1 Kings 17-18: Elijah the Baptist

We now come to life of Elijah the Tishbite.  He is undoubtedly one of the most famous prophets of the Old Testament, and most quoted saint of the Bible.  His showdown against the prophets of Baal and the constant references to him in the New Testament begs us to scrutinize Elijah’s life and understand the typology of his work in lieu of John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus’ salvific work on the cross.

 

Let us look at the various references to him throughout Scripture (my emphasis):

Malachi 4:

4 “Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel.

5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes.

6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

 

Mark 9:

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean.

11 And they asked him, “Why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?”

12 And he said to them, “Elijah does come first to restore all things. And how is it written of the Son of Man that he should suffer many things and be treated with contempt?

13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written of him.”

 

Luke 1:

13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.

14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth,

15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.

16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God,

17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

 

Luke 4:

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him.

21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?”

23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.”

24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.

25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land,

26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow.

27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.”

 

Romans 11:

1 I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin.

2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel?

3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.”

4 But what is God’s reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”

5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.

6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace.

 

John 1:

19 And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?”

20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.”

21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.”

22 So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”

23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

 

 

24 (Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.)

25 They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”

26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know,

27 even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”

28 These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.

 

James:

15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth.

18 Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.

 

It is thus clear that he was a man identified as turning the hearts of fathers to their children, the hearts of children to their fathers (Malachi 4:4-6) – the restoration of the first familial relationship between us adam, sons of God, in order for the restoration of our temporary familial relationship between ourselves and our earthly parents.  And that path shall be prepared by him, that the disobedient may turn to the wisdom of the just (Luke 1:17).  He shall come first, before Christ, to restore all things (Mark 9:12), suffering many things and treated with contempt like the Son of Man (Mark 9:13).  Elijah was a man rejected (Luke 4:24), and was sent not to the multitude of widows in Capernaum, but only to Zarephath – and his disciple Elisha only cleansed one leper out of many in that time – Naaman the Syrian (Luke 4:25-27).  In a time of despair, he did not intercede but prayed against Israel, and it is the LORD’s faithfulness that reminded him of His grace in His salvation of the spiritual Israelites (Romans 11:2-4).  John the Baptist shall walk his path, making straight the way of the LORD by the baptism of water (John 1:23-27; Luke 1:17) – and yet, Elijah’s life was ultimately characterized not by his might for he was not a bold king of Judah, nor a king of Israel.  He was a man unknown, with no explicit genealogy in 1 Kings, yet we understand him “whose God is Jehovah”, this stranger (Tishbite) among strangers in Gilead (Tishbe in Gilead).  A godly man of strange origins, characterized by his fervent life of prayer and cleansing of Israel in lieu of the kings’ failures to rid Israel of its collection of foreign altars and idols (James 5:15-18).

 

I Kings 17:

1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.”

2 And the word of the LORD came to him,

3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.

4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”

5 So he went and did according to the word of the LORD. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan.

6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook.

7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land.

 

And upon the LORD’s command, this prayer-prophet begins his path of preparing the LORD’s way not in the way of proclamation.  Nor is it done by force.  The famous prophet begins by hiding by the brook Cherith, on the east of Jordan, away from Jerusalem, the city of peace.  What trust that the LORD provided such basic means (Luke 12:27), of bread and meat and waters from the brook of cutting / piercing.  It is in this drought that we see the LORD’s way being prepared, the chosen prophet in hiding rejected from the capital city of Israel.  This is a type of that worldly famine not merely of bread, nor of water, but of hearing the words of the LORD (Amos 8:11).  Is not Ahab and Jezebel’s time exactly that, for the prophet to hide on the east of Jordan away from Joshua’s crossing (Joshua 4)?

 

8 Then the word of the LORD came to him,

9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.”

10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.”

11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.”

12 And she said, “As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.”

13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son.

14 For thus says the LORD the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the earth.’”

15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days.

16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the LORD that he spoke by Elijah.

 

What strangeness indeed, that the LORD should further command Elijah to travel towards the land where Jezebel hails (Sidon), to Zarephath, the ‘smelting place’.  By no means a safe place, Elijah thus traveled further into enemy territory, outside of the camp (Hebrews 13:13) of Israel – but even a widow in Sidon is a servant of the LORD in service to this prophet (v.9).  Not any widow – but a widow of despair (v.12), by no means of great resources but very meek and humble (v.12).  Yet, it is by the LORD, through Elijah, that the miracle of creation is performed before the widow’s eyes – that the jar of flour and the jug of oil shall neither be spent nor empty, until the day of the LORD sending rain upon the earth, representing that great filling of the word of the LORD as the waters cover the sea (Habbakuk 2:14).  This is the same LORD incarnate who spoke to the Samaritan, rejected, woman at the well, and instead of being served, He came to serve and provide the true living waters (John 4).  He is the same LORD who multiplied the provision of bread and fish (Matthew 15).

 

17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him.

18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!”

19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed.

20 And he cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?”

21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the LORD, “O LORD my God, let this child’s life come into him again.”

22 And the LORD listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.

23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.”

24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the LORD in your mouth is truth.”

