2 Samuel 24: Costly grace

2 Samuel 24:  Costly grace

As if the end of chapter 23 does not already indicate and maximize the sin of David as the shadow-king of Israel by referring to Uriah as among one of David’s thirty mighty men (murdered by David’s lustful adultery and scheming), once again David’s weakness is the subject of chapter 24.

2Sa 24:1-25  Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, “Go, number Israel and Judah.”  (2)  So the king said to Joab, the commander of the army, who was with him, “Go through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, and number the people, that I may know the number of the people.”  (3)  But Joab said to the king, “May the LORD your God add to the people a hundred times as many as they are, while the eyes of my lord the king still see it, but why does my lord the king delight in this thing?”  (4)  But the king’s word prevailed against Joab and the commanders of the army. So Joab and the commanders of the army went out from the presence of the king to number the people of Israel.  (5)  They crossed the Jordan and began from Aroer, and from the city that is in the middle of the valley, toward Gad and on to Jazer.  (6)  Then they came to Gilead, and to Kadesh in the land of the Hittites; and they came to Dan, and from Dan they went around to Sidon,  (7)  and came to the fortress of Tyre and to all the cities of the Hivites and Canaanites; and they went out to the Negeb of Judah at Beersheba.  (8)  So when they had gone through all the land, they came to Jerusalem at the end of nine months and twenty days.  (9)  And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to the king: in Israel there were 800,000 valiant men who drew the sword, and the men of Judah were 500,000.

v.4 – “presence of the King”; began from Aroer to Gad to Jazer to Gilead to Kadesh (land of Hittites) to Dan to Sidon to Tyre to Hivites / Canaanites to Negeb of Judah at Beersheba.  Why, again, is the “anger of the LORD kindled against Israel” (v.1) (chapter 21:15-20)?  There is no explanation in the narrative, but it is apparent that Israel has succumbed to disobeying the LORD.  Let us turn to 1 Chronicles which explains how this has happened:

1Ch 21:1-7  Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel… (5)  And Joab gave the sum of the numbering of the people to David. In all Israel there were 1,100,000 men who drew the sword, and in Judah 470,000 who drew the sword.  (6)  But he did not include Levi and Benjamin in the numbering, for the king’s command was abhorrent to Joab.  (7)  But God was displeased with this thing, and he struck Israel.

Note how Satan is the one who stood against Israel; but it is the LORD’s anger which was kindled against the visible church.  Neither narrative explains exactly what had caused Satan to be permitted to stand against Israel (c.f. Job 1-2) but one thing is clear.  This chapter is a fitting end to the two books of Samuel: while Samuel began with the unexpected election of this young priest over the House of Eli, we move quickly to the unexpected election of the young shepherd David over the House of Saul, and now we move once again to the House of Araunah the Jebusite (v.16) over the House of David.  In each instance, we see how God has narrowed down the elected offspring through whom the Christ would come; from the form of priesthood and kingship firstly rejected and then typologically portrayed by its replaced shadow, as a witness to the true fulfillment of the priesthood and kingship by the Angelic Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5-7).

Under this overarching and underlining agenda of the 2 books, it is important that Satan stood against Israel, and that God permitted Satan to do so.  Though it is not explicitly explained as to why Satan stood against Israel, what is displayed is the act of sin which David commits by numbering the visible church as incited by Satan.  In this act of listening to the enemy, David has identified himself as a type of Christ and not the promised King Himself.  It is therefore important to see man’s struggle with Satan since the books of Genesis to 2 Samuel, for no man has struggled successfully against Satan and crushed him definitively.  Even David and his mighty men only defeated Satan’s children, be it the great Egyptian, the remnant of the Rephaim, the Goliath, amongst other fear-inducing enemies – but The Enemy could only be bound (Matthew 12:29) by The One Chosen to crush him truly at his head (Genesis 3:15).  The victories of David are but shadows of Christ’s victory against the Satan; but they are at most shadows.  David is not the Christ Himself, for David must also rely on Christ as His Second LORD and Mediator (Psalm 2; 110 ; c.f. his Christ-centered in chapter 22).

Even Joab, the man who was not mentioned among the David’s mighty men, this schemer and murderer found David’s decree abhorrent (v.6).  For how can David puff up his pride in counting the visible church when the LORD has left a true holy remnant in Christ?  Such is the reason why Levi and Benjamin are not counted amongst the census – according to the Hebrew of these two tribes’ names, the Levites who are joined to the priesthood are not to be joined to this unholy census, just as the Benjaminites, the children of the right hand should not be equally included.  Yet, it is the Benjaminites and the Levites who are among those who receive the most ominous prophecies of Jacob in Genesis 49.  Where do they actually stand?  Are they really the joy of Christ’s childbirth, or are they truly riddled with warfare and ravenous wolves?  It is perhaps likely that focus on the lack of inclusion of these two tribes is to highlight the seeming confusion of the silver lining between the unseen and seen Church – very much the subject of this chapter.

It is then clear in v.10 that David’s heart struck him (or, more viciously, killed him – nakah נכה) after he had numbered the people – that the Holy Spirit grieved (Isaiah 63:10 / Ephesians 4:30), and quite right that he accepted how he had sinned greatly and pursued the LORD to take away David’s iniquity.  David did not, nor through a priest, sacrifice an innocent animal according to the Levitical laws for his sin.  He knew very well that these animals could not take away people’s sins (Psalm 51; Hebrews 9:23) – only the LORD could take away the iniquity (Mark 2:7).

(10)  But David’s heart struck him after he had numbered the people. And David said to the LORD, “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O LORD, please take away the iniquity of your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”  (11)  And when David arose in the morning, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer, saying,  (12)  “Go and say to David, ‘Thus says the LORD, Three things I offer you. Choose one of them, that I may do it to you.'”  (13)  So Gad came to David and told him, and said to him, “Shall three years of famine come to you in your land? Or will you flee three months before your foes while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ pestilence in your land? Now consider, and decide what answer I shall return to him who sent me.”  (14)  Then David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.”

So in verses 10-14 we see the LORD presenting three choices to David – all of whom will be done to David by the LORD Himself: three years of famine, three months of persecution, or three days of pestilence (v.13).  Though in the first two options we see the LORD withholding his provision (be that provision of natural resources in the famine; or his protection from external or internal strife), it is only in the third option that the LORD is directly and positively inflicting pestilence on Israel.  David would rather “ fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but… not fall into the hand of man”.

How interesting it is that David still sees the LORD’s mercy in the midst of these three options which will afflict the nation as a result of David’s failed mediation as the righteous king of Israel.  David saw ahead that the LORD’s mercy in the three days; but he did not see any comparative benefits from the other two choices which will result in a combination of the LORD’s and men’s wrath.  Only in the third choice will we see sin personalized as between the church and the LORD (Psalm 51:4), the breaking of the covenant affecting first and foremost that God-man relationship.

