2 Samuel 5-10: David’s Military Success

Original Publication Date
January 6, 2017
Nov 1, 2022 2:08 AM
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2 Samuel 5-10
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This page was originally posted on my Blogger version of the blog on January 6, 2017 The content below has a few minor tweaks for clarity, and additional references, and some updated information.


2 Samuel 5-10 discusses the military success David has when he takes over as king, as well as, a few personal matters in David's life.

From the book of Exodus through this point, the Israelites have been complaining and neglecting God's order to drive out the Canaanite nations. These chapters bring us to a point in history where Israel was actually obeying God. These chapters mostly discuss the success of David, which include capturing of the ever-controversial city Jerusalem, moving the ark, and upholding his promise to Jonathan. Also discussed is the rift that suddenly emerges between David and his first wife, Michal. Finally, we see a semi-Messianic prophecy from the prophet Nathan.

The City of Jerusalem

Jerusalem is probably the most famous city in Israel, though Bethlehem comes to mind as well. Jerusalem is also the holiest city in the world (arguably), with holy sites from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Although the Jews of today probably still consider Jerusalem to be the capital of Israel, most of the world currently recognizes Tel Aviv as Israel's capital. Like in the days of the Bible, specifically during David's time, both the Israelites/Israelis and the Philistines/Palestinians wanted to claim the city for themselves.

Currently, Jerusalem is divided into West and East Jerusalem, kind of like Berlin after WWII. Israel captured the eastern part of the city, then seen as "international territory" by the UN, during the Six-Day War in 1967; this was considered a breach of International law. Because of the U.N.'s condemnation of Israel's occupation, countries (specifically those in the U.N.) place their embassies in Tel Aviv instead.[1]

When David took the throne, Jerusalem was occupied by the Jebusites, who were descended from Canaan.[2] Joshua had defeated the Jebusites and seemingly took the city when the Israelites entered the promised land, but the Jebusites were able to reclaim the city and no one else had been able to defeat them. Now that David was in charge, he made sure the Israelites reclaimed the territory. Perhaps the fact that the land was meant to belong to Judah, the tribe from which David descended, motivated him to recapture the city.

The Ark of the Covenant

One thing that marks Jerusalem as holy is the Temple Mount, where the Temple was built and the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Part of the conflict today is the issue that the Temple Mount is holy ground for Jews (and subsequently Christians), as well as, Muslims. When David conquered Jerusalem, none of God's holy relics were in the city. David sought to change that by moving the Ark to Jerusalem and his son completed this by building The Temple. Neither the ark, nor the tabernacle had ever been placed in Jerusalem at this point in history.[3]

The Ark is Taken to Jerusalem

David commands the Israelites to take the Ark to Jerusalem. It's not explicitly stated that God commanded David to move the ark to Jerusalem, so we are left to wonder whether he was following God's will or simply making a show of himself. David had finally captured Jerusalem and called it the city of David, putting the Ark in the city as well would have been a sign of his divine appointment.

David takes 30,000 men to retrieve the cart, which makes me wonder if it had been captured or was in hostile territory. Instead of moving it in the tradition manner with the Levites carrying it, they transport it using a cart. Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drive the cart. Interestingly, there are two Abinadabs mentioned in the book of Samuel: one is the son of Saul and the other is David's brother. Therefore, these two men were most likely David's nephews (either by blood or by law, since David was Saul's son-in-law).

The Israelites have a grand celebration as they move the Ark—another implication that Ark may have been in hostile territory. At some point during the festivities, Uzzah reaches out and touches the ark; he is subsequently killed by God. It is thought, based upon the original Hebrew of the text, that the Ark was falling and Uzzah reached out to catch or steady it. Most would consider that a good deed; furthermore, it's only natural to reach for things when they fall near you. This would explain why David is upset and considers God's execution of Uzzah a "breach" (2 Samuel 6:8).

