A Different Set of Standard

And Hiram king of Tyre sent messengers to David, and cedar trees, also carpenters and masons who built David a house. And David knew that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel.

And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David. And these are the names of those who were born to him in Jerusalem: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, Elishama, Eliada, and Eliphelet. – 2 Samuel 5:10-16 ESV

Verses 11-12 appear as almost a parenthetical statement, but are intended to provide further proof of David’s increasing control and power over Israel. Hiram, the king of Tyre reigned from 980-947 B.C., so that would mean that his gift of cedar trees, carpenters and masons would have been much later in David’s reign, long after he had established Jerusalem as his capital. But they give evidence of the growing recognition of David as the rightful king of Israel. News of his crowning as king over all of Israel had spread. As we shall see in the next section of this same chapter, even the Philistines had heard the news and would try to do something about it. Only, they would not come bearing gifts or offering to construct David a palace. But more about that tomorrow.

The interesting thing in these verses is the statement that says, “David knew that the Lor had established him as king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel” (2 Samuel 5:12 ESV). David was fully aware that his reign had been God’s doing, from beginning to end. Every phase of his life, from his original anointing by Samuel up until this moment, had been God’s doing. And David also knew that his ascension to the throne of Israel had not been for his own sake, but for the sake of the people of Israel. He had been made king by God so that he might rule the people of God justly and righteously. He was God’s hand-picked agent, His earthly representative, chosen to care for and protect His people. David fully understood his divine role, later putting his thoughts in words in the form of a psalm:

How the king rejoices in your strength, O Lord!
    He shouts with joy because you give him victory.
For you have given him his heart’s desire;
    you have withheld nothing he requested. Interlude

You welcomed him back with success and prosperity.
    You placed a crown of finest gold on his head.
He asked you to preserve his life,
    and you granted his request.
    The days of his life stretch on forever.
Your victory brings him great honor,
    and you have clothed him with splendor and majesty.
You have endowed him with eternal blessings
    and given him the joy of your presence.
For the king trusts in the Lord.
    The unfailing love of the Most High will keep him from stumbling. – Psalm 21:1-7 NLT

.And yet, even with David’s awareness of his God-ordained role and his complete dependence upon God’s good favor for his reign to be successful, we see that David still had the capacity to disobey the very One who made his kingship possible. Verse 13 provides a stark reminder that David had a dark side. And it is not something we are to overlook or ignore. The author could have left it out, but under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this less-attractive aspect of David’s life was included. It simply says, “And David took more concubines and wives from Jerusalem, after he came from Hebron, and more sons and daughters were born to David” (2 Samuel 5:13 ESV). It would be easy to read this as just another indication of David’s growing power and significance. For any other king of any other nation, that would probably be an accurate interpretation. Except that David is NOT just another king, and Israel is far from just another nation. David is God’s hand-picked ruler over His chosen people. And as such, David answered to a higher authority and was held to a higher standard. We can’t forget what God had told the people of Israel regarding the day when they asked to have a king.

“The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.

“When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel. ”– Deuteronomy 17:17-20 NLT

God’s king was not to be like all the other kings. He was to operate according to a different set of standards. What was acceptable and expected for other kings of other nations was not okay for David. Other kings might be able to use their power and authority to justify all kinds of self-satisfying, self-promoting actions, but not David. And yet, we see David continuing to multiply wives for himself, in direct disobedience to the command of God.

The second part of the Deuteronomy passage provides an important element of God’s command for His king. He was to be a man who knew well the words of God. He was to keep it before himself at all times. He was to have the instructions of God read to himself daily. Why? So he would learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. David wasn’t free to approach God’s commands cafeteria-style, choosing those that seemed most attractive and ignoring the ones he didn’t like. He was to obey them ALL. That included God’s commands regarding the taking of many wives. Because God knew that the king’s disobedience to that command would ultimately result in the distancing of the king’s heart from God.

One of the things David failed to recognize was that his reign was setting the standard for future kings. What he did, they would do. Future generations of Israelite kings would follow his lead and many would take his small acts of disobedience and magnify them. What David did in moderation, his heirs would do to excess. Even David’s construction of a personal palace, with the help of King Hiram, would prove to set a precedence for future kings and God would have strong words them.

And the Lord says, “What sorrow awaits Jehoiakim,
    who builds his palace with forced labor.
He builds injustice into its walls,
    for he makes his neighbors work for nothing.
    He does not pay them for their labor.
He says, ‘I will build a magnificent palace
    with huge rooms and many windows.
I will panel it throughout with fragrant cedar
    and paint it a lovely red.’
But a beautiful cedar palace does not make a great king!
    Your father, Josiah, also had plenty to eat and drink.
But he was just and right in all his dealings.
    That is why God blessed him.
He gave justice and help to the poor and needy,
    and everything went well for him.
Isn’t that what it means to know me?”
    says the Lord.
“But you! You have eyes only for greed and dishonesty!
    You murder the innocent,
    oppress the poor, and reign ruthlessly.” – Jeremiah 22:13-17 NLT

David’s reign was in its early stages, and each and every step he took and decision he made at this early juncture would prove to be critical. His decisions would have long-term ramifications. Even reading the list of sons born to him by his growing harem of wives indicate that David’s actions had future implications. There, nestled discretely in the list of sons is the name of Solomon, the very one who would follow David as king of Israel. And he would prove to be his father’s son, in more ways than one.

Now King Solomon loved many foreign women, along with the daughter of Pharaoh: Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the Lord had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods.” Solomon clung to these in love. He had 700 wives, who were princesses, and 300 concubines. And his wives turned away his heart. For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. – 1 Kings 11:1-4 ESV

David was God’s king. But he didn’t always rule God’s way. As a follower of Jesus Christ, I am God’s son, His heir, but that doesn’t mean I always live like one. Obedience is the true mark of sonship. Fearing God begins with obeying God. Even Jesus said, “If you love me, obey my commandments” (John 14:15 NLT). The apostle John took it a step further, writing, “And we can be sure that we know him if we obey his commandments” (1 John 2:3 NLT). The greatest proof of David’s love for God would be found in his obedience to the commands of God. And the same thing holds true for us today. Love without obedience is hypocrisy. Claiming to love God while continuing to disobey God reflect a love of self, not a love of God. And every one of us, just like David, face this danger every day of our lives.

English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

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