2 SamueL 21-24: A King and His Legacy

We’ve reached the end of these studies of the life of David in 1 and 2 Samuel. We’ve seen how God used Samuel and Saul to prepare the way for David. We’ve seen highs and lows before in David’s life, and the final section of 2 Samuel is no different. The eight brief sections that follow are a diverse collection of materials. Rather than treat each section consecutively, I will discuss three major themes in these chapters.

The first theme is David’s own weakness and sin. After Absalom’s death, the kingdom was still not secure. After the tribes of Israel nearly broke out into another civil war, Sheba, a relative of Saul, attempted another revolt. Although David’s army quickly stamped out the rebellion, David tried and failed to replace Joab. David had appointed Amasa as the new commander (presumably) because Joab defied David’s instruction not to kill Absalom — yet Joab killed Amasa in cold blood (who happened also to be Joab’s first cousin) and retained the leadership position. The theme of David’s weakness continues in Chapter 21. David fought the Philistines again, but this time he grew tired and would have died by the hand of a giant named Ishbi-benob if not for Joab’s brother Abishai. David’s men then implored him not to go out into battle again (21:17).

In the very last chapter of 2 Samuel, David organized a nationwide census. Even the treacherous Joab saw that this incident displeased the Lord, but David went ahead with the plan. Although Scripture is not clear about the precise reason this census was sinful, it’s not hard to see how either a wrongful trust in his own resources or faithless anxiety led to this census. Although David repented even before hearing about God’s judgment, 70,000 of his people died because of his sin.

The second theme is the love David had for his people and their continued love for him, even after Absalom’s revolt. The story about his men urging him not to fight is one example of this theme. Chapter 23 contains a list of David’s “mighty men,” an elite group of troops. The fact that this list exists is evidence of the loyalty David inspired. This section also contains a brief story in which David longed for water in the midst of a Philistine garrison. His men delivered him that water out of their love for him, which he immediately gave to the Lord (23:16-17).

The last theme is God’s great faithfulness toward David. David’s song in Chapter 23 (which is almost identical to Psalm 18) is a reflection on how God delivered David from his enemies. David’s song of praise shows that he didn’t take credit for saving God’s people. God was the ultimate victor.

We can draw helpful life lessons from all of these themes, but the most important message is not what David did but what God promised. David’s throne would never end, and Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise (2 Samuel 7:12-17). David grew too weak for the giants, yet the death that Jesus defeated is fiercer than any giant. David’s people died because of his sin; Jesus’ people live because of His righteousness. David inspired loyalty through his love for his men; Jesus has given forgiveness through His love for His people. David needed a “great salvation” (2 Samuel 22:51); Jesus provided a great salvation. As David praised the Lord until the end, we, too, owe God praise for what He has done.

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