There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker. Sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom son of Maacah, daughter of King Talmai of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, of David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron…
…Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, ‘Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.’ So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah for seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah for thirty-three years.
The king and his men marched to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, ‘You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back’—thinking, ‘David cannot come in here.’ Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, which is now the city of David. David had said on that day, ‘Whoever wishes to strike down the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those whom David hates.’ Therefore it is said, ‘The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.’ David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inwards. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.
King Hiram of Tyre sent messengers to David, along with cedar trees, and carpenters and masons who built David a house. David then perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.
In Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, David took more concubines and wives; and more sons and daughters were born to David. These are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon.
Conflict between the remnant of Saul’s house and David’s supporters continues, with David gaining strength. His family expands rapidly with six sons being born, each to a different wife! Royal polygamy and marriages designed to cement political/tribal alliances were part of ancient custom. We need to remember that the Bible emerged from a different age and culture to our own and its traditions have very little to contribute to modern debates about marriage.
Eventually the tribes of Israel realise that David is the one chosen by God to rule over all twelve of them and their elders make a covenant with David at Hebron, anointing him as their king as well as over Judah. His reign will last another 33 years (40 in total); but he doesn’t rule over a truly united kingdom. Israel and Judah may have the same king but each nation had different understandings of kingship and how succession would be determined. Does this ring any bells with current issues in our United Kingdom?
It is so easy to overlook fundamental differences in the underlying presumptions of separate parties when we glimpse a possibility of reaching an agreement about anything; but such short-sightedness often ends in tears.
David’s capture of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, as the city from where he would exercise his rule was very astute. Not only was it physically a good place to defend (the implication on v.6) but its prior independence from both Israel’s and Judah’s territories minimised any accusations that he was favouring one tribal group over the other.
The construction of his palace pre-figures the source of materials and craftsmen that will be used for the temple by Solomon (1 Kgs 5-6); but here it illustrates another political alliance. Verses 13-15 summarise how David’s family will increase as this complex story unfolds.
Sovereign God we live in complex times and it is good to be reminded that throughout the ages people have experienced similar situations and discovered that your faithfulness never falters.
We pray for children living in multiple homes that they may feel secure and loved. We pray for political leaders facing challenging issues about national and international relationships on our behalf. Grant them wisdom.
Sustain us all through your faithful love. Amen.
The Revd Dr Janet E Tollington A retired minister and member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge