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2 Samuel 23:1-7 – David’s Last Words

Summary

Functioning together with David's song of praise (chapter 22) as a counterpoint to the song of Hannah that opened the books of Samuel, David's last words affirm that God will remain faithful to the everlasting covenant between God and the house of David.

Analysis

The most difficult aspect of this text is determining who says what. Most assume that God speaks in verses 3b-4 and David speaks in verses 5-7. But the text presents itself as an "oracle" of David (v. 1a), in which God speaks through David, much like Balaam's famous oracles (Numbers 24:3, 15). This seems to be the case in verses 3b-4 and verses 6-7, which resemble a wisdom saying contrasting godly kings with godless people. The use of the first person ("me," "my") with reference to David's "house" and third person "he" with reference to what is certainly God's activity in verse 5 suggests that David interrupts the divine oracle midstream with rhetorical questions claiming God's promise (v. 5a, c). In the center stands the affirmation that David and his house can serve as godly rulers only because (ki, "for") of the "everlasting covenant" forged in 2 Samuel 7:14-16:

A    God speaks of godly rulers (vv. 3b-4)
    B    David: "Is not [ki lo] my house like this with God?" (v. 5a)
        X    Because (ki) of the everlasting covenant (v. 5b)
    B′    David: "Will he [God] not [ki lo] …prosper all my help and my desire?" (v. 5c)
A′    God speaks of godless people (vv. 6-7)

On this reading, David's last words are really God's, words claiming that a godly king is God's blessing to the nation. As long as God is with David, the godless have no hope. David responds with the exuberant exclamation that his house will prosper in this way because of God's everlasting promise.

2 Samuel 23:1-7

The Last Words of David

23Now these are the last words of David:
The oracle of David, son of Jesse,
   the oracle of the man whom God exalted,*
the anointed of the God of Jacob,
   the favourite of the Strong One of Israel:


2 The spirit of the Lord speaks through me,
   his word is upon my tongue.
3 The God of Israel has spoken,
   the Rock of Israel has said to me:
One who rules over people justly,
   ruling in the fear of God,
4 is like the light of morning,
   like the sun rising on a cloudless morning,
   gleaming from the rain on the grassy land.


5 Is not my house like this with God?
   For he has made with me an everlasting covenant,
   ordered in all things and secure.
Will he not cause to prosper
   all my help and my desire?
6 But the godless are* all like thorns that are thrown away;
   for they cannot be picked up with the hand;
7 to touch them one uses an iron bar
   or the shaft of a spear.
   And they are entirely consumed in fire on the spot.*

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v 2.2.7
10 February 2011

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