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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 5

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

Verses 6-16

B. The Unification of the Kingdom 3:6-5:16

The writer also documented God’s blessing on David in this record of how David wisely unified the nation of Israel and became the leader of all 12 tribes.

"The story of how David became king of all Israel follows, in most essentials, the same outline already established in the account of his accession to kingship over Judah (2 Samuel 1:1 to 2 Samuel 3:5). Both begin with a warrior trying to curry David’s favor (an unnamed Amalekite, 2 Samuel 1:1-13; Saul’s army commander Abner, 2 Samuel 3:6-21) and continue with the execution or murder of the warrior (2 Samuel 1:14-16; 2 Samuel 3:22-32), which is followed by a lament uttered by David (over Saul and Jonathan, 2 Samuel 1:17-27; over Abner, 2 Samuel 3:33-34). Near the center of each literary unit is a brief report of the anointing of David as king (over Judah, 2 Samuel 2:1-7; over Israel, 2 Samuel 5:1-5). David and his men are then successful in defeating their enemies (2 Samuel 2:8 to 2 Samuel 3:1; 2 Samuel 5:6-12), and each unit concludes with a list of sons/children born to David (in Hebron, 2 Samuel 3:2-5; in Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 5:13-16). The similarities between the two sections point to the careful craftsmanship of a single author, who now sets about to tell his readers that just as the house of David has replaced Saul and his house in southern Canaan (2 Samuel 1:1 to 2 Samuel 3:5), so also David’s house is about to replace that of Saul in the rest of the land as well (2 Samuel 3:6 to 2 Samuel 5:16)." [Note: Youngblood, pp. 832-33.]

"Avraham Biran and his team of Israeli excavators were wrapping up a day’s work when one of them noticed a faint outline of characters incised on a rock embedded in a wall. Study showed it to be an Aramaic text from about 830 B.C., the substance of which was the account by an Aramaean king of his military operations against the ’house of David.’ Along with a possible example in the Mesha inscription, this is the only reference to David so far in any extrabiblical text. This puts the historical existence of David beyond doubt and furthermore shows him to be so powerful a figure that the nation was named for him." [Note: Eugene Merrill, "The Veracity of the Word: A Summary of Major Archaeological Finds," Kindred Spirit 34:3 (Winter 2010):13.]

Verses 1-12

3. David’s acceptance by all Israel 5:1-12

In 1004 B.C. David became king of all Israel and Judah. [Note: See Merrill, p. 243.] This was his third anointing (cf. 1 Samuel 16:13; 2 Samuel 2:4). The people acknowledged David’s previous military leadership of all Israel, as well as God’s choice of him to shepherd His people as their king. Thus David’s kingship stood on two legs: his divine election and his human recognition.

"In the ancient East, shepherd at an early date became a title of honor applied to divinities and rulers alike." [Note: New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology, s. v. "Shepherd," by E. Beyreuther, 3:564.]

For example, King Hammurabi of Babylon (ca. 1792-1750 B.C.) referred to himself as the shepherd of his people. [Note: See James B. Pritchard, ed., Ancient Near Eastern Texts Relating to the Old Testament, pp. 164-65, 177-18.] This is the first time the Bible refers to a specific human ruler as a shepherd, [Note: Patrick, p. 368. Cf. Isaiah 44:28; Jeremiah 3:15; et al.] though as an analogy the term appears earlier (Numbers 27:17) and with reference to God (Genesis 48:15; Genesis 49:24). The New Testament refers to David’s greatest son, Jesus Christ, as the "Good Shepherd" (John 10:11; John 10:14), the "Great Shepherd" (Hebrews 13:20), and the "Chief Shepherd" (1 Peter 5:4).

The fact that Samuel had anointed David when he was a youth was evidently now common knowledge in Israel. Therefore we should regard previous resistances to his assuming the throne after Saul’s death as rebellions against the known will of God. The covenant (2 Samuel 5:3) was an agreement between the people and the king before God. [Note: P. Kyle McCarter Jr., II Samuel, p. 131; Brueggemann, p. 239.] Probably it included a fresh commitment to the Mosaic Covenant.

"Thirty years old (2 Samuel 5:4) was regarded as an ideal age at which to take on responsibility (cf. Numbers 4:3; Luke 3:23)." [Note: Baldwin, p. 195.]

