1 Kings 4: The Age of Solomon

1King Solomon was king over all Israel, 2and these were his high officials: Azariah the son of Zadok was(A) the priest; 3Elihoreph and Ahijah the sons of Shisha were secretaries;(B) Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder; 4(C) Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of the army;(D) Zadok and Abiathar were priests; 5Azariah the son of Nathan was over(E) the officers; Zabud the son of Nathan was priest and(F) king’s friend; 6Ahishar was in charge of the palace; and(G) Adoniram the son of Abda was in charge of(H) the forced labor.

The chapter begins with a bold declaration – “King Solomon was king over all Israel” (v.1).  There has been no king who began his reign over all Israel; even David was king over Judah for seven and half years (2 Samuel 2:11) before he was made king over Israel as well.  Yet, the chapter does not stop there to awe us – it continues with a recounting of Solomon’s closest aides which are very different from David’s mighty three or the thirty (2 Samuel 23).  We have the one who hears the LORD, son of he who is just (Azariah, son of Zadok); we have the friend of Jehovah (Ahijah); the LORD is judge (Jehoshaphat); made by the LORD (Benaiah); brother of song (Ahishar), along with the LORD most high (Adoniram).  These are but a few of the names of the eleven high officials.

Their roles are not that of war or conflict – their roles are purely administrative and useful in building up a kingdom rather than destroying another’s.  Note also the number of priests / prophets or relation to priesthood and prophethood mentioned also in these opening six verses: Azariah, Zadok, Abiathar, Azariah son of Nathan the prophet, and Zabud the priest, son of Nathan as well.  Such a peaceful Christocracy this is, befitting of the name Solomon, in contrast with Rehoboam who does not heed the counsel of the old and wise (1 Kings 12):

“The great officers of his court, in the choice of whom, no doubt, his wisdom much appeared. It is observable, 1. That several of them are the same that were in his father’s time. Zadok and Abiathar were then priests (2 Sam. xx. 25), so they were now; only then Abiathar had the precedency, now Zadok. Jehoshaphat was then recorder, or keeper of the great seal, so he was now. Benaiah, in his father’s time, was a principal man in military affairs, and so he was now. Shisha was his father’s scribe, and his sons were his, v. 3. Solomon, though a wise man, would not affect to be wiser than his father in this matter. When sons come to inherit their father’s wealth, honour, and power, it is a piece of respect to their memory, cæteris paribus—where it can properly be done, to employ those whom they employed, and trust those whom they trusted. Many pride themselves in being the reverse of their good parents. 2. The rest were priests’ sons. His prime-minister of state was Azariah the son of Zadok the priest. Two others of the first rank were the sons of Nathan the prophet, v. 5. In preferring them he testified the grateful respect he had for their good father, whom he loved in the name of a prophet.” – Matthew Henry

7Solomon had twelve officers over all Israel, who provided food for the king and his household. Each man had to make provision for one month in the year. 8These were their names: Ben-hur, in(I) the hill country of Ephraim; 9Ben-deker, in Makaz, Shaalbim, Beth-shemesh, and Elonbeth-hanan; 10Ben-hesed, in Arubboth (to him belonged Socoh and all the land of Hepher); 11Ben-abinadab, in all(J) Naphath-dor (he had Taphath the daughter of Solomon as his wife); 12Baana the son of Ahilud, in(K) Taanach, Megiddo, and all Beth-shean that is beside Zarethan below Jezreel, and from Beth-shean to Abel-meholah, as far as the other side of Jokmeam; 13Ben-geber,(L) in Ramoth-gilead (he had(M) the villages of Jair the son of Manasseh, which are in Gilead, and he had(N) the region of Argob, which is in Bashan, sixty great cities with walls and bronze bars); 14Ahinadab the son of Iddo, in Mahanaim; 15Ahimaaz, in Naphtali (he had taken Basemath the daughter of Solomon as his wife); 16Baana the son of Hushai, in Asher and Bealoth; 17Jehoshaphat the son of Paruah, in Issachar; 18(O) Shimei the son of Ela, in Benjamin; 19Geber the son of Uri, in the land of Gilead,(P) the country of Sihon king of the Amorites and of Og king of Bashan. And there was one governor who was over the land.

