Bible Bites – The Last Words of King David

Bible Bites TeethIn 2 Samuel 23:2-7, King David’s last oracle from God is recorded; the final words of the man after God’s own heart.  What does a wise king, a man who has seen so terribly much, have to say at the final curtain of his life?

“The Spirit of the Lord speaks by me;
his word is on my tongue.
The God of Israel has spoken;
the Rock of Israel has said to me:
When one rules justly over men,
ruling in the fear of God,
he dawns on them like the morning light,
like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning,
like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.

“For does not my house stand so with God?
For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
ordered in all things and secure.
For will he not cause to prosper
all my help and my desire?
But worthless men are all like thorns that are thrown away,
for they cannot be taken with the hand;
but the man who touches them
arms himself with iron and the shaft of a spear,
and they are utterly consumed with fire.”

Quickly breaking it down, here’s a brief summation:

Vs. 2 – This is a great 1-sentence definition of “prophecy” in the Old Testament: God’s words on a man’s tongue.

Vs. 3a – David’s words are divine revelation, so listen up!

Vs. 3b-4 – The Universal Order of Rule: The ruler who fears the Lord is exalted by the Lord and esteemed by the people.

(The rule for all those who govern)

Vs. 5-6 – The Universal Order of Reality: God establishes and blesses the righteous, but God curses the wicked…

(The underlying reason for the rule)

Vs. 7 – The Universal Ordinance to Rulers: Stay away from the wicked or you’ll get burned.

(The implications of the rule and the underlying reality).

For some reason, at the end of his life, the only thing on David’s mind was living a righteous life and avoiding both wickedness and wicked men.  This is after surviving a few thousand Philistines, a national manhunt, a betrayal and coup, a murderous and adulterous scandal, and a few other (thousand) events of note.  After all the headlines were dusty, after all his enemies were dead or disinterested, after all the dust had settled, David only had one thing on his mind, kinda like his wise son who followed him:

“Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.” – Ecclesiastes 12:13-14

Write it down…in ink on your arm.

For real.

If you want to get a tattoo, don’t get something stupid, cliche, horribly dated, or temporarily cool/significant.

Get something written on your flesh that you will always need to remember.

Until Next Time,

Lyndon “The Arm-decorating Theologian” Unger

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6 thoughts on “Bible Bites – The Last Words of King David

  1. Hey, Lyndon (thanks for your response to me last week, my life has been real busy and I thought you’d be all busy with pregnancy and/or baby – so didn’t reengage that post).

    On the David post; a couple thoughts/comments – questions
    I’ve always had some musings about David’s final days/death scene.
    I agree that David ‘was a man after God’s heart’ however, wonder about some things like: the warm but beautiful babes that kept him warm late at night (hmmmm). 1 Kings 2 we get a hit list – Joab: ‘don’t let his gray head go down to the grave in peace’ and then Shimei: David knows how to hold a grudge doesn’t he?

    What do you think about David acting like a bit of a Mafia Don or like any other king who ensures that the next one on the throne has some stability with your statements that say David only had “one thing on his mind” – living a righteous life / avoiding wicked men. Would you say offing Shimei was him avoiding an evil man – the narrative reads more like an cranky old man settling a score from the grave.

    I find some encouragement that someone who may not die quite as gloriously close to God as your comments make out can still gets to be called someone after God’s own heart. I get that you are focussing on the oracle being the very last words of David – that would make an interesting sermon thrust. But the 1 Kings text tells us that after he organized his hit list David died: Then David rested with his ancestors. So the 1 Kings text also deals with David’s end of life issues.

    Life is more complicated that the Sunday School lessons I learned when I was a kid – it certainly seems so as I grow older.
    I hope all is well on the family front.

    • Larry,

      I am certainly busy with a newborn. Quick thoughts then.

      David definitely died a sinner, just as he lived. He was a redeemed sinner, but a sinner none the less.

      1. I don’t understand your suspicion of the text. 1 Kings 1:2-4 says that David’s servants sent for Abishag and David didn’t know her sexually. There’s sin there, but not the kind of *wink wink* you’re getting at. It says quite plainly ” the king knew her not” (1 Kings 1:4).

      2. David’s “hit list” isn’t a hit list at all; I’d strongly suggest that you’re misrepresenting the scripture to make your point. David is warning Solomon about 2 treacherous men and giving him some wisdom and foresight based on how they’ve acted in the past. David knows that these men will be a thorn in Solomon’s side once he’s gone (as in 1 Kings 1:5-8 where Joab betrayed Solomon before David had even died) and reminds Solomon that those men aren’t innocent by any stretch of the word.

      Solomon treats them accordingly but doesn’t put out a “hit” on them. Far from it! They both die due to their own actions:

      – No longer than immediately after David’s death does Adonijah, Abiathar and Joab conspire to machinate Israel against Solomon in what is the 1st step of another attempt at the throne: securing Abishag as Adonijah’s wife (and Solomon recognizes it as such in 1 Kings 2:22). Adonijah and Joab rightly pay with their lives, and Abiathar is graciously spared because of his service to David. In every era in history, conspiring against the ruler is treason and treason is a capital crime. There’s no grudge or vindictive “assassination” here; there’s justice against traitors. You need to re-read 1 Kings 2:13-35, pay attention to the details, and remember that Joab and Adonijah were working on their second act of treason.

