Click to donate today!
Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary
New American Standard Version
Bible Study Resources
Nave's Topical Bible - Ammiel; Friendship; Kindness; Lo-Debar; Machir; Mephibosheth; Thompson Chain Reference - Bible Stories for Children; Children; Home; Mephibosheth; Pleasant Sunday Afternoons; Religion; Stories for Children;
Verse 2 Samuel 9:4. Lo-debar. — Supposed to have been situated beyond Jordan; but there is nothing certain known concerning it.
These files are public domain.
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 9:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-9.html. 1832.
Remembering former kindnesses (9:1-10:19)
Although his power was now great, David did not forget his covenant with Jonathan. Unlike other kings, David would not destroy the family of the king whom he replaced (9:1; see 1 Samuel 20:12-17). David not only spared the life of Jonathan’s sole surviving son, the crippled Mephibosheth, but also restored to him Saul’s family property (2-8; cf. 4:4). David gave Mephibosheth the privilege of free access into the palace, and appointed one of Saul’s former servants to manage his property for him (9-13).
Another to whom David tried to be friendly was the new king of Ammon, whose father had helped David during his flight from Saul. But the Ammonites rejected David’s goodwill, suspecting that he was looking for ways of spreading his power into their country (10:1-5). They then decided to attack Israel, and even hired soldiers from various Syrian states to help them. The Israelite soldiers turned back the attackers, then, as if to show that Israel had no desire to seize Ammonite territory, returned home (6-14). (This was probably the battle referred to earlier in 8:3-8.)
The Ammonites were willing to accept defeat, but the Syrians were not. They prepared for a second attack on Israel. This time David did not stop when he had turned back the attackers, but overran their country and seized political control (15-19).
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 9:4". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/2-samuel-9.html. 2005.
"The king said to him, "Where is he"? And Ziba said to the king, "He is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel at Lo-debar."
"Lo-debar" is thought to have been located in northeastern Palestine east of the Jordan River and not far from Mahanaim, Ishbosheth's capital.
"Machir the son of Ammiel." Ammiel is mentioned in 1 Chronicles 3:5 as the father of Bathshua (Bathsheba) the mother of Solomon; thus Machir was Bathsheba's brother, making him a brother-in-law of King David. Machir was a very wealthy person who out of his love for Saul's family had taken Saul's grandson, the son of Jonathan (Mephibosheth), into his estate and cared for him. This identifies Machir as a faithful and generous person; and additional proof of this came during the rebellion of Absalom when Machir also supported and substantially aided David.
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 9:4". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-samuel-9.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.
David reaped the fruit of his kindness to Mephibosheth, for, when he fled from Absalom, Machir, the son of Ammiel, was one of those who were most liberal in providing him and his army with necessaries (marginal reference). According to 1 Chronicles 3:5, Ammiel (called inversely Eliam, 2 Samuel 11:3) was the father of Bath-sheba. If this be the same Ammiel, Machir would be Bath-sheba’s brother. However, the name is not a very uncommon one (Num 13:12; 1 Chronicles 26:5, etc.).
Lo-debar - Evidently on the east of Jordan River, and in the neighborhood of Ish-bosheth’s capital, Mahanaim 2 Samuel 17:27, but not identified by any modern traveler. Thought by some, not improbably, to be the same as Debir Joshua 13:26.
These files are public domain.
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 9:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-samuel-9.html. 1870.
In chapter nine David sought to discover if there were any left from the house of Saul. Jonathan and David had made a friendship pact between them that they would do good, and show kindness unto each other, and to each other's descendants forever. So now that David is established, he seeks to find out if there are any left from Saul's house that he might honor, and they might keep this pact that he had made with Jonathan. He was told concerning Jonathan's son Mephibosheth. Now Mephibosheth was only five years old when his father Jonathan was killed in battle with his grandfather Saul, when they battled against the Philistines at Mount Gilboa. When his nurse heard that the Philistines had taken Jonathan, Saul in battle, she was fearful. She grabbed this little five year old son of Jonathan's, Mephibosheth, and sought to flee. As she did, she dropped him and broke both of his legs. Not being set properly, he became a cripple.
And so it was told David that Mephibosheth was yet alive. So David called to have Mephibosheth brought into him. And when Mephibosheth came in he bowed down, and did obeisance to David. David said, Don't be afraid, I want to actually honor you seeing I made this pact with Jonathan. And he said, I want to restore to you all that belonged to the house of Saul, all of the properties, the houses and the vineyards, and every thing that belonged to the family. I want to restore them to you. And you are to eat meat at my table from now on ( 2 Samuel 9:3-10 ).
He was to become a part of the entourage that ate with the king. So David showed great kindness for Jonathan's sake, and for the vows and all that he had made with Jonathan.
Then David took one of the servants and he made this servant and his family the servants of Mephibosheth, and Ziba with his fifteen sons and twenty servants [were given the orders to take care of his crops and to bring in the harvest, and to just watch over all that belonged to him.] ( 2 Samuel 9:10 ).
So David showed unto Mephibosheth great honor, and was extremely gracious unto him. "
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 9:4". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/2-samuel-9.html. 2014.
A. David’s Faithfulness ch. 9
The story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth (ch. 9) helps to explain David’s subsequent acceptance by the Benjamites. It also enables us to see that the writer returned here to events in David’s early reign.
"It is, in my personal opinion, the greatest illustration of grace in all the Old Testament." [Note: Swindoll, p. 169.]
If Mephibosheth was five years old when Jonathan and Saul died on Mt. Gilboa (2 Samuel 4:4), he was born in 1016 B.C. When David captured Jerusalem in 1004 B.C., Mephibosheth was 12. Now we see Mephibosheth had a young son (2 Samuel 9:12), so perhaps he was about 20 years old. People frequently married in their teens in the ancient Near East. So perhaps the events of chapter 9 took place about 966 B.C.
David’s kindness (Heb. hesed, loyal love, 2 Samuel 9:1; 2 Samuel 9:3; 2 Samuel 9:7) to Jonathan’s son, expressed concretely by allowing him to eat at David’s table (2 Samuel 9:7; 2 Samuel 9:10-11; 2 Samuel 9:13), shows that David was, at the beginning of his reign, a covenant-keeping king (cf. 1 Samuel 20:14-17; 1 Samuel 20:42). This was one of David’s strengths. [Note: Leo G. Perdue, "’Is There Anyone Left of the House of Saul . . . ?’ Ambiguity and the Characterization of David in the Succession Narrative," Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 30 (October 1984):67-84, presented an interesting study of the complexity of David’s character.] His goodness to Mephibosheth was pure grace, entirely unearned by Saul’s son. Yet the story is primarily about loyalty.
It is doubtful that the Ammiel mentioned in 2 Samuel 9:4 was Bathsheba’s father (cf. 1 Chronicles 3:5), though this is possible. Lo-debar (lit. no pasture) was about 10 miles northwest of Jabesh-gilead in Transjordan and 10 miles south of the Sea of Chinnereth (Galilee). David provided for Mephibosheth’s needs in Jerusalem, but Ziba and his family cultivated Mephibosheth’s land and brought the produce to David. Thus the produce of his land paid the cost of Mephibosheth’s maintenance. The writer may have stressed the fact that Mephibosheth was lame (2 Samuel 9:3; 2 Samuel 9:13) to remind us of the sad fate of Saul’s line because of his arrogance before God. Mephibosheth physically had trouble standing before God and His anointed.
"Given David’s loathing for ’the lame and the blind’ since the war against the Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:6-8), one is brought up short by his decision to give Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, ’lame in both feet’ (2 Samuel 9:3; 2 Samuel 9:13), a permanent seat at the royal table. . . . Is David willing to undergo such a daily ordeal just in memory of his friendship with Jonathan, as he himself declares, or as the price for keeping an eye on the last of Saul’s line? Considering David’s genius for aligning the proper with the expedient, he may be acting from both motives." [Note: Meir Sternberg, The Poetics of Biblical Narrative: Ideological Literature and the Drama of Reading, p. 255. James S. Ackerman, "Knowing Good and Evil: A Literary Ananysis of the Court History in 2 Samuel 9-20 and 1 Kings 1-2," Journal of Biblical Literature 109:1 (Spring 1990):43; Perdue, p. 75; John Briggs Curtis, "’East is East . . .,’" Journal of Biblical Literature 80:4 (1961):357; and David Payne, p. 197, shared the same opinion.]
