2 Samuel 04(01)–05(16)


Last week’s passage contained a note about David’s children; and it contained the making of a covenant; and it contained a murder. We read that David had six sons while he was in Hebron. And we read that Abner and David established a covenant, by which David, with Abner’s support, would become king of all Israel. But then Joab murdered Abner in the city gates.

And today’s passage also contains a note about David’s children; and the making of a covenant; and a murder. First we have the murder of Ish-bosheth. Then we have the making of a covenant between David and the elders of Israel to make David king of all Israel. And then we have a note about David’s children.

So, today’s passage mirrors last week’s passage. And it also tells us how David, once he became king, took over the city of Jerusalem and made it his city: the city of David. And, really, today’s passage is very significant. It’s very significant in the history of salvation, because it’s about David becoming king. And David foreshadows the True and Final King who was coming into the world, who is Jesus Christ the Saviour, who is even now extending his kingdom throughout the world through the preaching of the gospel, by which he calls men and women and boys and girls to leave behind their old life of sin and unbelief and to become members of God’s kingdom of grace, which is an everlasting kingdom.

And this passage is also about Jerusalem. And Jerusalem foreshadows the new and heavenly Jerusalem which we read about at the end of the Bible. And the new and heavenly Jerusalem is the church in glory. It’s all of God’s people in the new and better world to come, where we shall be in the presence of the Lord, and where we will have perfect peace and rest forever on God’s holy mountain.

And so, as we read about David becoming king of Israel, and as we read about Jerusalem, we’re to raise our thoughts up to heaven to Jesus Christ our King and we’re to look forward into the future and to the great hope that Christ gives to all who trust in him. So, let’s turn to this passage now.

The Murder

And first we have the murder of Ish-bosheth. Ish-bosheth, you’ll remember, was Saul’s last remaining son; and Abner had set him up as a rival king to David. But Abner is now dead. And, according to verse 1, Ish-bosheth lost courage. Perhaps he didn’t know that Abner had decided to switch sides. Perhaps he thought Abner was still on his side. But now that Abner was dead, who was there to support him and to help him stand up to David? He lost his courage. And all Israel was alarmed by the news as well. Perhaps they thought David had killed Abner; and perhaps they were wondering what David would do now.

But then we read about these two brothers who had been leaders of raiding bands in Saul’s army. So, these are mighty warriors, fighting men who had seen action. And according to verse 5 these two brothers set off for the house of Ish-bosheth. And when they arrived, it was the middle of the day, when the sun was at its hottest, and Ish-bosheth was having a nap. And these two brothers went into the inner part of the house, to get some wheat. Or maybe that’s the story they told to get past the guards on duty, because whenever they got inside, the went into Ish-bosheth’s bedroom and stabbed him in the stomach. And before slipping away, they cut off Ish-bosheth’s head, which of course is a gruesome thing to do, but they wanted proof that Ish-bosheth was really dead. And they wanted proof, because they were going to tell David what they had done. And presumably they were hoping for some kind of reward whenever they went in to David and presented him with Ish-bosheth’s head. And so, we read how they announced to David that here’s the head of the son of Saul, who was your enemy and who tried to take your life. But now, on your behalf, we’ve take revenge on him. Aren’t you pleased with us?

But David was not at all pleased. He refers to the man in chapter 1 who came from the battle field with the news that he had killed Saul. He thought he was bringing David good news, but David had that man killed. And then David accused these two brothers of worse: they’re wicked men and they have killed an innocent man in his own house and in his own bed. And he said:

Should I not demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!’ And with that, David gave the order and his men killed the two brothers.

Now, at the end of last week’s passage, do you remember that David said about himself that he was gentle. And David could say that he was gentle, because although Abner was once David’s enemy and had resisted and opposed David’s kingdom, nevertheless David was prepared to deal gently and kindly with Abner whenever Abner decided to switch his allegiance and to accept David as his king. Instead of holding a grudge against Abner, David was prepared to welcome him and to make peace with him. So, David was gentle and kind towards Abner.

