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2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 – Becoming the King of Israel

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inwards. And David became greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts, was with him.


This is an optional Old Testament selection from the Episcopal Lectionary for the Seventh Sunday after Pentecost, Year B 2018. In the numbering system that lists each Sunday in an ordinal fashion, this Sunday is referred to as Proper 9. If chosen, it will next be read aloud in a church by a reader, on Sunday July 8, 2018. It is important as it points out how the Israelites admitted their mistake in choosing a king that was not anointed by God, beginning a new forty-year period under a recognized a true judge.

In this reading, the most significant statement it contains is: “David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years.” This is significant because this is the only statement that says anything about David’s age.

While we read on the fourth Sunday after Pentecost, “Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep,” we know David was the youngest son of Jesse.  On the fifth Sunday after Pentecost [optional selection] we read, “Saul said to David, “You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy,” we can be confused when some translations change “young boy” into “young man.”  An Internet search of “How old was David when he killed Goliath?” returns a common sense that he was “about sixteen.”

In reality, we do not know how old David was when he was anointed by Samuel.  Thus, we do not know how old he was when he slew Goliath. There is nothing written in 1 Samuel that states how much time elapsed between David’s anointment by Samuel and when he was sent by Jesse to take food to his brothers, who were sent to fight against the Philistines and Goliath.  David could have been anointed at age ten (a Numerological 1 [1 + 0 = 1]).  The number one indicates new beginnings.  David could have killed Goliath when he was twelve (a Numerological 3 [1 + 2 = 3]).  The number three is symbolic of a significant initial completion.

Last Sunday [the sixth Sunday after Pentecost], we read [optional selection] of David being told of Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths, to which he wrote a song and had it placed in the Book of Jashar. At that time, David was in Ziklag. No indication was made that David was a king then; but now we read, “All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron,” and “All the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron.” Here is a map of those locations:

In my interpretation of the sixth Sunday after Pentecost reading option, I mentioned that Saul and three of his sons were killed at the battle of Mount Gilboa, with their mutilated bodies disgracefully hung at a holy place in Beth Shan. Allies of Saul, from Jabesh Gilead, reacted to that desecration and recovered the bodies, burned them, and then buried the remains properly. At the time of that defeat of Saul, David was avenging the sack of Ziklag by the Amakelites (Arabian nomads), who took all of the wives there.  The King of Gath had given David Ziklag, but the Amakelites  destroyed the city while David and his men were making raids.  As the spoils, the Amakelites took all the women of Ziklag, which were the wives of David and his six hundred soldiers (Judeans). This implies that David might have been treated like the King of Judah, only not based in Hebron, but he was not made King of Judah until after Saul’s death.  Judah remained loyal to David, rather than be ruled by Saul’s heir, Ish-Bosheth.

The statement that “David was thirty years old when he began to reign” allows one to be able to time this change with the reign of Saul and his son Ish-Bosheth. Saul reigned for 42 years; and after his death, Ish- Bosheth reigned for two years, before he was murdered. Because the three other sons of Saul died along with him at the battle of Mount Gilboa, the murder of Ish-Bosheth ended the line of Saul. Since there were no other issue to whom the reign of Israel could be given, the elders of Israel sought David.

When one knows that from the time the elders went to Samuel and asked for a king, “to be like other nations,” forty-four years elapsed and David was only thirty years of age. This means that Saul reigned over Israel fourteen years before David was born. Because we are told that Ish-Bosheth was forty years of age when he took over rule of Israel following his father’s death (2 Samuel 2:10), one can assume that he was Saul’s first-born male heir (born in the second year of Saul’s reign), with Jonathan his last born son. Jonathan would then have been born three or four years before David’s birth, which would have made him fifteen or sixteen when David was ‘adopted’ by Saul, assuming David killed Goliath when he was age twelve. That closeness in age would explain the bond that took place between Jonathan and David. Jonathan saw David as his younger brother, whom he had to protect.