The sensitive reader will observe many parallels between Mephibosheth and himself or herself, and between David and God. As Mephibosheth had fallen, was deformed as a result of his fall, was hiding in a place of barrenness, and was fearful of the king, so is the sinner. David took the initiative to seek out Mephibosheth in spite of his unloveliness, bring him into his house and presence, and adopt him as his own son. He also shared his bounty and fellowship with this undeserving one for the rest of his life because of Jonathan, as God has done with us for the sake of Christ (cf. Psalms 23:6).
"On the whole it seems very likely that in this instance David’s actions benefited not only Mephibosheth but served also the king’s own interests." [Note: Anderson, p. 143.]
In what sense can the affairs recorded in this chapter be considered part of David’s troubles? We have here one of David’s major attempts to appease the Benjamites. As the events of the following chapters will show, David had continuing problems with various Benjamites, culminating in the rebellion of Sheba (ch. 20). Not all of David’s troubles stemmed from his dealings with Bathsheba and Uriah.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 9:4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/2-samuel-9.html. 2012.
And the king said unto him, where is he?.... In what part of the land, city, or town, does he dwell?
and Ziba said unto the king, behold, he [is] in the house of Machir,
the son of Ammiel; a descendant of Machir, the son of Manasseh, to whom the land of Gilead was given, which lay on the other side Jordan:
in Lodebar; a place in that country, perhaps the same with Debir in
Joshua 13:26. Here it may be his mother's relations lived, and here he might dwell in obscurity, and lie hid from the knowledge of David; who, it might be feared by his friends, would have dispatched him, had he known where he was. Some take it to be an appellative, and render it, as Abarbinel observes, "without anything"; as if he was so poor that he had not anything to support himself with. No mention as yet is made of his name, perhaps because the historian had given it before, 2 Samuel 4:4.
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 9:4". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-9.html. 1999.
|David's Kindness to Jonathan's Son.||B. C. 1039.|
1 And David said, Is there yet any that is left of the house of Saul, that I may shew him kindness for Jonathan's sake? 2 And there was of the house of Saul a servant whose name was Ziba. And when they had called him unto David, the king said unto him, Art thou Ziba? And he said, Thy servant is he. 3 And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God unto him? And Ziba said unto the king, Jonathan hath yet a son, which is lame on his feet. 4 And the king said unto him, Where is he? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he is in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, in Lodebar. 5 Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel, from Lodebar. 6 Now when Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, was come unto David, he fell on his face, and did reverence. And David said, Mephibosheth. And he answered, Behold thy servant! 7 And David said unto him, Fear not: for I will surely shew thee kindness for Jonathan thy father's sake, and will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father; and thou shalt eat bread at my table continually. 8 And he bowed himself, and said, What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?
Here is, I. David's enquiry after the remains of the ruined house of Saul, 2 Samuel 9:1; 2 Samuel 9:1. This was a great while after his accession to the throne, for it should seem that Mephibosheth, who was but five years old when Saul died, had now a son born, 2 Samuel 9:12; 2 Samuel 9:12. David had too long forgotten his obligations to Jonathan, but now, at length, they are brought to his mind. It is good sometimes to bethink ourselves whether there be any promises or engagements that we have neglected to make good; better do it late than never. The compendium which Paul gives us of the life of David is this (Acts 13:36), that he served his generation according to the will of God, that is, he was a man that made it his business to do good; witness this instance, where we may observe,
1. That he sought an opportunity to do good. He might perhaps have satisfied his conscience with the performance of his promise to Jonathan if he had been only ready, upon request or application made to him by any of his seed, to help and succour them. But he does more, he enquires of those about him first (2 Samuel 9:1; 2 Samuel 9:1), and, when he met with a person that was likely to inform him, asked him particularly, Is there any yet left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness?2 Samuel 9:3; 2 Samuel 9:3. "Is there any, not only to whom I may do justice (Numbers 5:8), but to whom I may show kindness?" Note, Good men should seek opportunities of doing good. The liberal deviseth liberal things,Isaiah 32:8. For, the most proper objects of our kindness and charity are such as will not be frequently met with without enquiry. The most necessitous are the least clamorous.
2. Those he enquired after were the remains of the house of Saul, to whom he would show kindness for Jonathan's sake: Is there any left of the house of Saul? Saul had a very numerous family (1 Chronicles 8:33), enough to replenish a country, and was yet so emptied that none of it appeared; but it was a matter of enquiry, Is there any left? See how the providence of God can empty full families; see how the sin of man will do it. Saul's was a bloody house, no marvel it was thus reduced, 2 Samuel 21:1; 2 Samuel 21:1. But, though God visited the iniquity of the father upon the children, David would not. "Is there any left that I can show kindness to, not for Saul's own sake, but for Jonathan's?" (1.) Saul was David's sworn enemy, and yet he would show kindness to his house with all his heart and was forward to do it. He does not say, "Is there any left of the house of Saul, that I may find some way to take them off, and prevent their giving disturbance to me or my successor?" It was against Abimelech's mind that any one was left of the house of Gideon (Judges 9:5), and against Athaliah's mind that any one was left of the seed royal,2 Chronicles 22:10; 2 Chronicles 22:11. Those were usurped governments. David's needed no such vile supports. He was desirous to show kindness to the house of Saul, not only because he trusted in God and feared not what they could do unto him, but because he was of a charitable disposition and forgave what they had done to him. Note, We must evince the sincerity of our forgiving those that have been any way unjust or injurious to us by being ready, as we have opportunity, to show kindness both to them and theirs. We must not only not avenge ourselves upon them, but we must love them, and do them good (Matthew 5:44), and not be backward to do any office of love and good-will to those that have done us many an injury. 1 Peter 3:9-- but, contrari-wise, blessing. This is the way to overcome evil, and to find mercy for ourselves and ours, when we or they need it. (2.) Jonathan was David's sworn friend, and therefore he would show kindness to his house. This teaches us, [1.] To be mindful of our covenant. The kindness we have promised we must conscientiously perform, though it should not be claimed. God is faithful to us; let us not be unfaithful to one another. [2.] To be mindful of our friendships, our old friendships. Note, Kindness to our friends, even to them and theirs, is one of the laws of our holy religion. He that has friends must show himself friendly,Proverbs 18:24. If Providence has raised us, and our friends and their families are brought low, yet we must not forget former acquaintance, but rather look upon that as giving us so much the fairer opportunity of being kind to them: then our friends have most need of us and we are in the best capacity to help them. Though there be not a solemn league of friendship tying us to this constancy of love, yet there is a sacred law of friendship no less obliging, that to him that is in misery pity should be shown by his friend, Job 6:14. A brother is born for adversity. Friendship obliges us to take cognizance of the families and surviving relations of those we have loved, who, when they left us, left behind them their bodies, their names, and their posterity, to be kind to.
3. The kindness he promised to show them he calls the kindness of God; not only great kindness, but, (1.) Kindness in pursuance of the covenant that was between him and Jonathan, to which God was a witness. See 1 Samuel 20:42. (2.) Kindness after God's example; for we must be merciful as he is. He spares those whom he has advantage against, and so must we. Jonathan's request to David was (1 Samuel 20:14; 1 Samuel 20:15), "Show me the kindness of the Lord, that I die not, and the same to my seed." The kindness of God is some greater instance of kindness than one can ordinarily expect from men. (3.) It is kindness done after a godly sort, and with an eye to God, and his honour and favour.
II. Information given him concerning Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan. Ziba was an old retainer to Saul's family, and knew the state of it. He was sent for and examined, and informed the king that Jonathan's son was living, but lame (how he came to be so we read before, 2 Samuel 4:4; 2 Samuel 4:4), and that he lived in obscurity, probably among his mother's relations in Lo-debar in Gilead, on the other side Jordan, where he was forgotten, as a dead man out of mind, but bore this obscurity the more easily because he could remember little of the honour he fell from.
