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Paul J. Bucknell
Purpose: 2 Samuel 23:1-7, David's Last Words, gives us insight into David from a final description of his life and his last prophecy. Analysis is provided for the interpretation problem in 2 Samuel 23:1.
“Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, And the man who was raised on high declares, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel” (2 Samuel 23:1).
2 Samuel 23:1-7 provides us with David’s ‘last words’. This is not his final speech but probably his last prophetic message. There are two interpretations of verse 1.
These are the last words of David: “The oracle of David son of Jesse, the oracle of the man exalted by the Most High, the man anointed by the God of Jacob, Israel’s singer of songs (NIV).
Now these are the last words of David. David the son of Jesse declares, And the man who was raised on high declares, The anointed of the God of Jacob, And the sweet psalmist of Israel (NASB).
In case #1 (NIV, ESV) makes the first verse serve as an introduction to David while in case #2 (NASB, KJV, LXX) see the description of David as part of what David himself said. Does it make an important difference? Not really.1 The meaning is the same. The words describe David. The issue is whether others tributed these things to David (case #1) or that he said it about himself (case #2).
Check out our Digital Old Testament Library for a huge collection of resources on 1 Samuel and all of the Old Testament!
Three significant phrases describe David (whether written by others or himself is difficult to discern - see above). What do each of these mean and why are other things not mentioned? Interestingly, we do not see David called king, prophet, rich, a great general, which indeed he was.
David was a man lifted up. Born in a lowly village. He never forgot it (2 Samuel 7:18 - “Who am I?”). He experienced grace upon grace. Is this not descriptive of our own lives? We start with less than nothing as sinners (a debt which we cannot pay back) and then watch God’s goodness faithfully divvied upon us through the years.
God’s grace upon David was clearly recognized as the anointing of God (Samuel was directed to anoint2 the young shepherd boy - 1 Samuel 16:13). While “raised high” refers to outward blessings, this anointing depicts inner change from God’s promised presence. As he abided in the Lord, he was greatly blessed (see John 15:1-10).
David’s last tribute was the ‘sweet psalmist.’ One would think that David’s hard-fought battles would prevail over his humble meditations, but they did not. The battles were necessities of justice, but David’s deepest joys and peace stemmed from reflection upon God’s mercy and faithfulness.
These three phrases spoke of extreme grace, closeness to God and reflections upon God’s goodness. How wonderful that through Christ we can all have such experiences embedded into our lives.
Perhaps no throngs of people will celebrate God’s closeness to us as David, but those closest to us will deeply appreciate God’s work in our lives.
Reflection: What is it that you treasure the most about your life? How much has God’s grace shaped your thoughts and decisions? At the end of your life, what will be most significant to you and others? Your positions and gains or your special times with the Lord?
“ 2 The Spirit of the LORD spoke by me, And His word was on my tongue. 3 The God of Israel said, The Rock of Israel spoke to me, “He who rules over men righteously, who rules in the fear of God, 4 is as the light of the morning when the sun rises, a morning without clouds, when the tender grass springs out of the earth, through sunshine after rain” (2 Samuel 23:2-4).
Instead of focusing on his title as king (God anointed him), he focuses on the coming days of the Messiah’s righteous rule and judgment. Keil & Delitzsch provide their own translation of verse 3.
“A ruler over the human race will arise, a just ruler, and will exercise his dominion in the spirit of the fear of God.” (Commentary of OT, Vol #2, Keil & Delitzsch, p. 487).
In other words, David is not speaking about himself but retains a strong hope (and this prophetic message) that one will arise and rule the world in righteousness.
This world will be as a bright clear day, without haze and clouds, but one which all nature springs with growth. David associated this promise with one from his descendants. This can be seen by the next several verses.
“Truly is not my house so with God? For He has made an everlasting covenant with me, Ordered in all things, and secured; For all my salvation and all my desire, Will He not indeed make it grow? “But the worthless, every one of them will be thrust away like thorns, Because they cannot be taken in hand; But the man who touches them must be armed with iron and the shaft of a spear, and they will be completely burned with fire in their place.” (2 Samuel 23:5-7).
David concludes this section by testifying about God’s gracious covenant (2 Samuel 7) that He made with him and how the Lord will indeed secure this ‘everlasting covenant’. The Lord did this through Jesus Christ.
Jesus is the descendant of David, and we who have this genuine faith in Christ are part of this grand eternal kingdom more commonly called the kingdom of God. This is the promise the Lord made to David.
“When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. “He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-13).
Even at the end of his life, his eyes were not focused on his rule but on the promised coming of a greater ruler, one of his descendants.
Reflection: Do we focus on our titles, wealth, positions or on God's grace brought to us?