The government was not only led by the finest people from the line of priests and prophets, symbolizing the rest from Saul and David’s days of war (1 Samuel 14:52; 1 Chronicles 22:8) but it is also led by twelve officers who each provided for one month in the year (v.7) to Solomon’s household.  Note however the difference between these twelve officers compared to the eleven high officials.  We have the son of a viper (Ben-hur); a lancer (Ben-deker); a son of kindness (Ben-hesed); a son of nobleness (Ben-abinadab); a son of affliction (Baana); a brother of anger (Ahimaaz); not to mention the strong man Geber.  This is but a palette swap of such twelve officers in comparison with the eleven officials.  Note how they are of such stark contrast; the highest officials are not these mighty men (which could have been Solomon’s closest aides).  Instead, these mighty men, these twelve officers, are allocated the privilege to give life and food for the king and his household, each man responsible for one month in the year.  Note that each come from a variety of locations in Israel: from the house of the sun (Beth-shemesh) to the place of crowns (Megiddo); from the house of rest (Beth-shean) to the meadow of dance (Abel-meholah); from the fruitful land (Bashan) to Mahanaim, God’s camp (Genesis 32:2) – these are but a taste of the redeemed corners of Israel contributing to the greater differentiated but united imagery of Israel under one king.  Note how each of these locations had previously had their respective Canaanite ruler (c.f. v.19 – in the land of Gilead, the country of Sihon king of Amorites and Og king of Bashan) – and yet there was one governor who was over the land, instead of a variety of kings and rulers fighting against each other, in lieu of Moses defeating the king of Bashan at Edrei in Deuteronomy 1:4, who is one of the last representatives of the giant race of Rephaim, his rule extending over 60 cities (Joshua 13:12).  Yet, now, we have Geber as governor over the land which Bashan had once ruled in, no longer terrorizing the Israelites but his resources being subsumed into one of the twelve months of provisions for the family of the chosen king.  I note with interest that such life-giving responsibilities allocated to the twelve warrior-officers are themselves several “ben”’s:  the Hebrew word for “son”, indicative of heritage, the most sensitive word in the Hebrew culture denoting offspring and their forward looking faith to the firstborn son of the Father coming in the name of the Lamb (Genesis 22:2; John 1:29, 36).  Through the combined focus of the high priesthood in fulfillment of Exodus 19:6; and the sonship spoken of in Genesis 22, we have a combined picture of the Ben-adonai; of Ben-Yahweh; of Yahweh Himself, the Son of the Father, coming in the lineage of the high priesthood of Melchizedek – the combination of the picture of holiness (of the eleven high officials), and sustenance (of the twelve warrior-officers).

20Judah and Israel were as many(Q) as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. 21[a](R) Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the(S) Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt.(T) They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life.

So finally, we see not only a fulfillment of the promise to Solomon’s request in v.22-34, but also a fulfillment of the centuries long promise made to Abraham in Genesis chapters 12, 15, 17 and 22 – v.20-21 is both historical and prophetic.  For we find that in Genesis chapter 22:18, the progressive revelation of Christ brings us to realize that it is through and in Abraham’s offspring that the prophecy is fulfilled – this offspring and the lamb that is to be slain on Moriah to be one and the same.  What magnificence and timing that Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea under the reign of the peaceful one?  What has the grain offering and the Hebrew festivals (Leviticus 2 for grain offering; Feast of booths – Leviticus 23, a reminder of Israel being directed to dwell in booths when brought out of Egypt by Yahweh) served except for us to finally see that Israel no longer has to dwell in booths; no longer has to feed on manna; no longer has to live in foreign land or in the wilderness – but can now each have their own vine and fig tree.  They can now dwell in the land, which resembles that New Creation which He is preparing for us.  Is this not finally a fulfillment of this festival of the feast of booths in Deuteronomy 31:7-13, that they finally live in the land that the Israelites have gone over the Jordan to possess?   Such a grand Jubilee (Leviticus 25) points us towards this everlasting grain fellowship and meal with the true king (v.20; Exodus 24; Matthew 22; John 21) – and such is the genuine glory experienced by the church of Christ, provided by the true Melchizedek, king of Salem (peace) typified by Solomon (peaceful).

