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2 Samuel 20-21: Some Final Words on the King's Enemies Print E-mail
2 Samuel
Sunday, 10 September 2017

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I normally judge a book or a show by whether or not all the different story lines are wrapped up in the end. I am not a fan of the hanging plot, unless it means that sequels are coming! I want the characters and the situations to be wrapped up by the end of the story, even if I donít particularly like the way they wrap up. To leave things open or to not answer certain questions (see TV show ďLostĒ) is usually an indication of poor writing.

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The author of 2 Samuel is wrapping up some stories in the life of David in our passage this morning and next week as well. In particular, he is bringing to a conclusion the story of Absalomís rebellion against David, giving us some details concerning Saul and his family, and honoring those who killed the giants of the Philistines. Although these individual stories are somewhat unrelated to one another, we can see the author mentioning them to encourage us again that God will protect His anointed (even through the help of others) and have victory over all of His enemies. I want us to note these lessons as we walk through some of these final stories in the book of 2 Samuel.

A Final Word on Absalomís Rebellion (ch. 20)

Now you may think that the story of Absalom is ended in chapter 19 when the Kingís son is killed in the tree by Joab. And in one sense that is true. Yet, when we get to the beginning of chapter 20 we see that his rebellion against David produced rebellion in others, particularly those who felt David was showing favoritism to Judah at the expense of the rest of Israel (see 19:41-43). One man decided to lead this rebellion in Absalomís place. Look at 20:1-2. We are not left wondering how the author feels about Sheba: a worthless man. Even before David can make it back to Jerusalem, he has another wanna-be king leading off men after him. As we have seen, such action is dangerous. Just look at what happened to Absalom and Ahithophel who also rebelled against the Lordís anointed. Things did not go well for them and they will not go well for Sheba. How do we see this play out?

When David makes it back to Jerusalem, he must deal with 10 concubines who were left behind and were taken by absalom. Look at verse 3. Donít miss the tragedy in this verse. Rebellion against the Lordís anointed by Absalom made their lives incredibly difficult. Our sin not only harms us but it can harm others as well. David then turns his attention to Sheba. He has made Amasa the commander of his army, the man who lead Absalomís army, and he tells him to gather the troops and take care of Sheba. But Amasa delays. Look at verses 4-5. We are not told why he delays, but if we have been paying attention to Absalomís rebellion, then we know that delay can be disastrous. So David tells Abishai to take care of the problem lest Sheba do more harm than the kingís son. Abishaiís men include the servants of Joab, Davidís former commander and the one who killed Absalom. And when Amasa shows up, Joab confronts him. Look at verses 8-10a. Everytime Joab shows up, someone is dying. He is a difficult character indeed. The Lord definitely uses him to accomplish his purposes in Davidís life but it is hard to ignore his violence and greed for power. David will tell Solomon to deal with him after he has died. Here he takes over the army and heads after Sheba.

Sheba is hiding out in a city called Abel, but it wonít be Ďableí to save him from Joab! Terrible jokes aside, after laying siege to the city, Joab gets help from a very unlikely source. Look at verses 16-22. A wise woman comes out to help Joab get what he wants so she can save her city. And all he wants is the head of Sheba, which she agrees to give him. With the death of Sheba, Joab blows the trumpet and declares not only the ending of the siege, but really the ending of Absalomís rebellion. David will now be free to reign in Jerusalem. God uses some interesting characters to protect His anointed and defeat His enemies.

A Final Word on the treachery of Saul (21:1-14)

Chapter 20 ends with a list of men in charge of various roles in Davidís kingdom. Most view that as an end to a larger section of the book on Davidís reign, which then brings up the question: what are the final four chapters about? Although David does not actually die until 1 Kings 2, these last chapters of 2 Samuel are the authorís way of bringing his life to a close, even though the events donít necessarily take place at the end of Davidís life. We will look at some of the stories next week, but they begin with an episode that involves a final treachery of Saul.

