The initial chapters of 2 Samuel reveal that David had concern for a reputation of purity as he established his reign over all Israel. David was a man of great integrity. He knew that since God had promised him the throne (see 1 Sam 16:12), he need not scheme and assassinate his rivals. Even foreign leadership recognized David’s greatness, which David demonstrated in leading Israel’s army against Israel’s enemies.
On the heels of the assassination of Abner, Ish-bosheth was distraught “and all Israel was dismayed” (2 Sam 4:1). Perhaps this was in part because Abner was of greater prowess than Ish-bosheth (see 2 Sam 3:6-11). Further, the only other rightful claimant to the throne was Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth, who had been crippled from childhood (2 Sam 4:4-5). Two men, Baanah and Rechab, leaders of raiding parties in Israel, assassinated Ish-bosheth and brought his head to David in Hebron (2 Sam 4:5-8). Just like David had responded to the man who brought him the head of Saul (2 Samuel 1), David replied to Ish-bosheth’s assassins saying, “Should I not require his blood from your hands and wipe you off the earth?” (2 Sam 4:11). He did: “David gave orders to the young men, and they killed Rechab and Baanah. They cut off their hands and feet and hung their bodies by the pool in Hebron” (2 Sam 4:12).
When the tribes of Israel gathered at Hebron, they surrendered themselves to Judah’s king and swore allegiance to David (2 Sam 5:1-2). One of the psalmists, reflecting on David’s greatness, wrote that the Lord “chose David His servant and took him from the sheepfolds; He brought him from tending ewes to be shepherd over His people Jacob—over Israel His inheritance. He shepherded them with a pure heart and guided them with his skillful hands” (Ps 78:70-72). Psalm 78 is a reminder that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are a storyline recounting God’s acts of redemption for Israel and in Christ.
(1) Matthew cited Ps 78:2 in Matt 13:35 to explain Jesus’ use of parables. The Psalmist began his poem by telling his readers that he was declaring from them wise sayings, mysteries of God’s past work handed down from their fathers (Ps 78:2). The pinnacle of the former may have been the reign of David over all Israel, inaugurated in 2 Samuel 5. One should observe the flow of redemptive history from the exodus (Ps 78:12) to the time of David’s reign (Ps 78:70). The author of the Psalm was concerned that Israel remember God’s acts and teach them to their children, so that they might trust in God and keep His commandments—unlike their forefathers who were stubborn and rebellious (Ps 78:7-8). The psalmist acted as teacher in Psalm 78, instructing his readers through his poem. Matthew noted that Jesus also taught in wise sayings (parables) to instruct His audience. Like the psalmist, Jesus wanted His audience to heed instruction but knew that some among them were stubborn and unbelieving. Parables ensured that those who could hear would receive His teaching and that the hard-hearted would be further sealed in their unbelief.
(2) The New Testament authors described Jesus as a shepherd, echoing 2 Sam 5:2 and Ps 78:71. The pinnacle of Psalm 78 is the Lord’s call of David to provide stability for Israel as he shepherded the people with a heart true to God. Toward the end of his life, Moses asked the Lord to provide a new leader for His people so that they would not be like sheep without a shepherd (Num 27:15-17). The Lord called David from shepherding the flocks to be the shepherd of His people, a role confirmed upon David in 2 Sam 5:2. When Jesus proceeded through the towns of Galilee, He felt compassion for the people because they were spiritually oppressed by the teaching of the Pharisees and rampant disease. They were like sheep without a shepherd (Matt 9:36). After the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus intended to get away with His disciples in private but when the crowds followed, Jesus gave His attention to them because they were like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). In John 10:1-21, Jesus described Himself as the Good Shepherd who would lay down His life for the sheep. The author of Hebrews concluded his epistle by describing Jesus as the great Shepherd who had been raised with the blood of the everlasting covenant (Heb 13:20). In John’s vision in Revelation, one of the elders told him that the Lamb would shepherd those who had been martyred, compassionately guiding them to springs of living water and wiping away every tear from their eyes (Rev 7:17).