III. The bringing of him to court. The king sent (Ziba, it is likely) to bring him up to Jerusalem with all convenient speed, 2 Samuel 9:5; 2 Samuel 9:5. Thus he eased Machir of his trouble, and perhaps recompensed him for what he had laid out on Mephibosheth's account. This Machir appears to have been a very generous free-hearted man, and to have entertained Mephibosheth, not out of any disaffection to David or his government, but in compassion to the reduced son of a prince, for afterwards we find him kind to David himself when he fled from Absalom. He is named (2 Samuel 17:27; 2 Samuel 17:27) among those that furnished the king with what he wanted at Mahanaim, though David, when he sent for Mephibosheth from him, little thought that the time would come when he himself would gladly be beholden to him: and perhaps Machir was then the more ready to help David in recompence for his kindness to Mephibosheth. Therefore we should be forward to give, because we know not but we ourselves may some time be in want, Ecclesiastes 11:2. And he that watereth shall be watered also himself,Proverbs 11:25. Now,
1. Mephibosheth presented himself to David with all the respect that was due to his character. Lame as he was, he fell on his face, and did homage,2 Samuel 9:6; 2 Samuel 9:6. David had thus made his honours to Mephibosheth's father, Jonathan, when he was next to the throne (1 Samuel 20:41, he bowed himself to him three times), and now Mephibosheth, in like manner, addresses him, when affairs are so completely reversed. Those who, when they are in inferior relations, show respect, shall, when they come to be advanced, have respect shown to them.
2. David received him with all the kindness that could be. (1.) He spoke to him as one surprised, but pleased to see him. "Mephibosheth! Why, is there such a man living?" He remembered his name, for it is probable that he was born about the time of the intimacy between him and Jonathan. (2.) He bade him not be afraid: Fear not,2 Samuel 9:7; 2 Samuel 9:7. It is probable that the sight of David put him into some confusion, to free him from which he assures him that he sent for him, not out of any jealousy he had of him, nor with any bad design upon him, but to show him kindness. Great men should not take a pleasure in the timorous approaches of their inferiors (for the great God does not), but should encourage them. (3.) He gives him, by grant from the crown, all the land of Saul his father, that is, his paternal estate, which was forfeited by Ishbosheth's rebellion and added to his own revenue. This was a real favour, and more than giving him a kind word. True friendship will be generous. (4.) Though he had thus given him a good estate, sufficient to maintain him, yet for Jonathan's sake (whom perhaps he saw some resemblance of in Mephibosheth's face), he will take him to be a constant guest at his own table, where he will not only be comfortably fed, but have company and attendance suitable to his birth and quality. Though Mephibosheth was lame and unsightly, and does not appear to have had any great fitness for business, yet, for his good father's sake, David took him to be one of his family.
3. Mephibosheth accepts this kindness with great humility and self-abasement. He was not one of those that take every favour as a debt, and think every thing too little that their friends do for them; but, on the contrary, speaks as one amazed at the grants David made him (2 Samuel 9:8; 2 Samuel 9:8): What is thy servant, that thou shouldst look upon such a dead dog as I am? How does he vilify himself! Though the son of a prince, and the grandson of a king, yet his family being under guilt and wrath, and himself poor and lame, he calls himself a dead dog before David. Note, It is good to have the heart humble under humbling providences. If, when divine Providence brings our condition down, divine grace brings our spirits down with it, we shall be easy. And those who thus humble themselves shall be exalted. How does he magnify David's kindness! It would have been easy to lessen it if he had been so disposed. Had David restored him his father's estate? It was but giving him his own. Did he take him to his table? This was policy, that he might have an eye upon him. But Mephibosheth considered all that David said and did as very kind, and himself as less than the least of all his favours. See 1 Samuel 18:18.
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on 2 Samuel 9:4". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/2-samuel-9.html. 1706.
We have seen the sorrowful circumstances out of which arose the first desire to have a king in Israel, and the remarkable fact that, although it was a sin, God nevertheless did not put the people back into the condition in which they had been before they sought in this to be like the nations, but gave them a king after His own heart, as far as that could be, till He comes whose right it is. Now this is exceedingly instructive to my own mind, and the rather as in fact it is a principle in the dealings of God. So far is man's unfaithfulness from hindering God, that it only furnishes Him fresh occasion to glorify Himself, by proving and making known His supremacy over evil, and this invariably too by taking up the results of sin in order to make them the opening for the display of the resources of His wisdom and goodness. It was sin to have asked a king, but it was grace on God's part to give it.
But God was looking onward to a better than David; and now we have seen that, even after David was designated to the kingdom and anointed for it, God did not set aside at once the miserable consequences of man's choice. He allows the whole thing to resolve itself responsibly before the eyes of all men. He permits Israel to see, on the one hand, the ruin which the king of their own choice had brought in; but He lets them see, on the other hand, the weakness of the one He chose from among them to establish the kingdom according to His mind, a type, and only a type, of the good and enduring things to come.
There never was greater confusion than towards the end of 1 Samuel David among the Philistines seeking to fight Israel, Saul and Jonathan utterly worsted at last by the Philistines who slay them. What an awful issue for the king, with his sons, after consulting through a witch the dead prophet whom he had failed to heed whilst he was alive! Such was the fate of Saul and his house: what of the people? Whether they were on David's side or on Saul's, they proved altogether unequal to meet the difficulty, Saul's men fleeing before the enemy, and David's men ready to stone the true anointed of Jehovah! Had there ever been such a group of helpless ruin? And this was in the midst of God's people, where indeed, if things are according to God, they are the only things sweet on earth; if not so, wonder not if nowhere they look so deplorably ill. Nevertheless God's firm purpose stands; and now we are about to read in the second Book of Samuel how from this wretchedly low estate God raises up the man that He had chosen from the sheep-cotes to feed Israel like a flock, until he is established firmly by grace in Zion. It will be made plain, too plain, that he was not the true Beloved, but at best only a shadow of Him that was coming. Nevertheless, when it was painfully proved that David was but a sinful man, the bright promise of a better even of the Messiah shines through the dark patches of his history.
Let me take this opportunity, before passing on, of saying a little on the great central idea of these two Books. God's intention was to set up a king according to His own mind. It was an entirely new place; but even though those who were called of God to fill that place for the time were altogether short of what was in the divine purpose, one remarkable witness of Christ there was from the first attached to the kingly place in Israel: the priest was to fall into a secondary place, and the king be henceforth the immediate link between God and the people. We have already seen that in Saul's case this entirely failed; for God forsook him, when morally obliged to become the enemy of one who, despising His will and word, at last betook himself to the power of evil to enlighten and sustain him when consciously forsaken of God. There we behold complete failure; immediately after which he and his perish.
The king's place in Israel for all that was of no less, but rather of the deepest, interest and importance, and for this simple reason: had he gone right, all would have been right for and with the people. I am not at all speaking about the Israelites individually viewed. It is impossible that it should be well with any soul for eternity who is not right with God for himself. There must be individual and immediate links with God. There is nothing stable short of life in the soul. But we are speaking now, not of life, nor of eternity, but of the kingdom on earth; and I say that the prime idea, the chief central thought of that kingdom, was this and it is a grand one that if the one man, the king, had only stood firm and right with God, he had been always the means of blessing unfailingly and fully for the people of God. Is it to be supposed that God did not know what sort of stuff kings were? He knew right well what the ways would be, not merely of Saul, but of David. He knew perfectly of course what David's sons would come to. How comes it then that God sees fit to introduce such a principle as this, that the destiny of the people should turn on one person, even the king; that on his fidelity in glorifying God, on his standing true to Jehovah's name, should depend the well-being of Israel? Had the king of Israel been faithful in his office before God, there had always been an unfailing supply of blessing for the children of Israel as a people. It is no question simply now of his being a believer, or therefore of eternal consequences; but how are we to account for his astonishing public place in the early ways of God? Because the Holy Ghost is even here always thinking of Christ. When He comes, it will be so. And God, who is looking onward to this, had before His mind the one person who is the pivot on which turns our blessing, not only for eternity, but also for His people and all the earth in time.
This then is the great truth which is shadowed out by the throne of Jehovah in the midst of Israel; and this we shall see illustrated yet more in the Second Book of Samuel than in the first. In the first negatively we have seen the idea coming to a close, because it was a king that Israel chose according to their own heart, although even there God held the reins, as He always does. We have seen the type of the true king in anything but a kingly place the outcast most hated and feared by the king who then was in all the group of outcasts who surrounded him; for David was beyond doubt the one who, if he cast a halo around all, continually brought them all into danger. Such is the case where Satan governs, even though there may be the form of the kingdom of God It was exactly so under Saul. All outward order was around him. And this is the more striking, because that outward order was never to be disrespected.
