The Fortress of a Socialite – 2 Samuel 5

After the death of Abner and Ish-Bosheth, the elders of the tribes of Israel came to meet David at Hebron to ask him to be the ruler of their land. David was thirty-seven years old at this time and had been serving as the king of Judah for seven years by now. But now the elders of Israel wanted to make a covenant with him and make him the king of the entire nation of Israel.

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood.”

2 Samuel 5:1 (NIV)

The elders recognised that David was a man of their own flesh and bone. They would much rather have one of their own rule over them than let a gentile become the king of Israel. David and his men had military prowess as well as the experience of leading Israel (and later Judah) into countless battles. This was a key factor as the people desired their king to have the right acumen for military conquests. This was the same reason that led Israel to reject God and Samuel when they demanded a king to be on par with their surrounding nations and have a trained army ready to be deployed at a moment’s notice.

Lastly, the people also acknowledge the fact that God had hand-picked David when He had anointed him through Samuel to lead His People. Interestingly the elders reveal that they consider the will of God as the last factor in their reasoning to anoint David as king over them. This might be why they had ignored the will of God till now and tried to stick with the familiarity of having the clan from Gibeon rule over them.

the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’

2 Samuel 5:2 (NIV)

The elders made a covenant with David and anointed him king over all of Israel. Usually, it would be the prophet of the land pouring sacred oil on the head of the person appointed to the position.

The northern tribes had not accepted David as their king and some perhaps would have even harboured hatred for the man replacing one of their own. But when the peaceful transition of power was taking place, they had no other option left, at least in the immediate future. Later when Rehoboam (David’s grandson) broke the treaty with the northern tribes by refusing to listen to their plea, the northern tribes broke away from Judah.

Samuel had already anointed David and God’s mighty hand was overtly visible in his life from that day. But people have the need to ceremonially renew the covenant even after seeing the work of God being already manifested in the person’s life. Peter did the same when he asked the gentile believers at the house of Cornelius to be baptised by water even though they had already been baptised by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:48).

The City of David

For his first act as the king of Israel, David set his sights on the hill city of Jerusalem (which was inhabited by the Jebusites) and sought to make it his capital. The Jebusites however were confident that the king of Israel would not be able to penetrate through the heavily fortified city. However, God was with David and helped him capture the city of Jerusalem. David probably also knew a secret passageway that led up to the main city through the Gihon spring. After capturing Jerusalem, David decided to build his palace in the hill city and make it his home.

David was also aided by an ally, Hiram, the king of Tyre who sent his envoys with cedar logs, carpenters and stonemasons who helped him build his palace in Jerusalem. Their treaty continued even during the next generation as the same ally provided Solomon with the materials to build the temple of the Lord. David knew that the Lord had established his throne in Jerusalem and will help him rule over the people of Isreal.

David wanted to capture Jerusalem for the same reason the Jebusites thought that their city was impenetrable. Hidden in the hills, its altitude provided a vantage point to the inhabitants and helped them ward off any raiders. In the book of Judges, we read how this city was the envy of all the tribes with multiple failed attempts from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to capture it. Also being located on the border of the territories of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, the city provided a political edge to David as he could closely monitor the two major provinces of Israel.

After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him.

2 Samuel 5:13 (NIV)

In the ancient world, wives were treated as property and though polygamy was not outlawed, still having multiple wives was a luxury reserved only for the kings and the most influential members of society. Kings would also give away their daughters in marriage to a neighbouring ruler as a verbal agreement of treaty among the two nations. Women were treated as pawns in the grand scheme of these rulers and David was no different, as he had accumulated wives and concubines not according to the will of God but according to the standards and practices of the ancient rulers.

A Familiar Foe

When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”

2 Samuel 5:17-19 (NIV)

David was an old foe for the Philistines, ever since his youth when he slayed their giant warrior, until recently when he used them for protection from Saul. The Philistine rulers knew the David who had stayed in their land at their mercy and would have thought that he would be a pushover who could be easily defeated.

Jerusalem was a key city and given the fact that the Jebusites had made it their stronghold for so many years, would have tempted other rulers to try and depose the newly established kingdom of David. In sports like football and hockey, the easiest time to score a goal is right after conceding one, as the opposition is the most complacent during that period. Similarly in warfare, it is easiest to invade a newly captured city as its inhabitants are in a celebratory mood and would be ill-prepared for an invasion.

Players celebrating a goal

As an individual, David would have made decisions after consulting God but after he became the ruler of Israel, he bore the responsibility of the entire nation and would have turned to the traditional methods of knowing God’s will through Urim, Thumim and the Ephod. He had his own priests consulting God on his behalf. Saul would do the same and consult his priests before making any tactical decisions.

When he was a shepherd tending to his father’s flocks, he was easily conversing with God and even prophesied about the Messiah. But now that he is leading the nation, he seems to be taking a formal approach to connecting with God and was doing things by the norm established by his predecessor.

So David went to Baal Perazim, and there he defeated them. He said, “As waters break out, the LORD has broken out against my enemies before me.” So that place was called Baal Perazim. The Philistines abandoned their idols there, and David and his men carried them off.

2 Samuel 5:20-21 (NIV)

David’s men did not carry off the idols for their value or because they regarded the deity those idols represented but because David asked them to burn them. The parallel account in the book of Chronicles (1 Chronicles 14:6) lets us know the true intent behind their actions. Sometime later, the Philistines made another attempt to capture the fortress of David.

Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” So David did as the LORD commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer.

2 Samuel 5:22-25 (NIV)

The Philistines were relentless in their pursuit of the fortress city and when they came again in a more strategic way by spreading out across the Valley of Rephaim, God guided David to victory again. The Valley of Rephaim was on the outskirts of Jerusalem and the road led up to the southwest entry points of the city. God told David to not face the enemy head-on but perform a sneak attack by using the poplar trees as cover. The Lord went ahead of David and his men and defeated the Philistine army. David took credit for the strategic decision that would have taken the Philistines by surprise and prevented the loss of lives on his side. But he would have known that it was God who was helping him secure his fortress.

So David’s fame spread throughout every land, and the LORD made all the nations fear him.

1 Chronicles 14:17 (NIV)

Discussion Questions

5:1 – Why is Israel now coming together under David when they were ready to go to war a few days back?
5:3 – Why anoint David again when he was already anointed by Samuel and also by the Elders of Judah?
5:10 – Why did David want to capture the hill city of Jerusalem?
5:13 – David already had eight wives that we know of, why take up more wives and concubines after setting up his throne at Jerusalem?
5:17 – Why are the Philistines going after David?
5:19 – Is not what David did similar to what Saul would do before going to war?
5:21 – Why did David’s men carry off the idols of the Philistine army?

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