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(2 Samuel 24) 209
1 Samuel ends tragically, with King Saul a virtual madman. He turns against David, his loyal servant and friend. He becomes paranoid, seeking to kill David as though he were a traitor. He fails to obey God’s Word, and so brings about his own downfall and demise. Saul even goes so far as to consult with a medium. The closing chapter of 1 Samuel is the account of his death, at the hand of the Philistines, and his own hand as well. Sad though this may be, we breathe a sigh of relief, for now David’s days of fleeing from Saul as a fugitive are over. Now, David will reign in Saul’s place.
It doesn’t happen quite this quickly, or this easily. Thanks to the intrigue of men like Abner and Joab, Israel temporarily becomes a divided nation – a foreshadowing of future times for the nation Israel. Finally, David becomes king of all Israel. As he sets out to establish his throne, he seems to do everything well, and God’s blessing is clearly upon him.
Nevertheless, David is still a man with “feet of clay.” His sin against Bathsheba and her husband Uriah sets a whole new course of events into motion. There are more dark days for David, darker than he has seen before.
His child dies, one of his sons rapes David’s daughter, and one of his sons kills another son. To cap matter off, David’s son Absalom rebels against his father David and seeks to kill him. And yet through it all God brings David to repentance and ultimate restoration. God in no way winks at David’s sins, because the remainder of 2 Samuel describes the fallout of David’s sin with Bathsheba.
2 Samuel leaves us with an appreciation for the greatness of David, but also a realization of his human weaknesses. If there is to be a king who will dwell forever on the throne of David (2 Samuel 7:12-14), it must be one who is greater than David. If David is the best king who ever ruled over Israel, then God will have to provide, Himself, a better King. And so He will. This is a great book, one well worth our serious study. Let us look to God to work in our lives through our study of 2 Samuel.
What an Amalekite is Dying to Tell David (2 Samuel 1:1-27)
Our text in this first chapter of 2 Samuel reminds me of the story of a young accident-prone American pilot. Everything the young man did always seemed to go wrong. He was stationed aboard an aircraft carrier during World War II, and there was considerable doubt whether this fellow would be allowed to fly, since no one knew what might happen. One particular day he was given a mission, and everything seemed to be going his way. He spotted and sunk a Japanese warship; then he shot down several Japanese Zeros. Out of ammunition and nearly out of fuel, the pilot was trying to return to his aircraft carrier, but he couldn’t locate it. Suddenly the clouds opened up, and there below him was an aircraft carrier. For once, his landing was flawless. With the plane secured, he jumped out and rushed up to the commanding officer, eager to share the details of his successful mission. He reported he had sunk a Japanese warship and downed several fighters -- to which the commander responded, “Ha So!” His successful mission ended with his flawless landing -- on a Japanese aircraft carrier.
This fighter pilot reminds me of the young Amalekite messenger in 2 Samuel 1, who approaches David hoping for a commendation, and even a monetary expression of David’s gratitude. He comes bearing tragic news of Israel’s defeat, expecting David to look upon the deaths of Saul and Jonathan as a great windfall, an unexpected blessing, which rids him of his enemy (Saul) and his competition (Jonathan), and clears the way for him to become king of Israel. Never in the world would he have expected David to respond as he does. Deeply moved by the news of the death of king Saul and his son, Jonathan, David does not respond with a sigh of relief, grateful that Saul, his enemy, is dead, and pleased to assume his place on the throne in Saul’s place. David grieves greatly, and upon learning that this young man has put Saul to death, he has him executed.
The author of our text very skillfully employs contrast to arouse our curiosity and to communicate a very important message. The first half of the chapter depicts the way the Amalekite deals with Saul. The last half shows the way David deals with Saul. On the basis of this contrast, the author explains why David deals with the Amalekite as he does. The first part of our text draws our attention to the young Amalekite, who arrives with torn clothing and the evidences of mourning, along with a report of Saul’s death and the symbols of Saul’s authority as king (his crown and his bracelet). He is the one who bears tidings of Israel’s defeat, of the death of many Israelites, and specifically of the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan. His report results first in the mourning of David and his men, and then in the sentence of death for the messenger, who took Saul’s life. The latter part of the chapter contains the psalm of mourning David writes, which he recorded so that it might be taught to the sons of Judah. The central thrust of the chapter seems to be the contrast between the Amalekite and David, as well as the key to the lesson it conveys to the reader. We will give this contrast considerable attention as we attempt to grasp the meaning and the message of our text.
As we approach our text, we hardly sense that we have moved from one book to another, from 1 Samuel to 2 Samuel. The transition seems virtually seamless, which in fact it is in the original text. In the original text, there are not two books, 1 and 2 Samuel, but just one book, encompassing both. This one book in the Hebrew text was later divided by the translators of the Septuagint. Since the division of the book by the Septuagint, all subsequent Bibles have followed this precedent, calling these two books 1 and 2 Samuel. It is therefore very natural for us to move from 1 Samuel to 2 Samuel without even realizing it.