New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

2Sa 5:1 Then came all the tribes of Israel to David to Hebron-
This was to enter the covenant which Abner had persuade them to make (see on 2 Sam. 3:21).

And spoke saying, Behold, we are your bone and your flesh-
Eph. 5:30 makes the amazing statement that even now, "We are of members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones". In a very detailed study of this language, Henricus Renckens concluded: "In Israel, in order to say that someone was a blood relation, one said: "He is my flesh and my bones" (Gen. 29:14; Jud. 9:2; cp. Gen. 37:27; 2 Sam. 5:1; 19:13 ff.; Is. 58:7)". This is how close we are to the Lord Jesus- blood relatives. This language could in no way be justified if Jesus were God Himself in person.

2Sa 5:2 In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. Yahweh said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of My people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel’-
The mutuality between God and David is often brought out. Yahweh was his shepherd (Ps. 23:1), and he was to shepherd Israel). All Israel recognized that David had always been Israel's saviour, and Saul generally had failed to experience the Divine potential for him to be this.

2Sa 5:3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a covenant with them in Hebron before Yahweh; and they anointed David king over Israel-
This is the covenant which Abner had engineered in 2 Sam. 3:21, aimed at providing total amnesty and assurance to all those who had once supported Saul. David had already been anointed by Samuel, but this was stating that all Israel approved of that and wanted to work with God's plan rather than against it.

2Sa 5:4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years-
If Saul reigned 40 years (Acts 13:21), this creates various chronological problems. Solomon, David and Saul are all stated to have reigned 40 years, and it may be a non literal number. Paul's argument in Acts 13:21 seems to be seeking to draw a parallel between Israel's 40 years in the desert and Saul's reign. Numbers are simply not used in Semitic literature in the literalistic way that they are in the writings of other cultures. To this day an Arab may describe a hot day as being 100 degrees C, when it is not that literally. But the Arab is not lying nor deceiving; it's a case of using numbers within a different context of language usage. Beginning his reign at 30 may be intended to recall how the Levites began serving at 30 (Num. 4:3), because David was set up to be the priest-king who would replace the high priesthood according to Hannah's song. And at times he clearly did act like this, although his failures meant that the potential was reapplied and reframed to fulfilment in the Lord Jesus.

2Sa 5:5 In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah-
Hebron was a priestly city and Jerusalem the kingly city, so maybe this is intended to present David as a king-priest, beginning his kingship at the same age as the priests began their service (:4).

2Sa 5:6 The king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David saying, Unless you take away the blind and the lame, you shall not come in here; thinking, David can’t come in here-
A person who feels they are somehow a nice guy and worthy of invitation will be the one who tends to consider others as unworthy of invitation to the Kingdom. He or she who perceives their own desperation will eagerly invite even those they consider to be in the very pits of human society. The lame, blind etc. were not allowed to serve God under the law (Lev. 21:18), nor be offered as sacrifices (Dt. 15:21), nor come within the holy city (2 Sam. 5:6-8). The Lord purposefully healed multitudes of lame and blind (Mt. 15:30), and allowed them to come to Him in the temple (Mt. 21:14). His acted out message was clearly that those who were despised as unfit for God’s service were now being welcomed by Him into that service. The lame and blind were despised because they couldn’t work. They had to rely on the grace of others. Here again is a crucial teaching: those called are those who can’t do the works, but depend upon grace.

Defining the Jebusites as "the inhabitants of the land" may be another mark left by the inspired editing of these records for the exiles. Such explanatory notes would have been unnecessary for the primary readership. The encouragement to them was that restoration of Israel's fortunes was indeed possible, under a new David.

2Sa 5:7 Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion; the same is the city of David-
As often in the Hebrew Bible, we have a summary statement and then an explanation of how it came about. The contrast is with how Saul's tribe of Benjamin had failed to drive out the Jebusites (Jud. 1:21). Jerusalem was originally in Benjamin, but David's capture of the city made it "the city of David" and therefore in Judah. We see here how different potential futures could have worked out. If Benjamin had taken and inherited their possession and Saul had 'worked out' as he could have done, then Jerusalem would have been in Benjamin. We see here how God's plans are flexible, reflective of His great respect of human freewill and initiative.  

2Sa 5:8 David said on that day, Whoever strikes the Jebusites, let him get up to the watercourse, and strike the lame and the blind, who are hated by David’s soul. Therefore they say, The blind and the lame can’t come into the house-
See on :6. The Hebrew is difficult but seems to allude to how the Jebusites mocked the Hebrews, thinking that their high elevation was such that the bind and lame could repel any attackers. If David was indeed Jonathan's armourbearer in 1 Sam. 14, he would have seen how God had punished the pride of the Philistines when they thought likewise. For Jonathan had shinned by an almost vertical cliff, with the Philistines mocking him- and slew them. This inspired David with the possibility that someone of similar faith and bravery could climb up the sewer line into Zion and do the same. Jonathan's example, from some decades earlier, inspired faith in this later situation. And so will all Godly examples. The fact it was Joab who rose up to this example (see 1 Chron.) means that he must surely have had some faith as well as bravery, despite his rather unspiritual ways.

