Lesson 7 – Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel 1 & 2

Understanding the 5 Books of the Torah, in the critical spirit that we have followed, forms a solid and realistic basis to tackle the remainder of the Books of the Old Testament. Read attentively the Books of Joshua and Judges, then return to the explanations below:

The Book of Joshua

This book reports the narrative of the entry of the Israelites into Palestine, with Joshua as their head, around 1200 BC. The departure took place from Shittim (Joshua 3,1). The borders of the country to be occupied are quickly defined: from the desert (Sinai, with the Nile as Western limit) to the Euphrates (Joshua 1,4), Lebanon being entirely invaded. The door of the Israeli Knesset bears this quote: “Your domain, Israel, extends from the Nile to the Euphrates”. This is why the Israeli flag is represented by a white background, and the 6-branched star (of David) between two blue bands which represent the Nile and the Euphrates. See lesson 6 of this Biblical Course, at the end of the book of Numbers: borders of Israel.

The Ark crosses the Jordan River as a sign of God’s presence with the Israelite community (transformed into an invading army).

The circumcision had been neglected: on order of Joshua, it was revived “again… with knives of flint” (Joshua 5,2-9).

The takeover of Jericho: not to understand this fact literally. Notice that the city was taken the 7th day, after the 7th turn, the number 7 being that of plenitude (6,14-16). “The ram’s horn sounds” (Joshua 6,4-5 / 6,16) is a ritual custom practiced still today by the Jews at the Wailing Wall. Joshua curses Jericho, and says that the one who will rebuild it must offer his sons in sacrifice to the idols (Joshua 6,26-27). The first Book of the Kings, written later with the book of Joshua, reports that Hiel of Béthel rebuilt this city in offering his two sons in sacrifice (1 Kings 16,34). This “prophecy” is among others, that were reported as arguments with the intention of granting them historical truth.

The trumpet (Jos 6,16) acquired a prophetic and spiritual meaning after its use in liturgical worship (like bells). They announce that God will speak or act, and that the people shall listen carefully: “All you who inhabit the world… when the ram’s horn is sounded, you will hear! For this is what Yahweh has told me…” (Isaiah 18,3-4). At the end of times, Jesus sends his disciples with a “sounding trumpet”, as a final warning (Matthew 24,31). This trumpet is symbolic: it announces the opening of the Book of Revelation (Revelation 8,2 / 10,2) and invites those who have ears to listen to what the Spirit has to reveal to them again (Revelation 3,22).


An animal horn used as a trumpet (The ram horns are more modest)

The role of the priests, highlighted by the priest-scribes who wrote this text later, is made indispensable in the takeover of the city. The collapse of the walls of Jericho is a fable without historical basis and is part of the multiple “Jewish myths” against which Paul warns us of (Titus 1,13-14). Notice also that the recommendation made to the community, that no one, in entering the city, shall not “be covetous and take… all the silver and all the gold, all the things made of bronze and things of iron are consecrated to Yahweh and must be put into his treasury”, ie into the pious pocket of the priests (Joshua 6,17-19). The scribes were delighted in writing that the combatants “enforced the ban (law of total extermination) on everything in the town: men and women, young and old, even the oxen and sheep and donkeys, massacring them all.” (Joshua 6,21) This evokes the massacres of Deir Yassine, Kfar Kassem, etc… in Palestine, due to the establishment of the State of Israel (1948), as well as that of Sabra-Chatila, Cana, etc… in Lebanon, as a result of the Zionist expansionist plan.

The sun standing still over Gibeon (Joshua 10,12) is also a myth to be understood poetically, not in reality, since the moon also “stood still” by Joshua.

The distribution of the conquered land: a region was designated to each tribe, except for that of Levi because “Yahweh, God of Israel, was his heritage” (Joshua 13,14). This non-geographical share of the Levites shows that the “Promised Land” is a spiritual reality, non-geographical, just as Jesus and his Apostles well explained later (Luke 17,21 / Hebrews 13,14). It is by drawing lots that the country was divided among the tribes (Joshua 14,2).

The Sanctuary of Shiloh: the first center of worship was set up in Shiloh, in the northern part of the country (Joshua 18,1). It became the site of pilgrimage (1 Samuel 1,3). The Ark was found there before being transferred to the Temple of Jerusalem later on.