(15)  So the LORD sent a pestilence on Israel from the morning until the appointed time. And there died of the people from Dan to Beersheba 70,000 men.  (16)  And when the angel stretched out his hand toward Jerusalem to destroy it, the LORD relented from the calamity and said to the angel who was working destruction among the people, “It is enough; now stay your hand.” And the angel of the LORD was by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.  (17)  Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was striking the people, and said, “Behold, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly. But these sheep, what have they done? Please let your hand be against me and against my father’s house.”  (18)  And Gad came that day to David and said to him, “Go up, raise an altar to the LORD on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

What is interesting is that the LORD’s pestilence has spread from “Dan to Beersheba”, the same geographic spread of people from David’s census in v.2; and it is akin to the pestilence elsewhere in Scripture, be it in the days of Noah by the global flood (Genesis 7); in the days of Abraham by the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24); in the days of Moses by the ten plagues (Exodus 8-12); and this is but another way of sifting the spiritual Israelite from the visible Israelite, the symbolic sweep over the same people who had been counted part of David’s church in the earlier verses of this chapter.

Yet, we must not forget the imagery of what is shown here – and this is the very crux of the consolidated message and thrust of the two books of Samuel.  The Angel of the LORD by the threshing floor (quote) of Jerusalem – this place is symbolic not only because it is the Hebrew for the “city of peace”, but that commentators have recognized this place as Moriah, the place where the Christ would be crucified and where Abraham had foresaw that the LORD would provide a lamb for the burnt offering (Genesis 22; 2 Chronicles 3:1):

“This place is supposed to be Mount Moriah: on which, according to the rabbins, Cain and Abel offered their sacrifices; where Abraham attempted to sacrifice Isaac, and where the temple of Solomon was afterwards built.” – Adam Clarke

(19)  So David went up at Gad’s word, as the LORD commanded.  (20)  And when Araunah looked down, he saw the king and his servants coming on toward him. And Araunah went out and paid homage to the king with his face to the ground.  (21)  And Araunah said, “Why has my lord the king come to his servant?” David said, “To buy the threshing floor from you, in order to build an altar to the LORD, that the plague may be averted from the people.”  (22)  Then Araunah said to David, “Let my lord the king take and offer up what seems good to him. Here are the oxen for the burnt offering and the threshing sledges and the yokes of the oxen for the wood.  (23)  All this, O king, Araunah gives to the king.” And Araunah said to the king, “May the LORD your God accept you.”  (24)  But the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will buy it from you for a price. I will not offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God that cost me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.  (25)  And David built there an altar to the LORD and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So the LORD responded to the plea for the land, and the plague was averted from Israel.

And thus the chapter ends not on David’s victory; not on Israel’s faithfulness; but rather quite an opposite note.  The plague, caused by David, and inflicted upon Israel (upon whom the perfect rounded number of 70,000 were taken away from the visible church), could only be propitiated by the burnt offerings and peace offerings given on Moriah on the third day of the pestilence.  What a grand gospel picture that has been underlying 1 and 2 Samuel’s message!  It isn’t men who inflicted our Christ on the cross; it isn’t Satan who induces the wrath and punishment on David for he is but a tool of the Father in tempting David to sin; it is, in actuality, the Father in heaven who inflicts this wrath on the Son!

It is on this second altar, far away from the legitimized altar of the tabernacle but instead is placed on the exact location of Christ’s crucifixion, that we see the light of the world – the Son of God – break into the dim pestilence and wrath of the Father which would have otherwise continued to wipe out the visible church.  Yet, the Father had planned for the Angel to have mercy upon arriving at Jebus (the ancient Jerusalem) for this is where election is displayed for the world to see – the alpha and omega of election in Jesus Christ to be risen on the third day on the cross at Moriah.

The brazen altar which Moses made was at Gibeon (1Ch_21:29), and there all the sacrifices of Israel were offered; but David was so terrified at the sight of the sword of the angel that he could not go thither, 1Ch_21:30. The business required haste, when the plague was begun. Aaron must go quickly, nay, he must run, to make atonement, Num_16:46, Num_16:47. And the case here was no less urgent; so that David had not time to go to Gibeon: nor durst he leave the angel with his sword drawn over Jerusalem, lest the fatal stroke should be given before he came back. And therefore God, in tenderness to him, bade him build an altar in that place, dispensing with his own law concerning one altar because of the present distress, and accepting the sacrifices offered on this new altar, which was not set up in opposition to that, but in concurrence with it. The symbols of unity were not so much insisted on as unity itself. Nay, when the present distress was over (as it should seem), David, as long as he lived, sacrificed there, though the altar at Gibeon was still kept up; for God had owned the sacrifices that were here offered and had testified his acceptance of them, 1Ch_21:28. On those administrations in which we have experienced the tokens of God’s presence, and have found that he is with us of a truth, it is good to continue our attendance. “Here God had graciously met me, and therefore I will still expect to meet with him.” – Matthew Henry

And standing by this cross is not easy.  It is not cheap.  It is in fact very expensive – Luke 14:27.

Cheap grace is not the king of forgiveness of sin which frees us from the toils of sin.  Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession.  Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

Costly grace is the treasure hidden in the field; for the sake of it a man will gladly go and sell all that he has.  It is the pearl of great price to buy which the merchant will sell all his goods.  It is the kingly rule of Christ, for whose sake a man will pluck out the eye which causes him to stumble; it is the call of Jesus Christ at which the disciple leaves his nets and follows him.

Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock.

Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ.  It is costly because it costs a man his life, and it is grace because it gives a man the only true life.  It is costly because it condemns sin, and grace because it justifies the sinner.  Above all, it is costly because it cost God the life of his Son: “ye were bought at a price,” and what has cost God much cannot be cheap for us.  Above all, it is grace because God did not reckon his Son too dear a price to pay for our life, but delivered him up for us.  Costly grace is the Incarnation of God.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer in “Cost of Discipleship”

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2 Samuel 24: Costly grace

2 Samuel 23: The Three and the Church

From David’s prophetic song of Christ in 2 Samuel 22, we move to David’s last words, which once again can point only away from himself. V.5 in particular – “he has made with me an everlasting covenant”: is this covenant broken when the house of David has been scattered and dispersed?  No – we are indeed grafted in the house of David by Christ Himself.  For David’s last words, by the Spirit of the LORD, proclaims the Son of God as the Man who secures one’s eternality in the everlasting House of Israel.  To His children, He is the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth (v.4) – yet to those standing outside of Christ, these worthless men are subject of a consuming fire (v.7 – Genesis 19:24; Daniel 3:27; compare Genesis 2:5 and Genesis 7:4).