 

What glory of resurrection of this widow’s son!  The type of ‘resurrection-stretching’ emulated by Elisha (2 Kings 4:34) and Paul (Acts 20:10).  Is not this resurrection future clearly understood by Elijah, that he cried and prayed (c.f. James 5) as a righteous man for the child’s life (נפש – soul) to come into him again?  Even the widow did not confirm the man’s prophethood by the miracle of the jar of flour and the jug of oil, until the definitive demonstration of the act of resurrection which could be performed by no other than God and a man of God (v.24).  Yet – note that she already recognized him as a man of God prior to the resurrection (v.18), as if the prophet came to condemn her.  Yet, Christ did not come to condemn, but to save – to confirm that what a ‘man of God’ entails is both the condemnation of those outside of Christ but the salvation of those who stand under His banner (John 3:16-18).  The truth of Elijah’s actions and words were sealed by resurrection which no false prophet could perform.

 

I Kings 18:

1 After many days the word of the LORD came to Elijah, in the third year, saying, “Go, show yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain upon the earth.”

2 So Elijah went to show himself to Ahab. Now the famine was severe in Samaria.

3 And Ahab called Obadiah, who was over the household. (Now Obadiah feared the LORD greatly,

4 and when Jezebel cut off the prophets of the LORD, Obadiah took a hundred prophets and hid them by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water.)

5 And Ahab said to Obadiah, “Go through the land to all the springs of water and to all the valleys. Perhaps we may find grass and save the horses and mules alive, and not lose some of the animals.”

6 So they divided the land between them to pass through it. Ahab went in one direction by himself, and Obadiah went in another direction by himself.

 

After three and a half years, the famine came to an end after a symbolic period of time (c.f. Daniel 7:25, 12:7; Revelation 12:14), a recognition of the coming of the LORD on His straight path.  Elijah showing himself to Ahab is the reckoning of the LORD presenting Himself as the threat to Ahab’s heresies and mock rituals of the Christian faith.  Ahab’s response was not one of repentance, but one of self-salvation (v.5), and Jezebel’s tyranny is at its height as she paves a crooked way for the prophets of the LORD (v.4).  Only Obadiah (the servant of the LORD) and Elijah, the two Christians, could work together to bring in the LORD’s salvation.

 

7 And as Obadiah was on the way, behold, Elijah met him. And Obadiah recognized him and fell on his face and said, “Is it you, my lord Elijah?”

8 And he answered him, “It is I. Go, tell your lord, ‘Behold, Elijah is here.’”

9 And he said, “How have I sinned, that you would give your servant into the hand of Ahab, to kill me?

10 As the LORD your God lives, there is no nation or kingdom where my lord has not sent to seek you. And when they would say, ‘He is not here,’ he would take an oath of the kingdom or nation, that they had not found you.

11 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here.”’

12 And as soon as I have gone from you, the Spirit of the LORD will carry you I know not where. And so, when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth.

13 Has it not been told my lord what I did when Jezebel killed the prophets of the LORD, how I hid a hundred men of the LORD’s prophets by fifties in a cave and fed them with bread and water?

14 And now you say, ‘Go, tell your lord, “Behold, Elijah is here”’; and he will kill me.”

15 And Elijah said, “As the LORD of hosts lives, before whom I stand, I will surely show myself to him today.”

16 So Obadiah went to meet Ahab, and told him. And Ahab went to meet Elijah.

 

Note Elijah’s words in v.15: he is standing before the LORD of hosts.  Obadiah, despite his fear and his deed of hiding a hundred men of the LORD’s prophets (v.12), still stood in fear.  Observe that Obadiah understands the LORD well – that by His Spirit we may be carried to where others know not where (Acts 8:39), for His Spirit works in wondrous ways with those who are fearful of His Anointed Son.

 

Elijah, however, is the man who rose a boy from the dead, and here is Obadiah a servant of the LORD fearful both of Ahab and Yahweh.  In the words of Luke, Elijah walked as one who fears the One who has authority to case into hell (Luke 12:4-5).  Elijah, and Obadiah, both need to bear the reproach of Christ when confronting Ahab (Hebrews 11:26, 13:13).  Such is the man who stood against the king of Israel, daring to label the king as the troubler of Israel clearly proclaiming that he has abandoned the LORD’s commandments and followed other lords (Baals).  It is only fitting that the contest between the one prophet (or two, including Obadiah) against 950 prophets of Baal and Asherah put together at Mount Carmel – a fruitful park of the circumcised lamb.  This is where the Lamb of God’s circumcision, the cutting of his flesh on the cross, demonstrates Elijah’s victory over those who eat at Jezebel’s table (contrast with Exodus 24:11, those who eat and drink with the LORD).

 

17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?”

18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.

19 Now therefore send and gather all Israel to me at Mount Carmel, and the 450 prophets of Baal and the 400 prophets of Asherah, who eat at Jezebel’s table.”

20 So Ahab sent to all the people of Israel and gathered the prophets together at Mount Carmel.

21 And Elijah came near to all the people and said, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.” And the people did not answer him a word.

22 Then Elijah said to the people, “I, even I only, am left a prophet of the LORD, but Baal’s prophets are 450 men.

23 Let two bulls be given to us, and let them choose one bull for themselves and cut it in pieces and lay it on the wood, but put no fire to it. And I will prepare the other bull and lay it on the wood and put no fire to it.

24 And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the LORD, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” And all the people answered, “It is well spoken.”

25 Then Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose for yourselves one bull and prepare it first, for you are many, and call upon the name of your god, but put no fire to it.”

26 And they took the bull that was given them, and they prepared it and called upon the name of Baal from morning until noon, saying, “O Baal, answer us!” But there was no voice, and no one answered. And they limped around the altar that they had made.

