May 30, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, May 31-June 4

May 31

2 Sam. 23, Acts 11:1-18
2 Sam. 24, 1 Cor. 14


2 Samuel 23

Verses 1-7 record David’s last Psalm. He expresses deep regret at both his own sin and the sins of his children.  He seems to be able to see that future generations of his household will follow the same patterns and fall into the same sins.  Yet, God will establish his house, as He has promised.  This will come through the real and true King of Israel, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Verses 8-39 give the names and exploits of some of the most notable warriors in David’s army.  It is worth noting that one of these men, Uriah the Hittite is more Godly and more honourable than David.

2 Samuel 24

David showed great progress in his knowledge of and obedience to God during his life.  This is especially commendable in light of the very limited amount of Scripture and Biblical teaching available to him at the time.  We often look at his numerous faults with a critical eye, yet we often fall into the same traps and commit the same sins. We look at David's many wives and wonder how a man of God could fall into such sin. Yet many, “Christians” today move in and out   of serial marriages with less concern than David had about his. As for his sin with Bath-sheba, co-habitation apart from marriage is as common among “Christians” as those who make no claim to Christianity.  And many modern “Christians” manipulate people and events to satisfy their lusts just as David did to get Bath-sheba into his bed?  David lived before the Bible was completed, while we live in the full light of Scripture, so perhaps we should be more strict about judging our own sins, than about judging David’s.  Christians today often assume that because David's sins were forgiven so easily, ours will also. But I shudder when I read the words, “to whom much is given, much will be required.”

Though Israel is united, the nation is not entirely at peace. The Philistines are strong, and even have a fortress in Bethlehem, a few short miles away from David's capital.  David’s desire to number the people of Israel and Judah seems a wise move at first.  A military commander should always be aware of the size of his army and the logistics of moving and providing for them in the field. “Count the cost,” as our Lord Himself said.  But David’s census seems to come from the motive of pride.  His actions seem to say, “we are strong, and we drive our enemies away by our own strength.”  He seems to realise that he rules the most powerful empire in the area; an empire even the local superpowers of Egypt and Babylon cannot ignore. Perhaps this pride leads him, and Israel, to forget that they have been established, and will continue to be upheld, only by the power and grace of God.

The plague which ends 2 Samuel seems to remind the Old Testament people that the Lord giveth and Lord taketh away. Victory is not always measured by worldly success, nor does the Lord deliver by means of human power and might, but by His Spirit. Perhaps we may do well to remember the same in our own day also.

June 1

1 Kings. 1:1-27,  Acts 11:19-30
1 Kings 1:28-53, 1 Cor. 15

Commentary, 1 Kings 1

“Now King David was old and stricken in years.” He is probably about 69 years of age, not terribly old by modern standards. But David has spent many years in the field sharing the deprivations of the soldier, and his reign was marked by strife and rebellion, even within his own house. The burden of leadership has aged him beyond his years, and now we see him weak, feeble, and near death. Yet he is not allowed to go to his grave in peace.  His sons are not satisfied with the prestige and prosperity they enjoy as members of the royal family.  Instead they are jealous for power, and each seems to desire the throne after David’s death.  Adonijah appears to be the oldest son, and believes the throne is his by right, like a right to be exercised rather than a service to be rendered. Many modern politicians seem to have the same view of their offices. Like his brother, Absalom, he gathers chariots and foot soldiers around him and proclaims himself king.  He is supported by Joab, leader of David's army, and by Abithar, the priest of the house of Eli.

The bedridden David, weak and tired, is forced into a public role again. If Adonijah remains as king, he will execute a bloodbath on all his brothers, whom he sees as competitors for the throne.  All of the supporters and advisors of David will also die in Adonijah’s attempt to secure the throne for himself, and He will rule Israel as though the land and people belong to him rather than God.  And Adonijah has powerful support in high and low places, mostly from people who want favours and wealth from him when he comes into his kingdom.  People often enthrone the most unfit of men to the highest and most powerful positions in church and state, people who use their positions to enrich themselves and reward their cronies rather than serve God and His people.

Solomon himself is a weak and sinful man, as are all the children of Adam.  Even the best of us hold the treasures of God in earthen vessels. Even the best fail, sin, and disappoint. Even the most noble among us bring suffering and sorrow by our best efforts.  But when people gain power only to use it to benefit themselves and their party, the suffering and sorrow of the people are multiplied a thousandfold.

This is the story we will see repeated time and time again through the books of Kings and Chronicles.  There will be high points.  There will be kings, who, flawed as they are, will at least attempt to lead the nation into revival and Godliness.  But these revivals will be brief and affect relatively small parts of the population.  The general trend of the nation will always be to sink back into the muck and mire of the surrounding pagan nations.

The chapter closes with Solomon proclaimed king, and the supporters of Adonijah in flight.  At this point, Solomon is disposed toward leniency.  Rather than executing his brother, as Adonijah certainly intended to do to Solomon, Solomon releases Adonijah to his own home in peace.

June 2

1 Kings 2:1-25, Acts 12:19-25
1 Kings, 2:26-46, 1 Cor.1 6

Commentary, 1 Kings 2

In spite of all his military and political skills, David was a failure as a husband and father.  His household lived in turmoil all his life, and continued in it for generations after his death. Therefore, in chapter 2 he encourages Solomon to keep the charge of the Lord.  It is certain that, realising his own failures, he hopes for better things for his son.  “If thy children take heed to their way, to walk before me in truth with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail thee (said he) a man on the throne of Israel,” David says reiterating the words of God to him.

David also knows the trouble that lies ahead for Solomon. Joab will oppose him. He who murdered Abner and killed Amasa, now supports Adonijah’s bid for the throne.  He is a powerful and dangerous enemy.  Adonijah still intends to become king. Asking Bath-sheba to give him David’s concubine, Abishag as his wife, besides being against all laws of decency, is a claim to be lord of David's house and property, and, therefore, the rightful king.  This is why Solomon says to Bathsheba, “ask for Adonijah the kingdom also.”  To claim the right to David's harem, is to claim the right to David's throne.  Realising Adonijah will always be an enemy, Solomon sent Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, and he fell upon Adonijah that he died.

Abiathar the Priest once supported David, but now supports Adonijah.  Because of his friendship to David, and because of his priestly office, Solomon will not raise his hand against the Lord's anointed.  Instead Abiathar is forced out of Jerusalem and no longer functions as the High Priest of Israel. This fulfills the word of the Lord to Eli in 1 Samuel 2:31-35.
Joab’s duplicity finally destroys him.  Though having some good traits and wisdom, Joab seems to have always had his eye on what was good for Joab. Realising this, and that he cannot be trusted, in accordance with his father's counsel, Solomon forces Joab to pay the ultimate price.

Shimei is another traitor.  His trip to Gath is an attempt to gather support from the Philistines to attack Solomon’s weak and divided kingdom.  If Shimei had been successful, Israel would have become a pagan state instead of the people of God.  Had Adonijah, or Joab, been successful in their rebellion, Israel, as we know it, would have been eliminated. The house of David, all of his supporters, and anyone who opposed, or appeared to oppose, their attempt to seize the throne of Israel and use it for personal gain would have been executed without trial or mercy.  Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, would have died in their rebellion.

June 3

1 Kings 3, Acts 13:1-13
1 Kings 4,  2 Cor. 1

Solomon is known for his wisdom.  But, like all of us, Solomon’s frailties and ego often clouded his judgment.  We see in chapter 3 a laudable prayer for wisdom.  How we wish today that the people in whom we invest the power of government would seek wisdom from God in order to govern wisely and justly.  But, alas, gaining and increasing personal wealth and power seems to dominate most of their time and effort, while government and justice decay unheeded.

God promises to answer Solomon's prayer, and, indeed, his wisdom is shown when the two women bring their sons to him, one living, and one dead.  A child was a woman's social security. He would care and provide for her old age as she had cared and provided for his youth.  Solomon knew the mother of the dead child wanted that security for her old age. He also knew the true mother of the child had a mother's love for her son.  Her heart was filled with compassion and the desire for good things for her son.  The other woman cared nothing for the son.  Her heart was hard and selfish. If she could not have the income from a son, she wanted to deprive the other woman of it also.  “Let it be neither mine nor thine, but divide it,” were her hateful words.

Thus, Solomon recognised the real mother by her love, and returned the child to her, and all the people saw that “the wisdom of God was on him to do judgement.”

If only Solomon had been as wise in his own home and personal life.  In spite of the direct commandments of God, verse 1 tells us, “Solomon made an affinity with pharaoh king of Egypt, and took pharaoh’s daughter into the city of David.” Solomon probably thought it was good to form a peace treaty with Egypt.  He probably thought this was a good political move.  But God's law forbade such marriages (Ex. 34:16) and Solomon’s actions were in direct contradiction to the will of God.  Thus, like Saul, we see at the beginning of his reign the cracks in his armour that will eventually lead to his fall, and split his country forever.  Oh, how often we foolish men follow pied pipers with “better ideas,” only to find they lead us to destruction.  How much better off we would be if instead of following the never ending parade of political New Deals (which all look suspiciously like the one Satan unveiled in Eden) we simply returned to the old, old promise, “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.  It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones” (Prov. 3:5-8).

June 4

1 Kings 4, Acts 3:1-13
1 Kings 5, Acts 3:14-52


1 Kings 4

God has blessed Israel according to His promises. Through David’s leadership, God has extended the borders of Israel east from the Mediterranean to the Tigris and Euphrates Valley, south through Arabia to the Gulf of Aquba, west again through most of the Sinia Peninsula, and north again beyond the headwaters of the Jordan River.  Not all of these lands were owned or populated by Jews, but all owed some form of allegiance to Israel.  Even mighty Babylon and Egypt were at peace with David during this time, and the children of Israel “dwelt safely, every man under his vine, and under his fig tree, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, all the days of Solomon.”

