Davidic Eternal Covenant
and David Continues to Secure the Kingdom

Lord God,
In Your Divine Plan for mankind's salvation, You established an eternal covenant with Your "chosen one" David that was fulfilled in Your "Chosen One" Jesus of Nazareth. It is in the Davidic Covenant that Your charter for a king for all humanity" was set forth. David conquered Israel's enemies, but Your Son has conquered sin and death and now rules over heaven and earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. Please send Your Holy Spirit to guide us in our lesson as we study about the granting of Your royal covenant to Your servant David of Bethlehem, promising that his throne would endure forever through his messianic heir. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.

+ + +

I have made a covenant with my Chosen One, sworn an oath to my servant David: I have made your dynasty firm forever, built your throne stable age after age ... I shall maintain my faithful love for him always, my covenant with him will stay firm. I have established his dynasty forever, his throne to be as lasting as the heavens.
Psalm 89:3-4, 28-29

 

Last week we were told how David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem (2 Sam 6:12-19; 1 Chr 15:1-16:42). David did not leave the faithful Obed-Edom behind, the man who guarded the Ark of Yahweh successfully for three months at his home in the Judean hill country (2 Sam 6:9-11). David brought Obed-Edom and his family to Jerusalem: There before the Ark of the Covenant of Yahweh David left Asaph and his kinsmen to maintain a permanent ministry before the Ark as each day's ritual required, and also Obed-Edom with his sixty-eight kinsmen. Obed-Edom son of Jeduthun, and Hosah were gatekeepers (1 Chr 16:37-38).

David's military victories have established Israel as a nation among the other nations of the ancient Near East. Kingdoms are sending their envoys to Jerusalem and David is building a royal palace, with the contributions from King Hiram of Tyre, in which to receive them on Mount Zion. Mount Zion was the original name of the citadel of the Jebusites on the eastern ridge of Jerusalem. From this time forward, however, the name will take on a symbolic meaning and will be applied to the entire mountain crest on which Jerusalem is built (Ps 2:6), to the city itself (Ps 147:12; Is 1:27), and allegorically to the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb 12:22; Rev 14:1). In addition the title "Daughter Zion" will become a poetic personification of the city of Jerusalem. The name is used more than twenty-five times in the Old Testament to express God's tender affection for the city where His name dwells among His people in His holy Temple, whether in joy or in sorrow. It is used for descriptions of Jerusalem in passages that express exultation and rejoicing (Is 16:1; 52:2; 62:11; Jer 6:2; Mic 4:13; Zeph 3:14; Zech 2:14 Lam 4:22). But it is also used in passages lamenting or prophesizing destruction for the holy city (Lam 1:6; 2:1, 13; Is 1:8; 10:32; Jer 6:23; Mic 1:13; 4:10). See the document "God's Presence in Zion."

 

The Book of 1 Chronicles covers the story of David from the death of Saul and his sons to David's death and the ascension of Solomon (1 Chr 10-29); these chapters parallel the narrative in 2 Samuel (the earlier chapters are genealogies). The writer of Chronicles testifies: The history of King David, from first to last, is all written down in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer, with his entire reign, his mighty deeds and the times which he, Israel and all the kings of other countries, had experienced (1 Chr 29:29-30). The "records" he used to write his history are probably the narratives in the Book of Samuel that were written down by Samuel and after his death were continued by Nathan and Gad. The parallel passages in 1 Chronicles will be listed in our continuing lessons.

 

Chapter 7: Yahweh's Royal Covenant with David ~ The Charter for Humanity

There was also a covenant with David son of Jesse, of the tribe of Judah, a royal succession by exclusively linear descent ...
Sirach 45:25

The Lord took away his sins, making his strength ever greater; he gave him a royal covenant, and a glorious throne in Israel.
Sirach 47:11

The parallel narrative is found in 1 Chronicles 17:1-15.

2 Samuel 7:1-17 ~ The Prophecy of the Prophet Nathan
1 Once the king had settled into his palace [house] and Yahweh had granted him rest from all the enemies surrounding him, 2 the king said to the prophet Nathan, "Look, I am living in a cedar-wood palace [house], while the Ark of God is under awnings [within tent-curtains]." 3 Nathan said to the king, "Go and do whatever you have in mind, for Yahweh is with you."
4 But that very night, the word of Yahweh came to Nathan: 5 "Go and tell my servant David, "Yahweh says this: Are you to build me a temple [house] for me to live in? 6 I have never lived in a house from the day when I brought the Israelites out of Egypt until today, but have kept travelling with a tent for shelter. 7 In all my travels with all the Israelites, did I say to any of the judges of Israel, whom I had commanded to shepherd my people Israel: Why do you not build me a cedar-wood temple [house]?" 8 This is what you must say to my servant David, Yahweh Sabaoth says this: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, to be leader [shepherd] of my people Israel; 9 I have been with you wherever you went; I have got rid of all your enemies for you. I am going to make your fame as great as the fame of the greatest on earth. 10 I am going to provide a place for my people Israel. I shall plant them there, and there they will live and never be disturbed again. Nor will they be oppressed by the wicked any more, 11 as they were in former times ever since the time when I instituted judges to governs my people Israel, and I shall grant you rest from all your enemies. Yahweh furthermore tells you that he will make you a dynasty [house]. 12 And when your days are over and you fall asleep with your ancestors, I shall appoint your heir, your own son to succeed you and I shall make his sovereignty secure. 13 He will build a temple [house] for my name and I shall make his royal throne secure forever. 14 I shall be a father to him and he a son to me. If he does wrong, I shall punish him with a rod such as men use, with blows such as mankind gives. 15 But my faithful love [hesed] will never be withdrawn from him as I withdrew it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. 16 Your dynasty [house] and your sovereignty will ever stand firm before me and your throne be forever secure." 17 Nathan related all these words and this whole revelation to David. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, pages 819-20; underlining added for emphasis.

