1 Kings 14: The Two Houses

1At that time Abijah the son of Jeroboam fell sick. 2And Jeroboam said to his wife, “Arise, and disguise yourself, that it not be known that you are the wife of Jeroboam, and go to(A) Shiloh. Behold, Ahijah the prophet is there,(B) who said of me that I should be king over this people. 3(C) Take with you ten loaves, some cakes, and a jar of honey, and go to him. He will tell you what shall happen to the child.”


Shiloh is within the realms of Israel, north of Bethel.  Yet, Jeroboam does not go to Shiloh himself lest he be called a hypocrite of his own religion.  Throughout the last two chapters he has established himself as a tour de force in the making of a new faith – faith in his new golden calves, as the false high priest of both Bethel and Dan.  The irony of the death of the man of God in chapter 13 is but a foretelling of the death of Jeroboam – that the wrath of God, though laid up on The Man of God His Son, is not propitiated from Jeroboam who steadfastly still refuses to say Yes in Jesus.  In fact, looking at the curse against the house of Jeroboam in v.7-16 (especially v.11) reminds us of the dignity of being buried with the Man of God, and rising in resurrection with him.  The LORD was in sovereign control over even the lion and the donkey who only served to kill the man, and in contrast, He in His sovereignty commands the death of Jeroboam’s kingdom by being fed to the dogs and birds.

4Jeroboam’s wife did so. She arose and went to(D) Shiloh and came to the house of(E) Ahijah. Now Ahijah could not see, for his eyes were dim because of his age. 5And the LORD said to(F) Ahijah, “Behold, the wife of Jeroboam is coming to inquire of you concerning her son, for he is sick. Thus and thus shall you say to her.”

When she came, she pretended to be another woman. 6But when(G) Ahijah heard the sound of her feet, as she came in at the door, he said, “Come in, wife of Jeroboam. Why do you pretend to be another? For I am charged with unbearable news for you. 7Go, tell Jeroboam, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:(H) “Because I exalted you from among the people and made you leader over my people Israel 8and(I) tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you, and yet you have not been(J) like my servant David, who kept my commandments and followed me with all his heart, doing only that which was right in my eyes, 9but you have done evil above all who were before you and have gone and(K) made for yourself other gods and(L) metal images, provoking me to anger, and(M) have cast me behind your back, 10therefore behold, I will bring harm upon the house of Jeroboam and(N) will cut off from Jeroboam every male,(O) both bond and free in Israel, and(P) will burn up the house of Jeroboam, as a man burns up dung until it is all gone. 11(Q) Anyone belonging to Jeroboam who dies in the city the dogs shall eat, and anyone who dies in the open country the birds of the heavens shall eat, for the LORD has spoken it.”‘ 12Arise therefore, go to your house.(R) When your feet enter the city, the child shall die. 13And all Israel shall mourn for him and bury him, for he only of Jeroboam shall come to the grave, because in him(S) there is found something pleasing to the LORD, the God of Israel, in the house of Jeroboam. 14(T) Moreover, the LORD will raise up for himself a king over Israel who shall cut off the house of Jeroboam today. And henceforth, 15the LORD will strike Israel as a reed is shaken in the water, and(U) root up Israel out of(V) this good land that he gave to their fathers and scatter them(W) beyond the Euphrates, because they have made their(X) Asherim, provoking the LORD to anger. 16And he will give Israel up because of the sins of Jeroboam, which he sinned and made Israel to sin.”

Indeed – how can a Jeroboam’s wife presume to feign her position before the prophet, who though had dim eyes was in fact clearer in Spiritual sight than anyone else in the kingdom of Israel?  In the words of Matthew Henry:

“Those who think by their disguises to hide themselves from God will be wretchedly confounded when they find themselves disappointed in the day of discovery. Sinners now appear in the garb of saints, and are taken to be such; but how will they blush and tremble when they find themselves stripped of their false colours, and are called by their own name: “Go out, thou treacherous false-hearted hypocrite. I never knew thee. Why feignest thou thyself to be another?’’ Tidings of a portion with hypocrites will be heavy tidings. God will judge men according to what they are, not according to what they seem.”

By the Spirit, God spoke through him such a terrible prophecy that should only remind Jeroboam of why he was blessed to lead Israel in the first place.  It is the LORD’s favour, not Jeroboam’s self-making (v.7-9); and Jeroboam’s destruction, however, is his bondage to sin and to Satan, blindly denying the LORD’s exaltation (v.7), failed to keep his commandments (shamar, שׁמר, a priestly term, though Jeroboam became a priest of other gods)(v.8), making false images (v.9).  The following verses read almost like Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 1:

“The account here given of the wickedness of the Jews agrees with that which the apostle gives of the wickedness of the Gentile world (Rom. 1:21, 24), so that both Jew and Gentile are alike under sin, Rom. 3:9. (1.) They became vain in their imaginations concerning God, and changed his glory into an image, for they built themselves high places, images, and groves (v. 23), profaning God’s name by affixing to it their images, and God’s ordinances by serving their idols with them. They foolishly fancies that they exalted God when they worshipped him on high hills and pleased him when they worshipped him under the pleasant shadow of green trees. (2.) They were given up to vile affections (as those idolaters Rom. 1:26, 27), for there were sodomites in the land (v. 24), men with men working that which is unseemly, and not to be thought of, much less mentioned, without abhorrence and indignation. They dishonoured God by one sin and then God left them to dishonour themselves by another. They profaned the privileges of a holy nation, therefore God gave them up to their own hearts’ lusts, to imitate the abominations of the accursed Canaanites; and herein the Lord was righteous. And, when they did like those that were cast out, how could they expect any other than to be cast out like them?2. See here how weak and poor they were; and this was the consequence of the former. Sin exposes, impoverishes, and weakens any people.” – Matthew Henry