Not only did Solomon rule over all of Israel – but also over “all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt” – his reign overflowing from Israel outwards to non-Israelite land.  Is this not a physical image of the fulfillment also of the promise to Noah’s children (Genesis 9:27)?  A precursor to the greater fulfillment of the breaking down of the Israel-Gentile divide by enlarging the tent of David (Isaiah 54:2)?  What a beautiful picture of the centrality of renewed Israel, of the renewed kingdom, the service of Solomon pointing us to the service of Christ.  Though Solomon may have a limit to the days of his life (v.21) until corruption ensues under the headship of his son Rehoboam (1 Kings 12; reversal of peace with harshness of labour), the Christ’s kingdom shall be everlasting.

22Solomon’s provision for one day was thirty cors[b] of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, 23ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture-fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl. 24For he had dominion over all the region west of the Euphrates from Tiphsah to(U) Gaza, over all the kings west of the Euphrates.(V) And he had peace on all sides around him. 25And Judah and Israel(W) lived in safety,(X) from Dan even to Beersheba,(Y) every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon. 26(Z) Solomon also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots, and 12,000 horsemen. 27And those officers supplied provisions for King Solomon, and for all who came to King Solomon’s table, each one in his month. They let nothing be lacking. 28Barley also and straw for the horses and(AA) swift steeds they brought to the place where it was required, each according to his duty.

Look further at how magnificent this fulfillment is – thirty cors of fine flour and sixty cors of meal, ten fat oxen, and twenty pasture fed cattle, a hundred sheep, besides deer, gazelles, roebucks, and fattened fowl (v.22-23).  What an incredible comparison between Israel now and the Israel even in its pre-Egypt days let alone Israel in the wilderness (Exodus 16) – and only one day is spoken of here! If this is but a shadow of the church in the wilderness today, is not the Day of Resurrection, the Day of Judgment, yet also the Day of the LORD for those who stand under the true king (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:12; 1 John 4:17)?

Yet, once again, peace and safety (v.24-25) are the constant refrain here.  Solomon’s dominion stretching from the west of the Euphrates, dominating even the fortified (Gaza) over all the kings west of the Euphrates (the northeast boundary of the promised land – Deuteronomy 11:24; Joshua 1:4), such safety defined by every man under his vine and fig tree; such displacement akin to the displacement of new creation (Psalm 37; 82:8; Galatians 4:30).  This is symbolic of the prophesy made in (Deuteronomy 8:8), an imagery often used throughout Scripture to denote blessing (2 Kings 18:31; Isaiah 36:16; Jeremiah 8:13; Zechariah 3:10).  However, such peace and safety only existed – “all the days of Solomon” (v.25), just like the LORD’s day (2 Peter 3:18; the eternal nature of the LORD’s day being repeated at least 12 times by the description “forever” in the book of Revelation).  Though “nothing be lacking”, and the Israelites did everything “according to his duty” (v.28), such a beautiful government of peace, safety, Solomon-centric dominion is constantly surrounding the fact that this is but a shadow and not everlasting.  For these things will only last in “all the days of Solomon”, which are sweet but short compared to the days of Adam to Abraham (Genesis 6:3; 11).

29(AB) And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind(AC) like the sand on the seashore, 30so that Solomon’s wisdom surpassed the wisdom of all(AD) the people of the east(AE) and all the wisdom of Egypt. 31For he was(AF) wiser than all other men, wiser than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, Calcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol, and his fame was in all the surrounding nations. 32(AG) He also spoke 3,000 proverbs,(AH) and his songs were 1,005. 33He spoke of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. He spoke also of beasts, and of birds, and of reptiles, and of fish. 34And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and from(AI) all the kings of the earth, who had heard of his wisdom.