One of the key words in this chapter is the Hebrew word bayith (pronounced bah'-yith) which is translated in the NJB as: house, dynasty, place, temple, family, or lineage in chapter 7. The NAB has a more faithful translation using the key word "house" in 2 Samuel chapter 7. The Hebrew word bayith is used in the Hebrew text eight times in verses 1, 2, 5, 6, 7, 11, 13 and 16 by God in his message to David and then seven times by David in his prayer in response to God's message in verses 18, 19, 25, 26, 27, and 29 twice of the Hebrew text. The number eight is sh'moneh in Hebrew, from the root shah'meyn "to make fat" or "to cover with fat" which means to super-abound.  It is the number that signifies the first of a new series: there are seven days in a week; the 8th day is the beginning of a new series of days.  In the significance of numbers in Scripture, eight is the number symbolizing rebirth, regeneration, salvation and a new order. For example: eight people were saved in the Great Flood, Jesus is raised from the dead on the "eighth" day, the day after the seventh day Saturday Sabbath, the New Covenant in Christ is the eighth covenant God forms with man, etc. God's repeated use of the word of the key word "house" eight times in His message to David signifies that through David a new order is being established (a parallel narrative account is found in 1 Chronicles chapter 17).

David uses the same word, bayith = "house," seven times to respond to God in his prayer in verses 18-29. In Hebrew seven is the word savah/sheba/shibah, meaning "to be complete" (established in the seven-day Creation event). Seven is the number of spiritual perfection, fullness and completion. It is also the number signifying both covenant (to swear a covenant oath is to "seven oneself"), and it is the number of the Holy Spirit. Together the two parts of the narrative make a significant 7-8/8-7 combination. It is a significant combination in the importance of numbers in Scripture and signifies an event in moving forward God's Divine Plan for mankind's salvation.(1) The second key word is the Hebrew word ebed, which means "servant." Watch for the word "servant" in chapter 7; the NJB does a good job of accurately representing the use this word in the narrative.

Nathan (2 Sam 7:2-4, 17; 12:1, 7, 13-15, 25; 1 Kng 1:8, 11, 22-24, 32-34, 38-45; 1 Chr 17:1-3, 15; Ps 51 title; Sir 47:1) and Gad (1 Sam 22:5; 2 Sam 24:11-14, 18-19; 1 Chr 21:9-13, 18-19) are David's court prophets. The inspired writer of 1 Chronicles mentions the writings Samuel, Nathan, and Gad as the source for his history (29:29-30 and 2 Chr 9:29), and he also mentions that Nathan and Gad had a hand implementing the musical role David assigned to the Levites in the Temple liturgy (2 Chr 29:25). Concerning Nathan, Sirach writes: After him [Samuel] arose Nathan, to prophesy in the time of David (Sir 47:1).

Unlike other kings of the ancient Near East, Israel's kings did not rule with absolute power. Israel's kings were agents/servants of God and it was the prophet who communicated God's instructions to the king. It was also the prophet's duty to confront the king with moral failures. The kings of Israel were to be subservient to the Torah of God (Divine Law was the stipulation of the Law in Ten Commandments and further instruction in the Law Codes found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy, including the laws for a king (Dt 17:14-20).

Question: When David was peacefully settled in Jerusalem in his "house," why did he consult his prophet, Nathan, telling him that he wanted to build a "house" for Yahweh? What was Nathan's initial response?
Answer: David did not consider it fitting that he should live comfortably in his palace while the Ark that was the dwelling place of God resided in a tent. David wanted to build a "house" for Yahweh. In verse 3 Nathan agreed with his plan and told David to proceed because God was with him.

However, that night God came to Nathan in a dream.

Question: What message did God tell Nathan to deliver to David? List seven points.
Answer: God's message to David:

  1. It is presumptuous of him to think that God needed a house/temple like pagan gods. God cannot be confined to one place.
  2. God has been with David from his youth and will continue to bless David as the Shepherd of His people.
  3. Instead of David building God a "house," God will reward David by building him a "house" that is a Davidic dynasty.
  4. God will appoint a son of David to succeed him.
  5. That son will build God a "house."
  6. God will be a "father" to David's son(s) and will never withdraw His covenant love from David's "house/dynasty."
  7. David's "house/dynasty" will endure forever.

Nathan delivers God's message to David beginning with the typical formula statement of a prophetic message from Yahweh: "Yahweh says this"/ "Thus says Yahweh."
Question: God told David (through the prophet Nathan) that David's son will build God a "house" in Jerusalem (verse 13). In the parallel account in 1 Chronicles, what reason is given for not allowing him to build God's Temple? See 1 Chr 22:7-10.
Answer: It is because David has been a man of war and his son, Solomon, will be a man of peace.

Question: Is God rejecting David because he is a man of war? Why does God want David's son to build His Temple?
Answer: God does not reject David for being a man of war. In his wars David has fulfilled the destiny God gave him for securing Israel as a nation, and God has blessed him in his battles, giving David his victories. But God does not want His dwelling place associated with violence and war like the false gods of other nations. He wants His dwelling place to be thought of in the context of peace and spiritual rest.

David is not to build a "house" for God, but God will build a "house" for David. The substance of the prophecy Nathan delivers to David is a promise of the perpetuity of the Davidic dynasty (verses 12-16). This is the way David understands the prophecy in his prayer in verses 19, 25, 27 and 29. The prophecy reaches beyond David's immediate heir (Solomon) to whom it is first applied in verse13.

