2 Samuel 2:1
And it came to pass after this, that David inquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the LORD said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron.
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(1) Enquired of the Lord.—At this important juncture of affairs, David’s first care is to know the Divine will. His inquiry was, doubtless, made through the high priest Abiathar, as in 1Samuel 23:9-10 (comp. 2Samuel 22:20; 2Samuel 23:1; 2Samuel 23:4). The answer definitely directed him to go up to Hebron.

Hebron is one of the most ancient cities of the world (built “seven years before Zoan in Egypt,” Numbers 13:22), long the residence of Abraham (Genesis 13:18), and the place where he and Sarah, Isaac and Jacob, were buried. Its original name was Kirjath-arba (Genesis 23:2; Joshua 14:15, &c). It is situated in a valley among the hills of Southern Judea, at a height of nearly 3,000 feet above the Mediterranean. It is about twenty miles S.S.W. from Jerusalem, somewhat more than this N.E. of Beersheba, and about fifteen miles E.S.E. of the Philistine town of Gath. From Ziklag, where David had been living, it was distant about thirty-eight miles. It has always been famous for its vineyards, and its grapes are still considered the finest in Southern Palestine. The valley in which it is situated is probably the “valley of Eshcol,” from which the spies brought the great “cluster of grapes” to Moses in the wilderness (Numbers 13:23). It was a priestly city (Joshua 21:10-11), and the most southerly of the cities of refuge (Joshua 20:7). Here was the home and the throne of David for the next seven and a half years (2Samuel 2:11; 2Samuel 5:5). The larger part of the land, since the recent defeat, was in the power of the Philistines; and Hebron, on account of its situation at the far south, and its strategical strength, as well as its sacred associations, was a peculiarly fitting place for the beginning of David’s reign.

2 Samuel


2 Samuel 2:1 - 2 Samuel 2:11

The last stage of David’s wanderings had brought him to Ziklag, a Philistine city. There he had been for over a year, during which he had won the regard of Achish, the Philistine king of Gath. He had, at Achish’s request, accompanied him with his contingent, in the invasion of Israel, which crushed Saul’s house at Gilboa; but jealousy on the part of the other Philistine leaders had obliged his patron to send him back to Ziklag. He found it a heap of ashes. An Amalekite raid had carried off all the women and children, and his soldiers were on the point of mutiny. His fortunes seemed desperate, but his courage and faith were high, and he paused not a moment for useless sorrow, but swept after the robbers, swooped down on them like a bolt out of the blue, and scattered them, recovering the captives and spoil. He went back to the ruins which had been Ziklag, and three days after heard of Saul’s death.

The lowest point of his fortunes suddenly turned into the highest, for now the path to the throne was open. But the tidings did not move him to joy. His first thought was not for himself, but for Saul and Jonathan, whose old love to him shone out again, glorified by their deaths. Swift vengeance from his hand struck Saul’s slayer; the lovely elegy on the great king and his son eased his heart. Then he turned to front his new circumstances, and this passage shows how a God-fearing man will meet the summons to dignity which is duty. It sets forth David’s conduct in three aspects-his assumption of his kingdom, his loving regard for Saul’s memory, and his demeanour in the face of rebellion.

I. David was now about thirty years old, and had had his character tested and matured by his hard experiences. He ‘learned in suffering what he taught in song.’ Exile, poverty, and danger are harsh but effectual teachers, if accepted by a devout spirit, and fronted with brave effort. The fugitive’s cave was a good preparation for the king’s palace. The throne to which he was called was no soft seat for repose. The Philistine invasion had torn away all the northern territory. He took the helm in a tempest. What was he to do? Ziklag was untenable; where was he to take his men? He could not stop in the Philistine territory, and he saw no way clear.

God’s servants generally find that their promotion means harder duties and multiplied perplexities. ‘Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.’ David did what we shall do, if we are wise-he asked God to guide him. How that guidance was asked and given we are not here told; but the analogy of 1 Samuel 30:7 - 1 Samuel 30:8, suggests that it was by the Urim and Thummim, interpreted by the high-priest. The form of inquiry seems to have been that a course of action, suggested by the inquirer, was decided for him by a ‘Yes’ or a ‘No.’ So that there was the exercise of common-sense and judgment in formulating the proposed course, as well as that of God’s direction in determining it.