This is an example of people placing themselves in poor situations. Had the Levites been carrying the Ark using the rods made especially for that purpose, it would not have been in danger of tipping over in the first place. The Israelites knew this was not the proper way to transport the Ark, but chose to do so anyway. Uzzah and the others had rebelled against God's law, which meant Uzzah was fresh with unclean sinfulness. In this unholy state because he had not offered a sacrifice to cleanse himself, Uzzah touched the holiest relic of the Israelites. This probably amplified God's anger.[3]

A Sign of Prosperity

Despite this, David receives one of the ultimate signs of prosperity (at least, during Biblical times) after he reclaimed Jerusalem: a son.

David's Failed Marriage

Most of discussion in these chapters focuses on David's victories, but we are briefly told of his failure with Michal. I find this to be quite the interesting subplot. Initially, Michal loves David, so much so, that she betrays her father to help David escape. Yet in 2 Samuel 6:16, suddenly Michal despises him. Yet, we aren't given any details on why Michal's heart changed. Anything we claim has to be inferred, because her point of view is completely omitted.

Unrequited Love

There's a thin line between love and hate; it's really hard for me to hate something or someone I don't love. On the off chance I don't secretly love the person or thing, usually I love (or am passionate about) someone or something that is in direct opposition of the hated person or thing. Since we already know Michal loved David in the beginning, we are left to wonder what could trigger emotions of hate. After jealousy, unrequited love comes to mind.

Michal risked her own life to save David, but we aren't told of any efforts he made to get her back while Saul was living. On top of that, he marries a ton of other women! Well, ok, in the context of David's time the number of wives he took may not have been considered "a ton," but in comparison to other men of the Bible and our current society, he married a ton of women. That had to have been hard for Michal.


Another theory is that Michal was jealous of David's other wives. There are plenty of examples of polygamy in the Bible and in modern times, but we've probably all been bitten by the jealousy bug. Some people argue polygamy is natural based on the Biblical examples, but a deeper look reveals the troubles that stem from this type of lifestyle. From wives being jealous of each other to men losing their minds trying to impress women, it’s kind of obvious why the New Testaments mandates church leaders to have only one wife. Whether the practice is generally OK in God's eyesight or not, we can all understand any feelings of jealousy Michal may have had.

I find this to be the most likely case because in 2 Samuel 6:20, Michal brings up David being "uncovered" before handmaids. The commentaries I've read do not insinuate that this is a sexual reference, though it seems that it could be.[3] Overall it seems Michal is condemning David for his joyfulness.

Young Love

The final thought that comes to mind for me, is the age at which Michal first fell in love with David. Perhaps she outgrew her love for him. Many teen girls think they're dating their soulmate only to find out that really aren't compatible. The difference is that in our culture teens don't usually get married.

The End Result

After Michal chastises David, he reminds her that God chose him as king. In 2 Samuel 6:22-23, it seems (to me at least) David refused to sleep with Michal after this point, though some assert God punished Michal by causing her to be barren.[3]

Nathan, the Prophet

2 Samuel 7 introduces us to the prophet Nathan. God gives Nathan a message for David, which includes the prompt to build a house for the Lord. It is in these verses that God promises David his kingdom would last forever. David responds humbly, praising God and trusting in His power.

I have seen people list this as a contradiction or evidence that God lied, since David's line did not remain king of Israel forever. What they forget is the fact that Jesus is from the line of David. God was not just talking about the kingdom of Israel, He was talking about the only kingdom that matters: the kingdom of Heaven! This message was given to a prophet because it is a prophecy, a Messianic prophecy.

Jonathan's Family

In 1 Samuel 20, David made a promise not to let enmity come between his family and Jonathan's; this was not an idle promise. One of the reasons God warns us about oaths, vows, and pledges, is because He expects us to keep them once we've made them. When Jonathan and David promised to be good to each others' families even after death, both parties trusted the other to uphold their end of the covenant and both believed David would emerge the victor in the skirmish between Saul and David. However, once Jonathan was dead and David had been crowned king, there was no one to verify that David honored his word—aside from God, that is.

