This reading summarizes the peace that David the anointed one imposed on or received from all his neighbors. It begins with the Philistines, the ones who had inflicted Israel the most during their recent history: “After this David defeated the Philistines and subdued them” (2 Samuel 8:1). Then it summarizes how he forced Moab, Zobah, the Syrians and Edom to submit. Toi king of Hamath submits
voluntarily. Although we might want to know more details about exciting battles or heroic military campaigns, the Author of the Bible is not interested in telling us about them. He wants us to be impressed with His power over the nations and His
faithfulness with which He fulfilled promises from 2 Samuel 7:10-11, and so He tells us twice briefly, “And the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went” (2 Samuel 8:6, 14). And this theme of the submission of the nations to Yahweh’s anointed will resonate for the rest of the Bible.
Notice that as he imposes peace on the nations, David grows wealthy, “David took the shields of gold that were carried by the servants of Hadadezer and brought them to Jerusalem. And from Betah and from Berothai, cities of Hadadezer, King David took very much bronze” (2 Samuel 8:7-8). But these riches were directed to the project of building a house for Yahweh, the project that his descendant will complete according to the covenant. “Joram brought with him articles of silver, of gold, and of bronze. These also King David dedicated to the LORD, together with the silver and gold that he dedicated from all the nations he subdued” (2 Samuel 8:10-11). As we continue to read about the submission of the nations in the Old Testament, notice too, the references to the nations bringing their treasures to Jerusalem, the city of Yahweh’s anointed.
Not only do we see the fulfillment of the covenant of 2 Samuel 7 in military success against Israel’s neighbors but also in the just government of the anointed one: “So David reigned over all Israel. And David administered justice and equity to all his people” (2 Samuel 8:15). And 2 Samuel 9 tells us about an outstanding example of his justice and equity, his mercy to Mephibosheth. At a time when it was common practice to kill all the males of a defeated royal house to solidify a new reign (remember how Abimelech massacred his 70 brothers, all the sons of Gideon in Judges 9:1-6), David looks for a descendant of Jonathan to bless him. Stronger
than any desire for vengeance on Saul is his desire to fulfill the covenant that
Jonathan had made with him: “Do not cut off your steadfast love from my house
forever, when the LORD cuts off every one of the enemies of David from the face
of the earth” (1 Samuel 20:15). And now that Yahweh has given him peace from all his enemies, David blesses, protects and provides for one who cannot offer him any military, economic or social advantage; he blesses Jonathan’s descendant out of mercy and love: “So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he ate always at the king’s table. Now he was lame in both feet” (2 Samuel 9:13).
As he continues his just dominion in 2 Samuel 10, David tries to show mercy to a neighbor: “After this the king of the Ammonites died, and Hanun his son reigned in his place. And David said, ‘I will deal loyally with Hanun the son of Nahash, as his father dealt loyally with me’” (2 Samuel 10:1-2). But Hanun responds to David’s kindness with harshness and humiliation; he sparks another war that manifests once more Yahweh’s power to make His enemies submit: “When all the kings who were servants of Hadadezer saw that they had been defeated by Israel, they made peace with Israel and became subject to them. So the Syrians were afraid to save the Ammonites anymore” (2 Samuel 10:19). It is not a light thing to mock Yahweh’s anointed: “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him” (Psalm 2:10-12).
Therefore we see that today’s reading is very important. After the covenant of 2 Samuel 7, we see its fulfillment begun immediately by the peace that Yahweh’s anointed imposes by force or offers voluntarily to the nations and by his just and merciful dominion over everyone who accepts the warning to receive him.