In the last essay we studied 2 Sam. 3:22-4:12, which tells of the deaths of Abner and Ishbaal, or Ishbosheth, and thus of the fall of the house of Saul. Today we are studying 2 Sam. 5, which tells of the early days of David’s rule over all the tribes of Israel. Verses 1-5 begin with the story of David’s anointing as king over the northern tribes.
After the death of Ishbaal, the northern tribes followed through with the arrangements previously made by Abner; and they came to Hebron to anoint David as their king. They gave three reasons for their decision. First, they were of the same “bone and flesh.” They were just reminding David of the obvious, that all of the tribes of Israel stemmed from the same root. They all were descendants of Jacob. Second, David had led them before, when he was Saul’s military commander, before Saul made David an outlaw. And third, more important, they believed it was the will of the Lord.
So for those reasons, the northern tribes anointed David their king. The author of Chronicles adds, “according to the word of the Lord by Samuel” (1 Chron. 11:3). That is, the command of the Lord to Samuel given many years earlier (1 Sam. 16:1, 12) had complete fulfillment in this event. At the time David already had reigned over Judah in Hebron for seven-plus years. Then he reigned another 33 years over united Israel.
As verses 6-7 indicate, one of David’s first acts, as king over all Israel was to march on Jerusalem and take the ancient citadel on Mt. Zion. Then David made Jerusalem his capital, and renamed it the city of David. The city of David was quite small compared to Jerusalem today. But it was well protected by natural terrain, with deep ravines protecting it to the southwest and east. If your Bible has a map of Jerusalem in David’s time, that will help you to see where the City of David was in relation to the rest of the city.
The exact shape and actual placement of the Zion citadel in those ancient times is not known today, but the Jubusites had been able to defend it so successfully for so many years, that the they mocked the very idea that it could be taken. Even blind and crippled men could defend it, they said. And there was some truth to that statement, because the city had remained in the hands of the Jebusites as far back as the days of Joshua. However, the confidence of the Jebusites was misplaced, because David figured out a way to take it.
There is some uncertainty about the meaning of verse eight. But as you see in the NRSV and NIV, most scholars today believe that it means David and his men used the water system to get in and make the conquest. That is, they entered the city and tower through the water shaft, which the Jebusites themselves had cut down to the spring Gihon to provide a source of water during sieges. Part of that original shaft can be seen today. However David and his men accomplished it, they conquered the citadel and took the city.
Then as verse nine tells us, David made the citadel, the fortress proper, his palace. The NRSV translation “occupied the stronghold” is too general. The Hebrew says he “dwelled in the fortress,” meaning he “took up residence in the fortress,” as the NIV says. David immediately began to strengthen the fortifications. The “Millo,” which the NIV translates, “supporting terraces,” was the main tower, probably the one built by the Jebusites. “Supporting terraces” is, in my opinion, a misleading translation.
Verses 11-16 indicate that David entered into a treaty with King Hiram of Tyre. Hiram provided David with technology in the form of people who knew construction and materials for a new palace. Then later Hiram, who must have been a young man when he began to reign, continued the treaty with Solomon. He provided Solomon with the materials needed to build the temple and a palace for Solomon; and Solomon sent Hiram foodstuffs in return (1 Kings 5:1-12). We are not told what David supplied to Hiram during his reign.
David’s house (family) continued to grow, as he took more concubines and wives, and had more children. Eleven sons are named here, which brings the total number of sons to about 19 (compare 1 Chron. 14:5-7; 1 Chron. 3:5-8). Only one daughter, Tamar, is named, but not here. Her name first appears in 13:1.
A second thing that David did quite early in his reign was to repulse two thrusts by the Philistines. Indeed it is possible that the author was not reporting these events chronologically, and the battles with the Philistines took place before the taking of the Jubusite citadel. There is no way to know with certainty, but I suspect that these two battles came first. One reason is that verse 17 tells us that the Philistines went to search for David as soon as they heard he had become king over all of Israel. And the second is that David fled “down to the stronghold” (my emphasis) No matter how one approached the stronghold of Zion, one had to go up to it. So the “stronghold” that David went down to probably was the one in the southern mountains where he earlier had hidden from Saul.
At any rate, we see in verses 17-21 that the Philistines twice came against David at the beginning of his reign, probably because they didn’t want him to have time, as king over all Israel, to solidify his military strength. The valley of Rephaim lies to the west of Jerusalem within sight of the city. David successfully warded off the first attack by defeating the Philistines there; but he didn’t follow up on his victory.
In verses 22-24 we see that the Philistines regrouped and came again. This time David won the battle with superior tactics. He surprised them from the rear; and this time, after wining the battle he pursued the Philistines from Geba, which probably was another name for Gibeon, all the way to Gezer. That seemed to end the Philistine threat for the time being.
Now then, the primary value of this chapter is historical. But there are at least three other lessons we can learn form it. First, we learn that God’s word comes true. The Lord had predicted through Samuel that David would succeed Saul as king over Israel (1 Sam. 16:1, 12), and though it took some time, it happened.
Second, we learn that we must never get overconfident. The Jebusites said that their tower was so impregnable that the lame and the blind could defend it. Thus they were overconfident. The text does not say this, but I suspect that they were taken by surprise when David and his troops came up the water shaft. If they had been more vigilant, they might have been able to fend off the attack.
Third, we see here a lesson on international relations. David made a treaty with Hiram of Tyre that held throughout his lifetime and far into Saul’s reign. The two countries helped one another through trade, rather than warring with one another.