And such is the declaration of God’s judgment against Jeroboam; such transparency, which though Josiah would proclaim upon Israel in the latter chapters of 2 Kings 350 years later, are but types of the global disaster and restoration of the Noahic flood and the Day of Resurrection.  No righteous posterity shall come out to Jeroboam’s womb, far from the blessing of progenitors to Abraham and David’s line.  Here, the Father’s mercy does not extend to Jeroboam for reason of his failing to keep (as Adam was commanded in Genesis 2:15), and failing to cling onto the Judaic line of Christ through David’s offspring.  V.16 describes how Jeroboam sinned “and made Israel to sin”, and such is the effect of a king who does not make promises as Christ does to His church to mutually edify and glorify (John 17:24-26).  The scattering of Israel, under the Assyrian captivity, begins here – with the false leadership of Jeroboam outside of the house of Judah, the refined line of Christ’s tree line (represented by the scattering of Israel beyond Euphrates, v.15 c.f. Isaiah 8:7; Jeremiah 2:18).

17Then Jeroboam’s wife arose and departed and came to(Y) Tirzah. And(Z) as she came to the threshold of the house, the child died. 18And all Israel buried him and mourned for him,(AA) according to the word of the LORD, which he spoke by his servant Ahijah the prophet.

19Now the rest of the acts of Jeroboam,(AB) how he warred and how he reigned, behold, they are written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Israel. 20And the time that Jeroboam reigned was twenty-two years. And he slept with his fathers, and Nadab his son reigned in his place.


Though not described in detail here, note Jeroboam’s death in 2 Chronicles 13:18-22 which displays an important comparison to 1 Kings 14:


“18Thus the men of Israel were subdued at that time, and the men of Judah prevailed,(AC) because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers. 19And Abijah pursued Jeroboam(AD) and took cities from him, Bethel with its villages and Jeshanah with its villages and(AE) Ephron[e] with its villages. 20Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah.(AF) And the LORD struck him down,(AG) and he died. 21But Abijah grew mighty. And he took fourteen wives and had twenty-two sons and sixteen daughters. 22The rest of the acts of Abijah, his ways and his sayings, are written in the(AH) story of the prophet(AI) Iddo.” – 2 Chronicles 13:18-22

Jeroboam did not recover his power in the days of Abijah: why is that?  2 Chronicles 18 reveals it plainly:  “because they relied on the LORD, the God of their fathers”.  For the first time since Solomon’s death we see reliance on the LORD, not the golden calves, not the false elohim, but the LORD struck him down and he died (v.20).  The further fulfilment of the Shilonite’s words is described in 1 Kings 15 by Baasha’s overtaking of Jeroboam’s house: but the narrator purposely left it for later description.  Instead, the focus is on the parallel between Jeroboam’s heretical rule, and Rehoboam’s similarly rebellious activity though favoured by the LORD simply because he is the heir of David’s throne.

21(AC) Now Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem,(AD) the city that the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there.(AE) His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. 22(AF) And Judah did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and they(AG) provoked him to jealousy with their sins that they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. 23For they also built for themselves(AH) high places(AI) and pillars and(AJ) Asherim on every high hill and(AK) under every green tree, 24and there were also(AL) male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations that the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.


So strange a comparison – that we see the LORD curse Jeroboam’s house so, to see the only ‘dignity’ to arise out of a death of a Christly child, almost a comparison to the death of the man of God!  Rehoboam, similarly led Judah to do what was evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to jealousy, more than all that their fathers had done (v.22).  They, too, built high places and pillars and Asherim (like Jeroboam – c.f. v.15; even the narrator makes this comparison obvious in v.24 noting that ‘they did according to all the abominations of the nations that the LORD drove out’) – but the favour and mercy upon Rehoboam is simply because he reigned over the city that the LORD has chosen out of all the tribes of Israel; that he reigns in the line of the chosen.  Who is chosen?  Christ is the Chosen and Elected One of all ages (Isaiah 42:1).  That is why Rehoboam is not cursed; his household is not cursed, even though he is born of Naamah the Ammonite, repeated twice in this chapter (v.21 & 31) – that is not a purebred.  That is the comparison the narrator is trying to make.  Would the Shilonite’s prophecy prevail not only against the house of Jeroboam, but also against Rehoboam, forever cursing the coming of the seed (Genesis 3:15)?  No – even in Abijam’s sins, even in his mixed heritage, the house of David prevails for God’s promise in David, shadowed by Christ, shall not be broken, despite our sins.  He is faithful, even when we are not (2 Timothy 2:13; c.f. 1 Kings 15:4-5).

25(AM) In the fifth year of King Rehoboam, Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. 26He took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house.(AN) He took away everything. He also took away all the shields of gold(AO) that Solomon had made, 27and King Rehoboam made in their place shields of bronze, and committed them to the hands of the officers of the guard, who kept the door of the king’s house. 28And as often as the king went into the house of the LORD, the guard carried them and brought them back to the guardroom.

This alliance between Jeroboam and Shishak is now an unholy alliance against the church of Christ (Psalm 2) – established in 1 Kings 11:40, taking away the golden treasures of the LORD.  Such is the comparison made against the prophecy in Daniel 2:32-45 to Nebuchadnezzar, the kingdom of gold subsumed by a kingdom of silver and bronze – only to be entirely consumed by the humble element – the Stone and Rock of Ages.  The Stone that became a Mountain – the theology of the mustard seed (Luke 13:19).  Though the glory of Israel seemed to dim by the theft of Shishak, the true glory remained, though dim, in the men of God like Shemaiah, like the mysterious visitor from Judah buried in Bethel, the prophet who looks forward to the prophecy concerning Josiah, and undoubtedly Ahijah himself.  These are the little seeds, sown across a rebellious nation, as the lamp still shone in the city of Jerusalem for the day when the light of the world breaks into the darkness as sunlight does to the darkest of nights.

