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2 Samuel v. 1-9.

After seven and a half years of opposition, 22   There is difficulty in adjusting all the dates. In chap. ii. 10, it is said that Ishbosheth reigned two years. The usual explanation is that he reigned two years before war broke out between him and David. Another supposition is that there was an interregnum in Israel of five and a half years, and that Ishbosheth reigned the last two years of David's seven and a half. The accuracy of the text has been questioned, and it has been proposed (on very slender MS. authority) to read that Ishbosheth reigned six years in place of two. David was now left without a rival, and the representatives of the whole tribes came to Hebron to anoint him king. They gave three reasons for their act, nearly all of which, however, would have been as valid at the death of Saul as they were at this time.

The first was that David and they were closely related—"Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh;" rather an unusual reason, but in the circumstances not unnatural. For David's alliance with the Philistines had thrown some doubt on his nationality; it was not very clear at that time whether he was to be regarded as a Hebrew or as a naturalized Philistine; but now the doubts that had existed on that point had all disappeared; conclusive evidence had been afforded that David was out-and-out a Hebrew, and therefore that he was not disqualified for the Hebrew throne.


This conclusion is confirmed by what they give as their second reason—his former exploits and services against their enemies. "Also, in time past, when Saul was king, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel." In former days, David had proved himself Saul's most efficient lieutenant; he had been at the head of the armies of Israel, and his achievements in that capacity pointed to him as the fit and natural successor of Saul.

The third reason is the most conclusive—"The Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed My people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel." It was little to the credit of the elders that this reason, which should have been the first, and which needed no other reasons to confirm it, was given by them as the last. The truth, however, is, that if they had made it their first and great reason, they would on the very face of their speech have condemned themselves. Why, if this was the command of God, had they been so long of carrying it out? Ought not effect to have been given to it at the very first, independent of all other reasons whatsoever? The elders cannot but give it a place among their reasons for offering him the throne; but it is not allowed to have its own place, and it is added to the others as if they needed to be supplemented before effect could be given to it. The elders did not show that supreme regard to the will of God which ought ever to be the first consideration in every loyal heart. It is the great offence of multitudes, even among those who make a Christian profession, that while they are willing to pay regard to God's will as one of many considerations, they are not prepared to pay supreme regard to it. It may be taken along with other considerations, but it is not allowed to be the chief consideration.64 Religion may have a place in their life, but not the first place. But can a service thus rendered be acceptable to God? Can God accept the second or the third place in any man's regard? Does not the first commandment dispose of this question: "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me"?

"So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and King David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord; and they anointed David king over Israel."

It was a happy circumstance that David was able to neutralise the effects of the murders of Abner and Ishbosheth, and to convince the people that he had no share in these crimes. Notwithstanding the prejudice against his side which in themselves they were fitted to create in the supporters of Saul's family, they did not cause any further opposition to his claims. The tact of the king removed any stumbling-block that might have arisen from these untoward events. And thus the throne of David was at last set up, amid the universal approval of the nation.

This was a most memorable event in David's history. It was the fulfilment of one great instalment of God's promises to him. It was fitted very greatly to deepen his trust in God, as his Protector and his Friend. To be able to look back on even one case of a Divine promise distinctly fulfilled to us is a great help to faith in all future time. For David to be able to look back on that early period of his life, so crowded with trials and sufferings, perplexities and dangers, and to mark how God had delivered him from every one of them, and, in spite of the fearful opposition that had been raised against him, had at last seated him firmly on the throne, was well fitted to advance the spirit of trust65 to that place of supremacy which it gained in him. After such an overwhelming experience, it was little wonder that his trust in God became so strong, and his purpose to serve God so intense. The sorrows of death had compassed him, and the pains of Hades had taken hold on him, yet the Lord had been with him, and had most wonderfully delivered him. And in token of his deliverance he makes his vow of continual service, "O Lord, truly I am Thy servant; I am Thy servant and the son of Thine handmaid; Thou hast loosed my bonds. I will offer to Thee the sacrifices of praise, and will call upon the name of the Lord."