Joshua dies (Joshua 24,29) without appointing a successor. That posed a difficulty in managing the community. A series of “Judges” decided the military and political fate of the Israelites. The Book of Judges is about them, and comes after the Book of Joshua.

The bones of Joseph, who died in Egypt, were transferred and buried in Shechem (Nablus: where the well of Jacob is located). His tomb still lies there today (Joshua 24,32).

Note: The Israelites chose to penetrate Palestine by sword and blood. They could have however settled there peacefully, making good neighbors with the inhabitants who were there already. By doing that, they would have spread the knowledge of God, day-by-day, with friendly deeds, as God wanted it.


Main sites in relation with the narration of the conquest of Canaan

The Book of Judges

After Joshua, the Jews succumbed to idolatry, “they deserted Yahweh to serve Baal and Astartes… But they would not listen to their judges. They prostituted themselves to other gods…” (Judges 2,13-17) Note that those who “plundered” the Israelites did nothing but take back their possessions despoiled by the Israelites.

Thus, the Israelite history is a fabric of treason to God and aggression against men. It is astonishing that the scribes told Balaam who refused to curse the Jews: “I have seen no evil in Jacob” (Numbers 23,21), for this evil was denounced by Moses at the adoration of the golden calf and at so many other infidelities. The only good issue of this community was the Messiah, Jesus. All that happened to the sons of Jacob is interpreted by the Jewish scribes and priests in their favor. For example: God lets non-Jewish nations survive “only in the interest of the generations of the sons of Israel, to teach them the art of war…” (Judges 3,1-2). A strange warlike mentality which sees in God a warrior exterminator of any non-Jew. We must read such verses with a critical and objective spirit to discern what is of God, and what is a result of the racist mentality of the scribes. The preservation of the non-Jews among the Jews should have been understood differently: God, Father of all peoples, places the Jews amongst the nations (not the nations amongst the Jews) so that they remain amongst them peacefully, not aggressively, revealing to them, with wisdom, the existence of God. Now, on the contrary, lead themselves to idolatry after knowing the Unique Creator (Judges 3,4-6).

After Joshua, a dozen of judges succeeded over a period of a hundred years. The judge (“Suffet” in Hebrew) should not be understood in the sense of he who renders justice in a court. He is the one who guides and advises the community after having, most often, consulted God (Judges 4,4-6). He judges what is best to do. The judge is a prophet, he helps the people govern themselves, settles when to make a decision, to lead to battle: Ehud judges in fighting against Moab and kills their king, Eglon; Deborah judges in fighting the Canaanites and kills Sisera, their chief; Gideon judges in carrying out wars against Midian. Deborah is the only woman among the judges, a sort of Joan of Arc. The judges are thus people of confidence who defend the Israelites. The most known -without being the most important- is Samson.

Gideon

A fact to be noted: for the first time, with Gideon, the Israelites tried to establish a kingdom, to become a nation and, the Israelites -a community whose mission is spiritual- transformed into Israelis, a political entity. They asked Gideon then, to be their king and initiate a royal dynasty, his son to succeed him. But he refused, understanding that the only King is God, and that the Israelites’ mission is not political: “‘It is not I who shall rule you, nor my son; Yahweh must be your Lord.’ But Gideon went on… ‘Let every man of you give me one of the rings out of his spoils.’” (Judges 8,22-24) His son Abimelech desired the throne after him and tried to establish a kingdom which lasted only 3 years. He had put to death all his 70 brothers to reign, but was himself overthrown by the notables of Shechem, who had helped him massacre his brothers (Judges 9). A hundred years later, a second attempt takes place with Samuel and will lead to the establishment of an Israeli kingdom with Saul as the first king (1 Samuel 8). That was the Hebrews’ original sin, as we shall see in the First Book of Samuel (1 Samuel 12,19).

Jephthah

Judge Jephthah, son of a prostitute (Judges 11,1), fought the Ammonites and “made a vow to Yahweh, ‘If you deliver the Ammonites into my hands, the first person to meet me from the door of my house when I return in triumph from fighting the Ammonites shall belong to Yahweh, and I will offer him up as a holocaust.’” (Judges 11,30-31) It was his own daughter that he had to sacrifice (Judges 11,34-40). These human sacrifices were a pagan custom prohibited by God, but, nevertheless, practiced by the Israelites who were condemned by God (Jeremiah 7,30-31). Moses had prescribed the sacrifice of animals, not because God wanted them, but with the aim of preventing the Jews from offering them to idols and to avoid human sacrifices. But that served for nothing: the Israelis committed abominations, one after the other.