Evil as Saul might be, and the path of faith assuredly far away from him, for all that the people that were most severed from Saul and most attached to the person of David were those that most felt for Saul and Jonathan when they fell. We see it in David himself. Nor was it the feeling of David exclusively, but shared by those that surrounded him; for they were but the reflex of his own mind and heart. The fall of king Saul in David's circle was a sorrow, and to himself a genuine one, as the Amalekite learnt to his cost; for he, judging simply from the feelings of the natural man, supposed that more welcome news could not be to the man designated for the kingdom. Nor was this unknown. It was evident that even the enemy knew it. It was everywhere diffused. The unhappy king spread the tale of his own fear and shame, of his own murderous hatred and jealousy of David wherever he went. And who was there in Israel that did not know it? And who was there out of Israel too, round about among the Amalekites or the Moabites or any others, who did not know that David was the one marked out for the throne, and that Saul, for this very reason, because he knew that his own house would fail before that of David, could not forgive such a loss and affront. But here we have the genuine feeling of the heart, as I have said not only of David, but of those who shared his sympathies and his thoughts not an expression of human satisfaction but of horror paid to the man that dared to lift up his hand against Jehovah's anointed. On his own showing therefore he fell, and fell too judicially under David's orders.
Nor was this by any means all. On the occasion the Spirit of God gives us one of. the most touching lamentations that ever broke from the heart of man. I am not forgetting, that God inspired it; but let us remember too that it was the genuine effusion of his affection. Faith can afford to be generous in a way and degree that puts the finest feelings of nature to the blush.
But the death of Saul and Jonathan by no means settled the question of David's succession to the throne. Nor does David for his part trouble himself about the issue. He walks in faith still. (2 Samuel 2:1-32) Instead of taking up measures of policy or violence with a view to the throne, he enquires of Jehovah, saying, "Shall I go up unto any of the cities of Judah?" This is admirable. He well knew that he was anointed, but he will not take a step without Jehovah. Any other would have had himself introduced at once with a flourish of trumpets. David could wait, and so much the more because he was anointed of Jehovah. He knew right well that Jehovah's purpose could not fail. For that reason he could afford to be quiet. If indeed we believe, beloved brethren, then do we with patience wait for it: the hope that we have is well worth the while. "And Jehovah said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up?" It was not merely the general fact, but he was led in the way in each particular part as well as in the main. And Jehovah directs him to Hebron, whither he goes. And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.
And this furnishes opportunity for another truth of some importance: even our blessed Lord Jesus will not take the entire kingdom all at once. There are many persons who suppose that, when the Lord returns, the fresh work of establishing Israel and of Himself as the true Christ in the rights of David's throne will be all brought about in a moment. This is a mistake. He has all rights as well as all power; but the Lord Jesus, divine person though He be, will act for some time transitionally after He returns. Before He returns, when He has received the heavenly saints to Himself, there will be a transition during which He will occupy Himself among other things in getting ready a remnant from the Jews. He will deal with their consciences as well as their affections; He will produce an earnest desire, not in "the many" but in the few, to hail Him as coming in the name of Jehovah. But after this another transition will follow, which is even less generally seen by those who occupy themselves with questions of the prophetic word, the transition that fills up the gap between the destruction of the antichrist, when the Lord Jesus shines from heaven and the judgment He will execute when acting from Zion against the leader of the nations of the world, more particularly in its north-eastern quarters where the masses of population are found, above all against the one called in scripture Gog, prince of Rosh. This is a considerable time after the destruction of antichrist. Does scripture tell us nothing of what the Lord Jesus will be doing then? There will be a settlement of all morally, according to God, in the hearts of Israel Judah first, and the ten tribes afterwards. Just as we find in the case of David in the second Book of Samuel. He does not become king over all Israel at once; and even when he does, there is still a work of putting down adversaries among the neighbouring nations.
It is altogether a mistake to suppose that the Lord Jesus will solve every question by a single decisive blow inflicted on His adversaries in the camp. It is probable that this is the idea that commonly prevails among the mass of those persons who look for the Lord Jesus; but it is not sound, because it is not scriptural. It is a human inference drawn from the fact of His divine glory. It is supposed that, because He is God, because He knows all the wickedness of every individual, therefore every wicked one is consumed in an instant; but these are not the ways of God. He could do so if He pleased, but as the rule He has never acted thus; and He will not do so at the time to which we are now referring.
And hence it is that this book is in my judgment a very full and exact type in its grand features, without straining any part of it, or pretending that everything has an answer in the circumstances of that day. At any rate it is far from me to set up for having the competency, if indeed any man could have it, to run the analogy with a closeness which is not warranted by the direct instructions of the Lord elsewhere. Still the great general principle that applied of old will apply yet more by and by. And for this we are not dependent on this Book taken typically without plain teaching of scripture which openly refers to it.
For instance, let us take the account that is given in the prophecy of Isaiah, where the Lord Jesus is seen returning from Bozrah. What means this? I do not anticipate that any one who hears me will be under the ancient and general error of ecclesiastics or other uninstructed souls, that it is a question here of the cross or atonement. But many conceive that it points to the Lord destroying the Roman beast and the false prophet with the associate kings of that company and day. Not at all. It is the Lord dealing with earthly things, not merely from heaven. It is the Lord Jesus, now associated with the people, who puts Himself at the head of Israel.
Again take the well-known picture of the day of Jehovah, Zechariah 14:1-21, where it is said that Jehovah shall go forth as in the day of battle and fight with those nations. It is granted that this does not fall in with ordinary pre-conceived notions, as to the manner of the Lord's future association with His earthly people here below. But the fact is that the faith in Christendom as to the judgment of the quick is vague, uncertain, and unreal. They hold the judgment of the dead, but in general merge in it that of the quick, which is to lose it. We must make room in our thoughts, my brethren; we must leave room rather for the truth of God's revelation as to all this. Here it is quite plain that the Lord will destroy one class of His enemies when He appears from heaven; equally plain is it that He will reign in peace over the earth; but there is a transitional period between the two. As its type, the second Book of Samuel is most valuable as showing that the grand distinctive principles which will exist under Christ were manifested in David.
Hence the application of what comes before us here. David is hindered for a time by the family of Saul; and more particularly we are told "Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim; and made him king over Gilead." Now Ish-bosheth had no title whatsoever. Nevertheless we see great tenderness toward him on the part of David, and this the more because he knew his own title to be indisputable. When people are wrong, do not wonder if they are generally apt to be touchy; when they have the confidence of the truth of God, they can afford to leave things without anxiety or bluster. Here certainly David shows us this. Although the pretender might be exceedingly vexatious, and an injury to the people too, nevertheless violent methods would have ill become the king that God had chosen in grace. David therefore leaves all with Him. Ish-bosheth then reigned for a certain time. "But the house of Judah followed David. And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months." Thus patience had then its perfect work in David. And this, it will be observed, not merely while suffering in the presence of Saul, but now even after he had as the anointed king been reigning in Hebron according to God's direction for him to go up thither. Indeed it was perhaps in a certain sense more trying now, because in Saul's case there was a title; in Ish-bosheth's there was none.Nevertheless in every way the anointed of the Lord was to triumph.
But soon we find Abner and Joab coming into opposition and collision. Only now is the name of Joab first heard of during these sorrowful scenes in Israel. There does this politic and bold man begin to take a very leading part. There are only two occasions perhaps when Joab ever appears; one is when there was anything bad to be done, another is when there was anything great to be won. Joab was a man as far as possible from the faith of David, and to suffer the prominence and allow the influence of such a chief was one of the fatal weaknesses of David's kingdom that is, of God's kingdom in the hands of man, not merely man's kingdom in the presence of God's anointed, but, as has been remarked, God's kingdom confided to man, and there failing.
The wily Joab accordingly caused great distress to David, though without hesitation taking part with him. He was a man of sufficient penetration to know who would gain the day, not to speak also of a family connection with David, which naturally gave him a certain interest in his success. It is to be feared that a principle of nobler, of less selfish, character never wrought in Joab. At any rate we see him in a most unhappy light on this occasion; for the result was that, in the conflict that ensued, Joab gains the day by treachery and violence, accomplishing by murder the downfall of those whom he too was desirous to see put out of his ambitious way. He wished to stand without a rival in the day of triumph and glory which he well knew would soon come to king David.
