What we are reading this week (beginning Friday, January 6, 2023):
• 2 Samuel 14-20
• Esther 8-10 ~ Job 1-4
• Proverbs 21-27
Notes on 2 Samuel
David’s trials continue while he himself makes his own case worse (chapter 14). He is extremely conflicted over his son Absalom, and this internal struggle will lead to some needless pain and even death.
Joab, the impetuous and rash commander of his army, tries to intervene by recruiting a wise woman to use a fake story to bring David around to his senses regarding his son. The woman is taking a huge gamble with her life, as did Nathan when he confronted the king over Bathsheba. But underneath it all, David still does have a good heart and is able to receive her message (and preserve her life).
In chapter 15, Absalom attempts to take advantage of his father’s undying love for him and stages a coup. David flees for his life.
Absalom’s counselor Ahithophel gives him military advice that is contradicted by David’s friend Hushai the Arkite. Hushai is actually working undercover for David in order to frustrate Ahithophel’s advice. This one swings David’s way as Absalom casts his lot with Hushai’s advice. Ahithophel becomes so distraught over this rejection that he kills himself.
But Hushai’s advice (intentionally) sets Absalom up for defeat that—not intentionally— will also lead to his death.
However, things continue to unravel for the king in chapter 16 as the servant Zeba tries to convince him that his master Mephibosheth has turned on him. An unknown man named Shimei curses David. Absalom sleeps with all of his father’s concubines in order to humiliate him (in fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy to him following the Bathsheba incident. See 12.11).
David by this point had caved in in so many ways in his leadership. In 16.4, he says to his people, “I will do whatever seems best to you.” These are not the words of a leader. He had been so self-assured since his youth. This is more fallout from his tryst with Bathsheba.
Spying and spy connections have been around forever. The plan to send a message from Hushai back to David involved: Hushai (the spy) giving the word to the priests (Zadok and Abiathar) who pass the word to a female servant who sends it along to Jonathan and Ahimaaz. They are tracked, but another unidentified man and his wife hide the pair in a well; then they personally deliver the message to the king (17.15-21). Somebody make a movie! By chapter 18, we see that David has completely lost his edge. Instead of leading his army to war—as in the situation with Bathsheba— he remains behind (18.4).
Though David has specifically told his troops to “be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake”, Joab nonetheless finds Absalom stuck in a tree and kills him. David will become inconsolable over this loss.
Joab is infuriated that David is grieving so heavily for his son to the point that he ignores his own troops who have won a battle that day. After Joab communicates his frustration to the king, David rouses himself and addresses the troops. He also intends to replace Joab. He has had enough (19.13).
There is a lesson from Ahimaaz who is so eager to deliver the message of the outcome of the battle to the king, that once he is in David’s presence, he doesn’t even have the story straight (18.29). As David prepared to return to his throne in Jerusalem, his close brethren in the tribe of Judah did not wait for the other tribes to join the procession officially bringing him back. A division between Judah and the ten tribes (Benjamin was not a part of them) shows the beginning of a fracture that will completely rupture under David’s grandson Reheboam, when the nation is divided into northern and southern kingdoms, Judah and Benjamin to the south, these ten to the north.
Mephibosheth shows up and accuses Zeba of lying about him. He is restored, but David divides his land between the two of them.
A rebellion is firing up in chapter twenty. Amasa, who replaced Joab, is supposed to be leading the effort to quell this. For some reason he is delayed, so Joab becomes involved again. He takes this opportunity to murder Amasa. David will decide to have Joab put to death, but he will leave this for his son Solomon to do later. The rebellion is put down quickly.
Notes on Esther
The last three chapters of this book are somewhat anti-climactic. Hamon has been executed. However, the king’s edict allowing everyone to attack the Jews could not be rescinded… that old “law of the Medes and the Persians” thing. So instead of cancelling the law, the Jews were given permission by the king to fight back on that day. There must have a lot of them, because they were able to win this battle and kill many of their enemies. All of these people on both sides were subjects of the king, engaged in a civil war that he was directly responsible for. Esther asked for Haman’s ten sons to be impaled, even though they had already been killed. That sounds like kind of a nasty request, but it was carried out. Esther’s uncle Mordecai was promoted to second in rank under king Xerxes.
Notes on Job
Job is a very old book, probably the very first book of the Bible ever written down. The setting is probably before the time of Abraham. And the theme is the one that most people still to this day, both in and out of the church, don’t get. God’s blessing is not necessarily a sign of the favor of God, nor is difficulty in one’s life a sign of disobedience. Prosperity and blessing are not necessarily linked.
The first two chapters show us major activities going on in the heavens and how they affected things on the Earth. Satan gets not one, but two opportunities to take a shot at Job when the first one does not give him the results he was looking for.
Why God acquiesced to Satan’s request (in 2.6) is hard to know. However, there is a huge lesson here in how God actually trusts some of us enough to give us the opportunity through our faithfulness in the midst of intense trouble to give the devil a black eye, and to show him the effects of true faith.
Job speaks of the afterlife in 3.16-19. There is very little written about heaven or hell in the entire Old Testament. Bear in mind as you read these verses, that though the Bible is inspired, this means that we are reading the actual words of Job. But that does not mean that Job is necessarily accurate; he implies rest for the wicked after death, but how would he know?
The three friends were able to minister to Job in his pain and distress for seven days… until they started talking. More lessons for us to learn from. We launch into the soliloquies by the four main actors, Job and his three friends. Job opens in chapter three, cursing the day he was born. He does not accuse God of wrongdoing, but at the same time he despairs of the very life he was given and wishes that he had never been born.
Eliphaz begins the mockery: “Consider now: Who, being innocent, has ever perished? Where were the upright ever destroyed?” (4.7). Answers: Many people; lot of places.
His friend Eliphaz goes next, giving the first reply to Job’s complaint. He is just certain that Job must have done something wrong to explain his present condition. “Consider now who being innocent as ever perished?” (4.7). He seems to have taken some advice from a demon apparition that he had encountered (4.12–21). The words he heard may seem to appeal to the moral sensibilities of the human, but they are initiated from a demonic source.
Notes on Proverbs
The one-liners continue until the end of chapter 25. Here are a few that stand out to me in this week’s reading:
The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord (21.31).
A good name is more desirable than great riches to be esteemed is better than silver or gold (22.1).
A new section is introduced in 22.17, “Thirty sayings of the wise.” The NIV actually identifies and numbers all of these. They continue through 24.22.
“Do not wear yourself out the get rich” (23.4). This is a continual longing and temptation for us. It is not something new, and is completely unrelated to any one particular economic system. It is universal.
Along with that, it is so very easy to envy sinners (23.17). This is not so much about the sin itself, but the prosperity that comes to many who have no relationship with God. Keep in mind the priorities and the future, this verse is telling us.
A new section is introduced the beginning of 25, generically called “More proverbs of Solomon.”
A literary change occurs in chapter 26. Small groups of verses begin to form short, connected verses into mini-narratives. For example, the first eleven verses refer to actions of fools. But all these are actually leading up to verse 12 where we read “Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”
I love it: “If anyone loudly blesses their neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse” (27.14).