29(AP) Now the rest of the acts of Rehoboam and all that he did, are they not written in the Book of the Chronicles of the Kings of Judah? 30(AQ) And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam continually. 31And Rehoboam slept with his fathers and was buried with his fathers in the city of David.(AR) His mother’s name was Naamah the Ammonite. And(AS) Abijam his son reigned in his place.

And so the chapter ends not on a note of negativity as one may assume, by Rehoboam and Jeroboam’s rebellion.  Rather, though the light is dim, Rehoboam is still managing the house of the LORD (v.28).  The temple is still not entirely neglected – and this is the mercy of our God through Christ’s redemptive work – that he redeems not those false priests and Pharisees of the purebred line of Israel like Jeroboam was from the house of Ephraim; but especially those of the line of David, whom David himself is a descendant of a Moabite, that Rehoboam should receive the same mercy for the beauty which Naamah the Ammoite bore is not physical – but a beauty inherited from Christ.  The chapter ends with Rehoboam keeping the commandment of the maintenance of this otherwise neglected temple, and we are reminded that he is of mixed heritage.  Yet, the LORD’s favour rests on him anyway – Romans 11.

1 Kings 14: The Two Houses

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 15: The Exiled King

A key mark of difference between Absalom and David lies in these words: “Oh that I were judge in the land!  Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice” (v.2).  Such an arrogant and self-righteous sigh was never borne on David’s lips, and yet we are presented time and time again with Absalom’s vengeful anger (2 Samuel 13:22, 28, 32), and the only spoken words are words which enforce silence (2 Samuel 13:20) – escalating to his pompous reply though David is already the king-judge.  What grand arrogance and assumption to make in v.4, when David had just redeemed Absalom into his presence in chapter 14?  Instead, Absalom led people astray, he beguiled those who came to the gate, just as the enemy has done in Genesis 3:13 – and so, Absalom in the pattern of Satan has begun to steal the hearts of the men of Israel by his words and by his physical appearance in v.5-6 (2 Samuel 14:25-26).  So Absalom sowed the seeds of his seduction which will soon unravel the great expulsion of the Israelites from their city, the king also being expelled as a result of Satan’s prideful seduction.  This conspiracy grew strong, the hearts of men no longer following David the true king of Israel, but following Absalom the wayward prince.

It is important to note that from v.14 onwards, David’s actions are not typical of what he has been consistently doing in 1 Samuel and in previous chapters.  Instead, what we see is a king protecting his people; a king who still commands people’s love – “behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king decides” (v.15).  Are these the words of a charmer?  No – these are the words of a king who is being banished from his own kingdom, and yet the church has decided to go out into exile with him our Christ (1 Peter 1:17).  Notice the parallel between v.16

(16) So the king went out, and all his household after him…

and Hebrews 13:13 –

Heb 13:13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.

Is not the church bearing the reproach of David in leaving the city?  Yet, this way only the body of Absalom and the body of David are clearly identified; only in our baptism in Christ’s death (Romans 6:4) can we avoid the second death which the deceived Israelites would ultimately experience.  And note the different groups of people who followed after David in v.18 – the Cherethites, Pelethites, Gittites.  These were groups of mercenary men who had followed David prior to his throning as king of Israel; and even in his banishment, these people continue to stay loyal to him, just as we follow Christ be Him pre-incarnate, humiliated as the man of Nazareth, nailed to the cross, or even glorified in his ascension.  These groups of people are represented ultimately in the man Ittai the Gittite, who is ‘an exile from [his] home’ (v.19), a Gittite being a man from Gath the hometown of Goliath.  Yet, instead we find a man who is with David (Ittai meaning “with me”), this non-Israelite who replies with words of allegiance:

(21) But Ittai answered the king, “As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” (22) And David said to Ittai, “Go then, pass on.” So Ittai the Gittite passed on with all his men and all the little ones who were with him.

It is significant that we observe the solemnity of the entire affair and yet the ark of God does not go into banishment with Christ.  Instead, the ark which represents the Father (c.f. Exodus 40) stays in the city as it is absolutely key for David to return upon the LORD’s favour (v.25).  Canaan is still the Promised Land; Jerusalem is still the city of peace; and this world is not destroyed entirely in favour of another one.  Instead, new creation is but a renewal of the old things (Luke 5:38): and there is thus no reason for the ark of God which bears the Ten Words and Aaron’s staff (Hebrew 9:4) to go into exile with Christ.  Rather, Christ’s return is to symbolize the bringing of the true church, His true body, with Him back into the centre of the Promised Land when Absalom and his deceived body are uprooted (Job 21:18; Psalm 1:4) and that the meek (Psalm 37:11) worthless Israelite and non-Israelite mercenaries inherit the land.  Despite the languish of David and his men, Zadok, Ahimaaz and Jonathan (v.27-28), all of the priestly line, are to remain in the city to intercede on the true Israel’s behalf – following the pattern of the Christ who, after his ascension, is currently the High Priest interceding on our behalf (Hebrews 9) in the third heavens.