In addition to his myriad wives, Solomon maintained a large standing army.  According to verse 26, he had 46,000 stalls of horses and 12,000 horseman. It is probable that the 46,000 counts only the war horses. There would have been many thousand more mares, foals, and horses in training.  The dromedaries of verse 28, were probably both camels and riding horses which could carry messages swiftly over long distances, thus enabling rapid communication, at least for that era.

The maintenance of this army was extremely expensive. The daily needs of Solomon’s household alone required thirty measures of fine flower, about 13,680 pounds.  The meal, probably grain for the horses and cattle, required over 27,000 pounds per day.  The 10 fat oxen were kept in feedlots and fed special rations to increase their weight and flavour.  Twenty more oxen, a hundred sheep, and un-numbered wild goats, deer, and fowl were required in the palace every single day. Some of these came as tribute from the Gentile lands ruled by Solomon, but some of it came from the Hebrew people themselves.  Solomon appointed “officers” whose jobs were to procure the tribute and food to sustain his government.  At least one officer was appointed to gather food from each tribe for one month each year.  It is easy to see how Solomon, not answering to any official or elected body, would be tempted to increase the size of his government, and, therefore, the food and substance required to maintain it. We know that in the future he will require the Hebrew people to spend time as bond slaves in his service. Their work will benefit the nation, but mostly it will benefit Solomon at the expense of the people. When David started, he lived in tents and caves while the people lived in houses. At the end of Solomon’s reign, he lived in palaces and the people lived in labor camps.

1 Kings, 5

We come now to the beginning of the building of the Temple, and of Solomon’s policy of enforced Hebrew labour.  Aside from being forced to pay for the increasingly lavish expenses of Solomon’s court, the people are forced into labour camps for three months of every year.  Originally intended to provide labour for building the Temple, the practice continues and worsens during Solomon’s reign.  What may have started as a voluntary way to finance the Temple became slavery.  The contrasts with the wilderness Tabernacle are instructive.  The Tabernacle was financed by free offerings,  Solomon’s Temple was financed by forced slavery and taxation.  Thus, the early wealth and prosperity of the Jewish people gradually dissipated, while Solomon’s increased daily.  More and more building projects, all of which enriched Solomon while enslaving and impoverishing the people, continued during his reign, decreasing the already fragile nature of the Hebrew nation.  At his death, the nation will split into two separate kingdoms, largely because his son, Rehoboam, insists that his rule will be even more burdensome than his father’s.  Once again we see those entrusted with the authority of government abusing their power and treating the people and resources as though they belong to the rulers.  Instead, they should have viewed themselves as the servants of the people, whose power exists only to secure the rights of the people.  This is what God said would happen when Israel asked for a king, and, it seems, it has been happening ever since. The power so gladly given to protect can easily be used to oppress.

May 24, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, May 24-30

May 24

2 Sam. 11, Acts 7:29-60
2 Sam. 12, 1 Cor. 7


2 Samuel 11

David had many wives, but not because of love, or even lust.  Wives were often the means of sealing treaties and covenants between families and nations.  And, though Biblical injunctions forbade Israelite kings to multiply wives to themselves, David made alliances with powerful Israelite families and Gentile kings by marrying their daughters, thus making the house of David “one flesh” with theirs.  In a world where most people lived in arranged marriages, this may not have been as bad as we now think.  Remember, Esther actually wanted to become part of the kings harem.  Yet, it is certain that terrible heart ache and life-long sorrow were the lot of many women in such situations.  Even David does not seem to “love” his wives.

The harem was an important status symbol in the ancient near east, and part of David’s reason for having one must have been to look important to the other kings around him.  Part of it, too, must have been due to pride, and copying the ideas and life-styles of the pagans around him.

Chapter 11 finds David comfortably settled in Jerusalem.  He is wealthy, successful, beloved of his people, and his land is more at peace than it has ever been.  With things going smoothly, David has time to think about pleasant distractions, and he happens to see one bathing on a roof-top.  Her name is Bath-sheba.  Now genuine lust rises up in David’s heart.  Notice, also that Bath-sheba willingly comes to David, and even gets word of her pregnancy to him, probably expecting him to do something about it.  So, David and Bath-sheba are both equally guilty in this sin.  If she were not already married, David would have simply married her and made her chief of the harem.  Her marriage complicated matters, and both probably thought their single act of adultery would end the matter.  But pregnancy ensued, leading to murder, as David falls into the trap of using his position and power for his own pleasure and purpose rather than the will of God and the good of the people.

Technically, the death of Uriah may be construed as the price of war.  Units, and individual soldiers, are often marched into certain death as sacrifices and feints to draw the enemies’s attention away from the general’s real intention.  But David’s intent is clearly to have Uriah killed, and his intent is fulfilled. 

