2 Samuel 5:2, 10, 12
Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were he that led out and brought in Israel: and the LORD said to you…
This is the first occasion on which we find the occupation of a shepherd made use of to describe the office of a king. Jacob, who had "fed Laban's flocks," spoke of "the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel" (Genesis 49:24; Genesis 48:15); Moses, who had "kept the flock of Jethro," prayed that Jehovah would "set a man over the congregation" as his successor, so that they might not be "as sheep having no shepherd" (Numbers 27:7); here the elders declare that Jehovah said (through Samuel) to David, who "fed his father's sheep at Bethlehem," concerning his royal destination, "Thou shalt feed [raah, equivalent to 'tend,' 'act as shepherd towards'] my people Israel" (2 Samuel 7:7; Psalm 78:70-72; Isaiah 44:28; Jeremiah 23; Jeremiah 50:5; Ezekiel 34:1, 23; Micah 5:4; Zechariah 13:7, etc.). "The business of a shepherd is a preparation for the office of a king to any one who is destined to preside over that most manageable of all flocks, mankind; for which reason kings are called shepherds of their people, not by way of reproach, but as a most especial and pre-eminent honour" (Philo, 'Life of Moses'). "Shepherds are not owners of the sheep; but their office is to feed and govern: no more are kings proprietaries or owners of the people. 'The nations,' as the Scriptures saith, are 'his inheritance;' but the office of kings is to govern, maintain, and protect people. And that is not without a mystery that the first king that was instituted by God, David (for Saul was but an untimely fruit), was translated from a shepherd" (Bacon). What was said to David applies to every king, ruler, magistrate, master, in the sphere over which he has legitimate authority. Consider -
I. THE DIVINE IDEA OF HIS OFFICE. It is an office in which authority and power:
1. Are entrusted by the ordination of God, the Proprietor, Ruler, Chief Shepherd of the people; not self-derived nor unlimited; yet investing every under shepherd with dignity.
2. Should be exercised according to the will of God (Psalm 101.), in affectionate interest in the people; intimate acquaintance with them, guiding them, providing for them, defending them, restoring them, and, generally, seeking their welfare with diligence, considerateness, tenderness, patience, self-denial, and self-sacrifice. "Chrysostom writeth that the shepherds in Cappadocia have such love unto their flock, that sometimes for three days together, in following them, they are overwhelmed with snow, and yet they endure it; and in Lydia, how far they travel with the sheep for a month together in the waste deserts and parching heat of the sun; who herein do teach such as are shepherds of men that they should even not spare their own lives for the common good" (Willet).
3. Must be accounted for, as to their use, before the presence of God. "These sheep, what have they done?" (2 Samuel 24:17). "A king is a mortal god on earth, unto whom the living God hath lent his own name as a great honour; but withal told him he should die like a man, test he should be proud and flatter himself that God hath with his name imparted unto him his nature also" (Bacon).
II. THE DIVINE SOURCE OF HIS PROSPERITY. "And David went on going and growing" after the conquest of the stronghold of Zion, etc. (vers. 6-10), which he achieved as captain, "leader and commander of the people" (as well as their shepherd) "waxed greater and greater" (2 Samuel 7:9) in power and fame; "and Jehovah the God of hosts" (1 Samuel 1:3) "was with him" (as his Shepherd, Psalm 23:1, and Captain, 2 Samuel 22:35-37).
1. Approving of the manner in which he devoted himself to his calling. Fidelity is the necessary condition of the special favour of God; which is ever testified in the heart and conscience, and often shown by outward events (Genesis 39:2, 21).
2. Assisting him in the performance of the duties of his calling; strengthening, upholding, directing, protecting him.
3. Accomplishing the aim of his endeavours in his calling; for no skill nor effort, without Divine cooperation, can ensure success. "Except the Lord build the house," etc. (Psalm 127:1). While God was with him (1 Samuel 10:11) Saul prospered; when left to himself he lost his kingdom and his life.
III. THE DIVINE PURPOSE OF HIS EXALTATION AND ESTABLISHMENT IN HIS OFFICE. "And David perceived," from the friendly aid of Hiram, the erection of his palace (ver. 11), which he appears to have regarded as a pledge of the stability of his kingdom (Psalm 30., inscription), and his continued prosperity, "that Jehovah had established him," in accordance with his former choice, "king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom" (1 Chronicles 14:2, 17) "for his people Israel's sake;" because he had chosen them to be his people, "the sheep of his pasture" (Psalm 100:3), and sought their prosperity and exaltation, according to his faithful promises (2 Samuel 7:23) that through them all nations might be blessed, and the whole earth filled with his glory. A faithful servant recognizes in his successes:
1. An immediate purpose of good toward himself; beholding therein the hand of God and "the kindness and truth" by which it is directed; ascribing his prosperity, not to himself, but to the Lord.
2. An ulterior and larger purpose of good toward others, for whose benefit rather than his own he is exalted (2 Samuel 7:8, 16).
3. A powerful incentive to thankfulness, hopefulness, and fresh consecration to the service of God and his people. "It was the successiveness, the continuity of the steps, in his history, which assured him that God's hand had been directing the whole of it. Had David, instead of maintaining the crown, which circumstances pointed out to him as his, seized violently that which was not his, he would not have perceived that the Lord had made him King of Israel; he would have felt that he had made himself so, and would have acted upon that persuasion. The government which a man wins for himself he uses for himself; that which he inwardly and practically acknowledges as conferred upon him by a righteous Being cannot be intended for himself. And thus it is that the early and mysterious teaching of David while he was in the sheepfold bore so mightily upon his life after he became king.. The deepest lesson which he had learnt was that he himself was under government; that his heart and will was the inmost circle of that authority which the winds and the sea, the moon and the stars, obeyed" (Maurice).
1. The lowliest occupation is often a preparation for the highest; and he who shows fidelity in the least is rewarded with opportunity for its exercise in the greatest.
2. The possession of authority and power severely tests men's characters, and sometimes proves their destruction.
3. It is a good sign when one who is exalted shows more concern about performing the duties than enjoying the honours of his position.
4. God sends good rulers out of his regard for the welfare of the people.
5. The best rulers are those who sympathize most with the Divine purposes, and most humbly and faithfully "serve their generation."
6. Even the best are imperfect, and often fail to attain their loftiest aims or fulfil their early promise.
7. In One alone do we behold the perfect Shepherd-King (John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4; Revelation 7:17). - D.
Parallel VersesKJV: Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the LORD said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel.