Wednesday, February 27, 2013

CXX - I Kings - David Selects Solomon as His Successor

David was neaaring the end of his life and the close of his reign as king.  Due to his deteriorating condition, he almost lost control of the events which would effect the entire future of his beloved Israel.

I Kings 1:1-4  -  By the standards of David's day, David was an old man.  He was suffering so much from his declining health, that it was visibly effecting his ability to reign, which concerned his royal cabinet and those close to David.  Apparently his body temperature was too low in spite of several attempts to warm him up.  When all else failed they selected a beautiful woman named Abishag to become a member of David's harem.  Her primary task was to lie with him to impart her body
warmth to him.  Also she was a test to David's manhood and a determination as to whether or not David would get well from his current affliction.  In those days, the king's ability to rule was directly related to his physical virility.  This type of "test" was common practice.  Even with Abishag lieing with him, David showed no signs of sexual interest or improvement of spirit.  But Abishag continued with David as a nurse and handmaid.

Verses 5-->  The focus suddenly moves to Adonijah.  Adonijah was the oldest living son of David.  {David's first-born son was Amnon who was killed by the third-born son Absalom.  Absalom was killed by Joab's men after Absalom tried to overthrow king David his father.  Although the Scripture does not say, the second son Kileab must have died prior to the events we're studying now.  Kileab's mother was Abigail, one of David's first loves.  She was a widow when David married her.} Adonijah is described as ambitious, handsome, pampered, and assuming.  Long before David's death Adonijah had assigned to himself over fifty bodyguards and attendants.  {Perhaps David might have seen this coming.}  Adonijah declared himself to be the next king.  He also was cunning as he had already recruited most of David's officers and advisors to start serving him instead of David.  Adonijah knew that some of the leaders in David's inner circle leaned toward Solomon.  {I cannot find anywhere in the Scripture, but based upon this and other events in this chapter, Solomon had been designated as the heir to the throne, either secretly or kept in the confines of family and the inner circle of the king.  Certainly there was a proclaimation made sometime because Solomon was the tenth son born to David.  Solomon's mother was Bathsheba, David's true love.}  Being very smart and cunning, Adonijah first recruited Joab, the military commander, and Abiathar, one of David's chief religious advisors.  Many people followed Adonijah just because he already had these two prominent officers of the king's court.  So Adonijah openly declared himself king.  He was going to have an official coronation, and chose Kidron Valley as the place, as this section of Jerusalem was large enough to accomodate quite a crowd.  And of course, a crowd gathered to witness the coronation of a king.  It was perhaps a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.  These people were the
townspeople, led to believe that Adonijah was indeed their king now.  If the commoner was told by these official looking men that Adonijah was the new king, they would have had no reason to question it.  Therefore it is not safe to assume that everybody in attendance were disloyal to David.  So everybody who was anybody was in Kidron Valley, feasting and celebrating the crowning of a new king.  But there were a few who were conspicuously absent.  All of the king's court were there except Nathan, Zadok, and Benaiah.  All of David's wives and concubines were there except Bathsheba.  All of David's sons were there except Solomon.  In those days, when someone of a high level was intentionally excluded from such an event, it meant more than a few hurt feelings.  If those who were not invited were members of the old regime, it meant they were marked for death.

Vss 11-->  Now the focus shifts back to Nathan.  Nathan first appeared in the Scriptures after the Ark of the Covenant was brought back to Jerusalem.  Nathan was a prophet, like Samuel.  He was David's close spiritual advisor and confidant.  Nathan had a special place in his heart for Solomon.  When Solomon was born, Nathan named him Jedidiah, which meant "beloved of the Lord".  {Through the years Bathsheba had become David's favorite wife, a position which, in part, had led David to take a special interest in Solomon.}  Nathan had of course heard about what was happening in Kidron Valley, and he shuttered at the thought of its significance.  He knew he must act quickly.  He approached Bathsheba, who always had access to the king.  She was to make David aware of what Adonijah was doing and remind him of his pledge earlier to make Solomon his successor on the throne (vs. 17)  {There are factions even today who think Nathan and Bathsheba fabricated the story of David making that commitment.  But theologeans through the centuries have dismissed that thought.  I agree with the theologeans.  Nathan had severed in a Godly manner all his life.  Surely he would not have relied on the possibility of David having senility that severe.  Also, Solomon had become favored in David's eyes, howbeit in large part because of his affections for Bathsheba.  Further, I must discount the senility possibility because of the account of decisive actions taken by
David from this point in the day until day's end.  Severe senility would not have allowed such resolve.}   While Bathsheba was still speaking, Nathan (as planned) would enter to back up and emphasize Bathsheba's concerns.  Nathan painted for David a vivid picture of what was happening at that very moment.

Vss 28-->  Then David springs into action.  He begins directing everyone present with the kingly authority as he has so many times in the past.  David's resolve was to determine the events to take place rather than to let them just fall in place as they may.  He knew he must immediately decree Solomon as king.  He must set up a proper coronation.  And he chose the location, which was Gihon Spring, which was as good if not better that Kidron Valley where Adonijah was partying at that
very moment.  David knew that there were four steps he must take in order that Solomon would be the undisputed king:
1)  The coronation must be supported by and accompanied by the royal guard, led by Benaiah.  {The royal guard were the elite soldiers specially assigned to guarding the king and his palace.  Joab commanded the army, but Benaiah commanded the royal gaurd.  The presence of these soldiers would also serve to squash any attempts to disrupt the procedings.
2)  Solomon was to be placed on David's royal mule.  {Horses back then were used to pull chariots;  they were never used for riding.  Most people either walked or rode a donkey.  I'm sure the royal mule was dressed out in much regalia.  It would have been an impressive sight for Solomon to be riding on the royal mule, surrounded by the royal gaurd marching with him and some leading the way on donkeys dressed in their military dressings.}
3)  David decreed that his religeous leaders were to anoint Solomon as king over the united nation, all twelve tribes.  {By all accounts, Adonijah had invited predominantly men of Judah, disregarding the importance of practicing unity and impartiality.  David had spent his entire life trying to unify Israel, not divide them.}  To anoint someone meant that oil was taken and poured on the person's head.  The event signified two things:  He was divinely chosen and the Lord would endow him with everything necessary to fulfill his task successfully.  Zadok the priest used a horn of oil from the tabernacle, emphasize that the anointing was holy and had God's blessing.
4)  An official proclamation was to be made.  Often important announcements were preceded by a trumpet blast.  The trumpet was a ram's horn called a "shophar" that was sounded for religeous and military occasions.  Those accompanying Solomon were to blow the trumpets and loudly proclaim "God save king Solomon".  David, with great gratitude, expressed thanksgiving for the honor of witnessing the coronation of his son as king of Israel.  {This is a very rare occurance.  Throughout the centuries, kings were never crowned until after the death of the current king.}
Vss 49 -->  The trumpet blasts and the shouts for Solomon could be heard clearly by all those in Kidron Valley.  News of details spread to Kidron quickly.  Solomon has been crowned king of Israel.  The crowd immediately dispersed.  When Adonijah realized what had happened, he knew his life was in danger.  He fled to the tabernacle, grabbed the horns of the altar and pleaded for his life.  {If you remember, holding the horns of the alter in the tabernacle protected you against punishment until
an investigation of your crime was complete}  Solomon extended Adonijah a conditional pardon:  He would spare Adonijah's life as long as he did nothing to undermine Solomon's reign as king.

