David’s reign over Israel, and the reign of his son Solomon, represented something of a golden age for God’s old covenant people. Today’s passage offers a glimpse into the power and glory of David’s reign while also providing hints that all would not be well even during the leadership of the son of Jesse.
Second Samuel 5:11–25 describes a series of events that took place across the forty years of David’s reign (see v. 4), offering a summary of that important time. These events are not given in chronological order, which allows the author to highlight certain aspects of the story for a theological purpose. We know, for example, that King Hiram of Tyre did not rule until the last ten years of David’s reign, and yet Tyre’s sending of supplies and builders to build David a house is the first event described after David’s anointing (vv. 11–12). Placing this event first emphasizes the fulfillment of God’s promises to make David secure on Israel’s throne and to have Israel rule over the nations as seen in Isaac’s blessing of Jacob and in the covenant commitment of the Lord never to take His love from David as He took it from Saul (Gen. 27:26–29; 2 Sam. 7:15).
Moving to 2 Samuel 5:17–25, we read of David’s battles against the Philistines in the Valley of Rephaim, located southwest of Jerusalem, a portion of which was on the border between the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. The Philistines were attempting to cut off David’s communication with the northern tribes, and it is possible that these battles actually occurred before David conquered Jerusalem. What is most notable about these accounts is that David inquired of the Lord before going to fight and then did as God instructed him. This set him apart from Saul, who did not follow the Lord’s instructions and eventually did not hear from God at all when he tried to inquire of Him, for the Lord left him on account of his disobedience (1 Sam. 13:8–15; 15:1–23; 28:1–7). David’s readiness to call on the Lord and to listen to Him, as well as the Lord’s willingness to answer David, indicates that he would be a different kind of king than the disobedient Saul.
Finally, today’s passage says that David had many children, and it names the sons born to him in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 5:13–16). This reveals the strength of David’s household, yet the report is not wholly positive. David had so many children because he took many concubines, a practice Deuteronomy 17:17 forbids. David was an improvement over Saul, but he also fell short of the kingly ideal.