When we read the Hebrew word “na-‘ar” in 1 Samuel 17:33, which was when David said he would respond to the challenge of Goliath, but Saul refused, saying, “For you are but a youth while he has been a warrior from his youth,” the meaning is “boy, lad, youth, or child.” The implication is that David was not a mature male.  He was biologically incapable of reproduction. While the word means “male child,” one that has not yet reached a level of maturity that would change his status from boy to young man, this says that David was under the age of thirteen when he faced Goliath.  The teen years generally signify when boys physically change from innocent males to fertile young men.  A Jewish bar mitzvah is when a male turns thirteen.

In 1 Samuel 18:2 we read, “Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house,” which occurred when the souls of David and Jonathan bonded as brothers. Between that ‘adoption’ at age twelve, until we read, “So it came about at the time when Merab, Saul’s daughter, should have been given to David” (1 Samuel 18:19), four years’ time had passed and David had turned sixteen. With this sense of timing, when we later read, “So Saul gave him Michal his daughter for a wife,” (1 Samuel 18:27c) David was probably seventeen by then, having led men into battle to kill two hundred Philistines in order to pay the dowry (100 foreskins of Philistines).

It was at this age that David was banished from Saul’s house, causing him to go into exile. From the age of seventeen to twenty-eight (eleven – twelve years), David eluded Saul, fought for the Philistine king in Gath, spared Saul’s life twice, and was given the ‘border town’ Ziklag (between Philistia and Judah), because he had assisted the Philistines so they could war with Saul. Saul died when David was twenty-eight and David heard that news in Ziklag.

When this reading selection says, “At Hebron [David] reigned over Judah seven years and six months,” the six months were prior to Ish-Bosheth being murdered. That means David was named the King of Judah a year and a half after Saul died. This is stated at the beginning of 2 Samuel, where verse one says, “Then it came about afterwards that David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” So David said, “Where shall I go up?” And He said, “To Hebron.” That means David was twenty-nine and a half years of age when he first became King of Judah, and when he became King of all Israel he was thirty.

When we then see this timing element, it is understandable to see that David reigned as king in Hebron after the elders visited his and asked him to be the King of Israel – all the twelve tribes. He remained in Hebron as King of Israel for seven more years, before he moved to Jerusalem. That move required David lead soldiers to defeat the Jebusites of Jebus, whose stronghold had existed since the days of Genesis, when the place was called Salem. Joshua could not overthrow that stronghold, so they lived among the Benjaminites. David, however, “captured the stronghold of Zion, that is the city of David,” (2 Samuel 5:7) which was held by Jebusites (2 Samuel 5:6). David renamed the fortress the City of David and then built the city of Jerusalem around it.

When we read, “David built the city all around from the Millo inwards,” the Hebrew word “ham-mil-lō-w” is given proper name status in translation as “Millo.” The lower-case spelling, as “millo,” refers to “earthwork, mound, rampart or terrace,” with the website Abarim Publications stating the name meaning of “Millo” comes from the verb, “to be full or be filled.” Still, no one is sure what the word truly means, making its presence in this verse confusing.

In my mind, as a reason why Joshua could not defeat the Jebusites was there was more than a stronghold carved into the natural rock slope of Mount Zion. The elevations of Jerusalem are generally lower than the heights of the surrounding mountains (Mount Scopus – 2,710’, Mount Olivet – 2,710’, and the Mount of Corruption – 2,451’).   Because Mount Zion (place of the City of David) has an elevation of 2,510’ and Mount Moriah (where Solomon would build his temple) is at 2,520’, a fortress built on lower ground is strategically difficult to defend. The Romans would later demonstrate the advantage of controlling higher ground, as Jerusalem’s walls were easily overcome by catapults situated on the surrounding higher mountains (Mount Scorpus in particular).  This military weakness makes the millo a significant asset that David would discover and utilize.

