2 Samuel 2:5
So David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead to tell them, "The LORD bless you, because you showed this kindness to Saul your lord when you buried him.
Strength and WeaknessH. E. Stone.2 Samuel 2:1-32
CommendationB. Dale 2 Samuel 2:4-7
Gratitude and PolicyG. Wood 2 Samuel 2:5-7
Attempts At Conciliation DefeatedW. G. Blaikie, M. A.2 Samuel 2:5-32

David was now king of the tribe of Judah by their own choice, but the rest of the tribes had not declared themselves. Amongst these the tribes beyond the Jordan were of special importance and influence; and David took an opportunity of reminding them of his position and claims. The chief city amongst those tribes was Jabesh-Gilead. Brave men from that city had rescued the bodies of Saul and his sons from the wall of Bethshan, and, after burning them, had buried their bones under the tamarisk tree (Revised Version) at Jabesh. David, being made acquainted with what they had done, sends messengers to assure them of his appreciation of their conduct, and at the same time to hint that, Saul being dead, and he having been appointed king over Judah, the way was clear for them to aid, if so disposed, in promoting his election as king by the other tribes. The message was at once a suitable expression of his gratitude and a politic endeavour to ingratiate himself with them.


1. On what account. Their burial of Saul. He speaks of this as kindness to him. We can show kindness to the dead by suitably interring them. Other ways of doing this would be upholding their reputation, caring for those they leave behind, promoting for their sakes any cause in which they were deeply interested. David could not but highly appreciate the brave deed of these men. His own marvellous courage would impel him to admire theirs. But it was the respect they had thus shown to their departed sovereign which especially moved him to send a message to them. His gratitude for this was quite in accordance with his usual feelings towards Saul, both during his life and after his death.

2. How he expresses his gratitude.

(1) By sending the messengers and message. "I also will requite," etc., should be (according to Otto Thenius and the 'Speaker's Commentary') "I also show you this goodness," viz. sending the messengers with a kind message. They would value David's message as soldiers distinguishing themselves in the field value a message from the queen.

(2) By the terms of the message. In which he invokes upon them the blessing of God, his "kindness and truth," his true, faithful, constant kindness. A phrase common in the Old Testament (Psalm 25:10; Psalm 40:11, etc.; Genesis 24:49; Genesis 47:29, etc.), and reproduced in the New with some additional meaning (John 1:14). To pray for God's blessing on those to whom we feel grateful is always suitable. When we can do nothing else, we can do this; and when we can show gratitude in other ways, we do well to show it thus also. For God's blessing far surpasses ours, and will render ours more valuable and effectual. Only we should be careful not to substitute prayers for deeds when these are possible. But in some way or other we ought to express as well as cherish gratitude and other kindly feelings to others. It is good for ourselves and good for others. It encourages good and noble deeds. It tends to bind men together in the best bonds. It promotes happiness of a high order. We may enlarge the thought. We are required to confess God and our Saviour, as in other ways so by thanksgiving and praise. It is meet and right so to do. It promotes our own spiritual good and that of others. It glorifies God.

II. DAVID'S POLICY. He intended by this message not only to give to brave men their due, but to win their favour towards himself. He justly thought that those who had at such hazards honoured their deceased king would be fitting helpers of himself, and likely to become loyal subjects. There was nothing unworthy in the course he took, for there was no flattery in his expressed appreciation of their conduct, and his endeavour to gain their cooperation was not an act of mere selfishness or ambition, but of regard to the will of God who had chosen him to be King of Israel, and to the welfare of the people, which was bound up with his speedy and peaceful recognition as king. We have here an illustration of mixed motives; and we learn that:

1. We should not hesitate to do what is right because tee see that it will also be beneficial to ourselves. All piety, rectitude, and benevolence tend, and are usually seen to tend, to the good of those who practise them. The promises of God are promises of blessing to those who serve him and their brethren, and are to be received as encouragements in doing so.

2. We may even in some cases aim to do good to ourselves by doing what is right. Only we must place first that which is first, or our good deeds will cease to be good, and become only another form of selfishness. Where motives are mixed, we need carefully to guard our hearts lest the lower predominate.

3. We should be glad of opportunities of showing pure, disinterested kindness. We thus most closely resemble our heavenly Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, and secure the best evidence of our being the children of God (Luke 6:32-36; John 13:34, 35; Ephesians 5:1, 2).