Next Post:  David's last words

Monday, February 25, 2013

CXIX - I Kings

Author:  Unknown
Date Written:  590-570 BC

You're going to like this book more than you think.  I will attempt to give insight to the progression of Israel and the reasons they went the way they did.  I Kings and II Kings cover quite a lengthy span of History.  We tend to forget the many generations that have passed when we ponder the shifts in the Hebrew nation as a society.  These books will actually take us to the destruction of Israel and its exile, and our study will reveal how this nation of God's chosen people ended up in such a pitiful state.  When my daughter Stephanie was reading Kings and Chronicles she posed questions to me to gain some insight to the various kings and the divided kingdom.  One must have at least a minimum of knowledge of the rest of the Old Testament in order to "connect" the events in these books.  That is why it is necessary to study these books properly for an understanding of the progression of the religious and the social deterioration of Israel.  Also, remember that the remaining books in the Old Testament are of events in this same time period we are about to study.

To review briefly:  Nearly a century earlier, Samuel reluctantly laid the foundation for the kingdom that Soloman ruled.  In Samuel's era, Israel subscribed to the ideal that God was the Ruler or King, Who placed judges territorially to maintain order among the people and promote justice.  Samuel knew this was the perfect government system, but the people damanded a king.  Their reasons were less than pure.  (Actually, the main reason was that they wanted to be like other nations in Canaan.
 Very lame.)  So Samuel annointed Saul as king over Israel.  Saul attempted to establish the kingdom, but his attitude led his reign down a path of destruction which ultimately led to military defeat and suicide.  Due to Saul's rebellion, God had Samuel annoint David as king even before Saul's reign ended.  David's training began in Saul's royal court.  He fought in Saul's army and married Saul's daughter Mical.  David's best friend was Saul's son Jonathan.  As David grew in maturity and favor in the eyes of God and man, Saul tried to kill him.  Forty years after Saul's death, although he seemed to struggle at times, David united Israel's tribes and kept them unified as one nation.  David knew it was God's intent all along that the twelve tribes would become one nation that would lead the whole world to the knowledge of God and His purpose.  David wanted to build a permanant temple for God, but God would not give him permission to do this.  As David grew old, Israel began to wonder who would succeed David as king.  Amnon (David's first-born son) was dead.  Absalom (perhaps considered most capable) was also dead.  And remember that this is a nation in its infant stages and there was no precedent having been set, nor was this addressed in the law handed down by Moses.

The author of First and Second Kings is not named in Scripture.  The Jewish Mishnah credited the prophet Jeremiah as the author.  That might be correct, but the timing of the writing seems to be when Jeremiah was in Egypt, and the vantage point seems to be Babylon.  But in defense of the Jewish Mishnah, God could do anything He wanted to through a man such as Jeremiah.  Although the two books of Kings are one work in the Hebrew Bible, it appears that I Kings was completed earlier than II Kings.  Both were completed by 550 BC.  I Kings seems to have been written to show Israel's
unfaithfulness to God's covenant and the subsequent judgement that God placed on the entire nation.  After we finish the first Book of Kings, you will understand why Israel fell as a nation.  {You will also understand how a nation is influenced by its leader.  And in a democracy, we must be very careful who we place in leadership positions.}  Our study of this Book will take us from the death of David and the reign of Soloman, to the fall of the house of Omri.  We'll see how kings can allow,
promote, or resist the influence of pagan religions to penitrate its society.  Much attention in the earlier parts of I Kings is given to the building of the Temple in Jerusalem.  I want to provoke some thoughtfulness to this in hopes to perhaps influence one's attitude toward worship.  The latter portion of this Book will shift focus to the great prophet Elijah and his influence.  But in the future, as we will reflect back on our study of the Book of I Kings, we will remember how the various kings, both good and bad, had a tremendous influence on their subjects and would determine the destiny of this great nation that, in spite of all the failures, will have risen again and will again take its place as the nation which will point the world to God.

In the next post: I Kings, Chapter 1.  David dies.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

CXVIII - II Samuel 24 - David's Census

I want to make note early on that this chapter nearly mirrors Chronicles 21.  Actually, Chronicles is a bit more detailed than the II Samuel rendering of these events.

Verse 1  -  I spent too much time trying to connect this first verse  with the rest of this chapter.  But when I looked at the parallel verse in Chronicles 24:1, I understood it much better.  II Samuel says that the Lord incited David to take a census in all of Israel.  Chronicles says that Satan incited David to do this.  Chronicles' rendering perfectly fits the rest of the chapter, so we're going on with the assumption that an evil influence caused David to take the census.  The Scripture says that God was
angry with David for it.  It doesn't make any sense that God would be angry with anybody that strictly obeyed Him.  Also, this verse says that God was angry "again".  This indicates to me that the first time was in behalf of the Gibeonites when He sent to Israel the drought (II Samuel 21).

So David instructs Joab, the military commander to count all able-bodied men in all Israel and Judah.  The level-headed Joab asks David why he would want to do such a thing.  {Joab was smart and loyal.  Remember it was Joab who took David to task about his grieving for Absalom.  Had Joab not done that, Israel would have come apart at the seams.  So whenever I read about Joab's words, I pay attention.}  So think about this from Joab's mindset.  He knew that the census would bring back very high numbers.  Whenever people lean upon God, they are successful.  Big numbers for the army could make many people depend on the army for their security rather than God.  Also, such a census could perhaps make the population suspect that David was going to set up a draft, which was against the warnings of Samuel when the elders pressed him to make them a king.  And thirdly, rumors would start that Israel was going to march in war again, and at this time there was peace in the region.

Verse 8 - It took almost ten months for Joab and his soldiers to complete the census in all the tribes of Israel.  When he finished he reported to David that there were 1,300,000 able-bodied men available to serve in the nation's military.  {Gee that's a lot.}  Vss 10-->  David knew in his heart that he should not have had that census taken.  He approached God, confessing his sin and repentant.  He knew God was angry with him, so he threw himself on the mercy of God's court.  So God spoke to David
through the prophet Gad.  Notice that God gives David a choice of punishment.  {I find that interesting.}  God gave him three choices:
     1.  Seven years of famine
     2. Three months of war, fleeing from his enemies
     3. Three days of pestilence or plague
David respectfully said he did not want war because he did not want heathens to harm him or any Iraelites.  He left the choice between the remaining two up to God.  So the Lord sent a great and terrible plague on the land.  The Scripture does not specify the affliction, but it does say that 70,000 people were killed by it.  Note verse 16.  The Angel of Death is mentioned.  {We're going to study about angels as we go through the Scripture.  The last time we saw the Angel of Death was in Exodus.  God used the Angel of Death to impose His final plague on Pharoah and all of Egypt.  It was the time that Moses led Israel out of Egypt for the Promised Land.  Also the arrival of the Angel of Deaht marked the beginning of Passover.}  As the Angel of Death is about to strike Jersalem, God stops him.  Enough was enough.  God stopped the Angel of Death just as he had approached the threshing floor owned by a Jebusite named Araunah.  {The Jebusites were a tribe of Canaan who were living in Jersualem when David captured the city and made it the capial of the united Israel.  Araunah was one of those who were allowed to remain in the city and to own property.  A threshingfloor was a hard-surfaced place where shocks of harvested grain were spread in a circle, and oxen pulled heavy wooden sleds over them to break the grains from their husks.  These threshing floors were usually placed at higher elevations where there was frequent wind that would winnow the wheat, separating the grain from the chaff.  Imagine.  What a perfect place for the Angel of Death to cast his plague and have the wind broadcast it throughout the city of Jerusalem.  Scary, isn't it?}

Verse 18-->  God sent the prophet Gad to David for a second time, with specific instructions:  David was to build an altar unto the Lord and He wanted it built on Araunah's threshing floor.  When David approached Araunah about purchasing the threshing floor for an altar, Araunah wanted to give it to David, but David insisted on paying for it just as Abraham had always insited on paying for any land he got.  In the last verse David made burnt offerings and peace offerings on the altar he built on
his newly acquired land.  {Burnt offerings expressed the offerer's sacrifices in atonement for their sins.  Also, it signified the offerer's entire self-dedication to God.  Peace offerings , using any animal ritually acceptable for sacrifice, were associated with occasions of thanksgiving.  In response to David's offerings, the Lord "yielded to his prayer for the land; and the plague in Israel stopped.