This theme of David’s return to his rightful throne, implied through the LORD’s favour in v.25, is immediately prophesied in v.30 – in his ascension of the Mount of Olives, imitating the ascension of Christ in Acts 1:12 in the same place.  Yet, the time is not yet – though the priestly intercession is already portrayed by Hushai the hasty messenger and friend of David (v.37), speaking to Zadok, Abiathar and their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan who stand in the city as a firm reminder that David is to return to the city and not remain in banishment forever. And so the chapter ends with Absalom’s arrogant self-enthronement akin to the prideful Satanic cherub of Eden (Ezekiel 28), against the humiliation of David though the true bride goes with him (2 Samuel 17:3) and the false church remains in Israel.

2 Samuel 15: The Exiled King

2 Samuel 14: Wisdom, the Intercessor

The previous chapter began the theme of wisdom being ignored in the person of Tamar – and here in chapter 14 we see wisdom once again being ignored in the wise woman of Tekoa, aptly named the pitching of tents.  Yet, what is interesting is that the wise woman posed herself as a parable, like the parable of Nathan, as opposed to being actually a woman in mourning.  What is the effect of speaking in the form of a parable as planned between Joab and the woman, rather than the woman speaking first-hand from her own actual experience?  What is the effect of prophet Nathan rebuking David (2 Samuel 12) as opposed to Joab rebuking David?  The key difference lies in the understanding of Godly wisdom, as opposed to the ‘wisdom’ of Jonadab.

We have already seen wisdom being ignored in (Proverbs 8); and this is the same feminine ‘wisdom’ far different from the Sophia of Sophism.  Rather, this is the excellent wife, the excellent ish-shah of Proverbs 31:10 she is the Spirit of God, the Wisdom as the Third Person of the Trinity who has been denied by David since his fall in 2 Samuel 11 as a reflection of the first Fall in the Garden.  It is by the Spirit Who filled Joseph that he has the wisdom to reign in Egypt (Genesis 41:8, 41:38), the Spirit Who filled the architect of the tabernacle (Exodus 35), the Wisdom Whom Christ had to become and grow in (Luke 2:52; 1 Corinthians 1:30), by Whom kings rule (Proverbs 8:15).  This excellent ish-shah of Proverbs 31 and Proverbs 8 is the Holy Spirit, and it is by Her that the tents of the temple and tabernacle may be pitched forevermore.

It is therefore more potent to see the wise woman of Tekoa speaking the words of wisdom of Joab, who had conquered the city in the immediately preceding chapter instead of David who had become passive and inactive, a mere empty shell of a head, a broken mirror imagery of the Mediator.  In the persons of Nathan; Tamar; and the joint partnership of Joab and the woman of Tekoa, we have a picture of the Spirit represented in all three instances, all analogous and parallel to the Son’s rejection of the Father heavily implied and typified in David’s rejection of God.  In the Trinitarian dynamic, the Son’s rejection of the Father is in conjunction with His rejection of the Spirit on Whom He relies: in His obedient life as son of Joseph and Mary; in His resurrection from death; and in His ascension to the right hand of the Father – all are actions which prompted Christ to rely on the Spirit in order to obey the Father’s will.   Commenting on Isaiah 11v.2, Thomas Goodwin says:

The graces of Christ as man are attributed to the Spirit, as the immediate author of them; for although the Son of God dwelt personally in the human nature, and so advanced that nature above the ordinary rank of creatures, and raised it up to that dignity and worth, yet all his habitual graces which even his soul were full of, were from the Holy Ghost” (Vol. 6, pg.50).

Through Joab and the woman of Tekoa, we therefore see the Father speaking to David as the typological Son, by the ‘wise woman’ the Holy Spirit in the form of a parable (Matthew 11).

The details of the parable are laid out in v.4-11 in which David replies intermittedly, with the parable explained entirely by the woman in v.12-17, then action carried out in v.18-24.  This pattern is similar to Nathan’s discerning words in chapter 11 and Christ’s words in (Matthew 13).  In the fashion of the parable, it is the one who utters the parable (in our case, both Joab and the woman of Tekoa) who bears the greater wisdom, and the interpreter (David) who is the receiver of such wisdom.

Here, we find the woman postulating the scenario where she is a widow and her son has murdered another son and the whole clan has risen against her to give up the only son left of the man’s lineage.  In this story, we find that there are elements which apply both directly and indirectly to the story of Amnon and Absalom.  Firstly, let us distinguish these elements:

(i)                 Widow (meaning there are no more heirs);

(ii)               Two brothers;

(iii)             The brothers quarrelling and one killing the other;

(iv)             “People of the clan” rising to avenge the murdered brother; and

(v)               This ‘rejected’ murderous brother is the ‘remnant on the face of the earth’ of the widow and her now dead husband

It is clear that the two brothers refer to Amnon the murdered and Absalom the murderer; that the widow and her husband supposedly represent David’s lineage and that the “people of the clan” ironically also refer to David.  Yet, this parable is not directly parallel to the story of David and Absalom for two reasons:

(i)                 David is not ‘widowed’.  If anything, even after the death of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14), it is through Solomon that David’s lineage perpetuates;

(ii)               Absalom does not ‘quarrel’ with Amnon; if anything, Absalom kept his silence in order to pounce on Amnon when the moment is ripe (2 Samuel 13:22)

What is interesting, therefore, is that this parable seems to take inspiration not only from David’s situation but also from the first story of brotherly struggle – the struggle of Cain and Abel; and that from this story stems the story of the fraternal struggles represented in Japheth, Canaan and Shem (Genesis 9:27); Isaac and Ishmael; Jacob and Esau; Joseph and his eleven other brothers.  In these struggles, it is clear from the wise woman’s parable that though Cain, Canaan, Ishmael, Esau and the other sons of Israel are ‘rejected’ in the avenger’s eyes, the LORD still works salvation for the outcast (v.14).  Though this smells of universalism, this is a far cry from what is expressed in her parable; instead, notice the key word – “he devises “means” so that the banished one will not remain an outcast” (the Hebrew literal meaning is a ‘plan’, a ‘purpose’).  And so, in each story we see the potential redemption of Cain who receives the ‘mark’ (Genesis 4:15); in Canaan who becomes the father of those displaced in the land of Canaan though some enjoin themselves to the Israelites; in Ishmael who becomes the father of twelve princes (Genesis 17:20); in Esau the father of the Edomites, also given an opportunity to unite with the Israelites, and so forth.  Yet, this is but just a means.  The descendants of these ‘remnants’ are by no means the same as the elect Abel, Shem, Isaac, Jacob, or Joseph who stand under Christ.

