Yahweh the Leveler, Yahweh the Warrior (Davis)

In 2 Samuel 5:17-25 and 1 Chronicles 14:8-17 Scripture gives us the story of David’s back to back victories over the Philistines. After David was anointed as king over all of Israel and Judah, the Philistines attacked. Both times David prayed to God for guidance. Both times the Lord gave David a great victory. In these two victories, Yahweh is depicted as one who destroys enemies like an overwhelming flood and a divine captain of an army host. I appreciate Dale Ralph Davis’ commentary on this story – the 2 Samuel 5:17-25 version:

These episodes not only depict Yahweh as the defender of his kingdom but show how he protects it.

First, he protects it by his guidance. At the very start of both episodes David asks direction from Yahweh (vv. 19, 23; see also 2:1), probably through the priest (1 Sam. 23:6–14). (Here David stands in marked contrast to Saul [1 Sam. 28:6, 15]; David receives direction from Yahweh while Saul had been cut off from it.) And he discovers an interesting twist in Yahweh’s direction, for, although David faces two almost identical situations (vv. 18, 22), Yahweh varies his guidance in the second episode. The first time Yahweh answered, ‘Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand’ (v. 19b), but on the second occasion he cautioned, ‘You must not go up—go around behind them and come on them opposite the balsam trees’ (v. 23b)….

Secondly, these Philistine vignettes teach that Yahweh protects his kingdom by his power….

The second episode also highlights Yahweh’s power as he describes himself as a warrior leading his troops into the fray:

“When you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then you must spring into action, for then Yahweh shall have gone out before you to strike down the Philistine army (v. 24).”

The verb ‘to go out/forth’ (yāṣā’) is a very common one but frequently refers to going into or leading into battle (see v. 2 in this very chapter). For example, when Deborah ordered Barak into battle against Sisera’s hordes she exclaimed, ‘Has not Yahweh gone out (yāṣā’) before you?’ (Judg. 4:14). That is, the divine captain had entered combat and his people had only to follow. So here in verse 24 Yahweh styles himself as the Warrior who plunges into battle and knocks off the Philistines.

Note what vigorous images the text gives us of Yahweh’s power: the Leveler and the Warrior. Contemporary Christians must not tone these down, for the text means to impress us with the fact that we do not have a namby-pamby godlet who is house-broken in line with our canon of conceivability. (People abandon gods like that, and they’re carried off to the landfill, v. 21). No, Yahweh’s people have a God who is a smasher and a fighter, a God ‘mighty in battle’ (Ps. 24:8), who can therefore defend his sheep and restrain and conquer all his and our enemies. Hence 2 Samuel 5 leads us straight into eschatology, that is, last things, for if this is our God who protects his kingdom under David, then his people never need fear, for this God is more than able to always lead us in triumph (cf. 2 Cor. 2:14) and to impose his kingdom at the last in all its power and glory. There can be no doubt. After all, he is the Leveler and Warrior.

Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI, 54015