CLEARLY THE WRITER OF 2 Samuel (whose identity we do not know) thinks it important to record the various steps by which David came to rule over all Israel. Canonically, this is important because it is the beginning of the Davidic dynasty that leads directly to “great David’s greater Son” (see the May 17 meditation). Within this framework, I wish to reflect on several features in these two chapters (2 Sam. 4–5).
(1) It is quite stunning to observe how David was prepared to wait for the throne, without taking the kind of action that would have secured it for him more quickly. Not least impressive is his stance toward Ish-Bosheth. Ish-Bosheth’s murderers, Baanah and Recab, who think they will curry favor with the rising star by their vicious assassination (in line with the common standards of the day), learn that David’s commitment to justice ensures their execution. The only slightly sour overtone is the double standard: these murderers pay a just penalty for their crime (2 Sam. 4), while in the preceding chapter the murderer Joab, because of his power, is publicly shamed but does not face the capital sentence.
(2) This book carefully chronicles how “all the tribes of Israel” (2 Sam. 5:1) approach David at Hebron and invite him to become their king. In God’s providence the evil assassination by Baanah and Recab brings about the fulfillment of God’s promise to David.
(3) David’s capture of Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:6–12) has to be recorded, for this not only becomes David’s capital city but in due course becomes the resting place for the tabernacle. During the reign of his son Solomon it will become the site for the temple. Enormously important theological issues revolve around Jerusalem and the temple. These are taken up in turn by the prophets (before and after the Exile), by Jesus himself, and by the New Testament writers. Reflect, for instance, on John 2:13–22; Galatians 4:21–31; Hebrews 9; 12:22–23; Revelation 21–22.
(4) Above all, when the Israelites invite David to become their king, they say, “And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler’” (2 Sam. 5:2). The “shepherd” theme is more comprehensive than the “ruler” theme, and is developed in various ways. At the outset of the Exile, God excoriates the false “shepherds” who are more interested in fleecing the sheep than in securing and nurturing the flock (Ezek. 34)—a phenomenon not unknown today. So God repeatedly promises that he himself will be the shepherd of his people; indeed, he will send forth this servant “David” (three-and-a-half centuries after David’s death!) to be their shepherd (Ezek. 34:23–24; see the meditation for March 20). In the fullness of time, the rightful heir of David’s line declares, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11).