Wiki-Lessons: 2 Samuel 2 – 5 (The Conquest of Jerusalem)

PictureI don’t think I want to spend a lot of class time on the political machinations leading up to David’s enthronement over all of Israel. Just a few summary points need to be covered —

* The tribe of Judah anointed David king over Judah, but the other tribes did not immediately accept him as king.

* Abner was the general over Saul’s army and continued to be a very powerful man after Saul’s death. He had Ishbosheth, Saul’s oldest surviving son, anointed king over the remaining tribes. The text suggests that Ishbosheth was a weak ruler, perhaps due to his personality and perhaps due to knowing that his throne came from Abner rather than God.

* Joab was the head of David’s army.

* Abner killed Asahel, Joab’s brother, in battle, and Joab swore revenge (speaks much more poorly of Joab than Abner, as Abner appears to have acted not only in battle but in self-defense).

* Abner slept with a concubine of Saul. This was an act of disrespect to Ishbosheth as, in those days, harems were inherited. His failure to ask Ishbosheth’s permission was an act of arrogance at least, if not treason. Ishbosheth confronted him and Abner, rather than repenting, decided to hand Ishbosheth’s kingdom over to David. (God was using an unrighteous man to bring about his plans.)

* Abner took steps to have the other tribes anoint David, but was assasinated by Joab before he could complete his work. David declared Joab a murderer but did not have him executed for his crime until after his death. He had Solomon handle it.

* Meanwhile, independently of David, Abner, and Joab, some men assasinated Ishbosheth. When they came to David to announce that the path to Saul’s throne was now open, he had them executed.

(2Sa 4:11-12 ESV) 11 “How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and destroy you from the earth?”  12 And David commanded his young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hanged them beside the pool at Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.

Although David was a powerful warrior who’d killed many in battle, he was not a practioner of realpolitik, that is, the ends did not justify the means. To David, murder is murder, even if done to bring him the throne God meant for him to have.

* David was then anointed king by all 12 tribes

The conquest of Jerusalem

Jerusalem’s history goes back to the time of Abraham.

(Gen 14:17-20 ESV)  17 After his return from the defeat of Chedorlaomer and the kings who were with him, the king of Sodom went out to meet him at the Valley of Shaveh (that is, the King’s Valley).  18 And Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine. (He was priest of God Most High.)  19 And he blessed him and said, “Blessed be Abram by God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth;  20 and blessed be God Most High, who has delivered your enemies into your hand!” And Abram gave him a tenth of everything.

“Salem” is Jerusalem (Psa 76:2).

.Ancient Jerusalem (map)Jerusalem

From David until Jesus, Jerusalem sat atop two mountains — Moriah and Zion.

Abraham was called to sacrifice Isaac on a mountain in “the land of Moriah” (Gen 22:2), and so the Jews believed (quite reasonably) that Mt. Moriah is where Isaac was to be sacrificed. 2 Chronicles 3:1 tells us that the Temple was built on Mt. Moriah.

Thus, Abraham’s sacrifice portended the many sacrifices that would later be made at the temple.

While the scriptures are unclear as to the place of the crucifixion, it appears likely that “Golgotha” or “Calvary” was on Mt. Moriah, just outside the city wall as it existed at that time. There’s a real appeal to the idea that Jesus was crucified on the same mount where lambs were repeatedly slain as sacrifices to God, in a city originally named “Salem” — meaning “peace.”

Mt. Zion is the site of the original Jebusite fort that David captured so he could found Jerusalem. It is also the likely site of David’s palace —

(Psa 2:6 ESV)  6 “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill.”

jerusalem-painting.jpgBut over time, “Zion” became a metaphor for Jerusalem in general, as it is the site of the original fortress and the city David built — although the city expanded to cover other mounts.

The valleys between the mounts have been partly filled in over time, but at the time of David, Jerusalem was an extremely defensible location, being atop a mountain. After all, arrows, spears, and lances are much more dangerous going downhill than uphill. Put up even a rudimentary wall, and it would be a difficult place to conquer.

(2Sa 5:6-9 ESV)  6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off” — thinking, “David cannot come in here.”  7 Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.

8 And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”  9 And David lived in the stronghold and called it the city of David. And David built the city all around from the Millo inward.

(1Ch 11:4-8 ESV)  4 And David and all Israel went to Jerusalem, that is, Jebus, where the Jebusites were, the inhabitants of the land.  5 The inhabitants of Jebus said to David, “You will not come in here.” Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David.  6 David said, “Whoever strikes the Jebusites first shall be chief and commander.” And Joab the son of Zeruiah went up first, so he became chief.  7 And David lived in the stronghold; therefore it was called the city of David.  8 And he built the city all around from the Millo in complete circuit, and Joab repaired the rest of the city.

David grew up in Bethlehem and likely knew from his childhood about the water shaft. The water shaft was lost to history until 1867, when the British found a 52-feet deep shaft, now known as “Warren’s shaft.” The shaft connected to a spring — Gihon’s spring — and provided a secure source of water for the fort atop the mountain.

David challenged his men to climb up the water shaft, and by doing so, they likely surprised the defenders and overwhelmed them. Of course, it was a dangerous ploy, because if the Jebusites had defended the shaft, those climbing up would have been killed. Arrows shot down the shaft would have killed anyone trying to shinny up the rocks!

In the New Testament, “Zion” becomes a metaphor for the New Jerusalem — God’s eternal habitation.

(Heb 12:22-24 ESV)  22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,  23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,  24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

The lesson here isn’t so much a moral lesson as delight in seeing God’s hand work through history. For whatever reason, he chose Jerusalem to be his Holy City, and set up a remarkable series of events to bring his gospel to fruition in this place. Even today, despite countless wars and battles, when so many ancient cities are in ruins or even lost to history, Jerusalem stands as a living monument to God’s work throughout time.

I guess there is this lesson as well: Whatever you’re most proud of may be your greatest downfall. The water shaft in Jerusalem allowed the Jebusites to withstand a lengthy siege, because they’d never run out of water — a rare advantage for a city on top of a mountain in a desert climate! They gloated in their defenses. We forget that defenses weren’t just walls, but also water and food, because a city without reserves of water and food could be easily starved out by an invading army.

And yet it was their water supply that was their undoing. They so enjoyed having access to the spring that they thought of it as part of their defenses and thus failed to see it as weakness. One or two men at the top of the water shaft could have easily defended the city. But they posted no one.

In our own lives, we often fail because of our strengths. If we are proud of our looks, we might fail because we enjoy flirtation too much or because people perceive us as vain. And on it goes.

It’s important therefore to recognize the danger and take stock of what gives us our greatest pride, give it up to God, and then consider how Satan might use our greatest strength to defeat us. UItimately, the exercise should teach us that any strength can be turned against us other than our faith in Jesus and love for others.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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