The date was April 4, 2010. Holly and I had just left church after a wonderfully powerful Easter service when, on our way to meet family and friends, we received a call from my Mother with news that my Grandfather had just died. It was sobering. Having just rejoiced in Christ’s resurrection might and victory over the grave and death we felt the sting of death afresh. I was brought back to all those summers I spent in Sarasota with my Grandfather. Precious memories that now won’t be repeated again. It was a real end we had to face but in a very real sense it was also the beginning of many new memories that would begin as our family remembered, rejoiced, and moved forward.
Death has a way of doing this, slowing us down, causing us to reflect on what was and what will be. I say all of this to begin because in our text today we find David in the same situation.
After spending two and half years in John’s gospel and a summer in the Psalms, we’re now moving on to the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel. Some of you will recall that before we started John we spent a year in 1 Samuel…well we’ve now arrived at the beginning of part two of Israel’s history as presented by the Samuels. Since our time in 1 Samuel was so long ago and since many of you present here today weren’t here with us when we covered 1 Samuel, allow me to bring you up to speed.As Israel emerged out of the time of the Judges there was a great need for order and rule because there was no king in Israel and everyone did what was right in their own eyes. It seems that God’s people forgot they were just that, God’s people. God had saved and redeemed them from slavery in Egypt, brought them out to Mt. Sinai, entered into a covenant with them, and brought them into the promise land. But they weren’t looking to God to be their Ruler; they wanted a man to govern them just like the nations around them. So, God gave them the desire of their hearts giving them a king in Saul. He certainly looked the part on the outside, tall – strong – handsome, but he would prove disastrous. Enter David, who won the people’s hearts, proved to be a noble warrior, and a man after God’s own heart. Would he ultimately be the king God’s people need? I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say to you here at the beginning that David will not be what God’s people need. 1 Samuel encouraged us again and again to see David struggling because of other’s sins. As we begin 2 Samuel we’ll see David struggling once again, but this time it will be because of his own sins. Seen in this light learn here Church, David the sinner has just as much to teach us as David the hero.Does this leave Israel and us with no hope to see such a king fail? By no means! 2 Samuel exists to leave us longing for the King to come. Which is why we’ve titled this series ‘A Tale of Two Kings.’ We’ll not only see two David’s in our trek through 2 Samuel, we’ll see David and Christ as well.
This is where we pick up as 2 Samuel 1 begins.
If you’re not already there our text is 2 Samuel 1:1-16, you can find it on the back of the order of service, or on page 237 of one of these Bibles we have for you in the back corner. There are five divisions I’d like to bring your attention to in our text today.
The Scene Begins (v1-2)
“After the death of Saul, when David had returned from striking down the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage.”
As the text begins we see it isn’t really a beginning but a continuation. 1 Samuel ends with the death of Saul and 2 Samuel doesn’t skip a beat beginning with the report of Saul’s death.Joshua, Judges, and 2 Kings begin in similar ways saying “After the death of Moses..” and “After the death of Joshua…” and “After the death of Ahab…” That 2 Samuel begins with “After the death of Saul…”teaches us this is not only a book of history but that Israel is experiencing both an ending and a new beginning. Saul had been the people’s first king and after a long downgrade into suspicion and sin Saul met his end on the battlefield. But with his death there is a true beginning as well, for now there is no king and David is a prime candidate. But notice the contrast right there in v1. From the beginning of 2 Samuel Saul is stated to be dead while David is put forward as victorious. Israel had hoped Saul would be the king they’d dreamed of, but his reign was a failed experiment. The Kingdom was torn away from Saul in 1 Samuel 15 when Saul failed to kill the king of the Amalekites. God even tells Saul as much in 1 Samuel 28:18 saying, “Because you did not obey the voice of the LORD and did not carry out His fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the LORD has done this thing to you this day.” Can you see then that it is not a coincidence that the beginning of David’s story in 2 Samuel begins with him striking down the same Amalekites?The contrast is meant to be seen, and while Israel is at this moment failing to see hope in Saul’s death, we know all is not dark. There is a new king coming soon, one not chosen by the people but chosen by God Himself. I cannot help but notice a similar pattern to Jesus’ death and resurrection.For the two days after Jesus’ death the people who thought He was the Messiah, the true King, were failing to see any hope after His crucifixion, thinking Jesus had failed and that His story was over. But that third day changed everything as He rose from the grave didn’t it? God was up to much behind the scenes. So too, how long did David wait in suspense after Saul’s death until he knew the throne was his to claim? v1-2 says it was after two days. In other words, on the third day, everything changed for David too. How so?
