THE BOOK OF 2 SAMUEL
Lesson 7: Chapters 21-24
Part III: Supplements
Holy and Eternal Father,
The story of Your servant David reminds us of Your justice, Your mercy, and Your covenant love. Your temporal judgments were meant to bring David back to the path of righteousness. When he responded with humility and repentance, You forgave his sins, accepted him back into communion with You, remaining faithful to the eternal covenant You promised David and his heirs. When we fail and fall into sin, we know that if we come humbly to You and repent in the Sacrament of Reconciliation that You will forgive our sin and accept us back into fellowship with You. We have confidence that You will never abandon us, and that if we continue to walk the narrow path to salvation that the eternal covenant Jesus obtained for us is secure. Send You Holy Spirit to guide us in our lesson, Lord, as we come to the end of our study on the inspired Scripture of the Book of Samuel.
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The Lord took away his [David] sins,
making his strength even greater; he gave him a royal covenant, and a glorious
throne in Israel ... the Lord never goes back on his mercy, never cancels any of
his words, will neither deny offspring to his elect nor stamp out the line of
the man who loved him. And hence, he was granted a remnant to Jacob and to
David a root to spring from him.
Sirach 47:11/13, 22/24-25
(verse 11 is verse13 in some translations and 22 is 24-25 in some translations)
St. John's vision of the glorified Christ
as the Lamb of God in the heavenly Sanctuary: I wept bitterly because nobody
could be found to open the scroll and read it, but one of the elders said to
me, "Do not weep. Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, has
triumphed, and so he will open the scroll and its seven seals."
Part two of the Book of 2 Samuel ended with David's victory over the revolts of Absalom and Sheba. Both Absalom and Sheba attempted who turned the Old Covenant Church of Israel away from God's anointed. Of the two, Absalom's revolt was the most painful for David because a son rebelled against the authority of his loving parent. St. Augustine compares the defection of Absalom to the Church's relationship with heretics who also rebel and turn away from Mother Church in the attempt to turn the people of God away from the truth of God's Anointed, Jesus Christ. She mourns their loss and at the same time finds solace in their destruction because of the deliverance of those who would have been seduced away from the Church and possibly led to destruction by their influence (Augustine, Letter 185.32).
This third part of the Book of 2 Samuel is called the Supplements (chapters 21-24) and interrupts the story of David and his family that will be continued in 1 Kings. The events recorded in chapter 21 of the Supplements occurred during David's war with the Philistines, not long after David became king of Israel in 2 Samuel Chapter 5, but before his sin with Bathsheba in chapter 11. The last chapter of the Supplements takes place near the end of David's life. According to tradition, the Supplements section was written by the prophet Gad who has a role in the narrative of the final chapter. This part of the book is divided into six appendices that can be seen as three related pairs:
Chapter 21: Israel's Blood-guilt and Exploits against the Philistines
But if you will not listen to me and
do not put all these commandments into practice, if you reject my laws and
detest my customs, and you break my covenant by not putting all my commandments
into practice, this is how I shall treat you ...
2 Samuel 21:1-9 ~ The Three Years of Famine
1 In the days of David there was a famine which lasted for three years on end. David consulted Yahweh, and Yahweh said, "Saul and his family have incurred blood-guilt, by putting the Gibeonites to death." 2 Then the king summoned the Gibeonites (now the Gibeonites were not Israelites, but were a remnant of the Amorites, to whom the Israelites had bound themselves by oath; Saul, however, in his zeal for the Israelites and for Judah, had done his best to exterminate them); 3 hence David said to the Gibeonites, "What can I do for you? How can I make amends, so that you will call a blessing down on Yahweh's heritage?" 4 The Gibeonites replied, "Our quarrel with Saul and his family cannot be settled for silver or gold, nor by putting to death one man in Israel." David said, "Say what you want and I will do it for you." 5 Then they replied to the king, "The man who decimated us and planned to annihilate us, so that we should not exist anywhere in Israelite territory: 6 we want seven of his descendants handed over to us; and we shall dismember* them before Yahweh at Gibeon on Yahweh's hill." "I shall hand them over," said the king. 7 The king, however, spared Meribbaal son of Jonathan, son of Saul on account of the oath by Yahweh binding them together, binding David and Jonathan son of Saul. 8 The king took two sons born to Saul by Rizpah daughter of Aiah: Armoni and Meribbaal; and five sons born by Merab daughter of Saul to Adriel son of Barzillai, of Meholah. 9 He handed these over to the Gibeonites who dismembered* them before Yahweh on the hill. The seven of them perished together; they were put to death in the first days of the harvest, at the beginning of the barley harvest. *this rare Hebrew word may mean "impaled," which was not a practice of the Israelites but was a form of capital punishment practiced by pagans.
These events probably took place not long after David became king of Israel. A three year famine has struck the land. God promised to protect Israel from famine so long as the people were obedient to His laws, but if they became disobedient and violated His covenant, God told them He would remove His hand of protection and the people would be subject to the same consequences of temporal judgments due to sin in the world as their neighbors (Lev 26:14-16, 26 and Dt 28:15, 38-40).
Question: David consults Yahweh through the priestly ocular
devices of the Urim and Thummim. What is he told?
Answer: Israel has incurred the collective sin of blood-guilt, a violation of the laws concerning homicide, in participating in Saul's attempt to wipe out the Gibeonites. It was a pogrom in which all Israel and Judah (David's tribe) willingly participated.
Question: Who are the Gibeonites and what is their relationship
with Israel? See Josh 9:3-27.
Answer: They were Gentile residents of Canaan from four cities of Amorites and Hivites who deceived Joshua into making a treaty with them that included a vow not to harm them. It was a vow that was sealed in an oath by the princes of the tribes of Israel. Even when they discovered that they had been deceived, it was decided that Israel was bound by the oath.
The Gibeonites, whose towns were included in the tribal lands of Benjamin, probably accepted Yahweh as Israel's God along with continuing their pagan traditions; hence they worshipped on the "hill of Yahweh" in Gibeon when they should have been worshipping at Yahweh's Sanctuary if they had become converts. That they were still regarded as pagans was the reason Saul disregarded Israel's oath and set out to exterminate the Gentile Gibeonites and appropriate their lands that were within the tribal lands of Benjamin. It is possible that the persecution once started was continuing. Once the government shows a willingness to persecute a minority, the population can quickly joined in the abuse. The famine was God's collective punishment against Israel for their violation of the oath and the crime of genocide against the Gentile resident aliens who were protected under the Law (Num 15:15).
David asks the Gibeonites to tell him what action that he can take that
will give them justice for what their people have suffered.
Question: What do they demand?
Answer: They refuse monetary reparations and demand the lives of seven of Saul's descendants.