Therefore, what the wise woman of Tekoa speaks of here is the redemption not of Abel, Shem, Isaac or the like; instead, she is speaking of the redemption of the one who is guilty; the redemption of the murderer; the redemption of the one truly rejected – the redemption of Saul, rather than the redemption of David.  And it is in His means that all are given an opportunity to repent and follow the LORD in the manner of the elect.  It is in His means that Cain could walk the walk of Abel; it is in His means that Canaan can partake in Shem’s blessings; it is in His means that the eleven brothers are to benefit from Joseph’s mediation (c.f. Exodus 1:8) – the reject receiving the benefit of the elect:

But to say this is to say all that we need to say about the general question of the divine will and intention for the rejected, the non-elect.  The answer can only be as follows.  He wills that he too should hear the Gospel, and with it the promise of his election.  He wills, then, that this Gospel should be proclaimed to him.  He wills that he should appropriate and live by the hope which is given him in the Gospel.  He wills that the rejected should believe, and that as a believer he should become a rejected man elected.  The rejected as such has no independent existence in the presence of God.  He is not determined by God merely to be rejected.  He is determined to hear and say that he is a rejected man elected.  This is what the elect of the New Testament are – rejected men elected in and from their rejection, men in whom Judas lived, but was also slain, as in the case of Paul.  They are rejected who as such are summoned to faith.  They are rejected who on the basis of the election of Jesus Christ, and looking to the fact that He delivered Himself up for them, believe in their election”. – Karl Barth on Election in his “Church Dogmatics”

It is in the context of this story that David is particularly moved – for the question of ‘heritage’ looms over David’s head especially since chapter 7 when the LORD said that He would bring up the Man from David’s line Who will uphold God’s temple eternally (2 Samuel 7).  This is why the image of the ‘widow’ is used – not so much that David is not a widow (nor Adam who bore another son after both Abel and Cain are removed from his presence, one through death and another through banishment), but that Absalom just as much as any other son is the potential ‘one’ to uphold God’s eternal temple.  The simple parable of a widow and two sons emphasises to us the story of election and rejection; it removes the complications of typology and shadow and magnifies the central aspect of the Bible – either we follow the line of Abraham in Christ alone, upon Whom our heritage is eternally preserved; or we follow the line of Satan and remain rejected though there is always a ‘means’ of being enjoined to the olive tree (Romans 11).  This message is made potent not only in the dichotomy of the elect and reject, but also that the elect is represented by David’s line – who is described by the woman as like the Angel of the LORD (v.17) discerning good and evil, having wisdom like the Angel of the LORD (v.20) to know “all things that are on the earth” in contrast to Adam’s failed discernment of good and evil.  This not only emphasises that David’s election is like the Angel of the LORD; that his goodness and righteousness is Christocentrically founded, and that he even bears the Angel’s wisdom and omniscience to know that it was Joab who truly spoke, and not the wise woman herself.

Yet, before we move onto David’s decree of Absalom’s ‘restoration’ from v.21 onwards, it is important to see that David is not only the type of Christ here in the parable, the type of the ‘elected’ mirrored against the banished one.  Rather, David represented both the lineage of the widow as the lineage of Abraham in Christ, as well as representing the “people of the clan” who wished to keep the banished one in a state of rejection permanently.  This is in line with what we see in David in the recent chapters – rather than a pure typological Son of God, we see a struggle in the person of David where he is both a shadow of the Son of God, like the Angel of the LORD, and he is the one who is an adulterer (2 Samuel 11:4), a murderer (2 Samuel 11:15) and a liar (2 Samuel 11:25), committing crimes in a shorter time-span of far greater gravity than what Saul or other ‘rejected’ men like Cain and Ishmael have recorded to have done:

It is David’s unexpected and startling and visible transformation into such a bull-king, corresponding to the ideal of the nation and wreaking havoc in the same nation, which is his contempt for the LORD, and his guilt in this respect means inevitably that at once and in a single action he commits the thing which God has forbidden – adultery, robbery, murder and deceit.  What would be natural for those bull-kings is absolutely unnatural for him.  For he is not at all a king of this kind.  He is king by the grace of God, and not by that of men.  The LORD is with him.  It is for him to witness to God’s kingdom, and from his throne to defend God’s throne.  He is the very one who cannot pretend to any ‘right of kings’… He can only say: ‘I have sinned against the LORD… For every step that he took along the road described in 2 Samuel 11 was an absolutely impossible step, deserving of death.  There can be no doubt that what Saul had once done along the same lines is far exceeded by what David has done here…

… And yet it is as this man that he is the king by God’s grace – as the man who in this sinfulness is utterly dependent upon the mercy and forgiveness of God, who is enabled to stand only because God stands and supports him, who has nothing to offer God except his need.  The fact that he is a man like this is not, of course, a confirmation of David’s election or kingship or office as a witness to the kingdom of God.  Saul is a man like this, too.  But it is confirmed by the fact that God does not allow His concern with him, a man like this, to waver because he is like this, but rather He intensifies His concern with him as a man like this… The faithfulness in which God glorifies Himself in David’s kingship remains, and for this reason and to this extent the election of David remains.  This is why David is always the figure of light in contrast to Saul in spite of the fact that he is a man like this…” – Karl Barth on Election in his “Church Dogmatics”

Where Saul offered the unholy sacrifice (1 Samuel 13), where Ishmael’s mother jeered at Sarai (Genesis 16:4), where Esau sold his birthright (Genesis 25:32), we have David laying with Uriah’s wife, scheming with Joab against the lawful husband and eventually having him murdered and covering it up with lies.