That is how we still get divine direction. Bring your own wits to bear on your action, and then do not obstinately stick to what seems right to you, but ask God to negative it if it is wrong, and to confirm you in it if it is right. If we humbly ask Him, ‘Am I to go, or not to go?’ we shall not be left unanswered. We note the contrast between David’s submission to God’s guidance and Saul’s self-willed taking his own way, in spite of Samuel. He began right, and, in the main, he continued as he began. Self-will is sin and ruin. Submission is joy, and peace, and success. God’s kings are viceroys. They have to rule themselves and the world, but they have to be ruled by His will. If they faithfully continue as His servants, they are masters of all besides.

Hebron was a good capital for the new king, for it was a defensible position, in the centre of his own tribe, and sacred by association with the patriarchs. Established there, David was recognised as king by his fellow-tribesmen, and by them only. No doubt, tribal jealousy was partly the cause of this limited recognition, but probably the confusion incident to the Philistine victory contributed to it. The result was that, though David’s designation by Samuel to the kingship was universally known, and his candidature had been popular, he had seven years of precarious sway over this mere fraction of the nation. We read of no impatience on his part. He let events shape themselves, or, rather, he let God shape events.

Passiveness is not always indolence. There are two ways of compassing our desires. One is that which David himself tells us is the ‘young lions’ way, of struggling and fighting, and that often ends in ‘lacking and suffering hunger’; the other is that of waiting on the Lord, and that always ends in ‘not lacking any good.’ If we are sure that God has promised us anything, and if He does not seem to have yet opened the way to obtaining it, our ‘strength is to sit still.’ If He has given us Hebron, we can be patient till He please to give us Jerusalem.

II. Another side of David’s character comes beautifully out in his treatment of the men of Jabesh-gilead. That town owed much to Saul {1 Samuel 11:1 - 1 Samuel 11:15}, and its gratitude lasted, and dared much for him. It was a brave dash that they made across Jordan to carry off Saul’s corpse from its ignominious exposure; for it both defied the Philistines, and might be construed as hostile to David. But his heart was too true to ancient friendship to do anything but glow with admiring sympathy at that exhibition of affectionate remembrance. Reconciling death had swept away all memories of Saul’s insane jealousy, and he owned a brother in every one who showed kindness to the unfortunate king.

If the Jabesh-Gileadites are a pattern of long-memoried gratitude, David’s commendation of them is a model of love which survives injuries, and of forgivingness which forgets them. It was as politic as it was generous. Nothing could have been better calculated to attach Saul’s most devoted partisans to him than showing that he honoured their faithful attachment to Saul, and nothing could have more clearly defined his own position during his wanderings as being no rebel. The dictates of true policy and those of devout generosity always coincide. It is ever a blunder to be unforgiving, and mercifulness is always expedient.

But David did not hide his claim to the allegiance of these true hearts. He called on them to transfer their loyalty to himself, and he asserted, not his anointing by Samuel, but his recognition by Judah, the premier tribe, as the motive. No doubt the divine appointment is implied, as it was generally known, but Judah’s action is put forward as showing the beginning of the realisation of the divine designation. The men of Jabesh needed to ‘be valiant’ if they were to acknowledge him; for it was a far cry to Hebron, and the forces of the rival son of Saul were overrunning the northern districts.

We have to take our sides in the age-long and worldwide warfare between God’s King and the pretenders to His throne, and it often wants much courage to do so when surrounded by antagonists. It seems a long way off to the true monarch, and Abner’s army is a very solid reality, and very near. But it is safest to take the side of the distant, rightful king.

III. David’s bearing in the face of opposition and rebellion comes out in 2 Samuel 2:8 - 2 Samuel 2:11. Abner, Saul’s cousin, who had been in high position when the stripling from Bethlehem fought Goliath, was not capable of the self-effacement involved in acquiescing in David’s accession, though he knew that the Lord had ‘sworn to David.’ So he set up a ‘King Do-nothing’ in the person of a weak lad, the only survivor of Saul’s sons. A strange state of mind that, which struggles against a recognised divine appointment!

But is it only Abner who knew that he was trying to thwart God’s will? Thousands of us are doing the same, and the attempt answers as well as it did in his case.