27 And at noon Elijah mocked them, saying, “Cry aloud, for he is a god. Either he is musing, or he is relieving himself, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and must be awakened.”

28 And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their custom with swords and lances, until the blood gushed out upon them.

29 And as midday passed, they raved on until the time of the offering of the oblation, but there was no voice. No one answered; no one paid attention.

 

Elijah understood clearly the precepts of the sacrificial bull – and demonstrates that zeal in religion is not inherently a virtue, when the object of worship is dead (v.27).  Their own custom of self-mutilation is exactly contrary to the purpose of the sacrificial bull: as if their own blood could satiate the LORD’s wrath!  These sinners could not have dared believe that their sinful blood could atone themselves!  Yet, such ravings is exactly a revelation of what their dead religion portrays – that of a dead god.  The resounding words: “No one answered; no one paid attention” (v.29).  No fire consumed the sacrifice as a testament to the Christ whom Elijah understood to have died on his behalf, without Elijah’s need to self-mutilate for the Father’s attention.

 

30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come near to me.” And all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of the LORD that had been thrown down.

31 Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, to whom the word of the LORD came, saying, “Israel shall be your name,”

32 and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD. And he made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two seahs of seed.

33 And he put the wood in order and cut the bull in pieces and laid it on the wood. And he said, “Fill four jars with water and pour it on the burnt offering and on the wood.”

34 And he said, “Do it a second time.” And they did it a second time. And he said, “Do it a third time.” And they did it a third time.

35 And the water ran around the altar and filled the trench also with water.

 

It is deliberate that Jacob is now referred to as Israel (v.31) – for the taking of the twelve stones acts as a symbolism of the unity of Israel under the LORD who gave birth to Israel as His firstborn son (Exodus 4:22).  The wood is cut in shape with the same bull in pieces, laid carefully on the wood, 12 jars of water poured onto the burnt offering and the wood.

 

Yet, note that this is a large amount of water – 12 jars for 12 tribes.  It should be noted that this rain water is exactly the subject of desire of Israel, the reason for the famine.  Now, the famine has not yet ended and there is hardly plenty of water to spare (c.f. v.41-46), suggesting once again the provision of the LORD (or the lack of) has its suggested purpose – and such miraculous provision of water is first applied on the bull, on the wood, and on the altar.  The LORD’s provision is plentiful – each painting a separate picture of Christ.  The bull as the Christ; the wood the cross; the altar built of the twelve tribes of Israel (despite the current split between Israel and Judah) – and the water as the combined judgment of the LORD by rain water (Genesis 7:4) and the provision of His Word after years of drought (c.f. Amos 8:12) – all completed on the third time (Genesis 22:4; Exodus 19:11-16).  This is no arbitrary arrangement of Christ’s crucifixion on the cross as Mount Carmel, the place of the circumcised lamb – for Elijah has done all these things at His word (v.36):

 

36 And at the time of the offering of the oblation, Elijah the prophet came near and said, “O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that you are God in Israel, and that I am your servant, and that I have done all these things at your word.

37 Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that you, O LORD, are God, and that you have turned their hearts back.”

38 Then the fire of the LORD fell and consumed the burnt offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench.

39 And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, “The LORD, he is God; the LORD, he is God.”

40 And Elijah said to them, “Seize the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape.” And they seized them. And Elijah brought them down to the brook Kishon and slaughtered them there.

 

Matthew Henry:

“He repaired this altar with twelve stones, according to the number of the twelve tribes, 31. Though ten of the tribes had revolted to Baal, he would look upon them as belonging to God still, by virtue of the ancient covenant with their fathers: and, though those ten were unhappily divided from the other two in civil interest, yet in the worship of the God of Israel they had communion with each other, and they twelve were one. Mention is made of God’s calling their father Jacob by the name of Israel, a prince with God ( 31), to shame his degenerate seed, who worshipped a god which they saw could not hear nor answer them, and to encourage the prophet who was now to wrestle with God as Jacob did; he also shall be a prince with God. Ps. xxiv. 6, Thy face, O Jacob! Hos. xii. 4. There he spoke with us…

 

…God immediately answered him by fire, 38. Elijah’s God was neither talking nor pursuing, needed not to be either awakened or quickened; while he was yet speaking, the fire of the Lord fell, and not only, as at other times (Lev. ix. 24; 1 Chron. xxi. 26; 2 Chron. vii. 1) consumed the sacrifice and the wood, in token of God’s acceptance of the offering, but licked up all the water in the trench, exhaling that, and drawing it up as a vapour, in order to the intended rain, which was to be the fruit of this sacrifice and prayer, more than the product of natural causes. Compare Ps. cxxxv. 7. He causeth vapours to ascend, and maketh lightnings for the rain; for this rain he did both. As for those who fall as victims to the fire of God’s wrath, no water can shelter them from it, any more than briers or thorns, Isa. xxvii. 4, 5. But this was not all; to complete the miracle, the fire consumed the stones of the altar, and the very dust, to show that it was no ordinary fire, and perhaps to intimate that, though God accepted this occasional sacrifice from this altar, yet for the future they ought to demolish all the altars on their high places, and, for their constant sacrifices, make use of that at Jerusalem only. Moses’s altar and Solomon’s were consecrated by the fire from heaven; but this was destroyed, because no more to be used. We may well imagine what a terror the fire struck on guilty Ahab and all the worshippers of Baal, and how they fled from it as far and as fast as they could, saying, Lest it consume us also, alluding to Num. xvi. 34.”