This concludes our study of the Book of II Samuel.  The next post will introduce the Book of I Kings.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

CXVII - II Samuel 21-23

Chapter 21 - The Gibeonites Avenged

This chapter opens up saying there was a three-year famine in the land.  I cannot pinpoint the exact year this happened but that isn't necessary.  But it is necessary for a quick review of the Gibeonites because you might not remember their involvement with the nation Israel.  The 9th chapter of the book of Joshua provides the entire background for this series of events, which would ultimately cause a three-year famine in Israel centuries later.  The Gibeonites were one of several groups of people living in Canaan during the conquest of the Promised Land.  They, like all other people, were fearful of Joshua and the Israelites, and rightfully so.  Per God's instructions, Joshua was taking the land by storm, leaving few survivors.  The Gibeonites tricked Joshua into making a treaty with them.  (They wore old clothes and shoes; carried worn-out wineskins, all to make Joshua think they were from a land far away, and had traveled hundreds of miles to seek peace with him.)  Although the Gibeonites negotiated with Joshua under false pretenses, Joshua still (Josh. 9:18) had sworn "by the Lord God of Israel".  That sealed the deal as sacred and forever.  After Joshua had discovered their deceit, he honored his word by allowing them to live, but enslaved them to Israel under hard labor.  This was the covenant Saul had violated.  Through Saul's zeal, he put so many Gibeonites to death that he almost annihilated them.  Therefore, though it had been negotiated centuries earlier, the covenant was still in force.  Israel shared guilt for Saul's actions, so Israel shared its punishment, which was the famine.  {We need to always study History.}

So David approached God about the famine and God revealed to him that the cause was the breaking of the covenant with the Gibeonites.  David knew that for the sake of Israel, he must somehow right this wrong.  He asked the Gibeonites what he could do to make this right with them.  Their response was that they did not want money or land, but rather seven descendants of Saul to be given over to them.  Of course the Gibeonites wanted to kill them and David knew that, but David consented to their wishes.  And they did kill them and displayed their bodies as a way to humiliate the family of Saul.  {Displaying dead bodies was a common practice in those days.  It told all of society that revenge was exacted, therefore returning lost dignity to the offended people.}  But before we go on to the next chapter, please read vss 10-14, which tells of Rizpah, one of Saul's concubines who gave birth to two of the seven slain descendants of Saul.  Her actions so moved David that he returned honor to her and Saul by giving Saul, Jonathan, and these seven descendants a proper burial.

Chapter 22 - David's Song of Praise

Please take a few moments and read this song that David wrote.  As you read it you will see how David struggles to find words adequate to describe his feelings toward God.  He wanted God to know in writing just how wonderful David thought He was and how much David appreciated God for all His blessings upon David and Israel.  David was close to God.  David loved God and he declared his love for God in both the spoken and the written word.  I've always believed this is why God showed so much loved toward David.  But read this not only with love and admiration in mind, but also look at David's words about his enemies and how God dealt with them.

{I want to share with you just a few of my thoughts about this, and I'll be brief.  Among other specific subjects in this song, David thanks God for taking David's side against his enemies.  God showed force against David's enemies so powerful that the earth shook.  Bolts of lightening came out of the heavens, wind was blasted from the nostrils of God.  HOW TERRIFYING!!!!!  But........I've often said, "if God be for me, who can stand against me?".  I'm not trying to confuse you on this subject, but I must first qualify my thoughts.  To do this we must go to the New Testament on how a Christian is to deal with enemies.  Let's look at Romans 12:18-21, NIV - "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my dear friend, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay', says the Lord.  On the contrary:  If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink,.  In doing this, you will heap burning
coals on his head.  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."  In Paul's letter to the Romans, he could not have said it better.  However . . . . . I have had enemies in my lifetime.  Peggy's and my motto has always been "kill them with kindness".  As much as I've tried to conduct myself in a Christian manner and return kindness for evil, I've still had enemies that were not influenced favorably at all and continued to wreak havok on my life.   YOU will also have these enemies.  In
spite of everything you do, they will pop up in your life and (either directly or indirectly) cause you and your loved ones unfair grief.  You (as I) have probably prayed for God to protect you.  That's good.  However, don't be afraid to be specific.  Name names.  Describe your thoughts and desires in your prayers.  Tell Him that the person or persons are disrupting your life and ask God to intervene for you and deal with this enemy.  That enemy cannot stand against both you and God.  And He will
punish him/her to the point where you will be freed from them, just like David was.  Please do not be bashful about asking God to do this after you have done everything within your power.  I wish I had specifically asked Him to intervene and defeat my enemies by name (I only really had two).  The main thought I want to leave you with is that it is comforting to tell yourself, "if God is for me, who
can stand against me?".  Say it to yourself and believe in the power of it.  It will give you both comfort and courage, as it always did for me.}

Before we wrap up David's praise to God in song, we must enter chapter 23.  The first verse in this chapter says that these are the last works of David.  {This small section is not necessarily in order of accurance.  I believe it was placed here rather than in the Book of Psalms because II Samuel is a Historic accounting of David's life.}  These last words reveal David's lifelong awareness of having been chosen by the Lord to form and lead the nation Israel.  He ruled by divine authority, and
when he himself was ruled and led by God, his leadership kept his people in the right relationship with the Lord and brought them peace and prosperity (23:1-7).

The remaining verses of chapter 23 tell of David's "mighty men".  Over thirty men are listed.  Here proper tribute is given to God-fearing men who served and were instrumental in the building of a nation.

We will finish the Book of II Samuel in the next post.

Monday, February 18, 2013

CXVI - II Samuel 19-20 - David's Return to Power

Chapter 19  -  To remind you, David's temporary headquarters was in Mahanaim.  He stayed there while Joab and two other appointed commanders led the troops to the forest to deal with Absalom's revolt.  David's army was successful.  Vastly outnumbered, they had triumphed over the rebels.  Absalom and his entire militia was defeated and dispersed.  Absalom and his lieutenants were killed.  All military victories back then, as now, are cause for celebration.  But especially this one, as it restored David as king.  This was a special day.  However, the triumphant army that returned to Mahanaim from the forest of Ephraim did not return to a hero's welcome, but rather to a city bewildered and shrouded in gloom.  David was consumed with grief over the death of Absalom.  Such was his grief that gloom infectiously spread throughout Mahanaim.  So intense that the soldiers could feel it in the air as they entered the city gates.

Vs 2 - By abandoning himself to grief and remorse over Absalom's death, David caused the morale of his troops to hit bottom, even on the verge of desertion.  {Probably adding to this was the fear that David would punish anyone he suspected of disobeying his order to "deal gently" with Absalom.}

Then (vss 5-->) David's general Joab saw with clarity exactly what was happening and knowing that there was noone to speak up, he decided to step forward and approach King David.  But Joab knew he must be assertive, bordering disrespectful to make David realize the severity of his actions.  Joab was blunt.  To paraphrase:  "Enough of this.  Your soldiers have risked their lives for you and you act like you would be happy if all of them were killed and the rebel Absalom was still alive.  They feel they have no value at all.  If you do not correct this situation, the soldiers will desert by nightfall."  Joab goes on to give David instructions, "Wipe the tears from your eyes and the frown from your face and go out to the city gate and greet your men, giving them the words and attention they deserve."  {What a good friend Joab is.  We all need friends and/or family members that will take the unpleasant step of telling us when we are wrong and what we need to do, however difficult it may be.}  Vs 8 - David did exactly as Joab instructed.  The atmosphere in the city suddenly reversed itself as the king was once again started acting like a king.