2Sa 23:1-39  Now these are the last words of David: The oracle of David, the son of Jesse, the oracle of the man who was raised on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, the sweet psalmist of Israel:  (2)  “The Spirit of the LORD speaks by me; his word is on my tongue.  (3)  The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God,  (4)  he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.  (5)  “For does not my house stand so with God? For he has made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and secure. For will he not cause to prosper all my help and my desire?  (6)  But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away, for they cannot be taken with the hand;  (7)  but the man who touches them arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear, and they are utterly consumed with fire.”

What is interesting to note is that honorific verses following David’s praise of the LORD is key to understanding David’s theology when he describes the good works of the saints; the righteousness of the saints; the cleanness of the saints.  The praise song of David in the previous chapter recognizes that it is the LORD who rebukes the waters; it is the LORD who forgives men of sins; it is the LORD who lights the dark path which David would have otherwise trodden.  Similarly, it is the LORD who has made with David an everlasting covenant – ordered in all things and secure (v.5).  Such assurance of faith is not the same as one who is relying on his “clean” hands for salvation; rather, it is salvation which came first, then came these mighty men.

Note in particular verses 3 and 4 which is currently translated in the ESV as:

3The God of Israel has spoken;

the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
4he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

Adam Clarke notes that v.3 should be far more theocentric – “He that ruleth over men must be just” (מושל באדם צדיק  moshel baadam tsaddik), or “He that ruleth in man is the just one”; or, “The just one is the ruler among men”.  It is clear that from Clarke’s rendition of the Hebrew, we cannot escape that this “ruler” is not speaking of any men; it isn’t speaking as if David should aspire to be the alpha and omega of the meaning behind this “ruler”.  Rather, this ruler is the just one.  Clarke goes on to say regarding the latter half of v.3, “It is by God’s fear that Jesus Christ rules the hearts of all his followers; and he who has not the fear of God before his eyes, can never be a Christian”, explicitly referring to this “ruler” whom David refers to as Christ Jesus.  If so, the verses following make more sense – this Ruler, the Light of the world, shall be “like the morning light” (c.f. Genesis 1, “Let there be light” – light is not created on day 1, but is the first Word proclaimed by the Father).  Clarke also continues in the same vein of thinking: “As the Messiah seems to be the whole subject of these last words of David, he is probably the person intended. One of Dr. Kennicott’s MSS. Supplies the word יהוה  Yehovah; and he therefore translates, As the light of the morning ariseth Jehovah… He shall be the Sun of righteousness, bringing salvation in his rays, and shining – illuminating the children of men, with increasing splendor, as long as the sun and moon endure.”

Yet, it is important to recognize that not all of these mighty men were cut from the same cloth as we turn back to them from v.8 onwards.  We begin with the three:

(8)  These are the names of the mighty men whom David had: Josheb-basshebeth a Tahchemonite; he was chief of the three. He wielded his spear against eight hundred whom he killed at one time.  (9)  And next to him among the three mighty men was Eleazar the son of Dodo, son of Ahohi. He was with David when they defied the Philistines who were gathered there for battle, and the men of Israel withdrew.  (10)  He rose and struck down the Philistines until his hand was weary, and his hand clung to the sword. And the LORD brought about a great victory that day, and the men returned after him only to strip the slain.  (11)  And next to him was Shammah, the son of Agee the Hararite. The Philistines gathered together at Lehi, where there was a plot of ground full of lentils, and the men fled from the Philistines.  (12)  But he took his stand in the midst of the plot and defended it and struck down the Philistines, and the LORD worked a great victory.  (13)  And three of the thirty chief men went down and came about harvest time to David at the cave of Adullam, when a band of Philistines was encamped in the Valley of Rephaim.  (14)  David was then in the stronghold, and the garrison of the Philistines was then at Bethlehem.  (15)  And David said longingly, “Oh, that someone would give me water to drink from the well of Bethlehem that is by the gate!”  (16)  Then the three mighty men broke through the camp of the Philistines and drew water out of the well of Bethlehem that was by the gate and carried and brought it to David. But he would not drink of it. He poured it out to the LORD  (17)  and said, “Far be it from me, O LORD, that I should do this. Shall I drink the blood of the men who went at the risk of their lives?” Therefore he would not drink it. These things the three mighty men did.

Note how David, upon the willing sacrifice of these three loyal men (c.f. event of v.13 was recorded in 2 Samuel 5:17), poured out what David had considered to be their blood (v.17) to the LORD (v.16) – and such is the definitive picture of the Christ, poured out and anointed (the Hebrew for “poured” in v.16 is nasak, נָסַךְ, which could mean both “poured out” and used in the context of the anointing of a king) before the LORD to fulfill that true thirst of David (Matthew 26:28; John 4:10-11; Revelation 7:17), the water which came from the house of bread the birthplace of the incarnate Son of God.  These three are akin to the missional Trinity, working as one family of different roles and Persons to fulfil the salvific work glorified through the Son; the wise Tehchemonite, the aided Eleazar, son of love and rest, and Shammah born of desolation, inflicting judgment and wrath.  Is this not the united truth of the Triune Elohim, the wisdom of the Spirit leading us to the beloved and aided Son of the love and Sabbath rest to come from the Father who inflicts both his overflowing love and wrath through His God-man Elect One.

(18)  Now Abishai, the brother of Joab, the son of Zeruiah, was chief of the thirty. And he wielded his spear against three hundred men and killed them and won a name beside the three.  (19)  He was the most renowned of the thirty and became their commander, but he did not attain to the three.  (20)  And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was a valiant man of Kabzeel, a doer of great deeds. He struck down two ariels of Moab. He also went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen.  (21)  And he struck down an Egyptian, a handsome man. The Egyptian had a spear in his hand, but Benaiah went down to him with a staff and snatched the spear out of the Egyptian’s hand and killed him with his own spear.  (22)  These things did Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and won a name beside the three mighty men.  (23)  He was renowned among the thirty, but he did not attain to the three. And David set him over his bodyguard.  (24)  Asahel the brother of Joab was one of the thirty; Elhanan the son of Dodo of Bethlehem,  (25)  Shammah of Harod, Elika of Harod,  (26)  Helez the Paltite, Ira the son of Ikkesh of Tekoa,  (27)  Abiezer of Anathoth, Mebunnai the Hushathite,  (28)  Zalmon the Ahohite, Maharai of Netophah,  (29)  Heleb the son of Baanah of Netophah, Ittai the son of Ribai of Gibeah of the people of Benjamin,  (30)  Benaiah of Pirathon, Hiddai of the brooks of Gaash,  (31)  Abi-albon the Arbathite, Azmaveth of Bahurim,  (32)  Eliahba the Shaalbonite, the sons of Jashen, Jonathan,  (33)  Shammah the Hararite, Ahiam the son of Sharar the Hararite,  (34)  Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai of Maacah, Eliam the son of Ahithophel of Gilo,  (35)  Hezro of Carmel, Paarai the Arbite,  (36)  Igal the son of Nathan of Zobah, Bani the Gadite,  (37)  Zelek the Ammonite, Naharai of Beeroth, the armor-bearer of Joab the son of Zeruiah,  (38)  Ira the Ithrite, Gareb the Ithrite,  (39)  Uriah the Hittite: thirty-seven in all.

