David faces his old enemy/friend; the Philistines. As king of Israel it’s time to kick them out of the country. But does God agree? What is His plan?
David started out his military career by facing the Philistines; Goliath to be exact. He defeated him and took his head as proof. He spent many battles, while in Saul’s army, on opposite sides of the Philistines. And then he joined the Philistines in an effort to protect himself from Saul. Now they are facing off again. Let’s join in our story.
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Achish’s throne room is filled with the other Philistine leaders. They have called an emergency meeting.
“You said David had made himself a stench in the nostrils of Israel. Now they go and anoint him their king” seethed the king of Ashkelon.
“When he reported his raids to me he told me of the places in Judah he raided” replied Achish.
“You are a bigger fool that we gave you credit for. He LIED to you! He has been king of Judah for more than seven years now. If he had told you the truth he wouldn’t have even been welcome there” reminds the king of Ekron.
“Don’t you think I know that; NOW!”
“We should have dealt with him when he only ruled Judah.” The king of Ashdod shakes his fist to emphasize his point.
“It is VERY fortunate we turned him away in battle when we faced Saul.” The other kings agree but feel the king of Gaza’s comment is a bit too late to make any difference.
“Let the past rest. There is nothing we can do about it. We need to decide how to proceed now” offers Achish.
“We need to KILL HIM. That’s what we need to do” roars the king of Ekron.
“We need to come against him in number! We must attack together as we did with Saul. David is new to Israel and they may decide he is not worth the wrath of the combined Philistine presence.”
“The king of Ashdod speaks wisely” replies the king of Gaza. “We must remove David now before the people put all their trust in him. We crush him, we crush Israel.”
Discussion continued and battle plans were solidified. The five Philistine lords would seek out David and go against him specifically. No side raids. No distractions. David was their target.
A week later reports of Philistine troop movements was brought to David in Hebron.
“My king, the Philistines are gathering for war. Their numbers are GREAT and there are standards for all five kings among them.”
“They have undoubtedly heard that I have been made king of Israel. We cannot risk the good people of Hebron. Now that Jerusalem is secure I can think of no better stronghold to meet them from.”
David would not make the same mistake the Jebusites had when it came to protecting the stronghold. The waterway would be guarded at all times. They hadn’t had time yet to complete their fortifications surrounding it so guards would be used instead.
David’s main troops were already stationed in Jerusalem. All that remained was for him to move himself and his family, along with his personal guards, to Jerusalem. This took the better part of a day. David spent the next two days working up battle plans and adjusting his forces to points he felt might be vulnerable.
Spies quickly return to the Philistine lords after watching David move his family. “David has taken refuge in Jerusalem.”
“A wise and foolish decision. It is worthy stronghold but if he can take it WE certainly can too. Our numbers far outweigh anything he could muster.”
The target is now chosen by David himself. The Philistines march straight to Jerusalem and make camp on the nearby hills.
Morning dawns and David looks over the hills surrounding Jerusalem. They are filled with Philistines encampments. Philistia is united in their desire to see David’s head on a pike. David shows no fear as he surveys his enemy. He has seen battle MANY TIMES over. This battle though weighs more heavily on him. It is his first as Israel’s king and it will set the tone for his reign. He must seek God.
David’s personal servant is in the room making up the bed. “Abket, send for the priest. Have him bring the ephod.”
Abket hurries off to complete his duty. The priest arrives at David’s door within minutes. “You sent for me my king. How may I serve you?”
“I wish to inquire of the Lord. I must know His will before facing the Philistines.”
“A wise decision my king.” The priest places the ephod on his body and clears his mind. “Inquire my king.”
“Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will you give them into my hand?” (verse 19b).
The priest’s eyes close and he speaks with a voice of authority. “Go up, for I will certainly give the Philistines into your hand” (verse 19c). The priest waits a little longer to make certain the Lord has no more to say to David. He opens his eyes and unfastens the ephod. “The Lord has given you His answer.”
David follows the priest out and goes to the garrison. He calls his commanders together. “We will go up against the Philistines this day. The Lord has spoken. He has given them into our hands.” Cheers erupt from the men standing ready. David’s words bolster their confidence.
There were already men stationed on the wall. Now the remaining forces assemble in waves near the gates of the city. Jerusalem has four gates. Each one has troops ready to rush from it as well as troops to defend it. David stations himself with his men at the northern gate.
The ram’s horn sounds a long blast. The city gates are thrown open and David’s forces rush to face the Philistines who were still in the process of cutting timbers for their assault. They had no idea David would come to them. They expected to have a long siege. Now they have to scramble to readjust their tactics.
David’s men are cutting through the Philistine lines like ripe wheat. The fall to the right and left. Every flank is receiving the same result. The Philistine are in utter chaos! Retreat is sounded and the remaining Philistine army flees the battlefield. David’s men give chase but are called back after a short distance. David wants to leave NO chance of them sneaking into the city instead.