Samson

The story of Samson is full of exaggerations that should not be taken to the letter. His fights against the lion (Judges 14,6), then against the Palestinians with “a jaw of a donkey” are obvious fables (Judges 15,9-17), the purpose of which is to give this sturdy man an image of the invincible Hebrew, a kind “of Hercules” of that time. A mature spirit does not believe in it.

The crime of the Danites

Remember the bloody story of the Danites (chapters 17 & 18). This crime was committed after the consultation of God! The Danites asked the priest: “‘Then consult God and find out for us whether the journey we are making will be successful.’ The priest replied, ‘Go in peace; the journey you are making is under the eye of Yahweh.’” (Judges 18,5-6) Notice that the “god” invoked by the Levite priest was no other than a statue. Consulted by the teraphim (Urim and Purim), this “god” blessed the criminal expedition of the Danites! He was the creation of Micah who, enraged against the Danites who had stolen it from him, shrieked at them: “You have taken away the god I have made for myself…!” (Judges 18,24) This fabricated god by Micah permitted the Danites to execute “a defenseless people… a peaceful and trusting people” (Judges 18,10 / 18,27-28). It is by such practices of sorcery that God was consulted by the priests and soiled the Holy Name of the Creator.

So many people make up a god to their image instead of transforming themselves to the image of the only true God, this image that so many people lose by their own faults.

Another repugnant crime was committed by the Benjamites at Gibeah (chapters 19-20). It had disastrous consequences in the whole community and developed in an incomprehensible manner (Judges 19,1 / 21,25). The prophet Hosea does not forget this unimaginable crime (Hosea 9,9 / 10,9).

Remarks:
Wanting to justify the establishment of an Israeli kingdom, the scribes explained the social disorders in their community by the fact that, “in those days, there was no king in Israel” (Judges 18,1 / 19,1). They end the Book of Judges in insisting on this fact: “In those days there was no king in Israel, and every man did as he pleased.” (Judges 21,25) Now, the establishment of a kingdom does not resolve the problems; the social condition did not improve, the kingdom ends up divided into two: one in the North and another in the South. The kings were often inept of governing and the prophets did not fail to condemn them and to denounce the fact of having instituted a kingship in Israel (Hosea 8,4).
These macabre Biblical narratives reported in the Old Testament invite us to meditate: “God writes straight on curved lines”, a contemporary philosopher had said. He succeeded, despite the inaptitude of the Israelites, to achieve his Messianic plan. The Messiah was to come from the Jews (John 4,2), “like a root in arid ground” (Isaiah 53,2). This sterile ground is the Israelite environment from which Jesus emerged, and it is He says Saint Paul, this Messiah who removes the Mosaic veil which prevents the believers of perceiving the Divine Light: “indeed, to this very day, that same veil is still there when the old covenant is being read, a veil never lifted, since Christ alone can remove it. Yes, even today, whenever Moses is read, the veil is over their minds. It will not be removed until they turn to the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 3,14-16)

The Book of Ruth

Read this edifying historical book with interest, noting that Ruth is a Moabite, not Israelite. The importance of this story which took place during the time of the Judges, is that Ruth -non Jewish- is one of the Messiah’s ancestors, since she is the great-grandmother of king David from which the Messiah descends. In fact, she gave birth to “Obed, the father of Jesse, the father of David” (Ruth 4,17 / see Matthew 1,3-5 and Luke 3,31-32).

This fact contradicts the Jewish principle: “Only the children of a Jewess are Jewish”. David and the Messiah himself have as an ancestor a non-Jewess: Ruth.

We would have appreciated if the historical books of the Bible were all written with the same spirit as that of Ruth, where no violence nor racism are found. Naomi, the Jewish mother-in-law, is admirable regarding her love and tenderness for Ruth, a non-Jewess. It is her, Naomi, who pushed Ruth into the arms of Boaz of matrimony. The harmonious relationship between mother-in-law and daughter-in-law is exemplary. It is the ideal behavior that God requested from all the Israelites. Naomi deserves to be the Messiah’s ancestor; it is this open and affectionate spirit that Jesus came to give to the world. That is the Holy Spirit, totally opposed to the chauvinistic spirit found in several parts of the Torah.