The puppet king is named Ishbosheth in the lesson, but 1 Chronicles 8:33 and 1 Chronicles 9:39 show that his real name was Esh-baal. The former word means ‘The man of shame’; the latter, ‘The man of Baal.’ The existence of Baal as an element in names seems to indicate the incompleteness of the emancipation from idolatry in Saul’s time, and the change will then indicate the keener monotheistic conscience of later days. Another explanation is that Baal {‘ Lord’} was in these cases used as a name for Jehovah, and was ‘changed at a later period for the purpose of avoiding what was interpreted then as a compound of the name of the Phoenician deity Baal’ {Driver, Notes on Hebrew Text of the Books of Samuel}.

Abner set up his tool in Mahanaim, sacred for its associations with Jacob, but, no doubt, recommended to him rather by its position on the east side of Jordan, safe from the attacks of the victorious Philistines. From that fastness he made raids to recover the territory which the victory at Gilboa had won for them. First Gilead, on the same side of the river as Mahanaim; then the territory of the ‘Ashurites’- probably a scribe’s error for ‘Asherites,’ the most northern tribe; and then, coming southward, the great plain, with its cities, Ephraim and Benjamin,-in fact, all Israel except Judah’s country was reconquered for Saul’s house.

The account of the distribution of territory between the two monarchies is broken by the parenthesis in 2 Samuel 2:10, which, both by its awkward interposition in the middle of a sentence and by its difficult chronological statements, looks like a late addition.

For seven and a half years David reigned in Hebron, but was rather shut up there than ruling thence. The most noteworthy fact is that he, soldier as he was, took no steps to put down Abner’s rebellion. He defended himself when attacked, but that was all. The three figures of David, Ishbosheth, and Abner point lessons. Silent, still, trustful, and therefore patient, David shows us how faith in God can lead to possessing one’s soul in patience till ‘the vision’ comes. We may have to wait for it, but ‘it will surely come,’ and what is time enough for God should be time enough for us. Saul’s son was a poor, weak creature, who would never have thought of resisting David but for the stronger will behind him. To be weak is, in this world full of tempters, to drift into being wicked. We have to learn betimes to say ‘No,’ and to stick to it. Moral weakness attracts tempters as surely as a camel fallen by the caravan track draws vultures from every corner of the sky. The fierce soldier who fought for his own hand while professing to be moved by loyalty to the dead king, may stand as a type of the self-deception with which we gloss over our ugliest selfishness with fine names, and for an instance of the madness which leads men to set themselves against God’s plans, and therefore to be dashed in pieces, as some slim barrier reared across the track of a train would be. To ‘rush against the thick bosses of the Almighty’s buckler’ does no harm to the buckler, but kills the insane assailant.

2 Samuel 2:1. David inquired of the Lord — By Urim. When he had given a due time to his grief and mourning for Saul and Jonathan, he applied himself to God, who had appointed him to the kingdom, to know by what means he should best be put in possession of it. He did not inquire whether he should take the kingdom; for God had already signified his appointment of that, and David would not offend him nor dishonour his ordinance by unnecessary inquiries; but only where and at what time he should enter upon it; whether in Judah, as he supposed, because of his relation to that tribe and his interest in it, or in some other tribe; for he does not limit God, but resolves exactly to follow his instructions. Thus David begins at the right end, and lays his foundation in God’s counsel and assistance. Thus, in all our affairs, we ought to apply to God by prayer and supplication for his direction and aid.

He said, Unto Hebron — Which, next to Jerusalem, (part whereof the Jebusites now possessed,) was the chief city of the tribe of Judah, a city of the priests, and situated in the very centre of that tribe, to which all the people might speedily resort when need required. It stood on the top of a ridge of high mountains, equally famed for fruits, herbage, and honey. According to Mr. Sandys, who seems to have surveyed the whole region round it with uncommon rapture, and the very learned and accurate Dr. Shaw, who also considered it with singular care and attention, it was not only delightfully pleasant, but admirably fitted for olives and vineyards, and in many parts for grain and pasture. It seems therefore to have been a region peculiarly fitted for the reception of David and his men, with less inconvenience to the country than in most other places; for here they might have bread to the full, and be refreshed with springs of excellent water. Add to this, that it was a patriarchal city, venerable for the sepulchres of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which would remind David of the ancient promises. See Delaney and Shaw’s Travels.

