2 Samuel 6: Naked before the Father

In a short number of chapters (since 1 Samuel 22:2), David has accumulated thirty thousand chosen men of Israel from the curiously named lords of Judah, Baale-judah, to finally retrieve the ark of covenant on which the LORD of hosts, the Father and First Person of the Trinity sits enthroned (v.2).  Here we must remember that the ark has been neglected during the reign of Saul, since 1 Samuel 7.

Yet, in the midst of merry worship (v.5-8) is a horrifying scene of Uzzah’s death.  In spite of the new cart (v.3) which carried the ark, the stumbling of the oxen meant that the foundation of the cart was unstable.  Yet, Uzzah’s sin did not merely manifest upon the touching of the ark as traditionally interpreted as God’s holy wrath burning against the sinful unprotected flesh, not robed by the garments of righteousness (Isaiah 61:10).  Rather, as Matthew Henry meticulously noted,

“Uzzah thereupon laid hold of it, to save it from falling, we have reason to think with a very good intention, to preserve the reputation of the ark and to prevent a bad omen. Yet this was his crime. Uzzah was a Levite, but priests only might touch the ark. The law was express concerning the Kohathites, that, though they were to carry the ark by the staves [my emphasis added], yet they must not touch any holy thing, lest they die, Num_4:15. Uzzah’s long familiarity with the ark, and the constant attendance he had given to it, might occasion his presumption, but would not excuse it.”

The key thing here is that the staves where not used; the staves/poles (Exodus 25:14) which were appointed by God to be the method which by which the Levites were to carry the ark.  What presumption it is therefore to carry God on a new cart, as if there could be a man-made foundation which could only stumble?  Instead, the key focus here is that the household of Uzzah is the cause of this new cart, which relied on the movement of a mere animal.  Is this not the key reversal at the dreadful fall of man in Genesis 3, that the God and man relationship is inverted where we have worshipped the brute, the animal-serpent over God?  This is why God is so angry, that we should presume to be able to touch the Father in heaven and that this was brought about because we have placed an oxen as the foundation before the ark itself.  And this is the same lesson learnt by the men who bore the ark of the LORD (v.13) instead of carrying it on a cart which relies on the stability of an animal rather than the stability of priestly men as types of Christ carrying the ark as an analogy to preaching in the Name of His Father.  No oxen dares to bear that role, and no man who by man’s strength (as Uzzah is so aptly named) could arrange for the Father to arrive by the way of an animal when the First Person has ordained the arrival to come by way of the true Levite, the true King David, the true Priest-King.

And so this provocation of anger (v.8) in David’s heart is not that of David being furious against God; the Hebrew charah (חרה) suggests the possibility that it is a vexation against oneself, and a general fear that God cannot be with us.  What a ridiculous notion, that the King of Israel should fear the ark, and yet a little servant such as Obed-Edom, the servant of Edom (Esau) should receive the ark so pleasurably and be blessed by God (v.11-12)!

Yet, these things shall be no meaning until we take these verses into the wider context of chapter 6, and further into the wider context of God’s grand plan of salvation. Where in chapter 5 we witness Baal-perazim, where the LORD burst through the Philistines, here we see Perez-Uzzah, a bursting forth upon Uzzah.  This parallel is brought to recognition when we see the fall of Israel in the second book of Kings despite God protecting Israel in her early days.  And similarly, just as God had burst forth upon the Philistines, so He bursted forth onto Uzzah who represented the foolish Levite who disobeyed the mandate of tabernacle management and denied Christ His due glory.  Is not Uzzah, the strong man, a representative of those in physical Israel who perceive themselves as strong?  Perceive themselves are arrogant enough to carry the weight of the ark?  Perceive themselves as clever enough to provide a new cart which balanced on the idolatrous oxen (Exodus 32)?

Instead, the presence of the Father goes to Obed-Edom, the “servant of Edom”, the rejected brother of Jacob.  This Gittite, he who belongs to Gath, is the definitive mark of the Gentile; and so we see here the New Testament period shadowed in the ark going to Obed-Edom.  Salvation is first to the Jews, then to the Gentiles – and so we see the Jews rejecting the ark, even the king rejecting the ark, and instead the Father blesses the Gentiles.  This jealousy (Romans 10-11) would then lead to the ark being brought back to Israel whereupon the second iteration of bringing the ark to the city of David is successful, upon the blood of ox and a fattened animal. Although it is not indicative of whether it is the same ox which caused the stumbling (v.6), this is symbolic of the death of the animal and the birth of new life after six steps before the throne of the Father (1 Kings 10:9, the calf head being at the head of the throne) – and so the ark’s re-entry into Israel by way of the Gentiles is the mark of the new covenant, by the death of the enemy in Christ Jesus:

So in summary, from the Old Testament, we learn that the Law is in essence the Old Covenant, although it is under-girded and talks extensively about the New. Its primary purpose is to show the Person and Works of the Anointed One, the Prophet, Priest and King, and how He is the Righteous One, He is just, He is holy, He is God’s beloved, He will inherent the land. From this Israel and the world become aware that they are not God’s chosen Messiah, they made aware that only Him, Joshua will enter the promised land. They are not made sinful by the law, but they become aware through the law that they are sinful already, because of Adam, because of the flesh. They are told that refuge, and blessings await within the Messiah, who is God, and are pleaded with time and time again to love Him, to trust Him, to obey Him, to put their faith in Him. The world is also told that those who do trust Him, they will dwell in peace with God forever, under the eternal covenant, in the eternal land. Moses in Deuteronomy pleads with stiff-necked people to obey the commandment (singular), which is to love the Lord their God, to trust in Him – that is the whole commandment, just like Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did.” – Dev Menon in his “Law and Gospel” essay

And so David danced before the LORD as the King-Priest in his linen ephod (c.f. Exodus 28 – the ephod to be worn by the priest), the joy of the typological Son dancing before the Father as the Kingdom of Israel is truly restored in Triunity.

