David’s early reign as king of Israel was marked by military success as the Lord gave him victory after victory. But we are reminded in 2 Samuel 8–10 that the truly great person is not merely one who possesses power and prestige, but the one who is gracious to others.
Now in 2 Samuel 7, we listened in as God promised to bless the house of David—his descendants—forever. Of course, this all looked forward to the coming Messiah, the greater Son of David.
Now here in chapter 8, we are told of one military victory after another for King David. These victories expanded Israel’s borders and strengthened the kingdom rule of David. Twice in this chapter, at verse 6 and again in verse 14, we read, “The LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.”
David defeated the Philistines, and then he defeated the Moabites. Now you might remember that David had been on good terms with Moab and even sent his parents to live there for their protection during Saul’s reign (1 Samuel 22). So, something has clearly changed since then, though we don’t know what brought that about. There is an extra-biblical tradition that says David’s parents were killed by the Moabites, but there is no historical confirmation of this.
Now we read here in 2 Samuel chapter 8:3 that David defeats Hadadezer, king of the small territory of Zobah. Then verse 5 tells us that “when the Syrians of Damascus came to help Hadadezer king of Zobah, David struck down 22,000 men of the Syrians.” This means Israel’s power expands to Damascus, which pays tribute to Israel. So, as a result of these victories, David’s kingdom is enriched with gold, silver, and bronze, which verse 11 says David “dedicated to the LORD.”
Next, David gains victory over Edom in the south, adding more territory to the kingdom of Israel. Then, as I said earlier, verse 14 reminds us that “the LORD gave victory to David wherever he went.” And by the way, he is not successful only with a sword; he’s a capable leader as well. Verse 15 says, “David administered justice and equity to all his people.”
Over in 1 Chronicles 18–19, we are given the same information that Samuel gives us here—it is one victory after another for David. But 2 Samuel interrupts all these victories to show us a wonderful touch of grace on the part of David.
The ninth chapter of 2 Samuel opens with David asking, “Is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?” Now think about this: David is at the height of his power, enjoying success on every front, building his fame and fortune. Usually, such people aren’t interested in showing grace, especially to the family of a former enemy.
David is no doubt remembering a vow he had made to his best friend, Prince Jonathan, years before in 1 Samuel 20. David promised King Saul’s son that he would deal kindly with his descendants when he ascended the throne of Israel. David is sincere in his desire. He has been blessed by God, and he wants to bless someone else now. In fact, he says in verse 3, “Is there not still someone of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?”
Well, a former staff member of King Saul’s household named Ziba is brought forward, and he tells David about Mephibosheth. Mephibosheth is Jonathan’s own son and the grandson of King Saul.
Ziba tells David that Mephibosheth is alive, but Ziba is quick to add in verse 3, “He is crippled in his feet.” Back in chapter 4 we were told that Mephibosheth was injured accidentally at age five when his nurse was fleeing with him following the news that Saul and Jonathan had been killed in battle.
Why was she running with this little boy in her arms? Well, the custom was for the new king to kill all the family members of the previous king to get rid of any rivals. And since Saul and Jonathan were dead, Mephibosheth was a potential heir to the throne. She was thinking that David would do what Saul would have done.
So, this nurse was running away with this little boy to save his life. And while running, she dropped him, permanently injuring his legs. That boy is now a young man.
When called before David, Mephibosheth is terrified. When he arrives, he bows and proclaims himself David’s servant. David’s response here in chapter 9 and verse 7 must have shocked him:
“Do not fear, for I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan, and I will restore to you all the land of Saul your father, and you shall eat at my table always.”
Mephibosheth has absolutely nothing to offer David. There is no benefit to David in showing favor to this young man. But that is exactly what David does. This is an illustration of grace.
Grace is unmerited favor. Grace is not earned; it’s simply received. Grace is showing favor and compassion to someone who cannot pay you back.
Grace is treating people like God has treated us. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). We didn’t earn this or deserve it, but God has given us forgiveness and eternal life with Him.
David restores to Mephibosheth the land that had belonged to Saul, and then he appoints Ziba and his sons and servants as caretakers of his fields. Verse 11 tells us, “Mephibosheth ate at David’s table, like one of the king’s sons.” As the song lyrics go, we were once enemies of God the Father, but we are now seated at His table of grace.
Now with that, we come to chapter 10 of 2 Samuel, where David now attempts to show grace and kindness to another king.
David learns of the death of the reigning king of Ammon, which lay well to the east of the Jordan River. David wants to express his respect for the late king, Nahash, and offer his condolences because, as he says in verse 2, Nahash had “dealt loyally,” or with kindness, toward him. More than likely, Nahash had offered David protection at times when Saul was pursuing him.
So, David sends a friendly delegation to the new king, Hanun, the son of Nahash. But verse 3 informs us that Hanun’s advisers see this as an attempt to “search the city and to spy it out and to overthrow it.”
They think David’s delegation is up to no good here. So, instead of a warm welcome, verse 4 tells us they “took David’s servants and shaved off half the beard of each and cut off their garments in the middle, at their hips, and sent them away.” In the ancient world this was the humiliating treatment someone gave to prisoners of war.
If that is not enough to provoke the wrath of David, King Hunan proceeds to hire 33,000 Syrian soldiers to join the Ammonites in fighting Israel. But under General Joab’s leadership, the Israelites defeat both armies.
Then there is yet another battle with the Syrians. Verse 19 records that they are defeated once again, and David allows them to sign a peace treaty with Israel.
These chapters reveal in King David a victorious and powerful king, but also a kind and gracious man. Let’s become a little more like David in showing grace to others, since we have received amazing grace from our Heavenly Father.
When you treat others with grace, it will probably surprise a lot of people, but it will point them to a victorious Lord and Savior who offers them what they could never earn and they do not deserve—an invitation to the table and membership in the family of God.