The First Book of Samuel

The two books of Samuel and the two Books of Kings form a historical ensemble of approximately 550 years, spreading out from the year 1100 BC to the year 580 BC. These four books recount the story of the establishment of the kingdom, of its division in two and the fall of the two kingdoms, a fall which led to the deportation of the Israelis to Babylon.

NB: Some Bibles call the two Books of Samuel “First and Second Books of Kings”, and those of Kings “Third and Fourth Books of Kings”, without mentioning Samuel as a title. This is due to the fact that all four books speak of the Israeli kings.

Read the First Book of Samuel before carrying on with the explanations below.

The sanctuary of Shiloh

The Ark was found in Shiloh. The Palestinians destroyed it and took the Ark (1 Samuel 4,11). The scribes claim that the Palestinians were afraid of it (1 Samuel 4,7). But David was also afraid of it later (2 Samuel 6,9-10). These facts reveal the ancient superstitious conception of anything related to divinity. God was terrible, and all that pertained to Him was untouchable and to be feared.

The Song of Hannah (1 Samuel 2,1-10)

Joyfully, Hannah improvises a poem to God which liberated her from the “shame” of sterility. She was able to lift her head high in front of Peninnah, her husband’s other wife, who, because of her abundant fertility, despised Hannah. She finds herself avenged by giving birth to Samuel, a son with moral ethics and a grand destiny: “My Heart exults in Yahweh… The bow the mighty is broken… the barren woman bears sevenfold (Samuel, great in the eyes of God, worth 7 children), but the mother of many (Peninnah) is desolate.” (1 Samuel 2,1-5) The Virgin Mary, pregnant with the Messiah, was inspired from this song: “My soul exults the Lord…” (Luke 1,44-55). To note in Hannah’s song, a historical error: “… he endows his King with power” (1 Samuel 2,10). There was no king yet in Israel. This shows that the scribes belatedly added royalist and nationalist nuances to the song.

Establishment of the kingdom

The most important point in the First Book of Samuel is the institution of a kingship with Saul as its first king (1030-1010 BC). “It displeased Samuel”, says the text: and it also displeased God who considered Himself “rejected” by the Israelites “from ruling over them” no more (1 Samuel 8,6-7). One of the factors that nourished the desire of creating a kingdom was the immorality of the sons of Samuel (1 Samuel 8,5), and the sons of Eli the priest (1 Samuel 2,12-25).

This transformation of the Israelite community into an Israeli nation was denounced by the prophets: “They have set up kings, but not with my consent, and appointed princes, but without my knowledge”, says God to the prophet Hosea (Hosea 8,4), then He declares with anger to the people: “In my anger I gave you a king and in my wrath I take him away.” (Hosea 13,11) Indeed, the monarchy ceased in Israel after the Assyrian-Babylonian, then Roman invasions, as we shall see further on.

After having demanded a king, Samuel asked the people to “consider then and see what a very wicked thing you have done in the sight of Yahweh by asking to have a king.” The Israelis in recognizing their fault say to Samuel: “for we have added to all our sins this evil of asking to have a king” (1 Samuel 12,17-19) … but without renouncing their king.

It is with an aim of war and violence, not of peace, that the Israelites demanded a king: “No! We want a king, so that we in our turn can be like the other nations; our king shall rule us and be our leader and fight our battles.” (1 Samuel 8,19-20) Gideon had understood that the only King was God (Judges 8,23). Jesus, he too, refused to establish an Israeli kingdom (John 6,15) and declared that his Kingdom is not of this political world (John 18,36). “Yahweh your God is your King”, Samuel insisted still (1 Samuel 12,12).