Yet, in the face of this joy is the immediate contrast of Michal’s despising of David (v.16).  What she despised was not merely David’s etiquette; what she despised was His God – what she despised was the whole picture of salvation, of familial blessings brought through the partaking of the Trinitarian love (v.14-20), such awesome distribution that no human secular government communist, capital or other could ever provide.  Her words of spite, “How the king of Israel honoured himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ female servants, as one of the vulgar fellows shamelessly uncovers himself” (v.20) is therefore not merely a strong opinion against David’s ‘inappropriateness’, for David immediately appeals to the one explanation.  “It was before the LORD” (v.21).  Should there be any other explanation?  When one is naked before the LORD as in the days before the fall (c.f. Genesis 2), but that this recapitulation is of greater glory than that experienced in the Garden of Eden, should Michal despise such a fundamental truth rooted in the very history of the race of adam?  “And Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death (v.23)”.  The Promised One shall not be born through her, not through a woman who wholeheartedly despised the reunion caused by the ark of the covenant; Saul’s line thus continues to diminish one by one.

2 Samuel 6: Naked before the Father

2 Samuel 5: David as King of Kings

From the tragedy of the death of Abner and Ish-bosheth we are immediately greeted with a congratulatory in chapter 5: the wedding of Israel to her true head Jesus Christ.  “Behold, we are your bone and flesh” is but an echo of Genesis 2:23, as a woman is to her man.  V.2 in particular refers to the replacement of the head of Israel in the appointment of David over Saul in 1 Samuel 13:14; and so, as David had promised to Abner that Israel is to be united to Judah, the covenant first began with the house of Jonathan.  This is why the ray of hope is not in Saul’s immediate descendants who were murdered (c.f. chapter 4) or killed in battle; rather, this ray of hope is in Jonathan’s house, for it is Jonathan who covenanted with David first (1 Samuel 18:3).  This covenant is thus kept, as a reminder that even when Israel is rejected, the LORD is faithful to the covenant promise and a remnant is preserved for this remnant stands firmly in Christ Jesus the only Elect One (c.f. Romans 9-11).  His reign lasts for forty years (v.5), the same length of the period of peace for most judges (Judges 3:11, 5:31, 8:28) after their victories.  Yet, this is but a foreshadow of Christ’s period on earth (as the short seven years as ‘king’ of Judah) and the far longer period of time as the king of the whole of Israel.  David is but a type of Christ, and his symbolic reign of forty years as king shows that even his reign is short-lived.  Even he is not the everlasting LORD and Messiah in whom the Israelites find the Promised Offspring long foretold in Genesis 3:15.  Simply put, v.4 confirms that David and his story are but shadows and types of the true Messiah who has yet to come (c.f. Isaiah 9:7).

The overcoming of the Jebusites as his first role confirming himself as king (v.6-10) is extremely significant.  In the words of Matthew Henry:

“If Salem, the place of which Melchizedec was king, was Jerusalem (as seems probable from Psa_76:2), it was famous in Abraham’s time. Joshua, in his time, found it the chief city of the south part of Canaan, Jos_10:1-3. It fell to Benjamin’s lot (Jos_18:28), but joined close to Judah’s, Jos_15:8. The children of Judah had taken it (Jdg_1:8), but the children of Benjamin suffered the Jebusites to dwell among them (Jdg_1:21), and they grew so upon them that it became a city of Jebusites, Jdg_19:11. Now the very first exploit David did, after he was anointed king over all Israel, was to gain Jerusalem out of the hand of the Jebusites, which, because it belonged to Benjamin, he could not well attempt till that tribe, which long adhered to Saul’s house (1Ch_12:29), submitted to him.”

The winning over of the Jebusites is the first confirmation of David’s enthronement – the winning over of a tribe which had long adhered to Saul’s house; and it is utterly important that these idolatrous Jebusites are entirely rooted out so that the promised new city will indeed be set apart for the LORD (Jeremiah 37:9-10).

However, the key verse is v.6; why would the Jebusites think that the ‘lame and the blind’ will ward off David?  This is furthermore curious when all that David had been doing was spend time with ‘worthless’ men.  Even the LORD in Jeremiah 31:8-10 expressed that through the true David, the lame and blind would be called into New Jerusalem.  It is indicative therefore that the Jebusites may not have been referring to actual lame and blind men, as if David was some sort of arrogant fool who would not even touch the lame or the blind.  Rather, the Hebrew descriptions imply an analogous application, which could be applied to idols which are in God’s eyes lame and blind:

“The Jebusites’ defiance of David and his forces. They said, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither, 2Sa_5:6. They sent David this provoking message, because, as it is said afterwards, on another occasion, they could not believe that ever an enemy would enter into the gates of Jerusalem, Lam_4:12. They confided either, 1. In the protection of their gods, which David, in contempt, had called the blind and the lame, for they have eyes and see not, feet and walk not. “But,” say they, “these are the guardians of our city, and except thou take these away (which thou canst never do) thou canst not come in hither.” Some think they were constellated images of brass set up in the recess of the fort, and entrusted with the custody of the place. They called their idols their Mauzzim, or strong-holds (Dan_11:38) and as such relied on them. The name of the Lord is our strong tower, and his arm is strong, his eyes are piercing. Or, 2. In the strength of their fortifications, which they thought were made so impregnable by nature or art, or both, that the blind and the lame were sufficient to defend them against the most powerful assailant. The strong-hold of Zion they especially depended on, as that which could not be forced. Probably they set blind and lame people, invalids or maimed soldiers, to make their appearance upon the walls, in scorn of David and his men, judging them an equal match for him. Though there remain but wounded men among them, yet they should serve to beat back the besiegers. Compare Jer_37:10. Note, The enemies of God’s people are often very confident of their own strength and most secure when their day to fall draws nigh.”

