With the death of Ish-bosheth, no one was left among Saul’s descendants who could be a legitimate contender for Israel’s throne. After all, Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth was physically incapable of leading the nation into battle (2 Sam. 4:4). And so, David officially assumed the reign over all the tribes of Israel, for clearly he alone could take the place of Saul.
Today’s passage describes how David came to be king not only of Judah but of all Israel. We read that elders representing the northern tribes came to David, who was ruling Judah from Hebron, a city in Judah’s territory in the southern part of the promised land. No doubt this meeting was due in part to Abner’s promise to bring all Israel over to David (3:12). However, the tribes justified their choice to receive David’s rule over them by appealing to their relation to David as a fellow Israelite, to David’s role in leading the people into battle against the Philistines during Saul’s reign, and their knowledge that God had chosen David to be the king (5:1–2). Then, they anointed him as their ruler (v. 3). This was the second time representatives from Israel anointed David (see 2:4), and it is interesting in light of the fact that God Himself had anointed David several years before, through the mediating work of the prophet Samuel (1 Sam. 16:1–13). Though we would not want to make too much of this example, it does point us in the direction of seeing that the people of God have a role in receiving others as their leaders. One cannot simply proclaim himself a leader in the church; others must recognize and receive him as such.
Today’s passage also tells us how David made the city of Jerusalem his capital (2 Sam. 5:6–8). Jerusalem was a better choice than Hebron as the capital of Israel, for it is centrally located in the promised land and has excellent natural defenses. During the time of the judges, both Judah and Benjamin had some success in warring against the city, but neither tribe had driven out the Jebusites, who inhabited Jerusalem (Judg. 1:11–21). It seems likely that David and his men invaded the city by climbing up the shaft that was used to bring water into Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:8). Having taken the city, David strengthened it further and called it “the city of David” (vv. 9–10).
About a thousand years before David took Jerusalem, God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of the Jebusites (Gen. 15:17–21). With David’s conquering of Jerusalem, that promise was finally fulfilled.