2 Samuel 12

How typical of human beings that we are so well endowed with insight to see the sins of others, but miss our own.  How typical of our sense of righteous indignation that we are ever ready to punish the sins of others, yet completely excuse our own.  David, too shares these abilities.  When confronted with the fictional man with many sheep (wives) who steals the single, beloved sheep (wife) of another, David swears to kill the thief.  Yet David has stolen a beloved wife, and caused the death of her husband.  Is he not doubly guilty?  And are not his crimes real and actual rather than fictional and illustrative?  All of this is made clear to David in the words of Nathan, “Thou art the man.”  How many time could it be said of us, “Thou art the man?”

One of the consequences of David’s multiple marriages is conflict between his multiple families.  While jealousy and strife occur in all families, David’s peculiar circumstances seem to multiply them.  Hatred, incest, and murder reveal a very unhappy life  for his wives, which they pass on to their children.  This internal strife seems to stay with the house of David for generations.

May 25

2 Sam. 13:1-22, Acts 8:1-25
2 Sam 13:23-39, 1 Cor 8

Commentary, 2 Samuel 13

This sordid tale of rape, incest, and murder needs very little commentary
  Absalom, Tamar, and Amnon are children of David but Amnon has a different mother.  Amnon is infatuated with Tamar, his half-sister.  One day he rapes her, but she tells no-one but Absalom, who takes her into his own home to care for her.  It takes two years, but Absalom finally finds a way to get Amnon away from his father.  With that accomplished, Absalom kills Amnon and flees to his mother’s home town place for three years.

May 26

2 Sam. 14  Acts 8:26-40
2 Sam. 15, 1 Cor. 9


2 Samuel 14

Joab is the leader of David’s army, the same person we met in 2 Samuel 3.  He knows David’s heart is toward Absalom and blind to Absalom’s faults.  Tall and handsome, and the king’s favourite son, Absalom wants to be king, but he is not first in line for the throne.

Why does Joab help Absalom return to Jerusalem? Is it compassion for David? Does he believe Absalom did right to kill his sister’s rapist? Is he lotting against David?  A woman in Tekoah is noted for wisdom and Joab persuades her to help convince David to receive Absalom again. During their conversation, David realises the similarity between his situation and the one described by the woman. He also knows she has been sent there by Joab. The result is David's order to, “Bring the man Absalom again.”

Absalom's outer beauty hides an inner ugliness. He wants to be king, but too many contenders are in line before him. Therefore, he plans to take the throne by force. Burning Joab’s field is but one step in a treacherous journey of deceit and death, but it probably convinces Joab that Absalom cannot be trusted with the throne.

2 Samuel 15

Gathering a formidable force of chariots and foot soldiers around him, Absalom forms the habit of going to the gates of Jerusalem when people come to bring their cases to David for judgment. Absalom assures the people that their causes are just, but cannot expect justice because the king has not assigned judges to hear them. Absalom is saying David is neglecting his duties as king, therefore no one can expect justice in his court. Absalom finishes this by saying, “Oh that I were made a judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice.” Absalom’s point is that if he were king, he would assure the peoples’ cases would be heard, and they would receive justice.

This has the desired effect. It causes people to doubt David. It causes unrest in the land. It causes people to desire a new king, a king whose name is Absalom. After a time in Hebron, organising the opposition, Absalom is ready to attack his father and take the throne by force. The chapter ends with David fleeing, and Absalom entering Jerusalem uncontested.

May 27

2 Sam. 16, Acts 9:1-23
2 Sam. 17, 1 Cor. 10


2 Samuel 16 and 17

Leaving Jerusalem, David and encounters Zilba, the servant of Mephibosheth. Zilba deceives David saying Mephibosheth believes he will be installed King of all Israel. Mephibosheth, of course, is completely loyal to David. Even if he were not, he has no army, and no way to withstand the forces of Absalom.  So Absalom enters the city of Jerusalem unopposed and proceeds to desecrate everything, including David's wives and concubines.  This does nor endear him to the people.

Absalom's rebellion is brief. Soon he meets his father's Army, on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead.  Absalom suffers a major defeat and dies in the battle. King David is plunged into deep despair and grief, which casts a pall of sorrow of the entire army.

May 28

2 Sam 18, Acts 9:23-43
2 Sam 19,  1 Cor. 11

2 Samuel 18 and 19

Soldiers who should have been given a hero’s reward, receive nothing. Men who should be rejoicing over a great victory, steal away as though they were cowards running from battle. Why? Because David mourns for his son Absalom.

Joab rightly confronts the king. His loyal soldiers fought and died in that battle. Their sacrifices saved the lives of the King and his family. They even saved the kingdom. Yet David mourns for his enemy and ignores his friends. Joab even says David would have been happier if Absalom had lived and the rest of them had died.  “Now therefore arise, go forth and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the Lord if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee  this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.”

David realises the truth of Joab's words. He quickly returns to the task of uniting Israel again. But jealousy, pride, and greed will not allow the growing rift between North and South to heal. It is a rift that will eventually permanently divide the people.