This is therefore the most likely reason for the new proverb in v.8, that “the blind and the lame shall not come into the house”.  This proverb bears so much weight and that it indicates a two-fold meaning: that no idol shall enter the house of David (Isaiah 42:18); and that the true David shall overcome the lame and the weak, redeeming them into the house of God and granting them true and everlasting rest (c.f. lame and blind walking and seeing: Acts 3; Matthew 9:27).

Furthermore, the joining of the rich nation of Tyre (Psalm 45:12) with Israel, and the cedar trees rooted in living waters (Numbers 24:6) are but shadows of the fruit we shall receive in true Canaan under Christ as the Head.  It is therefore in the overcoming of the lame and the blind, the overcoming of the idolatrous Jebusites, then coupled with the gifts from a foreign non-Israelite nation that David knew that the LORD had established him king over Israel, exalted not for David’s sake but for the sake of the church.  So also the ascension of Christ was done for our exaltation (v.12), secured in the defeat of old pagan Jerusalem and the joining of heart-circumcised Israelites and foreigners (represented by Tyre) under the banner of His Name.

And so we move onto v.13-16 which emphasizes once more that any one of these descendants are to be the line through which Jesus will reign; and despite the names given to all of these, almost all of which are inspired by Eli, by God Himself, Solomon is the only son of the eleven born in Jerusalem who will bring about the golden era of Israel.  All the others will only be mentioned sparsely in the rest of the Bible, especially in 1 Chronicles 14, but Solomon the peaceful and perfect one as his name indicates, will be the one who builds God’s temple.

The consolidation of David’s kingship comes with it the enemy symbolic of David’s initial election as mediator and saviour of Israel so recognized – this enemy is the Philistine.  It is important to see the chiastic framework of David’s life – that the Philistines as enemies in the Promised Land should be destroyed through the death of Goliath in 1 Samuel 17, and once again destroyed by David.  This two-fold destruction affirming that David was never a servant of Gath (1 Samuel 27), but that he was and always is the Head and anointed One of Israel  We must not overlook that over Baal-perazim, where the LORD bursted through for the first time (v.20-21), the Philistines have left their idols and yet they escaped alive.  Only upon the second attempt, standing symbolically at the Valley of the remnants of the Giants (Joshua 11:22), does the LORD shift tactic.  Instead of facing them head-on, the LORD advises David to come against them opposite the balsam trees by their rear.

Why this change in strategy?  Why the focus on the balsam trees?  This narration impacts us the same way we are taught about the dispensation of the Old and the New Testaments – that in the Old, the effect of the Mediator is but to cripple the Philistines and to rob them temporarily of their idols which they can always rebuild with their own hands (Judges 8:27); yet the fulfillment of all prophecies, the fulfillment of the hope of the race of adam in the New Covenant means that this crippling has condemned Satan to eternal death, that He has bound the strong man in the house.  “And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the LORD has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines” (v.24) – this is a committed cleansing in the midst of trees with red-wine like berries which upon crushing is akin to the crushing of the vine at the winepress (Isaiah 63).  So Satan stands in the Valley of the Giants, only to be surprised by Jesus’ resurrection from the death of the cross, this surprise from the rear leading to the tearing down of the old temple, of old creation, and leading to new creation and an everlasting temple.

2 Samuel 5: David as King of Kings

2 Samuel 4: The Two Bosheth’s

It is clear from v.1 that Israel’s dismay was not simply because Abner had died; but because Abner died as the mediator between Judah and themselves. Ish-bosheth, a man of shame, is therefore left to his own devices and his own counsel. Though Abner had positively decided to fellowship with the light by putting himself before the anointed David (2 Corinthians 6:14), Ish-bosheth has sadly remained without hope, only to have the ruthless Benjaminites (Beerothites) surround him (Genesis 49:27), the Beerothites who had fled to the double-winepress Gittaim as the double-winepress Baanah and Rechab attempt to destroy the final line of Saul via the death Ish-bosheth.

It is therefore important that we see the parallel not simply between the righteousness of Abner as a temporary type of Christ, but also the comparison between Ish-bosheth and Mephibosheth, bearing names of contrasting meaning. Where Ish-bosheth is the appointed king clothed in royal garb, he is in fact a man of shame who is undeserving of the title; contrary to Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul and the son of righteous Jonathan who is lamed but will be brought to the meal table before David (2 Samuel 9:10). Where Ish-bosheth’s courage failed, Mephibosheth’s courage was brought to life. Such is the man titled the exterminator of idol and shame compared with the man of shame. In what form does this exterminator take? The form of a lame man from his youth. And that is why Mephibosheth is mentioned in what is a seemingly random placement between the repeated descriptions of Baanah and Rechab (v.2 and v.5); in the midst of the ravenous wolves of Benjamin is this ray of hope in the physical house of Israel, in the natural branches of the olive tree (Romans 11).