4. We ought not, without clearest evidence, to suspect of selfish motives those who in doing good secure for themselves present reward. It is to be hoped that only few are like the contributor to some charity who, being asked whether he wished his gift to be published, replied, "Why do you suppose I gave it to you?" And when the motives are not clearly revealed, it is often as just as it is charitable to give credit for the best. - G.W.

And David sent messengers unto the men of Jabesh-Gilead.
1. The chief anxiety of David, alter being anointed king over the house of Judah, would naturally be how to secure the peaceful allegiance of the other tribes. Prompted by the desire to prevent civil war, and also by the amiable feelings of his own heart, he sent a kind and grateful message to the men of Jabesh-Gilead, complimenting them on the respect they had shown for the mutilated remains of Saul and his sons. Every action of David in reference to his great rival evinces the superiority of his spirit to that which has often prevailed in similar circumstances. Within the Scriptures themselves we have instances of the dishonour that was often put on the body of a conquered foe: the cases of Jehoram and Jezebel will readily occur to every one. The shocking fate of Hector's dead body, dragged thrice round the walls of Troy behind the chariot of Achilles, was regarded as only such a calamity as might be looked for amid the changing fortunes of war. Mark Anthony is said to have broken out into laughter at the sight of the hands and head of Cicero, which he had caused to be cut off. It is very true that David was not strong enough at this time to offer any such outrage to his opponents, even if he had been willing; it would have been alike impolitic and cruel; but it is unfair to allege, that motives of policy were the only consideration that influenced him. The spirit of kindly regard, both to the person and the family of his predecessor, evidently breathed out from David's inmost soul, and is not to be denied or disparaged because the course it prompted was likewise the course of sound policy. When we come to examine his proceeding in giving up seven of Soul's sons to the Gibeonites, we shall see that that act was not an exception to his ordinary spirit.

2. The message which David sent to the men of Jabesh-Gilead was not merely fitted to gratify them, but was calculated to give confidence to the old friends and supporters of the former king. It would have been natural enough for them to apprehend — considering the ordinary practice of conquerors and the ordinary fate of the conquered, that when David came to power he would adopt very rigid measures against the comrades of his persecutor. By the message which he sent to them across the country, and across the Jordan, he showed clearly that he was animated by quite an opposite spirit; that instead of trying to punish those who had served with Saul, he was rather disposed to show them favour. Divine grace, acting on his native character, made David thus kind and forgiving, and presented to the world the beautiful spectacle of an eminent religious profession in union with most honourable and magnanimous behaviour.

3. But the spirit in which David acted to the friends of Saul did not receive the fitting return. His peaceable purpose was defeated through Abner, captain of Soul's host, who set up Ishbosheth, one Of "Soul's sons, as king, in opposition to David. Ishbosheth himself was evidently a mere tool in Abner's hands; he was a man of no spirit or" activity; and in setting him up as a claimant for the kingdom, Abner most probably had an eye to his own interest. It is plain that he acted in this matter in the spirit of daring ungodliness; he knew that God had given the kingdom to David, for he afterwards taunted Ishbosheth with the fact (2 Samuel 3:9); and nothing but personal motives of irresistible strength could have induced him to act in direct opposition to God. Under Saul, he had been chief captain of the host; under David, he could not expect to hold so high a position; and if the secret motive that induced him to set up Ishbosheth were revealed, it would probably be this — that a better place might be provided for himself — that Abner might be the first subject in the realm. The world's annals, alas! contain but too many instances of such reckless selfishness; wars without number, with their untold masses of victims, have sprung from no higher motive than the ambition of some Diotrephes to have the pre-eminence. What need has every man to guard against this selfish and therefore murderous spirit, and to pray that the animating spring of his conduct may be that love — that Christian charity, which is the queen of all the graces, and the very bond of perfectness! The well-meant and earnest efforts of David to ward off strife were thus frustrated; it was now his bitter lot to see the kingdom torn by that most dreadful of all scourges — civil war. As regarded the immediate occasion of the war, he had a perfectly clear conscience — Abner alone was responsible; .but the war itself, to a feeling and patriotic heart like David's, must have occasioned inconceivable anguish. Did it ever occur to him that he was now brought, against his will, into the very position which he had professed to King Achish to be so eager to occupy? Did he ever think that in the providence of God, placed, as he now was, in an attitude of hostility to his own countrymen, he was undergoing chastisement for the words he had then so rashly uttered? From a proposal made by Abner, with a view to simplify the contest (2 Samuel 2:14), it would appear that that general's conscience was not quite at ease in regard to the dismal slaughter he was on the point of provoking. The proposal seems to have been, that a small and equal number of young men should be chosen on each side, and that the contest should be held as settled in favour of the army whose young men should be victorious. The practice was common enough in ancient times; Roman history furnishes some memorable instances of it — that of Romulus and Aruns, and that of the Horatii and Curiatii; the challenge of Goliath to the host of Israel was another instance of the same practice. The young men were accordingly chosen; but they rushed against each other with such terrible impetuosity, that each of them slew his opponent, and the contest remained undecided as before. There was now nothing for it but a general appeal to arms; and when the shock of battle came at Gibeon, the victory fell to David; Abner and his troops were signally defeated. At the conclusion of the battle, at the sight of the flying foe, David might have said (though the psalm was, probably, not written for this occasion) — "Now know I that the Lord saveth His anointed; He will hear him from His holy heaven, with the saving strength of His right hand. Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; but we will remember the name of the Lord our God. They are brought down and fallen, but we are risen and stand upright. Save, Lord: let the king hear us when we call (Psalm 20:6-9).