Seven was view by many ancient people as a number of completeness and in this case as a complete accountability for the crime against them (also see the threat of a sevenfold judgment in Lev 26:18, 21, 24, 28). The problem is that the blood guilt was Saul's, but he is dead and cannot be held accountable. These pagan people are demanding justice in a form that was acceptable to their pagan practices, the deaths of Saul's sons in retribution for Saul's crime.
Question: What is the problem with their demand? What was the
law concerning a child being held accountable for a parent's sin? See Dt 24:16
(also see this law applied in 2 Kng 14:6 and affirmed in Jer 31:29-30;
Answer: The law prohibited a child being held accountable for the crimes of his parents. What the Gibeonites have demanded is forbidden under the Law of the Sinai Covenant.
Question: Why then did David agree to the Gibeonites' demand?
Answer: Before he heard their demand, David said he would agree to whatever they asked, but that is not a good excuse. He probably agreed because their request served his interests by ridding him of all the possible heirs to Saul's throne; it was a politically expedient act. He has manipulated the law for his own benefit.
David handed over the sons and grandsons of Saul with the exception of
Jonathan's son Meribbaal. It was probably these deaths that Meribbaal referred
to in 2 Samuel 19:29.
Question: Why did David spare Meribbaal? See 1 Sam 20:14-17.
Answer: He spared him because of his covenant oath to Jonathan to protect his son.
2 Samuel 21:9 ~ He
handed these over to the Gibeonites who dismembered them before Yahweh on the
hill. The seven of them perished together; they were put to death in the first
days of the harvest, at the beginning of the barley harvest.
This rare Hebrew word, translated here as "dismembered," may mean "impaled," which was not a practice of the Israelites but was a form of capital punishment practiced by their pagan neighbors. That the executions were "before Yahweh" does not mean in any way that they offered right worship to Yahweh, but at the high place of their community ritual worship they offered these Israelite sacrifices in the belief that Yahweh will accept the human sacrifices. Their actions show that had no real concept of Yahweh, God of Israel.
Some have suggested these men took part in the attempt to exterminate the Gibeonites and therefore deserved their fate. That may have been true of the adult sons, but the eldest of the five grandsons could not have been more than 10-12 years old; they were children.(1) David himself will incur blood-guilt for allowing this crime. God's punishment was allowing the deaths of his sons Amnon and Absalom in the four-part penance in chapters 12-18. Saul's sons and grandsons were put to death in a particularly gruesome way in the early spring (March/April) at the time of the barley harvest. It is the same time of year that Jesus will be crucified in Jerusalem in 30 AD and arose from the dead on the Jewish feast that commemorated the barley harvest (Lev 23:9-14, Israel's Liturgical and Civil Calendar Year). It is significant that God did not end the famine after the deaths of Saul's heirs.
2 Samuel 21:10-14 ~ Rizpah's Grief and the Burial of Saul's Murdered
10 Rizpah daughter of Aiah, wearing sacking and spreading some out for herself on the rock, from the beginning of the barley harvest until the rain fell on them from heaven, kept the birds of the sky away from them in the daytime, and the wild animals away at night. 11 David was told of what Saul's concubine, Rizpah daughter of Aiah, had done. 12 David went and recovered the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan from the notables of Jabesh in Gilead. The latter had stolen them from the square in Beth-Shean, where the Philistines had hung them, when the Philistines had defeated Saul at Gilboa. 13 David fetched the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. The bones of the men who had been dismembered were collected 14 and these, with the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan, were buried in the territory of Benjamin, at Zela, in the tomb of Saul's father, Kish. The king's orders were carried out to the letter and after that, God took pity on the country.
Rizpah was Saul's concubine who bore him two sons. Merab was Saul's elder daughter and the sister of Michal (1 Sam 14:49; 18:17, 20). This event would account for the love Michal bore David turning to hatred as indicated in 2 Samuel 6:20-23.
The Gibeonites have not only murdered the descendants of Saul in a particularly brutal way but they have also denied them a proper burial contrary to Israelite practices. Israelites were commanded to bury the dead, even convicted criminals who suffered the death penalty (Dt 21:22-23). Notice that the famine was not lifted immediately after the deaths of Saul's sons and grandsons, so that could not have been the necessary remedy for the end of the famine. Rizpah, Saul's concubine who was the mother of two of Saul's sons, is the woman loved by Abner who he refused to give up, causing his break with Saul's son Ishbaal (2 Sam 3:6-11). You will recall that Abner was later murdered by Joab. This woman has lost everything: her position as the king's concubine, her lover and protector, Abner, and now her sons. From the time of the deaths of Saul's sons and grandsons in the early spring until the late fall/winter rainy season, for at least eight months, Rizpah protected the rotting flesh and bones of the dead. In the meantime, the persecution of the Gibeonites by their Israelite neighbors had probably ended. It should also be noted that it was forbidden under the Law to refuse the dead burial under any circumstances. The dead were to be buried by sundown on the day of death (Dt 21:23; Josh 10:26-27).
Question: When David heard about Rizpah's devotion to the bodies
of the dead, what did he do and what was the result of his act of mercy for the
dead sons/grandsons of Saul?
Answer: He gathered all the bones of the dead Saulites, including Saul and his son Jonathan, and gave them a proper burial in the tomb of Saul's father. The famine was then lifted at least eight to ten months after the dead of the Saulites.
2 Samuel 21:15-22 ~ David's Campaigns against the Philistines
15 Once again the Philistines made war on Israel. David went down with his retainers; they fought the Philistines and David began to tire. 16 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. 17 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!" 18 After this, war with the Philistines broke out again at Gob. This was when Sibbecai of Hushah killed Saph, one of the sons of Rapha. 19 Again, war with the Philistines broke out at Gob, and Elhanan son of Jair, of Bethlehem, killed Goliath of Gath*, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver's beam. 20 There was further warfare at Gath, where there was a man of huge statue with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in all. He too was a son of Rapha. 21 When he defied Israel, Jonathan son of Shimea, brother of David, cut him down. 22 These four were sons of Rapha in Gath and fell at the hands of David and his retainers.
* 1 Chr 20:5 =... and Elhanan son of Jair killed Lahmi brother of Goliath of Gath...
The incident in verses 15-17 sets the time just prior to 2 Samuel Chapter 11 when David is no longer accompanying his men into battle because of the vow he made to them. It is understood that there were four "sons of Rapha" in this episode. Originally there were five sons, the first son being Goliath who was killed by David in 1 Samuel 17:40-51. The "Goliath of Gath" named in verse 19 cannot be the same Goliath killed by David in 1 Samuel 17:40-54:
Either the second Goliath killed by Elhanan is a son of the first or, as it has been suggested by some scholars, that "Goliath" wasn't a name but a title like "designated champion;" but it is more likely that three words are missing from the text. In 1 Chronicles 20:5 the name of the Philistine killed by Elhanan is given as "Lahmi brother of Goliath of Gath;" the words "Lahmi brother of" are the only words missing from 2 Samuel 21:19, otherwise the sentence is the same as the 1 Chronicles verse. The location of Gob has not been determined but 1 Chronicles 20:4 identifies the site of the battle as the Philistine city of Gezer. The Goliath killed by David was one of five sons of Rapha, which is why David picked up five stones when he faced the Philistine in mortal combat in 1 Samuel 17:40.