It is therefore immediately clear that Mephibosheth’s humility is described in such a way as to shame Baanah and Rechab who in their own mind are exterminating Ish-bosheth as if he was an idol. Yet, these two men are deceivers (v.6), like the Benjaminite ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing, the true enemy of the church from within her own ranks (Matthew 7:15). And so Baanah and Rechab are the false exterminators – they fail to see that Israel is not to be replaced by any more shedding of blood, nor it is pleasing to God that Saul should fall for David to rise. Is Saul’s blood not enough? Is Asahel’s blood not excessive? Is Abner’s blood not innocent? Is Joab’s violence not rebuked? And so we see a chain of events which spiral out of control preceding David’s enthronement; and yet, this is not of David’s will nor is it of God’s will. It is reflective of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus – his excessive, selfish betrayal which is typified by these chains of madness. Yet, God works through this madness to bring about Christ’s exaltation, restoring even the house of Israel though crippled and lamed by its internal conflict and warfare to display that it is only by Christ’s grace that Israel is to return to the table which it once took part of at the height of its glory at Mt. Sinai (Exodus 24).

And so such blasphemous words from the ravenous wolves in sheepskin: “The LORD Has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring” – what ridicule that such a Messianic race of people should dare kill the offspring of the first anointed king Saul when they are indeed anticipating the One beyond David and beyond Saul who will redeem them! These are the secret responses from Satan that from the day of his punishment (Genesis 3) he would want to murder the offspring of the king!

Therefore the removal of the hands and feet of the Beerothites is a symbol of the powerlessness of Satan hanged up beside the pool at the seat of association before the LORD; their heads are not cut off for all to see and identify such heresy as powerless before the living God effectuated through David. By parallel, the head of Ish-bosheth is buried with Abner, representative that both men of Israel however once shameful are considered righteous men by David’s account and pronouncement; that they should share the same tomb at Hebron. Ish-bosheth, a man of shame to have his head buried in the same tomb as the man whose death was heavily mourned and fasted for (c.f. chapter 3) – such is the exaltation which David is capable of bringing on the house of Saul, from the shackles of sin (Mark 5) to the glory of gifted righteousness from the anointed king! David has consistently exercised this power of redemption throughout his ministry in restoring shameful Israel to glory from 1 Samuel 17 to 2 Samuel 4, and it is upon his enthronement as the King of Israel that the headless man of shame is now led by the new head David son of Jesse, and that another brand of worthless men – Abner and Ish-bosheth – are to be honoured and to go with Him into the true Promised Land.

2 Samuel 4: The Two Bosheth’s

2 Samuel 3: Abner and Nabal

The ‘long war’ spoken of, is this war of the end-times.  The Christian church grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul, the continual epitome of old Israel, became weaker and weaker (v.1).  Is this not the picture of the present day, that Israel (though the nation is re-established on the geographical map) has a long way to go before many are called to join the house of David?  While the gospel has gone out to the Gentiles and other worthless men who are now hiding under the banner of Jesus?

It is no surprise that v.2-5 is therefore a return to a genealogical account of David because it contrasts the birthing of new sons in the house of David against the death of Saul’s family, save for a few daughters such as Milcah and the son Ish-bosheth and a grandson Mephibosheth (c.f. chapter 4).  In the dwindling house of Saul, the head of this house is symbolically Ish-bosheth; but Abner is the real mediator between the two houses.  It is clear that there could be no procreation of this old Israel and that they must join with the house of David if they were to continue to exist.  In comparison to the richness of the wives and sons by David’s side, Abner and Ish-bosheth quarrel over a rumour of Saul’s concubine being disloyal, and fear and adultery rules in this house where the king is subdued by the army commander (v.11); where the head fears the body.  Yet, one thing is for certain – the looming fulfillment of the prophecy that David will be king (v.10) which has been burnt into Abner’s heart.  This shameful man Ish-bosheth must turn from this accusation of adultery and move onto the inevitable truth that the house of Saul must fail; and that like Abner, choose to surrender and follow the new head David.

Yet, it is in v.12-16 that we learn truly why the genealogical account was given in v.2-5:  because Milcah was David’s first wife.  Because Milcah is Saul’s daughter; and it is by Milcah that David is (by implication) to become the potential heir to the throne besides Jonathan and his other brothers.  And it is in God’s economy and irony that Saul’s own prophetic words are fulfilled (1 Samuel 18:21), but not for the good of Saul but for the pleasure of the Father in heaven.  Milcah is no snare and has not proven to be the catalyst for David’s rise to the throne; rather, it is David who initiated this fulfillment of the first marriage to honour the house of Saul just as Abner has been doing in lieu of Saul’s death.

Thus, it is by circumcision that the old enemy, the Philistines, is exchanged as a bridal price for Saul’s daughter (v.14), as Justin Martyr in his Dialogue with Trypho states:

“The command of circumcision, again, bidding [them] always circumcise the children on the eighth day, was a type of the true circumcision, by which we are circumcised from deceit and iniquity through Him who rose from the dead on the first day after the Sabbath, [namely through] our Lord Jesus Christ. For the first day after the Sabbath, remaining the first of all the days, is called, however, the eighth, according to the number of all the days of the cycle, and [yet] remains the first.”

And in this chapter we see the transfer of the bride to the true first head, God delivering (Paltiel) Milcah from the hands of the false husband who is the son of Laish, the ancient name of the tribe of Dan, the prophesied symbolic serpent (Genesis 49:17) rejected from the book of Revelation; of Abner declaring that his hand shall be with David to bring over all Israel to him (v.12), further declaring the long foretold prophecy of David as the true king of Israel (v.17-19) finally admitting that David is the true Messiah and not some king of the physical lineage of Saul’s.  Will this be the picture of Israel in the end-days, that they will no longer call Christ an imposter-Messiah but finally accept that the prophecies, shadows, sacraments and types of the Old Testament all point definitively to this God-man upon which the physical lineage of the kings are removed in favour of the priestly line of Melchizedek (Psalm 110)?

