When Saul and Jonathan were dead, though David knew himself anointed to be king, and now saw his way very clear, yet he did not immediately send messengers through all the coasts of Israel to summon all people to come in and swear allegiance to him, upon pain of death, but proceeded leisurely; for he that believeth doth not make haste, but waits God’s time for the accomplishment of God’s promises. Many had come in to his assistance from several tribes while he continued at Ziklag, as we find (1 Chron. 12:1-22), and with such a force he might have come in by conquest. But he that will rule with meekness will not rise with violence. Observe here,
I. The direction he sought and had from God in this critical juncture, 2 Sam. 2:1. He doubted not of success, yet he used proper means, both divine and human. Assurance of hope in God’s promise will be so far from slackening that it will quicken pious endeavours. If I be elected to the crown of life, it does not follow, Then I will do nothing; but, Then I will do all that he directs me, and follow the guidance of him who chose me. This good use David made of his election, and so will all whom God has chosen. 1. David, according to the precept, acknowledged God in his way. He enquired of the Lord by the breast-plate of judgment, which Abiathar brought to him. We must apply to God not only when we are in distress, but even when the world smiles upon us and second causes work in favour of us. His enquiry was, Shall I go up to any of the cities of Judah? Shall I stir hence? Though Ziklag be in ruins, he will not quit it without direction from God. “If I stir hence, Shall I go to one of the cities of Judah?” not limiting God to them (if God should so direct him, he would go to any of the cities of Israel), but thus expressing his prudence (in the cities of Judah he would find most friends), and his modesty—he would look no further at present than his own tribe. In all our motions and removals it is comfortable to see God going before us; and we may, if by faith and prayer we set him before us. 2. God, according to the promise, directed his path, bade him go up, told him whither, unto Hebron, a priest’s city, one of the cities of refuge, so it was to David, and an intimation that God himself would be to him a little sanctuary. The sepulchres of the patriarchs, adjoining to Hebron, would remind him of the ancient promise, on which God had caused him to hope. God sent him not to Bethlehem, his own city, because that was little among the thousands of Judah (Mic. 5:2), but to Hebron, a more considerable place, and which perhaps was then as the county-town of that tribe.
II. The care he took of his family and friends in his removal to Hebron. 1. He took his wives with him (2 Sam. 2:2), that, as they had been companions with him in tribulation, they might be so in the kingdom. It does not appear that as yet he had any children; his first was born in Hebron, 2 Sam. 3:2. 2. He took his friends and followers with him, 2 Sam. 2:3. They had accompanied him in his wanderings, and therefore, when he gained a settlement, they settled with him. Thus, if we suffer with Christ, we shall reign with him, 2 Tim. 2:12. Nay, Christ does more for his good soldiers than David could do for his; David found lodging for them—They dwelt in the cities of Hebron, and adjacent towns; but to those who continue with Christ in his temptations he appoints a kingdom, and will feast them at his own table, Luke 22:29, 30.
III. The honour done him by the men of Judah: They anointed him king over the house of Judah, 2 Sam. 2:4. The tribe of Judah had often stood by itself more than any other of the tribes. In Saul’s time it was numbered by itself as a distinct body (1 Sam. 15:4) and those of this tribe had been accustomed to act separately. They did so now; yet they did it for themselves only; they did not pretend to anoint him king over all Israel (as Jdg. 9:22), but only over the house of Judah. The rest of the tribes might do as they pleased, but, as for them and their house, they would be ruled by him whom God had chosen. See how David rose gradually; he was first anointed king in reversion, then in possession of one tribe only, and at last of all the tribes. Thus the kingdom of the Messiah, the Son of David, is set up by degrees; he is Lord of all by divine designation, but we see not yet all things put under him, Heb. 2:8. David’s reigning at first over the house of Judah only was a tacit intimation of Providence that his kingdom would in a short time be reduced to that again, as it was when the ten tribes revolted from his grandson; and it would be an encouragement to the godly kings of Judah that David himself at first reigned over Judah only.
IV. The respectful message he sent to the men of Jabesh-Gilead, to return them thanks for their kindness to Saul. Still he studies to honour the memory of his predecessor, and thereby to show that he was far from aiming at the crown from any principle of ambition or enmity to Saul, but purely because he was called of God to it. It was told him that the men of Jabesh-Gilead buried Saul, perhaps by some that thought he would be displeased at them as over-officious. But he was far from that. 1. He commends them for it, 2 Sam. 2:5. According as our obligations were to love and honour any while they lived, we ought to show respect to their remains (that is, their bodies, names, and families) when they are dead. “Saul was your lord,” says David, “and therefore you did well to show him this kindness and do him this honour.” 2. He prays to God to bless them for it, and to recompense it to them: Blessed are you, and blessed may you be of the Lord, who will deal kindly with those in a particular manner that dealt kindly with the dead, as it is in Ruth 1:8. Due respect and affection shown to the bodies, names, and families of those that are dead, in conscience towards God, is a piece of charity which shall in no wise lose its reward: The Lord show kindness and truth to you (2 Sam. 2:6), that is, kindness according to the promise. What kindness God shows is in truth, what one may trust to. 3. He promises to make them amends for it: I also will requite you. He does not turn them over to God for a recompence that he may excuse himself from rewarding them. Good wishes are good things, and instances of gratitude, but they are too cheap to be rested in where there is an ability to do more. 4. He prudently takes this opportunity to gain them to his interest, 2 Sam. 2:7. They had paid their last respects to Saul, and he would have them to be the last: “The house of Judah have anointed me king, and it will be your wisdom to concur with them and in that to be valiant.” We must not so dote on the dead, how much soever we have valued them, as to neglect or despise the blessings we have in those that survive, whom God has raised up to us in their stead.