So, that’s what we learned about David last week. And then we read this story and how he showed these two brothers no mercy and he had them executed on the spot for killing Ish-bosheth. Why wasn’t he gentle towards these two brothers? Why didn’t he deal kindly with them?

And I think the answer is that, on this occasion, David was acting in obedience to the Lord. He was acting in obedience to the Lord. And you see, that’s was one of the differences between Saul and David: Saul didn’t obey the Lord; but David wants to obey the Lord. He wanted to do God’s will. And on this occasion, he was doing God’s will. You see, his words in verse 11 about ridding the earth of these two brothers can also be translated: ‘purge the earth’. And those words come from Deuteronomy 19. Now, what’s Deuteronomy 19 about? It’s about the cities of refuge. God commanded his people to set aside a number of cities in the land of Israel to be cities of refuge. Whenever a man killed another man accidentally, he was to flee to the city of refuge in order to save his life from the avenger. And God gave an example of what might happen: two men are in the forest, chopping wood. One of them swings his axe, but the head comes off and hits his friend and he dies. The man didn’t intend to kill his neighbour; it was an accident. But the dead man’s family are angry and they want to take revenge. Well, on those occasions, the man who swung the axe could flee to a city of refuge where he was kept safe.

However, the cities of refuge provided protection only for those who killed accidentally. So, if a man hated his neighbour and killed him deliberately, and then fled to one of the cities, he wouldn’t get away with his crime. If he was guilty of murder, then the elders of the town were to send for him and they would hand him over to the avenger, who was permitted to kill the murderer. ‘Show him no pity’, the Lord said. ‘You must purge from Israel the guilt of shedding innocent blood.’ In other words, the only way to cleanse the land of Israel from the guilt of innocent blood was by killing the murderer. Purge the land. Rid the earth. And then the Lord added:

So that it may go well with you.

God would be against them if they let murderers go unpunished.

So, that’s the background from Deuteronomy 19. You can also read about the cities of refuge in Numbers 35. Now, here’s the thing. David was in Hebron and Hebron was a city of refuge. And these two brothers came to Hebron, a city of refuge. But they hadn’t killed Ish-bosheth accidentally. It wasn’t as if they were sharpening their swords and accidentally stabbed him. No, they went to his house and they went into his bedroom with the intention of killing him. And therefore, since they were guilty of murder, and not manslaughter, they deserved to die.

And who had the right to kill them? Well, Deuteronomy 19 and Numbers 35 refer to the avenger. And the avenger was a member of the victim’s family who was responsible for seeking justice for his family and for making sure that someone paid for taking the victim’s life. So, who was the avenger in this case? Well, I think the avenger should have been Mephibosheth, who was mentioned in verse 4. He was Jonathan’s son and therefore Ish-bosheth’s nephew. And he’s the closest surviving male relative. The names of other relatives are mentioned in chapter 21, but I think Mephibosheth was the closest surviving relative. But he’s only a young boy and he’s also lame. He’s not able to avenge the death of Ish-bosheth. And so, David does what Mephibosheth was unable to do and he killed the two brothers in order to purge their guilt from the land of Israel.

David was a gentle king. He was willing to make peace with Abner when Abner was willing to accept David as his king. But David was also an obedient king. He was willing to obey the word of the Lord in all things. And therefore, since the Lord commanded that murderers should be killed in order to purge their guilt from the land, David gave the order for the two brothers to be killed. ‘Show no pity’, the Lord said in Deuteronomy 19. Purge the guilt of innocent blood from the land.