The joint fact that Abner had conferred with the elders of Israel privately and thereafter in v.20-21 had a feast with David (c.f. Exodus 24; Matthew 22 – the wedding feast typified by David’s reunification with Michal) upon his re-uniting with Michal is more than simply a message of the church uniting in new creation to finally see the Father and the Son face-to-face (v.13).  It is a message of the restoration of Israel under the banner of Christ; it is the message of the long-war whereupon the elect nation Israel will not be replaced by the Gentiles, but will submit to the true God alongside them (Revelation 21:12).

The transparency of Abner’s dealings with the elders of Israel depict a man who has finally accepted the fulfillment of Yahweh’s prophecy in Jesus Christ typified in David; yet Joab’s murder of Abner is not fuelled by love for his enemy but fuelled by wrath and blindness (v.25).  It is therefore interesting what pronouncement David makes over Joab’s house in v.29: “May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!”  What a seemingly extreme curse in light of Asahel’s death (v.30)!  Yet, as we have looked at the last chapter that Asahel’s pursuit of Abner is more typical of the son of Zeruiah than the son of Mary (c.f. v.39), so David’s pronouncement is on this ‘missing father’ of these sons who take upon the matronymic label; instead, David’s pronouncement is not merely on some physical father but on the spiritual father of these sons – this spiritual father being Satan (John 8:44), who had used Joab to prevent the unity of the Israelite and the Gentile church which has been the subject of the end-times since Christ’s ascension (c.f. Acts 2, which shows the momentous act of the Gentiles speaking in tongues, and book of Ephesians which both focus on the addition of Gentiles to the church of Israel).

Thus, the burial of Abner at Hebron (v.32) is a mirror to the birth of David’s sons also at Hebron (v.2-5); just as the burial of Asahel at Bethlehem is a mirror of the birth of David in Bethlehem; just as the death of Michal’s second marriage to be replaced by the first love under David’s banner (1 Samuel 18:28).

“He speaks as one boasting that Abner did not fool himself out of his life: “Died Abner as a fool dies? No, he did not, not as a criminal, a traitor or felon, that forfeits his life into the hands of public justice; his hands were not pinioned, nor his feet fettered, as those of malefactors are: Abner falls not before just men, by a judicial sentence; but as a man, an innocent man, falleth before wicked men, thieves and robbers, so fellest thou.” Died Abner as Nabal died? so the Septuagint reads it. Nabal died as he lived, like himself, like a sot; but Abner’s fate was such as might have been the fate of the wisest and best man in the world. Abner did not throw away his life as Asahel did, who wilfully ran upon the spear, after fair warning, but he was struck by surprise. Note, It is a sad thing to die like a fool, as those do that in any way shorten their own days, and much more those that make no provision for another world.” – Matthew Henry

In David’s poetic cry Abner’s death is compared to the death and sacrifice of the Christ; upon his death are the Israelites and the Gentiles united.  Though this typology is imperfect for Abner is at fault for Asahel’s death (though made in self-defence), the poetry speaks of the contrast between Abner and Nabal; the former repenting of his treatment of David and willing to unite Israel under David, against the latter refusing to repent and leading to God’s punishment of death.

Further, in David’s fasting he uses a similar phrase as Abner had done in his heated conversation with Ish-bosheth – “God do so to me and more also” to identify that both men are of the same agenda.  Both men, though from different houses, have set in their mind matters of peace and mediation between the two houses, united under the prophecy of Yahweh’s anointing of David as the very centre of unity.  Abner is no mere army commander, but a prince and a great man (v.38) with whom he had made a covenant with (v.13) rather than directly with Ish-bosheth himself (c.f. v.14 where Ish-bosheth was asked to deliver Michal but nothing was stated about the covenant which he offered to make with Abner).  Though Asahel is buried in Bethlehem as a mark of the end of his ministry without mourning, the death of Abner in Hebron is marked with true mourning and fasting; where peace was achieved in chapter 2v.17 but denied by Asahel’s pursuit upon which he died a warrior’s death (Matthew 26:52), true peace was indeed achieved in this chapter (v.23) but again denied by the hands of a son of Zeruiah whereupon the curse is on the father of these sons and a blessing is proclaimed on the house of Abner – the house of Saul, with whom David managed to make a covenant with before Abner’s passing away.

2 Samuel 3: Abner and Nabal

2 Samuel 2: Son of Zeruiah, Son of Mary

In the anointing of David (v.4) we see that he brings with him the women from the garden land (the Carmelite), and the land sown of God (the Jezreelite), to the seat of association (Hebron).  It is intended, given David’s inclination for mercy (see chapter 3), for David to be associated with growth; with peace; brought to the mercy seat of God.  In the midst of such immense respect for Saul’s house, followed with praise to the men of Jabesh-gilead who had properly buried Saul, we are brought to recognize Abner’s futile actions from v.8 onwards.