In the chapter (2 Samuel 3:1-39) that follows the Spirit of God marks the progress of things. "There was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker." This gives occasion for showing out the end of Abner's history, as well as of Ish-bosheth's, in the next chapter. The continual fighting furnished at last what Joab had long wished for the opportunity to take Abner aside and speak with him quietly, thus lawlessly to avenge the blood of his brother, while he got rid of a great opponent disposed for peace with his master. But David bore witness in his fasting and tears how deeply he felt Abner's death, and how truly he judged Joab's iniquity, though alas! his power was not equal to his heart. Hence he could do no more at present than say "to Joab and all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David himself followed the bier."
It was a fine feeling, and this, I am persuaded, from higher than human sources. But while his was a generous heart, there was that which, being of God, gave it its true direction, and sustained it in power spite of all circumstances. Clearly I speak now of where he was directly guided of God. "And the king lamented over Abner," just as suitably as he had before lamented over Jonathan and his father, "and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth? Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou." He judged truly even of his own commander-in-chief, as one may call Joab at least the one that was to be so formally before long. "And all the people wept again over him. And when all the people came to cause David to eat meat while it was yet day, David sware, saying, So do God to me, and more also, if I taste bread, or ought else, till the sun be down. And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased the people. For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner."
At the same time the king confesses what a sinful thing had been done, and his own weakness. "Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel? And I am this day weak." How true! "I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: Jehovah shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness." A single eye is always full of light; and though David could not shake off those on whom indeed he was too dependent as the supports of his throne, nevertheless he does judge what was unworthy of the name of Jehovah, and what was abhorrent to his own soul. Weakness or worse must always be till Jesus take the throne.
But it is not only that we have the death of Abner, as I have said, but of Ish-bosheth also. This follows in the next chapter, and there again how truly men mistook the heart of the king. The murderers "brought the head of Ish-bosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and Jehovah hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed." How little unbelief ever learns! The lesson that was taught the Amalekite one might have supposed would have been remembered by the men of Israel that heard of the king's feeling. But unbelief, in its ignorance of God and its incapacity to discern those that are His, unfits itself to appreciate the ways of faith and of love, and hence it is that all was lost on them. "And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As Jehovah liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity, when one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings: how much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed?" What can be finer than this? Here was a man that was a rival, and this too without a cause and without a title. But faith is more than upright, and can readily afford to be generous. Certainly so it was with king David, who hated any advantage taken even of his enemies. "How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed?" It was not that David shut his eyes to anything that was wrong. He did not mean that Ish-bosheth was righteous in everything, more particularly in disputing the throne given by God to himself. But he did not forget his life and general character, because of the grave mistake that opposed David and turned out fatal to himself. Therefore he adds, "Shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth? And David commanded his young men, and they slew them."
The time was now come for the just place of the king. "Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and Jehovah said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel." Nevertheless it is solemn enough to observe that these men had known it all the time. It is not want of knowledge that hinders souls from acting according to God: I speak now of the general rule. But want of faith dulls the force of what we know, and makes it as if we knew it not. As long as there were those who acted on their nature, as long as it was a king of their own choice, or any one belonging to his family that seemed to have the smallest shadow of a title to the throne, their feelings wrought; their prejudices proved strong; their prepossessions were so deeply engaged that they forgot the word of the Lord. But now the Lord had put aside these different hindrances manifestly by His judgment, and had done it so much the more solidly for David as it was not by David. For David's hand was never lifted up against Saul or Jonathan; David's hand never got rid of Abner nor of Ish-bosheth. But now, whether by wicked men with David, or by wicked men against him, or by the open enemies of the Lord, in all these various ways God had wrought and disposed of the different men who laid claim to the throne one after another; and lo! the confession comes out, which must have been as true of the dead as of the living, that all through they knew well enough what the will of Jehovah was.
And so do we find now constantly. When souls are brought out of hindrances, when they are brought out of a false position, there is many a confession made which shows that the truth had pierced their consciences long before: only will, the world, the difficulties of family connection, a thousand snares, hindered fidelity to the Lord. But in truth, my brethren, we are entirely dependent on God Himself to give force to His own truth. Power is not in the truth simply. It is still less in a position, true as it may be. The grace of God alone gives the truth power. It is this that really works so as to deliver from hindrances, and therefore it is of such importance to our souls that the affections should be strong and rightly set. If the affections are kept vigorous and pure on the object of God, then the truth is seen in its real beauty and brightness; whereas if the affections are weak, or wandering after false objects, we may have all the truth in the Bible before us, but it makes little or no impression. This we see in the unconverted man fully; but the very same thing that ends in the ruin of the unconverted operates, if allowed, and in the degree it is allowed, to the hindrance and injury of those born of God.
At last, then, all the tribes of Israel come and make their common acknowledgment to the king. (2 Samuel 5:1-25) Now they could see that they are his bone and his flesh. Had they not been so before? Now they could remember how he led them in olden time. Was this again something new? Now they could remember that Jehovah said, "Thou shalt feed my people." Had this too only just then burst on them for the first time? "So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before Jehovah: and they anointed David king over Israel." Was there a reproach from David? I venture to answer there was not. No; there was a heart that loved them better than they loved him: there was one that sought Jehovah's glory for them, and who valued the throne because it was Jehovah's gift. I do not mean to say that he did not value it in itself, but I do affirm that it never entered the heart of David to seek the throne for himself. The first conception of it, the first presentation of the thought, was produced by God's own deed and gift. It was in no way the fruit of vaulting pride in the spirit of David. But God's call made it a duty to obey on his part as on Israel's. He consequently was the one who could use that throne in his measure for Jehovah's glory.
But if David and his men come to Jerusalem, the stronghold of Zion was still in the hand of the enemy, as it had hitherto been. Whatever might be the conquests of Joshua, whatever might have been achieved afterwards, in the very middle of the land, in the centre of Jerusalem itself, there frowned this stronghold held by the Jebusites; The time was come to mark a most important change. It was impossible that the kingdom could be according to God unless Zion were wrested for the king from the enemy who had thus daringly defied His people; and David felt this in all its force. He was keenly alive to the dishonour that was done to God by the very heart and citadel of the kingdom belonging to an accursed race of Canaan. There they proudly and at ease, by long possession in their fortress, laughed all assailants to scorn. Hence, when David comes before it, they say to him, "Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither." A most stinging taunt to the warrior king! The blind and the lame were sufficient to keep the stronghold against David and his men. That is, the place was so excessively strong by nature, perhaps also so fortified by the men of Jebus, that they had conceived it to be impregnable. "Nevertheless David," as the Spirit of God says so calmly "Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion: the same is the city of David. And David said on that day, Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David's soul, he shall be chief and captain." David was not only too sensitive to the taunt, but could not rise above it. All flesh is grass, and its glory as its flower. Generous as David was, he was wounded and resented the insult on those innocent of it. "Wherefore this day the blind and the lame shall not come into the house." We know how the grace of the Lord Jesus reversed this. The blind and the lame were just the people that did come into the house when He was there. But David was not Jesus. The king felt things after a too human sort. The Lord Jesus only and always went or came in a way perfectly suitable to God and His grace.
"So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David." This, though it be so briefly named by the Spirit, becomes ever afterwards an epoch and turning-point in the history of Israel. I do not know anything more striking in scripture, or a more remarkable characteristic of it than such a fact as this, slight as some may count it the quietness with which the Holy Ghost notices the completeness of the blow that was struck in the heart of the land at that which had been a constant challenge and triumph over all the efforts of Israel to that day. Now that David had wrested it from the Jebusites, this becomes the great fact that afterwards stamps its character upon Israel. Zion, in short, becomes a new name of the deepest moment the sign of divine grace in royalty the grace that took up the people in their lowest condition, and by that man whom God employed raised them up step by step to such a place of power and blessing and glory as never was before and never can be again till Jesus come and make this very Zion the centre of His earthly government with the blessing and glory due to His name.