And the Lord Jesus, who is the True and Final King, was obedient to his Heavenly Father when he was on the earth. And in obedience to his Heavenly Father, he was prepared, not to kill, but to be killed in order to cleanse you from the guilt of your sins. You’re a sinner and you have sinned against the Lord continually. And because you’re a sinner who has sinned against the Lord continually, you deserve the wrath and curse of God. You deserve to die, as those two brothers died for their sins, and to suffer eternal punishment, away from the presence of the Lord. But the Lord Jesus, in obedience to his Father in heaven, suffered and died on the cross in order to pay for your sins with his life and to cleanse you from your guilt with his blood. And by believing in him, you are pardoned by God; and when the day of judgment comes, you will be acquitted of all charges against you, because Christ the King shed his blood to cleanse you from your guilt.

But here’s the thing. On that day of judgment, Christ the King will show no pity to those who did not believe in him in this life. He will show them no mercy, but he will condemn them and send them away to be punished forever for all that they have done wrong. He’s gentle towards those who repent and believe in him, but he will show no pity towards those who will not repent and will not believe; and he will ensure that they pay for their sins.

And so, now is the time to repent. Now is the time to believe. Now is the time to turn from a life of sin and unbelief and to trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the only Saviour of the world and who calls on sinners everywhere to believe in him for eternal life.

The Covenant

In other words, we must all do what the Israelites did in the second part of today’s passage. We read in verse 1 of chapter 5 that all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron. Presumably they didn’t all come in person, because by now there were thousands of Israelites. So, presumably, the elders came and represented the rest. And they came and they confessed that even when Saul was king, David was the one who led Israel into battle; he was the one who gave them victory over their enemies. And they confessed that God has chosen David to be the shepherd and ruler of his people. In different places in the Old Testament the image of a shepherd is applied to the king. The king was like a shepherd, because just as a shepherd led his sheep and protected his sheep, so the king led the people and protected them from danger. And David made a compact or covenant with the elders at Hebron before the Lord. So, in the presence of the Lord, they agreed to submit to David as their king. And they anointed him. And so, we read that David was thirty years old when he became king. And he reigned for forty years in total: for seven and a half years in Hebron as king of Judah and then for another thirty-three years in Jerusalem as king of all Israel.


And as you know, I’m sure, David was the first of many kings of Israel. When his son became king, the kingdom was divided once again into the north and the south, Israel and Judah. And so, after Solomon, there was always a king in the north and another king in the south. Some of the kings were good and they walked in the ways of the Lord. Many of them were wicked and they disregarded the word of the Lord. And eventually, hundreds of years later, the land of Israel was conquered by the Romans and it became part of the Roman Empire and the Roman Emperor became their king. But in those days, when the Roman Emperor was their king, a new king was born, who was descended from David. And that new king who was born was the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the True and Final King. And after he died on the cross to pay for our sins, he was raised to new life and he was exalted to heaven, where he was enthroned as king over all for the sake of his people.

‘Sit at my right hand’, the Lord said to him. ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet.’ Already he has conquered sin, because he has paid for our sins with his life. But one day he will destroy sin completely when we are made perfect in his presence. Already he was conquered Satan, because he’s able to set his people free from Satan’s tyranny. But one day he will destroy Satan completely. Already he has conquered death, because he was raised from the dead. And the day is coming when he will destroy death completely, because it will have to give up all of its victims and all of Christ’s people — those who believed in him and who are members of God’s kingdom — will be raised from the dead to live with him forever and forever in glory. So, sit at my right hand in heaven, until all your enemies have been destroyed.

The elders of Israel confessed that David was their Saviour. And they confessed that he was their king. And that’s what you must believe about the Lord Jesus. Trust in him as the only Saviour, because he saves his people from sin and Satan and death. And submit to him as your King and love and serve him always. And those who trust in him as Saviour can look forward to everlasting life in the new Jerusalem to come. And that takes us to the third part of today’s passage.