In actuality, through observing this struggle in David we see an even grander picture of Christ specifically when he was nailed on the cross.  David, though persecuted like Christ in his early youth (1 Samuel 17 onwards) was persecuted though he was innocent before men.  Yet, David here is in the parable the “people of the clan”, the “avenger of blood” though he is actually guilty before God and men, a faint vision of Christ as the guilty one removed from His Father’s presence on the cross!  So, in Christ, we see His election in His humiliation from the throne; we see His rejection in His death as a man who was emptied of His righteousness to bear mankind’s sins (Romans 5:19; 2 Corinthians 5:21); and in being rejected, He brought all those who are also condemned and rejected back into election by His very resurrection and ascension.  That is the means by which salvation is achieved.  By the election of Christ to be rejected; by the rejection of Christ so we may be elected.

And so, in the midst of this seemingly difficult word-play we find David restoring Absalom – but this restoration is not immediate.  Note David’s specific words in v.24 – “Let him dwell apart in his own house; he is not to come into my presence”.  Indeed, David has offered the means by which Absalom is no longer to remain in banishment – the “means” is by the very action of taking Absalom from Geshur (the bridge) to Jerusalem, the city of peace.  It is by taking this man into the ‘confines’ of the House of God, that he may witness the sacraments of God through Israel and the tabernacle as opposed to remain in banishment where the Word of God is not heard nor relished.  Yet, only within the proximity of the church is Absalom to come to faith, by hearing – and that is when Absalom can come into the presence of the king, when Absalom responds positively to the means of salvation in Jesus Christ alone.  Therefore, Absalom living apart in his own house and not coming into the king’s presence should not bear any inherent negative connotation; yet Absalom failing to respond to the king’s means of grace displays to us the picture of a banished man whose heart wishes to remain banished, remain at the walled valley and bridge – Geshur – as opposed to have his heart circumcised in the manner of peace through Christ.

This is why Absalom’s appearance is the subject of v.25-27 which is an unnatural narration to come after v.24.  Instead of expecting the prodigal son running into the arms of the father, we see an immediately vain description of how handsome Absalom looked; how “without blemish” he seemed (v.26); and how heavy his hair weighed (2 Samuel 18:9).  It would even seem that he is proud for avenging his sister (v.27), the very reason why he was banished in the first place.  This is immediately placed next to his violent act of demanding David’s presence (v.28-32), a faint predicament of what sort of charming man Absalom is to become.  It is therefore, in the face of such means by which Absalom could have truly been restored to the throne that Absalom spits in the face of such means and would rather snatch it by force and surprise, just as he had done so with Joab’s field; just as he had done so in his vengeance on Amnon.

2 Samuel 14: Wisdom, the Intercessor

2 Samuel 12: David as the two doves

Just as the truth of the fall and the history of mankind are recorded in the opening chapters of Genesis, the story of David’s fall is emblematic of the same truth in the form of actual adultery as well as spiritual adultery.  Chapter 11 saw the opening scene of David’s ‘first’ recorded sin in his biography, and chapter 12 continues in the same vein as we see the effect of sin not just in any man, but in the head of the anointed nation just as Adam was head of the race of man.  It is by looking at Adam and David that we learn to understand sin in light of Christ’s obedience to His Father, and the implications when the head has succumbed to the body, a reversal of the mystery of man and wife in Ephesians 5:22-33.

So Nathan is sent by the LORD to share the parable of the rich man who had very many flocks and herds, but would rather sacrifice a poor man’s ewe to provide for the travelling man, for the guest (v.1-4).  The message here is not simply that of exploiting the poor man’s lamb; it is both the exploitation of the poor man’s only possession, as well as the fact that they are both from the same certain city (v.1).  To the Israelite’s theocratic thinking (c.f. refuge cities in Numbers 35, jubilee in Leviticus 25), it is an offence to civilian equity to even see the rich man steal from the poor man, let alone the fact that this rich man and the poor man are one before the LORD (Galatians 3:28).  It is not as if the rich man is the lord of the poor man; it is not as if the rich man is even the king of the rich man.  The crux of the message therefore lies in the overlaying of these nuances.

What surprise it is for us to see that David would justify himself as the judge of the entire situation!  Was he not the poor man once, who was persecuted throughout a portion of his life (1 Samuel 20)?  What irony that he still speaks on behalf of the poor man when he has in fact switched places and has become the rich man who has committed theft and murder of the poor man’s daughter (v.3)!

And who is the poor man instead?  Uriah, the obedient servant who is poor in comparison to the rich king David.  Look at the LORD’s proclamation of David’s wealth provided by the LORD in v.7-9 – David was delivered consistently; he was anointed as king over Israel; he was given Saul’s house, given Saul’s wives, given the house of Israel and Judah – as if this were insufficient, the LORD continues, “I would add to you as much more”! (v.8) Do these words not echo the same words spoken to man (Matthew 6:30), to Adam?  Adam was given the kingdom of heaven and earth to rule over it!  He was made in the image of God!  He was taken from the dust outside of the Garden (Genesis 2:7) and was gracefully given all the riches of the house of Eden, all the trees, all the fruit, all kingship over the creatures and even his counter-part, the wo-man.  What would drive him to desire the one thing, the fruit of the tree of good and evil?

