Avraham ben Yaakov
KNOW YOUR BIBLE
II SAMUEL CHAPTER 5
With the death of Ish-Bosheth there was no other serious contender for the kingship besides David, who had already won the love of the nation when he killed Goliath. There was no prophet of the stature of Samuel to publicly "crown" David similarly to the way in which he had publicly appointed Saul, but everyone knew that in his lifetime Samuel had already anointed David, and the latter's public acceptance by all the Twelve Tribes (ch 5 vv 1-3) was the final seal on his kingship.
"AND THE KING AND HIS MEN WENT TO YERUSHALAYIM" (v 6)
David was in Hebron when he was accepted as king by all the tribes. His very first move without delay was to go to Jerusalem . In our present text, it says that David "AND HIS MEN" went up to Jerusalem , making it appear that David's main support was coming from his existing following. However, this was not at all the case: in I Chronicles 11:4 speaking of the move to Jerusalem , it says, "And David AND ALL ISRAEL went." In other words, ALL ISRAEL were now David's men: he was king without any opposition. (The overall purpose of the Book of Chronicles is not merely to repeat historical narratives but primarily to establish the primacy of the House of David, yet it does contain numerous parallel accounts of the events described in Samuel I & II and Kings I & II, often with important supplementary details.)
It was now necessary to conquer the citadel of Jerusalem from the Jebusites, because the Israelites had a tradition that Zion would be the capital city of the kingdom of Israel and that it would only be captured by one who was king over all Israel . Until that time no-one had been truly king over all Israel , because Saul's kingship did not endure (RaDaK on verse 6).
As discussed in the commentaries on Joshua and Judges, "the children of Judah were NOT ABLE to drive out the Jebusite inhabitants of Jerusalem" (Joshua 15:63) NOT because they did not have the power to do so but because they were still constrained by the oath of Abraham to Avimelech (from whom the Jerusalem Jebusites were descended) not to harm his grandchildren or great grandchildren. This oath had been extracted by the Canaanites in exchange for agreeing to sell the Cave of Machpelah to Abraham - his first acquisition of property in the Holy Land .
When David tried to enter Jerusalem , the Jebusites taunted him that he would have to remove "the blind and the lame" (v 6). One explanation of this is that the Jebusites had placed their idols on the walls of their city for protection - idols are called "blind" because "they have eyes but they do not see" and "lame" because "they have legs but they do not walk" (Psalm 115:5 & 7). The Midrashic explanation is that the Jebusites had placed great copper statues on the wall - one of them blind to represent Isaac (Genesis 27:1) and another lame to represent Jacob (Genesis 32:31) - with scrolls coming out of their mouths inscribed with Abraham's oath to Avimelech. However, since the oath was limited to his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it had already expired and David was free to capture the city. I Chronicles 11:6 relates that it was Joab who actually succeeded in getting up onto the fortified wall and destroying the idols ("detested by the soul of David" v 8). The Midrash relates that he got up onto the wall by driving a tall poplar tree into the ground outside the city, pulling its top branch down onto the ground, climbing up on David's head and using the tree as a kind of catapult to shoot himself up onto the wall (see RaDaK on vv 6-8).
Something as important as the capture of Jerusalem - eternal City of David from which the word of God will ever go out to the whole world - could not but come about with a great leap!
"AND DAVID KNEW." (v 12)
David knew that God had given his kingship a firm foundation when he saw his miraculous success over Israel 's endemic enemies. The gift by Hiram king of Tyre of timber together with craftsmen in wood and stone to build David a house was a sign of the growing international recognition of the House of David that would culminate in the time of Solomon, whose Temple Hiram also helped to build and to whom all the kings of the earth came to pay their respects.
Although Solomon is mentioned in our present chapter in the list of David's sons born in Jerusalem (v 14) the circumstances of his birth are narrated in detail later on.
"AND THE PHILISTINES HEARD." (v 17)
Although the Philistines had defeated the Israelites at Gilboa and subsequently occupied many of their abandoned cities, they do not appear to have made serious efforts to press their military advantage thereafter: perhaps they saw the conflict between the House of Saul (Avner and Ish-bosheth) and the House of David as one that would automatically weaken the Israelites, and in any case, when in flight from Saul, David had ACTED as some kind of "ally" of the Philistines, or at least of Achish king of Gath.
But now that David had taken Jerusalem from the Canaanites, causing a great arousal of holiness, it was inevitable that there should be a corresponding arousal of the forces of unholiness (for "God has made the one against the other" Eccles. 7:14). Similarly, the ingathering of Israel to their land in the last few hundred years has been accompanied by a steadily growing arousal of enmity on the part of those who see themselves as the successors of the Canaanites and Philistines.
From the accounts in our present text and other texts in II Samuel and I Chronicles, it can be inferred that in David's reign there were three major battles between the Israelites and the Philistines with a number of secondary skirmishes. The first two battles took place in EMEK REFA'IM ("valley of the giants") which is south west of the Citadel of Jerusalem and which is familiar to those who know the present-day Jerusalem, being the name of one of the city's most important arteries leading from the Baka district, where the old Jerusalem Railway Station is located, to the southern suburbs. This road actually runs through the valley after which it is named. The south west end of EMEK REFAIM joins Nachal Shorek, through which the railway passes on the way to Beit Shemesh.