It is thus important to remember that this is God’s provision of wisdom to Solomon; it is God who revealed such things to Solomon – and it is simply because Solomon asked (1 Kings 3:9), not for his own glory but for the glory of the church.  Not for his own selfish personal and private spiritual growth, but for ruling God’s people, understanding that Solomon is but a steward of creation and the men of Israel, and not the people’s true King of kings.  The peculiar and odd notion that God withholds revelation from us is shattered in this very chapter.  It is by and through His Word, by His Logos, that this world was made (Colossians 1), that we can by His Wisdom and His Spirit speak of trees, beasts, birds, reptiles, fish (v.32-34).  To resign ourselves to simply proclaiming God’s wonder without specifying His wonder in the discernment that Solomon has is to be incapable of seeing the light from the darkness masquerading as light.  To resign ourselves to simply acknowledge God’s sovereignty without being able to see how the gospel is proclaimed in His handiwork through Christ (Psalm 8; 19) is to preach a religious theism, one of many theories of the world.  But Solomon’s wisdom brought people to his feet; this Wisdom brought kingship over the peoples of Canaan and even outside of Canaan; His Spirit brought spiritual and physical blessing, peace and safety, and knowledge (2 Peter 1).  This is far from the cling and clatter of tongues, healing, prophecy, teaching, preaching, evangelism; apostleship, prophethood, pasturing and teaching; (1 Corinthians 13; Ephesians 4:11) for through this shadow of Christ, only Jesus is the one who is filled with the Spirit without measure (Isaiah 11:2; John 3:34):

So, because Jesus of Nazareth was none other than the Son of God, the divine Son, who had assumed an unfallen human nature, he was able to, and had a right to, receive the Holy Spirit without measure.  The Baptism of the Holy Spirit was the official ceremony of anointing that made Jesus of Nazareth the Christ, as well as being the public recognition of who He was” – The Works of Thomas Goodwin, Volume 6 The Work of the Holy Ghost in our Salvation quoted in Paul Blackham’s thesis on “The Pneumatology of Thomas Goodwin”.

Do we therefore, as Christians who are given the same Third Person of the Trinity who dwells in our hearts and who fills us with wisdom if we so ask, preach such Godly truths so that people of all four corners of the earth may come to hear (v.34), whatever adamic tradition or culture or education or wisdom they may provide in their own regions?  Do we dwell under the banner of Solomon, “a type of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, and hidden for use; for he is made of God to us wisdom” (Matthew Henry)?

1 Kings 4: The Age of Solomon

2 Samuel 24: Costly grace

2 Samuel 24:  Costly grace

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Samuel 24: Costly grace

2 Samuel 23: The Three and the Church

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

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

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

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

3The God of Israel has spoken;

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Samuel 23: The Three and the Church

2 Samuel 22: The LORD of David’s song

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 Samuel 22: The LORD of David’s song

2 Samuel 17: The false fellowship against the Glorious Trinity

In 2 Samuel 17 we see Psalm 2 played out in entirety.  The ‘wicked counsel’ of men against the chosen counsel of Hushai, the type of Christ, interceding on behalf of the spiritual Israelite church.  Note how the wickedness of Ahithophel’s counsel is not in the destruction of all the men who went with David – rather, the focus is on one man (v.3).  His belief is that the death of this One Man will ‘liberate’ all men, and the people will be at peace – and there is a certain sense of irony here which is echoed in the words of the Pharisee in Acts (Acts 5:34-40).  

Yet, this plan is flawed in the LORD’s eyes – because the king is not fighting the king.  Thus comes in Hushai’s grand plan – to unite all the heretics of Israel, meanwhile commending David and his men.  Note especially v.11 where Hushai encourages Absalom to fight David, the heretical son against the father, the angel Satan against the Father who created him.   

 (8)  Hushai said, “You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people.  (9)  Behold, even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits or in some other place. And as soon as some of the people fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.’  (10)  Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men.  (11)  But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beersheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person.  (12)  So we shall come upon him in some place where he is to be found, and we shall light upon him as the dew falls on the ground, and of him and all the men with him not one will be left.  (13)  If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we shall drag it into the valley, until not even a pebble is to be found there.”   

Note what words Hushai uses:  mighty (v.8), valiant (v.10), lion-hearted (v.10), valiant (again – v.10).  And under Hushai’s counsel where David and his men are portrayed positively powerful despite being exiled, what is equally important behind Hushai’s loyal words (to David and his men) is explained in v.14: 

(14)  And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel.” For the LORD had ordained to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom.   