 

Thus is the confirmation that the LORD is a consuming fire indeed (Deuteronomy 4:24, 9:3; Isaiah 33:14; Lamentations 2:3; Hebrews 12:28-29).  He is also the visible LORD, the Son of God and the Angel who appeared to Moses in a flame of fire of a bush not consumed.  This fire is the same wrath the Father bore against the Son in propitiation of our sins, and all those who stood outside of the sacrifice were slaughtered at the bottom of Mount Carmel.  They were themselves circumcised, fulfilling the shadow of their own demise.  In their self-mutilation, nothing was further from pronouncing the same judgment upon themselves.  Even the final cry of “the LORD, he is God” no longer beckons the same response from the LORD as His favour towards a saint like Elijah – for He never knew them (Matthew 7:21).

 

41 And Elijah said to Ahab, “Go up, eat and drink, for there is a sound of the rushing of rain.”

42 So Ahab went up to eat and to drink. And Elijah went up to the top of Mount Carmel. And he bowed himself down on the earth and put his face between his knees.

43 And he said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” And he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go again,” seven times.

44 And at the seventh time he said, “Behold, a little cloud like a man’s hand is rising from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, lest the rain stop you.’”

45 And in a little while the heavens grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a great rain. And Ahab rode and went to Jezreel.

46 And the hand of the LORD was on Elijah, and he gathered up his garment and ran before Ahab to the entrance of Jezreel.

 

Thus the chapter ends with what has already been confirmed – “the hand of the LORD was on Elijah” (v.46), the same hand that rose from the sea (v.43-44) for there is now the sound of the rushing of rain (v.41).

 

 

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1 Kings 17-18: Elijah the Baptist

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 7: The law for Adam

This chapter then brings us, after the joyous return of the ark of the covenant, to the LORD’s explanation of all these things.  In the words of God we hear that what we have witnessed thus far from the building of the tabernacle onwards to be everything but shadows (v.6), for the tabernacle is but a temporary dwelling place.  The true ‘house’ to be built could not possibly be one built by human hands (v.7).  v.12-13 immediately tells us who this person is.  “He shall come from your body” (v.12), “He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever”, (v.14) “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son… when he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, (v.15) but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul… (v.16) Your throne shall be established forever.”

Although it is true that Solomon is the one who builds the temple of God (see 1 Chronicles), it is important that we note the internal contradiction of the LORD’s words if He was to elect Solomon over David.  The LORD’s fundamental reason for not dwelling in a house is because it is built not by judges, not even by the first anointed king of Israel, but by The Appointed One.  It is easy to then assume that this ‘offspring’ is the immediate son of David.  Yet, v.12 is to precede v.16 – this ‘man’s’ kingdom must be established forever before David’s throne can inherit that same blessing.  Solomon may accord blessing to David’s name as his son, but Solomon’s kingdom – like any human’s – was of a limited capacity.  With these internal issues regarding v.6-16, it would be difficult to suggest that this prophetic utterance is primarily about Solomon, when it is more suitably applicable to Jesus our Christ.  Adam Clarke in particular looks at the Hebrew of v.14 which may otherwise be misleading in understanding the Christological focus of this chapter:

“…the Hebrew words do not properly signify what they are now made to speak. It is certain that the principal word, בהעותו  behaavotho, is not the active infinitive of kal, which would be בעותו, but העות from עיה is in niphal, as הגלות from גלה. It is also certain that a verb, which in the active voice signifies to commit iniquity, may, in the passive signify to suffer for iniquity; and hence it is that nouns from such verbs sometimes signify iniquity, sometimes punishment. See Lowth’s Isaiah, p, 187, with many other authorities which shall be produced hereafter. The way being thus made clear, we are now prepared for abolishing our translation, if he commit iniquity; and also for adopting the true one, even in his suffering for iniquity. The Messiah, who is thus the person possibly here spoken of, will be made still more manifest from the whole verse thus translated: I will be his father, and he shall be my son: Even in His Suffering for Iniquity, I shall chasten him with the rod of men, (with the rod due to men), and with the stripes (due to) the children of Adam. And this construction is well supported by Isa_53:4, Isa_53:5 : He hath carried Our Sorrows, (i.e., the sorrows due to us, and which we must otherwise have suffered), he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. See note, p. 479, in Hallet, on Heb_11:26. Thus, then, God declares himself the Father of the Son here meant; (see also Heb_1:5); and promises that, even amidst the sufferings of this Son, (as they would be for the sins of others, not for his own), his mercy should still attend him: nor should his favor be ever removed from this king, as it had been from Saul. And thus (as it follows) thine house (O David) and thy kingdom shall, in Messiah, be established for ever before Me: (before God): thy throne shall be established for ever. Thus the angel, delivering his message to the virgin mother, Luk_1:32, Luk_1:33, speaks as if he was quoting from this very prophecy: The Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David, and he shall reign over the house of Jacob For Ever: and of his kingdom there shall be no end. In 2Sa_7:16, לפניך  lephaneycha, is rendered as לפני  lephanai, on the authority of three Hebrew MSS., with the Greek and Syriac versions; and, indeed, nothing could be established for ever in the presence of David, but in the presence of God only.”