Rupture between Samuel and Saul

Saul took the initiative of offering the sacrifice in the place of Samuel at Gilgal. He appropriated to himself, in doing so, a religious right that did not belong to him and replaced Samuel who, in his turn removed him at once. “Your sovereignty will not last; Yahweh has searched out a man for himself after his own heart (David) and designated him leader of his people…” (1 Samuel 13,8-15)

David and Goliath (1 Samuel 17-18)

The young David killed a Palestinian giant, Goliath of Gath (1 Samuel 17,1-51). This earned him a solid friendship (that of Jonathan, son of Saul) and a fierce animosity (that of Saul): “Jonathan’s soul became closely bound to David’s and Jonathan came to love him as his own soul.” (1 Samuel 18,1) On the contrary, Saul was filled with jealousy: “‘They have given David the tens of thousands, but me only the thousands; he has all but the kingship now.’ And Saul turned jealous eye on David from that day forward.” On the following day, he tried to kill him twice, but David escaped (1 Samuel 18,6-11).

What is historical authenticity in this narration? Is it really David who killed Goliath? Yet, we read in 2 Samuel 21,19 that it was a certain Elhanan who defeated him: “Again war with the Philistines (Palestinians) broke out at Gob, and Elhanan son of Jair from Bethlehem killed Goliath of Gath…” Thus, David’s prowess would be but mere tales aimed at giving an image of a hero to the king of Israel. Because it is about the same Goliath of Gath, “the shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam” (2 Samuel 21,19 / 1 Samuel 17,7).

Jonathan’s love for David endured until his death, as well as Saul’s hatred who, all throughout his life, sought to kill David. Several of the psalms of David were hymns of confidence in God and of recognition for having saved him from the hand of Saul (Psalms 18 / 52 / 54 / 57 / 59 / 63).

David’s refuge by Achish
The scribes relate at two different times, David’s escape far from Saul and his refuge with Achish, the Palestinian king of Gath, the region of Goliath. In the first narrative (1 Samuel 21,11-15), the king accommodates David: “But the servants of Achish said, ‘Is not this David, the king of the country? Was it not of him that they sang in the dance: “Saul has killed his thousands, and David his tens of thousands?”’ David pondered on these words and became very frightened of Achish… he played the madman and, when they held him, feigned lunacy… David left there and took refuge in the Cave of Adullam”. Note that he was joined by “all those in distress, all those in debt… gathered around him and he became their leader.” Then David found refuge with the king of Moab to whom he entrusted his father and mother (1 Samuel 21,11 – 22,4).

According to the second narrative (1 Samuel 27,1 – 29,11), David sought refuge with Achish who accommodated him and granted him the town of Ziklag where he remained for one year and four months. And the scribes conclude: “… for this reason Ziklag has been the property of the kings of Judah to the present day.” (1 Samuel 27,6) It therefore suffices for a Jew to live in a place so that Israel seizes it permanently: “Every place you tread with the soles of your feet I shall give you as I declared to Moses that I would”, remind us the scribes… on behalf of God! (Joshua 1,3)

The kind accommodation of the two kings to David shows that the Israelites could have lived in peace in Palestine!

Spiritism (1 Samuel 28,3-25)

Saul conjured Samuel who showed up, only to reprimand him in announcing his death and that of his sons’. Spiritism, the conjuring up of spirits, is possible, but was condemned by God (Leviticus 19,31 / Deuteronomy 18,10-11). Evil spirits present themselves most of the times to mislead those who adhere to it. In spite of that, necromancy (or spiritism) was practiced by the Israelites, kings included (2 Kings 21,6). Unfortunately, it is still used today all over the world.

The First Book of Samuel, after having introduced Saul, ends by his death.

The Second Book of Samuel

This book presents David’s reign and ends slightly before his death. Read it entirely then return to the points noted below.

David king

After Saul’s death, David was chosen by “the house of Judah to be their king” (2 Samuel 2,7). The House of Judah, formed by the members of the tribe bearing the same name, occupied the southern part of Palestine, from Jerusalem in the North up till Hebron (El Khalil) in the South, where the tombs of the Patriarchs are found. But the tribes of the North, called “Israel”, refused David and chose one of their own, Ishbaal, son of Saul, as king of Israel (2 Samuel 2,8-10). The name Ishbaal means “Man of Baal” (Ish = man in Hebrew). This name, given by Saul to his son, reveals his attachment to idolatry.