Question: How many men from Bethlehem killed giant Philistines?
See 1 Sam 17:32-33, 40-51; 2 Sam 23:27; 1 Chr 20:4-7.
Answer: There were five sons of Rapha. Four men from Bethlehem killed sons of Rapha:
A fifth son of Rapha named Saph was killed by Sibbecai of Hushah. He was one of David's thirty elite warriors (2 Sam 23:27; 1 Chr 11:29).
Chapter 22: Davidic Hymn of Thanksgiving
This is one of Scripture's eight songs (not counting the songs found in the Book of Psalms). Five songs are found in the Old Testament:
Two in the Gospel of Luke:
And the eighth is in the Book of Revelation:
David's song is a canticle of praise to God for delivering him from Saul and from all his enemies, including his own son. The Divine Name is evoked fourteen times in David's poem in the Hebrew text. In the symbolic significance of numbers in Scripture, seven is the number of fullness, completion, and spiritual perfection. David's poem is an expression of double fullness and spiritual perfection. This hymn, with minor variations, is identical to Psalm 18. The introduction to the Psalm 18 is found in 22:1. Most biblical scholars, including Albright, Cross, Friedman, and Robertson, report that they detect archaic language in the hymn and date it to the tenth century that is David's time. The problem with the archaic language is that it makes translating the meaning of many terms in the poem conjectural. Psalm 18 appears to be a secondary version of David's song in which some of the archaic language has been edited (Alter, Ancient Israel, page 565).
The hymn is full of poetic devices and can be divided into two parts:
2 Samuel 22:1-51 ~ David's Song Celebrating Yahweh Delivering Him from His Enemies
David's Hymn Part I: Praises God for His actions in Favor of the King (verses 2-28)
1 David addressed the words of this song to Yahweh, when Yahweh had delivered him from the clutches of all his enemies and from the clutches of Saul.
2 Samuel 22:2-4 ~ David praises God and lists His Divine Attributes
He said: 2 "Yahweh is my rock and my fortress, my deliverer is my God. 3 I take refuge in him, my rock, my shield, my saving strength, my stronghold [the horn*], my place of [my bulwark and] refuge. My Savior, you have saved me from violence; 4 I call to Yahweh, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my foes. *The Hebrew word "horn" expresses great strength like the goring horns of a bull; for examples in the Hebrew text see 1 Sam 2:1, 10; 22:3; Job 16:15; Ps 18:2; 75:4, 5; 89:17; etc.
Using rich poetic imagery, David's hymn of praise opens with a litany
of invocations acclaiming God as his personal Savior (verses 2-3).
Question: List the string of metaphors that David uses in verses 2-4 to stress God's strength.
Answer: Rock, fortress, shield, stronghold [horn], place [bulwark] and refuge.
2 Samuel 22:5-6 ~ David's cry for help from dangers that threaten his life
5 With Death's breakers closing in on me, Belial's torrents ready to swallow me, 6 Sheol's snares on every side of me, Death's traps lying ahead of me,
David recalls those times in his life when he was close to death and called to God to save him. Sheol in verse 6 is the Hebrew word for the abode of the dead before the redeeming work of Jesus Christ. It was the destination of all human beings after death, both the righteous and the sinner, although their conditions were different (see Lk 16:19-31; CCC 633).
Question: What is meant by God's "Abode" in verse 7? See verse 10.
Answer: God's "Abode" is, according to verse 10, God's heavenly Sanctuary.
2 Samuel 22:7-16 ~ God Appearing in Answer to David's Plea
7 I called to Yahweh in my anguish, I cried for help to my God, from his Temple [Abode] he heard my voice, my cry came to his ears! [...] = literal translation IBHE, vol. II, page 868.
8"Then the earth quaked and rocked, the heavens' foundations shuddered; they quaked at his blazing anger. 9 Smoke rose from his nostrils, from his mouth devouring fire, coals were kindled at it. 10 He parted the heavens and came down, a storm-cloud underneath his feet; 11 riding one of the winged creatures, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind. 12 He wrapped himself in darkness, his pavilion dark waters and dense cloud. 13 A brightness lit up before him, hail and blazing fire. 14 Yahweh thundered from the heavens, the Most High made his voice heard. 15 He shot his arrows and scattered them, his lightning flashed and routed them. 16 The very springs of ocean were exposed; the world's foundations were laid bare, at the roaring of Yahweh, at the blast of breath from his nostrils!
God's theophany in coming to David's defense is manifested by terrifying natural phenomena.
Question: What images from nature does David use to describe God coming to his defense?
Answer: He uses the imagery of an earthquake, a volcanic eruption, the violence of a storm with wind, thunder, lightning, hail and fire and flood imagery.
In verse 8 David describes God's intervention on his behalf with the description in poetic imagery of God's descent from His celestial throne. He comes to do battle to support his faithful servant in what is described as a seismic event; an earthquake that upsets the whole earth (also see Ex 19:16-18; Judg 5:4-5) and the prophet Zechariah's description of the Messiah coming in divine judgment on the Day of the Lord in Zech 14:3-9).
11 riding one of the
winged creatures, he flew, soaring on the wings of the wind.
There are several types of winged creatures, including Cherubim and Seraphim, that guard God in the heavenly Temple (Rev 4:6-8) and at times act as His vehicle of descent into the temporal world (Ez 1:4-27). Similar angelic creatures guarded the entrance to Eden (Gen 4:24) and images of them were on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 24:17-22). They are one of several classes of angels and are mentioned as "cherubim" (cherub in the singular) ninety-two times in Scripture: ninety-one times in the Old Testament and once in the New Testament in Hebrews 9:5.
The "dense cloud' in verse 12 and the thunder and lightning of His theophany are reminiscent of the Exodus theophany (see Ex 19:16-19), the Glory Cloud that led the children of Israel on their exodus out of Egypt (Ex 13:21-22; etc.), and Moses disappearing into the "dense, dark cloud on Mount Sinai (Ex 24:16-18). In verses 9-16 God is described in anthropomorphic terms; these are images to which David can relate as he pictures Yahweh as his defending warrior God.
2 Samuel 22:17-20 ~ God rescues David
17 He reached down from on high, snatched me up, pulled me from the watery depths, 18 rescued me from my mighty foe, from my enemies who were stronger than I. 19 They assailed me on my day of disaster, but Yahweh was there to support me, 20 he freed me, set me at large, he rescued me, because he loves me.
David's rescue could have been from any one or all of the dangerous encounters of his long life. The important statement is found in verse 20.
Question: What reason does David give for God rescuing him?
Answer: Because God loves him.
2 Samuel 22:21-28 ~ God rewards David's righteousness
21 Yahweh rewards me for my uprightness, as my hands are pure so he repays me, 22 since I have kept the ways of Yahweh, and not fallen away from my God. 23 His judgments are all before me, his statutes I have not put away from me; 24 I am blameless before him, I keep myself clear of evil. 25 Hence Yahweh repaid me for acting uprightly because he could see I was pure. 26 Faithful you are to the faithful, blameless with the blameless, 27 sincere to the sincere but cunning to the crafty, 28 you save a people that is humble and humiliate those with haughty looks.
Question: In these verses David gives the reason God loves him.
What is that reason?
Answer: God loves David for his purity of heart and that he strived to keep himself blameless before God by working to avoid evil.
Question: Why did God save David; was it only out of love?
Answer: David says that his deliverance was a reward for merit in striving to live in righteousness before his God. God saved David because of his purity of heart (verses 21-22) and because God is faithful to those who fear offending Him and who are humble (verses 23-28).
David understands the key to a close relationship with God.
Question: What are the key attributes one must have that David lists to have a close relationship with God? How are these attributes demonstrated in one's relationship with Yahweh?
Answer: One must be faithful to God (worshipping no other gods), blameless under the Law, sincere and humble in one's repentance.
David's Hymn Part II: Celebrates the Deeds of the King guided by Yahweh
1 Samuel 22:29-32 ~ The power of God's help
29 Yahweh, you yourself are my lamp, my God lights up my darkness; 30 with you I storm the rampart with my God I can scale any wall. 31 This God, his way is blameless; the word of Yahweh is refined in the furnace, for he alone is the shield of all who take refuge in him.
32 For who is God but Yahweh, who is a rock but our God:
David then gives a second example of deliverance. This time he is being rescued on the battlefield (verses 29-43). The hardship is the "darkness" and the deliverance is the "light." Verse 32 is David's declaration of monotheism (also see Is 44:8). The pathway of David's life would be uncertain without God's guidance like a lamp for his life's journey. Again David uses the metaphor "rock" for God.
2 Samuel 22:33-37 ~ God equips David for battle
33 this God who girds me with strength, who makes my way free from blame, 34 who make me as swift as a deer and sets me firmly on the heights, 35 who trains my hands for battle and my arms to bend a bow of bronze. 36 You give me your invincible shield, you never cease to listen to me, 37 you give me the strides of a giant, give me ankles that never weaken.
David gives God he glory for all his victories. It was God who gave him the physical strength, the skill in battle, and the intelligence to win Israel's victories.
2 Samuel 22:38-43 ~ God gives David victory over his enemies
38 I pursue my enemies and exterminate them, not turning back till they are annihilated; 39 I strike them down, and they cannot rise, they fall, they are under my feet. 40 You have girded me with strength for the fight, bent down my assailants beneath me, 41 made my enemies retreat before me; and those who hate me I destroy. 42 They cry out, there is no one to save, to Yahweh, but no answer comes. 43 I crumble them like the dust of the squares; trample them like the mud of the streets.
He tells how God gave him victory over his enemies in battle (verses 32-43), and how God allowed him to assert his authority over his people and over other nations (verses 44-46).
2 Samuel 22:44-46 ~ God gives David rule over Israel and over foreign
44 You free me from the quarrels of my people, you place me at the head of the nations, a people I did not know are now my servants, 45 foreigners come wooing my favor, no sooner do they hear than they obey me, 46 foreigners grow faint of heart, they come trembling out of their fastness.
David has enemies within his own countrymen (evidenced by two civil wars in chapters 15-20) and from neighboring countries, but God has given him victory over both internal and external enemies. With God's help David has established Israel as a nation among nations.
2 Samuel 22:47-51 ~ David's concluding praise of God
47 Life to Yahweh! Blessed be my Rock! Exalted be the God of my salvation, 48 the God who gives me vengeance and crushes the peoples under me, 49 who takes me away from my enemies. You lift me high above those who attack me; you deliver me from the man of violence. 50 For this I will praise you, Yahweh, among the nations, and sing praise to your name. 51 He saves his king, time after time, displays faithful love for his anointed, for David and his heirs forever." (Underlining added for emphasis).
It is because of all that God has done for him that he again acclaims the Lord as his personal Savior (verse 47; also see 22:3b). The psalm ends in verse 51 with another mention of David's name that was first mentioned in the preface to the hymn in 22:1. In the last line he recalls God's promise of an eternal covenant for David and his heirs forever.
Question: What is the most repeated metaphor for God in David's hymn?
Answer: "Rock" in verses 2, 3, 32, and 47.
Question: How can the perspective of this psalm change in the
light of Jesus in the New Testament?
Answer: Jesus is the Davidic heir who achieved His glory as the king of all nations. He did this by obediently doing his Father's will. He established His kingdom on earth and in heaven and those who serve Him have carried His Gospel message of salvation to the ends of the earth, allowing the people of all nations to acknowledge Him as Lord-Savior and King of kings.
Chapter 23: David's Last Testament and the List of his Champions
one can deny that the patriarch David himself is dead and buried: his tomb is
still with us. But since he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn him an
oath to make one of his descendants succeed him on the throne, he spoke with
foreknowledge about the resurrection of the Christ: he is the one who was not
abandoned to Hades, and whose body did not see corruption.
St. Peter speaking of David in his homily on Pentecost Sunday and referring to 2 Samuel 7:12; Psalm 16:9-10 (Ps 49:15) and Psalm 132:11-12 in Acts 2:29-31
2 Samuel 23:1-7 ~ David's Last Testament
1 These are the last words of David: "Thus speaks David son of Jesse, thus speaks the man raised to eminence, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the singer of the songs of Israel: 2 The spirit of Yahweh speaks through me, his word is on my tongue; 3 the God of Jacob has spoken, the Rock of Israel has said to me: He whose rule is upright on earth, who rules in the fear of God, 4 is like the morning light at sunrise on a cloudless morning, making the grass of the earth sparkle after rain.' 5 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? 6 But men [sons] of Belial he rejects like thorns, for these are never taken up in the hand: 7 no one touches them except with a pitchfork or spear-shaft, and then only to burn them to nothing!"
David's last words are expressed in poetic form and can be divided into four parts:
Last words are attributed to David as to Jacob (Gen 49), Moses (Dt 33),
and Joshua (Josh 23).
Question: In what three ways does David want to be remembered in verse 1?
Notice that David again refers to God as "Rock" in verse 3. This time
he uses the word not as a metaphor as he did in the earlier hymn (22:3, 32 and
47) but as a title. Moses called God by the title "Rock" five times in his
hymn in Deuteronomy 32:1-43 (Dt 32:4, 16, 18, 30, 31).
Question: Who did St. Paul identify as "the Rock" in 1 Corinthians 10:1-4?
Answer: Jesus. The "rock" that provided water to the Israelites on the forty year wilderness journey was the preexistent Christ who was already active in salvation history.