2 Samuel 7:14 ~ I shall be a father to him and he a son to me. If he does wrong, I shall punish him with a rod such as men use, with blows such as mankind gives.
This verse is understood to be a formula of adoption and the earliest expression of Davidic messianisam. Each Davidic king will be God's son. God also promises that He will discipline the Davidic kings like a good human father disciplines his sons. David writes about his special relationship with Yahweh and the sons of David in Psalm 89 when God will acknowledge the Davidic heir: He [the Davidic heir] will cry to me, "You are my father, my God, the rock of my salvation!" So I shall make him my first-born, the highest of earthly kings. I shall maintain my faithful love for him always, my covenant with him will stay firm. I have established his dynasty forever, his throne to be as lasting as the heavens (Ps 89:26-29). It is a passage that is not fulfilled in the earthly Davidic kings but in Jesus Christ the Davidic Messiah.

Question: How does God define the nature of those punishments He will inflict David's successors who fall into sin in verse 14, using the example of a "rod"? See Mic 4:14-5:3.
Answer: The punishments will be temporal "such as men use" and not eternal; David's dynasty will not be "cut off" from God's Divine Plan like Saul's dynasty.

God's promise concerning the Davidic heirs is a formula of adoption based on a Royal Grant Covenant with the "house" of David. From this time forward, Davidic kings will be called the "sons of God" (see Ps 2:7; 110:3). The substance of Nathan's message/prophecy is the perpetuity of the Davidic dynasty (verses 12-16), which is certainly the way David understood the message (verses 19-29 and 23:5; Ps 89:29-37; 132:11-12).

The establishment of the Davidic Covenant is a step forward in God's Divine Plan to send the Redeemer-Messiah first promised in Genesis 3:15. It is a "Charter for Humanity," forming the first in a series of prophecies relating to the Davidic Messiah. We were told in Genesis that Redeemer-Messiah is to be a man born from a woman (Gen 3:15), but now it is also to be understood (through the words of the prophets) that He will be a descendant of the great King David (cf. Is 7:14; 11:1-5, 1-12; Jer 23:5-6; Ez 34:23-24). St. Peter will apply the prophecy of the Davidic Messiah to Jesus in his homily on Pentecost Sunday in Acts 2:30.

Question: How many covenants did God make in the Old Testament? How many covenants did God make in the New Testament? How many covenants are with individuals and how many constitute a corporate covenant with one body of people? See the list of Yahweh's covenants. What kind of pattern or combination do you see in the covenant plan?
Answer: There are six covenants between God and individuals and one corporate covenant between God and Israel for a total of seven covenants in the Old Testament. There is only one covenant in the New Testament and that is the eternal covenant with Jesus Christ and His Church. The New Covenant in Christ is both an individual covenant with God the Son and a corporate covenant with His Church. It is a 7/8 combination.

Question: The corporate covenant treaty between God and Israel was a conditional covenant based upon Israel's obedience to God's Law and God's blessings for obedience to the Law but also God's punishments for disobedience. What are the conditions of the Davidic covenant?
Answer: There are no conditions. God alone provides the guarantee of the covenant.

The covenant with David is called a "non-conditional" or "royal grant covenant" as opposed to a conditional covenant/covenant treaty (see Sir 45:25; 47:11). Some covenants have elements of both.
Conditional covenants have an "if" clause: There are blessings for obedience and curses (redemptive judgments) for disobedience:

Non-conditional covenants:

Question: What person in salvation history fulfills the royal grant covenant God made with David that his throne will endure forever? How does this person fulfill that promise?
Answer: It is Jesus who fulfills the royal grant covenant God made with David that his throne will endure forever. The Kingdom over which Jesus Christ rules is the Church on earth and the Church of saints in Heaven. Through the New Covenant, He has made us one "flesh" in kinship with Him through the gift of His Body and Blood in the Eucharist. We celebrate and renew our covenant in Christ in every Eucharistic celebration, giving thanks for our redemption and looking forward to the day when we will be stand before His throne in Paradise.

Nathan's message to David establishes the charter for the advancement of God's Divine Plan for man's salvation. The hereditary monarchy is the center of the prophecy. David's dynastic succession is assured and the specific role of God's Temple among His chosen people in the capital city of Jerusalem is to be part of that plan. The covenant promise that David's throne is to last forever points to the Messiah who will be a descendant of David. Every future Davidic king will prefigure the Messiah and will have the following qualities:

  1. He will be a "son" in his relationship to God (verse 14).
  2. He will be punished when necessary, but the punishment will be temporary and David's line will not be cut off like Saul's (verses 14b-15).
  3. There will always be an heir since the Davidic dynasty will last forever (verses 12-13, 15-16 and as expressed by Solomon in 1 Kng 8:24-26 ).

The prophets identified the fulfillment of the everlasting rule of the Davidic king in the promised Messiah (cf. Jer 17:24-27; Ez 34:23-24; etc.). The climax of this "charter with humanity" through God's servant David is Jesus "son of David" (Mt 1:1; 9:27; 12:23; 21:9; Rom 1:3; etc.). The Church reads this passage from 2 Samuel 7 in the liturgy of the Solemnity of St. Joseph, husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary, because it is he who is the guarantor of the Davidic descent of Jesus through being "of the house of David" (Mt 1:20; Lk 1:27) as is Mary of Nazareth (Lk 1:30-33).