This tension between “Judah” and “Israel” lasted until the downfall of both kingdoms. The hatred between the two kings pushed David to reign from Hebron, in the South, far from his enemies (2 Samuel 2,11). “So the war dragged on between the House of Saul and the House of David, but David grew steadily stronger, and the House of Saul ever weaker.” (2 Samuel 3,1) We have found an example of “very fierce” battles between the two kingdoms in 2 Samuel 2,8-32.

Over a woman, Abner, the military chief of Israel, broke up with Ishbaal, his king. He imposed David as king on the whole people, from North to South of the territory (2 Samuel 3,6-21). After the assassination of Abner and Ishbaal, “All the tribes of Israel then came to David at Hebron. ‘Look’, they said, ‘… you shall be the leader…’ and they anointed David king of Israel” (2 Samuel 5,1-3), after having been recognized king of Judah.

A strange verse reveals that “David’s sons were priests” (2 Samuel 8,18). And yet, the priesthood, according to the law of Moses, was reserved to the Levites descendants of Aaron (Numbers 17,5 / 18,7). David, of the tribe of Judah, did not have a right to it. In becoming priests, the sons of David, deserved death: “… any layman who comes near is to be put to death.” (Numbers 3,10) Saul provoked Samuel’s anger for having dared in offering a sacrifice (1 Samuel 13,7-15). Korah and his party were exterminated for having claimed the priesthood, though they were Levites themselves (Numbers 17,5). The sons of David thus usurped a function that was reserved to the Levites, arousing without a doubt their anger, especially that two Levite priests, Zadok and Abiathar, already presided over the sacerdotal functions (2 Samuel 8,17). This fact, in bypassing the restrictive legal concept of the Mosaic priesthood, prepares for the universal priesthood established by Jesus (see Matthew 12,1-8 / 1 Corinthians 3,16-17 / Revelation 1,6 / 5,9-10 / 20,6).

David occupies Jerusalem

In the year 1000 BC, David seized Jerusalem and called it “City of David” (2 Samuel 5,6-9). Jerusalem became the capital and the king’s place of residence after Hebron. “David was thirty years old when he became king (Jesus’ age when he began his mission Luke 3,23), and he reigned for forty years: seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem” (2 Samuel 5,4-5). He constructed a palace made out of cedar wood (2 Samuel 5,11). The city became thus the capital of the Kingdom.

The Ark

The Ark was carried to Jerusalem which, after being the capital, became the religious centre and the place of pilgrimage. After having built a palace, David wished to build a temple to place the Ark in. This was the occasion given to the prophet Nathan to proclaim the important Messianic prophecy of 2 Samuel 7,1-17. Read it one more time before continuing the course.

Nathan’s Messianic Prophecy (2 Samuel 7,1-17)

This prophecy is the most important point of the book. David had told the prophet Nathan of his intention of building a temple to shelter the Ark. Nathan approves it spontaneously, “But that very night the word of Yahweh came to Nathan: ‘Go and tell my servant David, ‘thus Yahweh speaks: Are you the man to build me a house to dwell in? I never stayed in a house… And when your days are ended… I will preserve the offspring of your body after you and make his sovereignty secure. It is he who shall build a house for my name, and I will make his royal throne secure for ever.) I will be a father to him and he a son to me…’” Thus God refuses and rejects the idea of the temple that David proposed to build Him, and announces that one of His descendants will build the Temple according to God.

Explanation of the prophecy:

The Temple
God does not want David to build him a house of stone and concrete: “I have never stayed in a house”, says God (2 Samuel 7,6). It is rather “Yahweh who will make you a House.” (2 Samuel 7,11) Because, for God, the Temple, his Dwelling, is not a material building: God lives in the heart of the true believer. “If anyone loves me”, Jesus had said, “my Father will love him and we shall come to him, and make our home with him in him” (John 14,23). Paul also tells us: “Didn’t you realize that you are God’s temple?” (1 Corinthians 3,16), and Peter: “that you may be living stones making a spiritual house.” (1 Peter 2,5) This is why, in the Book of Revelation, John does not see a Temple (Church, Mosque or Pagoda…) in the “Celestial Jerusalem”, which represents the believers of the end of times, “since the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb (the Messiah, Jesus) were themselves the Temple” (Revelation 21,22). Those who build material buildings for God have understood nothing of Nathan’s prophecy, nor of Jesus’ teachings and of His Apostles.