Question: With whom did Jesus share His title "Rock," changing
the name of this man to the Aramaic word Kepha (Rock)? St. Paul called this
man Cephas, the Greek transliteration of the Aramaic Kepha. How do we refer to
this man? See Mt 16:16-18.
Answer: Jesus gave this title to the Apostle Simon who was from that time forward acknowledged as the leader of the Apostles as the Vicar of Jesus' Kingdom on earth and was called "Kepha" in Aramaic or "Petros"/Peter in Greek of the New Testament.
Question: What is the definition of a prophet of God?
Answer: A biblical prophet is one who spoke, acted, or wrote under the extraordinary influence of the Spirit of God to make known the divine counsels and will.
2 The spirit of Yahweh
speaks through me, his word is on my tongue
In verse 2 David states that what he writes is God's Spirit speaking through him. This defines David as a prophet of God, and it is what St. Peter calls David in Acts 2:29-30. David says God gave him the definition of the rule of a righteous king: " ... the Rock of Israel has said to me: He whose rule is upright on earth, who rules in the fear of God, 4 is like the morning light at sunrise on a cloudless morning, making the grass of the earth sparkle after rain.'" The key metaphor of the poem is the comparison of the just ruler to the morning sun that causes green grass to spring up from a rain drenched earth. In other words, the just king's rule provides health and prosperity. The just king is said to be like the gentle morning sun that shines with its beneficial rays to bless his people (verse 3b) The healthy, growing grass is a metaphor for the loyal subjects of a just king (verse 4). It is David's house/dynasty that is to provide this just rule and it is for this reason that David says God gave him an eternal covenant (verse 5). Yahweh has sworn to David, and will always remain true to his word, "I promise that I will set a son of yours upon your throne. If your sons observe my covenant and the instructions I have taught them, their sons too for evermore will occupy your throne... There I shall raise up a line of descendants for David, light a lamp for my anointed..." (Ps 133:11-12, 17).
The sun imagery used to describe the ideal ruler in David's poem is also found in the prophecy of the Day of God's Judgment and the saving power of the future Davidic Messiah by the 6th century BC prophet Malachi; his is the last prophetic book of the Old Testament: For look, the Day is coming, glowing like a furnace. All the proud and all the evil-doers will be the stubble, and the Day, when it comes, will set them ablaze, says Yahweh Sabaoth, leaving them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the Sun of justice will rise with healing in his rays, and you will come out leaping like calves from the stall, and trample on the wicked, who will be like ashes under the soles of your feet on the day when I act, says Yahweh Sabaoth (Mal 3:19-21/ in some translations 4:1-3, underlining added).
"Men [sons] of Belial" in verse 6 refers to "men of wickedness." In Hebrew belial means "wickedness" or "worthlessness." It is sometimes used as another name for Satan. In 1 Samuel 10:27 the NJB translated the word as "scoundrels" (also see Dt 13:14; Judg 19:22; 1 Sam 2:12; 30:22).(2) In his last testament, David speaks both of God's Divine grace and His Divine judgment.
Question: What does David speak of as the greatest work of God
in his life?
Answer: He lists the greatest work of God in his life as the promise of an eternal covenant with the Davidic dynasty ("house") that is extended to David's descendants.
Question: What are the two themes David mentions in the hymn?
These are the two most frequently reoccurring themes in the Bible in
association with God.
Answer: God's mercy and salvation for the righteous and judgment for the wicked.
Question: Who will fulfill Malachi's prophecy and what is the
connection to the ideal Davidic king and the concluding verses of David's poem?
Answer: Jesus Christ is the Sun of justice and the true Davidic king. Malachi's prophecy describes Jesus' Second Advent and God's Day of the Last Judgment. It is then that the wicked who opposed God the Son will face the fire of Divine Judgment.
David's Mighty Warriors
The lists of the names of David's elite warriors and the narratives of some of their exploits are found in 2 Samuel 23:8-39. The lists of David's warriors fall into three parts:
2 Samuel 23:8-12 ~ David's Three Peerless Warriors
8 These are the names of David's champions: Ishbaal the Hachmonite leader of the "three; it was he who brandished his spear over eight hundred men whom he had killed at one time. 9 Next, there was Eleazar son of Dodo, the Ahohite, one of the three champions. He was with David at Pas-Dammim when the Philistines mustered for battle there and the men of Israel had disbanded. 10 But he stood his ground and cut down the Philistines until his hand was so stiff that he could not let go if the sword. Yahweh brought about a great victory that day, and the people rallied behind him, although only to plunder. 11 Next, there was Shamma son of Elah, the Hararite. The Philistines had mustered at Lehi. There was a field full of lentils there; the people fled from the Philistines, 12 but he took his stand in the middle of the field, held it, and cut down the Philistines; and Yahweh brought about a great victory.
David recalls the exploits of his three greatest warriors:
Ishbaal the Hachmonite: the leader of the "Three."
Eleazar son of Dodo the Ahohite: his brother Elhanan is one of the Thirty (2 Sam 23:24).
Shamma son of Elah (Agee) the Hararite
2 Samuel 23:13-17 ~ An Exploit of the Three
13 Three members of the Thirty went down at the beginning of the harvest and came to David at the Cave of Adullam while a company of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of the Rephaim. 14 David was then in the stronghold, and there was a Philistine garrison in Bethlehem. 15 Longingly David said, "If only someone would fetch me a drink of water from the well that stands by the gate at Bethlehem!" 16 At this, the three champions, forcing their way through the Philistine camp, drew water from the well that stands by the gate of Bethlehem and, taking it away, presented it to David. He, however, would not drink any of it, but poured it out as a libation to Yahweh. 17 "Yahweh preserve me," he said, "from doing such a thing! This is the blood of men who went at risk of their lives." That was why he would not drink. Such were the deeds of these three champions.
This incident took place early in David's career as an outlaw when he
was encamped at the stronghold in the southern desert of Judah (1 Sam 22:1). David
learned what every leader of men needs to guard against: the wrong interpretation
of language and the law of unintended consequences. A wrongly worded command
or a thoughtless spoken comment can mean the loss of life. This event occurred
early in David's career, and he undoubtedly learned from his mistake. The
incident also demonstrates how much David's men loved him.
Question: Why did David pour out the water? Was it a condemnation of the action of the three warriors?
Answer: The pouring out of the water wasn't a rejection of the heroism of the warriors, but it was instead offered as a libation demonstrating his penance to Yahweh for his thoughtlessly spoken words.
By refusing to drink the water, David is acknowledging his mistake in idly wishing for water from his hometown. He shows that he has no wish to risk the lives of his loyal men to indulge his whims. Since the three men risked their lives, David says it is "blood" (verse 17) and must be poured out on the ground in accordance with religious law (Lev 17:10-13; Dt 12:23-24).
There are parallel passages to 2 Samuel 23:18-39 in 1 Chronicles 11:10-47.
