|Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 26: Samuel 15:1-14, 23-31, The Mount of Olives|
|Random Walk in a Gallery of Religious Art, Step 27: 2 Samuel 18:1-17; 18:31 – 19:8, David mourns Absalom|
These books would be of profound interest to scholars and historians, and probably of
some interest to Christians and Jews, if they turned up. Would they be scripture?
Probably not, because even if they were extremely valuable for spiritual growth, the
entirety of Jewry or the Church would have to agree to canonize them, and that's so
unlikely that I can't even imagine it. The loss of these books shouldn't worry you,
however. Anything that's important to salvation is in the Bible we have.
There's one more book mentioned in the Bible, and it is important to salvation: the Book of Life. Rev. 20:12 says "I also saw all the dead people standing in front of that throne. Every one of them was there, no matter who they had once been. Several books were opened, and then the book of life was opened. The dead were judged by what those books said they had done." Make sure your name is written in the Book of Life.
2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10
Washington, DC, was built where it is as a compromise between states that wanted the federal capital in the North, and those that wanted it in the South. (States here in the West didn't get a vote, because they didn't exist yet.) It may be that our founding fathers were thinking about David when they came to this compromise. He had been ruling in Judah for seven years, and now Israel wanted him to be their king, too. Instead of keeping his capital at Hebron in Judah or moving it to Israel, he went out and conquered a centrally located fortress on Mt. Zion and made it his capital. For this reason Jerusalem is also called the City of David.
2 Samuel 6:1-11
Remember that David went out of his way to create a capital city, Jerusalem, that would be acceptable to both the northern tribes of Israel and the southern tribes of Judah. Another canny move was to make the political capital the center of worship as well by bringing the Ark of the Covenant there. This insured that everyone in the two parts of the country got to rub shoulders on the feast days, and it had the potential to glue them together in a lasting way. Under Solomon's son, things fell apart, but we'll learn more about that later.
2 Samuel 6:12-22 David celebrates the entry of the Ark into Jerusalem (3/30/09)
Jerusalem is so important to Judaism and Christianity that we are surprised to learn that originally the city was not part of the kingdom of Israel at all. After David became king over all the tribes of Israel, he astutely went out and captured Jerusalem – creating a neutral capital that had not previously belonged either to the Northern tribes or to the Southern tribes. First he made it his political capital, and then he made it the center of worship by bringing the Ark of the Covenant into the city. The Ark's entry into Jerusalem was a joyous occasion. David danced in front of the Ark wearing, roughly speaking, a loin cloth. He made sacrifices to God every couple of yards along the route and gave gifts to everyone who came to see the triumphal procession. Not everyone was happy. His wife Michal, the daughter of Saul, sneered at him for being undignified. David responded that if celebrating before the Lord is undignified, so be it. He himself would be content with honor from slave girls.
2 Samuel 7:1-26, Nathan prophesies that God will build King David’s house.
Several years passed. Saul died, and David became king over all of Israel. David was devout, charismatic, and politically astute. He executed the man responsible for Saul's death, which gave him some standing with Saul's followers. Next, he went out and captured a foreign city – Jerusalem – and made it the new capital. Jerusalem had no ties to either the southern or northern tribes, and it was more centrally located than his old capital, Hebron. Then he went to Gibeah and brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem, making that city the center of worship as well. By these actions, he unified the kingdom. In today's passage he gets to thinking that maybe he should build a better "house" for God. At first, Nathan the prophet approves of this plan. Then God says to Nathan, "No, tell David he's not going to build me a house (a temple), I'm going to build him a house (a dynasty)." In addition to his other characteristics, David was a man of great humility. His response to God's message delivered by Nathan shows why David's dynasty, and not Saul's, was in favor with God.
2 Samuel 7:1-14
The writers of the Old Testament delighted in double meanings. David is sitting in his palace – his house. He thinks, "Wow! This is a great house I've got here, but the LORD is still in a tent. I can fix that." The prophet Nathan tells David to build a house for God – a temple. But then God tells Nathan that he doesn't want David to build him a house; instead, God is going to build David a house – a dynasty – and David's son will build God's house. David says, okay, but he's still going to get the men and materials ready, and he does that that in the chapters following today's reading. We must entrust our futures to God, but meantime, we can do everything in our power to prepare for the work God wants to be done by others.
2 Samuel 11:1-15; Psalms 14
Remember the psalm we read a few weeks ago, in which David said he always obeyed God's law? I commented that he must have been a very young man when he wrote that. Later he learned that he was just as capable of sin as anyone else – and not any so-called "little" sin, either, but adultery and murder. In today's psalm he says, "From heaven the LORD looks down to see if anyone is wise enough to search for him. But all of them are corrupt; no one does right."
2 Samuel 11:26-12:13
Have your own words ever come back to haunt you? When I read Psalm 52 along with this reading from 2 Samuel--wow! it is chilling. Several years prior to his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of Uriah, David wrote Psalm 52 about Doeg the Edomite. I wonder if his own words came back to him when Nathan said, "You are that man!
Guess what? The Mount of Olives, being a mountain, was in the same place in David’s time that it was in Jesus’ time: just across the Kidron Valley from Jerusalem. Absalom, King David’s third son, was responsible for the murder of his oldest brother, Amnon, and we never hear anything about Chileab, David’s second son, so maybe he died young or something. Absalom felt that he was the logical choice to follow his father David to the throne of the kingdom, but he couldn’t wait. He rebelled against David, and David and his people fled the city of Jerusalem, crossed the Kidron Brook, and went to the Mount of Olives. Our illustration today shows the Mount of Olives from the walls of Jerusalem, probably as it looked in the 19th century. There weren’t many trees there by that time, but try to imagine it covered with trees, as it might have been when David “headed out toward the road that leads to the wilderness.”
Previous Step. Next Step.
"Mount of Olives, from Jerusalem" from the Thomas family Bible,
now in a private collection of a family member.
It’s a terrible thing to lose a child, and David was justifiably grieved for his son. Nevertheless, this particular son had alienated the affections of many of his father the king’s people, raped his father’s concubines, and led a rebellion against his father that cost the lives of many soldiers. When David’s soldiers win the war – and kill Absalom in the process – David is so consumed by his grief for his son that he ignores the fact that the soldiers have saved his kingdom and his life by defeating his enemy. Joab straightens him out.
Doré shows both David’s grief and the consternation among his men. I have no idea, however, what the structure is that David is leaning against. If it’s meant to be the Temple, that was built a few decades later by King Solomon; if it’s meant to be the Wailing Wall, that was built about 1000 years later by Herod the Great. The artwork we’ve been looking at has, I hope, given us new insights into scripture, but I also hope it’s made us think clearly about whether what’s shown could possibly be what happened.
Previous Step. Next Step.
"David Mourning Over Absalom" by Gustave Doré,
from the Gartin family Bible,
now in the private collection of Regina Hunter.