With David in Mahanaim, the nation was officially without a leader, as the capital remained in Jerusalem.  There was no king or administration staff members to conduct the day-to-day business of the nation.  So the elders of all the tribes realized the importance of bringing David back to Jerusalem as soon as possible.  This next passage is very important as it influenced the next few centuries on Israel's History.  Here we see how the tribe of Judah had become a separate nation from the other
eleven tribes of Israel.  {When asked how this happened, always refer to II Samuel 19:9-43.}  Vss 9-10 - Most tribes in Israel had representation in Absalom's militia.  Absalom's attempt to take over as king had failed.  Judah of course was not a part of this rebellion.  They remained loyal to David, mainly because David was of the tribe of Judah.  Therefore the tribes of Israel realized they had no king.  They talked among themselves and decided they needed to present themselves in a united front
and approach David, endorsing him as the legitimate king, and bring him back to Jerusalem.  But suspiciously absent in this group was the delegation from Judah.  Naturally this was noticed by David and all of his closest officers.  David sent Zadok and Abiathar to ask the elders of Judah why they were not involved in this.  This concerned the Judaens, so they rushed an armed delegation to meet David at the Jordan River and escort him back to Jerusalem, acting like it was their idea in the first
place.  This caused a large divide between the Judaens and the rest of Israel.  Judah claimed a right to the kingship because they stuck with David the whole time, plus they were close in kinship with David.  The remaining tribal elders claimed they were ten times in number as Judah.  This argument was not going to be solved any time soon.

Chapter 20 - The tension between Judah and the rest of Israel had become fever-pitch before David even finished his return to Jerusalem.  The dueling factions didn't take much to turn it violent.  In the first verse of chapter 20, Sheba was mentioned as a "troublemaker".  He was the son of Bikri, a Benjamite.  He called for all Israelites who were not Judaens to follow him, claiming that David would always favor Judah, and never treat any other tribesmen as equal.  So most men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba.  David sent Joab and his army to stop Sheba.  Sheba and his army holed up in the fortified city of Abel Beth Maakah.  While Joab and his men were building a ramp to seige the city, a "wise woman" approached Joab, offering to bring to him Sheba's head if Joab did not destroy her city.  Joab agreed and the woman had the people of the city take Sheba, cut off his head, and threw it over the wall to Joab.  Without their leader, the Israelited men who had followed Sheba dispersed to their homes, leaving no resistance to David as the king of all Israel.  David therefore was able to resume his reign without further internal resistance.  Vss 23-26 names David's cabinet in his new administration.

Next post:  David seeks God's guidance and gives Him praise.

Friday, February 15, 2013

CXV - II Samuel 17-18 - David defeats Absalom

In the last post we saw that David's son Absalom had revolted against his father king David.  {But let's remember that this whole situation was Amnon's fault.  He brutally raped Absalom's sister Tamar.  To make matters worse, and further provoking Absalom, Amnon was not held accountable for his horrible act.  Perhaps had Amnon been brought to justice, this whole mess might have been averted.  I have always believed that rape is the most horrible crime that could be committed by a man.  More horrible than murder.  In most instances, there is a reason for murder.  A bad reason most of the time, but nonetheless, a reason.  That reason could be greed, revenge, self-defense, war, or even romance.  But there is NEVER a reason for rape other than selfish evil lust.  I cannot imagine in the far reaches of my mind how a man can force himself on a female who is screaming in fear, crying, begging for him to stop.  Not only is he brutally forcing himself on a female, but he is sexually aroused while doing so.  This evil in such a man is immeasurable in my mind and should always be punished in the harshest of means.}
Absalom had now made his intentions known.  He wanted to take over the nation Israel and replace his father David as king.  David had made a hasty escape from Jerusalem, just before Absalom and his new army arrived in the capital city.  Our last post ended with Absalom disgracing his father by having sex with David's ten concubines on the roof of the royal palace, which fulfilled Nathan's prophecy in 12:11-12.

This brings us to chapter 17.  David's escape from Jersusalem presented Absalom with a dilemma.  The takeover of the nation no longer was a relatively simple matter of seizing the capital and capturing the king.  Instead of being hopelessly bottled up in Jerusalem, David was loose in the countryside with a small but staunchly loyal, highly mobile, combat-experienced army.  Absalom was aware of the fact that he would never be the king as long as David was still alive and had an army with him.  Clearly this demanded of Absalom a radical change in strategy and tactics that would have to be implemented before David had time to make his way into the wilderness beyond Jordan, where it would be almost impossible to overtake him.  Obviously David must be overtaken and defeated before he reached that point.  So Absalom called on his councilors to help him decide how best to accomplish this.  Absalom first turned to Ahithophel, who had been one of David's councelors.  Ahithophel's plan was explicit and practical:  Pursue David immediately with sufficient force to overwhelm him and bring all his people back to Jerusalem (17:1-4).  Absalom then sought the advice from Hushai.  {Remember Hushai?  He was David's councelor and friend who went over to Absalom's side as a spy for David, and who would keep David informed through the Levites Ahimaaz and Jonathan (15:32-37).}  Seeing how Ahithophel's plan was really very good and would place David in danger, Hushai proposed and elaborate, cumbersome, time-consuming alternative:  A nationwide draft of untrained men with whom Absalom himself would go into battle.  His army would be ovrwhelmingly large (however scantly trained).  Hushai's plan was enthusiastically accepted by Absalom and all of his councelors except Ahithophel.  (Ahithophel was publicly disgraced by the rejection of his plan and a short time later he committed suicide by hanging.)
Hushai immediately sent word to David about Absalom's plan.  Upon hearing this David crossed the Jordan to the wilderness beyond.  Having crossed the Jordan, David and his men established a base camp at Mahanaim, a fortified city in the highlands east of Gilead.  Absalom followed with his drafted army, pitched camp in Gilead and set out in search of David.  David's men, however, were in no shape for battle due to fatigue, hunger, and thirst.  In their haste to leave Jersusalem they were unable to compile the supplies necessary for an army on the run.  But God provided for David and his men throught the people in that area and beyond who brought to them all the food and supplies they would need.  David then organized his rested and well-nourished troops for battle.  {Important to note at this time that David selected the site and circumstances for battle.  Absalom and his advisors were not equal to David when it came to military preparedness.}  David split his army into three units led by three capable commanders, Joab, Joab's brother Abishai, and Ittai the Gittite.  Then David dispatched them into the wilderness to find and attack Absalom's army.  But David instructed them to deal "gently" with Absalom.

In the dense forest of Ephraim, David's battle-savy army quickly overtook and defeated Absalom's militia of raw recruits.  But Absalom was not dealt with as gently as David had instructed.  (18:6-18) Remember the most physically noteworthy characteristic of Absalom was his thick, heavy hair.  As he was on his horse, fleeing from David's soldiers through the thick forest, his hair got so tangled in the dense branches that he ended up hanging by his hair as his horse continued running without him.  Trapped and helpless in the limbs of the trees, he was killed by Joab and his armor-bearers.  This was a shameful way for a prince to die.  Absalom's burial was as shameful as his death.  Instead of being given a stately funeral, his body was dumped into a nearby pit and covered with a pile of stones.  {How sad.  This should never have been.}

Two runners brought word back to David in Mahanaim.  The first runner Ahimaaz reported that David's army was victorious.  When David asked about Absalom, Ahimaaz (fearful of giving the king bad news) said there was too much confusion in the victory celebration for him to have discerned the fate of Absalom.  Cushai (the second runner), reported to David and could only answer David's question indirectly, saying "may all of the king's enemies end up like Absalom".  This cast David into a deep depression.  He grieved and lamented Absalom's death, stating that he wished it had been himself who was dead instead of Absalom.  He grieved for Absalom long and hard, even more so than he grieved for Amnon.