Three prominent descendants of Jacob began their ministries at or near the age of 30: Joseph (Genesis 41:46), David (2 Samuel 5:4), and Jesus (Luke 3:23). The years David reigned were 1011-971 B.C., a total of 40 years.

"[Verses] 6-16 highlight key events of David’s entire reign and are followed by summaries of his experiences in the military (2 Samuel 5:17-25), cultic (ch. 6), and theological (ch. 7) arenas." [Note: Youngblood, p. 853.]

Jerusalem was an excellent choice for a capital. It stood on the border between Benjamin and Judah so both tribes felt they had a claim to it. It was better than Hebron in southern Judah, far from the northern tribes, or Shechem, Shiloh, or some other northern town that would have been too far from the Judahites. Joshua had captured Jerusalem (Joshua 10), but shortly after that the native inhabitants, the Jebusites, retook it (Judges 1:21). The Jebusites were descendants of Jebus, the third son of Canaan (Genesis 10:16; 1 Chronicles 1:14). It seems to have remained in Jebusite control since then. Its elevated location, surrounded on three sides by valleys, made it fairly easy to defend. David may have chosen Jerusalem also because he appears to have seen himself as the spiritual successor of Melchizedek, a former king of Jerusalem in Abraham’s day (Genesis 14; cf. Psalms 110:4-6). [Note: See Eugene H. Merrill, "Royal Priesthood: An Old Testament Messianic Motif," Bibliotheca Sacra 150:597 (January-March 1993):58.] One scholar estimated that the population of the city at this time was about 2,500 people. [Note: F. E. Peters, Jerusalem, p. 11.]

"Jerusalem is usually described as a city-state, and the position envisaged after its storming by David and his troops is that it remained a city-state; the coming of David meant only a change of city ruler. . . . The inhabitants remained, but their fortress had now become the personal possession of David and was under his control." [Note: Gwilym H. Jones, The Nathan Narratives, p. 135.]

The interchange concerning the blind and the lame (2 Samuel 5:6; 2 Samuel 5:8) seems to be "pre-battle verbal taunting" (cf. 2 Kings 18:19-27). [Note: Ibid., p. 125.] The Jebusites claimed that their town was so secure that even disabled inhabitants could withstand an invasion. Another view is that the Jebusites meant that they would fight to the last man. A third option is that the expression refers to the custom of parading a blind and lame woman before the opposing army as a warning of what would befall treaty-breakers. This view assumes David had previously made a treaty with the Jebusites. [Note: See Gordon, p. 226.] David countered by taking them at their word and applying "the blind and the lame" to all the Jebusite inhabitants of Jerusalem. His hatred was for the Jebusites, using the figure that they themselves had chosen to describe themselves, not for literally blind and lame people. "The blind and the lame" evidently became a nickname for the Jebusites as a result of this event.

Joab captured the city for David, and from then on people referred to it as the City of David and Zion (1 Chronicles 11:6). [Note: See the map "Wars during the Reign of David" in Baldwin, p. 222. ] The name "Zion" (meaning unknown) appears only six times in the historical books of the Old Testament, though it occurs over 150 times in the Old Testament. It was a popular poetic name for Jerusalem. The Millo (a transliteration of the Hebrew word, 2 Samuel 5:9) probably consisted of terrace-like fortifications on the site’s east side. [Note: See Anderson, p. 85.] Some of the older commentators and others who did not have access to recent archaeological discoveries viewed the Millo as a large tower or castle.

"As was characteristic of all the great walled cities of Canaan, Jerusalem had a vertical water shaft connecting with a tunnel leading to an underground water supply outside the walls." [Note: Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., p. 236.]

It was through this secret passage that Joab took the city.

"Many scholars have identified the snwr [water supply] with the shaft discovered by Sir Charles Warren in 1867 (see Vincent, R[evue] B[iblique] 33 [1924] 257-70; Simons, Jerusalem, 45-67). This shaft connected the Spring of the Steps or the Spring of Mary (i.e., the ancient spring of Gihon) with the settlement or stronghold on the southeastern hill. It is often thought that this tunnel may have been the proverbial Achilles’ heel of Jerusalem in that David’s soldiers were able either to penetrate the city through this shaft or, more likely, to cut off the water supply from the Jebusites. The former alternative would be a formidable task even if the Jebusites had neglected this weak spot in their defenses (see Mazar, The Mountain of the Lord, 168). However, there is no proof that this shaft was the Jebusite snwr [water supply] (see J. Shiloh, "The City of David: Archaelolgical Project: Third Season-1980," B[iblical] A[rchaeologist] 44 [1981] 170)." [Note: Anderson, p. 84.]