It would appear that the Philistines came up from their habitations in the coastal and lowland regions through Nachal Shorek in order to advance on Jerusalem and were massed in Emek Refa'im when David -- on the instructions of the Urim VeThumim - successfully struck them and destroyed their idols (vv 17-21). This defeat did not deter the Philistines, who advanced a second time (vv 22-25). This time the Urim VeThumim answered David that he was NOT to attack them "until you hear the voice of treading on the heads of the mulberry trees" (v 24). According to the Midrash, the Philistines were within four cubits of the Israelites but still David would not allow them to advance even if it meant they would die ("better to die righteous and not die wicked"). This showed enormous faith in God (unlike Saul, who did not carry out God's words to the last detail), and at last the Israelites saw the mulberry trees waving - protective angels were walking on the foliage - and successfully attacked the Philistines (Yalkut Shimoni).
David's foremost goal was to build the Temple in Jerusalem in fulfillment of Jacob's prophetic dream of the Ladder on that very site. The Hebrew word for "ladder" is SULAM, the letters of which have the same numerical value as those of SINAI - for the very center point of the Temple was the EVEN SHESIYAH ("Foundation Stone") upon which Jacob had rested his head, and this was the destined resting place of the ARON - Ark of the Covenant - which contained the Tablets of Stone Moses received at Sinai. The Temple is not only a place of worship but one from which Torah is to shine forth to all the world.
Thus after the conquest of Jerusalem, it was now necessary to bring the Ark of the Covenant up from Kiryat Ye'arim (= Baaley Yehuda in v 2) where it had remained ever since it had been brought up there from Beit Shemesh after its return from captivity among the Philistines (I Samuel chs 6-7).
"David erred in something that even little school-children know, that the Ark must be carried ON THE SHOULDERS OF THE LEVITES (Numbers 7:9) and not on a wagon. However, David said "Your statutes have been SONGS to me in the house of my sojourns" (Psalm 119:54) - this was considered somewhat too light-hearted an attitude to God's laws, and David was penalized by making the mistake of transporting the Ark on a wagon, thereby indirectly causing the death of Uzza when he thought it was about to fall and put out his hand to steady it" (see Rashi on v 3).
This harsh blow on what was supposed to be an occasion of consummate national joy (parallel to the deaths of Aaron's sons Nadav and Avihu on the day of the consecration of the Sanctuary in the wilderness, Leviticus 10:1-2) made David's face "change into a charred oven-cake" (Sotah 35a) - he was ashen with fear of God. By putting out his arm to "steady" the Ark , Uzza betrayed a fundamental misconception - that man needs to protect the Ark , whereas the truth is that the Ark protects itself. It appears that man carries the Ark , but in fact the Ark carries those who carry it - and the same applies to the entire Torah. While it appears that we have to "carry" the Torah through our observance of its commandments, in fact the Torah carries us every day of our lives.
On the great blessing that came to Oveid-Edom when the Ark was in his house for three months (his wife and eight daughters-in-law each had sextuplets, which is why he had a household of 62 = 8 sons + 9 x 6 babies, I Chronicles 26:8) the Talmud comments: If this is the reward of one who takes in the Ark, which neither eats nor drinks, how much more is the reward of one who gives hospitality to a Torah sage in his home and gives him to eat and drink." (Berachos 63b).
MUSIC AND DANCE
Many secrets of the Temple music are embedded in this chapter, which enumerates some of the Temple instruments. When the Philistines returned the Ark in a wagon drawn by nursing cows, contrary to nature the cows and even their calves began to sing - because the Ark creates music everywhere: the music of God's providence, where everything is interconnected. Likewise David accompanied the taking up of the Ark to its resting place in the eternal city of Jerusalem with ecstatic music and dance.
David's own dancing was far superior to that of any dervish, yet it elicited the sarcastic derision of his wife Michal, Saul's daughter, who saw it as undignified. Similarly since the beginnings of the Chassidic movement, which gave birth to an explosion of fervent devotion accompanied by much dancing, some have tended to look scornfully upon the "antics" of the Chassidim as lacking in dignity. (Thus when Rabbi Avraham Kalisker, who had been outstanding student of the Gaon of Vilna, became attached to the Baal Shem Tov and began dancing for joy in the streets of Vilna, the Gaon never spoke to him again - yet Rabbi Nachman, who saw R. Kalisker in the latter's old age, described him as the only truly perfect Tzaddik he had ever seen.)
The House of Saul were indeed modest in the extreme, and the rabbis in the Midrash said that Michal told David that no one in her father's house would let so much as a tiny portion of a hand or foot be exposed. However, David replied that her father's house ignored the glory of Heaven and were mainly concerned with their own glory, while his dancing was purely to glorify God (see RaDaK on v 20). Let us abandon our concerns about our own dignity and take a lesson from David about how to throw ourselves into the service of God with true fervor.
* * * The sections in II Samuel 6:1-23 and 7:1-17 are read as the Haftara of Parshas Shemini, Leviticus 9:1-11:16 * * *
BACK TO KNOW YOUR BIBLE HOMEPAGE
By Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
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