As you know, I revere David as one of the greatest of patriarchs.  All of this that has happened in these last few chapters of II Samuel was a real shame.  Although I am saddened for David's sake right now, I must refer back to II Samuel 12:10 when God told him violence will never depart from David's house.  And 12:11 "out of your own house I am going to bring calamity on you".  Underlying in David's grief for Absalom must been his piercing remembrance of God's prophecy and punishment for his sin with Bathsheba.  Mingled with this must have been his bitter knowledge of his own failure as a father in his refusal to deal with his son Amnon for the rape of his daughter Tamar.

Next post:  David's return to power 

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

CXIV - II Samual Chapters 14-16 - David and Absalom

Up until the eleventh chapter of II Samuel, David's life was filled with successes, military victories, wise choices.  The life of a true man of God who obeyed God and was richly blessed by Him.  Then in chapter 11 we saw where David committed a series of sins, beginning with lusting after Uriah's wife Bathsheba.  After that, David's life became difficult, riddled with problems that should never have been.  His judgments and reactions to these new situations seem tentative and sometimes arbitrary.  These three chapters as I paraphrase the events will paint a slightly adjusted picture of the beloved David.  Let's continue to bear in mind that these tremendous patriarchs were human and that God has given them (and us) a free will to make our own decisions on a daily basis.

Three years had passed since Absalom deliberately murdered his half brother Amnan and fled for protection to his maternal grandfather, Talmai king of Geshur (13:38).  King David had long since reconciled himself to the death of his firstborn son Amnon, but took no pleasure in the exile of Absalom, also his son.  Instead, he brooded over Absalom day after day, missing him and longing to be with him.  Joab, general of the army, perceived with sympathetic understanding how strongly "the king's heart was toward Absalom," and devised and executed an ingenious plan to get Absalom back to Jerusalem (14:1-20).

However, Joab's plan was only partly successful.  David dispatched Joab to Geshur to bring Absalom home, but did not receive Absalom into his presence.  Instead, he banished him to his own home.  {A little pride here?  What do you think?}  Absalom lived there for two years virtually under house arrest.  Finally, through Joab, Absalom gained an audience with the king so that he might know where he stood with him:  Was he to be forgiven or executed for the murder of Amnon?  Absalom came humbly before David, who kissed him as a token of welcome and forgiveness (14:21-33).

Chapter 15 - Absalom was a very cunning and charismatic young man.  He immediately made the most of his restored princely status.  He acquired a royal escort:  "chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him".  Now take a moment and read vss 2-6.  Absalom actually began a campaign to steal the nation from his father David.  He stationed himself daily in the busiest and most frequented public place in Jerusalem, where he could see and be seen, hear and be heard.  And with all the expertise of a professional politician and public relations man, he implemented his covert campaign to sabotage his father's prestige and authority, and finally to take the kingdom from him by having himself nationally acclaimed king at Hebron.  {Quite a gutsy guy.  Agree?}

{This next part confuses me a bit.  I cannot understand why David was so fearful of Absalom, as Absalom's army was far inferior to David's.}  Vss 13-37  -  Hastily, David fled Jerusalem before the mounting wave of Absalom's rebellion, taking with him all his household except ten concubines whom he left as a token of his unsurrendered ownership of the palace.  With him also went his government officials and his troops, including his bodyguard of Philistine mercenaries (Cherethites and Pelethites) and a detachment of 600 men from Gath.  He told the priests Zadok and Abiathar and their sons to remain in Jerusalem as spies.  He asked his trusted friend and adviser Hushai to pretend loyalty to Absalom, and to infiltrate Absalom's counselors and send David word by the priests' sons of all he could see and hear in the palace.

Chapter 16  -  In this chapter Mephibosheth is reintroduced.  As a reminder, he is the crippled son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul.  David had provided very generously for Mephibosheth to honor his vow to Jonathan years earlier.  While David was fleeing he was told that Mephibosheth had remained in Jerusalem, expecting that the kingdom of his late grandfather Saul would be given to him.  In other words, Mephibosheth would become king of Israel since David was apparently abdicating his throne.  {Bear in mind, this is what David was TOLD by a third party.  Not necessarily what Mephibosheth THOUGHT or SAID.}  Later, Mephibosheth denied ever having said this (II Samual 19:24-30).  {I believe Mephibosheth never said it.  The Scripture has never portrayed him as such a man who would try to take advantage of David who had treated him so generously.}  David did not handle this information very objectively.  Then, to make matters worse for David, he was pelted with stones and curses by a man named Shimei, of the family of Saul, who shouted that the Lord had allowed Absalom to take the kingdom from David because David had stolen Israel from Saul.  David could have had that man killed, but instead he allowed the man to continue cursing him and pelting him with stones.  {What could be going through David's mind right about now?  How could things have gone from so good to so bad?  clue: chapter 11}

So David had scarcely escaped Jerusalem when Absalom and his supporters arrived from Hebron and entered the city.  Accepting Hushai's professed transfer of loyaly from David to himself (15:32-37), Absalom conferred with his counselors.  Ahithophel, one of David's counselors who had defected to Absalom, suggested a dramatic and significant act:  Absalom should lie publicly with the concubines David had left in the palace.  According to the custom of those times, this open and public taking of his father's concubines woud symbolize Absalom's taking of his father's kingdom.  Also, it would reassure Absalom's followers by widening beyond repair the growing chasm between Absalom and David.  (This would also fulfill Nathan's prophecy in 12:11-12 that the thing which David had done secretly to Uriah would be done openly to him.  Ouch!)

Next post:  Absalom's Death 

Monday, February 11, 2013

CXIII - II Samuel 13 - Amnon's Horrible Sin

The tragic turmoil of the David-Bathsheba-Uriah affair had subsided.  The child born of David's adultery had died, and afterward Solomon was born, who was to be Israel's next king.  The Ammonite-Syrian war ended victoriously, and there was peace in the palace and throughout the land.  Things seemed to be going well for David and for Israel.  Then David and his family would suffer a bitter blow, one which would have long-reaching consequences.

Back in II Samuel 3, we see the first six sons born to David.  David's first born was Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam.  His second son was Kileab, whose mother was Abigail the widow of Nabal (remember them?).  David's third son was Absalom, whose mother was Maakah, the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur.  Also born of David and Maakah was a daughter, Tamar.  So Tamar was Absalom's sister and Amnon's half sister.  The Scripture describes her as beautiful.

