Saturday, June 13, 2009

A Complex Transition of Power

2 Samuel 1-6

The story now seems more focused on human struggles for power. As we watch David transition into power, we see him still concerned about living righteously, but guided more from his own ethical stance (perhaps supplemented by political strategizing?) and less directly by God; yet consideration for the will of the Lord is not entirely lacking. But there seems to be a subtle change in how it is determined. David is not consulting with spiritual leaders. Occasionally he consults with the Lord directly himself.

David is sad at the news of Saul's and Jonathan's deaths (2 Samuel 1). He even has the messenger killed, since the messenger (an Amalekite living in Israel -- the son of a resident alien) said that he had killed Saul (supposedly at Saul's request, seeing defeat at hand). David is upset that someone living in Israel would kill the anointed king.

After Saul's death, David does not immediately become king of all Israel. He first becomes king of Judah. He rules from Hebron. Meanwhile, Saul's son Ishbaal rules over Israel. But it is really Abner, the commander of Saul's army, who seems to be in control. David's people and Isbaal's people fight. In the process, Abner kills one of the brothers of Joab, who seems to have a leadership role over David's army. The struggle between the groups continues (2 Samuel 2).

A fateful moment arises when Abner sleeps with one of Saul's concubines. Ishbaal catches him, and is angry. So, it looks like Abner decides to switch sides. He arranges to meet with David, to help him gain power over Israel and combine the kingdoms. David asks him to bring his (David's) former wife Michal (Saul's daughter) along with him. (Her new husband follows, weeping.) When Joab hears of Abner's meeting with David, he is angry (remember that Abner killed one of his brothers), and tells David that Abner was probably spying. He goes off in search of Abner, finds him, and kills him. David is not happy about this, and makes clear that he had nothing to do with this. He makes sure the people realize that this was Joab's doing because Abner killed his brother (2 Samuel 3).

Meanwhile, Ishbaal became alarmed at hearing of Abner's death -- for good reason. Without that protection, in fact other commanders of his own army now kill Ishbaal in his sleep. They bring his head to David, hoping for praise. David is horrified that they would kill a righteous man in his own bed while he was sleeping, and has them killed (2 Samuel 4).

Now David becomes king of Israel as well as of Judah. He moves to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5). And so now at last we see the kingdom united under one king based in Jerusalem.

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