The real question is this: does Abner really want Saul’s kingdom to be established?  Why was his absence so profound between 1 Samuel 26 to 2 Samuel 2?  Surely he is Saul’s chief commander of the army, a particular title which he bears even in this chapter, v.8 (and in previous chapters (1 Samuel 14:50; 17:55; 20:25; 26:5)).  Yet, it appears that the true stewardship of Saul’s protection falls upon David, Saul’s true armor-bearer (1 Samuel 16:21) despite Abner’s important role as confidante and leader (1 Samuel 26:15).  What is Abner who buried Saul?  Who praised Saul?  Who mourned for Saul?  Abner would have to admit negatively to these questions; and instead, he would rather unite the rest of Israel against David despite being very aware of the prophecy made for David, a subject possibly touched upon by Saul with Abner prior to his death.  Not only that, but he would rather subject Israel to its physical lineage Ishbosheth rather than the spiritual lineage after the line of Melchizedek where David stands as the true anointed One (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6).

What we have here are two shadows in v.10 – the shadow of civil conflict within a nation and within a family stemming from the third chapter of Genesis with our removal from God’s heaven-earth presence in the Garden of Eden; the fourth chapter of Genesis with the death of Abel, the brother of Cain; the tension between Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27); the attempted murder of Joseph by eleven others (Genesis 37); the death of Israelites and Egyptians who failed to rely on the blood of the Passover Lamb in the final punishment of the Angel of the LORD (Exodus 12); and the list continues.  Here, the conflict is materialized in Judah’s relation with the rest of Israel – Ish-bosheth commanded almost all the regions outside of Judah, whereas “the house of Judah followed David” (c.f. the beginning of the split in 1 Kings 12:27 after Solomon’s death).

The second shadow lies in the temporary kingship of David over Judah as representative of his true kingship over Canaan the Promised Land; though he had long been anointed to become the king of Israel, his persecution by Israel and eventual ostracism even by his enemies in Gath and his return to Israel are symbolic of Jesus Christ’s work in his life-time.  This period of David’s is also the period of Jesus’ humiliation as he was man on earth though both figures drew in countless worthless men through their rejection from Israel.  Yet, in the crowning of David in Hebron over the house of Judah for the temporary period of seven years and six months (v.11), we see the crowning of Christ in his resurrection and ascension as the true LORD and king of heaven and earth, the true heir of new creation and true Canaan (Hebrews 1:2; 11:7).  It is after the period of seven years that we see a renewal of relations – the release of slaves and freedom flowing in from the throne (c.f. Deuteronomy 15:1, 31:10; Jeremiah 34:14).

In spite of this, Jesus has not yet physically penetrated and inherited the land, though by the Christians we are reclaiming souls for Him daily (2 Peter 3:9).  So, in similarity, we see that David has commanded allegiance from the house of Judah, to penetrate into the rest of Israel until the total surrender of the nation before the feet of Christ.  This is the second shadow, the period of the end-times, such that David is truly the king of Israel and not only the king of the church in Judah and especially not only the rejected carpenter’s son (Psalm 110:1).  It is by the government of old Israel and the government of the twelve apostles (v.15) that we see the removal of the branches which do not bear fruit, and the implanting of branches into the tree trunk that is Jesus Christ (Romans 11).

It is at this point that we are introduced to the sons of Zeruiah after the defeat of Abner and the men of Israel which already spelled out the eventual defeat of the house of Israel in favour of the remnant church in Judah.  It is important that we see these sons mentioned with the matronymic “son of Zeruiah”, as Zeruiah is not their father but their mother.  Yet, these were zealous men for the LORD, interestingly named father of a gift (Abishai), God-made (Asahel), and Jehovah-fathered (Joab) – all pursuing the father of light (Abner).  There is implication that these sons of Zeruiah are raised by Zeruiah alone, and that Yahweh is their true father.  In this, we see a parallel between David as typological son of God, against the sons of Zeruiah (a shadow of Jesus who was also referred to by the matronymic “son of Mary”).  Where David desired mercy (chapter 3), the sons of Zeruiah desired revenge and violence (chapter 3v.39).

The contrast is large; in the death of Asahel, there is no mourning; the pursuit of Abner led to his surrender (v.26) although Abner had already long been defeated in v.17.  Although Abner had surrendered, he had not been commissioned to go in peace as by David in chapter 3; and instead, he returns to Mahanaim to place himself before the false king of Israel once more and no peace is made.  These sons of Zeruiah seem to have followed in the vein of Saul that their swords shall “devour forever” (v.26) (1 Samuel 14:52).  Despite this temporary reprieve set forth by Joab in v.28, we soon learn that Joab’s rage has not yet been tempered as shown in the next chapter.

Asahel’s burial is the final point of parallel between the son of Zeruiah and the son of Mary; where the former is buried in Bethlehem, the home town of David, it is there that David the man after God’s heart is born; it is there that the son of Mary is also brought out of.  Where this son of Zeruiah’s ministry ended in Bethlehem, the son of Mary’s ministry began in Bethlehem (c.f. Genesis 35:19, 48:7; Ruth 2:4; 1 Samuel 17:12).

2 Samuel 2: Son of Zeruiah, Son of Mary

2 Samuel 1: Lamentations

The second book of Samuel, ironically titled as Samuel has long passed away (1 Samuel 25), chronicles David’s reign as king of Israel.  This theme immediately takes effect as it highlights the main message of the end of the first book – the death of Saul.  And so, “after the death of Saul” (v.1), and on the third day (v.2) David finds out about the death of Saul and his house (v.4).  Note that the death of Saul’s household is a type of the Father’s rejection of Jesus on the cross as planned from the foundation of the earth, so that the lamb is slain for the remission of the sins of those who stand in the lamb (Revelation 13:8).  Yet, note further that David though rejected not only by the Israelites but also by the Philistinian lords, was described in v.1 as having “returned from striking down the Amalekites”.  The defeat of Israel in 1 Samuel 31 is juxtaposed to David’s single-handed victory over the Amalekites in 2 Samuel 1 (though also reported in 1 Samuel 30).  He is the self-elected Son of God who continually fights for Israel, especially in his rejection from mankind that both worthy and unworthy alike spit on him.  What we learn, however, is that these Israelites always knew that David was the true man who could defeat 10,000’s (1 Samuel 18:7) as implied in the young man’s decision to pay homage to David (v.1), though this young man is himself an Amalekite.