The key purpose of Absalom receiving Hushai’s counsel is “so that the LORD might bring harm upon Absalom”.  Through the going out of the false king, only then can the true king return from death.  This imagery is thoroughly carried forward into the passing over of the fords of the wilderness in v.16.  Yet, before we reach the passing of the fords, we come to see a stark imagery of the two sons of Zadok the priest, Jonathan and Ahimaaz, being forced to hide inside a well though they were waiting beside one (En-rogel).  In the providence of God, we see here a picture of the priestly sons hidden in the depth of the earth, in the well, and ascending out of the well to deliver the implied message behind this imagery of baptism (v.16-21). 

 (22)  Then David arose, and all the people who were with him, and they crossed the Jordan. By daybreak not one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.  (23)  When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father.  (24)  Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel.  (25)  Now Absalom had set Amasa over the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra the Ishmaelite, who had married Abigal the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother.  (26)  And Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead.  (27)  When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim,  (28)  brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils,  (29)  honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” 

And so, upon David’s crossing of the Jordan (v.22 onwards), we see a physical portrayal of Romans 6:3-5: 

Rom 6:3-5  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  (4)  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (5)  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 

David, taking the first step crossing through the waters of the Jordan is leading his men further away from the Promised Land; and yet, in doing so, Hushai’s counsel may be fulfilled that Absalom and his men may too walk this path of death.  Yet, unlike Jonathan and Ahimaaz who had ascended out of the well just as David and his men do not plan to stay on the outer side of Jordan, so also Absalom and his men shall be ‘baptised’ into the death of Christ (v.24) but not rise with Him for they planned to murder the King of the true church and try to force the bride into Satan’s hand.  This is the true picture of the crossing of the Jordan, in direct contrast with the first picture of crossing the Jordan into the Promised Land in Joshua 3.   

And it is in immediate response to this picture of death-baptism that Ahithophel saw that his counsel was defeated – the result of which is death, not only of king Absalom but also indirectly of himself.  His action of suicide is merely an action of receiving his firstfruit of death which is inevitable as he understood the meaning behind Absalom and his men crossing the waters of Jordan.  He is but a precursor to Judas – this man, who once walked alongside David as his counselor (2 Samuel 15:12) but like Judas has not recognized that the true David’s victory will bring life even to the rejected Judas and Ahithophel.  Rather than side with the children of light, he would rather remain in darkness as both men hang themselves in shame – and above all, in persistent disbelief that Jesus is a greater king of redemption than the satanic Absalom.   

Even this can be seen in the fellowship of Absalom and the fellowship of David and his men – Christ is all about feasting: evangelism and spiritual warfare are but tools of the period of the wilderness.  In faith, hope and love, the greatest of these three is love (1 Corinthians 13:13), for in new creation our pinnacle source of joy is partaking in the intra-trinitarian love of the Three Persons.  David is brought food from the rejected (v.27-29) – the pastureless (Lodebar); the inbreds (Ammonites); and the fullers (‘tramping’ the cloth in washing – Rogelim) – and yet, this is at the very place which Jacob called God’s camp – Mahanaim (v.24 c.f. Genesis 32:2).    How beautiful it is that the LORD would eat with us in the wilderness, to serve and be served in the wilderness, despite the ravenous wolves trying to persecute Him and kill Him?  What a stark contrast between the suicide of Ahithophel and the calmness of the loving fellowship of David and his men?  This is the beauty of the Trinitarian family and the love of God transcending even the evil counsel of Ahithophel (and the oath of Saul which was poorly made when the men were hungry – c.f. 1 Samuel 14:26-27) and turning his counsel into one which is ironically true.  For it is indeed in the death of Absalom, the evil king, that the bride will return to David, the true king.

2 Samuel 17: The false fellowship against the Glorious Trinity

2 Samuel 13: The Zealous Church and the False Head

The theme of chaos and reversal does not cease in chapter 12 – and the reality of this theme is broken loose as we see significant consequence of David’s adultery; where he forced himself upon a married woman in chapter 11, the parallel occurs in chapter 13 where his son, a single man and potential heir to the throne forces himself upon a virgin.  The irony should not be lost on those hearing this passage that the Father’s sin is re-committed by Amnon – just to show the fullness what it means when the covenantal relationship between the Father and the Son; and between the Son and the church, is not displayed.