And it is from v.18 to 39 that we see the church formation – from David the pastor, to the three elders / deacons (Numbers 11; Titus 1; 1 Timothy 3), to the church.  Here we see the hierarchy of the early ancient church which had begun in Moses’ time, which truly stems from the Trinitarian creator Elohim who had commanded Adam to populate the earth with His children (though it seems the mandate came after the fall in His promise of the Son as Messiah – Genesis 3:15-16), rather than children of darkness.  It is in the names of these 37 (including David), that we are brought to recognize the might of these heroes of David’s league – from Abishai (father of gift) who as chief of the thirty won his name in walking victoriously before the three hundred men, to Benaiah, the man whom Yahweh has built up and struck down the heroes of Moab ( ית תרין רברבי מואב  yath terein rabrebey Moab, “The two princes of Moab.” – according to Adam Clarke’s translation) (v.18-20); he who also struck down a lion and approached the man of appearance, the powerful seemingly supernatural (as the Hebrew would describe it) man of Egypt with his seemingly feeble staff, only to turn on the enemy with his own weapon (Habbakuk 3:14).

And these are but the great deeds (c.f. v.20) of two of the thirty, let alone the God-made (Asahel) to He has saved (Helez); from milk and full richness / fatness (Heleb) to whom God is salvation (Eliphelet); but also from my God rejects (Elika) to shady (Zalmon); from desolation and astonishment (Shammah) to scabby (Gareb).  We do not merely have men of renown, but also men of disrepute; men of Israel, but also men who have newly joined Israel (e.g. Ittai); and in this thirty we see the great mixed multitude of the church brought out of Egypt (Exodus 12:38), of the prophecy fulfilled (Genesis 9) and the Gentiles and Israelites fulfilling the commission of the Trinity in the same tent (Isaiah 54:2).  Note especially Matthew Henry’s words in closing of this chapter:

“The surnames here given them are taken, as it should seem, from the places of their birth or habitation, as many surnames with us originally were. From all parts of the nation, the most wise and valiant were picked up to serve the king. Several of those who are named we find captains of the twelve courses which David appointed, one for each month in the year, 1 Chr. 27. Those that did worthily were preferred according to their merits. One of them was the son of Ahithophel (2Sa_23:34), the son famous in the camp as the father at the council-board. But to find Uriah the Hittite bringing up the rear of these worthies, as it revives the remembrance of David’s sin, so it aggravates it, that a man who deserved so well of his king and country should be so ill treated. Joab is not mentioned among all these, either, (1.) to be mentioned; the first, of the first three sat chief among the captains, but Joab was over them as general. Or, (2.) Because he was so bad that he did not deserve to be mentioned; for though he was confessedly a great soldier, and one that had so much religion in him as to dedicate of his spoils to the house of God (1Ch_26:28), yet he lost as much honour by slaying two of David’s friends as ever he got by slaying his enemies.

Christ, the Son of David, has his worthies too, who like David’s, are influenced by his example, fight his battles against the spiritual enemies of his kingdom, and in his strength are more than conquerors. Christ’s apostles were his immediate attendants, did and suffered great things for him, and at length came to reign with him. They are mentioned with honour in the New Testament, as these in the Old, especially, Rev_21:14. Nay, all the good soldiers of Jesus Christ have their names better preserved than even these worthies have; for they are written in heaven. This honour have all his saints.”

It is also important for us not to forget the refrain in v.19 and v.23 – “but he did not attain to the three”.  There is something special about the three which is fundamentally different from the thirty.  Though they had enjoyed the equal fellowship of David the King, they were not of a compromised quality like the son of Zeruiah – let alone that Joab has not even been mentioned amongst these great men (1 Kings 2:5); but the key difference lies in them pouring out their life for David as if pouring out their blood before the LORD.  In the three, we see a picture of the Trinity working through the Son in achieving that great picture of redemption in the pouring out of the water.  This is not a duty which the sons of Zeruiah can do.

Finally, what a sting it is that Uriah should be mentioned at the end of the thirty, as if to highlight once again that David is but one of these men and not the true centre of the three, nor the true king of the great thirty or of the chosen nation Israel.  He is no different and is redeemed from his humble youth and anointed king despite being the grand schemer, murderer and adulterer who had been promised to be given an eternal kingdom through his offspring (2 Samuel 7), just as Adam had (Genesis 3:15) the moment he subverted Christ’s headship and replaced it with the serpent’s.

2 Samuel 23: The Three and the Church

2 Samuel 22: The LORD of David’s song

Let us now turn to David’s song of praise in chapter 22.  This song is uncanny in the sense of its difference from his final words in chapter 23 – the key distinguishing factor is that this song is very much a historical account of God’s redemptive tale, not merely of David’s life, but an account of what has happened from Genesis up to 2 Samuel 21.  Though David speaks in first person, many of the details cannot be directly applied to David’s life, especially if we were to look at his debacles in 2 Samuel compared to 1 Samuel.

However, it is more appropriate to look at David’s words in chapter 23 in light of his whole life, compared to his song here.  The chronology of this song seems to be firmly placed between the two books: v.1 indicates that David spoke these words “on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul” (1 Samuel 20:16; 25:21-23).  The placement of Saul at the end of v.1 implies that Saul was the last persecutor before David’s song of praise.

2Sa 22:1-51  And David spoke to the LORD the words of this song on the day when the LORD delivered him from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul.  (2)  He said, “The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer,  (3)  my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge, my savior; you save me from violence.  (4)  I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.

What a mighty man David is – and we are first introduced to him as a humble shepherd boy (1 Samuel 16:11), who elected Himself to be Israel’s mediator (1 Samuel 17), and thereafter become the rejected champion of the worthless men (1 Samuel 30:22), though loved by Jonathan the heir to Israel’s throne (1 Samuel 20:16), and his life uniting both the Israelites and the Gentiles under the banner of David.  This is the David who looked not to his own glory, but understood the redemptive plan which worked through him by Him – the LORD who is his Rock and his Deliverer.  Is this “rock” the man David?  Is this “rock” Peter (Matthew 16:18), the first man of the Catholic apostolic succession?  No – this Rock is Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4).  David’s object of worship is the Son of God, the Rock on whom we build our foundation and drink the Spiritual waters, (Exodus 17:6).