      Joab and Adonijah chose to die.

      – Shimei is confined to Jerusalem on threat of death (to prevent him from conspiring against Solomon) in 1 Kings 2:36-38 and in 1 Kings 2:39-46 Shimei ignores his house-arrest rules, overtly defiling Solomon (and going to the Philistine city of Gath, no less) and pays the consequence for violating the oath that he himself made.

      Shimei chose to die.

      3. David also didn’t “off” anyone. Solomon gave the order and Solomon had more than sufficient reason to order their execution.

      4. I agree that the stories in the scripture are more complex than either of us were apparently told in Sunday School. I’m also suspicious that they’re far more complex than being summed up by movie allusions. David was no mafia don. David understood national politics and the dangers of pretending that clever and connected traitors were simply misunderstood or in need of a hug.

  2. Lyndon,

    Thanks for your response. Busy times with newborn. Hopefully blogging and responding to gentle push-backs to your posts can be a restful diversion for you.

    I’m not suspicious of the biblical text. I am reacting to your post by further biblical texts to bear on the statements such as: “For some reason, at the end of his life, the only thing on David’s mind was living a righteous life and avoiding both wickedness and wicked men.” and “After all the headlines were dusty, after all his enemies were dead or disinterested, after all the dust had settled, David only had one thing on his mind, kinda like his wise son who followed him.” (don’t get me started on what else was on Solomon’s mind besides following God’s commandments). All I am pointing out is that David’s end of life issues are more complex than your post suggesting David singular devotion to God.

    My response to your pushback to my pushback 🙂

    1. You are reading too much into my “hmmm.” You indicated that the situation (beautiful babe brought in to keep David warm) was sinful. Your categorization that this was sin is a stronger statement than I would want to make. I see the juicy tidbit of David’s staff looking for a beautiful virgin to keep the king warm as an indication that David conducted himself pretty much like any other ANE king – confirming what God told the Israelites they would get when they asked for a king just like the other nations (1 Samuel 8). My point: the night before David dropped dead with God’s oracle on his lips he was tended by a beautiful babe his underlings had found for him. This flavours the way I read your characterization of David’s death bed whole hearted devotion to God. Sure David was devoted to God, but that didn’t stop him from keeping eye candy around. Why not any of his other wives/concubines to keep him warm or tend to his needs?

    2. Lyndon wrote: “David’s “hit list” isn’t a hit list at all; I’d strongly suggest that you’re misrepresenting the scripture to make your point. David is warning Solomon about 2 treacherous men.”

    Lyndon give an inch here or I might think you are just being stubborn. Please show how, “do not let his gray head go down to the grave in peace” (1 Kings 2:6) and “Bring his gray head down to the grave in blood.” (1 Kings 2:9 TNIV) are not David’s death bed instructions to kill (aka hit list). How is this a misrepresentation?

    Your further comments under point 2 outline Solomon’s actions. All I am saying is that David ordered hits from his death bed just like any other ANE king or a mafia don would do. Lyndon, I’m puzzled by your reluctance to simply take the text at face value. I agree, David didn’t “off” either Joab or Shimei, however, he orders their death = same result.

    I reacted to your post based on my observation of a life-time within evangelical / fundamentalist churches hearing sermons, hearing Sunday school comments where everything from the biblical texts seems to happen on Sunday. In other words: the grittiness of the real-life we see within the biblical narratives gets coated over with super piety.

    If I may continue with observations of your post: I’m wondering about where you get this comment from: Vs. 3b-4 – The Universal Order of Rule: The ruler who fears the Lord is exalted by the Lord and esteemed by the people.

    How do you get “esteemed by the people” from that text? I don’t see anything in verse four about the governed people’s response to the righteous ruler. Rather, it is the blessing of righteous rule upon the people as per: “he dawns on them”. Where in verse four or the text unit is there anything about the people’s response to the righteous king?

  3. How to live a righteous life?
    1) Ask God for the will to follow him and and the will to be a Saint (this last one is by Thomas Aquinas)
    2) Pray daily
    3) Read the Bible, look for interpretations
    4) Go to mass on sunday
    5) confess frequently

    • Ah. One would think that righteousness would somehow, or in some way, involve Christ or the Holy Spirit. Also, one would think that living righteously would involve a little more than shallow and empty outward actions…like obeying the Scriptures rather than just reading it.

      Thanks for reminding me we I’m still a Protestant. Catholicism is still as vapid and pagan as it was 500 years ago.

      • “like obeying the Scriptures rather than just reading it.”

        True, the first two to obey would be:
        1) “Confess your sins to one another”
        2) “Therefore what God has joined together, let man not separate.”

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