May 24, 2015

Scripture and Commentary, May 24-30


May 24

2 Sam. 11, Acts 7:29-60
2 Sam. 12, 1 Cor. 7

Commentary

2 Samuel 11

David had many wives, but not because of love, or even lust.  Wives were often the means of sealing treaties and covenants between families and nations.  And, though Biblical injunctions forbade Israelite kings to multiply wives to themselves, David made alliances with powerful Israelite families and Gentile kings by marrying their daughters, thus making the house of David “one flesh” with theirs.  In a world where most people lived in arranged marriages, this may not have been as bad as we now think.  Remember, Esther actually wanted to become part of the kings harem.  Yet, it is certain that terrible heart ache and life-long sorrow were the lot of many women in such situations.  Even David does not seem to “love” his wives.

The harem was an important status symbol in the ancient near east, and part of David’s reason for having one must have been to look important to the other kings around him.  Part of it, too, must have been due to pride, and copying the ideas and life-styles of the pagans around him.

Chapter 11 finds David comfortably settled in Jerusalem.  He is wealthy, successful, beloved of his people, and his land is more at peace than it has ever been.  With things going smoothly, David has time to think about pleasant distractions, and he happens to see one bathing on a roof-top.  Her name is Bath-sheba.  Now genuine lust rises up in David’s heart.  Notice, also that Bath-sheba willingly comes to David, and even gets word of her pregnancy to him, probably expecting him to do something about it.  So, David and Bath-sheba are both equally guilty in this sin.  If she were not already married, David would have simply married her and made her chief of the harem.  Her marriage complicated matters, and both probably thought their single act of adultery would end the matter.  But pregnancy ensued, leading to murder, as David falls into the trap of using his position and power for his own pleasure and purpose rather than the will of God and the good of the people.

Technically, the death of Uriah may be construed as the price of war.  Units, and individual soldiers, are often marched into certain death as sacrifices and feints to draw the enemies’s attention away from the general’s real intention.  But David’s intent is clearly to have Uriah killed, and his intent is fulfilled. 

2 Samuel 12

How typical of human beings that we are so well endowed with insight to see the sins of others, but miss our own.  How typical of our sense of righteous indignation that we are ever ready to punish the sins of others, yet completely excuse our own.  David, too shares these abilities.  When confronted with the fictional man with many sheep (wives) who steals the single, beloved sheep (wife) of another, David swears to kill the thief.  Yet David has stolen a beloved wife, and caused the death of her husband.  Is he not doubly guilty?  And are not his crimes real and actual rather than fictional and illustrative?  All of this is made clear to David in the words of Nathan, “Thou art the man.”  How many time could it be said of us, “Thou art the man?”

One of the consequences of David’s multiple marriages is conflict between his multiple families.  While jealousy and strife occur in all families, David’s peculiar circumstances seem to multiply them.  Hatred, incest, and murder reveal a very unhappy life  for his wives, which they pass on to their children.  This internal strife seems to stay with the house of David for generations.


May 25

2 Sam. 13:1-22, Acts 8:1-25
2 Sam 13:23-39, 1 Cor 8

Commentary, 2 Samuel 13

This sordid tale of rape, incest, and murder needs very little commentary
  Absalom, Tamar, and Amnon are children of David but Amnon has a different mother.  Amnon is infatuated with Tamar, his half-sister.  One day he rapes her, but she tells no-one but Absalom, who takes her into his own home to care for her.  It takes two years, but Absalom finally finds a way to get Amnon away from his father.  With that accomplished, Absalom kills Amnon and flees to his mother’s home town place for three years.

May 26

2 Sam. 14  Acts 8:26-40
2 Sam. 15, 1 Cor. 9

Commentary,

2 Samuel 14

Joab is the leader of David’s army, the same person we met in 2 Samuel 3.  He knows David’s heart is toward Absalom and blind to Absalom’s faults.  Tall and handsome, and the king’s favourite son, Absalom wants to be king, but he is not first in line for the throne.

Why does Joab help Absalom return to Jerusalem? Is it compassion for David? Does he believe Absalom did right to kill his sister’s rapist? Is he lotting against David?  A woman in Tekoah is noted for wisdom and Joab persuades her to help convince David to receive Absalom again. During their conversation, David realises the similarity between his situation and the one described by the woman. He also knows she has been sent there by Joab. The result is David's order to, “Bring the man Absalom again.”

Absalom's outer beauty hides an inner ugliness. He wants to be king, but too many contenders are in line before him. Therefore, he plans to take the throne by force. Burning Joab’s field is but one step in a treacherous journey of deceit and death, but it probably convinces Joab that Absalom cannot be trusted with the throne.

2 Samuel 15

Gathering a formidable force of chariots and foot soldiers around him, Absalom forms the habit of going to the gates of Jerusalem when people come to bring their cases to David for judgment. Absalom assures the people that their causes are just, but cannot expect justice because the king has not assigned judges to hear them. Absalom is saying David is neglecting his duties as king, therefore no one can expect justice in his court. Absalom finishes this by saying, “Oh that I were made a judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice.” Absalom’s point is that if he were king, he would assure the peoples’ cases would be heard, and they would receive justice.