(W. G. Blaikie, M. A.)

Abigail, Abishai, Abner, Ahinoam, Asahel, Asherites, Ashurites, Asshurites, Benjamin, Benjaminites, Benjamites, David, Gibeon, Ishbosheth, Jabesh, Jezreel, Jezreelitess, Jizreelitess, Joab, Nabal, Ner, Saul, Zeruiah
Ammah, Arabah, Bethlehem, Carmel, Giah, Gibeon, Gilead, Hebron, Helkath-hazzurim, Jabesh-gilead, Jezreel, Jordan River, Mahanaim
Act, Bless, Blessed, Blessing, Body, Buried, Bury, Burying, David, Gilead, Jabesh, Jabeshgilead, Jabesh-gilead, Ja'besh-gil'ead, Kind, Kindness, Loyalty, Master, Messengers, Rest, Saul, Shewn, Showed, Showing, Shown
1. David, by God's direction, with his company goes up to Hebron
4. where he is made king of Judah
5. He commends them of Jabesh Gilead for their king of Israel
8. Abner makes Ishbosheth king of Israel
12. A mortal skirmish between twelve of Abner's and twelve of Joab's men.
18. Asahel is slain
25. At Abner's motion, Joab sounds a retreat
32. Asahel's burial

Dictionary of Bible Themes
2 Samuel 2:5

     8291   kindness

The Bright Dawn of a Reign
'And it came to pass after this, that David 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 Hebron. 2. So David went up thither, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail, Nabal's wife, the Carmelite. 3. And his men that were with him did David bring up, every man with his household: and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron. 4. And the men of Judah came, and there
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The King.
We have now to turn and see the sudden change of fortune which lifted the exile to a throne. The heavy cloud which had brooded so long over the doomed king broke in lightning crash on the disastrous field of Gilboa. Where is there a sadder and more solemn story of the fate of a soul which makes shipwreck "of faith and of a good conscience," than that awful page which tells how, godless, wretched, mad with despair and measureless pride, he flung himself on his bloody sword, and died a suicide's death,
Alexander Maclaren—The Life of David

This Affection the Martyrs of Christ Contending for the Truth did Overcome...
10. This affection the Martyrs of Christ contending for the truth did overcome: and it is no marvel that they despised that whereof they should, when death was overpast, have no feeling, when they could not by those tortures, which while alive they did feel, be overcome. God was able, no doubt, (even as He permitted not the lion when it had slain the Prophet, to touch his body further, and of a slayer made it to be a keeper): He was able, I say, to have kept the slain bodies of His own from the dogs
St. Augustine—On Care to Be Had for the Dead.

The First Chaldaean Empire and the Hyksos in Egypt
Syria: the part played by it in the ancient world--Babylon and the first Chaldaean empire--The dominion of the Hyksos: Ahmosis. Some countries seem destined from their origin to become the battle-fields of the contending nations which environ them. Into such regions, and to their cost, neighbouring peoples come from century to century to settle their quarrels and bring to an issue the questions of supremacy which disturb their little corner of the world. The nations around are eager for the possession
G. Maspero—History Of Egypt, Chaldaea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, V 4

How the Meek and the Passionate are to be Admonished.
(Admonition 17.) Differently to be admonished are the meek and the passionate. For sometimes the meek, when they are in authority, suffer from the torpor of sloth, which is a kindred disposition, and as it were placed hard by. And for the most part from the laxity of too great gentleness they soften the force of strictness beyond need. But on the other hand the passionate, in that they are swept on into frenzy of mind by the impulse of anger, break up the calm of quietness, and so throw into
Leo the Great—Writings of Leo the Great

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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