Yet, when we come to v.5, we begin to see that David is musing on events which he did not himself witness, but God’s redemptive acts prior to David’s life so popularly preached through the ages:

(5)  “For the waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction assailed me;  (6)  the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.  (7)  “In my distress I called upon the LORD; to my God I called. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry came to his ears.  (8)  “Then the earth reeled and rocked; the foundations of the heavens trembled and quaked, because he was angry.  (9)  Smoke went up from his nostrils, and devouring fire from his mouth; glowing coals flamed forth from him.  (10)  He bowed the heavens and came down; thick darkness was under his feet.  (11)  He rode on a cherub and flew; he was seen on the wings of the wind.  (12)  He made darkness around him his canopy, thick clouds, a gathering of water.  (13)  Out of the brightness before him coals of fire flamed forth.  (14)  The LORD thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered his voice.  (15)  And he sent out arrows and scattered them; lightning, and routed them.  (16)  Then the channels of the sea were seen; the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the LORD, at the blast of the breath of his nostrils.  (17)  “He sent from on high, he took me; he drew me out of many waters.  (18)  He rescued me from my strong enemy, from those who hated me, for they were too mighty for me.  (19)  They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the LORD was my support.  (20)  He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.

V.5-20 clearly are prophetic words in relation to Christ on the cross – these are words which Christ speaks and which no other man can speak (Psalms 18:5-11; 30:3; Acts 2:25-28).  Can David literally say that the cords of Sheol entangled him?  No – though poetically yes.  Yet, it is the habit of the New Testament Christians to look back on David’s psalms (Peter’s sermon in Acts 2) and interpret them knowing that David wrote concerning Christ.  Can David say that the Father heard David’s voice from the temple and caused earthquakes and the routing lightning?  But Christ can indeed say so (Matthew 17:24, 27:54; Luke 24:27).

David then mixes in the imagery of the LORD’s salvation of Israel through Moses in Moses’ definitive life as the “one drawn from the waters” (v.17), the one who is saved (Mosheh, מֹשֶׁה, meaning drawn out of or saved from (the water)).  V.16 is more appropriate in describing the travel through the Red Sea, for it is there that the Holy Spirit (Exodus 14:21) which revealed the bottom of the sea, and “the foundations of the world were laid bare, at the rebuke of the LORD” (Matthew 8:26).  Such a rebuke that the Israelites walked through it, following the Rock, and were baptized (1 Corinthians 10); but the Egyptians instead became the subject of the rebuke as they had no Rock to be their refuge and shelter.  And why did the LORD rescue David?  “Because he delighted in me” (v.20).  Such words make so much more sense in light of the Christ, whom the Father loved at the foundation of the world (John 17:24).  All the Father’s love poured out on the Son, that we must stand in Him to receive the Father’s delight.  That we must stand upon the Rock to be delighted by – and not to seek his delight through our works, our sacrifice, our pain, and our gain.  David had much to boast – but he chose to boast in Christ Jesus; he chose to revel in the LORD who parted the waters, the LORD who brought His anointed one out of the tangles of Sheol, the LORD who brought Israel through baptism into new life.

(21)  “The LORD dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he rewarded me.  (22)  For I have kept the ways of the LORD and have not wickedly departed from my God.  (23)  For all his rules were before me, and from his statutes I did not turn aside.  (24)  I was blameless before him, and I kept myself from guilt.  (25)  And the LORD has rewarded me according to my righteousness, according to my cleanness in his sight.  (26)  “With the merciful you show yourself merciful; with the blameless man you show yourself blameless;  (27)  with the purified you deal purely, and with the crooked you make yourself seem tortuous.  (28)  You save a humble people, but your eyes are on the haughty to bring them down.  (29)  For you are my lamp, O LORD, and my God lightens my darkness.  (30)  For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall.  (31)  This God–his way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.  (32)  “For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?

And v.21-22 is very apparent in displaying David’s focus in the praise song.  Is David inadvertedly praising himself?  Has he truly kept the ways of the LORD and has not wickedly departed from His God?  What of (1 Samuel 22:11-19)?  Yet, indeed, until David’s fall in 2 Samuel, he had loved the LORD and followed His mandates closely – until v.28 we cannot have a clear-cut definition of what this ‘cleanness’ and ‘righteousness’ might mean.  This cleanness and righteousness is identified with the humble who are saved; furthermore, this cleanness and righteousness is brought about by the One who is our lamp, by Whom we can run against a troop, by Whom we can leap over a wall (v.30).  So v.21-22 turns into a praise song, because it is this God, whose “way is perfect; the word of the LORD proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him”.  Indeed – the LORD is the truly righteous, truly perfect, truly blameless one – and he looks on David with favour, the David who walks in Christ’s path.  V.32 immediately negates any misinterpretations of self-righteousness – rather, David looks vicariously through his righteousness to truly give thanks to the LORD who is the foundation of David’s refuge and strength throughout 1 Samuel.  He has made David’s way blameless (v.33).  He has declared David righteous:

(33)  This God is my strong refuge and has made my way blameless.  (34)  He made my feet like the feet of a deer and set me secure on the heights.  (35)  He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze.  (36)  You have given me the shield of your salvation, and your gentleness made me great.  (37)  You gave a wide place for my steps under me, and my feet did not slip;  (38)  I pursued my enemies and destroyed them, and did not turn back until they were consumed.  (39)  I consumed them; I thrust them through, so that they did not rise; they fell under my feet.  (40)  For you equipped me with strength for the battle; you made those who rise against me sink under me.  (41)  You made my enemies turn their backs to me, those who hated me, and I destroyed them.  (42)  They looked, but there was none to save; they cried to the LORD, but he did not answer them.  (43)  I beat them fine as the dust of the earth; I crushed them and stamped them down like the mire of the streets.  (44)  “You delivered me from strife with my people; you kept me as the head of the nations; people whom I had not known served me.  (45)  Foreigners came cringing to me; as soon as they heard of me, they obeyed me.  (46)  Foreigners lost heart and came trembling out of their fortresses.  (47)  “The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock, and exalted be my God, the rock of my salvation,  (48)  the God who gave me vengeance and brought down peoples under me,  (49)  who brought me out from my enemies; you exalted me above those who rose against me; you delivered me from men of violence.  (50)  “For this I will praise you, O LORD, among the nations, and sing praises to your name.  (51)  Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever.”

After reading these words of praise, can we divorce them from the true Christ, the true anointed, the object and cause of the everlasting existence of the house of Israel through David’s bloodline?  Even David acknowledges this in the final verse of his song: “Great salvation he brings to his king, and shows steadfast love to his anointed, to David and his offspring forever”.  Though this applies to David, who is the king of Israel; who is the first anointed one; yet the blessing is to extend to his offspring forever.  These words may apply to David – but he is but formed, like us, in the image of God.  Yet, it is Christ who is the true image (Colossians 1:15; Romans 8) of the Father.  He is the true alpha and the omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13) of the Father’s Anointing; He is the alpha and omega of the Father’s election (Isaiah 42; Genesis 3:16; Revelation 13:8; John 17); and He is the alpha and omega of the One who was thrown into Sheol; who was resurrected from the waters of judgment; who stood tall as the true king of the Jews (Matthew 27:37) and that all nations are but his footstool (Psalm 110:1; Hebrews 1:13).  For though David spoke of his life, it is more accurately the lives of the saints – but most predominantly, and prophetically, he speaks of the life of the one who is anointed and chosen to inherit the everlasting kingdom of Israel (2 Samuel 7).