David had 3 choices: he could have gone against his vow and pursued Jonathan's family, as is common for new kings; he could have let Jonathan's family fade into obscurity, neither fostering a positive or negative relationship with Jonathan's kin; or he could have welcomed them into his home and heart. The first option would be a direct break of the covenant David had made with Jonathan, while the second would probably have been considered a sin of omission. David wouldn't have done anything wrong, per sé, but he wouldn't have done anything good either. A true man of God, David chose the final option, in which he welcomes Jonathan's son into his home as though he were blood kin.


Determined to uphold his promise to the fullest, David seeks out surviving relatives of Saul in the hopes that he can show them kindness. In 2 Samuel 9, we see that David finds a man named Ziba, who used to be a servant of Saul and can provide the information David desires. Ziba leads him to Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan.

In addition to restoring Saul's land to Mephibosheth, David also restores Ziba as servant to the family. David instructs Ziba to work the land so that Mephibosheth "may have food to eat," adding that Mephibosheth will also eat at David's table. This command is also given to Ziba's 15 sons and his 20 servants. That's right, 20 servants. There's a line in the Disney movie Aladdin in which Aladdin (pretending to be rich and sophisticated Prince Ali) quips that he's so rich his servants have servants; apparently, this was a real thing for King Saul. To make the matter more interesting, Aladdin is set in the fiction town of Agrabah, which is supposed to be located somewhere near the Jordan River. Disney was likely trying to be humorous, but it's possible that this was normal at one point in history.

The introduction and description of Ziba challenges the interpretation of servitude and slavery people have come to believe. First, the fact that Ziba had servants proves servitude was much different in those days. American slaves did not have servants of their own. That's a huge clue that the way we think of slavery today was not how slavery was in Biblical times. The second point to be made stems from the simple fact we know his name. Slave owners in the U.S. didn't even record births, they definitely wouldn't include a slave— by name, at that— in a text they were keeping, especially a text of Biblical importance. The author of Samuel could have easily told this narrative without specifying Ziba by name, however he chose to record this servant's name for all to learn.


Although David extends his search and promise to any of Saul's descendants, Jonathan's son is the one that reaps the benefits. God works in mysterious ways, but sometimes He operates exactly the way we think He should. God rewarded Jonathan for his faithfulness by preserving his line.

Mephibosheth, Jonathan's son, was born lame. In Israel this would have made him both "useless" and a blemish on the family's name.[5] Possibly cast out from society, Mephibosheth was staying with the house of Machir, at the time David sends a messenger to get him. Upon meeting David, Mephibosheth bows down reverently. His presumption was likely that he had been summoned for death since he was a descendant of Saul. We don't know if Jonathan ever told his son about the promise between him and David, but given the knowledge that Mephibosheth was only 5 with Jonathan died, it's doubtful.[6]

David comforts Mephibosheth, promising him the land of Saul, as well as, extending an indefinite invitation to dinner, specifically inviting Mephibosheth to eat bread at the king's table. Biblically, bread is associated with covenants and friendship: the priests eat shewbread before God in the tabernacle and Jesus tells the disciples to eat bread in remembrance of Him. David inviting Mephibosheth to eat bread at his table signaled to the kingdom (and to Mephibosheth) that there was peace between them. This concept is the origin of our modern phrase "breaking bread."

David even proclaims that Mephibosheth will be like one of his own sons. We see this happen today. Close friends will often step in and raise their friend's child in the absence of the friend. We might even think of David as Mephibosheth's godfather today. Like his real father, Mephibosheth remains humble before David.

Despite being lame, Mephibosheth eventually has a son named Micha. Whether it was because of status, wealth, or something else altogether, this means Mephibosheth was still able to acquire a wife (or at the very least, convince a woman to have sex with him). This is a great example of the difference between stating something is unclean vs. treating a person as though they are worthless. Mephibosheth may have been considered unclean because of his handicap, but David showed him great love and presumably, so did his wife.

