In the Lord’s covenant with David, He told the newly crowned king that his place in the flow of redemptive history was to be a conqueror, one who would be used to destroy Israel’s enemies and give them rest from war (2 Sam 7:8-11). On the heels of this announcement, the author recorded several instances of military advance against surrounding pagan nations. David expanded Israel’s territory and solidified the nation’s place in the Promised Land. Couched in this record of David’s exploits is a picture of David’s mercy, this time to the house of Saul and his grandson Mephibosheth.
The catalogue of David’s triumphs over Israel’s foes begins in 2 Samuel 8. David defeated the Philistines (2 Sam 8:1), the Moabites (2 Sam 8:2), and Hadadezer, the king of Zobah who was assisted by the Arameans of Damascus (2 Sam 8:3-7). At the conclusion of this list the author inserted a literary framing device for the chapter: “The LORD made David victorious wherever he went” (2 Sam 8:6, 14). David reigned over all Israel, establishing justice and righteousness for all his people (2 Sam 8:15).
The author abruptly turned to domestic concerns in 2 Samuel 9. David asked, “Is there anyone remaining from Saul’s family I can show kindness to because of Jonathan?” (2 Sam 9:1). Ziba, a servant of Saul’s family, reported that Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth (who was lame in both feet according to 2 Sam 4:4), was yet alive and would be a candidate for the king’s compassion (2 Sam 9:2-5). When Mephibosheth was brought to David, he “bowed down to the ground and paid homage” (2 Sam 9:6). David’s reply displayed his magnanimous spirit toward Saul’s household. David enlisted Ziba as caretaker over the property that had been returned to Mephibosheth (2 Sam 9:8-12). Yet, the author emphasized that Mephibosheth stayed near the king in Jerusalem, always eating at the king’s table as David had promised (2 Sam 9:13).
David’s mercy was not limited to those who remained from Saul’s house. Upon the death of the Ammonite king, David sent a delegation to console Hanun, the king’s son (2 Sam 10:2). The delegation was not well received; their beards were shaved and they were sent away half-naked (2 Sam 10:3-4). Shamed, the king sent the men to Jericho that they might recover there. David called for a military response to the Ammonite king (2 Sam 10:5-7). During the battle, Joab realized that he was flanked in front and rear (2 Sam 10:7-9). After he divided the troops to fight on both fronts, David’s military commander exhorted the troops, “Be strong! We must prove ourselves strong for our people and for the cities of our God. May the LORD’s will be done” (2 Sam 10:12). As the battle progressed, Joab’s strength initially proved too much for Israel’s foes. But after regrouping, they attacked Israel. David went out against them and was victorious (2 Sam 10:15-18).
The events of 2 Samuel 8-10 reveal that God was placing David’s enemies under his feet. The storyline of Scripture describes Jesus as the ultimate recipient of the Davidic promise of victory. While David enjoyed victory over his enemies almost immediately following his rise to the throne, the fullness of Jesus’ victory over His enemies has yet to be displayed. Paul told the Corinthians that Christ had no doubt defeated even the last enemy, death, but that the complete repercussions of that triumph would not be displayed for a time. There is thus a sense in which Christ’s victory, “when He hands over the kingdom to God the Father, when He abolishes all rule and all authority and power” (1 Cor 15:24) and when “He puts all His enemies under His feet” (1 Cor 15:25), has yet to be realized. John’s vision in the Revelation noted that Jesus’ victory will be recognized by all when He returns to earth to judge and make war in righteousness—the time when He will be recognized as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Rev 19:11-16).