2:1-7. After the death of Saul, many went to David at Ziklag,Enquired of the Lord - Through Abiathar, the high priest. The death of Saul and Jonathan had entirely changed David's position, and therefore he needed divine guidance how to act under the new circumstances in which he was placed. Compare the marginal references.

Hebron was well suited for the temporary capital of David's kingdom, being situated in a strong position in the mountains of Judah, amidst David's friends, and withal having especially sacred associations (see the marginal references note). It appears to have also been the center of a district 2 Samuel 2:3.


2Sa 2:1-7. David, by God's Direction, Goes Up to Hebron, and Is Made King over Judah.

1-4. David inquired of the Lord—By Urim (1Sa 23:6, 9; 30:7, 8). He knew his destination, but he knew also that the providence of God would pave the way. Therefore he would take no step in such a crisis of his own and the nation's history, without asking and obtaining the divine direction. He was told to go into Judah, and fix his headquarters in Hebron, whither he accordingly repaired with his now considerable force. There his interests were very powerful; for he was not only within his own tribe, and near chiefs with whom he had been long in friendly relations (see on [257]1Sa 30:26), but Hebron was the capital and center of Judah, and one of the Levitical cities; the inhabitants of which were strongly attached to him, both from sympathy with his cause ever since the massacre at Nob, and from the prospect of realizing in his person their promised pre-eminence among the tribes. The princes of Judah, therefore, offered him the crown over their tribe, and it was accepted. More could not, with prudence, be done in the circumstances of the country (1Ch 11:3).David, by God’s direction, with his company goeth up to Hebron, where he is made king of Judah, 2 Samuel 2:1-4. He commendeth them of Jabesh-gilead for burying Saul, 2 Samuel 2:5-7. Abner maketh Ish-bosheth king of Israel, 2 Samuel 2:8-11. A mortal fight between twelve of Abner’s and twelve of Joab’s men, 2 Samuel 2:12-17. Asahel pursueth Abner, and is slain by him, 2 Samuel 2:18-24. At Abner’s motion Joab soundeth a retreat, 2 Samuel 2:25-31. Asahel’s burial, 2 Samuel 2:32.

David inquired of the Lord, by Urim, as 1 Samuel 23:6,9 30:7,8. Thus David begins at the right end, and lays his foundation in God’s counsel and assistance, which now he seeks. He asketh not whether he should take the kingdom, for that was appointed and known before; and he would not offend God, nor dishonour his ordinance, with frivolous and unnecessary inquiries; but only where he should enter upon it; whether in Judah, as he supposed, because of his relation to that tribe, and his interest in it; or whether in some other tribe; for he doth not limit God, but resolves exactly to follow his counsels. Unto Hebron; which was next to Jerusalem, (part whereof the Jebusites now possessed,) the chief city of that tribe, and a city of the priests, Joshua 21:10, &c., and in the very centre or middle of that tribe, to which the whole tribe might speedily resort, when need required.

And it came to pass after this,.... After David had heard of the death of Saul and Jonathan, and made a lamentation over them, perhaps the next day; since David and his men are only said to mourn, and weep, and fast till even, 2 Samuel 1:10,

that David inquired of the Lord; of the Word of the Lord, as the Targum, by Abiathar the priest, and through the Urim and Thummim, in the ephod he had put on on this occasion:

saying, shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? though the Lord had promised him the kingdom, and he had been anointed by Samuel by his appointment, yet he was not hasty to take it into his hands, but was desirous of acting according to the will of God, and by his direction, and wait his time when and where he should go and take possession of it; he mentions Judah because it was his own tribe, and where he had the most friends:

and the Lord said unto him, go up; from Ziklag into the tribe of Judah, but did not mention any particular place whither he should go; hence another question was put:

and David said, whither shall I go up? To what town or city in the tribe of Judah? whether Jerusalem or any other?

And he said, unto Hebron; a city of the priests, a city of refuge, Joshua 21:13, twenty miles from Jerusalem, or more, which is not directed to, because it was then chiefly in the hands of the Jebusites, and because, as Procopius Gazaeus says, Hebron was now the metropolis of Judah.

And it came to pass after this, that David {a} enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the LORD said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto {b} Hebron.

(a) By means of the high priest, 1Sa 23:2, 2Sa 5:19.

(b) Which was also called Kirjatharba Jos 14:15.