2 Samuel 23:18-23 ~ The Exploits of Two of David's Champions
18 Abishai, brother of Joab and son of Zeruiah, was leader of the Thirty. It was he who brandished his spear over three hundred men whom he had killed, winning himself a name among the thirty. 19 He was a most illustrious member of the Thirty and became their captain, but he was not equal to the Three. 20 Benaiah of Kabzeel was the son of Jehoiada and hero of many exploits. He it was who slaughtered two formidable Moabites and, one snowy day, climbed down and slaughtered the lion in the storage-well. 21 He also slaughtered an Egyptian of great stature. The Egyptian was armed with a spear, but he took him on with a staff, tore the spear from the Egyptian's hand and killed the man with it. 22 Such were the exploits of Benaiah son of Jehoiada, winning him a name among the thirty champions. 23 He was the most illustrious member of the Thirty, but he was not equal to the Three. David put him in command of his bodyguard.
The inspired writer differentiates between the Three and the Thirty. The Three refers to David's greatest champions who are named in 23:8-12. The exploits of two men are recounted in this passage. Abishai is the leader of the elite unit of warriors. He is David's nephew, the second of the three sons of Zeruiah and the brother of Joab, the commander of the army of Israel. Their youngest brother, Asahel was killed by Abner (2 Sam 2:17-23; 23:24). Benaiah is one of the Thirty who becomes the commander of David's bodyguard. 1 Chronicles 11:23 records that the Egyptian warrior he killed was seven and a half feet tall. In the reign of King Solomon he will become commander of the army of Israel (1 Kng 2:35). The men are great warriors among the group of David's elite fighters but they are "not equal to the Three."
2 Samuel 23:24-39 ~ A List of David's Champions
23 Asahel brother of Joab was one of the Thirty; Elhananm son of Dodo, of Bethlehem; 25 Shammah of Harod; Elika of Harod; 26 Helez of Beth-Pelet; Ira son of Ikkesh, of Tekoa; 27 Abiezer of Anathoth; Sibbecai of Hushah; 28 Zalmon of Ahoh; Maharai of Netophah; 29 Heled son of Baanah, of Netophah; Ittai son of Ribai, of Gibeah in Benjamin; 30 Benaiah of Pirathon; Hiddai of the Torrents of Gaash; 31 Abibaal of Beth-ha-Arabah; Azmaveth of Bahurim; 32 Eliahba of Shaalbon; Jashen of Gimzo; Jonathan 33 son of Shammah, of Harar; Ahiam son of Sharar, of Harar; 34 Eliphelet son of Ahasbai, of Beth-Maacah; Eliam son of Ahithope, of Gilo; 35 Hezro of Carmel; Paarai of Arab; 36 Igal son of Nathan, of Zobah; Bani the Gadite; 37 Zelek the Ammonite; Naharai of Beeroth squire to Joab, son of Zeruiah, 38 Ira of Jattir; Gareb of Jattir; 39 Uriah the Hittite, thirty-seven in all.
Some names we recognize:
The men come from all parts of Israel on both sides of the Jordan River. The first eleven warriors on the list are all men who come from the tribe of Judah; Asahel and Elhanan are from Bethlehem and most of the other men are from towns within a radius of Bethlehem. Other men come from central, northern and southern Judah. Of the names in verses 36-39, some men are from the Transjordan. Also notice that Igal of Zobah (Aramaean kingdom; see 2 Sam 10:6), Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai the Beerothite, and Uriah the Hittite are all Gentiles. This list may have been compiled after Asahel's death. Asahel was killed by Abner at sometime during the two years that Saul's son Ishbaal was king while David was king of Judah (2 Sam 3:17-23). He was among the original Thirty but the list of the thirty names begins after his name.
That there was thirty-seven in all is probably an editorial addition which, in addition to the thirty names in 24b-39, were added the names of David's nephews Joab, Abishai, Asahel, and the mighty Three (Ishbaal the Hachmonite leader of the Three, Eleazar son of Dodo the Ahohite, and Sahmma son of Elah the Hararite), and the hero Benaiah of Kabzeel who commanded David's bodyguard (verse 20). "The Thirty" is a title of an elite unit in which names were deleted when warriors died and new men were added. This list is apparently of the thirty during the early years of David's reign since Uriah is included.
Chapter 24: Establishing Jerusalem as the Center of Worship
Satan took his stand against Israel
and incited David to take a census of Israel. David said to Joab and the
people's princes, "Go, and take a census of Israel, from Beersheba to Dan, then
bring it back to me and let me know the total." Joab replied, "May Yahweh
multiply his people to a hundred times what they are today! But my lord king,
are they not all my lord's servants in any case? Why should my lord insist on
this? Why should he involve Israel in guilt?" But the king enforced his order
on Joab, and Joab set out, traveling throughout all Israel, and then returned
1 Chronicles 21:1-4
2 Samuel 24:1-9 ~ The Census
1 Again, Yahweh's anger was aroused against Israel, and he incited David against them. 2 "Go," he said, "take a census of Israel and Judah." The king said to Joab and the senior army officers who were with him, "Now, go through all the tribes of Israel from Dan to Beersheba, and take a census of the people: I wish to know the size of the population." 3 Joab said to the king, "May Yahweh your God multiply the people a hundred times however many there are while my lord the king still has eyes to see it, but why should my lord the king be set on this?" 4 The king nonetheless enforced his order on Joab and the senior officers, and Joab and the senior officers left the king's presence, to take a census of the people of Israel. 5 They crossed the Jordan and made a start with Aroer and the town in the middle of the valley, then moved on to the Gadites and to Jazeer. 6 They then went to Gilead and the territory of the Hittites, to Kadesh; they then went to Dan and from Dan cut across to Sidon. 7 They then went to the fortress of Tyre and to all the towns of the Hittites and Canaanites ending up in the Negeb of Judah at Beersheba. 8 Having travelled throughout the country, after nine months and twenty days they returned to Jerusalem. Joab gave the king the census results for the people; Israel had eight hundred thousand fighting men who could wield a sword, and Judah five hundred thousand.
The people had begun to violate Yahweh's covenant treaty with Israel. We are not told the nature of these violations only that they were serious enough for God to withdraw his protection from Israel. 2 Samuel 24:1 says that God incited David to take a census but 1 Chronicles 22:1 says it was Satan. Since an act of evil is contrary to the nature of God (Wis 1:13-14; 2:23-24), it was that God allowed Satan to incite David to take a census (as in the narrative Job 1:6-12). The events that will unfold are not only a covenant judgment against Israel for unspecified covenant violations but will result in a covenant ordeal or test of loyalty and faith for David. The events associated with the census will bring about a turning point in salvation history.