But the Hebrew of David's words here read like a kind of song, which could be translated:

Whosoever smites the Jebusite,
let him hurl down the precipice
both the lame and the blind,
hated of David’s soul.

We sense here a bitterness and lack of respect of the human person, which maybe resulted in his not being allowed to build the temple later. To murder the handicapped was unethical, but David's bitterness and desire for power led him to command it. Hence LXX "Whosoever smiteth the Jebusite, let him slay with the sword both the lame and the blind who hate David’s soul".

There are echoes of Saul's offer at the time of the fight with Goliath. Chronicles records: "Whosoever smites the Jebusites first shall be chief and captain". And thus Joab was restored to being chief of the army.

2Sa 5:9 David lived in the stronghold, and called it the city of David. David built around from Millo and inward-
Jerusalem was particularly loved by David. He thereby moved the city into Judah's possession from Benjamin's; see on :7. Chronicles adds: “And Joab repaired the rest of the city".

2Sa 5:10 David grew greater and greater; for Yahweh, the God of Armies, was with him-
This is the same phrase as used in David's protestation of humility in Ps. 131:1: "Nor do I concern myself with great matters, or things too wonderful for me". 'To go' ["concern myself"] with 'great things' is the phrase used of David here in 2 Sam. 5:10; he "went on [s.w. "concern myself"] and grew great" [s.w. "with great matters"]. So the idea of Ps. 131:1 may be that David didn't pay attention to these things so as not to become proud. And yet this humility was mixed with the bitterness noted on :8. We are all strange mixtures of spiritual strength and weakness.

2Sa 5:11 Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, carpenters and masons; and they built David a house-
The way Solomon also used him, or probably another Hiram, for the same trees reflects again how Solomon sought to live out his father. But he had no real spirituality, and over time he revealed that he had no personal faith, turning away to idols in his old age and coming to the nihilism of Ecclesiastes.

Psalm 30 was written at the dedication of a house by David, and we assume it was this house. But that Psalm reveals David had been very ill. He seems not to have had robust health although he was physically strong and lived a long life. There is ample evidence for a breakdown of his health after the sin with Bathsheba.

2Sa 5:12 David perceived that Yahweh had established him king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for His people Israel’s sake-
He realized that the promises of Samuel so long ago had finally come true, despite all the times when it had seemed they could not come true (see on 1 Sam. 27:1). But this sense of fulfilment led him to take yet more wives (:13), which is surely to be read negatively in spiritual terms. Yet he realized that his establishment was located in a wider context than just for himself; it was for the sake of His people Israel.

2Sa 5:13 David took him more concubines and wives out of Jerusalem, after he had come from Hebron; and there were more sons and daughters born to David-
See on :12. This is hard to read in a positive light spiritually; for Israel's king was not to multiply wives (Dt. 17:17). He seemed to feel the need to prove himself established by having more wives and children, but this was itself a failure to appreciate that Yahweh had established him (:12). He did perceive this, but only on one level. 

2Sa 5:14 These are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon-
These were the sons of Bathsheba. We note that they had a son called Nathan, perhaps in respect of the prophet of that name who had rebuked David for his sin with Bathsheba. And it was through him that the Lord Jesus was descended back to David (Lk. 3:31).

2Sa 5:15 Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia-
We know nothing of these sons, nor indeed or most of David's children. This would indicate perhaps that David was not a very good spiritual father to his children.

2Sa 5:16 Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet-
The lists in 1 Chron. 3:5-8; 14:4-7 also mention two more sons, Eliphalet or Elpalet and Nogah. Perhaps  they are omitted here because they died in infancy, and that the second Eliphalet was named after his dead brother.

2Sa 5:17 When the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the stronghold-
They must have felt bitterly betrayed by David. He had lived with them in Ziklag and Gath for some time and claimed he was on their side against Judah. His lack of integrity would have deeply riled them, and was a poor advertisement for the God of Israel.

The stronghold in view may have been the cave of Adullam (2 Sam. 23:13,14), where God had previously delivered David from Saul. Perhaps he went there to pray. It was at this time that he wished to drink of the water from the well in Bethlehem, and his men broke risked their lives to get it for him. We see the extent of their dominance, in that they had overrun Bethlehem, David's home village, and placed a garrison in it (2 Sam. 23:14). 
2Sa 5:18 Now the Philistines had come and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim-
The record of David's battle with the Philistines in 2 Sam.5:17-24 has certain similarities with the exploits of 1 Sam. 14:8-11; as if, years later, David replicated Jonathan's early adventure of faith. This would be understandable if he had been Jonathan's armourbearer in that incident. Situations repeat in our lives; what we learn in youth becomes tested later on in life.

They perhaps chose the valley of the giants as the battleground because they still recalled his victory over Goliath, and wanted to reverse it.