The theme of covenant-breaking is carried forward even in the names and gender roles themselves.  Ammon, he who is “faithful”, is instead anything but.  This incestuous relationship would not have a future (Leviticus 18) – and yet, just as there is no future for Adam and Eve to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil, just as Ammon the ‘faithful’ would instead pursue a relationship outside of God’s ordination, we have the crafty man Jonadab.  It would be a mistake to assume that this ‘craftiness’ is the same craftiness, or cunningness,  of the serpent in Genesis 3 – yet that is exactly the purpose of this chapter – to present the absolute reversal and irony of God’s goodness.  It is the faithful Ammon, led by crafty (or more literally, wise, rather than cunning) Jonadab that the impossible is committed.  That instead of Ammon loving his sister, to serve his sister, he would instead wish to do anything to her.  The verb connotes an action towards an inanimate object, or an action which is not filled with service, nor love:

Amnon.  The heir to the throne of Israel.  He is the firstborn son of David about whom there must have been high hopes.  His name means faithful.  Here is a faithful ruler.  And he is a lover, v1.  In fact he is literally love-sick for Tamar.  Amnon is depressed, he’s losing weight, (v4) he’s become haggard with desire for Tamar.

But look at what lies behind these feelings.  See the last half of v2.  It does not  read: “It seemed impossible for Amnon to do anything for her.”  That would be love.  Love in the Bible means service, it means sacrifice – putting yourself out for the other.  But Amnon’s love was a love that wanted to do something ‘to’ Tamar.” – Glen Scrivener in his sermon on 2 Samuel 13

And so, just like the scheming of chapter 11, we see the elaborate plan in the raping of Tamar.

What ensues is a picture which is shocking – a picture which displays the true suffering of this world.  Where is God in all this suffering?  Where is God when Tamar is literally torn apart in her flesh by her very own brother?  This picture is not pretty – and look at v.7-10: a picture of true service, a picture of a wife, a picture of a woman, a picture of a weaker vessel, a picture of the willing worshipper.  Yet, this is the picture of those who are serving a beast; this is the picture of those zealous and religious people of this world, taking dought, kneading it, making and baking cakes before the sight of the man.  Yet, does she know what her brother is about to do?  No – she serves him out of love; yet he returns her love with hatred (v.15).

Note that Tamar pleads with Ammon attempting to arouse his sense of sin in his heart – by calling him her brother; by saying that nothing like this has been done in Israel before; by calling him an ‘outrageous fool’ (v.11-13).  And when none of this worked, she desperately asked Ammon to speak with the king (v.13), just before Ammon had failed to listen – a blind, deaf and heartless man – and therefore raped Tamar in spite of her service for him, in spite of her pleadings and truly wise reasoning.  In the entire chapter, she has been the voice of Spiritual reason – and yet she is silenced.  The church is silenced; the church’s service is ignored.  This is not love – this is hatred.

This is why we immediately see the picture of the ravaged virgin; the picture which God had from the foundation of creation had prevented from happening by the sacrifice of the lamb (Revelation 13:8).  In this picture of Tamar’s suffering, sin has become very real.  Yet, is this not the picture of the church, her robe torn apart, and her innocence ravaged from the inside out that she should have ashes on her head instead of the Logos, the arche, the true head of creation as her Head?  And this is the picture of those who have been ravaged by Ammon; this is the picture of the false gods raping their worshippers despite these obedient servants’ zeal.  This is the picture of the reversal of redemption – and this is the reality of Satan’s work in a man’s heart.  Rape.

In the midst of such raping; in the midst of such suffering, we should not forget that without the cross, such chaos and reversal of redemption would result in a purely nihilistic world.  Yet, what the Spirit tells us here in chapter 13 is that the cross of Christ has even removed the shame of being violated. That the cross of Christ has removed the shame of being raped; instead, Jesus took on the sexual intrusion.  Where Tamar walked around in teary shame in the streets of the city (v.18-19), instead we have Christ being removed from His Father’s bosom on the cross (Matthew 27:46).  Instead, we have Christ our Mediator, our Head, being bruised by the serpent.  Christ was even raped on our behalf, so we would escape this shame.