As the men near Jerusalem David calls out, “Gather the spoils. ‘The Lord has broken through my enemies before me like a breaking flood’ (verse 20b).” David is pleased to give God the glory.
In the spoils are the Philistines’ idols. Gold, brass, silver and wood items these uncircumcised worshiped. The metal pieces will be melted while the wooden ones burned in a great fire. David thinks to himself, “Imagine trusting in some item fashioned by the hands of man.”
All is quiet for a while. David’s men finish the fortifications on the water system. David has dreams of expanding the city walls to incorporate the water but that will be some time in the making.
Word reaches David again. “The Philistines are on the move again my king. They are perhaps two days march from here.”
“Take two runners with you and keep watch on them. Inform me of their movements daily through the runners.”
The messenger bows and hurries off to do the king’s bidding. David sends word to prepare the troops for battle.
The next day brings word from the runners. “The Philistines are made camp in the Valley of Rephaim. They appear to be settling in there.”
David considers this report. They are trying a different tactic than last time. They have left a buffer zone between them and Jerusalem. They would have a clear field of fire if David’s men rushed headlong into that gap. “Return to your watch and send me word if they begin to move again.”
Once the messenger departs David sends again for the priest. The priest stands before David with the ephod in his hands. “What does my king desire?”
“I must inquire of the Lord again.”
The priest dons the ephod. “Inquire my king.”
“Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You give them into my hand?”
“You shall not go up; go around to their rear, and come against them opposite the balsam trees. And when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, then rouse yourself, for then the Lord has gone out before you to strike down the army of the Philistines” (verses 23b-24).
David is awed at the Lord’s tactics. He is happy to comply for he knows the Lord will not fail those who put their trust in Him and follow His commands. David calls for his commanders.
“What is your command my king?” asks Joab.
“We are to face the Philistines again.”
Joab smiles. “Another defeat awaits them. When will they learn.”
“Yes, they will be defeated but not in the manner they were the last time.”
Joab’s face shows eagerness to hear the king’s plan.
“The Lord has spoken and told us to go behind them. We will need to wait until they have committed themselves to a position, then sneak out in the night to get behind them. Send a squad of men to join the runners in the Valley of Rephaim. They are keeping watch on the Philistines. Let me know if they have settled in. Also scout out the best way around them. Get word back so we can be ready at the earliest moment.”
Joab sends out his brother, Abishai’s squad. He is an incredibly fast runner. They will need all his speed to allow David’s men time to take their positions.
The light of day is nearly gone before Abishai returns to Joab. “The Philistines have indeed made the Valley of Rephaim their camp. They have cut timbers and stationed archers. There is also a ridge to the east of them that will hide our movements.”
“Did you see any spies stationed in between?”
“I scouted the whole area around the city and saw two near the northern gate. If we take the western gate and double behind the city we will escape their notice.”
“Good work. We will move out soon. I want to be in position before daybreak.”
Joab shares the report with David who is also pleased with Abishai’s report. David and his men leave within the hour. They have put sacks over their swords to keep them from clanging. The night has a full moon so they are able to see without the aid of torches. Before morning they are well hidden behind the camp of the Philistines.
As the first light of morning makes its way into the valley the Philistines rise and prepare to do battle. They assemble in ranks and begin their march towards Jerusalem.
David and his men are silent as they wait for the sound the Lord told them to expect. Not long after the Philistines set out the balsam begins to resound with the sound of their marching feet.
“NOW!” The call rings out and David’s troops surge from the trees. They begin with the troops in the rear, dispatching them with ease. It takes a few minutes before the forward troops realize where their challenge is coming from. By then it is chaos. David’s men “strike down the Philistines from Geba to Gezer” (verse 25b).
The Philistines that remain flee in every direction, some seeking refuge in Gezer. David and his troops return to Jerusalem, gathering spoils along the way. They make their biggest haul at the site of the Philistines camp. “How quickly they forgot the losses they had last time. Maybe this time will be different” thinks David.
As soon as they make it back to Jerusalem David calls for the priest. He wants to honor the Lord for another victory before anything else happens.
A tithe is taken of the spoil and given to the priest. The priest then makes an offering of thanksgiving. David calls for a day of feasting to celebrate the Lord’s victory once again.
(to be continued)
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I love how David starts his reign in Israel off right. He asks God’s direction before going against the Philistines. I wonder if there was a pause in between the “You shall not go up” and the “go around.” If there was a pause did it cause a drop in David’s heart? Or did he know to ‘wait for it’? I have trouble with the pauses. I begin to wonder if that is the complete answer. “Am I supposed to ask a different question?” “Is this a ‘No’ then?” “But…” Maybe that is my lesson for today. God has a complete plan, I need to be willing to wait to hear the rest of it.
Father God, thank You for Your lessons, even when I don’t enjoy them. The ones that are the hardest are usually the ones I need the most and the most repeating to make them stick. Keep me walking in Your ways Lord. Show me what comes next. Help me with the pauses. I WANT to wait on You.