Children in Jerusalem

According to verse 6 of chapter 5, David and his men marched to Jerusalem to attack the Jebusites who lived there. The Jebusites were part of the Canaanites who were living in the Promised Land in the days of Joshua. And Joshua and the people of Israel were meant to drive them from the land. But while Joshua was able to conquer much of the land, many of the Canaanites continued to live in the land. And, of course, they were a thorn in the side of Israel, because again and again the Philistines and the Amalekites and other Canaanites attacked the Israelites. And they were also a temptation to Israel, because they tempted the Israelites to forsake the Lord and to worship their gods and idols. And so, when David went up to Jerusalem to fight against the Jebusites, he was doing what the Lord had commanded his people to do. He had commanded them to show the Canaanites no mercy and to drive them from the land. And the Jebusites felt pretty secure, didn’t they? They felt safe and secure in their mountain-top city. And so, they mocked David, saying that even the blind and the lame would be able to defend the city from David. Nevertheless, David captured Jerusalem, which became known as the city of David.

And we read how David took up residence in the city and he built it up. And he became more and more powerful because the Lord God Almighty was with him. King Hiram of Tyre sent him wood and carpenters and stonemasons to help him. And they built a palace for David. And according to verse 12, David knew that the Lord had established him as king and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people. He knew that God made him king, not for his own benefit, but for the benefit and for the good of God’s people. And the passage ends with this note about his children. More sons and daughters were born to him.


But let’s finish by thinking about Jerusalem. David built a palace for himself in Jerusalem. In time, Solomon would build a temple for the Lord in Jerusalem. And so, the Lord dwelt among his people in that city; and from there the Lord ruled over his people. In time, because the people were unfaithful, God drove them from the land and sent them into exile and Jerusalem was abandoned. But in the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the Lord brought the people back from exile and they rebuilt the temple and they rebuilt the city. And Nehemiah did his best to build a holy city, and to keep it holy and to fill it with God’s holy people. But despite his best efforts to rebuild the city and to keep it holy and to fill it with God’s holy people, the city and its people always fell short of what it was meant to be. And so, when the Lord Jesus went up to the temple, he discovered it had become an unholy place and the people treated it like a market place instead of a place of prayer. And the people of the Jerusalem rejected him as their king and crucified him. And they persecuted his apostles. And so, a few years later, the city and the temple were destroyed by the Romans. The city of David was destroyed.

But here’s the thing: God has something better in store for you, if you believe his promises and trust in his Son for forgiveness and for eternal life. He had something better in store for you, which the earthly city of Jerusalem foreshadowed.

When Christ the Saviour comes again, he will bring you and all his believing people into the new heaven and earth and into a new, heavenly Jerusalem, to be with him forever in glory. It will be a far, far, far greater city than the earthly Jerusalem ever was. Its wall — we’re told in Revelation 21 — is tall and strong; so this city to come is secure and will never to removed. And nothing impure will ever enter there to spoil its holiness or its perfect peace. And the city to come will be filled with men and women and boys and girls from every nation: all who trusted in Christ the Saviour. And the Tree of Life is there, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the Tree are for the healing of the nations. And whoever is thirsty is invited to drink freely from the river of life which flows through the city so that they will live forever. And God himself is there, to wipe the tears from your eyes. And there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, because the former things — the things of this troubled life — will have passed away. And all of God’s people will live in peace and safety forever.

We think of this life, with all its trouble and trials, its coronavirus and its diseases and its sorrow and sadness and sin. And we yearn for something better, don’t we? And the Lord God Almighty has promised us something better: life in the new Jerusalem in the new and better world to come. Now, we know we don’t deserve it, because we’re sinners who sin against the Lord continually. We deserve to be shut out of that holy city, because we are unholy. We deserve to be sent away from the presence of the Lord and punished forever. But the good news of the gospel is that God the Son came into the world as one of us to pay for our sins with his life and to cleanse us from our guilt with his blood. And through faith in him, we are pardoned and accepted by God and we are given the sure and certain hope of the resurrection and everlasting life in the new Jerusalem to come. And while we wait for it, we can look to Christ our King, who is exalted in heaven, to lead us and to guard us through every trial and trouble in this troubled life.