Ch. 2 Samuel 2:1-7. David anointed King over Judah at Hebron. His message to the Gileadites

1. after this] After the defeat of Israel and the death of Saul and Jonathan, David saw that the way was clear for the fulfilment of God’s promise that he should be king. Still he desired divine direction how to act in this crisis. He therefore “inquired of the Lord” by means of the Urim and Thummim through the High-priest Abiathar. See notes on 1 Samuel 10:22; 1 Samuel 23:6.

Unto Hebron] The central position of Hebron in the tribe of Judah, its mountainous and defensible situation, its importance as a priestly settlement and an ancient royal city, the patriarchal associations connected with it, combined to render it the most suitable capital for the new kingdom, while the North was held partly by the Philistines, partly by Saul’s adherents. In its neighbourhood moreover David had spent a considerable part of his fugitive life, and gained many supporters. See 1 Samuel 30:31, and note there.

Verse 1. - Unto Hebron. As soon as David had assuaged his grief, his thoughts would naturally turn towards his country. Fuller news would reach him every day respecting the movements of the Philistines, who, after so decisive a victory, would quickly overrun all the central districts of Palestine, where the battle had been fought. And very bitter must David's feelings have been. Had he continued in Israel, he and his six hundred men would now have hastened to the rescue, and all the braver warriors of the land would have gathered round them. As it was, he was too entangled with the Philistines, and too much distrusted by the northern tribes, to be of much use. Still, we learn from 1 Chronicles 12, that brave men did continually swell the number of his followers. Detachments of the tribes of Gad and Manasseh, instead of joining Saul at Gilboa, went to David as he withdrew to Ziklag. And while he remained there a considerable body of men from Benjamin and Judah came to him under the command of Amasa, David's nephew. So numerous were they as to alarm David, who went out to meet them, fearing lest they had come to betray him; and glad was he to hear their answer, "Thine are we, David, and on thy side, thou son of Jesse." Thus even as it was, his forces daily grew more numerous; for "from day today there came to David to help him, until it was a great host, like the host of God" (1 Chronicles 12:22). But there was no national acknowledgment. With his numbers thus continually increasing, David was encouraged to make some attempt for the deliverance of Israel; but his position was one of serious danger. Great was the risk, but he knew where to go for guidance, and determines, therefore, to put the matter into God's hand. He summons Abiathar with the ephod, and, in the presence of his captains, asks for permission to go up to some city of his own tribe. The answer is favourable, and Hebron is the city selected. It was a place of ancient sanctity, was well situated in the mountains of Judah for defence, and as the Philistines bad not yet invaded that region, but probably would soon try to ravage it, the people would be sure to welcome the presence of one who brought with him a powerful body of trained men. 2 Samuel 2:1David's return to Hebron, and anointing as king over Judah. - 2 Samuel 2:1. "After this," i.e., after the facts related in 2 Samuel 1, David inquired of the Lord, namely through the Urim, whether he should go up to one of the towns of Judah, and if so, to which. He received the reply, "to Hebron," a place peculiarly well adapted for a capital, not only from its situation upon the mountains, and in the centre of the tribe, but also from the sacred reminiscences connected with it from the olden time. David could have no doubt that, now that Saul was dead, he would have to give up his existing connection with the Philistines and return to his own land. But as the Philistines had taken the greater part of the Israelitish territory through their victory at Gilboa, and there was good reason to fear that the adherents of Saul, more especially the army with Abner, Saul's cousin, at its head, would refuse to acknowledge David as king, and consequently a civil war might break out, David would not return to his own land without the express permission of the Lord. 2 Samuel 1:2-4. When he went with his wives and all his retinue (vid., 1 Samuel 27:2) to Hebron and the "cities of Hebron," i.e., the places belonging to the territory of Hebron, the men of Judah came (in the persons of their elders) and anointed him king over the house, i.e., the tribe, of Judah. Just as Saul was made king by the tribes after his anointing by Samuel (1 Samuel 11:15), so David was first of all anointed by Judah here, and afterwards by the rest of the tribes (2 Samuel 5:3).

A new section commences with ויּגּדוּ. The first act of David as king was to send messengers to Jabesh, to thank the inhabitants of this city for burying Saul, and to announce to them his own anointing as king. As this expression of thanks involved a solemn recognition of the departed king, by which David divested himself of even the appearance of a rebellion, the announcement of the anointing he had received contained an indirect summons to the Jabeshites to recognise him as their king now.

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