Taking a census is of Israel is an act of religious significance and required a ransom paid to Yahweh's Sanctuary for each life to avoid any incidence of plague among the people during the census (see the census in Ex 30:11-16). Calling for a secular census of Israel was considered an impious act because it infringed upon the prerogatives of Yahweh who keeps the register of those who are to live or die and who blesses Israel with many sons and daughters when Israel is faithful (Ex 32:32-33). Only God can call a census since the people of Israel belong to Him, as He did in Numbers 1:1-47. For a king to call for a census of God's people is to suggest the people have passed from Yahweh's sovereignty to that of the human king.
Joab attempts to warn David not to take the census, but when he is overruled, he fulfills his king's orders. He began the census at the town of Aroer on the Arnon River which marked the southern boundary of Israelite territory in the eastern, Transjordan side of the River (Dt 2:36; Josh 13:9, 16). On the west side of the Jordan River, the boundaries were from Dan in the north to Beersheba in the south; therefore covering the entire territory of Israel. But to this count was added the Israelites living in the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon as well as Hittite Kadesh, far to the north on the Orontes River, territories and peoples that David conquered and who were David's vassals.
2 Samuel 24:10-15a ~ The Epidemic
10 But afterwards David's heart misgave him for having taken a census of the people. David then said to Yahweh, "I have committed a grave sin by doing this. But now, Yahweh, I beg you to forgive your servant for this fault, for I have acted very foolishly." 11 When, however, David got up next morning, the following message had come from Yahweh to the prophet Gad, David's seer, 12 "Go and say to David, Yahweh says this: I offer you three things; choose which one of them I am to inflict on you.'" 13 So Gad went to David and said, "Which do you prefer: to have three years of famine befall your country; to flee for three months before a pursuing army; or to have three days of epidemic in your country? Now think, and decide how I am to answer him who sends me." 14 David said to Gad, "I am very apprehensive ... Better to fall into Yahweh's hands, since his mercies are great, than to fall into the hands of men!" 15a So David chose the epidemic. See the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:7-17.
David's conscience begins to bother him and he concludes that he has done something both foolish and dangerous in calling for the census. He repents his sin before Yahweh and asks for forgiveness. God forgives David and offers him three possible forms of penance for his sin and for Israel's sin (24:13).
Question: What are David's three choices; which one does he
Answer: The three forms of penance for David and Israel
David choses the penance of the least duration: the three days of an epidemic.
2 Samuel 24:15b-17 ~ David's Offer of Sacrifice
15b It was the time of the wheat harvest. So Yahweh unleashed an epidemic on Israel from that morning until the time determined; plague ravaged the people and, of the people from Dan to Beersheba, seventy thousand died. 16 But when the angel stretched his hand towards Jerusalem to destroy it, Yahweh felt sorry about the calamity and said to the angel who was destroying the people, "Enough now! Hold your hand!" The angel of Yahweh was standing by the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite. 17 When David saw the angel who was ravaging the people, he said to Yahweh, "I was the one that sinned. I was the one who acted wrongly. But these, the flock, what have they done? Let your hand lie heavy on me and on my family!"
The plague began in the late spring at the time of the Jewish feast of Weeks (Pentecost in Greek) which occurred during the wheat harvest (Lev 23:15-21). David is facing a covenant ordeal. It is a test in which a member of God's holy covenant must make a choice between self-interest and self-sacrifice. This is David's finest moment. Every event of his life has led up to this test. The inspired writer of the Book of 1 Chronicles offers some additional information: David, raising his eyes, saw the angel of Yahweh standing between heaven and earth, a drawn sword in his hand stretched out towards Jerusalem (1 Chr 21:16). It is significant that this event takes place by a threshing-floor, the biblical symbol of judgment, on the height of Mount Moriah, and the future site of Yahweh's holy Temple (2 Chr 3:1-2).
Question: To spare the people of Jerusalem, what does David say
Answer: David offers to take the burden of sin entirely on himself. He offers up his life and the covenant God made with David's family in exchange for the lives of the people, God's "flock."
David, the Shepherd of God's people, makes this offer of sacrifice for the sake of the salvation of the people who are "the flock" of God (verse 17). God did not accept David's offer of sacrifice, but it was his willingness to make the unselfish offer that stayed God's hand of judgment and saved the people.
Question: Who else in the Old Testament made the offer of
sacrifice to God at this same site on Mount Moriah in the Book of Genesis? Gen 22:1-2, 9-14.
Answer: Abraham was prepared to offer the life of his son Isaac in obedience to God's command, but at the last moment God declined his sacrifice of Isaac and provided a substitute sacrifice.
Question: David's offer of sacrifice prefigures what
event in the New Testament? Notice the shepherd and sheep imagery in David's
use of the word "flock" in verse 17. See Jn 10:11, 14-15.
Answer: His unselfish act prefigures the self-sacrifice of David's "son," Jesus of Nazareth, the "Good Shepherd," who willingly laid down His life for His sheep.
God's Altar on Mount Moriah
To the place chosen by Yahweh your God
as a home for his name, to that place you must bring all the things that I am
laying down for you: your burnt offerings and your sacrifices, your tithes and
offerings held high, and all the best of your possessions dedicated by you to Yahweh
... Take care you do not offer your burnt offerings in all the sacred places you
see; only in the place that Yahweh chooses in one of your tribes may you offer
your burnt offerings and do all the things which I have commanded you.
Deuteronomy 12:11, 13-14
David then said, "This is to be the
house of Yahweh God and this the altar of burnt offering for Israel."
1 Chronicles 22:1
See the parallel passage in 1 Chronicles 21:18-28.
2 Samuel 24:18-25 ~ David purchases the threshing-floor for God's Altar
18 Gad went to David that day and said, "Go up and raise an altar to Yahweh on the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite." 19 So, at Gad's bidding, David went up, as Yahweh had ordered. 20 When Araunah looked up and saw the king and his retinue [servants] advancing towards him, Araunah was threshing the wheat. Araunah came forward and prostrated himself on the ground at the king's feet. 21 "Why has my lord the king come to his servant?" Araunah asked. David replied, "To buy the threshing-floor from you, to build an altar to Yahweh, so that the plague may be lifted from the people," 22 Araunah said to David, "Let my lord the king take it and make what offerings he thinks fit. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering, the threshing-sleds and the oxen's yokes for the wood. 23 My lord the king's servant will give the king everything. And," Araunah said to the king, "may Yahweh your God accept what you offer!" 24 "No," said the king to Araunah, "I shall give you a price for it; I will not offer Yahweh my God burnt offerings which have cost me nothing." David bought the threshing-floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 David built an altar to Yahweh and offered burnt offerings and communion sacrifices. Yahweh then took pity on the country and the plague was lifted from Israel.
God sends the prophet Gad to David with the command to erect an altar to Yahweh on the threshing-floor belonging to a Gentile Jebusite named Araunah. The threshing-floor is located on the height of Mount Moriah above the city of Jerusalem. This will become the site of God's holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the building of the altar and the offering of sacrifices will atone for the sins of the people and bring an end to the plague.
Question: Why is a threshing-floor the perfect site for God's
holy Temple? What is the symbolic significance?
Answer: A threshing-floor is where the valuable grain is separated from the worthless chaff just as the Temple will be where Divine judgment will separate the righteous from the wicked.
Question: Why does David refuse the gift of the land from the
Jebusite owner and insist on paying for the property and offer fifty shekels of
silver (about 15 pounds/6.8 kg of silver)?
Answer: God's altar must be built on a site which has been redeemed in just payment, not rented or given as a gift, to make it clear that God's holy altar is situated on the rightfully owned property of Israel.
25 David built an altar to
Yahweh and offered burnt offerings and communion sacrifices. Yahweh then took
pity on the country and the plague was lifted from Israel.
God takes possession of the sacrifices offered on the threshing-floor which is now the site of His altar of sacrifice. As a sign of His forgiveness of the Israelites for their unspecified sin (24:1) and their representative, the now repentant king, as He lifts Israel from the curse judgment of the plague. It is a turning point in in Salvation History and the beginning of a new era in which David stands at the mid-way point between Abraham and the promised Davidic Messiah.
David son of Jesse was king of all
Israel. He was king of Israel for a period of forty years; he reigned at
Hebron for seven years, and in Jerusalem for thirty-three. He died at a good
old age, full of days, riches and honor. Then his son Solomon succeeded him.
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 Chronicles 29:26-30
The Judahite kings of David's "house" ruled for 415 years. It was David who brought all the twelve tribes of Israel together as a nation under the authority of his rule in the United Monarchy. The United Monarchy lasted through the reign of David's son, King Solomon. But in c. 930 BC Solomon's son and successor, Rehoboam, was rejected by the ten northern tribes who installed Jeroboam I of Ephraim as their king, thus breaking from the Davidic monarchy and creating two kingdoms: the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judah. The Northern Kingdom had nine different dynasties of unfaithful kings before the Assyrian conquest in 722 BC. The Southern Kingdom continued to be ruled by both good and bad descendants of David until the Babylonian conquest of 587/6 BC, when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed during the reign of Davidic King Zedekiah. In 1994 fragments of a basalt stele were discovered at Tel Dan in northern Israel, and the inscription "House of David" (BYTDVD) was carved into the stele. It is the oldest non-biblical reference to the kings of Israel and Judah, as well as the first ancient reference to the royal Davidic dynasty.
David's Place in Salvation History
God has the perfect plan for the destiny of mankind. But even when man rejects God's plan, as in the case of Adam and Eve who rejected God's sovereign authority over their lives in wanting to judge for themselves what was good and what was evil, God adjusted His plan to bring about an even greater blessing to His human children through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ, the Chosen One born from a woman to destroy the work of the devil in the Fall of man (Gen 3:15; 1 Jn 3:8).
So, what is the lasting significance of David's reign in God's Divine Plan? His reign is the beginning of what will be fulfilled in the eternal reign of Christ the King. God is the King of the Universe and all it holds; he has dominion over every nation on earth (Ps 96:10). However, the Israelites wanted a human king like the other nations (1 Sam 8:5). But since no human king can assume kingship except as the agent of the Divine King, God used the obstinacy of His covenant people to move forward His Divine Plan for mankind's salvation by allowing them to have an anointed human king of His choosing. King Saul was merely an interim king until God's "chosen one," David of Bethlehem, grew to maturity.
When David became king, the King of the Universe promised to establish David's "house" (2 Sam 7:8-16), that is his dynasty, in an eternal covenant. This was a turning point in the working of God's Divine Plan for humanity. St. Matthew understood this and in his genealogy of Jesus at the very beginning of his Gospel, he summarizes Gods entire plan of salvation by placing David at the middle point between Jesus and Abraham: The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham (Mt 1:1, emphasis added).
It was in David that God moved forward His Divine Plan, giving the people a human king who was to provide, through his descendant Jesus of Nazareth, the fullness of God's expression of "kingship" to His people in the Davidic son who was both human and divine. In the glorified Christ, God's Divine Kingship comes full circle in returning to the King of the Universe who continues to rule from the heavenly Sanctuary. With justice He directs the lives of all men/women and nations, calling them to their eternal destiny as royal heirs through the inheritance won for them by Christ Jesus to become, through Christian Baptism, the children of God the eternal King.
The choice of the threshing floor on Mount Moriah as the location for Yahweh's holy altar of sacrifice and the site of the covenant people's daily liturgy of sacrifice was not an arbitrary selection. In Sacred Scripture Mount Moriah is linked to the visionary experiences of Abraham and David, two ancestors of Jesus of Nazareth (Mt 1:1). The visionary experiences of both the Patriarch Abraham and King David on Mount Moriah involved a test or "covenant ordeal," sacrifice, and divine intervention:
The Temple on Mount Moriah was the place to experience a "vision of God," but the day was coming when that vision was to be manifested in the flesh. In the first century AD, when the "beloved" Son of God came to Jerusalem to face His covenant ordeal, the people beheld the vision of God in the promised Redeemer-Messiah who was both fully God and fully man. It was on this same mountain, on an elevation just below the summit where the Temple was built, that Yahweh provided another sacrifice. That sacrifice was "Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham" (Mt 1:1) who in the spring of 30 AD became the Lamb offered in the blood sacrifice of a New Covenant ordeal. But this time God did not stay the hand of the executioner as He did with Abraham and David. The vision of that sacrifice has filled the minds and hearts of sons and daughters of the human family in every succeeding generation and has become the center of liturgical worship for the New Covenant people of God until the end of time.
David's prayer of
thanksgiving at Yahweh's altar on Mount Moriah: Hence, in the presence of
the whole assembly David blessed Yahweh. David said: "May you be blessed,
Yahweh, God of Israel our ancestor, forever and forever! Yours, Yahweh, is the
greatness, the power, the splendor, lengths of days and glory, everything in
heaven and on earth is yours. Yours is the sovereignty, Yahweh; you are
exalted, supreme over all... So now Yahweh, our God, we give thanks to you and
praise your majestic name."
1 Chronicles 29:10-11, 13
Question for reflection or group discussion:
David was not a perfect man; he was a man who struggled to live righteously and to remain obedient to God. What were David's weaknesses and what were his strengths? What was it about David that God loved and made him God's choice to be the ancestor of the Redeemer-Messiah?
1. Merab was not married until David was in service to Saul in 1 Sam 18. David was then about 20 years old. He became the king of Judah when he was 23 and king of Israel when he was 30. With this event taking place within the first year or two his reign, as soon as he replaced the Saulite king Ishbaal, the five grandsons had to be children.
2. The Hebrew word "Belial," is in the Greek the word "Beliar;" it is also found once in the New Testament in 1 Cor 6:15. There Paul uses it as another name for Satan. It is also a common name for Satan in the Dead Sea Scrolls, and in apocalyptic literature outside the Bible it is found as a proper name for the "angel of wickedness."
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