Saul is dead. David has ordered the execution of the man who falsely claimed to have ended his life – see First Samuel 31 and Second Samuel 1. And now “the men of Judah came to David and anointed him king over the people of Judah” (II Samuel 2:4a, NLT). Although called by God and anointed years before to rule over all Israel, David was still waiting on God’s appointed time.
Meanwhile, “Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had already gone to Mahanaim with Saul’s son Ishbosheth. There he proclaimed Ishbosheth king over… all the rest of Israel” (II Samuel 2:8-9).
But then there’s conflict between Judah and Israel, which eventually results in the death of Abner, the leader of Ishbosheth’s (Israel’s) army – see Second Samuel 3:30. This totally shakes up Ishbosheth so that “he lost all courage, and all Israel became paralyzed with fear” (II Samuel 4:1b).
With Abner dead and Ishbosheth not exactly calming the fears of the nation, “two brothers, Baanah and Recab, who were captains of Ishbosheth’s raiding parties... went to Ishbosheth’s house… and found Ishbosheth sleeping on his bed. They struck and killed him and cut off his head. Then, taking his head with them, they fled across the Jordan Valley through the night. When they arrived at Hebron, they presented Ishbosheth’s head to David. ‘Look!’ they exclaimed to the king. ‘Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul who tried to kill you. Today the Lord has given my lord the king revenge on Saul and his entire family!’” (II Samuel 4:2a, 4:5b, 7b-8).
Apparently these men hadn’t heard how David handled the guy who came in claiming to have finished off Saul. Note, as usual, how these two credit “the Lord” for their success in killing Ishbosheth.
But how does David react? “David said to Recab and Baanah, ‘The Lord, who saves me from all my enemies, is my witness. Someone once told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ thinking he was bringing me good news. But I seized him and killed him at Ziklag. That’s the reward I gave him for his news! How much more should I reward evil men who have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed? Shouldn’t I hold you responsible for his blood and rid the earth of you?’ So David ordered his young men to kill them” (II Samuel 4:9-12a, NLT).
No wonder the prophet Samuel told Saul concerning David (who was to replace him as king) that “the Lord has sought out a man after His own heart” (I Samuel 13:14b). Over and over David was tested with opportunities to speed up God’s timetable to become king of Israel; and over and over David showed his determination to wait on the Lord’s timing.
Bible scholars differ about how old David was when Samuel anointed him as God’s choice to replace Saul, but based on the varying opinions, we can put his age at somewhere between 15 and 25. Second Samuel 5:4a tells us that “David was thirty years old when he began to reign,” so we can see that he had somewhere between five and fifteen years of waiting before he was anointed king of Judah. Then David “reigned over Judah from Hebron for seven years and six months” (II Samuel 5:5a) before finally becoming king over Israel – a total wait time of between 12 and 22 years.
David knew firsthand the importance of patience, which is why he could write: “Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the Lord” (Psalm 27:14).