May 29

2 Sam 20, Acts 12
                1 Cor 13

Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and some Benjamites still view David as a usurper and an illegitimate king. Sheba is a loud voice among such people.  “We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse,” he cried,  “every man to his tents O Israel.”

Here we are beginning to see the northern tribes forming their own identity under the name of Israel. They see Judah as a separate nation having her own king.  Following Sheba's call, vast numbers of the men of Israel leave David and unite under Sheba. The people of Judah remain with David, but the kingdom is seriously divided.

David knows Sheba intends to take the crown and become king of all the tribes.  By this time David, in an attempt to unite Judah and Israel, has appointed Amasa leader of the army, replacing Joab.  Amasa had been the leader of Absalom's army. Whether out of anger, revenge, or fear that Amasa would join Sheba and destroy the kingdom of David, Joab kills Amasa.  Finally, Sheba’s head is cast over the wall of the city in which he sought refuge. Chapter 20 ends with Israel and Judah together again in a very fragile union with Joab as the head of all the army.

May 30

2 Sam. 21, Acts 13
2 Sam. 22, 1 Cor 14


2 Samuel 21

Chapter 21 is part of an appendix to the books of Samuel. They record or further explain events that happened during David’s reign.  Verses1-14 are about the Gibeonites.  According to God’s directives, Israel could make treaties with people who did not dwell within the borders of Canaan.  The Gibeonites were from Canaan, but knew they could not stand against Israel, so they pretended to be from a far country to make a peace treaty with Israel (Josh. 9:15-27). The covenant with Gibeon was not a sin. It was made in good faith by Israel. It could be argued that deception on the part of the Gibeonites would nullify the treaty, but God seems to have required Israel to honour it. When the treaty was broken by Saul, it became, in God's eyes, equal to any breach of the law of God between Israelites.  The same penalties were required, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. God demands His people to be honest, and to keep their word.  What implications does this have for Christian marriage, parenting, family life, church membership, worship attendance, and congregational life?  What does it say about political and international treaties, and how careful we should be about entering such agreements?

Versus 15 through 17 record a battle in which David grew so weary his soldiers thought he was wounded and dying. David may even having been wounded in this battle. The result is a decision among all his men that David will not be allowed to go into the actual battle again.  The chapter closes with the record of more battles with Philistine giants, slain by David and the Hebrew Army.

2 Samuel 22 is a song of deliverance written by the poet king of Israel, David.  He has much to be thankful for.  In spite of his own unworthiness and sin, God had has used him mightily to establish Israel in relative peace and freedom.  Her problems are primarily from within, not without.  You will recognise many lines from the Psalms in this song. It was probably written late in David's life, and it seems to show a realisation that God could have used any shepherd boy, or girl, or any person of any age or station to accomplish his will.  It was only by grace that He elected and used David.

May 17, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, May 17-23

May 17

1 Sam. 28, Acts 3
1 Sam. 29, Rom 16


1 Samuel 28

The saddest thing about Saul is that he never repents. In this chapter, he asks God for information, but never confesses his sin, or returns to God in faith. No wonder God does not answer. So Saul goes to the witch. I cannot believe any mere human being has the power to bring someone else back from the dead. Even if given Satanic assistance, bringing Samuel back from the presence of God is impossible. But God can send Samuel back, just as he raised Lazarus, and others. It seems to have pleased God to send Samuel to Saul one last time. The message, straight from God, is that Israel will be defeated and Saul will die.

Here we see the problem with spiritism and magic. They attempt to manipulate, control, or gain information about current or future events rather than seeking God and trusting Him with the future. Saul’s appeal to the witch shows how far he has departed from God.

1 Samuel 29

The Philistine lords rightly do not trust David. They remember his wars against them, and fear he will turn against them in the battle against Israel. So David returns to Ziklag, apparently intending to remain neutral in the battle. This is a blessing in disguise, for it assures that David will have no part in the death of Saul. Nor will he be present to spare Saul’s life again

The valley of Jezreel is about 47 miles north of Jerusalem. It is a broad and a fertile plain, which leads from the coast to the interior of Israel's heartland. It's western side is guarded by the fortified to city of Megiddo.  There the great Sea Road, which stretches from Egypt to Israel, terms eastward into Israel.  It was a broad, well traveled road, often used by invading armies, marauders, And caravans. Most of them were going to or coming from the great cities of Egypt or the Tigris Euphrates Valley. The Philistines used it as a staging point to invade Israel. By amassing his troops there, Achish employs a new strategy. In the past the Philisties attempted to invade Israel from the south. This time he moves in from the north. With David out of the battle, and Israel in disarray due to Saul’s foolish obsession with capturing David, the Philistines anticipate and easy victory. They also seem to have a large and well equipped army, greatly outnumbering Israel’s.  If Achish can defeat Saul here, he can easily march north to conquer the small, isolated territories of Issachar, Zebulun, and Asher. Since these small tribes posed little threat to the Philistines, he probably intends to turn south following the main road through central Israel. One by one, he can destroy the cities of Shechem, Shiloh, Bethel, and Saul’s stronghold at Gibeah. From there he can go to Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Hebron, and Beer-sheba. This will destroy the main cities and strongholds of Israel, leaving the rest of the people and country defenseless and easily conquered by short campaigns and raids. If this plan succeeds, Israel will be annihilated.

