Wednesday

12 January 2022

2 Samuel 5:1-5

'It is you [David] who shall be shepherd of my people Israel.' (v. 2)

Psalm 50:1-15

Background

This passage describes the reunification of God’s people in their Promised Land.  Saul had ruled over a united confederacy of the 12 tribes. But there were rifts. David had been a successful army commander for Saul (which is the meaning of v.2a). Then there was a massive falling out between the two. Saul, insecure and increasingly jealous of David’s popularity, tried to kill David – a plot thwarted by Saul’s son, Jonathan.

After Saul’s death, the loose confederation began to fall apart. Judah opted out altogether and anointed David as their king at Hebron (a city 20 miles south-west of Jerusalem). Seven and a half years later, the remaining tribes (‘Israel’), having put up with unsatisfactory and argumentative leaders, came together (‘all the tribes of Israel’, verses  1 and 3). They sought out David to be their king too. David became king of all God’s people and moved his headquarters to Jerusalem (v. 5).

The king-making ceremony comprised two components. First, a covenant, or pact, that David insisted on.  Presumably he did this to spell out the extent of his authority and the obedience that he expected of the tribes. Second,  there was an act of anointing (v. 3). David would be ‘shepherd’ of all Israel and Judah (v. 2b).  ‘Shepherd’ was an important metaphor for God’s rule over God’s people (eg Psalm 23). It became the usual image for a king in Israel and for all other leaders. The stress was on the king providing food and resources for the people, seeking out the lost, caring for the wounded and ensuring safety (Ezekiel 34.15-16).

In other traditions (see 1 Samuel 16) David, while a young boy, was a shepherd. At God’s direction the prophet Samuel anointed the boy as the prospective king of God’s people. God’s spirit was with him thereafter. David’s rule brought Israel prosperity and peace and he established the benchmark of good kingship (Ezekiel 34.23-24).

 

To Ponder:

  • When we read the New Testament, we see the obligation laid on churches to be one new community of faith, hope and love. Why is the energy for ecumenical exploration so feeble in the modern era? Are there nevertheless examples you know about, of generous sharing across denominational boundaries, that you believe can inspire others? Are there practical steps you can take locally to break through the inertia towards a richer ecumenical life?
  • In our mainly urban settings, are there everyday images that could be applied to church leadership that cover the main themes of ‘shepherding’ in the biblical world? What words and images encapsulate the essence of Christian care and oversight?

Bible notes author

The Revd David Deeks

The Revd David Deeks is a retired Methodist minister. He has always focused on theology and spirituality as practical themes.

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