Wednesday, March 16, 2011

2 Samuel 1-4: David's Patience

"Death of King Saul", 1848 by Elie M...Image via Wikipedia
Even though it was well known throughout the land that David was God's anointed choice for King,  Saul was still, in the eyes of the nation, the established head of the new monarchy.  His sudden death left the nation divided and confused.   Openly grieving  the death of Saul and Jonathan, the twenty-three-year-old David wrote a psalm of lament, which may have prompted the nation to feel orphaned and seeking security in the familiarity of the House of Saul.

After grieving, David settled his men and their families in Hebron, where Judah anointed him as their King.

The rest of Israel remained loyal to the House of Saul.  Though much civil unrest followed, none of it was initiated by David.  In fact it would appear that David's seven years in Hebron were primarily focused on family and on waiting for God to accomplish His Word.  Six sons were born to him during this period of indecision and unrest.

During this period, some of David's biggest troubles were with members of his own family: his three nephews, sons of his sister Zeruiah: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel (2 Samuel 1:18).     Ordinarily nephews are younger than the uncle, however here, these nephews were considerably older and probably, by virtue of their seniority, experience, and blood relationship, felt that they could make good political decisions on David's behalf.    They initiated a frivolous battle which cost the tribe of Benjamin 360 men; Asahel forced Abner into slaying him; Joab assassinated Abner to avenge Asahel's death.    Yet in all of these instances, David's nephews alone were responsible for the bloodshed.

When Abner, a military leader from the House of Saul, defected to David's camp,  he promised to deliver to him the rest of the nation of Israel.  As Abner set out to accomplish this task, he and David parted parted peacefully, as close friends.

But Joab, only focused on his seething hatred for Abner, called Abner back to Hebron and assassinated him.

As David waited patiently for God to fulfill His Word concerning him, he lamented the needless bloodshed and complained that he couldn't control the "sons of Zeruriah."  During this time, the people of Israel watched him and understood his heart; they saw that he would never have killed Saul or any of his family; they saw that he denounced the death of Abner, and lamented over him.

In this account, David is portrayed as a king who led by waiting patiently for God's direction and who conquered the hearts of Israel, by loving them and God their Creator, deeply.  David denounced senseless violence and called on God "to repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds."(2 Samuel 3:39).

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