GOD’S WORD FOR YOU
1 CHRONICLES 11:3
3 When all the elders of Israel had come to the king at Hebron, David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel, as the LORD had promised through Samuel.
In Hebrew, it seems as if David made a covenant with the Israelite elders. The verb for this is to “cut” (carat) the covenant, which means that one or more animals would be killed and cut into pieces (as in Genesis 15:10) and arranged opposite one another, making a path between. The two parties would walk between the pieces and say: “I will keep my side of this agreement. If you do not, you will be cut to pieces like these animals. If I do not, I will be cut to pieces like these animals” (see 1 Kings 11:11).
Some translations wrestle with calling what happens in this verse a covenant (NIV “compact”). Perhaps this is because some Hebrew lexicons (dictionaries) say that a covenant should be followed by a certain preposition (be-), and here we have a different term (le–). So in passages like Joshua 9:15 and 1 Kings 20:34, an agreement or treaty is made le, “with” or “before,” a former enemy. However, this isn’t always a hard and fast rule. In Joshua 24:25 and 2 Kings 11:4, a covenant is made le “with” or “for” a nation or a tribe. Therefore, the grammar here must yield to the context, and it makes much more sense for David to make a covenant with the northern tribes, which were so recently his enemies.
The coronation ceremony is now repeated, and David is anointed with oil, just as he had already been anointed privately by Samuel. The kingship is now made public, and everyone knows that David is king. He had been king over Judah (along with Simeon), but now all twelve tribes acknowledge David as their king. In turn, David will (1) defend them against their enemies, (2) he will use his wisdom to settle disputes between the tribes. But most of all, (3) David acknowledges the Lord as God, and he will do whatever he can to uphold right and correct worship of God in the kingdom.
We see aspects of each of these throughout his reign, even when he had troubles on account of his older sons. I find it useful to divide or outline David’s life and reign into five parts:
1, David’s early life in the service of Saul (until he was 30). Even as a boy, he held God Almighty in the highest honor and was willing to be God’s instrument for battle to defend Israel against their enemies, such as when he stood before the giant Goliath and killed him. Warriors from many nations joined David when he was a captain in Saul’s army. When David was given the city of Ziklag and he ruled there as chief from 1012-1010, the band of warriors joined him permanently and became known as David’s Mighty Men (1 Chronicles 12:1-22).
2, David’s early reign as king in Hebron (David in his thirties). He settled the disputes and united the tribes, punishing those who shed unnecessary blood, and united the tribes into a single nation under his leadership.
3, David’s early years in Jerusalem (David in his forties). As we will soon see, David’s army captured Jerusalem and David made it his capital. From there he waged wars against Israel’s enemies, especially the Philistines, Moabites and Edomites, and brought the ark into Jerusalem.
4, David’s middle years in Jerusalem (David in his fifties) began with war against the Ammonites and his sin with Bathsheba, which is not mentioned in Chronicles (2 Samuel 11). There was famine during some of these years, but during this decade there was also the entire story of Absalom, from his revenge for his sister Tamar to his rebellion against David and death in the forest of Ephraim (2 Samuel 13-19).
5, The final ten years of David’s life, when he was in his sixties, included his troubles keeping warm at night, Adonijah’s rebellion, and the naming of Solomon as heir to the throne. During this time, David was incited by the devil to take a census of all his army, but the resulting plague ended with the king’s repentance and prayer. David bought the Jebusite threshing floor where the plague ended and made plans for the building of the temple on that site. David died at 70, “old and full of years,” in 970 BC, and Solomon became king.
What made David a king so very different from Saul? David sought after the Lord, even and especially during hard times (2 Samuel 21:1). He said, “I sought the Lord, and he answered me. He delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4). David knew that he did not need spoken words from God in order for God to answer his prayers. Even so, there were times when God did speak directly to David through his prophets.
David also admitted his sins and repented. Repentance is more than feeling bad for a few minutes during a prayer or an outward confession. Repentance takes place in the heart. Repentance means sorrow over sin, and faith in God’s promise to forgive us for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Confession teaches: “Repentance is nothing else than to have contrition and sorrow, or terror, on account of sin, and yet at the same time to believe the Gospel and absolution (namely, that sin has been forgiven and grace has been obtained through Christ.” This faith will comfort our hearts and set the heart at rest. It is “the victory that has overcome the world” (1 John 5:4).
It was well said: “Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown.” This is true of any mortal man, but true of all mankind: fathers, mothers, children, leaders, followers, teachers, all the way down to the boy apprentice who spends his days filling the nail holes in closets and cupboards with putty. We all have much to repent of, for we all sin according to our station in life. But sins are sins, and the grace of God forgives all our sins by which we have earned nothing but eternal death and punishment. Man is not saved partly by his own work and partly by God’s word. The grace of God is exclusive: He saves us without any effort or deed on our part, solely by the effort and the deed of Christ. Our salvation “is through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). This is the good news that makes such wonderful changes in our hearts. None of our worthless and spoiled attempts at goodness matter in the least toward our salvation.
Consider the coronation of David at Hebron. This had been God’s plan all along. But Saul’s rage and despair at having been rejected could not stop God’s plan from happening. The rebellion of Ishbosheth, so prominent in the book of 2 Samuel, is not even mentioned here in Chronicles, which is the way God looks at our sins. They aren’t even part of the text before him. He has set our sins aside in Christ, and his plans for us, to bless us, to prosper us, are carried out. “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to give you peace, not disaster, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).
Bless us, heavenly Father, as you have promised.
Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, New Ulm, Minnesota
God’s Word for You – 1 Chronicles 11:3 The head that wears the crown