The parallel narrative is found in 1 Chronicles 18:16-127.
2 Samuel 7:18-29 ~ David's Prayer in Response to God's Covenant Promise
18 King David then went in, sat down in Yahweh's presence and said: "Who am I, Lord Yahweh, and what is my lineage [house], for you to have led me as far as this? 19 Yet, to you, Lord Yahweh, this seemed too little, and now you extend your promises for your servant's family [house] into the distant future. Such is human destiny, Lord Yahweh. 20 What more can David say to you, since you, Lord Yahweh, know all about your servant? 21 Because of your promise and since you were so inclined, you have had the generosity to reveal this to your servant. 22 That is why you are great, Lord Yahweh; there is no one like you, no God but you alone, as everything that we have heard confirms. 23 It there another people on earth like your people, like Israel, whom a god proceeded to redeem, to make them his people and to make a name for himself by performing great and terrible things on their behalf, by driving out nations and their gods before his people? 24 for you constituted your people Israel your own people for ever and you, Yahweh, became their God.
25 Now, Yahweh God, may the promise which you have made for your servant and his family [house] stand firm forever as you have said, 26 so that your name will be exalted or ever and people will say, Israel's God is Yahweh Sabaoth.' Your servant David's dynasty [house] will be secure before you, 27 since you, Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, have disclosed to your servant, I am going to build you a dynasty [house].' Hence, your servant has ventured to offer this prayer to you. 28 Yes, Lord Yahweh, you are God indeed, your words are true and you have made this generous promise to your servant. 29 What is more, you have designed to bless your servant's dynasty [house], so that it may remain forever before you; for you, Lord Yahweh, have spoken and may your servant's dynasty [house] be blessed with your blessing forever." [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, pages 819-20; underlining added for emphasis.

David is overwhelmed by Yahweh's generosity and so he goes immediately into the tent that houses the Ark of the Covenant to pray in the presence of Yahweh.
Question: Is David being overly modest in verse 18? See 1 Sam 16:11; 18:23; Mic 5:1.
Answer: David is not being modest in verse 18 when he acknowledges that he comes from a humble background. Bethlehem is a small and insignificant village, his father was not wealthy, and his clan is one of the smallest of Judah's clans (Mic 5:1). He acknowledges that God has taken him from the sheepfold to the throne room and yet, God graciously offers to do more for His shepherd-king.

David acknowledges that since God is omnificent, He knows everything including all that is in David's heart that he might not have the words to express since he is so overcome with gratitude.
Question: What theological belief does David express in verse 22?
Answer: He expresses his belief in monotheism; that Yahweh is the One and only God.

In verses 22-24 David recalls the Exodus experience (as did Yahweh in verse 6) and then the conquest of Canaan. These were the defining moments in Israel's history when God redeemed the Israelites, took them to be His own people, and then gave them the land He promised their forefathers. David sees the eternal covenant that God has formed with the "house of David" as another defining moment in Israel's history.

2 Samuel 7:25-27 ~ Now, Yahweh God, may the promise which you have made for your servant and his family stand firm forever as you have said, 26 so that your name will be exalted forever and people will say, Israel's God is Yahweh Sabaoth.' Your servant David's dynasty [house] will be secure before you, 27 since you, Yahweh Sabaoth, the God of Israel, have disclosed to your servant, I am going to build you a dynasty [house].'
David repeats Nathan's prophecy as he understands it with the confidence that God keeps his promises. On his deathbed David will recall this moment when his God made an eternal covenant with him: Yes, my House stands firm with God: he has made an eternal covenant with me, all in order, well assured; does he not bring to fruition my every victory and desire? (2 Sam 23:5; also see 23:1).

Question: How does David identify himself to God in his prayer? It is the same word God used for David in 7:5 and 8 when He spoke to Nathan (in the Hebrew text if not in your translation).
Answer: He is God's "servant."

In the Hebrew text of chapter 7 God uses the word twice and David repeats the word "servant" to identify himself ten times. The word "servant" is used a total of twelve times in the Hebrew text of the narrative. In the significance of numbers in Scripture, ten and twelve are two of the so-called "perfect numbers." Ten is the number signifying divine order and twelve is the number of divine government. Two is the number that can refer to Christ, the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity. See the document "The Significance of Numbers in Scripture."

David bows to God's will and accepts His judgment that he is not the man to build God's Temple in Jerusalem.
Question: In what way does David make himself useful to God's plan for the Temple? How does God graciously ease David's disappointment? See 1 Chr 22:11-19 and 28:11-19
Answer: David will make himself useful to God in planning for the future Temple by gathering the necessary materials (1 Chr 22:14-16). God will ease his disappointment by confiding in him the Temple architecture and having David draw up the plans that God will give him for its construction, which David will share with his son (1 Chr 28:11-19).

Solomon and each future king of the Davidic dynasty will be an imperfect Biblical "type" of the Davidic Redeemer-Messiah who is the ideal king of the everlasting covenant that is to come. If the Davidic kings had all been righteous men, David's "house" could have been given the ideal reign of "a thousand years" (Rev 20:1-3), surviving until the Advent of the Christ, the covenant with David being formed sometime c. 1000 BC and Jesus being born in c. 3/2 BC about a thousand years later. It is Jesus Christ "son of David" (Mt 1:1) who will come as the fulfillment of the "everlasting covenant" God promised His servant David in c. 1000 BC and who David wrote about as his Lord in Psalm 110, as explained by Jesus in Luke 20:41-44.

Concerning the Davidic Covenant, Biblical scholar David Chilton wrote: "It was David, the conquering Lion of Judah of the Old Covenant, to whom God revealed both the plan of the Temple (1 Chron. 28:11-19) and the plan of the everlasting covenant, the "Charter for Humanity" by which the coming Priest-King would bring the blessing of Abraham to all nations (2 Sam. 7:18-29; 23:2-5; 1 Chron. 17:16-27; Ps. 16; 110; Acts 2:25-36). At last David's greater Son came and conquered, establishing everlasting dominion and opening the Covenant, embodying and fulfilling all its promises, He is the One 'to whom it belongs'" (Days of Vengeance, page 170; references to Rev 5:1-5).