Amnon for a number of years looked upon his half sister Tamar with lust.  He had talked himself into thinking that he was in love with her.  {Bear in mind that Amnar was the eldest son of the king, which would have made everyone, including himself, think that he was the crowned prince and the next king of Israel.  This would have made Amnon a priviledged person; someone who was accustomed to getting anything and everything he wanted.  In other words, Amnon probably acted like a spoiled brat.}  As unsavory as Amnon was, he understood that his half sister was forbidden from him.  But so much did he lust after her that he made himself sick with covetousness.  Amnon's frustrated desire for Tamar dominated all his days, making him haggard and ill in appearance as well as in feeling and manner.  No matter how much he wanted Tamar, she was beyond his grasp.  As an unbetrothed virgin, she was restricted to the women's quarters of the palace and forbidden contact with the young men.  Vs 3 - Onto the scene comes Jonadab.  Jonadab was David's nephew and Amnon's cousin.  The Scripture describes Jonadab as "a very shrewd man".  {Jonadab wanted to get in Amnon's good graces.  If Amnon would become king, Jonadab could possibly be placed as the highest ranking official in the nation.}  vss 4--> Jonadab feigns interest in Amnon's well being with an expression of concern as to Amnon's sickly appearance.  As Amnon shares with Jonadab his feelings about Tamar, Jonadab devises a plan for Amnon to be able to spend some time alone with Tamar.  The plan was for Amnon to make his illness known to his father.  As David visits Amnon in his bed chamber, Amnon humbly asks David to send Tamar with something for him to eat.  This plan, utilizing both David's fatherly concern for all his children and Tamar's obedience and innocence, worked just as Jonadab had expected.  Tamar found herself alone with Amnon in his bedchamber.

Vss 9-->  Amnon wasted neither time or tenderness.  Ignoring Tamar's protest for herself, her appeal to his honor an dignity, and even her willingness to marry him, he brutally forced himself on her.  He raped his own half sister.  Now here is even a more disgusting part.  (Remember, Amnon loved Tamar so much, he just had to have her.}  After he raped her, he suddenly had nothing but contempt for her.  Vs 15 says "he hated her even more than he had loved her".  And he told her to "Get Out!". 
As was the custom, Tamar mourned her shame and degradation by tearing the garment she wore as one of the king's virgin daughters, and by putting ashes on her head.  Desolate and disgraced, she secluded herself in the home of her brother Absalom.  Absalom must have shown great kindness and understanding toward Tamar.  {Since this outrage had occurred within David's family, it was David's responsibility to administer justice, but he did nothing more that express great anger.  Amnon was his first born.}   Vss 19-22 - Meanwhile, Absalom built a wall of silence between himself and Amnon, saying nothing friendly to him but nourishing a deepening hatred for him for what he had done to Tamar.  Absalom was a patient man.  He kept his peace for two long years.
Consider some truths before going on to read the rest of this chapter:

1)  Amnon's lust was the driving force of his life.  To him, forbidden fruit was the sweetest, and the more strongly it was forbidden, the more strongly it was desired.
2)  Had Jonadab been a true friend, he would have tried to dissuade Amnon.  But instead, he encouraged Amnon to commit a horrible sin.
3)  In her innocence and integrity, Tamar tried to turn Amnon's dishonorable intent into an honorable ending.
4)  Amnon's desire, so irresistible in prospect, became a disappointment after achievement.  Instead of repenting, however, he vented his bitterness and distaste on the innocent Tamar.
5)  Through his act, Amnon dug himself even deeper into sin.   His iniquity degraded a lovely and noble maiden, brought heartbreak on his father David, and planted in his brother Absalom the seed of hatred and revenge that would ultimately lead to murder, not to mention a family crisis that would wrought untold distruction.

So one sinful man's actions caused this much trouble.  Vs 22 - Two full years have passed since Amnon raped Tamar.  It was time for Absalom to exact his revenge.  At the time of the shearing of the sheep, there was usually a celebration, marking the shepherds' successful efforts. Absalum invited his father David to the sheep shearing celebration, but David declined.  However he encouraged all of his sons to attend, although David seemed rather surprised when Absalom specifically invited Amnon.  (David was well aware of Absalom's hatred toward Amnon.)  During the celebration, Absalom gave his servants the go-ahead to kill Amnon, which they did.  The other brothers became fearful and fled.  Absalom in turn fled to his grandfather in Geshur, a small area northeast of the Sea of Galilee.  Absalom was fearful of David his father.  Even though David had not dealt with Amnon for his crime against Tamar, Absalom dared not presume that David would let him go unpunished for the murder of his first born.  Absalom will have stayed in exile for three years.

In Jerusalem, life went on.  David gradually got over Amnon's death, turning his concern from the son who was dead to the son who was in exile.  David began to miss Absalom more and more, and his heart longed to reach out to him.

Next post:  Absalom Returns to Jersusalem

Saturday, February 9, 2013

CXII - II Samuel 12 - God Rebukes David

In the last post we saw in chapter 11 that David committed a number of sins.  Covetousness, adultry, theft, deception, conspiracy, and yes, even murder.  Furthermore, we saw no signs of repentance by this otherwise Godly man.  Instead, we saw David determined to fix or at least hide the problems he made for himself by continually committing one sin after another.  The final action in this series of sins was that after Bathsheba's husband had died (as arranged by David) David took Bathsheba as his wife.

The last phrase in chapter 11 says, "But the thing David had done displeased the Lord".  So in the opening verse of chapter 12 we see that the Lord used Nathan the prophet to speak to David concerning the events that had transpired.  Nathan used a parable, much like our Lord used often times in the New Testament.

The parable:  There were two men.  One was a rich man with many head of livestock, both sheep and cattle.  And the other was a poor man who had nothing except one little female lamb which he had spent all of his money to purchase.  The poor man cherished his little lamb.  He bathed it, shared his food with it, even slept with it.  The lamb was like a daughter to him, he loved it so much.  There came a time when a traveler came to visit the rich man.  As was custom, the host would prepare an elaborate meal for an honored guest.  Although the rich man could have slaughtered one of his thousands of sheep to feed his guest, he instead stole the only sheep from the poor man, slaughtered it, prepared a meal from it, and served it to the guest.

Upon hearing this story from Nathan (David assumed it was a true story.  Why else would Nathan tell this to David?)  David burned with anger against the rich man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the Lord lives, this rich man must die!  Additionally, he must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity."  Then (verse 6) Nathan said to David, "You are that man!"  Nathan proceeds to remind David of all God has done for him.  God asks in vs 9 "why did you dispise Me by doing such evil?"  In vs 10 "you have despised Me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own."  Also in vs 10, God pronounced punishment on David when He said "the sword will never depart from your house (there will always be violence)".  God continues His curse on David in vss 11-12 by telling him that his wives will be given to someone close to him in broad daylight, for all Israel to witness.  {This will come to pass soon when David's son Absalom will lay with David's concubines on the palace roof.}  Finally in vs 13, David repents and confesses his sins.  God, being so upset with David's actions, adds yet another punishment.  God tells David that the son born to him and Bathsheba will die.  {This must have devistated David.}  The Lord
immediately strikes the child with an affliction and he became extremely ill.  During the time when the child was very ill, David fasted, wept, and pleaded with God in behalf of the child.  Verse 18 tells us the child died on the seventh day.  The servants were frightened to tell David that the boy died for fear that David would be devistated beyond recovery.  However, David could read the contenance of the servants and asked directly if the boy was dead, to which they acknowledged it (vs 19).
In vss 20--> we see what at first appears to be strange behavior by David.  The servants and everyone close to David observed how indescribably distraught David was when the child was ill.  So much so, that they assumed that the child dying  might send David into an emotional tailspin beyond a dangerous point.  But upon learning of the child's death, David seemed to react just the opposite.  He arose and went about his business, addressing the issues of the day.  This concerned and confused his servants even more, so they asked David about it.  He responded the way he should.  Vs 22 - "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept.  I thought, 'Who knows?  The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.'  But now that he is dead, why should I go on fasting?  Can I bring him back again?  I will go to him, but he will not return to me."  {I can see David's point.  Think about it.  He wept, fasted, begged, pleaded, all he knew to do to compel God to save the boy's life.  But when God decided to take the boy in death, there was nothing further David could do.  To continue to weep and fast and beg would only appear to have questioned God's decision.}

Vs 24 - David spent the next few days comforting Bathsheba and helping her cope with thier son's death.  The Scripture tells us in verse 24 that Bathsheba was again made pregnant by David and a son was born.  His name was Solomon.  And what a glorious son he would be.

