This is a neat story from 2 Samuel 5:17-25 that I want to go through piece by piece about how David was given divine help to conquer the Philistines after he was made king. There are some neat things to learn from it.
17 ¶But when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines came up to seek David; and David heard of it, and went down to the hold.
When David was made king, the Philistines must have thought it would be best to put David down quickly, lest he get the advantage over them. David’s response was to go down into the hold, which was a place of refuge or fortification.
David is a good model to follow when opposition looms. Fortify and seek refuge. We know to whom we should go—Christ.
18 The Philistines also came and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim.
The Philistines must have been a fearsome sight, spread out in the vally of Rephaim. This sight had once terrified Saul, but we hear nothing of any emotional response of David. His heart had been made firm by much previous affliction, so it was nothing new to him.
19 And David inquired of the Lord, saying, Shall I go up to the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into mine hand? And the Lord said unto David, Go up: for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand.
David inquired of the Lord whether he should go fight the Philistines. He had spent much time on the run, and he could keep running, or he could stay in his place of security, so while the answer seems obvious to us that he should fight, it wasn’t obvious to him. The Lord told him to fight and assured him of victory.
20 And David came to Baal-perazim, and David smote them there, and said, The Lord hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters. Therefore he called the name of that place Baal-perazim.
So David went and fought and won. We don’t have any record of the numbers he had versus the numbers the Philistines had, so we don’t how assured the victory appeared beforehand. However, we might get a little sense of the nature of the victory from what David said about it. “The Lord hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters.” And he calls the place Baal-perazim. The footnote for “breach” gives “bursting-forth,” which to me gives the image of a dam breaking and waters pouring out.
Perhaps if we imagine the Philistines and Israelites pushing against each other, stabbing at each other around their shields, grunting and heaving, trying to get through.. Then the Philistine line breaks in a few places and Israelites push through, and the Philistines fall back and flee..
Of course, this is my imagination at work, but it helps me visualize why David would want to speak of it the way he did, as a bursting forth, or a breach of waters.
Also, the ‘im’ at the end of perazim is a plural form, so that makes me think it was multiple breaks or breaches, not just one.
So when David gives the Lord credit for those breakthroughs, I think we are to understand that the Lord gave David’s army strength to stand firm for longer than the Philistines.
21 And there they left their images, and David and his men burned them.
The Philistines left idol images in their camp, so David and his men destroyed them so that they wouldn’t become a snare to the Israelites. It is also a nice statement that the Philistine gods could not save the Philistines, nor could those gods save themselves from destruction.
22 ¶And the Philistines came up yet again, and spread themselves in the valley of Rephaim.
Evidently the Philistines could not let that Israelite victory stand, so they came back to the very same place they were beaten before.
23 And when David inquired of the Lord, he said, Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees.
24 And let it be, when thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, that then thou shalt bestir thyself: for then shall the Lord go out before thee, to smite the host of the Philistines.
David could have taken it for granted that he should deal with the Philistines the same way he did before, but he doesn’t. Instead, he goes to the Lord again for guidance. I think he is a good example of humility. This makes me think I need to be more prayerful and ask for guidance even if a situation looks like the same thing will fix it against as was successful before.
Also, I can’t help but notice David’s ability to get really specific revelation with important details, like where to go, and a sign to look for that will indicate when to attack.
The sign that is given is “the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees,” which is really odd. I don’t know quite what that could be, whether it was a wind, or the sound of a moving army, or what. However, David seems to have known what it was, and he followed it and gained the victory. I suppose listening for a particular sound would have required him and his army to watch and wait very quietly and patiently, and then to move quickly with faith when the sign was given.
We still practice this obedience today as we wait for revelation from the prophet, and we must have the faith to act when the signal comes.
25 And David did so, as the Lord had commanded him; and smote the Philistines from Geba until thou come to Gazer.
Ultimately, David’s prayerfulness and humility and faith enabled him to win both victories over the Philistines.
Today, let’s approach our difficulties with prayer and humility, even if it looks like we could just easily do what we did before to conquer them. Let’s see what more we can learn about how God can help us.