Again we see Saul neglecting his duty as king. Instead of chasing David, he should have been uniting and organizing the tribes of Israel into a strong and unified nation. Without diminishing  the tribes’ sovereignty, he could have organised an army of ready reserves that could easily have defeated the Philistines and any other local enemies. Instead, he left the tribes to fend for themselves, open to attack and oppression from any direction.

May 18

1 Samuel 30,  Acts 4:1-22
1 Samuel 31, 1 Corinthians 1

David and his men depart from the Philistine army by way of the Great Sea Road, which the Philistines also take north to Jezreel. When David reaches Ziklag, the home given to him by the Philistines, he finds the city destroyed and the people taken hostage by the Amalekites. David pursues the Amalekites with such intensity that fully half his army is unable to continue the chase. Leaving them behind, and acting on information given by an Egyptian, David surprises the Amalekites in a battle lasting all night and all the next day. All of the Amalekites, except 400 who escape on camels, are killed in the battle. The possessions of David and his people are recovered, along with much Amalekite spoil. David gives all his people back their own property, and even allows the 200 soldiers who did not fight to have a share of the spoils. The captured Amalekite property is even shared with others in Judah. Many of these people have helped David in the past, and this generosity could be seen as rewarding past hospitality. It is also a very wise political move. David surely realises King Saul has very little chance of surviving the battle with the Philistines. So he is moving to secure the friendship and loyalty of the people of Judah, which is the largest, richest, and most powerful tribe in Israel. Their friendship will be an enormous help when David finally seeks and ascends to the throne of Israel.   It is also true that a united Judah will be more than the Philistines want to fight, which will bring some sense of peace and security to Southern Israel.

1 Samuel 31

Chapter 31 turns to the plight of Saul.  His feeble army has marched to Jezreel to fight the Philistines.  Out numbered, and under armed, due to Saul’s neglect of duty, the Israelites are no match for the Philistine archers.  Decimated, Saul retreats to the high ground of Mount Gilboah on the south side of the valley.  Saul chooses suicide, rather than capture and torture.  His sons, apparently  do the same.  The king is dead.  The army flees in complete rout.  The Philistines now control central Israel, with no apparent way to prevent the total annihilation of Israel.

The people of Manasseh, on the eastern side of the Jordan, seem to have watched the battle.  What treachery to watch from safety when they could have joined forces with Saul to defeat the enemy.  When they see Saul’s army retreat, they also retreat, leaving their towns and properties to the Philistines, just as the Philistines hoped they would.  It now appears that all Israel is open to the Philistines, who can kill and plunder until Israel is eliminated and the entire are belongs to the Philistines.

A few valiant men burn the bodies of Saul and his sons.  But the book of First Samuel ends with the kind dead, the people in apostasy, and the nation in danger of being annihilated.

May 19

2 Samuel. 1,  Acts 4:23-37
2 Sam. 2,  1 Cor. 2


2 Samuel 1

Second Samuel gives an account of David’s life and reign up to the time of his census of Israel.  It begins with the news of Saul’s death.  Providentially, David was kept from the battle in which Saul died, so there can be no suspicion that he killed, or plotted to kill Saul.  The execution of the messenger seems to say David takes no pleasure in Saul’s death, and that his part in killing Saul was murder.  Verses 17-26 are a lament over the fall and death of Saul.

2 Samuel 2

The news of Saul’s death divides Israel into two factions, which are very soon at war with each other.  Judah, David’s tribe, where he has been living and which he has been protecting, is the largest and most powerful tribe.  Its people elect David as their king, probably expecting the other tribes to do the same. 

The central tribes, where Saul lived and kept his headquarters, elect Ishbosheth as king.  They are  joined by the smaller, northerns tribes.  Below are short sentences to help identify who is doing what in this, and following chapters.

David is the son of Jesse, anointed by Samuel as God’s choice for king of all Israel, he is elected king of Judah

Joab is a general in David’s army.
Asahel is Joab’s brother.  He is killed by Abner.

Ishbosheth is the last surviving son of Saul.  The northern tribes elect him as their king.

Abner is a skilled leader in Saul’s army.  He is able to convince the army to support Ishbosheth. and oppose David.

 Abner and Joab meet at Gibeon.  Joab thinks they are meeting to discuss peace, but Abner has brought Joab there to kill him and destroy his army.  Abner invites Joab and his soldiers to join him and his troops for a friendly evening of music, but Abner and his men kill the Judean musicians, and start a battle they hope will destroy David’s army and bring Judah into Ishbosheth’s kingdom.