Chapter 8: A Summary of David's Campaigns

A psalm of David: Blessed by Yahweh, my rock, who trains my hands for war and my fingers for battle, my faithful love, my bastion, my citadel, my Savior; I shelter behind him, my shield, he makes the peoples submit to me.
Psalm 144:1-2

The parallel narrative is found in 1 Chronicles 18:1-13.
2 Samuel 8:1-8 ~ The Wars with the Philistines, Moabites and Aramaeans
1 After this, David defeated the Philistines and subdued them. From the grip of the Philistines he wrested [two unintelligible words*]. 2He also defeated the Moabites and, making them lie on the ground, measured them off by the line; he measured out two lines to be put to death and one full line to have their lives spared. The Moabites became David's subjects and paid him tribute.
3 David defeated Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah, when the latter mounted an expedition to extend his power over the River. 4 David captured one thousand seven hundred charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers from him; David hamstrung all the chariot teams, keeping only a hundred of them. 4 The Aramaeans of Damascus came to the help of Hadadezer king of Zobah, but David killed twenty-two thousand of the Aramaeans. 5 David then imposed governors on Aram of Damascus, and the Aramaeans became David's subjects and paid him tribute. Wherever David went, Yahweh gave him victory. 7 David took the golden shields carried by Hadadezer's guards and brought them to Jerusalem. 8 From Betah and Berothai, towns belonging to Hadadezer, King David captured a great quantity of bronze.

* In the parallel narrative in 1 Chronicles 18:1, the text reads: After this David defeated the Philistines and subdued them. From the grip of the Philistines he wrested Gath and its dependent towns. It is significant that David conquered the Philistine city that had once claimed him as their vassal. The 1 Chronicles chapter 18 narrative gives more details about the war that ended the power of the Philistines over Israel and records a frightening event that almost cost David his life: Once again the Philistines made war on Israel, David went down with his retainers; they fought the Philistines and David began to tire. There was a champion, one of the sons of Rapha. His spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze; he was wearing a new sword and was confident of killing David. Abishai son of Zeruiah came to his rescue, however, attacking the Philistine and killing him. Then it was that David's men swore the following oath to him, "You are never to go into battle with us again, in case you should extinguish the lamp of Israel!" (2 Sam 21:15-17). After this David's warriors would not allow him to accompany them to fight Israel's wars.

David's army also defeated the Moabites whose kingdom was located near the southeastern side of the Dead Sea and made the Moabites vassals of Israel. Next David's men defeated a combined force of Aramaeans and Ammonites. In verse 4 the parallel account in 1 Chronicles reads: David captured one thousand chariots, seven thousand charioteers and twenty thousand foot soldiers from him; David hamstrung all the chariot teams, keeping only a hundred of them (1 Chr 18:4). To cut the hamstring in the hind legs of a horse is a death sentence for the animal. It is more likely that David's men injured one hind leg of each horse to make the animal lame and incapable of being used as a war horse to pull a chariot. The other one hundred horses he kept for his own use either for his cavalry or to experiment with forming his own chariot unit.

Betah and Berothai in verse 8 are towns in Zobah, one of the independent city-states of the Aramaeans (Syrians) in the Valley of Lebanon north of Damascus. The kingdom of Zobah was extensive; controlling eastern Syria from the Hauran plateau to the Euphrates River Valley in Mesopotamia ("the River" in verse 3 refers to the Euphrates as it is named in the parallel account in 1 Chr 18:3). The kingdom of Zobah was a threat both to Israel and the Assyrians (the emerging world power in the north).(2) Aram-Zobah was David's chief rival for control of Syria and the Ammonites threatened the Israelite tribes in the Transjordan (east side of the Jordan River). When David fought the Ammonites in the Transjordan, King Hadadezer intervened to support them (2 Sam 8:5; 1 Chr 18:3-9), and when he fought Zobah, the Aramean kingdom of Damascus came to their aid. Twice the army of David defeated Hadadezer and reduced the Aramaean kingdoms of Zobah and Damascus to vassal states governed by Israelite governors (verse 5). The Ammonite war is not mentioned because it will be described in detail chapters 10:1-11:1.

The parallel narrative is found in 1 Chronicles 18:1-13.
2 Samuel 8:9-14 ~ Israel gains Recognition from Neighboring Kingdoms
9 When Tou king of Hamath heard that David had defeated Hadadezer's entire army, 10 he sent his son Hadoram to King David to greet him and to congratulate him on having made war on Hadadezer and on having defeated him, since Hadadezer was at war with Tou. Hadoram brought with him objects made of silver, gold and bronze, 11 which King David also consecrated to Yahweh, as he had already consecrated the silver and gold taken from all the nations which he had subjugated; 12 from Aram, Moab, the Ammonites, the Philistines and Amalek; and from the spoil of Hadadezer son of Rehob, king of Zobah. 13 David became famous when he came home from defeating the Edomites in the Valley of Salt, eighteen thousand of them. 14 He imposed governors on Edom and all the Edomites became David's subjects. Wherever David went, Yahweh gave him victory.

Hamath is Neo-Hittite city on the Orontes River in Syria between Damascus and Aleppo. King Tou (or Toi) sent his son as an envoy to take gifts to David after his victory over Zobah. They had the bond of a shared enemy and it can be assumed that a peace treaty was drawn up between the two nations. The "Entrance of Hamath" (perhaps the Orontes River Valley) was supposed to mark the traditional northern boundary of Israel that was promised by God (Num 34:7-9; Josh 13:5; 1 Kng 8:65; 1 Chr 13:5; Ez 47:15-16, 20.(3)

Question: What did David do with the precious metals he captured from Israel's enemies in verses 7 and 11-12? What was the precedent for this gesture and what did it acknowledge? See Num 31:48-54; Josh 6:17-19.
Answer: All the precious metals were consecrated to Yahweh in gratitude for God granting the Israelites victory in their battles. This was the practice of the army of Israel since the beginning of the conquest.

Question: After David's victories, how far did David's kingdom stretch?
Answer: He controlled an area from the Euphrates River in Mesopotamia in the north to the kingdom of Edom at the southern end of the Dead Sea in the south and from the Mediterranean Sea in the west to the entire Transjordan in the east.