Chapter 13, however, is a picture of what happens when the Wisdom of God is silenced:

Pro 1:20-33  Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice;  (21)  at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks:  (22)  “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?  (23)  If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you.  (24)  Because I have called and you refused to listen, have stretched out my hand and no one has heeded,  (25)  because you have ignored all my counsel and would have none of my reproof,  (26)  I also will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you,  (27)  when terror strikes you like a storm and your calamity comes like a whirlwind, when distress and anguish come upon you.  (28)  Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me.  (29)  Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD,  (30)  would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof,  (31)  therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.  (32)  For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them;  (33)  but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”

So Tamar cries aloud in the streets and no-one hears, just as the Spirit of God cried aloud in the streets to enjoin people to the harmony under Christ the Head.  Her robe of different colours is instead torn; her robe of righteousness trampled upon.  And so, we see David angry; but he does nothing.  Absalom is angry, but he silenced Tamar.  Ammon was lustful, and he was indifferent to Tamar’s call.  Jonadab relied on his own wisdom, but he did not rely on the Wisdom of God, the Holy Spirit.  We are thus left with a picture of Tamar, ravaged and living in desolation.  There is no happy ending for her until the embraces of new creation when all chaos and reversal is turned back on its Head.

Just as the words of those surrounding Tamar were words of folly, so Absalom falls into a similar category.  “Strike Amnon”, “Do not fear; have I not commanded you?  Be courageous and valiant”.  What irony!  Absalom is assuming a position of courage and valour, and yet he would rather his servants do the execution of Amnon; rather than protect his sister and provide her with love as a true brother would, he merely housed her.  Absalom is not the antithesis of Amnon; Absalom is of the same breed as Amnon – where Absalom positively offended Tamar, Absalom negatively was indifferent to Tamar.  Instead, he was bloodthirsty – and spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad (v.22), to await the day of revenge rather than provide justice by the Word (Romans 12:20).  Absalom, just as he would do so in chapter 14 onwards, would assume the position of God and enact revenge as if he was the Judge, to assume the position of the throne when David was still king.  All the king’s sons arose – and what did they do?  They fled.  As if to lessen the guilt of Absalom, Jonadab’s words of ‘wisdom’ are but a re-interpretation of the event.  “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men the king’s son, for Amnon alone is dead… determined [by Absalom] from the day he violated his sister Tamar”.  As if this redeems the situation!  Instead, the first report is accurate: for Absalom’s threat is not merely to Amnon alone – but his sword shall be the dividing factor of David’s kingdom until chapter 18.  His threat is aimed at David’s throne – and that is why David is in fact intricately involved in chapter 13 though he is barely mentioned.

This is because of Nathan’s prophecy in chapter 12:10.  This prophecy states that all that is to happen after David’s adultery is directly a result of David’s sin.  Amnon’s death; Absalom’s rebellion; the silencing and raping of Tamar – all stemming from David’s moment of pleasure and moment of stepping out of covenantal relationship with Christ.  Yet, this is but a shadow of the true picture of what it would be like if Christ stepped outside of His Trinitarian relationship.  Rape.  Silence.  Revenge.  Death.  Injustice.  The tearing of the kingdom of God.  This is the implication if the Son was forever removed from the Father; and yet, in the Son’s resurrection, in the Return of the Son on the Day of Resurrection, the suffering shall be ended by the One who already suffered and removed the sting of death, removed the sting of being raped, and replaced on our head the glory of the Father so that we would not have to cover our head in shame (v.19; c.f. 1 Corinthians 11).

2 Samuel 13: The Zealous Church and the False Head

2 Samuel 10: Nahash and Jonathan

It would seem out of place to turn back to David’s military victories after a reprieve from that line of narration in chapter 9 by David’s mercy on Mephibosheth for Jonathan’s sake, yet the purpose of chapter 10 is not merely to line out David’s victories in the same way as it was laid out in chapter 8.  Rather, its focus is on the comparison between Jonathan as mediator for Mephibosheth as a type of Christ’s mediation, and then Nahash’s (the serpent) mediation on behalf of Hanun.

At the outset, it is clear that the background is extremely similar – the house of Saul seen conflicting with the house of David is exalted in the form of Mephibosheth sitting at the king’s table.  Now begs the question: will the house of Nahash, the house of the Ammonites, also be exalted to fellowship with Israel’s king?  V.2 of chapter 10 echoes v.2 of chapter 9 – the call of the Father upon the Gentiles after the call of the Father upon the Israelites – “I will deal loyally with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me”.  First to the Jews, then to the Gentiles (Romans 1:16).

