2 Samuel 2: David Made King
Saul had died, and David would now be king. At first he was not king of the whole country, but only of the southern part, called Judah, and his home was at Hebron. Hebron was a famous old city. Abraham had lived there under the oaks. David was well known in this region. As a boy he had lived at Bethlehem, not far away, and when hiding from Saul he had been in many parts of Judah. Why was David not king over all the country? Because Abner, who was a strong man and Saul's faithful captain, made a son of Saul, Ish-bosheth, who was still living, king of the northern part of the land, living across the Jordan where the people were so friendly to Saul. There was fighting between Saul's family and David. But David grew stronger and stronger, and Saul's family grew weaker and weaker. (2 Sam. 3: 1)
There was still one of Saul's family, Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son. He was lame in his feet, for he fell when five years old when his nurse picked him up hastily to flee on hearing of the death of Jonathan and Saul. You remember David's promise to Jonathan to be kind to his family. (1 Sam. 20:14-17, 42) David learned of him from Zeba, a servant of Saul, and treated Mephibosheth kindly for Jonathan's sake, and Mephibosheth lived at David's house.
Who would be king after Saul? Yes, David. But it was some time before David was established as king of all the country. When he knew of Saul's death David asked the Lord what he should do and was told to go up to Hebron among the hills of Judah. Judah was the name of one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Bethlehem was at its northern limit and from there it reached southward. Gradually the name Judah was given to all the southern country from Jerusalem to the southern desert and from the Dead Sea to the Philistine country. David was already well known in this region. He was born in Bethlehem and lived there as a boy. He had hidden from Saul in the wilderness toward the Dead Sea and in forests south of Hebron. The people of this region knew him. They were ready to come together at Hebron and anoint David king. You remember the old town of Hebron. It was now David's home and he ruled there as king of Judah for seven years and six months.
Meantime, who were left of the family of Saul and where were they? Three sons of Saul had been killed with him in Mount Gilboa and their bodies were buried by the friendly people of Jabesh-gilead. Another son was left, Ish-bosheth. He seemed to have been a weak man, but Abner, Saul's captain, was with him and he was a strong man. It was Abner who brought David before Saul after killing Goliath. Abner was sleeping near Saul when David came by night and took the spear and cruse of water. Abner now took Ish-bosheth to Mahanaim in the friendly country east of Jordan. This place was mentioned in the story of Jacob. It was where he met Esau when he came back from his stay at Haran.
Abner made Ish-bosheth king of the eastern country and of the northern part of the Holy Land. The Ashurites probably means the tribe of Asher, used in a general way for the tribes north of the plain of Esdraelon. Jezreel means the great plain itself, being the name of a town on its eastern border. Ephraim was the hill country south of Esdraelon, and Benjamin reached down to Judah where David ruled. This was Saul's own tribe and it might be expected that it would remain friendly to his son.
So there were two kings, David in Hebron and Ish-bosheth in Mahanaim, each wishing to be king of all the land, and there was war between them. We learn especially of one battle at Gibeon. But the trouble was not ended with this one battle. "There was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker."
As we read on in the story we notice David's kindness to the family of Saul. When Abner was killed, David mourned. When men killed Ish-bosheth thinking to gain David's favor, he reminded them of what happened to the one who brought him news of Saul's death; and they were killed at his command. We read this in the fourth chapter. The same chapter in the fourth verse tells us of a son of Jonathan, who became lame as a little child. There is more about him in the ninth chapter which you will like to read. David afterward found this lame son of Jonathan and brought him to Jerusalem and treated him kindly, providing for him from his own table.
1. Where is Hebron? What have we learned about Hebron before the days of David?
2. When was David first anointed, and by whom? When was he publicly made king? What part of the country did he rule over while he lived at Hebron?
3. Where did Saul's family for a time have power? What battle did they fight with David?
4. In what ways had David already shown kindness to Saul? When had he promised to show kindness to Jonathan's children?
When does a king anointed by the Lord govern our little kingdom? When we rule our hands and feet and tongue and all our faculties of body and mind by the Lord's commandments; for the Lord's truth is king. (John 18:37) When is Saul king? When we obey the commandments in a natural, literal way, with a good deal of youthful self-confidence. When is David king? When we obey the Lord's Word in a deeper, more spiritual way with more humility.
When we study the twelve tribes of Israel and their allotments in the land of Canaan, we find Judah and tribes representing loving interior qualities of heavenly life in the south, and tribes representing more intellectual and external qualities of life in the north and beyond Jordan.
While the kingdom is divided between David and the house of Saul, we see why David's place is in Judah, and the place of Saul's house in the northern country and beyond Jordan. David also was from Judah and Saul from Benjamin. (A. 4750; R. 96)
Hebron was an ancient city of the southern country, the home of Hittites who remained even from the Most Ancient Church, and the home of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob. It represents early childlike states, with their innocent affections and perceptions, which are carefully preserved within us by the Lord. When David becomes king, when as men and women we begin in a spiritual way to rule our kingdom with the Lord's help, we go back to these innocent states of childhood and they are the basis of our strength. Hebron is said to have represented the church before Jerusalem did, and to represent a more loving church; and Jerusalem a more intellectual church. It seems right that David's rule should begin in Hebron, representing loving childlike states (we remember his first anointing by Samuel in Bethlehem), and that he moved later to Jerusalem, representing states more intellectual and mature. (Ps. 2; A. 2909, 2981, 4447, 4614)
The dependence of Jonathan's lame son on David's bounty suggests the blessing to more external powers when they learn dependence upon things spiritual and Divine: the blessing to knowledge of nature when we see in nature God's love and wisdom, the blessing to knowledge of the letter of the Word when it is enlightened by knowledge of its spirit.