What amazement!  The Son is here clearly preached, to exist (as opposed to the emphasis on the future tense in this verse) in relationship with his Father (v.14).  “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son” should instead be likely to be read as “I exist (hayah היה) to him as a father, and he exists to me as a son”.  So I continue in a similar vein to Adam Clarke’s observations:
Having thus shown that the words fairly admit here the promise made to David, that from his seed should arise Messiah, the everlasting King; it may be necessary to add that, if the Messiah be the person here meant, as suffering innocently for the sins of others, Solomon cannot be; nor can this be a prophecy admitting such double sense, or be applied properly to two such opposite characters. Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of Himself, or of Some Other man? This was a question properly put by the Ethiopian treasurer, (Act_8:34), who never dreamed that such a description as he was reading could relate to different persons; and Philip shows him that the person was Jesus only. So here it may be asked, Of whom speaketh the prophet this? of Solomon, or of Christ? It must be answered, Of Christ: one reason is, because the description does not agree to Solomon; and therefore Solomon being necessarily excluded in a single sense, must also be excluded in a double. Lastly, if it would be universally held absurd to consider the promise of Messiah made to Abraham as relating to any other person besides Messiah; why is there not an equal absurdity in giving a double sense to the promise of Messiah thus made to David?

This message about the prophecy of the Son of God as opposed to the mere son of David, Solomon, is further consolidated in David’s response.  Not to only highlight the fact that Israel is such a special nation (v.23) as to be redeemed in the Elect One, there is an indication that Israel is the only nation which the LORD has redeemed for Himself (v.23-24) – a strong reason why Paul uses continually the imagery of Israel as the universal and global church in the spiritual sense, that even Gentiles can be called as children of Abraham and partake in the same olive tree which naturally bears the branches of physically born Israelites (Romans 9-11).  David here, therefore, understands that it is not purely his own house that is being blessed.  He understands that the importance of his own righteousness and salvation could only be established by the foundation of “his” eternal household.  “And now, O LORD God, confirm forever the word that you have spoken concerning your servant and concerning his house, and do as you have spoken” (v.25).  Thus, this promise of the Appointed One, the words about the eternal household, about servanthood – none of these are to do with David.  None of these are to do with Solomon.  They are to do with the Christ in whom David places his trust.  The Hebrew of v.19 shows that the LORD is not interested in establishing a kingdom, as if He has not shown enough of that through the temporary nature of the types of Christ, be that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Joshua, the judges, David, or even Solomon.  The progressive revelation is that these men, though exalted by God, was never meant to be the heads of the kingdoms – rather, as v.19 shows – “You have spoken also of your servant’s [Jesus’] house for a great while to come, and this is instruction for mankind“.

David knows that this fulfillment will not be immediate; but not only that, this is instruction for the race of adam, for mankind – it is a blessing which has been explicitly voiced in Genesis 3:15 – a blessing for Adam and all those who are born after him, and in the words of Adam Clarke thus we see that David’s conscious faith as a Christ-follower shines as an example to all the Israelites who oftentimes had faith in David rather than His Christ:
“From David’s address to God, after receiving the message by Nathan, it is plain that David understood the Son promised to be The Messiah: in whom his house was to be established for ever. But the words which seem most expressive of this are in this verse now rendered very unintelligibly: And is this the manner of man? Whereas the words וזאת תורת האדם  vezoth torath haadam literally signify, and this is (or must be) the law of the man, or of the Adam; i.e., this promise must relate to the law or ordinance made by God to Adam, concerning the seed of the woman; the man, or the second Adam; as the Messiah is expressly called by St. Paul, 1Co_15:45, 1Co_15:47. This meaning will be yet more evident from the parallel place, 1Ch_17:17, where the words of David are now miserably rendered thus: And thou hast regarded me according to the estate of a man of high degree; whereas the words וראיתני כתור האדם המעלה  ureithani kethor haadam hammaalah literally signify, and thou hast regarded me according to the order of the Adam that Is Future, or The Man that Is from Above: (for the word המעלה  hammaalah very remarkably signifies hereafter as to time, and from above as to place): and thus St. Paul, including both senses – The Second Man Is the Lord from Heaven – and Adam is the figure of him that was to come, or the future, Rom_5:14. – See the Preface of the late learned Mr. Peters on Job, referred to and confirmed as to this interesting point in a note subjoined to my Sermon on A Virgin Shall Conceive, etc., P. 46-52, 8 vo. 1765. A part of that note here follows: ‘The speech of David (2Sa_7:18-29) is such as one might naturally expect from a person overwhelmed with the greatness of the promised blessing: for it is abrupt, full of wonder, and fraught with repetitions. And now what can David say unto thee? What, indeed! For thou, Lord God knowest thy servant – thou knowest the hearts of all men, and seest how full my own heart is. For thy word’s sake – for the sake of former prophecies, and according to thine own heart – from the mere motive of thy wisdom and goodness, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them. I now perceive the reason of those miraculous providences which have attended me from my youth up; taken from following the sheep, and conducted through all difficulties to be ruler of thy people; and shall I distrust the promise now made me? Thy words be true. If the preceding remarks on this whole passage be just and well grounded, then may we see clearly the chief foundation of what St. Peter tells us (Act_2:30) concerning David: that being a prophet, and Knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him, that of the fruit of his loins, according to the flesh, he would raise up Christ to sit on his throne; he, seeing this before, spake of the resurrection of Christ, etc.’” – Adam Clarke

2 Samuel 7: The law for Adam

2 Samuel 5: David as King of Kings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Samuel 5: David as King of Kings

1 Samuel 29: Israel was never rejected

The name “Gath” indicates winepress; and it is at this winepress that David is truly fighting on behalf of Israel.  In chapter 29, we see David urging Achish to take him to the military campaigns so that he may “know what [his] servant can do”.  What, indeed, can David do at the winepress?  Isaiah 63:

1 Who is this who comes from Edom,

in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,

he who is splendid in his apparel,

marching in the greatness of his strength?