Question: What was the extent of the land God promised to Abraham's descendants when God made the covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15:18?
Answer: God promised: To your descendants I give this country [land], from the River of Egypt to the Great River, the River Euphrates ...

Wherever David went, Yahweh gave him victory.
This is an important concluding statement. Unlike Saul, David has remained faithful to Yahweh who has blessed him in all his endeavors.

Summary of kingdoms defeated by David's army that became vassal states of Israel:

The parallel narrative is found in 1 Chronicles 18:14-17.
2 Samuel 8:15-18 ~ The Administration of David's Kingdom
David ruled over all Israel, administering law and justice to all his people. Joab son of Zeruiah was in command of the army; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was herald; Zadok and Abiathar son of Ahimelech, son of Ahitub, were priests; Seraiah was secretary; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was in command of the Cherethities and Pelethites; David's sons were priests.

Joab, David's nephew, Joab, is his military commander. Zadok and Abiathar, descendants of Aaron the first high priest, serve as co-high priests. You may recall that Abiathar is the son of the high priest at Nob who was murdered by Saul for helping David; he sought refuge with David after his family was massacred (1 Sam 21:1-10; 22:6-23).

The Gentile Cherethities and Pelethites became David's personal bodyguard. David saved the Cherethitie women and children who had been captured by the Amalekites (1 Sam 30:14) when he rescued the wives and children of his own people in 1 Samuel chapter 30. In gratitude the Gentile Cherethities apparently united themselves to David and an elite force served as his personal bodyguard. The Pelethites may have also joined themselves to David at the same time or became attached to him when he was a vassal of the Philistines (see 1 Sam 27:1-4; 2 Sam 15:18; 20:7, 23; 1 Kng 1:38-44). It was common for kings in the ancient Near East to have foreign troops as their personal bodyguards. Such men owed their loyalty to the king and were less likely to get caught up in dynastic or tribal disputes and interests.

David's sons were priests. The parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 18:17 reads: David's sons took first place after the king. It cannot mean that David's sons took on the duties of the chief priests, a presumption that was forbidden by the Law and for which Saul was denied his kingship by Yahweh (1 Sam 13:9-15). It can only mean, as is suggested in 1 Chronicles 18:17, that his sons assisted or were deputized by David to serve as his representatives at the Sanctuary by supervising the operation of the Sanctuary and serving in those functions that were lawfully exercised by the king.

Please note that 2 Samuel 21:1-6, 8-14 is chronologically prior to chapter 9 and chapter 10, providing the details of David's war with the Ammonites and their Aramaean allies.

Chapter 9: David's Kindness to Jonathan's son

Jonathan said to David: "And may Yahweh be with you as he used to be with my father! If I am still alive, show your servant faithful love; if I die, never withdraw your faithful love from my family. When Yahweh has exterminated every enemy of David's from the face of the earth, do not let Jonathan's name be exterminated with Saul's family..."
1 Samuel 20:14-16

2 Samuel 9:1-13 ~ David brings Meribbaal into his Household
1 David asked, "Is there anyone belonging to Saul's family left, to whom I might show faithful love [hesed = covenant love] for Jonathan's sake?" 2 Now Saul's family had a servant whose name was Ziba. When he had been summoned to David, the king said, "Are you Ziba?" "At your service," he replied. 3 The king said, "Is there no one left belonging to Saul's family, for me to treat with God's own faithful love [hesed]?" Ziba said to the king, "There is still one of Jonathan's sons. He has crippled feet." 4 The king asked "Where is he?" Ziba replied, "He is living in the household of Machir son of Ammiel, at Lo-Debar." 5 So King David sent for him to be fetched from the house of Machir son of Ammiel at Lo-Debar.
6 On entering David's presence, Meribbaal son of Jonathan, son of Saul, fell on his face and prostrated himself. David said, "Meribbaal!" He replied, "Here I am, at your service." 7 David then said, "Do not be afraid; I will indeed treat you with faithful love [hesed] for your father Jonathan's sake. I shall restore all your grandfather Saul's estates to you, and you will always eat at my table." 8 Meribbaal prostrated himself and said, "Who is your servant, for you to show favor to a dead dog like me?"
9 The king then summoned Saul's servant Ziba and said, "Everything belonging to Saul and his family, I give to your master's son. 10 You must work the land for him, and you and your sons and your slaves; you must harvest the produce to provide food for your master's family to eat. But Meribbaal, your master's son, will always take his own meals at my table." Now Ziba had fifteen sons and twenty slaves. 11 Ziba said to the king, "Your servant will do everything my lord the king has ordered his servant." 12 So Meribbaal ate at David's table like one of the king's sons. Meribbaal had a young son whose name was Micha.* All the people living in Ziba's household entered Meribbaal's service. 13 Meribbaal lived in Jerusalem, since he always ate the king's table. He was crippled in both feet. [..] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, pages 823-24.
* he is called Micah in 1 Chr 8:34.

Question: David's request in verse one is based on what covenant promise Jonathan asked David to make? See 1 Sam 20:14-17, 42.
Answer: Jonathan asked David if he died to take care of his family. David is seeking to fulfill his covenant vow to Jonathan.

None of David's courtiers know of surviving member of Saul's family so they bring David a former servant from Saul's household. Ziba served the household of Saul as a steward or majordomo, a freeman who was in charge of Saul's household servants and slaves. He informs David that Jonathan's son is living at the home of a man named Machir at Lo-Debar, a city in Gilead on the east side of the Jordan River in northern Transjordan near Jabesh.(4) Ziba's mention of Meribbaal's disability is probably meant to assure David that Jonathan's son is no threat to him and no challenge to his throne. Meribbaal is now probably a man in his early twenties.