Secondly, this chapter opens with this lie conjured by the young Amalekite man, in face of the Amalekite-destroyer David, the type of the Elect One of Israel.  We are told in chapter 31 that Saul and his armor-bearer both committed suicide by falling upon their own swords; yet, this Amalekite would dare presume to have defeated Saul and his household unwittingly to his own peril.  If this Amalekite knew who David was, did he not learn that David was the newly anointed king and that Saul was himself is the anointed one of Israel?  David’s query is laced with incredulity as opposed to sympathy:  “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?”  No man dare take the title-role of ‘killing the LORD’s anointed’ except for Satan, the first deceiver (John 8:44).  Even David, who had so consistently refrained from destroying Saul (1 Samuel 24:6), is because he recognises that the LORD is faithful to Israel; that He is faithful to the role of the ‘king’ – except that Saul may not be the true king.  Rather, David is the true king elected by God, and yet this does not negate the anointing of Saul as evidenced by the preservation of his and his sons’ bones at the end of chapter 31. It is therefore in the death of this Amalekite man, coupled with the opening verse of chapter 1 which states that David had just returned from defeating the Amalekites, that a ray of hope shimmers in spite of the total devastating tragedy of 1 Samuel 31.  Here, we see the Amalekites recounted as being destroyed by David and his men (1 Samuel 30), followed quickly by David destroying the young man who presumed himself to be the new mock-king of Israel by lying about wearing the accessories of the king, and the crown of being the head of Israel (v.10).  In effect, we see David’s preliminary destruction of the new Philistinian head of Israel, symbolised by this young Amalekite man.

It is here that we find the first song of David composed to mourn the anointed one – Saul, alongside his household.  For the reader, this poses an interesting question.  Why, if David was the ‘elect one’ of God from 1 Samuel onwards, should David still honour Saul as the anointed man?  The answer was already laid out in 1 Samuel 31:13 – “they took their bones and buried them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh and fasted seven days”.  Israel is elected to be a son of God, yet this election could not possibly find meaning or identity outside of Christ, as espoused in the less Christocentric versions of Augustinian / Calvinistic interpretations of election.  Rather, Israel’s election as God’s son – symbolised by the anointing of Saul as the first king – can only find true meaning in the “Elect One” Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ as the elect witnesses the Father’s election of Jesus; and our standing in the Elect One witnesses this very same truth.  Without this witnessing, there is absolutely no meaning behind Saul’s anointing, which means that Israel’s election was for a defunct, non-Christocentric purpose.  It is not a shadow, nor it is a sign, towards anything – if we were to hold true to the traditional Calvinistic understanding of election.

Yet, David – though firmly aware of his anointing as the true king of Israel – still understands that the house of Saul is to be redeemed by his self-election as in the times of the defeat of Goliath.  This mourning is therefore not only fitting as David confidently understands that Saul is not rejected from the kingdom of Israel, though he is rejected from being the king of Israel.  As such, this song is a fitting requiem to bid old Israel farewell as David comes in to step in the shoes of Saul and bring typological prosperity to God’s elect nation.  However, on another layer of understanding, this poetic song from v.19 to 27 is also a two-fold lament: firstly, for the fall of those whose salvation relies on their physical might; whose salvation relies on work-salvation.  Yet, the more potent and significant interpretation of this lament is the second one – that this is a lamentation over the death of Jesus Christ, over the rejection of Jesus Christ on the cross as he bore our sins there on the tree.  In this lament, we find both the lament for Saul as a lament for the rejection of Israel just as Jeremiah had done in the book of Lamentations, as well as the lament for Jonathan as a lament for the death of a type of Christ.   Therefore,  David did not write the song for Israel as a whole – but for Saul, the anointed one, and Jonathan, the one whom initiated and maintained a covenant of love with David asking that the house of Saul may be redeemed through David’s subsequent reign as king of Israel (1 Samuel 24:20-22).  Is this not the same as the redemption of Israel through Jesus Christ’s resurrection and ascension?

It is for these reasons that, in both the death of Jesus and rejection of Israel, these words of lament are entirely appropriate:  “Your glory, O Israel, is slain on your high places! (v.19)”, the glory being that of Israel’s glory being rejected in the temporary Philistinian captivity, as well as the death of the glory found in Jonathan, typifying Jesus Christ.  “…let there be no dew or rain upon you [mountains of Gilboa], nor fields of offerings [or firstfruits as according to the ESV translation footnote, for there the shield of the mighty was defiled, the shield of Saul, not anointed with oil” (v.21), indicating that reprobation was brought forth in the removal of the anointing.  “You daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, who clothed you luxuriously in scarlet, who put ornaments of gold on your apparel” (v.24), reminding men of the temporary victories and glories of Israel under the leadership of Saul, and similarly under the kingship of David and Solomon, as shadows of glory found in the typology of kings who represent Jesus Christ.  “Jonathan lies slain on your high places… your love to me was extraordinary, surpassing the love of women” (v.26), returning to the sacrifice of the ‘glory’ of Israel made on high places (v.19) indicating once more that Jonathan is but a symbol pointing forward to Jesus Christ.