He saw a man coming into town who has torn his clothes and put dust on his head. He arrived in Ziklag he fell to the ground, threw himself at David’s feet, to give him honor. Again, David knew a great battle had occurred, 1 Samuel 29 tells us that, so David had to be eagerly waiting for news of the outcome. Then this stranger comes with the appearance of a mourner. This scene likely gave David pause, and prompted him to brace for the impact of bad news.
Let’s keep on in the text where we now see a false speech.
A False Speech (v3-10)
After this mournful man approaches David asks the question we’re all wanting to ask in v3, “Where do you come from?” The answer is as quick, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” David’s response in v4a seems just as quick, “How did it go? Tell me.” “And he answered, “The people fled from the battle, and also many of the people have fallen and are dead, and Saul and his son Jonathan are also dead.” Then David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?” The man responded with quite a tall tale. See it beginning in v6, “By chance I happened to be on Mount Gilboa, and there was Saul leaning on his spear, and behold, the chariots and the horsemen were close upon him. And when he looked behind him, he saw me, and called to me. And I answered, ‘Here I am.’ And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’ And he said to me, ‘Stand beside me and kill me, for anguish has seized me, and yet my life still lingers.’ So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the armlet that was on his arm, and I have brought them here to my lord.”
At first glance you might believe this tale. That this man really did finish off Saul when asked by him. But at a closer look the details of Saul’s death in 1 Samuel 31 and the details of this Amalekite’s story don’t match.In 1 Samuel 31 it says the Philistines overtook Saul and his sons. After killing his sons they pressed hard against Saul, and their archers shot him. But the arrows didn’t kill him so Saul asked his armor-bearer to finish him off. But he wouldn’t do it and stretch out his hand against the Lord’s anointed. So Saul took out his own sword and fell on it. Then it says when his armor-bearer saw Saul die, he took out his own sword and fell on it as well and died with Saul. And if there’s any doubt as to the timing of all of this 1 Sam. 31:6 summarizes it all saying, “Thus Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor bearer, and all his men, on the same day together.” Now come back to the Amalekite’s version. He ‘chanced’ or ‘just so happened’ to be near Saul on Mount Gilboa at the exact moment when his enemies are nearing. He says the enemies of Saul were chariots and horsemen, not archers. He says he found Saul clinging to life thrust through with a spear, not a sword. And no mention is made at all of an armor-bearer nearby. Then there’s a whole conversation between he and Saul where he says Saul asked him to come and finish him off, which he accepted and actually did so. Contrast that rashness to the armor-bearer who denied the same request in 1 Samuel 31. Then he says he slipped the royal emblems off to bring them to David.
Pause and think about this. Saul is the king! He never would’ve been so isolated in a battle as to have no sons, no armor-bearer, and no royal guard surrounding him, which would force him to rely on an Amalekite to finish him off if things went foul. No way. I’m not buying this story, and neither should you. At first his story looks close the to the truth, but a closer look reveals how far from the truth it really is. This false fabricated story reveals this Amalekite wasn’t mourning, he was an opportunist, aiming to make the most of the misery of others. Which is why he made up the speech in the first place. I mean, he couldn’t roll into Ziklag, find David, and tell the truth! That he was lurking back at a safe distance away from the fight like a coward until Saul was killed so he could grab the royal emblems and bring them to David for a reward. No, he wanted to present himself as more heroic.But how ironic, that right after David returns from striking down the Amalekites, here strolls into camp an Amalekite daring enough to tell a tale that he had just killed the King of Israel.
See another similar pattern here too. When this Amalekite brought Saul’s crown and gave it to David, in a true sense he unintentionally crowned the new king of Israel. Does unintentional crowning sound familiar? Long after this event a hostile mob would nail Jesus to the cross and hang a sign above Him proclaiming Him to be who actually He was, the King of the Jews. The Amalekite vastly misjudged David thinking David was as power hungry as Saul was, and it cost him his life, as we’ll see. So too, all who misjudge Jesus will pay the same ultimate price.
How does David respond to this? Look with me at v11-12 to see godly grief.
Godly Grief (v11-12)
“Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son and for the people of the LORD and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.”
I think most of us would prefer to see this story go from v10 directly to v13, where this liar gets his due, skipping this mournful section. But I think we can appreciate v11-12 a bit more when we see our whole text from a bit higher up. The text begins in v1-2 with the arrival of the Amalekite and ends in v15-16 with the departure of the Amalekite. Then v3-10 has a false speech while v13-14 has a true speech. Which makes mourning of David and his men in v11-12 the centerpiece of the whole passage. This is revealing. For David, after hearing this news nothing else matters. Responding to this Amalekite can wait, even his execution can wait.Of all David could do in this moment, don’t miss what he actually did. He likely began to well up in tears after the news of v4, but he needed to verify the story.Once he heard the tale, it is hard to tell if he believed it or not but upon seeing the crown and armlet, he knew Saul and Jonathan were dead. From that moment till evening he and all the men with him form a fitting contrast to the Amalekite. He had come into town with his tall tale posing to be a true mourner, while David and his men, who have been on the run for a long time now because of Saul, don’t celebrate and sing victory songs over the death of Saul, no. They mourn.