2Sa 5:19 David inquired of Yahweh saying, Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand? Yahweh said to David, Go up; for I will certainly deliver the Philistines into your hand-
This recalls how he asked Yahweh when Saul died whether he should go into Judah, and to which city there. A man of lesser humility and closeness to God would have just gone ahead with assumptions he was right. His questions also recall the questions he asked [and answers received] about the situation in Keilah (1 Sam. 23:11,12). He retained this desire for guidance, and showed he had learned from his previous experiences.

2Sa 5:20 David came to Baal Perazim, and David struck them there; and he said, Yahweh has broken my enemies before me, like the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim-
This means the place of breaches. What happened has been explained as follows: "It was the rocky height on the north of the valley of Rephaim. David must, therefore, have stolen round the army of the Philistines, creeping, probably by night, up to this ridge of Ben-Hinnom, and thence at the dawn of day have rushed down upon the camp. And his onset was sudden and irresistible, like the rush of the waters of some mountain lake when, swollen with rains, it bursts through the opposing dam, and carries hasty destruction to everything that lies in its way". This means that just like the second attack, David circled around and came at the Philistines from behind (:23). But this is exactly how a dog attacks. David in his low moments had felt himself as a desert dog (1 Sam. 17:44 LXX; 24:14). When we are weak, then we are strong. Perhaps God played along with David's low feelings by saying that if he indeed felt as a dog, then He would use him to achieve victory as a dog does. This is not to justify David's view of himself, but to show rather how God interacts with man in a mutual way.

2Sa 5:21 They left their images there; and David and his men took them away-
They should have destroyed them, according to the law of Moses which David professed such love for in Ps. 119. Perhaps they justified it by saying they were doing to the Philistines as they had done to the ark; for the Philistines took the ark as a sign they had triumphed over Israel's God. But Yahweh clearly punished them for that, and David's men might have boasted that the Philistine gods didn't do that to them. Such is the quasi spiritual reasoning of our flesh. 1 Chron. 14:12 however explains that finally, they were burnt.

2Sa 5:22 The Philistines came up yet again, and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim-
This was soon afterwards, implying David's men hadn't slain that many of the Philistines.

2Sa 5:23 When David inquired of Yahweh, He said, You shall not go up. Circle around behind them, and attack them opposite the mulberry trees-
The Father and Son are constantly seeking to lead us in “newness of life”. David didn’t get victory by the mulberry trees the same way each time (2 Sam. 5:23,24). God changed the method. But as noted on :20, David was still to circle around and attack from behind, like a dog. "Mulberry" is Hebrew baca, and could refer to the valley of Baca, or weeping, of Ps. 84:6. Hence RV "valley of weeping". Perhaps David was in depression at this time, and was being comforted that his weeping was to be his strength. For God loves to use the weak to achieve His victories.

2Sa 5:24 It shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then you shall stir yourself up-
This sound was the marching of the Angels. They are called Yahweh's hosts or armies, and the idea was that David's army was a reflection on earth of the heavenly armies above him. This was necessary to teach that Israel were not winning these victories in their own strength, but by following the Angelic hosts above them.

"Stir up" is Heb. 'follow after'. The idea of ‘following after’ a man is a Hebrew figure for men following their leader / general into battle. There are many examples: Josh. 3:3; Jud. 3:28; 4:14; 6:34,35; 9:4,49; 1 Sam. 17:13,14; 30:21; 2 Sam. 5:24 etc. In those early days, a general wasn’t a smart guy with a degree who directed the battlefield from his laptop; he was the one who went over the top first with his men behind him, knowing full well he was the one whom his enemies would go for above all others. It was his bravery which inspired the followers to go after him, and which, over the battles and wars, solidified their trust in him and willingness to give their lives behind him. And this figure of speech was well understood by the Lord when He bid us follow Him. Around Him were false prophets and rabbinic teachers, asking young men to follow them, adopt their interpretations of Torah, study the traditions, and get hyped up enough to take weapons in their hands and go forth to fight the infidel. The Lord was fully aware of this, and He frames His calling of men in the same terms. Indeed, when He speaks of leaving all and following after Him (Lk. 14:33), He surely had in mind the well known story of Mattathias, who began the Maccabean revolt by saying: “Let every one who is zealous for the Law and supports the covenant follow after me… and they left their possessions behind in the town” (1 Macc. 2:27).

For then Yahweh has gone out before you to strike the army of the Philistines-
The people wanted a king to "go out before us and fight our battles" (1 Sam. 8:20), but they were disappointed in Saul ultimately. For it was effectively David who went out before the people to fight their battles (s.w. 1 Sam. 18:13,16). And David was only successful because he recognized that it was Yahweh who 'went out before' to fight his battles (s.w. 2 Sam. 5:24), rather than any human king or leader. 

2Sa 5:25 David did so, as Yahweh commanded him, and struck the Philistines from Geba until you come to Gezer
"Geba" is Gibeon (1 Chron. 14:16), which is directly on the road from the valley of Rephaim to Gaza. The continual consistency of the geographical references in the record is yet another reflection of the utter credibility of it as Divinely inspired. Any group of human writers would have made mistakes in this area, given the lack of detailed maps and geographical knowledge.