Yet, in the midst of the lamenting for the rejection of Israel; in the midst of the lamenting for the type of Christ lying slain on high places, the glory of Israel also rejected; David remembers the love that Jonathan had for David.  This is the love that our Christ has for us too – and yet, only upon the death of Jonathan and the death of Israel can David rise as the king of Judah (as we unsurprisingly read about in chapter 2 of 2 Samuel), can the new type of Christ resurrect from ashes and ascend from being the ostracised son of God to being the son of God sitting at the right hand of the Father in heaven.  V.27 consolidates this point firmly: “How the mighty have fallen, and the weapons of war perished!”  Indeed – the weapons of war as symbolised in the period of Israel, in the entire Old Testament complete with a list of civil and inter-nation conflicts; the weapons of war as characterising the life of Saul but very different from the hymnal life of David as indicated by the books of Psalms and his skill on the harp.  Under Saul, the conflict continued and the struggles were apparent; yet under David, the conflicts are mostly resolved as Israel shall begin to live according to its calling of election by being firmly rooted in the elect king.

2 Samuel 1: Lamentations

1 Samuel 31: Judas and Jesus, all rejected and elected in His Name

Chapter 31 ends the first book of Samuel on a solemn but necessary note.  It is prophesied in chapter 28, as reiterated by Samuel, that Saul and his house will fall.  His house is representative of the old order of Israel – encasing both the likes of Saul and Jonathan – and yet the head of this house must be replaced by Jesus Christ as typefied by David.  Immediately, in the second verse of this chapter the first person who dies is not Saul who relied on a false mediator to raise up Samuel.  Rather, it is Jonathan.  From here on, we see a shadow of the Assyrian and Babylonian captivity: why is Jonathan removed?  And the same question applies for all the Josiahs; all the Solomons; all the Davids; all the judges – and their eventual demise, to be replaced by those who are not part of the elect nation Israel.

Yet, this is the final picture of 1 Samuel 31 – the removal of old Israel in favour of the election of David, the servant of Gath; David, the youngest son of Jesse; David, the shepherd boy who plays on the harp (1 Samuel 18:10) in contrast to the warrior-king Saul; David, the prince of mixed Moabite-Israelite blood.  In this short chapter, we see Israel taken captive temporarily under the apparent headship and victory of the Philistinians.  What we see therefore is, in Barth’s words, a ‘dark proto-type of Judas Iscariot’ found in Saul.  This is the Saul, a type of Judas, who persecuted the true LORD revealed as a shadow in David – the destruction of this head leading to the death of his armour-bearer.  Yet, is not David the armour-bearer of Saul?  (1 Samuel 16:21)  Without David standing by his side, fighting on his behalf, we see the rejection of Israel in tandem with the election of David.  Without David the armor-bearer, Saul’s suicidal act is not positively prevented but merely passively rejected.  V.6 is the summary of the prophecy fulfilled:  “thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together”.  The Philistines are to fully take over this promised land – that all the men of Israel must flee upon witnessing the death of Saul and his heirs.  That the men of Israel must scatter upon the cutting of the head of Saul, in anticipation of the usurpation of Israel by the Philistines who came and lived in them (v.7).

However, this chapter is not merely one of punishment.  It is a chapter displaying God’s wrath on the rejected Israel; it is a chapter displaying God’s wrath on Jesus Christ who bore our sins on the cross.  In Jesus, we find both the Elect Man and the Rejected Man.  In Jesus, we find the true meaning and dichotomy between purified supralapsarian election, and that of reprobation who do not stand “in Christ”.  Yet, the Yahweh of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the Yahweh of Israel – means that Israel as a nation exists because of its national election as a son of God (Isaiah 49:15; Jeremiah 31:9).  God’s faithfulness to Israel, in itself being a shadow of the Father’s faithfulness to the Son, means that this temporary rejection of Israel is to depict the temporary rejection of Jesus for three days and three nights.  This is why this chapter is a portrayal of necessary evil, that the fall must occur so that we may become new creation beings under the banner of Christ no longer made of perishable dust (1 Corinthians 15).  Instead of the head of Saul, his armor, and the bodies of him and his sons remaining fastened in the temple of idol Ashtaroth and the wall of Beth-shan (ironically entitled the house of ease), it is the valiant inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead (dry rocky region) who took away the fallen men’s bones to bury them under the tamarisk tree in Jabesh (v.13).  These actions are not indicative of the eternal rejection or removal of Saul; rather, Saul’s bones, along with the bones of his sons, are recovered and planted safely in the promised land.  And this is the faithfulness of God to Israel – that the rejection is but temporary, for even Saul’s household will find return and comfort under David the new king.  This rejection, just like the Babylonian and Assyrian captivity, will eventually culminate in the return of Israel, the election of Israel being fully revealed in the invisible church, the spiritual Israelites.  Just as David’s inevitable leadership is consistently revealed throughout 1 Samuel (especially highlighted in his mediation in chapter 17 against Goliath), the fulfilment of his election as king of Israel has yet to take place.  It has yet to be fulfilled – and the revelation of Christ as King of the world is not a ‘hidden secret’.  It is in Christ that we find all these secrets and mysteries of election fully revealed; and so it is in understanding the anointing of David do we find the reason for the rejection of Israel which did not stand under the mediation of David, and the eventual blessings of Israel to the neighbouring nations under the two-fold leadership of David and Solomon.

1 Samuel 31: Judas and Jesus, all rejected and elected in His Name