"Two of the most significant events in world history now took place. The first was when David became king of a united Israel. The second was when he made Jerusalem the capital of his united realm." [Note: Payne, p. 177.]

The writer identified the key to David’s success in 2 Samuel 5:10. The Lord chose David as His anointed by sovereign election. David had nothing to do with that. However, Yahweh of armies continued to bless David because David related to God properly, generally speaking.

The information we have about Hiram, the king of Tyre, indicates that he reigned there about 980-947 B.C. [Note: Frank M. Cross, "An Interpretation of the Nora Stone," Bulletin of the American Schools of Oriental Research 208 (December 1972):17. William F. Albright had previously dated his reign from about 969-936 B.C. in The Archaeology of Palestine, p. 122.] That would mean Hiram’s reign coincided with only the last nine years of David’s reign and the first 24 years of Solomon’s reign. This information helps us see that David built his palace (2 Samuel 5:11) late in his reign. 2 Samuel 5:11 therefore evidently does not describe something that took place immediately after David captured and fortified Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6-10). It was a later project. The writer probably mentioned it here because it illustrates another important evidence of David’s control over all Israel.

"David has joined the nations. David is a practitioner of alliances and accommodations. . . . Jeremiah later sees that cedar and its accompanying opulence will talk Judean kings out of justice (Jeremiah 22:13-18). 2 Samuel 5:11 sounds like a historical report, but it is in fact an ominous act of warning." [Note: Brueggemann, p. 246.]

2 Samuel 5:12 is key to understanding why David prospered as Israel’s king. David realized that Yahweh was Israel’s real sovereign. Saul was never willing to acknowledge this and viewed himself as the ultimate authority in Israel. In contrast, David regarded his own kingship as a gift from God. He realized, too, that God had placed him on the throne for the Israelites’ welfare, not for his own personal glory. Saul failed here as well. David had a proper view of his role in Israel’s theocratic government.

"From the previous events it appears that David’s kingdom was what could be described as a constitutional monarchy (cf. Halpern, Monarchy in Israel, 241). There is also a hint of a democratic concept of kingship since the exaltation of the king was for the sake of Israel. Therefore the kingship should be for the benefit of the people and not vice versa." [Note: Anderson, pp. 86-87.]

2 Samuel 5:10-16 is most likely a summary of David’s entire reign followed by his military (2 Samuel 5:17-25), cultic (i.e., formal worship; ch. 6), and theological (ch. 7) achievements. This pattern follows the conventional annalistic style of documenting the reigns of kings that was common in ancient Near Eastern historiography (history writing).

Verses 13-16

4. David’s additional children 5:13-16

Again David sinned by multiplying wives (Deuteronomy 17:17). Nevertheless in spite of this sin, God continued to bless him with fertility because he was God’s elect, and for the most part, God’s obedient servant. Fortunately God does not cut off all His blessings because His servants are less than perfect.

"This is the first time that concubines are mentioned in connection with David (cf. also 1 [sic 2] Chron 2 Samuel 11:21)-and it is also the only time that the phrase ’concubines and wives’ occurs in the Bible (the usual order is ’wives and concubines’; cf. 2 Samuel 19:5; 1 Kings 11:3; 2 Chronicles 11:21; Daniel 5:2-3; Daniel 5:23). By placing the word ’concubines’ in emphatic position, the narrator is perhaps deploring David’s proclivity for the trappings of a typical Oriental monarch, including a harem." [Note: Youngblood, p. 859.]

Previously the writer listed six sons born to David in Hebron (2 Samuel 3:2-5). Now he listed 11 more born to him in Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:14-16). Note that Solomon was tenth in the line of succession.

In all parts of this section (2 Samuel 3:6 to 2 Samuel 5:16) the writer placed emphasis on God’s blessing of David and the nation that came about as Judah and Israel united under David’s anointed leadership.