Don't be disheartened by David's behavior in these past two chapters.  It's easy to allow a small part of a person's life to tarnish one's general perception of an individual.  David was a GREAT man of God who stumbled and was punished for it.  Allow me to repeat:  He stumbled and was punished for it.  God was merciful with David, but also God was just.

As we conclude this chapter and this post, we see that David had sinned and was punished by God accordingly.  But David's problems are just beginning.  David is going to find himself dealing with family problems that will preoccupy him and his kingship.  We will pick up on some of these problems in the next post as we study chapter 13 and three prominent offspring of David's:  Amnon, Tamar, and Absalom.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

CXI - II Samuel chapter 11 - David and Bathsheba

Chapter 11 is David's darkest hour.  I have studied the life of this dear man and have sooooo much respect for him as a man of God.  When I get to Heaven I will want to spend some time with David.  I'm in no hurry to get to Heaven, but I'm really looking forward to talking to David.  However, like us all, David yielded to the temptation of the flesh and committed sin on top of sin during this brief but sinful period in his life.

Chapter 11 opens with David's continued assault on the Ammonites.  In the last post David avenged the foolish actions of king Hanun.  That was in the Fall of the year.  {In Biblical days warring nations observed a cease-fire during winter and resumed hostilities after the fields had been planted and the Spring rains had ended, normally between April and June.}  So now (vs 1) it is Spring time.  David sent Joab, his military commander, to finish with the Ammonites while David stayed home in Jerusalem.  Vs 2 - Evidently David could not sleep and arose from his bed to stroll along on the roof-top of his palace.  From there he looked down and saw a very beautiful woman bathing.  {One must wonder what Bathsheba was doing bathing in such a place where she would be in plain view from another roof-top.}  Vs 3 - David sent a servant to find out who this beautiful woman was.  He was told that it was Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, a soldier in David's army.  {Vs 4 indicates that the reason Bathsheba was bathing was for the ceremonial cleansing following menstruation.}  After David learned who she was (and that her husband was gone in battle) he sent for Bathsheba to be brought to him.  They slept together in an adulterous situation.  After that encounter, Bathsheba went back home but later sent word to David (probably about 8 weeks later) and informed him that she was pregnant.  {Just imagine what went through David's mind.}  David, being a problem-solver, devised a plan to deal with this difficult situation.  His plan was to immediately have her husband brought home so he can have sex with her, which would have everyone believe (everyone except David and Bathsheba) that the baby was Uriah's.  {Sounds like a good plan, huh?} 

{I find the following verses rather comical.  Try to imagine David's frustration through Uriah's actions.}  When Uriah came home to Jerusalem, he would not go home to Bathsheba because (being a loyal soldier) he could not enjoy being with his wife when Joab and all his fellow soldiers were in battle.  David tried to talk Uriah into going home to his wife, but Uriah gave compelling reasons why he would not, and continued to refuse to go home.  So, David went to plan B:  Get Uriah drunk by inviting him to dine with David in the king's palace.  After David thought Uriah was drunk enough, he sent him home and told him to sleep with his wife.  But Uriah was still sober enough to continue to deprive himself of such luxury when the other soldiers were sleeping out in the weather.  {I've always considered David to be a better man that any around him, but at this particular time Uriah is the better man.}  By verse 14 David realized his plan was not working and he got even more desparate.  He contacted Joab and instructed him to place Uriah in the battle and create a situation that would have Uriah killed by the Ammonites.  So Joab, being an obedient servant to the king, placed Uriah in a position where the Ammonite archers were bound to have killed Uriah as he was commissioned to lead the charge to the wall of Rabbah, the fortified Ammonite city.  And sure enough Uriah was struck dead by an Ammonite arrow.  Joab sent a messenger to David, telling him of Uriah's death.  David's response (vs 25) was disheartening to me:  To paraphrase what he told the messenger to tell Joab, "Don't let this upset you.  Soldiers get killed in battle."

The last verse of chapter 11 tells that after Bathsheba mourned the death of her husband Uriah, David sent for her to be his wife and she bore him a son.  The very last sentence in this chapter says:  But the thing David had done displeased the Lord.

We as God's children must remain vigilant.  Just a moment to recap how one sin leads to another, even with a man of God like David.  These are David's sins in succession:

1.  David looked with lust upon a beautiful lady and kept on looking
2   He coveted  (Remember what I said about this tenth Commandment?  First we covet.)
3.  He make inquiries about her (this was an action, not just a thought, but an action)
4.  He sent for her  (I know he knew better)
5.  He slept with her and got her pregnant  (Adultry)
6.  He tried to hide what he did by tricking her husband Uriah (Lies, Deception, and Cover-Up)
7.  He conspired to kill her husband (Murder.  No other way to say it)
8.  He denied wrong-doing (Rationalizing sin)
9.  He took his victim's widow as his own wife (Stealing)

Next post:  God has something to say about this

Monday, February 4, 2013

CX - II Samuel 9-10 - Mephibosheth; The Ammonites

Chapter 9 - Mephibosheth

Remember Mephibosheth?  Remember Jonathan, Saul's son?  Mephibosheth was Jonathan's only son.  The day the Philistines killed Saul and Jonathan in battle, Mephibosheth's nurse fled, carrying the five year old child.  In her haste she dropped Mephibosheth, rendering him crippled in both of his legs.  As you remember Jonathan and David:  They were best friends.  Kindred spirits.  David loved Jonathan as he loved himself (I Samuel 20:17).  David made a vow to always protect Jonathan's family, no matter what.  As it turns out, Jonathan was killed in battle standing with his father Saul.  Jonathan may have been fighting for the wrong king, but Jonathan's heart was right, fighting along side his father.

Chapter 9  -  With his kingdom firmly established and his court organized and functioning, David looked back along the way he had come through God's providence.  During this period of reflection, David remembered his covenant with Jonathan, who had been his faithful freind when David was a fugitive from Saul's jealous rage.  Faithful to his word, David now sought some means of fulfilling his vow to Jonathan (I Sam. 20:14-17), and made inquiries as to whether there were any members of Jonathan's family still alive.

Vss 1-->  Into this setting the young man Mephibosheth entered as a somewhat forlorn figure.  He had been a cripple since he was five years old, through no fault of his own.  He had been living in virtual exile in Lodebar.  In those times it was not unusual for the head of a new dynasty to eliminate possible contenders for his throne by killing all the members of his predecessor's family.  {This practice has been commonplace throughout the centuries.  As recently as the 1930s when the Bolshovics revolted in Russia, their first order of business was to kill the entire Rominov family.  They succeeded with the exception of the baby Anistasia, who many think was smuggled to the United States.}  Thus we can imagine Mephibosheth's fear and dread as he responded to the royal summons to Jerusalem and prostrated himself before David (vs 6).  But David, being a true man of God, had a pleasant shock for the young Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth was not merely given a reprieve to keep on living; he was to be shown genuine kindness for his father Jonathan's sake.  Beyond that, all the land that had been his grandfather Saul's was to be restored to Mephibosheth.  And further more, Mephibosheth was to live in the royal palace as David's permanent guest.  Further yet, (vss 9-13) all of Ziba's household including his family and servants (more than thirty five men) were to work the land and serve Mephibosheth his entire life.  {Not bad, huh?}  Mephibosheth's sole responsibility was to manage the estate, which served to keep Mephibosheth's spirits alive as a contributor to the nation and society.  {David was smart enough to know that total care given to a person without blessing him with some kind of responsibility was destructive.  He was right.}

