With the death of Absalom, David once more returns to Jerusalem and re-establishes his kingship, although the infighting and disloyalty continues as various tribes jockey for power and favour from the re-established king. A troublemaker named Sheba, leads a rebellion against David.
David shows favour to Amasa, giving him an important military role as a delegate to the tribes (to get them to rise up against Sheba), which makes Joab jealous. When Joab meets Amasa, he greets him with a customary kiss, but while doing so, guts Amasa with a dagger hidden in his hand. Joab continues his pursuit of Sheba, eventually trapping him in a walled city. To avoid violence, the inhabitants of the town turn on Sheba, decapitate him and throw his head to the Israelites, and the battle is averted.
A famine strikes the land, which is attributed to the injustices of Saul when he put the Gibeonites to death. In revenge, the Gibeonites execute seven of Saul’s sons, and leave them on public display. David leads several battles against the Philistines, and we read a lengthy poem of praise, very reminiscent of the gratitude expressed in David’s psalms.
After many years of incredible violence, adventure, mishap and leadership, the shepherd-boy who became king neared the end of his reign. In his final days as king, David institutes a census of his fighting forces – 800 000 in Israel and 500 000 in Judah. This appears, however, to be some sort of sign of weakness (or pride?) on David’s part, as God is unhappy with him, unleashing a plague upon the nation. As the narrative finishes, David builds an altar to God where he makes sacrifices, as the plague stops.
David’s kingship was marked by blessing and strife, honour and shame, humility and pride, obedience and disobedience. Israel became a strong “international” player under his leadership, yet it suffered more than its share of divisions and problems. As the book closes, the way is paved for the narrative of an old and frail king to have his kingship usurped by one of his own sons, Adonijah… but for the rest of that, we have to turn to the book of 1 Kings.
In Psalm 43, we read of an author who feels betrayed by his peers, who is crying out to God to be rescued from deceitful and wicked men.