Good morning! Today’s readings have a lot of violence—men-to-men in raw contests of power, vengeance and betrayal. 2 Samuel 3-5 describes the end of Saul’s lineage, the means by which David ascends to the throne of all Israel, and his first actions as leader of the united kingdom.
Chapter 3 focuses on what happens to Abner, formerly Saul’s (and now Ishbaal’s) powerful and loyal right-hand man. Abner grows dissatisfied with Saul’s heir and switches his allegiance to David after Ishbaal falsely accuses him of fornication. With Abner’s support, Ishbaal is all the more vulnerable. He commands that his sister Michal—first given to David, then to another man by their father Saul—be returned to David. (While the reference to David’s wives occurs throughout this passage, it would be interesting to consider Michal’s story in more depth, as well as how she fits with David’s other wives and concubines.) Abner arranges with the Benjaminites (Saul’s tribe) and the power-brokers throughout Israel to align with David instead of Ishbaal.
Though David has now made peace with Abner, Joab’s desire to avenge his brother’s killing (in yesterday’s passage) continues, and he upbraids David for letting Abner go unharmed. Unbeknownst to David, Joab takes Abner captive and kills him. David curses Joab’s family on account of this, and forces Joab and his soldiers to grieve Abner’s death. The king reverently follows the body and mourns Abner’s dishonorable death. This second half of the chapter characterizes both David (as honorable and generous, willing to let bygones be bygones) and Joab (as impulsive, vengeful, and untroubled by chivalry).
The kingdom of Israel slips from Ishbaal permanently in chapter 4. His two remaining strongmen commanders betray and assassinate him, hoping to thereby win favor with David. But David responds that Ishbaal was righteous, and he has the opportunistic brothers killed for their treachery. In passing, we also meet Mephibosheth, son of Jonathan, who has been lame from childhood. We’ll read more of Mephibosheth in coming days.
You’ve heard it said that “good things come to those who wait”, and now David finally finds that true. After years of withholding violence from Saul and the territories later loyal to Saul’s house, David is finally made king of all Israel. His first action is to take Jerusalem from the Jebusites, making it the capitol of Israel and henceforth the “city of David”. (What’s up with the reference to the lame and the blind as “those whom David hates”? This doesn’t fit what we hear about David up to this point, and I welcome your thoughts about what it means!) David’s house is built in Jerusalem of famed cedars from Lebanon (Tyre), and he has more babies born by his concubines and wives. Notice Solomon, a middle child whose birth by Bathsheba (more story there soon) sets him apart as special in David’s eyes, and later the heir of the throne above all his siblings. The chapter closes with a crushing defeat of the Philistines—made all the more significant by the capture of Philistine idols. David goes from victory to victory here, and we’re told it’s all with God’s help. Happy reading!
Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Samuel 6-9. Thanks for reading!