It is I, speaking in righteousness,

mighty to save.

2 Why is your apparel red,

and your garments like his who treads in the winepress?

3 I have trodden the winepress alone,

and from the peoples no one was with me;

I trod them in my anger

and trampled them in my wrath;

their lifeblood spattered on my garments,

and stained all my apparel.

4 For the day of vengeance was in my heart,

and my year of redemption had come.

5 I looked, but there was no one to help;

I was appalled, but there was no one to uphold;

so my own arm brought me salvation,

and my wrath upheld me.

6 I trampled down the peoples in my anger;

I made them drunk in my wrath,

and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.

7 I will recount the steadfast love of the LORD,

the praises of the LORD,

according to all that the LORD has granted us,

and the great goodness to the house of Israel

that he has granted them according to his compassion,

according to the abundance of his steadfast love.

8 For he said, Surely they are my people,

children who will not deal falsely.

And he became their Savior.

9 In all their affliction he was afflicted,

and the angel of his presence saved them;

in his love and in his pity he redeemed them;

he lifted them up and carried them all the days of old.

Indeed, David is the LORD who tread the winepress alone.  Whilst he fought against the enemies of God akin to the Christ who was persecuted by His own people, so also Achish would have been led to his own demise if David was to stay with the group.  We can see that his reputation precedes him – “how can this fellow reconcile himself to his lord?  Behold it not be with the heads of the men here?”  Truly, this is the same David whom Achish had once considered a madman despite his grand repute of defeating 10,000 over Saul’s 1000.  Yet, even the great Achish had to admit that David is as blameless as an angel of God (v.9), pronouncing David’s likeness to Christ the true Angel.

And throughout this chapter, we see God’s hand of providence guiding David back to Israel in the great exchange between the proverbial resurrection of David in exactly the same momentum as Saul and his children’s death by the hands of the Philistines.  So that David is not forced to engage with his own men, God had guided David to the throne of Israel as the Redeemer of His chosen nation despite the death of the king and his family (Jonathan, who would have become the next king in line).  Instead of Jonathan, the typological John the Baptist, stepping in to fill the regal role, we have David the Son of Man essentially assimilated back into Israel and accepted as the king of Judah in the second chapter of 2 Samuel.  The question which the Philistinian lords asked now has an apparent answer:  it is indeed true that the only way Jesus is to reconcile Himself to LORD the Father is by cutting off the heads of the men here, the men of Gath and Philistine who stand under the headship of Satan.  David’s plan is to cut off the head of Achish and all those surrounding Gath, their lifeblood splattered on all their garments.  What blindness this Achish is to see David as beautiful as a sent one of God, and yet they continued up to Jezreel (where God will, ironically, sow such wrath upon the Philistines not through Saul but through David) as David returned to Ziklag.

It is important that we see David returning to Israel before the defeat of the Philistines, for our Christ will not forever don the robes of beggars or sit humbly on the carpenter’s chair.  His glory is not fully displayed in his humility alone – but in the full package of his humiliation and ascension, the Father sending His Son and restoring His Son to His right hand.  In His ascension to the throne of Judah, so also the worthless men ascend to become full of worth; and as the king of Judah, the Satan can not dare call Jesus his servant as if the Christ would bow down to the fallen angel (Matthew 4).

Yet, the picture of redemption is not augmented until chapter 30.  Where chapter 29 highlighted, in the eyes of the Philistinian lords, the omen that is David – in chapter 30, we see David once again pursuing the Amalekites as he had done in chapter 27.  The Son of Man who, in his exile, was still pursuing the enemies of Israel as the house of Saul is coming to an end; just as the house of Samuel had superceded the house of Eli and his children.  Thus, chapters 27 to 31 are collectively one turning point which builds on the theme of the recapitulation of the kingdom of Christ from shadow to flesh, from dust to new creation body, from Israel to spiritual Israel, from king of Israel to the King of the world, from Eli to Samuel, from Saul to David, from Israel to Christ the Head of Israel.   Yet, the old must pass in order for the new to come (Matthew 9:17).

1 Samuel 29: Israel was never rejected

1 Samuel 28: Brought up by the Mediator

In the strange exchange between Achish and David, we are given an insight into Christ’s work in relation to the enemy, Satan.  David had already met Achish once before (1 Samuel 21), feigning as a madman, David himself aware of how famous he is in Gath.  Not once, but twice, David has managed to appear as a fool before Achish, the last verses of chapter 27 exposing Achish’s gullible thought:  “He has made himself an utter stench to his people Israel; therefore he shall always be my servant”.  Yet, although David may currently appear to have been removed from his people Israel, and from his LORD God of Israel, his heart is still that of the Anointed Elect One who cut off the head and mediator of Gath.

The irony of chapter 28 is therefore that of the Anointed One currently being on the side of the Philistines feigning as their servant; contrary to Saul who, though being on the side of Israel, actually commits to sinning.  David of Gath fighting for Israel, and Saul of Israel whose heart is akin to the men of Gath.  The irony is further amplified given that the whole chapter (alongside chapter 29) represents the death and resurrection of the Christ – that He appeared to have been bound in death to Satan in His own death on the cross, though soon to return to Israel as the true king upon being released from his ‘apparent’ service to Achish.  It is this period of the apparent “death” of David that Saul should go to call up another dead man, Samuel – but that is not the focus.  The focus is that Saul should go to another medium, another mediator, besides that of Jesus Christ.  Instead of going to the rejected mediator David, he went to another rejected mediator – rejected from Israel not because it is pleasing in the LORD’s eyes like David’s temporary rejection, but because it is a sin as explicitly recorded in Deuteronomy 18:11 not to seek the wisdom of such mediums.