2 Samuel 22: The LORD of David’s song

2 Samuel 21: Saul’s house of peace

Chapter 20 ends on a very similar narrative structure compared to chapter 8 – an end of a period of David’s life and a summation of whom is in charge of what ministry.  The remaining chapters of 2 Samuel therefore are overarching conclusions to a grand coverage of David’s magnificent typological life of Christ throughout these two books.   

Like the end of Genesis where a famine brought Abram to Egypt (Genesis 12:10); Isaac went to the Philistines (Genesis 26:1); Israel to Egypt (Genesis 42:5); from Bethlehem in Judah to Moab (Rush 1:1); and now in the time of David.  Famine is a time when the children of God are banished from home and are brought to an alien land where they are refined by fire and recognize it is the LORD who provides (Psalm 33:19; 37:19) – the greatest famine of which being the famine of the Word of God Himself (Amos 8:11).   

Yet, this three year famine is caused by the breaking of peace between the Israelites and Amorites (v.2 – the Gibeonites are from the remnant of the Amorites).  What is interesting is that throughout the Pentateuch, the Amorites were always enemies of God (as the descendants of Canaan – Genesis 10:16; the promise of the Israelites entering the land of the Gentiles – Exodus 3:8, 23:23; the eventual dispossession of the Amorites – Numbers 32:39; Joshua 24:18; Judges 11:23).  However, the oddity here is that there is an unwritten and unrecorded peace between Israel and the Amorites (perhaps the same peace as mentioned in 1 Samuel 7:14), this oath (v.2 – Israel taking an oathשׁבע) broken by Saul (the implications of breaking oaths c.f. Numbers 30:2; 1 Samuel 14:24).  

It is interesting how David is trying to make atonement between Saul’s household and Gibeon – Israel as a corporate body of Saul when he was king of Israel, experiencing the famine as a result of Saul’s sin.  Yet Israel is now ousted from the grasp of Saul and David stands between the Israelites and Gibeonites.  What does David do?  Will he give up the seven sons of the house of Saul to mediate between Israel and Gibeon (v.6)? 

Instead, the wrath of the LORD was mediated through David’s giving up of the seven sons, excluding Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth stood under the oath of David; David effectively, like Christ, propitiated the wrath which was meant to be experienced by Mephiboseth.  Mephibosheth should have been hanged.  However, it is the other seven sons of Saul’s household who are hanged, the seven perishing together: “They were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the beginning of barley harvest” (v.9).  Such is the effect of Christ’s death on the cross, these iniquitous seven sons of Saul’s household representing the iniquitous Son of God on the cross; their deaths ending the famine upon the beginning of barley harvest, just as the Feast of Harvest occurred between the Passover and the Feast of Ingathering  (Exodus 23:16; Matthew 13:39), for it is only now that the famine is over – and that the Holy Word of the Father can be received and that the harvest begins until the Ingathering at the Day of Resurrection. 

The chapter however does not end here.  Where in the story of the mediation between the Gibeonites and the Israelites completely hinged upon David’s decision to propitiate God’s wrath by the sevenfold son-sacrifice (akin to the sacrifice of the sevenfold lambs in Job 42:8), in the story of the Philistines’ return we see David’s followers walking with David in his footsteps.  Where David had fought Goliath (1 Samuel 17), now four giants (going by the names of Ishbi-benob; Saph; Goliath; and the six-fingered giant – all are defeated by the hands of Abishai, Sibbecai, Elhanan, and Jonathan.  Is this not the picture of the book of Acts in our current age of the harvest prior to the Ingathering, the miracles of toppling giants by standing by the true Rock?  Such is the implication of Christ’s victory, that the harvest is plentiful and workers are capable of wrecking such havoc against the champions of the world of spiritual Gentiles.   

Yet, this picture of peace, achieved as a causal effect of Christ’s gospel work, is coupled with the solemn but noble picture of Rizpah who had clearly understood the work of mediation and propitiation.  We do not spit on our sacrifice with contempt – but rather, we love the Christ who died in our place.  So Rizpah ensured that neither birds nor beasts would come upon the corpses day or night, that prompted David to retrieve Saul and Jonathan’s bones from the clutches of the enemies and restore them deep in the soil of the father’s clan (c.f. 1 Samuel 31; Saul from the clan of Benjamin and anointed as king in 1 Samuel 9:1).  Such is the love of Rizpah that David, our Christ, shall go to all lengths to retrieve the one sheep (Matthew 18:12)!  Just as the true peace was achieved in the defeat of the four giants of Philistine, so also the famine only responded to the plea for the end of the famine upon the final restoration of Saul’s household in bringing the bones back to the heart of Canaan from the filthy hands of the Ashtaroth worshippers and thus redeeming the house of Saul by David’s covenant with Jonathan and providing the true beth-shan (house of peace / ease; c.f. Isaiah 2:2-4).

2 Samuel 21: Saul’s house of peace

2 Samuel 20: The wise woman and the son of Zeruiah

In the midst of David’s mercy towards his enemies in chapter 19, we are immediately met with a Benjaminite who has led Israel astray.  Chapter 19 ended with a quarrel, where Judah welcomed David first without Israel’s participation, and immediately in chapter 20 we see the lofty Israelites jumping onto the bandwagon of Sheba soon after Absalom’s death.   

Yet, the narration of chapter 20 does not introduce us to David’s reaction to Sheba’s rebellion.  Rather, we are told that David put his ten concubines under guard and provided for them, but did not go in to them, living as if in widowhood to the day of their death (v.3).  This picture is in response to 2 Samuel 16:22 – perhaps implying that the concubines no longer belonged just to David as they were soiled by Absalom and became tools in shaming David’s kingship.  Like a widow without children and without further inheritance as none of them had David or anyone else as their husband, so also are those (Proverbs 17:6) who align themselves to Satan as their true baal, as their true lord and husband – for by him, no childbirth may result (contrary to the blessing of those who are born under righteous parents – Proverbs 20:7).  For what goodness can come out of any other seed than the Seed of the Father?  What children can come from the flesh and not by the Spirit? (c.f. Genesis 16:4).     