Hanun, King of Ammon

2 Samuel 10 leads with the death of the Ammonite king, who is succeeded by his son, Hanun. During David's time, the now-deceased, Ammonite king, Nahash, had not caused problems for Israel and had even shown kindness to David. David sought to repay this kindness by sending comfort to Hanun during his time of grief.

When David's messengers arrived in the city, the princes of Ammon preferred to believe the messengers were sent as spies than to comfort the new leader. From a military standpoint, I guess it makes sense, but from a human standpoint, it begs the question: why do we always believe the worst?


Hanun listens to the princes' counsel and does the unthinkable: he shaves off half of their beard and cuts off their garments. This was meant to bring shame upon the men and subsequently on David. Can you imagine taking the time to travel all the way to another country (remember they didn't have cars or planes back then!) only to be shamed for your act of kindness?

David's reaction speaks volumes on why God chose him as the leader of Israel. When he hears the news, he rushes out to meet the men who have been shamed for his sake. David also allows them to stay in seclusion until their beards grow back so that they are not subject to humiliation in the city. David takes ownership of the situation and comforts these men the way a true leader should. How often do we do that? When we stand for Jesus, people will try to shame us, but like David, Jesus will come to our aid and provide shelter for us.


Whether the Ammonites truly thought David's act was a declaration of war, or they assumed their king's act would prompt David to retaliate with war, they began preparing for war. They form an alliance with the Syrians from Bethrehob and Zoba, garnering them an army of 20,000 footmen. They go on to ally themselves with a king named Maacah to add another 1,000 men and a city called Ishtob to gain another 12,000. This sounds like quite an army!

Learning of this, David sends his trusted captain, Joab, with a host of his mightiest men to answer the call to battle. When Joab and his men get to Ammon, they realize they've been lured into a trap where they will have to fight on two fronts. This is the same technique that won the war for the allies in World War II. Joab doesn't panic at these tidings—why should he? God was with Israel!—instead he divides the men into two companies. The choice men of Israel are sent to fight the Syrians under Joab's command, and the rest are put under the command of Joab's brother Abishai to fight the Ammonites. The two brothers agree that if either has trouble defeating their enemy, the other will come to help.

Fighting on Two Fronts

We often think of life as having two sides: good and evil. If we are on God's side, that of good, then the only front we have to fight on is that of evil. However, this isn't true. Just as the Ammonites and Syrians tag teamed to place Israel in a two-front battle, the devil can come at us from multiple direction at the same time. Lucky for us God is will fight on all fronts for us.

Fleeing the Battle

When the Syrians see Joab and his army, they flee. We are not told if Israel had more men than the Syrians or if this was simply God putting fear in the enemies heart. Whatever the case, when the Ammonites discovered that the Syrians had fled, they knew the war was lost, so they fled too. At these tidings, Joab returns to Jerusalem.


Despite fleeing of their own will, these events anger the Syrians. They rally behind Hadarezer in the hopes of creating a better army that can defeat the Israelites. Naturally, David wins this battle, as well. David kills the men controlling Syria's 700 chariots along with 40,000 men who rode into battle on horses. David also defeats the Syrian captain, Shobach. This defeat was so crushing that the Syrians entered into a treaty with Israel and were afraid to make an alliance with the Ammonites again.

References and Footnotes

  1. Kate Samuelson. "Why Jerusalem Isn’t Recognized as Israel’s Capital". Time. December 16, 2016
  2. Genesis 10:15-16
  3. Matthew Henry. "2 Samuel 6 Commentary". Bible Study Tools. 2017
  4. Holman Bible Publishers. Holman KJV Study Bible. pg. 535. 2014
  5. Leviticus 21:18
  6. 2 Samuel 4:4

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