Firstly for Saul, despite Saul’s many attempts to hunt them all down and kill them, they mourn for their king. They mourn secondly for Jonathan, remembering how the deep friendship between he and David, and all Jonathan had done to stand by and protect David. And they mourn thirdly for God’s people. They had after all been defeated in war and lost their king to their enemies. If they were suffering, David and his men would suffer too. Now, stand back and ask, ‘Why is this mourning in v11-12 the centerpiece of our passage?’ Because though all that blocks David from the throne has just been removed, how does he begin his journey toward taking the throne? With humility, mourning the LORD’s anointed. Again, what a contrast to Saul. What was he doing as the people put him forward to be their king? Hiding away off in the midst of the luggage. We’ll get an opportunity to see more of David’s lament, Lord willing, in the passage next week. For now let’s move on to what occurred next.
After he and his men mourn till evening the moment comes to deal with the Amalekite. Wee this in v13-14, where David gives a true speech.
A True Speech (v13-14)
“And David said to the young man who told him, “Where do you come from?” And he answered, “I am the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite.” David said to him, “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?”
David asks two more questions. Before he had asked in v3 where this young man had come from, now in v13 David asks where he was from. He was the son of a sojourner, an Amalekite. Meaning though he was of Amalekite descent his family had likely been in Israel for some time as sojourners, living as immigrants or resident aliens.Perhaps this is why he knew who David was and knew who Saul and Jonathan were as well. David then asks a more pointed question, “How is it you were not afraid to put out your hand to destroy the LORD’s anointed?” If this liar ever thought for a moment that he had succeeded in his tall tale, this question ended any hope he had. The LORD’s anointed is language used all throughout Scripture referring to the one God has made king and since God has made this person king, God alone can remove them as king. This is why David, though he had multiple chances, didn’t kill Saul. Remember, this Amalekite is lying, he didn’t really kill Saul. That is true. But he did claim to kill Saul to get into favor with the new king. He clearly didn’t know the character of this new king, and he ought to have known better. Perhaps it was this incident David had in mind when years later he wrote Psalm 101 saying, “No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.”
Conclusion: The Scene Ends (v15-16)
“Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go, execute him.” And he struck him down so that he died. And David said to him, “Your blood be on your head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the LORD’s anointed.’”
So, our first passage in 2 Samuel this morning begins and ends with Saul’s death. And end has truly occurred, but a new beginning is dawning. Church, learn from this Amalekite and from David. The Amalekite severely misjudged the LORD’s anointed and paid for it with his life. Lesson? God’s judgment is certain and severe, and we shouldn’t take lightly what God has made holy. David acted as judge and king on God’s behalf here. He not only looked on God’s people and mourned for them as sheep without a shepherd, he carried out the sentence on God’s enemies. In a much greater manner, this all points forward to the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s true anointed One. We must marvel anew that in Christ we have a Savior who lovingly looked on His people as lost sheep whom He then laid down His life for to save. But we also must marvel anew before Christ the King, who will at the end carry out judgment on all who reject Him.Never has justice and love ever been so sweetly mixed.
Michael G. McKelvey, 1-2 Samuel in A Biblical Theological Introduction to the Old Testament (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2016) page 203-206.
Richard D. Phillips, 2 Samuel – Reformed Expository Commentary(Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishers, 2018) page xiii-xiv.
This isn’t surprising. In the original Hebrew 1-2 Samuel were one large combined book. It was separated into two books when the OT was translated into Greek.
A.A. Alexander, 2 Samuel: Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, 1989) page 5.
John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come – Preaching the Word Commentary (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015) page 28.
Woodhouse, page 28-29.
Phillips, page 7.
Robert Alter, The David Story: A Translation with Commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel (New York, New York: Norton, 1999) page 197.
Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity – Focus on the Bible (Great Britain: Christian Focus, 1999) page 14-15.
Joyce G. Baldwin, 2 Samuel – Tyndale Commentary (Downers Grove, Illinois: IVP Academic, 1988) page 189.
Davis, page 16-17.
Alexander, page 8.
Woodhouse, page 48.
Phillips, page 14-15.