Upon seeing this clear-cut imagery of David and Absalom’s households, we are then brought to see Amasa, temporarily made commander of the army, lead the pursuit against Sheba’s rebellion.  Yet, the son of Zeruiah is instead appointed due to Amasa’s delay after three days (v.4-5) though eventually he managed to catch up with them (v.7-8).  However, soon we perceive that he is but among the list of those wrongfully murdered by Joab.  Uriah.  Abner.  Absalom.  Amasa.  These are but a number of the men whom Joab treacherously killed – though seemingly by the direction of David, Joab’s vengeful streak has been becoming more and more apparent throughout the past 19 chapters of 2 Samuel.  The irony of his deceit is displayed in v.8, revealed for all to see – and yet Amasa is blind to Joab’s murderous inclination.   

What, therefore, is the significance of Amasa’s death in chapter 20 by Joab the murderous man, who (like in chapter 18) became the responsible army commander to achieving victory for Israel (by executing Absalom) and achieving victory against Sheba’s rebellion (v.22)?  Is it not just an extension of Joab trying to hide the blood and flesh of the satan which runs through him?   

Note carefully v.11-13: whoever favors Joab… let him follow Joab.  David is placed in second place; not only that, but the LORD is entirely absent.  The men only stopped to look at poor Amasa – the man who was the object of David’s affection (2 Samuel 19:13).  This same man, the commander of David’s army, is now lying on the ground wallowing in his blood and entrails on the ground.  Who stopped to bury this man?  “And anyone who came by, seeing him, stopped.  And when the man saw that all (my emphasis) the people stopped, he carried Amasa out of the highway into the field and threw a garment over him” (v.12).  All the men stopped to see this injustice being done (though the narrative is silent on the judgment of this scenario) and yet all they did was watch.  Is this not the sin of Adam, that he did not prevent the serpent from continually deceiving Eve?  Is this not the sin of the neighbour (Deuteronomy 22:8)?  Yet, the innocent blood of Abel (Matthew 23:35; Hebrews 12:24) cries out and no one rushes to save Amasa.  Instead, he is lamely covered by a garment (Isaiah 26:21 and Jeremiah 9:1; contrast to Ezekiel 16:8), when he should be covered by the garment of righteousness (Isaiah 61) and the corner of His glorious robe (Ezekiel 16) – but all the men return to mindlessly following Joab (v.13) and not the LORD – desensitized to the madness of this son of Zeruiah. 

As if the poor attempt at concealing the innocence behind the deaths of Uriah, Abner, Absalom and Amasa were not enough – the Hebrew language is itself a witness against Joab’s treachery.  He arrives at Abel of Beth-maacah.  Abel, though not identical in vowels to the name of Adam’s second son, uses the same Hebrew root characters; and Maacah is the name of Absalom’s mother.  Yet, Joab’s connection to these two is that Abel is the first man to die since the foundation of the world, murdered innocently by his brother – just as Joab has murdered David’s flesh Amasa (2 Samuel 19:13) and Absalom mercilessly.  Furthermore, the second connection is revealed by the wise woman’s query: 

2Sa 20:19  I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why will you swallow up the heritage of the LORD?” 

Indeed, why will Joab swallow up the heritage of the LORD?  Joab’s denial in v.20 is now especially profound given Amasa’s painful and unwarranted death earlier in the chapter.  More ironically, Joab has already swallowed up the heritage of the LORD – of his lord David, by murdering Absalom, the son of this mother Maacah which bears the same name as the city.  Maacah, the mother of Absalom is a true mother in Israel, though spiritually Beth-maacah may be the birthplace of spiritual sons of God – the Hebrew word-play surely brings out the guilt of Joab in the emblematic stories of Abel and Absalom as Maacah’s son.  Notice how the chapter ends in an anti-climax – does Joab win the battle?  Is he the one to defeat Sheba in a long-drawn heroic and dramatic battle? 

No – instead, we are left with a loquacious wise women, who in her wisdom (first stated in v.16 and repeated in v.22) cut off the head of Sheba.  Joab and his men did not walk in wisdom; yet the woman, in her wisdom, accomplished a clean cut victory in the battle without so much as Joab’s assistance.  His works could not save him; his hands are covered with the blood of the innocent; his military achievements fall drastically short in the face of the shame of this wise woman whose wisdom triumphs Joab’s physical might.  While the people worked together (v.22) in the meadow of the house of Maacah (Abel of Beth-maacah) to destroy this rebellious son of the Benjaminites, Joab’s trumpet call only led to the disperse of people rather than uniting them to worship before the LORD and before David (v.22). 

2 Samuel 20: The wise woman and the son of Zeruiah

2 Samuel 19: Love your enemies

David, the man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Jeremiah 3:15; Hebrews 10:22– similar phrase used with regards to Samuel in 1 Samuel 2:35; 1 Samuel 16:7, using the same Hebrew phrase lebab לֵבָב, also indicates our heart as defining our standing before God, that this new heart is the same as that clean heart of Christ referred to in Psalm 24:4), weeps for his son who was crucified on the oak and murdered by Joab despite his personal plea for mercy.  Is it right for Joab to bark at his king?  This bloodthirsty and vengeful soldier can be hugely contrasted to the latter half of this chapter.  Where Joab screams for victory, David ushers it in peacefully.  Where Joab stabbed the three branches (shebet שֵׁבֶט standing for rod, staff, or branch) into the centre (literally into the heart, leb לֵב, of Absalom – contrasting the death of Absalom’s heart and the life of David’s heart) of Absalom’s being as he hung between heaven and earth (chapter 18v.9), David chose to pardon his enemies (2 Samuel 19:12).  Though Joab secured a bloody victory for Israel, it is David’s mercy which is the true source of unity in the kingdom.  Where Joab fought and won by might and by worldly means (chapter 18v.12), David wept and embraced his enemies (v.6).  Joab, along with Abishai, these sons of Zeruiah are but implied as adversaries to David (v.22) – and not contributors to the everlasting kingdom prophecied in 2 Samuel 7.   

Yet, what is also significant, is the lethargic response to the king’s victory.  This is because of v.10 – “Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle”. The man whom they anointed over them, the man which the LORD did not choose to be king, is now dead.  Why are they not returning as a bride to the bridegroom?  This is the immediate accusation which David brings to his people.  Yet, unlike Joab, he does not command obedience by brute force.  Instead, David identifies with them in flesh and blood as one body with them (v.13 – c.f. Romans 12:5) – such unity only found in the marital relationship of Adam and Eve, man and woman (Ephesians 5:22-33). 

