2 Samuel 5:11–25 . . . Bible Study Summary with Videos and Questions

“David Defeats the Philistines”

Today we'll begin to cover "David's Reign," which the author presents in 2 Samuel 5:11 through chapter 8. We'll now look at the initial phase that's broken into two parts: (1) The building of David's palace, home, and household and (2) his defeat of the Philistines.

In Part 1 (vv. 11–16), David's palace will be built predominantly by Hiram, king of Tyre. He sent timber from the cedars of Lebanon, as well as skilled carpenters and stonemasons. Such substantial support no doubt represents a treaty that David likely made with the descendants of the Phoenicians, Israel's neighbors to the northwest, along the coast.

Part 2 (vv. 17–25) records David's fight against Israel's old enemies, the Philistines, whom he'll defeat on two battle fronts in the Valley of Rephaim. In both confrontations, David wisely and devotedly inquired of the LORD before initiating his attacks.

The Building of David’s Palace (2 Samuel 5:11–12)

A discovered inscription, not in the Bible, cites King Hiram of Tyre, as having reigned there from about 980–947 BC, meaning that Hiram's reign coincided with only the last nine years of David's reign and the first 24 years of Solomon's reign. This helps us see that David built his palace (v. 11) late in his reign, either in the last decade or two of his 40-year reign. Verse 11 therefore doesn't describe something that took place immediately after David captured and fortified Jerusalem (vv. 6–10) but was a later project.

11Now Hiram king of Tyre sent envoys to David, along with cedar logs and carpenters and stonemasons, and they built a palace for David. 12Then David knew that the LORD had established him as king over Israel and had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his people Israel (2 Sam. 5:11–12).

That "they built a palace for David" clearly shows his influence and importance. Neighboring kings honored him with the finest craftsmen and wood to build him a palace. This relationship with King Hiram also shows that David was more than a man of war; he knew how to build important political alliances. He knew what made his reign great. Every godly leader should know these three things very well: (1) David knew that the LORD had called him and established him as king over Israel; (2) he'd exalted God's kingdom, knowing that the kingdom belonged to God; and (3) he knew that God wanted to use him as a channel to bless God's people. It wasn't for David's sake that he was lifted up, but for the sake of God's people, Israel.

Verse 12 is key to understanding why David prospered as Israel's king. He realized that Yahweh was Israel's true sovereign. Saul was never willing to acknowledge this, viewing himself as the ultimate authority in Israel. In contrast, David regarded his own kingship as a gift from God. He realized, too, that God had placed him on the throne for the Israelites' welfare, not for his own personal glory. Saul failed there as well. David had a proper view of his role in Israel's theocratic government.

David’s Many Wives (vv. 13–16)

13After he left Hebron, David took more concubines and wives in Jerusalem, and more sons and daughters were born to him. 14These are the names of the children born to him there: Shammua, Shobab, Nathan, Solomon, 15Ibhar, Elishua, Nepheg, Japhia, 16Elishama, Eliada and Eliphelet (2 Sam. 5:13–16).

David's "taking more wives" was in direct disobedience to Deuteronomy 17:17: He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold. Again, David sinned, this time by multiplying wives. Nevertheless, in spite of this sin, God continued to bless him with fertility because he was God's elect, and for the most part, God's obedient servant. Fortunately for us hearty servants of God, he doesn't cut off his blessings because his servants are less than perfect.

Understandably, more wives likely brought about the creation of many more children. The author previously listed six sons born to David in Hebron (2 Sam. 3:2–5); now he listed eleven more born to him in Jerusalem (vv. 14–16). Certainly David (and everyone else) saw these many children as a sign of God blessing David and his many wives. However, most of the trouble that will come into his life will result from his relationships with women and children. It's often true that the seeds to our future trouble are sown in times of great success and prosperity. In some ways, David handled trials better than successes.

It might be interesting to note that this is the first time in the Scriptures that concubines are mentioned in connection with David — it's also the only time that the phrase "concubines and wives" occurs in the Bible: The usual order is "wives and concubines" (19:5; 1 Kings 11:3; 2 Chronicles 11:21; Daniel 5:2–3, 23). By placing the word "concubines" in an introductory, emphatic position, the author is perhaps deploring David's proclivity as a typical Oriental monarch to attain attractive adornments such as a harem. In ancient times, a king's status was often measured in part by the size of his harem.

David’s Kingdom Is Established (vv. 17–25)

[Note: At this point in 2 Samuel, the narrator departs from a strict chronological structure and addresses the Davidic history according to subject.]

God's greatest blessing on David and Israel, being the ultimate in fertility, came when God covenanted with David to make his line of descendants everlasting (ch. 7). However, before that took place, God blessed his anointed — David — with victories over his enemies, as well as peaceful conditions. So long as David was king only of Judah, the Philistines were content to tolerate his rule; but when he was proclaimed king of all Israel, and he established the fortress city of Jerusalem, to them he became too powerful to be trusted, so the Philistines became alarmed. Hence, they conducted two concerted efforts to divide David's territory and weaken his effectiveness.

