2 Samuel 5: David Becomes King Over Israel, David Conquers Jerusalem, David Defeats the Philistines
Just prior to this passage:
- Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth was ruling over most of the nation of Israel, whereas David was made king over the tribe of Judah in 2:1–3:5, with war breaking out between the two sides
- The commander of Ish-Bosheth’s army, Abner, changed sides and went over to David in 3:6–21
- Abner was then murdered in 3:22–39
- Ish-Bosheth was murdered in Chapter 4
Now that Ish-Bosheth is gone all of the remaining tribes come to David, who is still in Hebron, and… well, they don’t really ask David to become king, or anoint him as king, they just kind of recognize that he’s already the king:
All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said, “We are your own flesh and blood. In the past, while Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel on their military campaigns. And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler.’” (verses 1–2)
But after this they do officially anoint him. We’re told that he was thirty years old when he became king over the tribe of Judah, and that overall his reign lasts for forty years (seven and a half in Hebron over Judah, and then thirty-three over the entire nation).
Now that he’s king David decides to take over the city of Jerusalem. Although the city is right in the middle of the country, the Israelites don’t actually control it, the Jebusites do. But David is now going to take it over.
As David and his army approach the city the Jebusites are pretty confident in their abilities to keep it from him, saying that “even the blind and the lame” will be able to ward off David’s men. I’m led to believe much of their confidence comes from the geography of the city: it’s on a hill, and therefore easy to defend.
But David captures it—the passage mentions that Jerusalem is also called the Fortress of Zion—and the text doesn’t even bother to recount the battle. We’re simply told in verse 7 that he captured it, and that’s it. So David takes up residence there, calling it the City of David. We’re also told that Hiram the king of Tyre sends envoys to David, along with materials and workers, to help David build his palace there.
While he’s at it, David also expands his family:
After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him. These are the names of the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet. (verses 13–16)
This part of the text is actually skipping ahead in the story of David’s life—for example, the birth of Solomon will be told later on, and the envoys from Hiram may or may not also have come closer to the end of David’s reign—but the details are included here to round out the story of the City of David and his palace there.
(See the Thoughts section below for more on Jerusalem / Zion / the City of David.)
When the Philistines hear about David becoming king over all of Israel, they come after him in full force, gathering in the valley of Rephaim1. David inquires of the LORD as to whether he should go after them and the LORD tells him yes, so he does, and he defeats them. When they’re defeated the Philistines leave behind their idols, which David and his men carry off, which sounds to me like a bad thing—why would they need idols of foreign gods?—but the text doesn’t make any more mention of it. Maybe it’s more mundane than I’m thinking it is, and they only carry off the idols to destroy them?
Once again, the Philistines gather to battle David, at the same valley of Rephaim, and David follows his same pattern:
Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; so David inquired of the LORD, and he answered, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the LORD has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” So David did as the LORD commanded him, and he struck down the Philistines all the way from Gibeon to Gezer. (verses 22–25)
Other than the mention of David and his men carrying off the Philistines’ idols, which may or may not be a bad thing, this is a story of David’s faith in God. Even when he’s firmly in control as king of the entire nation, as has long been promised to him by the LORD, he is still faithfully seeing the LORD’s will before acting. This is the very reason Saul was removed as king of Israel: because he didn’t see the LORD’s guidance or listen to His commands.
In the next chapter we’ll see David slipping and forgetting to properly inquire of the LORD (as even the best of His children often do), but for now he’s acting faithfully.
Cribbing (as usual) from the ESV Study Bible notes, there are a few things to point out about the city of Jerusalem:
- Politically, Jerusalem was the perfect place for David to set up as the location for his palace:
- Because it wasn’t currently controlled by the Israelites—they hadn’t previously been able to dislodge the Jebusites; see Joshua 13:8–19:51 and Judges 1—David wouldn’t be “playing favourites” by using an existing Israelite city as his capital.
- Geographically, the city was right on the boundary between “Judah” and “Benjamin,” so it was nicely situated. (See this map, for example.)
- It may not be obvious, but the city of Jerusalem had already played a role in the very early history of the Israelites: Jerusalem is actually the city of Salem of Melchizedek, in Genesis 14. I don’t know when the name morphed from “Salem” to “Jerusalem.”
This text seems to indicate that the city was named Zion by the Jebusites who previously lived there, but the name is taken up by the Israelites as well, so for the rest of the Bible the city will sometimes be referred to as Jerusalem, Zion, or the City of David. Whenever any of these names are used, they’re referring to the same place.
I almost forgot to mention this, but this is a case of God fighting the battle on behalf of David and the Israelites; verses 22–25, quoted above, indicate that God is sending a spiritual army to fight the Philistines, though the verses also talk about David striking down the Philistines, so David is getting some of the credit for God’s win.
Something I and other Christians try not to do when it comes to our salvation: we want God to take the credit for what He has done. Not that I’m faulting the writer of 2 Samuel in this case in saying that David struck down the Philistines, just taking the opportunity to think about God’s work in my life.
Some place names are mentioned for these battles but I couldn’t find any good maps to indicate where all of this is happening. So I don’t know if there’s any geographical significance as to where these battles are happening. ↩︎