This has the desired effect. It causes people to doubt David. It causes unrest in the land. It causes people to desire a new king, a king whose name is Absalom. After a time in Hebron, organising the opposition, Absalom is ready to attack his father and take the throne by force. The chapter ends with David fleeing, and Absalom entering Jerusalem uncontested.

May 27

2 Sam. 16, Acts 9:1-23
2 Sam. 17, 1 Cor. 10

Commentary,

2 Samuel 16 and 17

Leaving Jerusalem, David and encounters Zilba, the servant of Mephibosheth. Zilba deceives David saying Mephibosheth believes he will be installed King of all Israel. Mephibosheth, of course, is completely loyal to David. Even if he were not, he has no army, and no way to withstand the forces of Absalom.  So Absalom enters the city of Jerusalem unopposed and proceeds to desecrate everything, including David's wives and concubines.  This does nor endear him to the people.

Absalom's rebellion is brief. Soon he meets his father's Army, on the east side of the Jordan in Gilead.  Absalom suffers a major defeat and dies in the battle. King David is plunged into deep despair and grief, which casts a pall of sorrow of the entire army.



May 28


2 Sam 18, Acts 9:23-43
2 Sam 19,  1 Cor. 11

2 Samuel 18 and 19

Soldiers who should have been given a hero’s reward, receive nothing. Men who should be rejoicing over a great victory, steal away as though they were cowards running from battle. Why? Because David mourns for his son Absalom.

Joab rightly confronts the king. His loyal soldiers fought and died in that battle. Their sacrifices saved the lives of the King and his family. They even saved the kingdom. Yet David mourns for his enemy and ignores his friends. Joab even says David would have been happier if Absalom had lived and the rest of them had died.  “Now therefore arise, go forth and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the Lord if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee  this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.”

David realises the truth of Joab's words. He quickly returns to the task of uniting Israel again. But jealousy, pride, and greed will not allow the growing rift between North and South to heal. It is a rift that will eventually permanently divide the people.



May 29

2 Sam 20, Acts 12
                1 Cor 13

Saul was of the tribe of Benjamin, and some Benjamites still view David as a usurper and an illegitimate king. Sheba is a loud voice among such people.  “We have no part in David, neither have we inheritance in the son of Jesse,” he cried,  “every man to his tents O Israel.”

Here we are beginning to see the northern tribes forming their own identity under the name of Israel. They see Judah as a separate nation having her own king.  Following Sheba's call, vast numbers of the men of Israel leave David and unite under Sheba. The people of Judah remain with David, but the kingdom is seriously divided.

David knows Sheba intends to take the crown and become king of all the tribes.  By this time David, in an attempt to unite Judah and Israel, has appointed Amasa leader of the army, replacing Joab.  Amasa had been the leader of Absalom's army. Whether out of anger, revenge, or fear that Amasa would join Sheba and destroy the kingdom of David, Joab kills Amasa.  Finally, Sheba’s head is cast over the wall of the city in which he sought refuge. Chapter 20 ends with Israel and Judah together again in a very fragile union with Joab as the head of all the army.

May 30

2 Sam. 21, Acts 13
2 Sam. 22, 1 Cor 14

Commentary

2 Samuel 21

Chapter 21 is part of an appendix to the books of Samuel. They record or further explain events that happened during David’s reign.  Verses1-14 are about the Gibeonites.  According to God’s directives, Israel could make treaties with people who did not dwell within the borders of Canaan.  The Gibeonites were from Canaan, but knew they could not stand against Israel, so they pretended to be from a far country to make a peace treaty with Israel (Josh. 9:15-27). The covenant with Gibeon was not a sin. It was made in good faith by Israel. It could be argued that deception on the part of the Gibeonites would nullify the treaty, but God seems to have required Israel to honour it. When the treaty was broken by Saul, it became, in God's eyes, equal to any breach of the law of God between Israelites.  The same penalties were required, eye for eye, tooth for tooth. God demands His people to be honest, and to keep their word.  What implications does this have for Christian marriage, parenting, family life, church membership, worship attendance, and congregational life?  What does it say about political and international treaties, and how careful we should be about entering such agreements?

Versus 15 through 17 record a battle in which David grew so weary his soldiers thought he was wounded and dying. David may even having been wounded in this battle. The result is a decision among all his men that David will not be allowed to go into the actual battle again.  The chapter closes with the record of more battles with Philistine giants, slain by David and the Hebrew Army.


2 Samuel 22 is a song of deliverance written by the poet king of Israel, David.  He has much to be thankful for.  In spite of his own unworthiness and sin, God had has used him mightily to establish Israel in relative peace and freedom.  Her problems are primarily from within, not without.  You will recognise many lines from the Psalms in this song. It was probably written late in David's life, and it seems to show a realisation that God could have used any shepherd boy, or girl, or any person of any age or station to accomplish his will.  It was only by grace that He elected and used David.