Toward the end of their lives, many old covenant saints gave a final speech that included warnings, blessings, or prophecies. These speeches, in turn, are often regarded as the last words of these saints even if their speakers said additional things afterward. The idea is that such speeches were the saints’ final public declarations or words of consummate importance. Notable saints who spoke last words of this kind include Jacob (Gen. 49), Joshua (Josh. 24), and Samuel (1 Sam. 12).
David may be included in this list of examples, as we see in today’s passage. Second Samuel 23:1–7 features “the last words of David,” even though David would speak again before his death (1 Kings 2:1–9). But 2 Samuel 23 records David’s last spoken words of public significance. Notably, these words should be regarded chiefly as a prophecy. David himself describes the words as an “oracle” (2 Sam. 23:1), which is the name typically given to speeches uttered by prophets. Furthermore, we read that these words—like the words of the prophets—were spoken by the Spirit of the Lord who put His word on the tongue of David (vv. 2–3). So, David’s last words were actually words from God, given for the benefit of all people.
These final words look forward to the coming messianic kingdom. Certainly, future descendants of David could look to verses 3–7 for a description of what the ideal ruler of God’s people should look like. The ideal leader rules in justice, and his reign brings new life, just as the sun and the rain call forth life from the earth (vv. 3–4). However, we know that no merely human king has yet reigned in perfect justice or has ruled in such a way as to give lasting life to his kingdom. Thus, these words point us ultimately to Christ, whose everlasting kingdom brings life itself to the world (John 14:6; Rom. 8:18–25).
In the remainder of 2 Samuel 23, we find a record of David’s mighty men, particularly valiant and noteworthy soldiers in David’s army, as well as their exploits. The individuals and episodes described add some color to our understanding of David’s reign, and they remind us that God is concerned not only with the central players in the story of redemption—such as David—but also with the saints who play lesser parts—the rest of us. Why else would the Lord tell us about these mighty men and what they did if He had no regard for their smaller roles in His kingdom?