We can hardly pass from this event in David's history without recalling his typical relation to Him who in after-years was to be known as the "Son of David." The resemblance between the early history of David and that of our blessed Lord in some of its features is too obvious to need to be pointed out. Like David, Jesus spends His early years in the obscurity of a country village. Like him, He enters on His public life under a striking and convincing evidence of the Divine favour—David by conquering Goliath, Jesus by the descent of the Spirit at His baptism, and the voice from heaven which proclaimed, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Like David, soon after His Divine call Jesus is led out to the wilderness, to undergo hardship and temptation; but, unlike David, He conquers the enemy at every onset. Like David, Jesus attaches to Himself a small but valiant band of followers, whose achievements in the spiritual warfare rival the deeds of David's "worthies" in the natural. Like David, Jesus is concerned for His relatives; David, in his extremity, commits his father and mother to the king of Moab: Jesus, on the cross, commits His mother66 to the beloved disciple. In the higher exercises of David's spirit, too, there is much that resembles the experiences of Christ. The convincing proof of this is, that most of the Psalms which the Christian Church has ever held to be Messianic have their foundation in the experiences of David. It is impossible not to see that in one sense there must have been a measureless distance between the experience of a sinful man like David and that of the Lord Jesus Christ. In the Divinity of His person, the atoning efficacy of His death, and the glory of His resurrection, Jesus is high above any of the sons of men. Yet there must likewise have been some marvellous similarity between Him and David, seeing that David's words of sorrow and of hope were so often accepted by Jesus to express His own emotions. Strange indeed it is that the words in which David, in the twenty-second Psalm, pours out the desolation of his spirit, were the words in which Jesus found expression for His unexampled distress upon the cross. Strange, too, that David's deliverances were so like Christ's that the same language does for both; nay, that the very words in which Jesus commended His soul to the Father, as it was passing from His body, were words which had first been used by David.

But it does not concern us at present to look so much at the general resemblances between David and our blessed Lord, as at the analogy in the fortunes of their respective kingdoms. And here the most obvious feature is the bitter opposition to their claims offered in both instances even by those who might have been expected most cordially to welcome them. Of both it might be said, "They came unto their own, but their own received them not." First, David is hunted almost to death by Saul; and then, even after Saul's death,67 his claims are resisted by most of the tribes. So in His lifetime Jesus encounters all the hatred and opposition of the scribes and Pharisees; and even after His resurrection, the council do their utmost to denounce His claims and frighten His followers. Against the one and the other the enemy brings to bear all the devices of hatred and opposition. When Jesus rose from the grave, we see Him personally raised high above all the efforts of His enemies; when David was acknowledged king by all Israel, he reached a corresponding elevation. And now that David is recognised as king, how do we find him employing his energies? It is to defend and bless his kingdom, to obtain for it peace and prosperity, to expel its foes, to secure to the utmost of his power the welfare of all his people. From His throne in glory, Jesus does the same. And what encouragement may not the friends and subjects of Christ's kingdom derive from the example of David! For if David, once he was established in his kingdom, spared no effort to do good to his people, if he scattered blessings among them from the stores which he was able to command, how much more may Christ be relied on to do the same! Has He not been placed far above all principality and power, and every name that is named, and been made "Head over all things for the Church which is His body"? Rejoice then, ye members of Christ's kingdom! Raise your eyes to the throne of glory, and see how God has set His King upon His holy hill of Zion! And be encouraged to tell Him of all your own needs and the troubles and needs of His Church; for has He not ascended on high, and led captivity captive, and received gifts for men? And if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, will you not ask, and shall you not receive according to68 your faith? Will not God supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus?

From the spectacle at Hebron, when all the elders of Israel confirmed David on the throne, and entered into a solemn league with reference to the kingdom, we pass with David to the field of battle. The first enterprise to which he addressed himself was the capture of Jerusalem, or rather of the stronghold of Zion. It is not expressly stated that he consulted God before taking this step, but we can hardly suppose that he would do it without Divine direction. From the days of Moses, God had taught His people that a place would be appointed by Him where He would set His name; Jerusalem was to be that place; and it cannot be thought that when David would not even go up to Hebron without consulting the Lord, he would proceed to make Jerusalem his capital without a Divine warrant.

No doubt the place was well known to him. It had already received consecration when Melchizedek reigned in it, "king of righteousness and king of peace." In the days of Joshua its king was Adonizedek, "lord of righteousness"—a noble title, brought down from the days of Melchizedek, however unworthy the bearer of it might be of the designation, for he was the head of the confederacy against Joshua (Josh. x. 1, 3), and he ended his career by being hanged on a tree. After the slaughter of the Philistine, David had carried his head to Jerusalem, or to some place so near that it might be called by that name; very probably Nob was the place, which, according to an old tradition, was situated on the slope of Mount Olivet. Often in his wanderings, when his mind was much occupied with69 fortresses and defences, the image of this place would occur to him; observing how the mountains were round about Jerusalem, he would see how well it was adapted to be the metropolis of the country. But this could not be done while the stronghold of Zion was in the hands of the Jebusites, and while the Jebusites were so numerous that they might be called "the people of the land."