Verses 17-18

C. The Establishment of the Kingdom 5:17-8:18

"As the story of David’s accession to kingship over Judah (2 Samuel 1:1 to 2 Samuel 3:5) parallels that of his accession to the throne of Israel (2 Samuel 3:6 to 2 Samuel 5:16), each concluding with a list of his sons (2 Samuel 3:2-5; 2 Samuel 5:13-16), so the account of his powerful reign (2 Samuel 5:17 to 2 Samuel 8:18) parallels that of his court history (chs. 9-20), each concluding with a roster of his officials (2 Samuel 8:15-18; 2 Samuel 20:23-26)." [Note: Ibid., p. 861.]

Verses 17-21

The first battle 5:17-21

The battle described in these verses appears to be the one retold in 2 Samuel 23:13-17. It could have taken place between David’s anointing as king over all Israel (2 Samuel 5:17; cf. 2 Samuel 5:3) and his capture of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:6-9), [Note: Keil and Delitzsch, p. 323; and Merrill, Kingdom of . . ., pp. 237-38.] or perhaps shortly after he had conquered Jerusalem. [Note: J. Carl Laney, First and Second Samuel, p. 95.] The stronghold (2 Samuel 5:17) in the first case may have been the cave of Adullam (2 Samuel 23:13) northwest of Hebron (2 Samuel 5:3) about 11 miles. [Note: Gordon, p. 229; Payne, p. 180; and Anderson, p. 95.] If this battle took place after the capture of Jerusalem, the stronghold probably refers to Zion (2 Samuel 5:7). The valley of Rephaim (2 Samuel 5:18; 2 Samuel 23:13) was just southwest of Jerusalem where the Philistines massed for battle. Bethlehem, which was the site of the Philistine garrison (2 Samuel 23:14), stood beside this valley. The Philistines probably wanted to defeat David at once before he could take the offensive and begin to establish himself and expand his kingdom.

God granted David’s request for his sovereign’s strategy, and victory followed for Israel. Baal-perazim (lit. lord of breakthroughs) memorialized the Lord’s victory (2 Samuel 5:20). Notice how David acknowledged Yahweh’s ultimate authority over Israel, in contrast to how Saul did not. The Philistines’ idols that they carried into battle to secure victory (blessing) proved useless, so the Philistines abandoned them (2 Samuel 5:21). The Israelites then burned them (1 Chronicles 14:12).

Verses 17-25

1. David’s victories over the Philistines 5:17-25

God’s greatest blessing on David and Israel, the ultimate in fertility, came when God covenanted with David to make his line of descendants everlasting (ch. 7). However, before that took place, God blessed His anointed with victories over his enemies and peaceful conditions.

"So long as David was king only of Judah, the Philistines were content to tolerate his rule, but when he was proclaimed king of all Israel he became too powerful to be trusted, hence these two concerted efforts to divide his territory, and so weaken his effectiveness." [Note: Baldwin, pp. 202-3.]

"Although by no means the only battles King David fought against the Philistines (cf. 2 Samuel 8:1), these serve as a paradigm to summarize the continuing conflict." [Note: Youngblood, p. 862.]

Verses 22-25

The second battle 5:22-25

This time, in response to David’s prayer, the Lord prescribed an attack from the rear (2 Samuel 5:23). The sound of marching in the treetops among which the Israelites took cover (wind?) would be the sign that the Lord was going before his army to strike the enemy (2 Samuel 5:24; cf. Acts 2:2). The name "Gibeon" replaces "Geba" in the text in the parallel account of this battle (1 Chronicles 14:16). Gibeon is probably correct. If David pursued the Philistines through the Aijalon valley, he probably went through Gibeon northwest of Jerusalem rather than Geba to the northeast. Gezer stood in the Shephelah 14 miles west of Gibeon on the Philistine border.

These victories cleared the Philistines from the hill country of Judah and Benjamin, and made it possible for David to establish a secure capital in Jerusalem. Had he not defeated them, his reign would have gotten off to a much weaker start. Saul had also begun his reign by defeating the Philistines (1 Samuel 7).

"In the present context 2 Samuel 5:17-25 depict two encounters between David and the Philistines, which apparently brought to an end the Philistine domination of Palestine (see also 2 Samuel 8:1). In view of the book as a whole, it seems that the war with the Philistines was more prolonged, but the editor had chosen only these two select illustrations to sketch the main course of events. Perhaps, just as Israel had been defeated twice by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4, 31) so also the Philistines were twice routed by David." [Note: Ibid., p. 94.]

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 5". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/2-samuel-5.html. 2012.
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