Today we study 2 Sam. 8 and 9, which will complete a major section of 2 Samuel. It began at 5:1 and summarizes the glory days of David’s reign as king. The section began in chapter five with David’s anointing as king over all of Israel. David immediately marched on Jerusalem and took the ancient citadel on Mt. Zion (vv. 6-10). Then David made Jerusalem his capitol, and renamed it the city of David. Another thing that David did quite early in his reign was to repulse two thrusts by the Philistines. Following the second attack, David won a major victory that temporarily ended the Philistine threat.
As we turned to chapter six, we saw David turn to the religious life of the nation. David resolved to bring the Ark of the Covenant back to a central place in the religious life of the people by placing it in an especially prepared tent in Jerusalem. The idea was once again to provide the people with a central, national shrine, where they could worship God according to the Law.
David’s first attempt to bring the ark to Jerusalem ended in disaster, because David and his people neglected to transport the ark as the law directed. Instead of having Levites carry the ark on their shoulders on poles, they placed the ark on a new cart, as the Philistines had done when they returned the ark to Israel. And when the cart began to tip over upon hitting a bump in the road; a man named Uzzah who reached out to steady it was struck dead, just as Num. 4:15 clearly indicated would happen.
This filled David with fear. So he decided not to take the ark to Jerusalem at that time. However three months later, after the ark had rested in the home of Obed-edom, the Gittite for that period of time, and Obed-edom’s household was blessed as a result, David overcame his fears and decided to complete his plans to bring the ark to Jerusalem. However this time David followed the Law. Levites ceremonially purified themselves and carried the ark to Jerusalem on their shoulders with poles as the Law required (1 Chron. 15:11-15).
Last Sunday we studied chapter seven. As always, David was thinking about the future. He had done what was necessary to solidify his reign; and now we found him thinking about what to do next. And his thoughts went in the direction building a temple for the Lord. But the Lord told David that rather than David’s building the Lord a house; the Lord would build David a house, meaning a dynasty (v. 11). And David’s son would build a house, a temple, for the Lord (v. 13).
All right, now we are ready to move to chapters 8 and 9, which will complete this major section on David’s glory years as king of Israel. Chapter eight lists David’s wars throughout his entire reign, during which he subjugated the surrounding nations. The first group mentioned is the Philistines. David’s victory over them already was reported in chapter six.
The second group, mentioned in verse 2, is the Moabites. Unusual language is used here in connection with measuring the Moabites. First, the verse refers to the Moabite soldiers, not to the entire population. It does not mean that each soldier was measured. It means that two lines were used, one twice as long as the other. Thus the result was that two-thirds of the soldiers were marked for death. Of course that greatly weakened the ability of the Moabites to rebel from their servant hood to Israel.
The third group mentioned is the Arameans. Some were subjects of King Hadadezer whose capital was Zobah. David’s victory was massive. After the first battle he hamstrung the horses of King Hadadezer’s army, so that they would be useless for warfare. And in the second battle he killed 22,000 Aramean soldiers. David brought a great deal of booty back to Jerusalem, and he made the Arameans serve and pay tribute to him.
In verses 9-14 we see that King Toi of another northern kingdom, quickly sent David a large present to establish friendly relations with him (vv. 9-10). In the meantime in the South the Edomites took advantage of David’s preoccupation with the Arameans in the North by attacking the southern part of Israel near the Dead Sea. So as soon as David had the situation in the North under control, he brought his army south and defeated Edom, killing 18,000 of their army. Then he forced Edom to serve Israel as he had done with the others.
In verses 15-18 the author listed David’s chief officers. Joab was “over the army,” that is, he was David’s commander in chief. Johoshaphat, about whom nothing else is known, was David’s “recorder.” That means he kept the records of all the significant events that took place around the king. Zadok and Ahimelech were the priests. 1 Chron. 5:34 tells us that Zadok ministered at the tabernacle at Gibeon. So Ahimelech probably ministered before the ark in Jerusalem. Seraiah was “secretary,” which meant he was the official scribe of the kingdom. Benaiah was over “the Cherethites and Pelethites.” They were the king’s bodyguards. But they had other duties as well. The Cherethites were the executioners. They carried out the death sentence on criminals. And the Pelethites were runners. That is, they were the couriers who carried the king’s orders from place to place. And finally, David’s sons were “priests,” so says the Hebrew. However as the NIV translates, the term may have had a broader use to mean “royal advisers.”
In chapter nine the author caps off his account of David’s glory years with the story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son. This took place about the middle of David’s reign. We know that, because we learned in chapter four, verse four, that Mephibosheth was five years old when Saul died. And we learn here in 9:12 that at the time David befriended Mephibosheth, Mephibosheth had a young son himself. This would mean that about 20 years had passed.
David, wanting to do something to honor the memory of his friend Jonathan, sought out a man named Ziba who had been a servant of Saul. From him David learned that a son of Jonathan named Mephibosheth still lived. David called Mephibosheth before him.
First, he reassured Mephibosheth, because David easily could have wanted to kill the young man in order to wipe out an heir of the previous line. Second, David restored to Mephibosheth the property that had belonged to his grandfather Saul. And then, third, David invited Mephibosheth to eat at the king’s table the rest of his life, as if he were a son of the king. Finally, David ordered Ziba, his sons and servants to work Mephibosheth’s land as servants of Mephibosheth. Thus we see the apex of David’s reign.
It seems to me that the primary application value in these chapters is David’s compassionate treatment of Mephibosheth. By treating Mephibosheth as if he were David’s own son, David accomplished at least three significant things. First, he honored his friendship with Jonathan, the father of Mephibosheth. David could have erected a monument in Jonathan’s honor, but he chose instead to show compassion on Jonathan’s son.
Second, by inviting Mephibosheth to eat at the king’s table for the rest of his life, David gave Mephibosheth a status in the kingdom that very few had. Thus David honored Mephibosheth as well as Jonathan.
And third, by restoring the property of Saul to Mephibosheth, David made Mephibosheth independently wealthy. That meant Mephibosheth would never feel as though he were a charity case. Rather he had the dignity of being self-supporting,