So impregnable was this stronghold deemed, that any attempt that David might make to get possession of it was treated with contempt. The precise circumstances of the siege are somewhat obscure; if we compare the marginal readings and the text in the Authorized Version, and still more in the Revised Version, we may see what difficulty our translators had in arriving at the meaning of the passage. The most probable supposition is that the Jebusites placed their lame and blind on the walls, to show how little artificial defence the place needed, and defied David to touch even these sorry defenders. Such defiance David could not but have regarded as he regarded the defiance of Goliath—as an insult to that mighty God in whose name and in whose strength he carried on his work. Advancing in the same strength in which he advanced against Goliath, he got possession of the stronghold. To stimulate the chivalry of his men he had promised the first place in his army to whoever, by means of the watercourse, should first get on the battlements and defeat the Jebusites. Joab was the man who made this daring and successful attempt. Reaping the promised reward, he thereby raised himself to the first place in the now united forces of the twelve tribes of Israel. After the murder of Abner, he had probably been degraded; but now, by his dash and bravery, he70 established his position on a firmer basis than ever. While he contributed by this means to the security and glory of the kingdom, he diminished at the same time the king's personal satisfaction, inasmuch as David could not regard without anxiety the possession of so much power and influence by so daring and useful, but unscrupulous and bold-tempered, a man.

The place thus taken was called the city, and sometimes the castle, of David, and it became from this time his residence and the capital of his kingdom. Much though the various sites in Jerusalem have been debated, it is surely beyond reasonable doubt that the fortress thus occupied was Mount Zion, the same height which still exists in the south-western corner of the area which came to be covered by Jerusalem. This seems to have been the only part that the Jebusites had fortified, and with the loss of this stronghold their hold of other parts of Jerusalem was lost. Henceforth, as a people, they disappear from Jerusalem, although individual Jebusites might still, like Araunah, hold patches of land in the neighbourhood (2 Sam. xxiv. 16). The captured fortress was turned by David into his royal residence. And seeing that a military stronghold was very inadequate for the purposes of a capital, he began, by the building of Millo, that extension of the city which was afterwards carried out by others on so large a scale.

By thus taking possession of Mount Zion and commencing those extensions which helped to make Jerusalem so great and celebrated a city, David introduced two names into the sacred language of the Bible which have ever since retained a halo, surpassing all other names in the world. Yet, very obviously, it was nothing in the little hill which has borne the name of Zion for so71 many centuries, nor in the physical features of the city of Jerusalem, that has given them their remarkable distinction. Neither is it for mere historical or intellectual associations, in the common sense of the term, that they have attained their eminence. It would not be difficult to find more picturesque rocks than Zion and more striking cities than Jerusalem. It would not be difficult to find places more memorable in art, in science, and intellectual culture. That which gives them their unrivalled pre-eminence is their relation to God's revelation of Himself to man. Zion was memorable because it was God's dwelling-place, Jerusalem because it was the city of the great King. If Jerusalem and Zion impress our imagination even above other places, it is because God had so much to do with them. The very idea of God makes them great.

But they impress much more than our imagination. We recall the unrivalled moral and spiritual forces that were concentrated there: the goodly fellowship of the prophets, the noble army of the martyrs, the glorious company of the apostles, all living under the shadow of Mount Zion, and uttering those words that have moved the world as they received them from the mouth of the Lord. We recall Him who claimed to be Himself God, whose blessed lessons, and holy life, and atoning death were so closely connected with Jerusalem, and would alone have made it for ever memorable, even if it had been signalized by nothing else. Unless David was illuminated from above to a far greater degree than we have any reason to believe, he could have little thought, when he captured that citadel, what a marvellous chapter in the world's history he was beginning. Century after century, millennium after millennium has passed; and still Zion and Jerusalem draw all eyes and72 hearts, and pilgrims from the ends of the earth, as they look even on the ruins of former days, are conscious of a thrill which no other city in all the world can give. Nor is that all. When a name has to be found on earth for the home of the blessed in heaven, it is the new Jerusalem; when the scene of heavenly worship, vocal with the voice of harpers harping with their harps, has to be distinguished, it is said to be Mount Zion. Is not all this a striking testimony that nothing so ennobles either places or men as the gracious fellowship of God? View this distinction of Jerusalem and Mount Zion, if you choose, as the result of mere natural causes. Though the effect must be held far beyond the efficacy of the cause, yet you have this fact: that the places in all the world that to civilized mankind have become far the most glorious are those with which it is believed that God maintained a close and unexampled connection. View it, as it ought to be viewed, as a supernatural result; count the fellowship of God at Jerusalem a real fellowship, and His Spirit a living Spirit; count the presence of Jesus Christ to have been indeed that of God manifest in the flesh; you have now a cause really adequate to the effect, and you have a far more striking proof than before of the dignity and glory which God's presence brings. Would that every one of you might ponder the lesson of Jerusalem and Zion! O ye sons of men, God has drawn nigh to you, and He has drawn nigh to you as a God of salvation. Hear then His message! "For if they escaped not who refused Him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape if we refuse Him that speaketh from heaven."

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