This marriage call immediately beckons the likes of Shimei and the men of Judah and Benjamin; Ziba and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, both coming from places like the Bahurim, rushing down to the Jordan and crossing the ford to bring over the king’s household and to do his pleasure (v.16-17).  What a beautiful picture of the LORD who loves and is loved in return!  Is this not the picture of the parable of the rebellious son (Luke 15:11) yearning for forgiveness (v.19)?  Is this not a prophetic picture of Isaiah 2:1-4 (the law going out of Zion and all the nations flowing up to the mountain of the LORD), of the fellowship of the bride returning to the true bridegroom rather than the false imposter Absalom who is nailed to the oak, a picture of the crushed serpent (Numbers 21)?  Shimei has sinned (v.20), and yet David as a type of Christ forgives man of his sins (v.23) though he deserved death.  Such an oath, such forgiveness, can only be given by the LORD God Himself whom David is representing like The Angelic Mediator.   

Not only do we receive a picture of the rebellious, but also a picture of the meek and humble – of Mephibosheth who has, until now, been portrayed by Ziba as a deserter of the kingdom trying to reclaim it for the lineage of Saul (2 Samuel 16).  Instead, what we see in v.24-30 is that David is referred to as like a sent one of God (v.27 – angel), Mephibosheth understanding clearly that Saul, like Absalom, is but a king anointed and chosen by men (2 Samuel 15) doomed to death (v.28).  It is upon this that Mephibosheth is granted a share of Ziba’s land (though it is rightfully Mephibosheth’s: 2 Samuel 9:9-11), yet the beauty of Mephibosheth’s repentance is the gripping of this angel of God himself (contrary to the elder son in the parable of the two sons in Luke 15 who had worked for his inheritance of the land and not for the Father’s embrace); is the embrace of serving his lord the king who mediates on his behalf to restore this cursed man from the house of Saul.   

Besides the facets of Shimei and Mephibosheth’s stories, we also read about Chimham who inherits the blessing of Barzillai.  “Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do for him whatever seems good to you, and all that you desire of me I will do for you” (v.38).  Unlike Shimei and Mephibosheth, Barzillai need not apologise for sins committed.  Instead, David extends his mercy through Barzillai to Chimham, now David’s new servant to enjoy the pleasant, the food, the drink, the voice of singing men and singing women (v.35).  With the threefold story of these three men, this brings chapter 19 to a close – though opening with Joab’s plea for David to love his kinsmen and not only his enemies, what we see instead is David’s act of mercy shaming the wrathful and vengeful sons of Zeruiah.  What we see instead is David embracing those who do not deserve such a great reward (v.36b), rather than embracing those who achieved victory by murdering David’s son despite his plea for mercy (2 Samuel 18:5).   

What is interesting is the internal strife of Judah and Israel; the lofty latter party who had been first persecuting David under Absalom’s name (2 Samuel 15:13) now wishes to be the first in receiving David with open arms.  Yet, in their discussions Judah had already taken action as David had swayed the heart of all the men of Judah as one man (v.14); yet the chapter is silent on Israel’s response.  Like the parable of the labourers (Matthew 20), who is last shall be first, and who is first shall be last.  Much like Jesus’ ministry in Israel causing jealousy amongst his disciples (Luke 22:24-27), so also David’s actions emulate what Christ shall do in his incarnate ministry.

2 Samuel 19: Love your enemies

2 Samuel 18: Man after God’s heart

David’s mercy is immediately compared with Absalom’s ruthlessness; where the latter wished his father to be dead, David’s first command to Joab, Abishai and Ittai is that they are to be merciful (v.4).  Yet, in the irony of Absalom’s own vanity failing him (2 Samuel 14:25-27 – v.9), whereupon he was suspended between heaven and earth (v.9b), he was murdered by three branches in Joab’s hands.  Where David desired mercy, Joab desired raw justice.  Absalom was David’s own son, whom he felt did not deserve to hang on the oak tree between heaven and earth; whom he loved dearly.  However, justice requires the sin to be paid, just as the Father had sent his beloved begotten Son to die on our behalf (John 3:16).  Though David desired such mercy, Joab understood the ramifications of providing mercy in the face of the one, when he understood that Absalom’s death would bring certain peace within Israel.  It is here that we see the sense of Christ’s painful death on the cross – a necessary though saddening act for our salvation.  That is why day two of creation was not good, as the waters were parted between the heavens; as Christ himself hung on the cross between heaven and earth on the tree, so here we see Absalom as a type of Christ’s necessary sacrifice, however painful it is for the father to bear.   

Though God is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Absalom’s line ends here.  He had no children – the only evidence left of his existence is on a pillar after his own name, called Absalom’s hand (v.18).  So also, in Christ’s death on the cross we see the wrathful judgment of the Father on the Son.  Yet, unlike us who are baptized into his death and resurrection (Romans 6), Absalom’s death on the oak is a perverted typology of Christ’s death.  Where Christ rose again, Absalom remained dead – and that is the truth for all those standing outside of Christ.  Where Christ was crucified, so also the rest of the world who stand outside of him.  Yet, Where Christ rose again, the rest will but experience their second deaths.   

And it is from v.19 onwards that we see how the news is brought to David; though Ahimaaz the priestly son brought good news of deliverance, the non-Israelite Cushite, as a second messenger, delivered the more accurate news and addressed David’s true concern.  The Cushite may have ran first (v.21), but came second in delivering the news – and though Ahimaaz was eager to share of the good news (v.23) to outrun the Cushite, his news fell on deaf ears (v.25).  In both instances, David said “Is it well with the young man Absalom” (v.29 and v.32)?   

It is important that we stand back here and look at the sparse but noteworthy participation of Gentiles in David’s army – from Ittai the Gittite who had no obligation to cling onto David, who was instead gloriously made into a commander of a third of David’s army (v.2); to the Gentile who though coming second, was able to display the fuller truth.  Here we may see an allegory of the priestly line of Ahimaaz seeing but the grander picture of Israel’s restoration under David’s kingship; yet it is in the end times after Christ’s work on the cross that the Gentiles can equally if not more fully proclaim that they have witnessed the death of Christ.   

So also, we ask – is it well with our beloved Son Christ Jesus?  In both instances, David displayed such affection for his son, and cared only secondarily for the victory of the Israelites.  David is ultimately a man of compassion, not a man of war.  How true it is in v.33 that this is Yahweh’s heart for his people, as David was a man after Yahweh’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Jeremiah 3:15; Hebrews 10:22) –  

And the king was deeply moved and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. And as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

 

What beautiful and soothing words!  And they are not words from an irresponsible king; they are not words from a king who did not seek the victory of Israel.  No – these are simply words of a father who would have rather sacrificed his own flesh rather than the flesh of his son; and here is the great gospel love of the Father and the Son portrayed back in Genesis 22: that the LORD would indeed provide the lamb for the burnt offering, though Isaac be made into a type of Christ.  Yet here is a more graphic portrayal of Absalom’s death in achieving Israel’s peace; and indeed, what true good news which both Ahimaaz and the Cushite can both preach, representing the world of Israel and the Gentiles, were they to stand under the banner of the victorious Christ who united heaven and earth in his death, resurrection and ascension. 

2 Samuel 18: Man after God’s heart