What stupidity it is for Saul to seek wisdom from Samuel through a false medium!  His inquiry of the LORD through dreams, Urim and the prophets is compared to David’s inquiry of the LORD through the ephod – the garb of the priest (chapter 30:7).  How different it is that David should inquire as a priest of God, as opposed to Saul who failed to go through the priestly mediator?  Saul who had only turned to these elements, and even to Samuel who had already died, for the sake of fleshly victory over the Philistines – the Saul of War (1 Samuel 14:52)?  How different this is to David who “strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (chapter 30:6) that Saul, instead of strengthening himself in the LORD before inquiring (just as David had done in chapter 30), was afraid of men and trembled because of men (Luke 12).

Though it is unimportant whether it is truly Samuel who appeared before him as an apparition, the same message is preached throughout the book so far – that Saul is to serve David the true king.  V.16 is express enough – the LORD has rejected Saul, for the LORD has become Saul’s enemy; the LORD has torn the kingdom from Saul’s hand and given it to David (v.17), David who has been destroying the Amalekites (chapter 27:8) as a resident of Ziklag whilst Saul’s mercy against his enemy is seen as a compromise which no Israelite king should make.

Yet, there is still some necessity to focus on the interesting nature of the medium of En-dor and what exactly it is she saw.  Unlike 1 Kings 22:20 where we see a spirit acting as an evil agent before the LORD to cause the fall of Ahab, instead we should look at the language used by the woman – “Whom shall I bring up for you? (‘alah עלה– to ascend, to rise up)” as if the woman has power to bring up anyone from the dead, from the earth (c.f. Psalm 71:20) when it is our LORD Christ who was brought up and risen from the earth, not by the woman but by the Father and the Sprit.  What is most interesting is that this woman saw “gods” (the ESV renders it as ‘a god’ though the Hebrew uses the word Elohim, the plural singular used to describe God in Genesis 1) rising out of the earth and yet He is an old man coming up, wrapped in a robe.  The question which arises is, whether Saul has been sanctified and glorified like the Christ?  There is no indication that this is Satan masquerading as an angel of light for Satan does not speak the word of truth about the tearing of the kingdom from Saul’s grips.  It would seem as if Samuel, now sitting in the midst of the communion of the Triune God, rises like the creator God himself from the earth (though it was Christ who first rose from the dead); and his proclamation concerning Saul and his sons’ death is supposedly a joyous proclamation, though the army of Israel is given into the hand of the Philistines.  Saul, and all people, would have known that this mighty priest by whose name the book is labelled after is sitting in the midst of Yahweh as opposed to ‘fellowshipping’ with the enemy Satan.  For Samuel to proclaim that Saul and his sons will be with Samuel, furthermore that Samuel is shrouded with the glory of God himself, should be enticing to Saul.

Therefore, the true heart of Saul is revealed in his mourning – not for his people, but for his own earthly kingdom which was ripped from his hands and placed firmly under the headship of David, the typological Christ.  Instead of meditating upon the kingdom of righteousness and the true kingdom of heaven (Matthew 6:33), he sought to establish earthly victory and earthly power.  And this is the true exchange of the chapter – that David shall return to Israel as part of Israel’s restoration, whilst Saul and his sons shall die by the hands of the Philistines, though they have the option of fellowshipping with Samuel in the kingdom of heaven.  Should not Saul mourn for his people as opposed to his earthly predicament?  Why should he ‘obey’ the heretical medium (v.22) when he should be worshipping the true mediator who shrouded Samuel with glory and is the True Man who will bring all of us up out of the earth?  Why should he be forced to eat, when he should be fasting and praying to the LORD for forgiveness, the LORD who can remove transgressions (Psalm 103:12)?

1 Samuel 28: Brought up by the Mediator

1 Samuel 21: Living paradox

When we come to chapters 21 and 22, we are faced with an ethical split over David’s “lie” to Ahimelech, the priest of the tabernacle.  Was David’s “lie” justified, in order that he may eat consecrated bread to fill his hunger?  Surely not, since David’s “lie” led to Ahimelech’s death!  (chapter 22v.16, c.f. chapter 22v.22 – where we see David’s sorrow over himself occasioning (סבב sabab – to bring about / around) the death of the priests).

Yet, upon the recounting of this piece of history, Jesus looks upon David’s actions favourably in comparison to the strict law concerning the bread of presence.  “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” (Matthew 12:7), as “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27), in order “to save life” (Luke 6:9).  What is also important to note is that though Ahimelech said to David, “Why are you alone and no one with you” in v.1, what he meant by that is why David was not with men who served in Saul’s courts.  There are indeed companions, as recounted in the gospels by Jesus (as well as implied in David asking for five loaves of bread (v.3), and Ahimelech’s response about the holiness of the young men who stand before him (v.4-5)); and these men along with David were hungry.  They did not seek for food in the wilderness, but sought for holy bread in the house of God.  It is here that we find the direct contrast between the mercy of God, so that men are saved; and the tyranny of Saul, in enforcement of the law.  The law pointed towards faith and grace in the Christ found by David eating the bread of presence which represented the Anointed One in the Holy Place; and by Christ could David and his companions live in grace.  Yet, Saul lived by the twisting of the law, tyrannising those who could not abide with it strictly, as we shall see in chapter 22.