Chapter 10  -  The Scripture abruptly shifts subjects going from chapter 9 to chapter 10.  This chapter deals with the Ammonites and Syrian mercenaries (soldiers for hire).  The Ammonite people were located east of the Jordan River.  Based on vs 2, David and Nahash, king of the Ammonites, were good friends and had treated each other with kindness and respect for a number of years.  Chapter 10 opens with the news that Nahash had died, and his son Hanun had succeeded his father as king of the Ammonites.  David, as a jesture of respect, sent a delegation of his high ranking officials to Hanun to express Israel's condolences in the death of the king, being the new king's father.  {Again, David was a smart and diplomatic leader.}  But let's bear in mind that David had built such a powerful military that they were feared throughout the populated world.  David's army defeated whomever was foolish enough to stand against him and God.  Bear in mind also that all of David's friendly dealings were with Nahash, not his son Hanun.  Therefore (vs 3) Hanun and his advisors were convinced that Israel's delegation were coming to spy on the Ammonites to find their weaknesses for a future attack.  So Hanun then made a HUGE mistake.  He captured the delegation from Israel, cut off half of their individual beards, and cut off their garments just below the buttocks.  This was the ultimate in humiliation, and totally uncalled for.

When David heard of this he was furious.  But his first concern was for his men who had been humiliated.  He sent word for them to stay in Jerecho until their beards grew back.  {This was a compassionate act, thinking of the humiliated men first.}  Then David turned his attention to the Ammonites.  He sent Joab (military commander) out with an army to deal with the Ammonites.  Hanun was of course fearful of these Israelites so he hired twenty thousand Aramean soldiers, twelve thousand soldiers from Tob, and hired the king of Maakah and his thousand men, all in addition to the sizable Ammonite army.  Hanun wanted to keep the Ammonite army together so he had all the mercenaries to hide and attack Israel from the rear.  (A tactic Joshua invented more than a century ago.)  But Joab, the captain of the Israelite military saw what was happening and split his army, making provisions for the the worst case scenario (vss 9-12).  Of course both sections of Joab's army were victorious and scattered the enemy completely.

But the Ammonites and the Arameans regrouped as time allowed.  {I must interject at this time that all of these mercenaries were Syrians, a mighty warring people located to the extreme north, with military might to equal that of the Philistines.  These Syrians are going to play an important but terrible role in Israel's History, as we will see later.}  Such large groups of powerful military gathering is a difficult thing to hide.  So of course David learned of it.  This time (vss 17-19) David didn't send Joab to lead an army against these men.  David went himself.  David and his army quickly and brutally defeated both the Ammonites and the Arameans.  He killed seven hundred charioteers and forty thousand foot soldiers.  David also made it a point to kill their military commander Shobak.  {The Scripture does not mention here about the fate of the Ammonite king Hanun, who was ultimately responsible for this whole mess.  Knowing David, he might have spared Hanun's life out of respect for Hanun's father Nahash, with whom David had a friendly History.}

Next post:  David and Bathsheba

Saturday, February 2, 2013

CIX - II Samuel Chapter 8 - David the Great and Victorious King

Chapter 8 - This chapter is actually a review of events leading to David's reign as a successful king.  These reviews are helpful, as we sometimes get caught up in details and lose sight of what should be a panoramic view of one's life.  Bear in mind that these flashbacks shows the growth of not only David as king, but the solidification of Israel's twelve tribes into a powerful nation, which I believe is what God intended.  Bear in mind also that this "united" Israel which included Judah would not last long.}  These 18 verses are a wide-ranging summary of the building of an empire by conquest and control, by the subjection of enemies and the enforcement of tribute and taxes; by soundly structured and wisely administered national government.

Verse 1 of course mentions the dreaded Philistines.  They were and continue to be Israel's most bitter enemy.  They were a prosperous and warring people, located along the eastern coast of the Mediteranean Sea.  After David's last encounter with them, they ceased being a threat to Israel until recent decades. 

Verse 2 required some research, and I'll share with you my findings:  David went after the Moabites with aggressive resolve.  The Moabites were descendants of Maob, the son of Abraham's nephew Lot (Remember him?  When Abraham and Lot grew so prosperous to the point that their family, livestock, and crops were too massive for one territory to hold, they separated and Lot went  southeast, beyond the Dead Sea and bordered the Arabian desert.}  The last record the Scripture provides us of David's dealing with the Moabites is in I Samuel 22:3-4 when David asked the king of Moab to give his parents protection when David was a fugitive from Saul.  This would lead one to believe that David would have had a soft place in his heart for the Moabites.  However, further research tells us that there is a traditional belief among the Hebrew Historians that the king of Moab killed David's parents.  This king may or may not have been the successor to the Moab king with whom David entrusted his parents' safety.  At any rate, David dealt with these Moabites harshly.  He lined them all up and executed all that were beyond a certain height.  He allowed the shorter ones to live.  {I guess this was an attempt to keep them small and less powerful.}  It ended up that two out of every three Moabites were executed. {I told you I would not hide anything in this study.  I am always reminded of God's commission to Joshua after the death of Moses.}   These remaining Moabites were bound to tribute to David and Israel, serving and paying taxes for generations to come.

Moving on, vss 3-->, David then moved northward, conquering kingdoms including Syria and its hub Damascus.  Taking many prisoners and what appears to be a fantastic collection of vessels and utensils made of gold and other precious metals.  The Scripture makes a point to state that David dedicated all precious metals to God.  This passage also recounts the massive armies that David defeated, marking David's building of his kingdom a bloody one, nonetheless necessary in those times, dealing with such savage Canaanites.  Note verse 6b:  The Lord gave David victory wherever he went.  Before ending this study of his conquests, it is noteworthy that David marched southward and conquered the Edomites.  The Edomites were descendents of the rugged warrior Esau.  When David had defeated the Edomites and subjectedt them to tribute, David became famous throughout the civilized world as a might warrior.  This solidified his standing in all directions and compelled kingdoms to lay down their arms when they felt threatened by him.

In the final verses of chapter 8 it gives an abbreviated account of David's ruling council.  This reading of the NIV caught my attention when it said that David made his sons priests in Israel.  This might confuse a first-time reader because God was very clear when He said that only Levites could be priests.  David and his sons were not Levites.  They were descendents of Judah, not Levi.  The King James states "and David's sons were chief rulers".  Also, I Chron. 18:17 and the Septuagint and other Historic texts states "officials".  This chapter also mentions more than once about David placing military garrisons in all of the territories he conquered, thus securing Israel against future uprisings.  {This is the first recorded placement of lagging military personnel to maintain peace in a conquered territory.  The Romans would later make a science of this, as a precurser to colonization.  So David could be considered the author of colonization.  This was an amazingly intellegent man.}  But what is most impressive is verse 15:  "David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people."

{In conclusion, chapter 8 gives such a clear picture of how David came to be such a powerful and successful king.  I've often made statements lauding Soloman's kingdom of Israel as being the most successful kingdom in the History of civiliazation.  I still believe that.  However, I give pause when I look at what David gave Soloman to start with:  A perfect system of government; happy and loyal subjects; military might; tribute being paid from foreign territories; a reputation of fear and respect from all surrounding nations; unmeasurable wealth built from war spoils; an example of how to rule; and most importantly an example of keeping God central.  I would never want to diminish what Soloman accomplished, but I want to give proper credit to the hard work and the successes that made it all possible.  We'll get in to the study of Soloman very soon.  He was a tremendous leader also.} 

Next post:  Jonathan's Crippled Son, Mephibosheth