We first heard of Jonathan's son Meribbaal in 2 Samuel 4:4. He was five years old when his father, grandfather, and uncles died in the Battle of Mount Gilboa. When his nurse heard the news, she tried to flee with him but either dropped him or fell with him, breaking his feet and leaving him a cripple. His name in the Hebrew Tanakh is rendered "Mephibosheth," man of shame, but in the LXX and the DSS texts of Samuel it is rendered in its original form as Meribbaal. David generously returns all of Saul's ancestral lands to Jonathan's son. Ziba is to manage Meribbaal's estate, but Meribbaal is to live as a member of the king's household.(5)

Question: Why might this gesture of including the adult Meribbaal as a member of David's household be more than simple generosity?
Answer: He is an heir of the former royal family and as such he and his son are threats to David's dynasty if there was an attempt to reinstate the family of Saul to kingship. It is prudent for David to keep Meribbaal and Micha/Micah within his control.

Chapter 10: The Ammonite War and Victory over the Aramaeans

Chapters 10:1-11:1 are the detailed account of what was summarized in chapter 8. There is a parallel account of the Ammonite and Aramean war in 1 Chronicles 19:1-20:8. The parallel to this first part of the narrative is found in 1 Chronicles 19:1-5.
2 Samuel 10:1-5 ~ David's Ambassadors are insulted by the Ammonites

1 After this, when the king of the Ammonites died and his son Hanun succeeded him, 2 David thought, "I shall show Hanun son of Nahash the same faithful love [hesed = covenant love] as his father showed me." And David sent his representatives to offer him condolences over his father. But, when David's representatives reached the Ammonites' country, 3 the Ammonite princes said to Hanun their master. "Do you really think David means to honor your father when he sends you messengers with sympathy? On the contrary, the reason why David has sent his representative's to you is to explore the city, to reconnoiter and so overthrow it." 4 Whereupon Hanun seized David's representatives, shaved off half their beards, cut their clothes off halfway up, at their buttocks, and sent them away. 5 When David was told, he sent someone to meet them, since the men were overcome with shame. "Stay in Jericho," the king said, "until our beards have grown again, and come back then."

In the first major battle of his reign, King Saul's Israelite army conquered the army of King Nahash of the Ammonites after they besieged Jabesh-Gilead and drove them out of the Transjordan tribal lands of Gad, Reuben and Manasseh (1 Sam chapter 11). After David came to the throne and successfully fought the Philistines, the same King Nahash of the Ammonites, or the son who succeeded him with the same name, apparently made a peace treaty with David. The Ammonites occupied the lands to the east of the Transjordan Israelite tribes with their capital at Rabbah-Ammon (the capital city Amman, Jordan).

Question: Hearing of the death of his ally, what diplomatic gesture did David make?
Answer: He sent envoys to offer his condolences to the new king.

Question: What was the response of the new king of the Ammonites to David's diplomatic mission?
Answer: He insulted David by humiliating his envoys and treating them with contemp.

2 Samuel 10:5 ~ 5 When David was told, he sent someone to meet them, since the men were overcome with shame. "Stay in Jericho," the king said, "until our beards have grown again, and come back then."
David sympathized with the plight of his envoys and gave them permission to stay in seclusion in Jericho until they were presentable again.

The parallel to this part of the narrative is found in 1 Chronicles 19:6-15.
2 Samuel 10:6-14 ~ The First Ammonite and Aramaean Campaign
6 When the Ammonites realized that they had antagonized David, they sent agents to hire twenty thousand foot soldiers from the Aramaeans of Beth-Rehob and the Aramaeans of Zobah, one thousand men from the king of Maacah and twelve thousand men from the prince of Tob. 7 When David heard this, he sent Joab with the whole army, the champions. 8 The Ammonites marched out and drew up their line of battle at the city gate, while the Aramaeans of Zobah and of Rehob and the men of Tob and Maacah kept their distance in the open country. 9 Joab, seeing that he had to fight on two fronts, to his front and to his rear, chose the best of Israel's picked men and drew them up in line facing the Aramaeans. 10 He entrusted the rest of the army to his brother Abishai, and drew them up in line facing the Ammonites. 11 "If the Aramaeans prove too strong for me," he said, "you must come to my help; if the Ammonites prove too strong for you, I shall come to yours. 12 Be brave! Let us acquit ourselves like men for the sake of our people and for the cities of our God. And let Yahweh do as he thinks right!" 13 Joab and the force with him joined battle with the Aramaeans, who fled at his onslaught. 14 When the Ammonites saw that the Aramaeans had fled, they too fled from Abishai and withdrew into the city. Hence, Joab broke off his campaign against the Ammonites and returned to Jerusalem.

When the Ammonites realized that their treatment of David's envoys will cause the Israelites to come against them, they immediately contacted their allies and hired mercenaries. They drew support from the two Aramaean city-states of Beth-Rehob and Zobah, from the city of Maacah, a small city-state south of Mount Herman (southern Syria), and mercenaries from Tob, a town of "worthless men" (Judg 11:3-5) probably located about twelve miles northeast of Ramoth-Gilead. The Ammonites determined that these additional soldiers were necessary in order to defeat the Israelites. The Aramaean city-states of Zobah and Beth-Rehob, to the north of the sources of the Jordan River at Mount Herman, were united under Hadadezer's suzerainty. Maaacah and Tob were to the north of Transjordan.

2 Samuel 10:7 ~ When David heard this, he sent Joab with the whole army, the champions.
Notice that David is no longer leading the assault against the enemy but is entrusting the army to Joab and his commanders (see 2 Sam 21:15-17). David's elite fighting force of thirty champions is named in 1 Chronicles 11:10-47. There are seven Gentiles, perhaps converts, among David's champions, including a Hittite name Uriah (1 Chr 11:41).

