Contrasting with the previous post about David’s murderous ways, this post takes a look at the kindness and compassion of David. I know, I know…he’s complicated.
2nd Samuel opens with David learning of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. In 1st Samuel, Jonathan was depicted as David’s closest friend who saved David’s life from Saul’s murderous machinations. The reader will not be surprised to witness David’s grief over Jonathan’s death.
The reader will be surprised by David’s lament over Saul’s death, that is, if the reader is reading rightly. In chapter one of 2nd Samuel, we see David’s lamentation. Both Saul and Jonathan are mentioned four times in the lament. His displeasure was so great at the news of their deaths that he had the messenger killed, though in fairness, the messenger had claimed to have assisted in Saul’s death.
Later, in chapter four, when two brothers kill Ish-Bosheth, another son of Saul who was ruling Israel after the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, and bring his head to David as a gift, David is not pleased. In fact, his response was to have the brothers put to death.
Also mentioned in chapter four, but the focus of chapter nine, was Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son who lived in hiding fearing death at David’s hand. David actually sought out descendants of Saul and Jonathan to give back to them Saul’s family property. In the case of Mephibosheth, David also invited him to eat at the king’s table.
While this preference for Jonathan and his line makes sense in light of their friendship, David’s lament over Saul’s death and anger over Ish-Bosheth’s murder suggest a different motive.
Reflecting back on David’s refusal to kill the LORD’s anointed, i.e. Saul, in 1st Samuel, and viewing that as an attempt to keep anyone from killing the LORD’s new anointed, i.e. David, David’s kindness to the line of the previous king may have been an attempt to set a precedent for the treatment of deposed kings in the event he was forced from the throne.
In summation, I suppose even David’s kindness is wrought with death and intrigue. As I said, he’s complicated.
For more on Ish-Bosheth, click here.
For a look at Ish-Bosheth and Mephibosheth in 2nd Samuel and 1st Chronicles, click here.
For a Mephibosheth hymn, take a gander over here.