It is interesting how it is noted that Doeg the Edomite was detained at the house of God.  Was he praying there?  Was he fasting?  Was he serving the Levites?  It is implied by the verb that he was restrained, detained.  Where Doeg did not seem to go to the house of God out of his own volition or out of an act of holiness, we have David seeking refuge firstly in Samuel, and now secondly in Ahimelech, knowing that it is in the priests that he finds living bread.  Where Doeg sided with Saul and wished to persecute his very Saviour (as Doeg was undoubtedly indebted to David’s great saving work by defeating Goliath) in the spirit of Judas, so we see here how David did not rely on his great sword of Goliath to cut his way through Achish.  Instead, we see him being treated like a madman – and in the words of Achish – “Do I lack madmen, that you have brought this fellow to behave as a mad-man in my presence?”

The key verb here is behave.  In the Hebrew, it seemed that Achish understood David to have “played” the madman – meaning, David was not really mad.  Yet, to Achish, that is what he seemed.  Similarly, Doeg did not seem to read the situation between David and Ahimelech, for David kept the truth from Ahimelech, perhaps to protect Ahimelech from being held guilty before Saul – a likely possibility, given that David was unwilling to even have Jonathan pit against his own father (v.10).  It is thus in the spirit and correlation of this theme that chapters 20 and 21 are written.  Those who stand outside of Christ are not brought to understand or listen to the truth of the rejected king; those who stand outside of Christ are seething with murder (c.f. Doeg’s report to Saul and his subsequent murder of the priests in chapter 22); surrounded by madmen (like Achish); unable to perceive the status of this true but persecuted king who has already been anointed by Samuel.

It is therefore more likely for David who have placed fear in the heart of Achisch, as opposed to being afraid of Achish; v.11 would lead to this thinking, for the Philistines should fear this man who has induced fear into the Philistine hearts.  And it is not by the weapon of war, the weapon of Satan, that David speaks the truth; like our Christ who spoke in non-understandable parables (Matthew 13:13), David behaved like a madmen before them – the same manner in which Christ was reduced to before Pontius Pilate (Matthew 27).

Therefore, this chapter comes to enable us to understand three fundamental points: that David and his companions are fed by the bread of presence, the Bread of Life, Jesus Christ Himself; it is by His grace that refuge can be found in the tabernacle, where we see that the bread is but a shadow of Christ and in itself but a mere piece of bread.  Secondly, the LORD’s enemies do not perceive David’s hearts; that even though Ahimelech may not understand David’s ploy, Ahimelech understands David’s heart and is merciful towards him for that reason alone (c.f. chapter 22v.14-15) – in direct contrast with Saul, Doeg and Achisch’s comparable madness, their lack of relationship with the priesthood of Israel, the true king of Israel against the Spirit-less kings of both Israel and Gath.  Thirdly, David did not actively seek companions to rise up against Saul; he kept the matter to heart and did not wish for Ahimelech to be involved in ‘conspiring’ for David.

That is why Jesus looked upon David’s actions as a favourable example of the law being debilitated if the gospel is not inherently attached with it; the law cannot be apart from the mercy of the gospel love in Christ Jesus.  David perfectly portrayed this, his identity of the Anointed One taking refuge in the House of God against the identity of those who are not anointed, whom the Spirit has left (like Saul), against the house of Gath.  David desired mercy, and had few companions; Saul’s men were even at the house of God, and the nation of Gath filled with madmen.  David instilled fear into the hearts of all men as his words fell on deaf ears as he behaved like a madman himself and his righteous actions ignored by his neighbours.  What glory Doeg had witnessed, to see David feeding his companions!  Yet this picture of compassion did not strike Doeg as a starking contrast to the tyrannical nature of his lord Saul (1 Samuel 14).  Did not David carry the blade of Goliath while he instilled fear into the heart of Achisch?  Yet, he did not carry out murder; he left condemnation in the hand of God (Romans 12:20).

Being rejected from Israel; and not belonging in the house of Gath.  Holding the sword of Goliath, yet withholding murder.  Compassion to his companions, yet breaking the law of the bread of presence; making a covenant of love and relationship with the prophet Samuel and the priest Ahimelech and the brother Jonathan, yet becoming the enemy of the powerful Israelite and Philistine kings; and straddling in between heaven and earth is our Christ, the living paradoxical God-man.  In the words of Karl Barth in his “Dogmatics in Outline”:

…But since within this world there really exist an above and a below confronting one another, since in every breath we take, in every one of our thoughts, in every great and petty experience of our human lives heaven and earth are side by side, greeting each other, attracting and repelling each other and yet belonging to one another, we are, in our existence, of which God is the Creator, a sign and indication, a promise of what ought to happen in creation and to creation – the meeting, the togetherness, the fellowship and, in Jesus Christ, the oneness of Creator and creature.

This fellow, indeed, shall not go into Gath’s house (v.15) – but he should walk into the House of God, that sanctuary, in the land of Nob – the land of fruit in vicinity of Jerusalem.  It is therefore in between the two destinations of Gath and Saul’s house where David finds his true home in the house of peace, the house of Yahweh; he is the man seen as crazy, he is the man who is rejected – yet he is the man under whom that men from both houses shall be united.

1 Samuel 21: Living paradox