2 Samuel 10:8 ~ The Ammonites marched out and drew up their line of battle at the city gate, while the Aramaeans of Zobah and of Rehob and the men of Tob and Maacah kept their distance in the open country.
The city is probably the Ammonite capital of Rabbah-Ammon located about twenty-four miles east if the Jordan River and twenty-three miles northeast of the Dead Sea (modern Amman, Jordan). The Ammonites mass their forces in front of the city but the mercenary forces are out of sight of the Israelites in the open country. At first the enemy seems to have the advantage since they have managed to outflank the Israelites who are now caught in the middle between the enemy's divided army.
Question: What is Joab's strategy?
Answer: Joab also divides his army; he leads one half of the Israelite army and has them turn to face the mercenary force lead by the Aramaeans to their rear while the other half of the army led by his brother Abishai prepares to engage the Ammonites.

Joab first engages the Aramaean army and when the Ammonites see that the Israelites are winning and their allies are retreating, they lose their courage and withdraw into the city. The Israelites win because God is with them.

The parallel to this part of the narrative is found in 1 Chronicles 19:16-19.
2 Samuel 10:15-19 ~ The Final Victory over the Aramaeans
15 The Aramaeans, realizing that Israel had got the better of them, concentrated their forces. 16 Hadadezer sent messengers and mobilized the Aramaeans living on the other side of the river; and these arrived at Helam, with Shobach the commander of Hadadezer's army, at their head. 17 David, being informed of this, mustered all Israel, crossed the Jordan and arrived at Helam. The Aramaeans drew up in line facing David and engaged him. 18 But the Aramaeans fled from Israel and David killed seven hundred of their chariot teams and forty thousand men; he also cut down Schobach the commander of their army, who died there. 19 When all Hadadezer's vassal kings saw that Israel had got the better of them, they made peace with the Israelites and became their subjects. The Aramaeans were afraid to give any more help to the Ammonites.

After their defeat, King Hadadezer of Zobah calls for reinforcements from Aramaean towns in the Transjordan. The Aramaean army gathers at Helam, a city in the Transjordan east of the Sea of Galilee, under the command of a Zobahian (Syrian) general named Shobach. Before they can march to the aid of the Ammonites, they are attacked by the Israelites and defeated.

The narrative is not suggesting that David personally fought the Aramaeans (verses 17-18) but that the army of David engaged and defeated the enemy. This is the end of Aramaean hostility against Israel during the period of the United Monarchy. The Aramaean city-states became vassals of Israel, paying the state of Israel an annual tribute. David has systematically defeated Israel's enemies and turned them into vassals recognizing the suzerainty of the nation of Israel. Only the Ammonites are left and David will deal with this last enemy on Israel's borders in the spring.

Questions for reflection or group discussion:

Both David and his descendant Jesus of Nazareth were proclaimed "King of Israel" (see Mt 21:5; Lk 19:38; Jn 12:13). St. Mark's Gospel records that on Palm Sunday the people of Jerusalem cried out to Jesus: Blessed is the coming kingdom of David our father! (Mk 11:9). However, the kingdoms over which they ruled were not the same.

  1. How did the people see Jesus as a fulfillment of God's covenant with David? How did they misunderstand Jesus' true role as the promised Davidic Messiah? See Is 11:1-9; Jer 23:5-5 and Ez 34:23-31.
  2. How were their kingdoms different and how were their missions different?
  3. How did David's role in salvation history prefigure Jesus' role in salvation history?

Keep in mind what St. Augustine wrote about the difference between David's and Jesus' kingships: "[Jesus] became king of Israel to reign over souls, to give counsel that leads to eternal life, to bring those who were filled with faith, hope and love to the kingdom of heaven" (In Joannis Evangelius, 51.4).

Endnotes:

1. The 7/8 pattern is found in the Hebrew Old Testament and Greek New Testament texts of the Bible (repeated word patterns are sadly ignored in most of the English translations of the Bible). Together the numbers seven and eight form a remarkable connection.  Seven, according to its etymology, means that which is spiritually complete, while eight denotes that which is superabundant and symbolically points to re-birth, salvation, a new order.  God's holy covenant name is expressed in Hebrew by the four consonants YHWH which have a value of 10, 5, 6, and 5.  Added together their total is 20 + 6 but multiplied by 3 (the Triune God) their value is 70 (7x10) + 8 or spiritual perfection times perfection of order (the number 10) plus superabundant salvation. Yahweh's covenants are also seven and eight: Seven covenants are revealed in the Old Testament and the eighth covenant in the New Testament, in the New Covenant in Christ. There are 7 classes of furniture in the desert Tabernacle and in 8 the Temple, reflecting the 7/8 pattern.  There are many other examples, but the final 7/8 pattern in Scripture is found in the Book of Revelation in which the last seven visions of St. John are introduced by the Greek words kai eidon, "and I saw," in Revelation 19:11 (vision #1 = 19:11-16), 19:17 (vision #2 = 19:17-18), 19:19 (vision #3 = 19:19-21), 20:1 (vision #4 = 20:1-10), 20:4 (vision #5 = 20:4-10), 20:11 (vision #6 = 20:11-15), and 21:1 (vision #7 = 21:1-8). However, in the description of the seventh vision the words kai eidon are used an eighth time in 21:2, yielding the seven/eight pattern for the final time in Sacred Scripture.

2. 1 Sam 14:47 mentions King Saul's earlier victory over the city-state of Zobah.

3. The "Entrance of Hamath" as Israel's northern boundary was a political reality only under the kingships of David, Solomon, and Jeroboam II of the Northern Kingdom (Num 13:21; 1 Kng 8:65; 2 Kng 14:25; 2 Chr 7:8; Amos 6:14).

4. Machir of LoDebar is a man who will remain loyal to David and will render him aid at a difficult time in David's life when others have deserted him (2 Sam 17:27).

5. Saul's family line will continue through Micha/Micah (see 1 Chr 8:34-38).

Catechism references:

2 Sam 7 (CCC 709); 7:14 (CCC 238, 441); 7:18-29 (CCC 2579); 7:28 (CCC 215, 2465)

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2014 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.