Yet, this is the mystery of sin – the shock and awe of understanding that sin is not something natural to us.  It should not be natural to us – because we are given all these riches, the entire kingdom of God for us to inherit.  This is the important paradigm shift we need to receive, that the world is not our oyster, because it pales so significantly to the riches provided through Christ Jesus.  Do you feel the temptation to undress a woman adulterously in your mind?  Do you feel the tug of materialistic pleasures when you walk by High Street?  Do you feel the desire to speak half-truths so to present the gospel in a ‘likeable’ and ‘acceptable’, or perhaps even ‘sensible and reasonable’ manner?  Then you have stolen the ewe from the poor man.  You are the man! (v.7) – You are Adam, who would exchange the poverty of this world for the riches which you already have.  You would rather take a poor man’s possession rather than recognise the new creation which we inherit.  What of the loyal wife, the church?  What of the golden streets of new Jerusalem?  What of the unadulterated, unsaturated purity of the gospel which is beyond sensibility, beyond mere acceptance of the world’s standards but by far the most outrageous truth this world can ever truly be shocked and awed by?  All wasted on a poor man’s ewe.

This is why the LORD reacts so angrily to David’s sin, because of the Christological implications behind the two-fold subtlety of the parable.  It is but a micro-perspective of the macro and grander cosmic temptation of Satan to the Christ (Matthew 4).  As if Satan could offer Christ anything!  Would Christ exchange the relationship between Himself and His Father for another man’s daughter, another man’s family?  Would the Triune God exchange the glory and wealth of the Triune community to thieve another relationship?

On another Christological level, the poor man’s treatment of the lamb must not be ignored for that is another important detail to the LORD’s parable through Nathan.  This poor man’s treated the lamb as everything which he had, feeding it well and loving it well (v.3), that this lamb is to even lie in the man’s bosom.  Such beautiful love is this, that we see the Father’s love for the Son portrayed (John 1:18) in this parental relationship, the Father’s love for the Lamb.

So the Christological message of the parable is twofold – the exchange of the wealth of the Triune relationship for the false kingdom of Satan which, compared to the riches of Adam, is but a poor man’s possession.  Secondly, that this raping of the poor man’s relationship with his daughter is a raping of the Father’s relationship with the Son.  Therefore, the primary thrust of the parable is supported by these two Christological meanings, that David should choose to leave the bosom of the Father to steal Bathsheba from Uriah, and that in doing so he has by equivalence destroyed the relationship between the Father and the Son portrayed between poor man and the ewe.

If not for these implications, then the LORD’s infliction of death upon David’s first son would not make sense.  For David to remove the daughter from the poor man’s embrace as equivalent to the Son leaving the Father eternally, the implication is simply death (Colossians 1:17).  If the Son were not to intercede on our behalf, if the Son were to walk His own path and become His own God just as Satan (Isaiah 14; Ezekiel 28) and Adam (Genesis 3:22) had done, then not only will we never resurrect.  We will simply return to the very chaos which David has unfolded (a return to the chaos of the abyss in Genesis 1, c.f. Jeremiah 4:23) – the implosion of the ordered universe upheld by the Logos into disordered fragments of watery nothingness.  Instead of peace, the sword shall come (v.9-10).

It is therefore important to see what unfolds from v.10-22.  The narrator opts to call Bathsheba Uriah’s wife, even though at the end of chapter 11 David had already taken Bathsheba to be his wife, thus emphasising the message of adultery and the broken intra-Trinitarian relationship implied by David’s selfish actions.  The death of the child on the seventh day, the day indicative of God’s rest (v.18) is again a mock-ironic message for David as he had fasted before the LORD for the first six days.  Even in this follow up to the LORD’s curse on David in v.11-14, the theme of reversal continues: the exchange of light for darkness, of kingdom of righteousness for the kingdom of poverty, of the ordered Triune relationship torn apart to be subsumed by chaos and darkness.  In this reversal, we also see David’s fasting and then David’s feasting, a reverse of Christ’s disciples’ feasting followed by fasting (Matthew 9:15).  In this reversal, we also see David’s son’s death on the seventh day symbolic of the final Sabbath rest; whereas, we are to anticipate the Son’s return on this important seventh day.  This is why David ceased to fast after his son’s death: for David will go to his son but his son will not return to him; whereas the disciples in the New Testament would fast after Christ’s departure for we shall not go to the Son, as He will return to us.

Thus, it is only after such a chaotic beginning of David’s first murder and adultery all within chapter 11 do we begin to say a ray of hope – found in Jedidiah (the only time referred to in Scripture as the beloved one akin to Christ: Matthew 3:17), found in Solomon, he who shall bring peace.  Only upon the death of David’s son conceived and marred with sin, will Solomon be born; where David’s first son by the adulterous Bathsheba dies, David’s second son by Bathsheba is glorified.  David’s first son followed the route of the first Adam, the first man’s story entirely typified by chapters 11 and 12; and the second Adam’s story is to be shadowed by Solomon, the type of He who was spoken of in 2 Samuel 7.