It all starts with a famine. Look at 21:1. We do not know when the famine took place in Davidís life or when it was that Saul put the Gibeonites to death, but we are told of what David did to bring justice to the situation. Look at verses 2-6. The Gibeonites were the folks who tricked Israel in the days of Joshua and told them they were from a far country. Because of the deceit, Joshua did not destroy them but made a covenant with them (see Joshua 9). Thus, when Saul did try to destroy them, he was breaking the covenant and bringing shame on the name of the Lord (taking the Lordís name in vain). Such treachery demanded justice, which included death for those who broke the covenant and committed murder (see Leviticus 24:21). After noting their lack of authority to actually carry out this sentence, they tell David that they expect justice to be done and ask for seven of Saulís sons to be killed to atone for Saulís treachery, which he agrees to do (while protecting Mephibosheth). Atonement is costly, and normally bloody. As those living after the cross, we should not miss the principle here and how it applies to the work of Christ. We committed the treachery. We broke the covenant. We deserved just punishment for our sins. But He took our place. These seven sons of Saul are just another example of events pointing us forward to Calvary.

After the men are killed, we expect the story to be over, but it is not. Two of the sonsí mother, Rizpah, one of Saulís concubines, protects the bodies from being mutilated. When David hears of this he is moved. He has the bones of Saul and Jonathan, along with those of the seven sons, moved to the family burial ground out of respect for Saul and his family. Only then do the rains return and the famine is ended. Like Joab, it is hard to know exactly what to do with Saul and his descendants. Even in this one story we see the costliness of his treachery along with the honoring of his family. So which is it? Is he a good guy or a bad guy? I think the biblical answer is a bit more nuanced than that. Of course, the bible teaches that there are no good guys. We are all born in sin and in need of Savior, just like Saul and his kin. Yet, through faith in God, even wicked men can act in way pleasing to the Lord and worthy of honor and emulation. We take Saul like we take David like we take all of the Ďheroesí of the Old Testament: men who did good and bad things pointing us to humanityís need for a Savior.

A Final Word on the Philistines (21:15-22)

If we are going to talk about Davidís enemies, then we have to mention the Philistines. God had told David: ĎBy the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistinesí (2 Samuel 3:18). We are told more about their demise in verses 15-22. Look at verses 15-17. The author tells us of another war between the Philistines and the Israelites. On this occasion, David led his men into battle. But the text tells us that he grew weary. It could be that this battle was toward the end of Davidís life or it could just be that the fighting was so fierce that David go tired. Either way, he was in trouble. Another one of those descendants of the giants had plans to end David. But the Lord uses one of Davidís servants to protect the king. Abishai steps in and takes down the large man. Then the men get together and tell David: ĎNo more leading us into battle, O King, for you are far too valuable for that.í This is the second occasion when Davidís men convince him not lead them into battle (see 18:2-3). They are willing to serve him by fighting for their king.

The author then goes on and tells of the defeat of three more descendants of the giants. Three of Davidís mighty men strike down three more powerful Philistine warriors. One of them had twelve fingers and twelve toes (probably needed some special armor to cover all of that). Notice how the author describes their defeat in verse 22. David is given credit for taking these men down, but he did it with the help of others. God kept His promise to David and saved Israel repeatedly from the hand of the Philistines.

Davidís battles are coming to a close. The Lord ended the rebellion of Absalom with the help of Joab and a wise woman from Abel. Justice was given to the Gibeonites for Saulís treachery and the famine was ended through the sacrifice of Saulís sons and the help of Rizpah. And the Philistine giants were no match for David and his mighty men. We hear a final word concerning all of these situations. And the Lord has given us the Final Word for all of His enemies. Of course, other nations and other rebels will rise up against the kings of Israel. More enemies of God will come. Some will even appear victorious for a season. But the Final Word will eventually come.

Yet, He will not be as expected. He will not carry a sword like King David and gather to himself mighty men of war (at least not physically). He will not wear the kingís crown but will instead wear a crown of thorns. Even though He will live a perfect life, His enemies will nail Him to a tree to die as a criminal. But His final words on the cross are the final words for Godís enemies: It is finished! He will go to the grave and it will appear that all hope is lost, but three days later He will come back from the dead to give us meaning for those final words: death is defeated, sin is forgiven, the strong man is bound. It is finished! As we ponder the final words concerning Davidís life, it is good to be encouraged by the fact that Christ has sealed the final words over our lives with His own blood. All hail King Jesus! Victorious over all our enemies! Amen.

~ William Marshall ~

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 04 October 2017 )

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