Abner, who started the war, now calls for peace (vs. 26).   Since he killed the Judean musicians and started the war,  it seems foolish for Joab to believe Abner is not attempting to deceive him again in order to spring a new treacherous act upon the Judeans, especially since Abner’s army is being swiftly destroyed in the battle (vs. 31).  But Joab calls for his army to halt , and the battle ends. 

May 20

2 Sam. 3,  Acts 5:1-16
2 Sam. 4, 2 Cor. 3


2 Samuel 3

Sadly David, copying the pagan kings around him, builds a harem of wives.  They are probably the daughters of prominent Judean leaders, with whom David is making treaties in an attempt to unite them under him as king.  Rather than following the ways of the world, he should have simply trusted God.

The coldness that yet exists in David is seen in his demand for his former wife.  She is happily married to a loving husband,  But David cares nothing for her and nothing about her happiness.  His demand for her return is motivated by pure revenge.  As we shall see, David’s lustful heart will cause many, serious troubles for him.

Joab never forgives Abner for killing his brother, Asahel.  Nor does he believe the deceitful Abner intends to do anything but destroy Judah and kill David.  In verse 30 Joab and his brother, Abishai, kill Abner.

David makes a big show of mourning for Abner.  Whether his mourning is real or merely politically motivated, it moves the northern people to sympathy with him, and prepares the way for the fighting contingencies to unite again.

2 Samuel 4

Baaana and Rechab are the sons of Rimmon of the tribe of Benjamin.   They kill their king, Ishbosheth, and take his head to David.  Meanwhile, Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth is taken into hiding by his nurse, to prevent him from being killed.

David does not consider the killing of Ishbosheth an act of valour.  To him it is treachery and murder, and he gives the killers a murderer’s reward.

Now David is king of Judah, and the northern tribes have no king.  David seems sympathetic about the deaths of Saul and Jonathan and Ishbosheth, so the northern tribes seem inclined to join with David and unite the nation again.
May 21

2 Sam. 5,  Acts 5:17-42
2 Sam. 6, 1 Cor. 4


2 Samuel 5

The northern tribes vote to join Judah with David as their king.  He wastes no time on grudges or punishment.  He welcomes the tribes and goes straight to work for the good of all Israel.  He attacks and captures the city of the Jebusites.  It will become his capitol city and will be called the City of David.  That name is soon replaced by the name Jerusalem.  Though still increasing his harem, probably attempting to unite Israel to him as family, David begins a series of campaigns against the Philistines.  So David is an able king who primarily concentrates of organising Israel into a defensible nation with an experienced and able army.  This finally gives Israel a time of relative peace and rest, which increases his popularity with all the people.

Second Samuel 6

In contrasts to Saul’s secretive, personal agenda to secure power and prosperity for himself and his family and cronies, David brings transparency to the government.  He unites the people under common goals of faith in God, national defence and a strong economy.  This is the government’s legitimate, God-given job.  It is to provide for the common defence, and ensure the rule of law.  This allows people the freedom to choose their own courses in life and enjoy the rewards of their just labour.  When David begins to put policies in place that conform to and promote these purposes, Israel begins to prosper again.  It is noteworthy that perfection in politicians and populace are not required for God’s principles to work.  Davis is far from perfect, and the people are generally no better.  Yet, following God’s pattern naturally produces good, even in a fallen and sinful world.  The more closely God’s principles are followed the better life in tis world is.

Instead of a secretive attack by his own guard, David unites all of Israel into one army to attack the Philistines and re-capture the Ark of the Covenant.  This means all Israel shares the danger, and all Israel shares the victory.

Yet Israel is the Church and family of God, and God has given pointed directions about how His worship is to be conducted.  David, and the people seem to forget this in their exuberance over re-capturing the Ark.  Verse 5 describes a procession more similar to a pagan festival than the humble adoration of God.  In their exuberance God’s commandments about the Ark are forgotten and Uzzah touches the Ark in an attempt to steady it.  His intention may be noble, but his action is clearly against the Law of God, which permits only priests to handle the Ark.

Uzzah’s death ends the party and plunges David into personal depression and anger against the Lord.  He was probably feeling very self-confident, and even proud of his accomplishments as the Ark made its way into Judah.  He was probably thinking how good this appears to the people, and how it will further unite them and secure his throne.  In short, this makes David look really good to Israel.  But God reminds the nation, including David, that He demands worship according to His directives, not man’s innovations; a lesson we are still trying to learn in the New Testament Israel.

It is a hard lesson, and David requires another humbling over it, this time from his wife Michal (vss. 20-23).  We remember that Michal was taken from David by Saul, and given to another man in marriage.  That marriage would have been an adulterous affair in the eyes of God,  but, David had already broken the marriage covenant by taking other wives to himself, so the issue of their marital status is murky.  But David took her from her new husband, against her will.  Michal probably hates David for taking her from the husband she loves and making her part of his growing harem.  In her hate, she rejoices to see David fall into pagan excitement.