Yet, unlike the response within Israel where Mephibosheth humbly called himself a dead dog, what is Hanun’s response?  V.3-5 shows that not only is Hanun a lord who is surrounded by princes, a large contrast to Mephibosheth’s dire state of lameness (especially compared to Ziba’s household of wealth), but that he would be so arrogant and heed the advice of evil men (Psalm 1:1, 2:2) and mock David’s servants (v.4).

As akin to chapter 8v.5, the Ammonites and the Syrians rise up against Israel despite their previous defeat (c.f. Hosea 8:9-11) and it is clear that the initiation of the offense is from the side of the Ammonites, with the Israelites drawing up in self-defence by the ordering in v.6-8.  Not to mention that unlike the movement of our Trinitarian God Who moves as one united family on a mission of redemption, the hired Syrians are scattered and ‘by themselves in the open country’ – a mark of the sinful man in the wilderness (Micah 4:10).  Note the contrast between the wicked council of the Ammonites and the Syrians compared with Joab and Abishai’s unity – the former being united for the purpose of money and the latter united under the banner of the LORD– Joab is truly his brother’s keeper (Genesis 4:9)(v.11-12).  The mutual aid is the true spirit of the Triune family.

Yet what is so laughable is that the Ammonites and Syrians completely fled (c.f. Revelation 6:16) before Abishai and Joab – as if either the Ammonites or Syrians were too much for them to handle (v.11), instead at the very sight of these two Christian brothers they fled and only then did they gather together (v.15), along with the support of Hadadezer’s Syrian army beyond the Euphrates.  Upon the defeat of Shobach (expansion) at Helam (fortress), the commander of the army of Hadadezer at their head, we are brought to re-experience the death of the mediator of the Philistinian army in 1 Samuel 17.  So, the death of Shobach and the death of the seed of Nahash the serpent bring us to see the death of the expansion of the Satan’s kingdom; the fear of the Syrians to save the Ammonites (v.19 – c.f. 2 Chronicles 24:24) anymore is the beginning of the fall of the wicked counsel (Psalm 1:1, 2:2).

This is the image of the failure to heed the call of the Father.  Though Nahash may have dealt loyally with David just as Jonathan had done so, this blessing could have been imputed to the house of the Ammonites.  Yet, the end of chapter 10 spelled out a disastrous future, and the story of Nahash is used as a narrative for the macro understanding of Nahash as the false mediator and Jonathan as the true mediator; though Hadadezer and his subjects made peace with Israel and became subject to them (v.19), this type of submission is far from the type of exaltation which Mephibosheth received – and thus this contrast of the lame man fellowshipping with David is more poignant in the face of the proud and resourceful Ammonite and Syrian kings.  Hanun as the seed and result of the line of Nahash is directly contrasted to Mephibosheth, the direct seed of Jonathan.  As such, though we are all predestined to be in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1), for those who reject the call of the Father to follow His Son, they have ignored the call and the mediation is thus not received.  Thus, instead of the mediation of Triune love depicted in chapter 9, they receive the mediation of the Father’s wrath as a mirror to the measuring line – that either the line measures the bounds of new Jerusalem, or it is a line which measures the extent of the LORD’s wrath upon the rebellious nations (2 Kings 21:13).  Glen on “God without a Mediator” blog post –

In terms of Scripture – 2 Thes 1:9 “Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power.” (KJV)  There’s a translation issue about the preposition (‘apo’).  Should it be translated ‘from’ or ‘away from’?  I favour ‘from’ – ie implying that Christ is present in judgement.  This goes with Revelation 14:10 where the damned are tormented in the presence of the Lamb.  See also Rev 1:18 where Jesus is presented as the Jailor of death and hades, and Rev 6:16-17 where it’s the wrath of the Father together with the Lamb.  Jesus expressly says in John 5:22 that the Father has entrusted all judgement to Him.

What does this mean?  It means that hell is being in the presence of God who continues to mediate His judgement through the Son.  There is no such thing as ‘God without a mediator’.”

2 Samuel 10: Nahash and Jonathan