Hence it is referred to in Hebrews strikingly, where it is said, "We are come to mount Zion." It is indeed the most characteristic spot in the whole earth as the sign of grace. Why should it be so? Why should it not be so? There are two mountains that have a place proper to them the mount of law and the mount of grace. Sinai, I need scarcely say, is the one, as Zion is the other. Sinai came into view when Israel were tried under law and all was favourable, the people having been brought out by the mighty power of God in the freshness of their youth. It was the beginning of their history, when all looked fair. They had entered upon it by a victory over the proudest king of the earth in that day; and what did they come to? Ruin, ever worse and worse, as each means successively tried proved the hopeless evil of man when fairly and fully put to the test by God.
But now what a contrast begins to dawn, though only in type! They were taken up from the depth of ruin, and after that estate Zion was won. Thus it is the kingdom established in power after the people had been utterly ruined after they had gone through every phase of change calculated to help, yet every experiment only sinking them deeper into the dust. After all this was Zion won, and not till then. Now there is nothing that so beautifully shows grace; for it is not only great activity of goodness, but also perfect goodness displayed after all had been lost. This is grace, and such is precisely therefore the picture of the stage at which Zion comes before us in Jewish history. Therefore it is that in the epistle to the Hebrews, where the apostle is contrasting all that flesh boasted of in Israel Sinai and its ordinances, he takes up that name of Zion which they little felt and little thought of, giving it its real prominence and most striking superiority. The moment that it is named thus, how the heart recalls and turns over all the glorious things spoken of the mountain of grace, and remembers that Zion too was chosen by God for His holy hill that not only was David an object of divine choice, but withal Zion! Nor need we wonder, because God in this too was thinking of Christ as King. There had He anointed His Son. It He desired for Jehovah's habitation. "This," said He, "is my rest for ever; here will I dwell: for I have desired it." "There brake he the arrows of the bow, the shield, and the sword, and the battle." "Jehovah loveth the gates of Zion more than all the dwellings of Jacob." We shall see perhaps a little more as we go on.
Again, we hear next how David was owned by the Gentiles gradually. "And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, and carpenters, and masons: and they built David an house. And David perceived that Jehovah had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for his people Israel's sake." All this flowed in on the king after Zion was won.
But I am far from saying that we have more than a pledge as yet of good things to come, chequered alas' by the too evident fact that the first man is not the Second. Thus "David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he was come from Hebron: and there were yet sons and daughters born to David. And these be the names of those that were born unto him in Jerusalem; Shammuah, and Shobab, and Nathan, and Solomon, Ibhar also, and Elishua, and Nepheg, and Japhia, and Elishama, and Eliada, and Eliphalet." The law made nothing perfect. Christ, the true light, was not come; nor was even the believer, though born of God, the new creation yet, so as to say, "old things are passed away: behold, all things are become new."
Moreover we find, when the Philistines who heard of it came up, that David was still as dependent on God when on the throne as he had been whilst in the place of suffering. He "enquired of Jehovah, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines?" There was no confidence in his own powers, no presuming on past victories as easy a thing to slip into as it is dangerous. "And Jehovah said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand." And so he smote them, "and there they left their images, and David and his men burned them. And the Philistines came up yet again." David does not even then act, because he had before beaten them; nor does he satisfy himself for the fresh need with the answer God had given him for their former attack. He enquires again; and Jehovah exercises his obedience by an altogether new command: "Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees. And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall Jehovah go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines. And David did so, as Jehovah had commanded him; and smote the Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer."
But now (2 Samuel 6:1-23) we have another and a totally different scene. It is no longer a question of the enemy, but of the ark; for how could David's spirit rest if the great symbol of Jehovah's presence in Israel was wanting? If David now is established king of Israel, could he but desire the establishment of the sign that the true God was there? Nevertheless it was not yet apparent, and there were many mistakes made in consequence. "And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God." It is instructive to notice that here at first he did not enquire. He evidently thought there could be no doubt of the matter. When it was a question of opposing the enemy, he felt that he needed the guidance of God; but when the point was the establishment of Jehovah's ark in its due place in Israel, how could it be necessary to ask Jehovah about it?
And so it is we often deceive ourselves. For in fact there is no occasion where we more need the sustaining of God than in His very worship. Have we not learnt this by experience, my brethren? Some of us are apt to think that, because this is a holy place, and because it is a holy work, and because we are by the grace of God "holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling," we may enter into it as a matter of course. And what is it that we prove when we do? Certainly not the power of God. There is no place where there is a greater danger of distraction on the one hand or of form on the other. Is this to us anything but the iniquity of holy things? No where do we more truly need the guiding and directing grace of God than in His own service and worship. Do not suppose that this is said in the slightest degree to encourage legalism, or in any way to sanction the morbid state of a Christian which would shrink from that which is due to the Lord and ought to be his deepest joy, and what most surely He looks for continually; but one may warn that there is no small danger of our taking it all as a matter of course, just as we find David did on this occasion. We do well therefore and wisely if we read the history of David before the ark as a serious admonition to our souls in all that concerns our drawing near to God.
"And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, crave the new cart." Where we have not the guidance of the Lord, and do not even look for it seriously, every step cannot but be wrong. Who told them to put it "upon a new cart?" Were they Philistines? Another Book told us of the Philistines doing so, and how God bore pitifully with these heathen who knew no better. But will He allow such a procedure in Israel? God deals with men according to the place in which they are, or He has put them. If He left the poor Philistines to the darkness of nature, only just illumined by whatever beams of light might from Israel break through the darkness from time to time, could it be that God's elect should surrender themselves to imitate the darkness of the heathen? What a wretched descent, beloved brethren, when those who are called into the light of God allow themselves to be swayed by the license taken by the world, even though it may be the religious world!
But let us pursue the tale. "And they brought the ark out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. And David and all the house of Israel played before Jehovah on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. And when they came to Nachon's threshing-floor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. And the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God." Surely this is very solemn for me, for any. God did not at once deal with the first departure from His word. They drove the new cart for a time without a sign of His displeasure. Then He allowed what might have seemed to be a mere accident of circumstances, by which He was pleased to try them, and in a single instance show signally His sense of their irreverence, though of course especially in one who went farthest in it. It is true that it was another act, and it was an aggravation of the evil.
Nevertheless on the outward surface of things it looked justifiable enough to guard the ark from a fall. The ark of God seemed in danger: why should not a Levite put out his hand to save it? Was not Uzzah, son of Abinadab of Gibeah, the most fit to do so holy an act? But the act involved going against the express word of God. What of this? It was not only a device that was taken up hastily in the first instance, and carried out independently of God's order for carrying the vessels of the sanctuary; here there was a direct failure in the respect due to God's ark when it seemed to need man's succour. The Lord had appointed who it was in Israel that should carry the ark, and how it must be done. Of this the Philistines knew nothing, nor were they responsible to obey such an ordinance; but Israel were as being under the law. They had His word in their hands, and were responsible accordingly.
So when Uzzah put forth his hand and took hold of the ark, for the oxen shook it, God was bringing the matter to a point in judgment. "The anger of Jehovah was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God." And David, instead of judging himself, instead of looking back and confessing how completely they had all acted without the guidance of Jehovah, was displeased because Jehovah had made a breach upon Uzzah. Displeased with whom? Oh, it is a sorrowful thing to say, he was displeased with the God of Israel. But do not think this so strange a thing either. When you murmur and complain of His chastening in your own case, what are you doing but expressing your displeasure at the Lord? Do you suppose, beloved brethren, that any trial which happens to you, whatever its character, is without Him? that afflictions "spring from the dust?" Do you suppose that anything, no matter what it may be, or by whatever instrument it come, even though it be what most of all pains you, is without His intention or His lesson to your soul? Certainly not. It may fall on you through ever such a wrong in another. But this is never a reason either to justify you nor the smallest excuse for being displeased with God.
The fact is that Israel had acted without God's word from the first even David himself; and if David was the one whom it least of all became, we must not be surprised if he also had the sorest feeling about the Lord. "And David was displeased, because Jehovah had made a breach upon Uzzah: and he called the name of the place Perez-uzzah to this day. And David was afraid of the Lord that day, and said, How shall the ark of Jehovah come to me? So David would not remove the ark of Jehovah unto him into the city of David: but David carried it aside into the house of Obed-edom the Gittite. And the ark of Jehovah continued in the house of Obed-edom the Gittite three months: and Jehovah blessed Obed-edom, and all his household." What an answer to David's displeasure! "And it was told king David, saying, Jehovah hath blessed the house of Obed-edom, and all that pertaineth unto him, because of the ark of God. So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obed-edom into the city of David with gladness. And it was so, that when they that bare the ark of Jehovah had gone six paces, he sacrificed oxen and fatlings."
