Tuesday, March 9, 2010

2 Samuel 1-5: David Is King!

When I said last time, the book ends with Saul's death and the valiant men recovering the body of him and his sons, that wasn't entirely true.  I mean, that's how 1 Samuel ends, but the original Book of Samuel was not divided into parts like it is today; it was just written on two scrolls.  So now we're on the second scroll.

It starts out with an Amalekite coming up to David - who's in his house in Philistia still - and telling him that Saul and his sons are dead.  David asks him how he knows, and the Amalekite says that he killed Saul himself.  Now, this might be true - Saul might not have killed himself immediately when he fell on his sword, and he might've seen the passing Amalekite and asked him to finish the job - or, the Amalekite might be lying in order to get some kind of reward from David for killing his mortal enemy and paving the way for him to become king.  Not so!  David is so mad that he has the guy killed on the spot, and all David's people fast and mourn and weep all day long.  David sings a dirge for Saul and Jonathan.  This is where that famous saying, "How the mighty have fallen" comes from.  I didn't know that.

Now one line in this dirge thing is interesting.  David says that Jonathan's love was better than the love of women.  Considering the kind of relationships David had with his wives and concubines, I find that really easy to believe.  Jonathan and David had a friendship based on mutual respect and a commitment to one another; David's relationships with his wives were not really based on much of anything.  The exception to this, I think, is Abigail, whom David seemed to admire for her brain and her graciousness, but the others? not so much (otherwise, why would he keep taking more wives?).  But we'll find out more about David's wives later.

So David then asks God if he should go to Judah, and God tells him to go to Hebron.  Hebron is one of those major cities during this time, by the way.  David goes there, and the people of Hebron anoint David king over them.

But meanwhile, Saul's army commander Abner anoints one of Saul's other sons, Ish-bosheth, king of Israel.  Ishbosheth was not one of the sons of Saul who was killed in battle, so either he was lucky that day, or he was too young to fight.  Either way, he lasts two years, but meanwhile all the people of Judah are following David - no surprise, because David is from that tribe.

Then Abner and Joab, who takes on the role of head of David's army, start a fight to see who will be king.  Joab's side is winning, and Abner runs away.

Then we get a list of the kids David has had during this time: there are six of them, and each of them is from a different woman.  Go figure.

Meanwhile, Abner gets really angry at Ish-bosheth, hereafter I.B., because I.B. accuses Abner of sleeping with one of Saul's concubines.  So for that reason alone, Abner decides to follow David and turn the whole army of Israel over to him.  David says great, just give me back my wife (Michal, who's been living with some other guy this whole time that David's been gone).  So they do.

Now, Joab doesn't like this turn of events.  I think it's because Abner is the commander of the army, and now that he's on David's side, he's probably going to be the commander of David's army, and Joab was just starting to take the title for himself.  Also, Abner killed Joab's brother earlier in that battle.  So Joab and his brother kill Abner.  David mourns him, which is good for his PR with the people of Israel - the ones who have been following I.B.  When I.B. hears about all this, he gets really freaked out that he's going to be next - and he's right!  Some people come in the middle of the night and murder I.B. by cutting his head off while he's in bed.  Now, can you get much lower than killing a guy in his own bed?  I don't think so.  They take I.B.'s head to David, for some reason thinking he'll be happy - weren't they paying attention this whole time?  Didn't they see what happened to the Amalekite when Saul died?  Yeah.  Big surprise, David kills them too.

So at last, with I.B. out of the way, David becomes king over all Israel, and it's David who moves the capital city to Jerusalem.  People build David a house, and David takes even more wives and concubines - because apparently six isn't enough - and he has eleven more sons and some number more daughters.  Now, I know David is a man after God's own heart, but this is really not what God had in mind when he invented marriage.  God made one Adam and one Eve, not one Adam and twelve Eves, and when He gave instructions in the Law for kings, He specifically said they weren't supposed to take a bunch of wives.  David has done that, and it's going to get him into trouble eventually.

Finally we have one more battle with the Philistines.  David may be crummy with women, but he is consistent when it comes to asking God about war.  God tells him to go up against the Philistines, and they win.

Wow, so it really took a long time to get to this point.  David has really grown up from the puny adolescent who had the guts to mouth off a giant.  He's experienced many joys and many sufferings, but one thing has remained constant: his devotion to God.  Unlike Saul, who started to drift away after not very long, David is always seeking God's will when he makes executive decisions as king.  Being in a position of leadership is tough, because you are responsible not just for you, but for everybody under you.  Leaders are held to a higher standard of accountability for that reason.  Saul didn't get that; David, for all his faults, does.

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