Remember: David had been a Philistine vassal for almost nine years — nearly 1–1/2 years in Ziklag and another 7–1/2 years as king of Judah in Hebron. By taking Jerusalem, David was able to eliminate the foreigner's wedge between Israel's northern and southern tribes. The Philistines understood perfectly that David's admiration and popularity constituted a declaration of independence on the part of a reunited Israel, which they wouldn't tolerate. They knew that they'd have to destroy David at once.

18Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19so David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?”

The LORD answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands” (2 Sam. 5:18–19).

The combined armies of the five Philistine city-states went out to find David so they could completely crush him. Probably, David's army was greatly outnumbered by the determined Philistines whose armies had assembled in the Valley of Rephaim, an agricultural plain just southwest of Jerusalem. But David didn't remain settled in Jerusalem to await a Philistine siege. Instead he "went down to the stronghold" (v. 17), probably referring to the stronghold at Adullam. This time, he approached the stronghold as a tactical move, rather than to hide or escape. There he inquired of the LORD.

"So David inquired of the LORD" (v. 19)  Using the Urim and Thummim from a high priest's ephod, David asked God for guidance (v. 19). As a result, he was blessed. God honored David's dependence on him and gave him the promised victory.

The first battle (vv. 17–21)  The battle described in these verses appears to have taken place between David's being anointed king over all Israel (v. 17) and his capture of Jerusalem (vv. 6–9), or perhaps shortly after he'd conquered Jerusalem. The "stronghold" (v. 17) may have been the cave of Adullam, about 11 miles northwest of Hebron. If this battle took place after the capture of Jerusalem, the stronghold probably refers to Zion (v. 7). "The valley of Rephaim" (v. 18), or "the valley of the giants," was just southwest of Jerusalem where the Philistines amassed for battle. They probably wanted to defeat David there and then, before he could take the offensive and begin to establish himself and expand his kingdom.

David often consulted with the LORD before engaging the Philistines in battle (v. 19, 23; 1 Sam. 23:2; 30:8). God granted David's request for his sovereign LORD's strategy, and victory followed for Israel. Baal Perazim (lit. lord who breaks out) memorialized the LORD's victory (v. 20). Notice how David acknowledged Yahweh's ultimate authority over Israel (while Saul didn't). The Philistines' idols that they carried into battle to secure victory (blessing) proved useless, so they abandoned them (v. 21). The Israelites then carried them off and probably burned them.

"So David again inquired of the LORD" (v. 23)  Seeing the Philistines approaching him for the second time, spreading out in the Valley of Rephaim, David inquired of the LORD yet again. God answered David assuredly, telling him exactly how to gain military advantage over the Philistine's well-armored soldiers. It's probably worthwhile taking note of the fact that David inquired of the LORD two times. No matter how hearty our efforts might be, we often seek the LORD the first time we have a problem. But then we think we've figured out what was needed so we don't need to seek God's wisdom about a problem a second time. Right? . . . Realize that part of David's genius was that he devotedly approached the LORD during every major crisis he faced. What's more, he was obedient to God's suggestions or directives; he didn't think that he knew better than the LORD.

The second battle (vv. 22–25)  The Philistines perhaps expected David to do what he'd done before. But this time, in response to David's prayer, the LORD prescribed an attack from the rear (v. 23). David was to come around behind the Philistine army, only attacking when the wind rustled tree leaves; the sound of marching in the poplar treetops (possibly the sound of the wind), heard by the Israelites, would be an assuring sign that the LORD was going before his army to strike the enemy (v. 24). David's strategic attack resulted in the Philistines' crushing defeat. His soldiers slaughtered the retreating Philistines all the way to their walled city of Gezer. In this second battle, David broke Philistine's dominance of the entire region, only because he did it God's way.

Both victories cleared the Philistines from the hill country of Judah and Benjamin, making it possible for David to establish a secure capital in Jerusalem. Had he not defeated them, his reign would have gotten off to a much weaker start. Remember: Saul had also begun his reign by defeating the Philistines (1 Sam. 7).

Verses 17–25 depict two encounters between David and the Philistines, which apparently brought to an end Philistine domination of Palestine. In view of the book of Samuel as a whole, it seems that the war with the Philistines was more prolonged while the author had chosen only these two select military illustrations to sketch the main course of events. Perhaps, just as Israel had been defeated twice by the Philistines (1 Sam. 4 and 31), so also the Philistines were twice routed by David. His two-part victory over the Philistines was significant for several reasons: It indicated that the capital had been fully established and Israel was now a force with which to be reckoned. In addition, the victory probably produced a great deal of confidence in the people regarding David's ability. Finally, these victories encouraged David and became a stabilizing factor among his officials.

Intro Video: “The Second Book of Samuel”

 Watch this introductory video clip created by The Bible Project on bibleproject.com.

It Makes You Wonder . . .
  • Q. 1  What would have happened if David thought he knew how to attack the Philistines and didn't inquire of the LORD?
  • Q. 2  Do you ever (or often) want to act independently, rather than rely on God's suggestion or directive? How does that work out for you?

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