In the death of David’s first son and in the birth of his second son, the pattern of David causing death and the LORD bringing life; of David causing chaos and the LORD bringing order; of David’s first son born out of an act of adultery and the birth of Solomon through loyal wedlock, a parallel can also be found in Leviticus 14 (c.f. one bird sacrificed as the other bird is freed; in Christ we see both the sacrificed and the freed bird; in Christ we see the rejected and elected LORD):

“At any rate as they are systematised in Leviticus 14 and 16 it is obvious that the following form is common to both.  Two creatures which are exactly alike in species and value are dealt with in completely different ways.  The selection of the one for this and of the other for that treatment, seems to be a matter for the priest in Leviticus 14:15f, while lots are cast in Leviticus 16:8.  In both cases it is obvious that the selection is inscrutable, and that it is really made by God Himself.  It is also obvious with what special purpose and meaning these two acts accompany the history of Israel, and to which special moment of this history they refer as sign and testimony of the divine intention.  We obviously face the special aspect of this history according to which it is the history of the divisive divine election of this and of that man.  What these choices mean, or what it is to which the whole history of Israel points as a history of such choices, is attested by these particular rites, the witness being given a fixed and permanent form by the detailed legal regulations.

The actual treatment of the two creatures makes this even clearer.  Both Leviticus 14 and 16 say that one creature is to be used, and that the other is not to be used – or only used to the extent that it is, so to speak, solemnly and necessarily not used.  One creature is slain, that is, and the other is allowed to go free.  It is too soon to ask what is really meant by using and not using, by slaying and releasing.  It is also too soon to ask who is meant by the creature which suffers the first fate, and who by that which suffers the second.  But if we study the transaction as such in its general nature, we can hardly fail to recall the Genesis stories of Abel and Cain, Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Leah and Rachel and so on.  The ceremonies are obviously a comment on the history of Israel as a history of the differing choices, and its character as witness is fixed in the legal instruction which relate to these actions…

… It is this redemptive endurance of death as such, ordained and accomplished by God in His love for him, which is brought before his eyes in the slaughtering of the different animals on the Day of Atonement, and therefore in the slaying of the first goat, and then in the blood-sprinkling of the ark of the covenant and the tabernacle, in the sanctification of the sanctuary by the slaying of the first goat, by the total outpouring of its life as accomplished in the shedding of its blood.  Man is chosen for the Lord, and not for Azazel, not for the wilderness…

The fact that man is of himself unfitted for the service of God, and his blood valueless, is revealed in the treatment of the second animal.  His life cannot make good that which is evil by any judgment which follows him, or even by his death.  IT is not, indeed, a joyful release into freedom which is the lot of this man, but a flight into the realm of Azazel, the demon of the wilderness; his surrender to an utterly distressful non-existence, to a life which is as such no life…

Yet we must observe that the second goat is also ‘placed before the Lord’, that the treatment meted out to him and the tragic record of his unusability also form an integral part of the sign and testimony set up on the Day of Atonement.  Cain is just as indispensable as Abel, and Ishmael as Isaac.  For the grace which makes an elect man of the first can be seen only from the second, because the first, the elect, must see in the second, the non-elect, as in a mirror, that from which he was taken, and who and what the God is who was delivered from it.  It is only as one who properly belongs to that place that God has transferred him from it.  Because election is grace, the unused belonged to the used, the sacrificed goat to the goat driven into the wilderness, the non-elect to the elect…

…The ceremony described in Leviticus 14 obviously runs in exactly the opposite direction… The treatment of the first bird speaks of this necessary presupposition of his purification.  The bird is slain, its blood is shed and then made ready for what follows, as in the case of the first goat in Leviticus 16.  But this time everything really depends on what follows… The healed leper is sprinkled seven times with this blood, while simultaneously the second bird is allowed to fly away ‘into the open field’… to freedom… The purpose, and the only purpose, in the death of the one bird, the separation and reservation of the one man, is that the other may live.  But how comforting it is for all who are separated and reserved that, according to Leviticus 14, it is to the second bird, which has no part in the accomplishment of the decisive action, and which is unusable in the sense of Leviticus 16, that the benefit of the sacrifice of the first and usable bird accrues.  That which was done to the first turns to the advantage of the second… The recipient of the fruit of election is obviously for the non-elect.  How can we fail to see that Cain and Ishmael and Esau are now given yet another right than that which is remotely visible in Leviticus 16?  They are witnesses to the resurrection reflected in Leviticus 14.  The promise addressed to the men on the right hand is manifestly fulfilled in those on the left.” – Karl Barth on the doctrine of election in “Church Dogmatics”

Yet, in spite of the birth of Solomon, this is but a faint shadow of the future glory to come through David’s son and remnant of his house furthermore prophecied in the immediate placement of Solomon’s birth to David being crowned with the golden crown of the Ammonite king (v.30), a picture of the subversion of Satan’s ‘kingdom’ and the reality of it inevitably being subsumed under the headship of Christ even in the midst of David’s sin.  The victory is immanent – even in the sin of David, for it will come through Solomon.

However, this is but just a shadow.  In Joab’s taking of the city and attempting to name it after his own name as opposed to David initiating the victory (v.26-31), we continue to see the king of Israel becoming more and more passive, from the restoration of his daughter Tamar, the delayed restoration of his son Absalom, to the eventual restoration of the kingdom Israel, all woven into the tragic latter years of David’s life.  The coming chapters are therefore a continuation of the significant implications if the Son of God, King of Israel, were to really submit to sexual adultery rather than pure loyalty to his one wife and church by His obedient life to his death on the cross and subsequent resurrection and ascension.   Yet, by God’s grace in His will of Jesus Christ, even if David were to be become the figure of the slain goat and dove just like David’s first son, there will always be the typology of the free dove found in Abel, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, even in David’s contrast to Saul, and now Solomon’s contrast to David.  Therefore, in Solomon we soon find the shadow of the Son who is to build the eternal temple, who will give freedom and riches to all nations, in direct contrast to the proverb which David has become from 2 Samuel 11 onwards. 

2 Samuel 12: David as the two doves

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