Now we have David righted in his soul, and Jehovah, instead of being dreaded, or being the source of displeasure, is the spring of gladness and thanksgiving. But it is holy joy. There is no brighter happier moment, as far as I can discern, in David's history as a king than on that day. "So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of Jehovah with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of Jehovah came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before Jehovah; and she despised him in her heart." No wonder that the Spirit of God calls her Saul's daughter. Why, methought she was now David's wife. Yes, but what woman that day behaved less like it? She was "Saul's daughter" still. It was the genuine expression of her father. There was not a right feeling towards her husband in this transaction (and how near it was to his heart!), still less in her value for Jehovah's relation to Israel as witnessed by the bringing of the ark to Zion.
But "they brought in the ark of Jehovah, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt-offerings and peace-offerings before Jehovah." They were undisturbed by any hindrance now. Their sense of the divine majesty was evident, their adherence to the word of the Lord unmistakable. All the offerings speak of thanksgiving in devotedness and fellowship. "And as soon as David had made an end of offering burnt-offerings and peace-offerings, he blessed the people in the name of Jehovah of hosts." It is clear that David was now enjoying in the very fullest sense the grace of God toward Israel and himself. "And he dealt among all the people, even among the whole multitude of Israel, as well to the women as men, to every one a cake of bread, and a good piece of flesh, and a flagon of wine. So all the people departed every one to his house."
Yet there was one person who had no sympathy with the festive joy of that great day in Israel, one soul who was as displeased with David now as he himself had once been with Jehovah. "And Michal the daughter of Saul [mark the significant repetition of the natural root] came out to meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel today, who uncovered himself today in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain fellows shamelessly uncovereth himself!" But how dignified and withering was the rebuke of her husband! "And David said unto Michal, It was before Jehovah, which chose me before thy father, and before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of Jehovah, over Israel: therefore will I play before Jehovah." It was the service of faith. It was the king of Israel who, the more he was exalted and established of God, used all his exaltation as an offering to the Lord, and felt himself too so much the more exalted because God was everything to his soul. Nearness to God was greater in David's eyes at that moment than the throne that God had given him; and David rightly judged. And Michal, far from appreciating the Lord's grace in her soul, was thenceforth doomed to be far from a husband whom she failed to honour when he proved that his heart was set to treat all else as nothing so that he might honour the Lord.
In the next chapter (2 Samuel 7:1-29) we have the king before Jehovah. How different all that passed there, as we pass from Michal and the king to the king and Jehovah! "And it came to pass, when the king sat in his house, and Jehovah had given him rest round about from all his enemies; that the king said unto Nathan the prophet, See now, I dwell in an house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains. And Nathan said to the king, Go, do all that is in thine heart; for Jehovah is with thee." But Nathan was wrong in this; he had answered hastily. The prophet is as much dependent on God for light as any other person, and it is an instructive thing that we should have the mistakes of a prophet, or it may be of a greater than the prophet: I speak of course even of an apostle himself; and, without entering on doubtful points, I do say it is perfectly certain that, great as was the apostle Peter, he made not only mistakes, but some of the most serious kind. I do not speak of what he did before he was brought into the highest place, and had the power requisite to fill it, but it is plain that God has recorded for our instruction that not even the very chief of the twelve apostles had wisdom except in what was given him. For experience will not suit in the things of God, nor any power in which a person may have previously wrought, unless there be also dependence on the Lord.
So here Nathan has a corrective from the Lord Himself, as indeed it was needed. "Go and tell my servant David, Thus saith Jehovah, Shalt thou build me an house for me to dwell in? Whereas I have not dwelt in any house since the time that I brought up the children of Israel out of Egypt, even to this day, but have walked in a tent and in a tabernacle. In all the places wherein I have walked with all the children of Israel spake I a word with any of the tribes of Israel, whom I commanded to feed my people Israel, saying, Why build ye not me an house of cedar?" Many an edifice of our proposal and making God had never asked of us. We ought not to run before Him. Faith waits on God, instead of anticipating in self-confidence, or in the desires of our own heart, let them be ever so simple. It is obvious that David was acting from his own thought and his own circumstances. It looked excellent, humanly speaking, and might even seem so for a man of God. In a certain sense the desire was admirable; but, beloved brethren, "to obey is better than sacrifice." Can we trust our desires? There is nothing so humble as waiting on the Lord, and quietly doing His will as God makes it known; nor is anything really so firm, although unbelief counts and boldly declares it the greatest presumption to know it.
But there is more than this. God deigns in grace to serve His people and to suit Himself to them. It would not answer to His feelings that they should be at work or war, and He in rest and peace. When they were wanderers in the desert, He dwelt in a tent in their midst; and He must settle them in the land before He would accept a temple or settled dwelling at their hands. Yea, He must also make David a house settled in the throne of Jehovah before his son could build Him a house. For such was His holy pleasure, that not David but David's son should build the house of Jehovah. The bearing is evident: the true Solomon, the Prince of Peace, is before the eye of God.
"Now therefore so shalt thou say unto my servant David, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, I took thee from the sheepcote, from following the sheep, to be ruler over my people over Israel: and I was with thee whithersoever thou wentest, and have cut off all thine enemies out of thy sight, and have made thee a great name, like unto the name of the great men that are in the earth. Moreover I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime, and as since the time that I commanded judges to be over my people Israel, and have caused thee to rest from all thine enemies. Also Jehovah telleth thee that he will make thee an house."
Thus God must always have the first place, and always be the first mover. It would not consist with His glory to let David build Him a house till He had built David a house. Of this He proceeds to assure the king. "And when thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers, I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son." It is true that David's seed should come under the righteous government of God. `' If he commit iniquity, I Will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men." It was not Christ yet. "But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established for ever.... So did Nathan speak unto David."
David goes in and sits before Jehovah, and pours out that wonderful answer to the expression of Jehovah's grace even in correcting David's hasty desire to glorify Him. "Who am I, O Lord Jehovah? and v hat is my house, that thou hast brought me hitherto? And this was yet a small thing in thy sight, O Lord Jehovah; but thou hast spoken also of thy servant's house for a great while to come. And is this the manner of man, O Lord Jehovah? And what can David say more unto thee? for thou, Lord Jehovah, knowest thy servant. For thy word's sake, and according to thine own heart, hast thou done all these great things, to make thy servant know them. Wherefore thou art great, O Lord Jehovah: for there is none like thee, neither is there any God beside thee, according to all that we have heard with our ears. And what one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel?" Could any words so well present this admirable feature of David's faith that he so much the more appreciated the people as Jehovah's people because he had appreciated Jehovah? For His grace to himself and his house he has now to bless Him.
It is granted that, where we are occupied with the people first, we are never right. Who could ever trust a man's love for the church until he is content with the love of Christ alone? But when you have got the sense of what Christ is, when you are filled with His glory and with His love, then not to enter into His feelings toward the church would be the most unnatural of all things. It is more than doubtful whether it is really possible, but there may be something like it occasionally. There is an ultra-spirituality which loudly professes that it cares for nothing but Christ, while it despises the testimony of Christ and the fellowship of saints. This I believe to be a most offensive thing in the sight of God; and it is shown by the person isolating himself in heart and ways from all that tries as well as exercises heart and conscience. It will be found contrariwise, my brethren, that the more truly you are isolated in the power of faith to Christ, the more precious the children of God become to the heart; but for this very reason you cannot endure their walking apart from the Lord's will. It deepens your judgment of the condition in which they may be practically; but then it strengthens your desire to see them really delivered out of it.
Something of this sort you may trace running through all scripture. It does not matter where we search; the darker the time, the plainer it appears. Take for instance Daniel. Did any one ever love Israel more than he did those in Babylon? Yet he assuredly felt the condition of the people more gravely than any other; and it was because the power of faith isolated him so truly to the Lord that he loved them, and this for God's glory in them. I do not doubt that practically he walked in the empire a lonely man: few there beyond the three companions of his youth could appreciate his feelings; but I am persuaded that he loved Israel so much the more because Jehovah was all to him.
