2 Samuel 20–24: Of Kings & The King

Read the Bible in 2011–2021* ◊ Week 21: Tuesday

And David spoke the words of this song to the Lord in the day that the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies and from the hand of Saul. He said,

“The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer;
My God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold and my refuge;
My savior, You save me from violence.
“I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.

2 Samuel 22:1–4

Tuesday’s Bible reading is 2 Samuel 20–24. Remember to stop and ask the Lord to teach you from His Word, to open your eyes to things He wants you to understand and do.

David’s life is drawing to a close in these final chapters of 2 Samuel. He must deal with the aftermath of Absalom’s rebellion, a famine due to Saul’s wickedness, and yet another war with the Philistines. 2 Samuel ends with listing David’s mighty men who fought with him, and David’s sin of taking a census followed by his contrition and repentance.

In the middle of the record of these events are two wonderful psalms of David. The first one is 2 Samuel 22. It is almost identical to Psalm 18 with only a few changes, and Leslie S. M’Caw and J. A. Motyer suggest Psalm 18, “appears to be a version of 2 Sa. 22, slightly revised to make it suitable for general use.”1 Here are two groups of verse to compare. You may be familiar with the song that is taken from the first verse.

I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.
The cords of death encompassed me,
And the torrents of ungodliness terrified me.
The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
And cried to my God for help;
He heard my voice out of His temple,
And my cry for help before Him came into His ears.
Psalm 18:3–6

Motyer writes that these verses in Psalm 18 are “a poem in their own right” and points out its parallel structure with the opening and closing lines that speak of “the effectiveness of prayer.”2 You can also see this in the verses from 2 Samuel 22. This is such an encouragement to us to pray when we are in distress: to first remind ourselves to call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, then tell Him of our distress, and look to His answer.

“I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised,
And I am saved from my enemies.
For the waves of death encompassed me;
The torrents of destruction overwhelmed me;
The cords of Sheol surrounded me;
The snares of death confronted me.
In my distress I called upon the Lord,
Yes, I cried to my God;
And from His temple He heard my voice,
And my cry for help came into His ears.”
2 Samuel 22:4–7

These final chapters of 2 Samuel tell not only of David, but they also describe how the people suffered because of Saul’s wickedness and David’s sin. One day there will no longer be suffering as a consequence of sinful rulers. The other psalm in these chapters is in 2 Samuel 23:1–7, known as “the last words of David,” and it describes the coming King who will reign righteously and be as the light of the morning, a morning without clouds when tender grass springs out of the earth through sunshine after rain.

Now these are the last words of David.
David the son of Jesse declares,
The man who was raised on high declares,
The anointed of the God of Jacob,
And the sweet psalmist of Israel,
“The Spirit of the Lord spoke by me,
And His word was on my tongue.
The God of Israel said,
The Rock of Israel spoke to me,
‘He who rules over men righteously,
Who rules in the fear of God,
Is as the light of the morning
when the sun rises,
A morning without clouds,
When the tender grass springs out of the earth,
Through sunshine after rain.’”
2 Samuel 23:1–4

A post at Ligonier Ministries explains why 2 Samuel 23:1–7 is called David’s last words even though later words of David are recorded.

“Toward the end of their lives, many old covenant saints gave a final speech that included warnings, blessings, or prophecies. These speeches, in turn, are often regarded as the last words of these saints even if their speakers said additional things afterward. The idea is that such speeches were the saints’ final public declarations or words of consummate importance.

“…2 Samuel 23 records David’s last spoken words of public significance. Notably, these words should be regarded chiefly as a prophecy. David himself describes the words as an “oracle” (2 Sam. 23:1 [ESV translation]), which is the name typically given to speeches uttered by prophets. Furthermore, we read that these words—like the words of the prophets—were spoken by the Spirit of the Lord who put His word on the tongue of David (vv. 2–3). So, David’s last words were actually words from God, given for the benefit of all people.

“These final words look forward to the coming messianic kingdom…The ideal leader rules in justice, and his reign brings new life, just as the sun and the rain call forth life from the earth (vv. 3–4). However, we know that no merely human king has yet reigned in perfect justice or has ruled in such a way as to give lasting life to his kingdom. Thus, these words point us ultimately to Christ, whose everlasting kingdom brings life itself to the world (John 14:6; Rom. 8:18–25).”3

Words from 2 Samuel 23:3–4 were used by Randall Thompson in his wonderful choral piece, “The Last Words of David.” I was able to sing this stirring music in a choir years ago, and it was such a blessing to practice together for many weeks, and then offer it to God in a worship service.

There are numerous videos of it on YouTube, but I chose this one because these boys and men sang of the coming perfect King while under the shadow of an oppressive government. From 2020 here is Samuel Pang conducting choirs and orchestra of the Diocesan Boys’ School, an Anglican school in Hong Kong.

He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God.
And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds;
as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
Alleluia. Amen.

…and He will reign forever and ever.


Isaiah 42 Photograph: ChristianPhotos.net – Free High Resolution Photos for Christian Publications. (Site has been deleted since posting).
Rain on grassadrian.benko:  GFDL-1.2-or-later. (CC BY-SA 3.0).
1Leslie S. M’Caw, J. A. Motyer, “Psalms,” The New Bible Commentary: Revised, D. Guthrie, J. A. Motyer, eds., A. M. Stibbs, D. J. Wiseman, contributing eds. (Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove IL: 1970) 461.
2Alec Motyer, Psalms By The Day: A New Devotional Translation (Christian Focus Publications Ltd, Ross-shire, Scotland, U.K. 2016) 45.
3David’s Last Words,” Ligonier Devotionals, Copyright 2019 by Ligonier Ministries.
Video “The Last Words of David,” Samuel Pang conducting:
Diocesan Boys’ School Primary Division, Secondary Division, Diocesan School Old Boys’ Association choirs. DBS Symphony Orchestra

*In 2011 I started a year-long series of posts, “Read the Bible in 2011.” You can find the other posts in the navigation menu in the header. If a day doesn’t have a link to a post, the post was simply a brief reminder about the reading. I’m filling in some of those gaps with new posts with “Read the Bible in 2011 Redux” as a category.

Copyright ©2011–2021 Iwana Carpenter

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