One way of reading “millo” is as a “natural rock formation,” which was then further enhanced by man-made construction that built what was natural into a purposeful fortress or stronghold. Still, that rock wall has to be realized as an outward barrier that poses problems to those unwanted. The “inward” (“wā-ḇā-yə-ṯāh.“) building is then not what buildings were raised behind that enhanced natural barrier, but those within the rock itself.  The Hebrew word bayith” means “beneath,  below, armory, tomb, and turned inwards, as well as indicating “a shelter for animals” (where stables were usually natural caves).

This means the digging out of natural caves, which created man-made tunnels within the rock. It is well known that an ancient tunnel acted as an aqueduct, where water was a necessity for soldiers defending a citadel.  As a “millo” is sometimes read as “a storage place,” such as an armory, tunnels could be used to “fill” them, so tunnels could store food, arms, and people.  With the entrances sealed or covered, attacking enemies could not find those in hiding. The tunnels could also provide escape passages, as well as traps for those not familiar with their design and purpose.

This was a pre-existing asset in Jebus, which David discovered when he and his men conquered Jubus.  Once discovered, David utilized the engineering of the Jebusites in the building of Jerusalem; and Solomon would further utilize tunnels in the building of the Temple of Solomon. This means “Millo” is stated as an important characteristic of Jerusalem, both ancient and still today.

As a reading option for the seventh Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s personal ministry to the LORD should be underway, one should see this reading personally. The elders of Israel should be seen as one’s body (“Look, we are your bone and flesh.”) being in need to be ruled divinely. The reign of Saul means a body ruled by all the fears and anxieties of trying to stand strong in a world that is a never-ending challenge, offering one battle after another.

Saul overcome by evil gods.

The death of Saul means oneself has reached a point of decision, where the ego (the elders) has surrendered to God. When you want God to become your King, then you become Jesus Christ, as the root from Jesse that was David.

To reach that state of commitment, one has to have done some things good and been rewarded. The self has “led out [one’s body] and brought it in” to the cheers and admiration of others. One knows what is right and good, but one has bowed down to the gods of evil (“elohim rū·aḥ”) on many occasions, because they say, “Serve self, not God,” which is so much easier to do. Leading a parade of warriors, like David, or leading a band of disciples, like Jesus, is so hard to do, as it requires special talents. It is the talent Saul lacked, which is what all righteous leaders have. One has to commit to marriage to God, so He sits on the throne of one’s heart, commanding the brain that sits at the head of the body.

The palace of self is where one has ruled and is where one has become comfortable, but God will call the self to seek Jerusalem within, the City of Jesus Christ. Hebron can be seen as one’s church, where one becomes active as a leader, but one needs to conquer the Holy City of Jebus and make oneself a fortress that serves the One God above. In that development, one will take the natural formations that exist and strengthen them inwardly. New paths will open before oneself, which one needs to fortify and dig deeper to explore where God wants one to develop.

Three times ten represents the potential for a higher level of basic three: God’s love, devotion to righteousness, and spiritual union.

Both David and Jesus began their official ministry at the age of thirty, but that is not the physical age requirement for ministry to the LORD. Thirty is three times ten, which is a higher level three Numerologically (as 3 + 0 = 3), the number of the Trinity. The symbolism says that one has to be more than a son (or daughter) of a man (a basic 3). One needs to become King of Self (a third ten) as Jesus Christ the King reborn.  As Christ resurrected within a body, the Son is resurrected, with the soul cleansed by the Holy Spirit, while the presence of God is in one’s heart. When that perfection is complete, then one has turned a “holy thirty.”

Ministry to the LORD means one develops as David reborn on earth, as Jesus Christ resurrected. It means being the Good Shepherd for the people in one’s life.  When that reign begins, “Oneself becomes greater and greater, for the Lord, the God of hosts.” That greatness is because the same God that “was with [David]” is with one married to the LORD.

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