Similarly, though in a comparatively good time and quite other circumstances, we find David now communing with the counsels of God. It was at the time of fresh power and blessing to Israel where the name of Zion, as it were, gives character to the period, and the putting forth of divine power and goodness by David makes it an epoch in Israel. But whether one look at Moses or David or Daniel, at the beginning or middle or end, after all the Lord is the same yesterday and today and for ever; and the effect is the same in the heart of those that love Him. It may be modified by our circumstances, and the state of the people of God of course; but it is the same principle always. It was David's portion then to enjoy Jehovah's love, and not merely to himself but to His people, yet to be the witnesses of His glory as enjoying it themselves.
Hence David launches out into praise. "What one nation in the earth is like thy people, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a people to himself, and to make him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for thy land, before thy people, which thou redeemedst to thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods? For thou hast confirmed to thyself thy people Israel to be a people unto thee for ever: and thou, Jehovah, art become their God. And now, O Jehovah God, the word that thou hast spoken concerning thy servant, and concerning his house, establish it for ever, and-do as thou hast said." Such grace was indeed a great thing to say and do, but not too much. What could be too much for God? It made David nothing; but for this very reason David's heart just forgets himself, and there is no true dignity that is not founded on self-forgetfulness. But the only thing which ensures its reality is the sense of the grace and the presence of the Lord. David enjoyed it most deeply at this very time. "And now, O Jehovah God, thou art that God, and thy words be true, and thou hast promised this goodness unto thy servant: therefore now let it please thee to bless the house of thy servant, that it may continue for ever before thee: for thou, O Jehovah God, hast spoken it: and with thy blessing let the house of thy servant be blessed for ever."
In the next chapter (2 Samuel 8:1-18) we hear of wars, and the Philistines and the Moabites subdued. We read of Hadadezer, king of Zobah, smitten, and the Syrians who would succour him also put down. At the same time some of the Gentiles come to bless the king with presents, and all those rarities that befit the character of the kingdom; in short power, glory, and blessing fill the scene. Further, the Edomites are made subject to the throne. Lastly, the administrative order and government of David are brought before us in due season, as well as his own place as supreme. "And David reigned over all Israel; and David executed judgment and justice unto all his people. And Joab the son of Zeruiah was over the host; and Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder." The priests, and the scribes, and the various other officers are brought before us, each in his place.
Then in 2 Samuel 9:1-13 a different picture opens before us. The heart of David yearns now, not for subjecting others, but for the exercise of that grace that God had shown to his own soul. And so he thinks of the house of Saul. Were there any of them to whom he could show "the kindness of God"? On this most grateful scene we need not pause long. It is happily no strange tale to almost all of us, being the account of David's wonderful grace to Mephibosheth. "So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king's table; and was lame on both his feet."
After this another scene opens, in which David wished to show kindness, not to Jonathan's line of the house of Saul but to Hanun, the son of Nahash, as his father had shown kindness to David. (2 Samuel 10:1-19) This was completely misunderstood. The Ammonites could not appreciate the grace of David's heart, but only suspected mischief, as the wicked naturally do. "And the princes of the children of Ammon said unto Hanun their lord, Thinkest thou that David doth honour thy father, that he hath sent comforters unto thee? hath not David rather sent his servants unto thee to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it? Wherefore Hanun took David's servants, and shaved off the one half of their beards, and cut off their garments in the middle, even to their buttocks, and sent them away." The insult was told to David, who quietly met the matter; but at the same time it was committed to Joab; and certainly the vengeance taken was grateful to him. Joab took them, and, as we know, spite of the Syrians who sought to shield them. Resistance was vain. They were punished severely. The power of the throne of David was firmly settled everywhere.
The next chapter (2 Samuel 11:1-27) introduces the first dark shade since David came to the throne. "And it came to pass, after the year was expired, at the time when kings go forth to battle, that David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they destroyed the children of Ammon, and besieged Rabbah." There was a bitter vengeance. "But David tarried still at Jerusalem." I doubt that the soul of David was thoroughly with the Lord either in taking his ease, or in wreaking the vengeance that had been poured on the Ammonite. At all events the history that follows is too painful for us to dwell much on at this time. It need only be briefly touched on. His heart was ensnared, and sin soon followed the gravest sin, more particularly in such a one as David. It was followed, as sin usually is, by the worst efforts to cover all, and he who did the wrong with Bath-sheba tried ineffectually to conceal his sin by having home his faithful servant Uriah; and when this failed to gloss over his own wickedness, he devised the means by which Uriah should be brought to his grave. Thus did the fallen king still more pursue, and now without a check, the course of wickedness on which he had entered. Oh, what sin and shame for David!
The next chapter (2 Samuel 12:1-31) brings Nathan again forward, who comes and puts before the king the case of the two men in the city, the one rich and the other poor. "The rich man had exceeding many flocks and herds: but the poor man had nothing, save one little ewe lamb, which he had bought and nourished up: and it grew up together with him, and with his children; it did eat of his own meat, and drank of his own cup, and lay in his bosom and was unto him as a daughter. And there came a traveller unto the rich man, and he spared to take of his own Dock and of his own herd, to dress for the wayfaring man that was come unto him; but took the poor man's lamb, and dressed it for the man that was come to him."
"And David's anger was greatly kindled against the man." Do not always trust people when they show indignation with vehemence. David even then could feel hotly enough about evil. Alas! there was no self-judgment, nor is there a single feature more terrible in the sin of David than the long time he gave himself up to it, apparently without a right feeling as to man, or exercise of conscience as to God; so that, even when it was plainly enough set parabolically before him, his anger was kindled only against another man's wrong. When Nathan came, David might well have had his ears open to know whether there was any word from God about such a sin as he had been guilty of; but not so. Let us not deceive ourselves, my brethren, or be deceived by others. The only thing that enables us to judge aright anything in others is self-judgment. If we are to see clearly the mote in a brother, let us not forget to take the beam out of our own eyes. David here stands as a solemn instance that he who is so quick to see sin in another may be utterly blind to his own grave and unjudged iniquity. Hence too he says quickly, "As Jehovah liveth, the man that hath done this thing shall surely die: and he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity. And Nathan said to David, Thou art the man. Thus saith Jehovah God of Israel, I anointed thee king over Israel, and I delivered thee out of the hand of Saul; and I gave thee thy master's house, and thy master's wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of Jehovah, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith Jehovah, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour."
Mark the solemn principle of retribution in this instance, so habitually found in fact as in scripture. Our sin always gives the form of our chastening. "I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour." And further, "Thou didst it secretly." Here comes in contrast, as before there was analogy, the one or the other characterising God's ways, as each would mark most impressively the deceitfulness of sin for man, and God's eternal abhorrence of it. "Thou didst it secretly: but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun. And David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against Jehovah. And Nathan said unto David, Jehovah also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die." He had sentenced himself, but God in every sense is greater. "Howbeit, because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of Jehovah to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die." Nevertheless of that very mother of her who had been the wife of Uriah the Hittite did the grace of God raise up the heir to the throne of Israel, whom He made His firstborn, higher than the kings of the earth and type of Christ in peaceful glory, as David had been in suffering and warlike power the latter yet. to be fulfilled. Truly the ways of God are wonderful. Here again we see, whatever may have been the sin of gaining her as the king did, the sovereign grace of God did not blot out the tie that was formed, but deigned out of that connection, when the sin was thoroughly detected and judged, to raise up the chosen son of David, who sets aside the others that might have pleaded a prior claim after the flesh.
It is a chapter profitable for the soul to consider well and often, the bitter grief of David, his exercise of heart when the child was smitten, and his admirable conduct after God had taken away the child. Then it was that he hears his servants' entreaty, and is comforted. Just when affectionate men naturally would give themselves up to unrestrained and hopeless grief, in the wisdom which grace inspired his tears were stayed, his heart turned with confidence to the Lord, and he partook of the refreshment provided for him. What a warning, yet what consolation, for him! David, however low he had fallen, was a real man of God; not only the object of grace, but as a rule one deeply exercised and habitually formed by it. He returns therefore to the spring of his strength and blessing. Accordingly we shall find in the sequel that God had good things in store, in the midst of sorrow and chastening, for the penitent king of Israel.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Kelly, William. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 9:4". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/2-samuel-9.html. 1860-1890.
the Fifth Week after Easter