David’s uncovering does not consist of immodesty of dress.  It refers to appearing in public without his kingly robes and in the common dress of everyday people.  While this probably exalted David in their eyes, it debased him in Miachal’s.  To her, it is unbecoming to a king. 

David’s defense (vss. 20-23) reveals that much of David’s excitement is not true spiritual joy.  It is actually the passion of the moment, such as comes over people at sporting events, rock concerts, and contemporary church services designed to move people’s animal feelings.  His conversation with Michal reveals a heart that still harbours anger and resentment toward Saul for taking Michal away from him, and toward Michal for loving her new husband.  He cares nothing about Michal’s opinion of him.  His intention is to cause her pain, and to prevent her from having children who could lay claim to Saul’s throne.  He does not intend to heal the marriage or be a real husband to Michal.

May 22

2 Sam. 7,  Acts 6
2 Sam 8, 1 Cor. 5


2 Samuel 7

Israel is now the major power in Canaan.  Even the empires of Egypt and Babylon are forced to acknowledge her growing military and economic might.  Trade caravans from Egypt to Babylon pass through her land, paying tolls for the privilege and bringing exotic goods to her people.  Local enemies are no match for her united army, and a growing identity as the people of the Covenant further unifies the nation.  Like all institutions with people in them, Israel is not perfect.  It will gradually allow the religions of Canaan, Egypt, and Babylon to influence its doctrines and practices, and it will pay dearly for this sin.  Its prosperity and security will serve to hide this fact from its people, but for now David, and Israel, want to build a symbol of its identity and faith.

There is no doubt that David’s desire to build a house for God is more than a mere political move to unify Israel.  He sincerely wants to honour God.  Yet God turns from being honoured to honouring David.  The same promises given to Saul are given to David, and it is David’s house that is being built by God, rather than God’s that is built by David.  In truth, God does not need David to build a house for Him.  Furthermore, any house of worship allowed by God is a symbol of God’s presence and grace, not a place for God to dwell.  Its exists for the benefit of the people, not the benefit of God.

So God gently puts David’s offer aside, as though telling David, “I have chosen you to receive my grace, and I will pour out my grace upon you for all time if you continue to love and serve Me.  But understand, you can give me nothing that I don’t already own.  In the end, all you can do is receive from Me, never give unto Me.”

2 Samuel 8

David spends his time and energy defending Israel from her from enemies and defending the people’s rights at home.  The result is a time of growth and prosperity, as free people work and invest and enjoy the fruit of their labour.

Starting at its southern border, the Davidic kingdom forms a rough triangle. Begining at Ezion Geber on the shore of the Gulf of Aqabah, it goes north west to the Mediterranean Sea with the River of Egypt (not the same as the Nile) as its border with Egypt.  From here it follows the Sea northward for almost 450 miles, though a small pocket of Philistines still hold the Gaza strip, and the Phoenicians hold a larger strip including Tyre and Sidon along the Sea.  From there it turns east and extends 50 to 60 miles beyond the  Jordan River Valley before turning south east along the Jordan River and Dead Sea to Ezion Geber again.

May 23

2 Sam. 9, Acts 7:1-29
2 Sam. 10, 1 Cor. 6

2 Samuel 9

Mephibosheth is the last remaining descendant of Saul.  He is the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul who made a covenant with David.  As Saul’s grandson, Meshibosheth is a threat to the security of David’s throne, for it is possible that a group of Saul loyalists could convince others Mephibosheth is the real king.  Such a group could infiltrate Jerusalem, arouse dissent, and even kill David and his family.  Such things are common in the area at that time.  But David prevents such events through a genuine act of kindness.  For the sake of his beloved friend, Jonathan, David receives Mephibosheth into his home as one of his own family.  Saul’s land and property are restored to Mehpibosheth, but he is allowed to live in the king’s house.  This serves two purposes.  First, it protects Mephibosheth from those who would kill him, blame David, and use his death to start a civil war in Israel.  Second, it prevents people from rallying around Mephibosheth to start a war against David.  How can they rally around a man who is generously treated, beloved, and protected by the king?

Here we see a major difference between the policies of wise leaders and foolish leaders.  Saul, the foolish leader, neglected to organise and defend Israel. Instead he used and abused the people and resources of Israel to accomplish his own agenda of murdering David. His policies produced civil disintegration, poverty, and military/moral weakness. David, the wise leader, defended the liberty and property of the people. He used his time and talents to organise Israel for the common defence. This allowed great freedom among the people, which produced great prosperity. Saul, the foolish leader, neglected God, set an example of ungodliness, and led Israel into moral and spiritual decay. David, the wise leader, though far from perfect, made a serious attempt to follow God and follow God's precepts in the daily affairs of  governing of Israel. The result of his efforts is a time of peace, prosperity, and justice founded upon a general, national Godliness.

2 Samuel 10

This chapter records other campaigns that extend to influence and political control of Israel under King David.  The point made is that God is with David blessing Israel as He promised.