God’s Anointed Gets His Kingdom—Lectionary Reflection for Pentecost 7B (2 Samuel 5)

2 Samuel 5:1-10 New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you, ‘It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.’” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here; even the blind and the lame will turn you back,” thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of David. David had said on that day, “Whoever would strike down the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those whom David hates.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.” David occupied the stronghold and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. 10 And David became greater and greater, for the Lord of hosts was with him.


                David was just a boy out tending his father’s sheep when he was called in from the fields so Samuel could anoint him as the next king of Israel (1 Sam 16:6-13). Of course, Saul was still the king, and Jonathan was his heir. Unfortunately for Israel’s first king and heir, they were killed in battle, deaths which David lamented in a song (2 Sam 1:17-27). Of course, not everyone embraced David as king. Initially only his own tribe, Judah embraced his leadership, while Saul’s supporters gathered around his son Ish-bosheth, who was crowned king of Israel (2 Sam. 2:1-11). The intervening chapters between the crowning of David as king of Judah, with Hebron as his capital, and Ish-bosheth ruling over the rest of Israel, involves something of a civil war with two competing kings. Something had to give if this conflict would come to an end. Ultimately, David gains the upper hand.

                Our reading from 2 Samuel 5 tells the story of David’s anointing as king of all Israel and the capture of Jerusalem from the Jebusites. Jerusalem (Zion) will become David’s capital, having ruled Judah from Hebron for a little over seven years. The creators of the Revised Common Lectionary, seeking to help us avoid the more violent parts of David’s rise to power eliminate verses 6-8, which tell the story of the capture of Jerusalem. Isn’t better to just take up residence in an empty citadel rather than taking it by force and killing all its residents? Unfortunately, that’s not how the story goes. It does contain a bit of violence.

                Before we get to the story of David’s capture of Jerusalem, we need to hear the story of his anointing as king over all of Israel, not just Judah. Apparently, Samuel’s anointing wasn’t enough. David needed a more public anointing to cement his claim on the country. So, according to the narrator, with the death of Ish-bosheth and Saul’s former general, Abner, the opposing tribes gave in to the inevitable and went to David at Hebron and asked David to be their king. They pleaded their case before David, telling him that “we are your bone and flesh.” That is, the tribes may have been divided, but they are family. While Saul had been their king, they suggest that it was David who had been leading the people in battle. They let David know that Yahweh had said to David that he should be their shepherd and rule over the people. With that, the elders of Israel made a covenant with David at Hebron and anointed him as king over all Israel. Thus, began David’s illustrious reign over the nation of Israel. Having reigned over Judah for a bit over seven years at Hebron, he’ll reign over the entire nation for the next thirty-three years. According to our text, he was thirty years old when he began his reign and would reign for forty years in total. Thus, all is good.

                David has a kingdom but not necessarily a capital. Hebron had served as his capital, but apparently, he wanted a new capital. So, he set his eyes on Jerusalem, which sat on the boundary of the tribal lands of Judah (David’s tribe) and Benjamin (Saul’s tribe). Even better it wasn’t controlled by either tribe (Hebron sat in central Judah). In essence, this is a neutral site. The only problem is the site is inhabited. The inhabitants (Jebusites) weren’t too keen on giving up their homes to the Israelites. It is in verses 6-8 that the narrator describes the capture of the city David had chosen to set up his capital. The inhabitants, who might fit in a Monty Python skit tell David that he wasn’t welcome. If he tried to come in “the blind and lame will surely turn you away.” In other words, good luck trying to take the city. Unfortunately for the Jebusites, David and his men found a way into the city, probably using one of the tunnels used to bring water into the city from the Gihon springs down in the valley. Eventually, David was able to take the city, and as is often the case in situations like this, David unleashed his men on the people, especially the lame and the blind, those hated by David. With that David’s glorious reign begins. Then a millennium later, Jesus will be hailed Son of David as he entered Jerusalem. Of course, Jesus' entrance into the city ends with his death while David builds a new capital.

                As we ponder this story of the anointing of David as King of both Judah and Israel and his establishment of Jerusalem as its capital, it is good to remember that by the time 2 Samuel was written by the Deuteronomists (a group of writers whose works find their terminus at the time of the exile), Israel and Judah had broken apart after Solomon’s reign and then a few centuries later the northern kingdom had disappeared after the Assyrian conquest, leaving the much smaller kingdom of Judah standing, at least for a time, before it fell to the Babylonians. 1 and 2 Samuel essentially tell the story of the beginning of the monarchy. In 1 Samuel we see the rise and fall of Saul, and now we read the story of a new dynasty, that of David.

                The lectionary creators skip over the less savory part of David’s capture of Jerusalem, which reminds us that violent warfare is nothing new. David was, you might say, a warlord with a crown. Long before he became king he was a mercenary and a warlord. Despite the violence attributed to David, which can confound modern readers, he is said to be a man after God’s heart. We pick up the story in verse 9 after David has occupied Jerusalem, which was now to be known as the City of David. David built up his new capital and he became ever greater because Yahweh, the God of Hosts was with him.  

                What we have here in David is a warrior king who made a name for himself on the battlefield, which is what the people hoped they would get when they clamored for a king. Saul seemed to have the requisite abilities, at least as far as being a warrior but was less successful as a ruler. As for David, he aspires to greatness, but as the rest of 2 Samuel reminds us, not all goes well for him, especially when it comes to family matters. The merging of two kingdoms, one being Judah and the other being Israel underlines the fragility of this entity called Israel.

                Christians are interested in the stories of David because Jesus is depicted as the son and heir of David. He is the messianic figure who restores David’s kingdom, but of course, does it in a different way because David’s kingdom is subsumed under the kingdom of God. In a sense that restores things to what they were before the rise of Saul as king. While Jesus is hailed as David’s heir, he operates very differently. But, in interpreting this passage through the lens of Jesus we must beware of the Marcionite tendency to separate the God of Jesus from the God of the Old Testament, the God of love from the God of wrath. The story of Israel is a complicated one. It is a chosen people, beloved of God, with whom God made a covenant of blessing. David was not a perfect leader, but he did bring stability to a still-emerging nation, one that would fracture after the reign of his son and heir, Solomon. As for Jesus, he may have redefined what it means it means to be the son of David, but he didn’t reject the title.

                Our reading ends by hailing David’s greatness. However, that greatness comes because of God’s presence in his life. Yes, Yahweh, the Lord of Hosts stood with him. May that be true of us as well. We might never reign as monarchs, but we can take comfort in knowing that God is with us. It is that divine presence that empowers us to live lives that reflect God’s reign in this world and the next.  



Popular Posts