Sunday, July 8, 2012

Beginning An Exodus (part 2 of 2)

In what would appear to be an exodus-ing of the Davidic narrative, we hear David, following his lament for Saul and Jonathan, saying “Should I go up to one of the cities of Judah?” (2 Samuel 2:1b)  David was going up into that which had been prepared for him, again, departing from the exilic state in which he had been hunted by the very same king against whom he would not extend his hand, and whom he mourned upon his death.  David was going up to Judah, much like Israel went up out of Egypt---called out of exile, and much like Jesus, at a young age, who would also go up out of Egypt.  David was going up to the kingship, having consistently experienced the rescuing hand of his God upon his life, but he was not entering fully upon the kingship. 

When David made his initial inquiry as to whether or not he should go up to one of the cities of Judah, the Lord’s reply was “Go up” (2:1c).  “David asked, ‘Where should I go?’  The Lord replied, ‘To Hebron.’” (2:1d)  David followed this instruction and went to Hebron, where “The men of Judah came and there they anointed David as king over the people of Judah” (2:4).  At this point, it is only a partial going-up.  It is only a partial exodus, as David is not crowned as king over all Israel, but rather, only over Judah (his tribe).  This is not unlike the experience of Israel as a whole, in that though they had experienced the Egyptian exodus, it is only partial, as they had not yet entered in to that which was promised to them.  Furthermore, even upon their entering, their exodus remained only partial, because they would fail to drive out the peoples that were dwelling in and defiling the land, as God had clearly instructed them to do.  Here, we can see David’s exodus as a partial re-enactment of the experience of his people. 

Having been established as king over Judah, in Hebron, David begins the long process of consolidating the kingdom.  Once again, this is not going to be unlike Israel’s entrance into the promised land, as even though they were entering in upon that for which they had been specially chosen and anointed, the process of consolidating their dominion over the land was long.  Ultimately, it was incomplete, as the history of their “conquest” is replete with only partial completions of their task, and numerous reports of foreign peoples not being driven out, and as a result, dwelling alongside Israel in the land.  It could be said of David, as well, that even though he would eventually take the throne of Israel as a whole, that his attempts at consolidating power remained incomplete, as he dealt with internal conflicts and the rebellion of his own son in his attempts to take his father’s throne.  To be sure, history, in the case of Israel (and truly the whole of the world), must be said to be a mirror that is reflective of what it is that has gone before.  To know what is coming, we must know what has already come. 

As Israel would deal with the various peoples of the land as they embarked upon its subjugation, so too would David find himself dealing with Abner, the general of Saul’s army.  Abner “had taken Saul’s son Ishbosheth and…appointed him king over… all Israel” (2:8-9).  Ishbosheth would maintain this illegitimate rule over Israel for two years, while the people of Judah looked to David as their legitimate and rightful king (2:10).  This could not have been a happy time for David or for Israel.  Most certainly, Israel was not being a light to the nations throughout these days of conflicting monarchies, as civil war and civil strife effectively prevented them from reflecting their God’s image into the world in a way that would cause the surrounding peoples to look to the God of Israel in worship and honor.  It was a time of intra-national exile, as one part of the people attempted to subdue the other part of the people.  Indeed, we find that “the war was prolonged between the house of Saul and the house of David” (3:1a); and even though it was the case that “David was becoming steadily stronger, while the house of Saul was becoming increasingly weaker” (3:1b), it was the still the case that this prolonged conflict prevented Israel from being for their land, and for the wider world, what it was that God had intended them to be. 

David’s exodus to the kingship saw some fruits of exile, just as Israel’s exodus towards the covenantal land of promise saw them dwelling outside that land, in an exodus-oriented exilic condition, for forty long years.  We should not be surprised to find such congruity, especially as we consider that the wilderness wandering took place because the people of Israel, by and large, continued to look to Egypt, questioning Moses and thereby questioning the Lord Himself.  This runs parallel with the situation in Israel, as a majority of the people continued to look to Saul and his house, questioning David’s claims, and thereby questioning the work of the Lord.  The prolonged war in Israel is emblematic of Israel’s wilderness experience, as Israel found itself in the wilderness of discontent, awaiting deliverance into that which God had promised them through His promises to Saul of a kingdom torn from him, and His promises to David, to whom a kingdom had been granted.      

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