The Messiah
A descendant of David now known as “Son of David” will build this God-wanted Temple. This descendant is the Messiah and this Temple is spiritual, not material. The Jews misinterpret this prophecy believing that Solomon, son and successor of David to the throne, had as a mission of building a material temple in Jerusalem. Divine intervention thus gives us some light, not only on the true meaning of the temple, but also on the Messiah, who came 1000 years after the proclamation of Nathan’s beautiful prophecy.

The Messiah is “the lineage”, the descendant, issued from David’s “womb” (2 Samuel 7,12). Starting from this prophecy, the Messiah became known as “Son of David”, “Son of Jesse” (Jesse is David’s father). He is also “Son of God” since God says: “I will be a father to him and he a son to me”. The Jews believed it was about Solomon, David’s son and successor (see 1 Chronicles 22,1-19 and especially verses 8-10). This is why Solomon wanted, at all costs, to build a temple made of cedar wood and gold in which he placed the Ark of the Covenant. But the prophecy aimed further than the immediate son of David. It indicated Jesus, who came 1000 years later. He spoke of the destruction of the material temple built by Solomon and his successors, presenting his “Body“, ie his Person, as a permanent Temple for believers (John 2,19-22 / Revelation 21,22).

So Nathan’s prophecy was aimed further in time and higher in spirit than the human goal: it was neither about Solomon nor of a material building. This was only understood after the fulfillment of Nathan’s prophecy, ten centuries later, when the Angel Gabriel appeared to the tender Virgin of Nazareth to tell her: “You are to conceive and bear a son… He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David” (Luke 1,26-37). Read this text carefully and compare it with Nathan’s prophecy.

Why is Jesus “the Son of the Most High”, “His Only son” as John says (John 3,16)?

The answer is found in the dialogue between Mary and the angel Gabriel (Luke 1,34-35):

Mary: “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin?”
Gabriel: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you… And so the child will be called Son of God“.

Jesus gives us a new light regarding his filiation. He is much more than “Son of David”, his genealogy could not be referred to a man, no matter how great, because he comes from up on high, directly from God of whom He is the incarnation. In discussion with the Pharisees, “Jesus put to them this question, ‘What is your opinion about the Christ? Whose son is he?’ ‘David’s’ they told him. ‘Then how is it’, he said, ‘that David, moved by the Spirit, calls him Lord, where he says: The Lord (God) said to my Lord (the Messiah): Sit at my right hand… (Psalm 110,1)?’ ‘If David can call him Lord, then how can he be his son?’ Not one could think of anything to say in reply…” (Matthew 22,42-45) The divine nature of Jesus overshadows his human lineage. No one could imagine this origin. It goes back to Eternity not to time. The prophet Micah, eight centuries before Jesus, speaking under inspiration, revealed his divine origin in saying: “His origins go back to the distant past, to the days of Eternity” (Micah 5,1).

Jesus is thus Son of God because no man can claim, in justice and truth, to be his physical father. It is by God’s direct intervention that Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb. This is why only God is his Father: “… the Power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow. And so the child will be holy and will be called Son of God… for nothing is impossible to God.” (Luke 1,35-37)

Like most Messianic prophecies, that of Nathan’s was understood only after its accomplishment. Remember then as a principle that a prophecy is understood only when it takes place in time. Those who do not understand the prophecies are those who refuse to interpret them according to God, wanting them to be accomplished according to them. Also, the Jews’ fault was having refused Jesus because He did not correspond to their nationalist and military aspirations. “My thoughts are not your thoughts and your ways are not my ways”, the Lord says to them (Isaiah 55,8-9).

From Nathan’s marvelous prophecy, remember that no one should build a material house for God. It is God who builds an eternal Dwelling for all believers (2 Samuel 7,11), a spiritual Temple to gather His chosen in Perpetual Goodness. Jesus has already built this Eternal Temple: Himself… with his followers.

David’s grave sin

Chapters 11 and 12 recount David’s double crime: adultery with Bathsheba, doubled by the premeditated and odious assassination of her husband Uriah the Hittite. David is reprimanded by Nathan and repents. Psalm 51 (50) was composed by him to ask forgiveness from God: “Have mercy on me, O God, in your goodness, in your great tenderness… purify me from my sin…”

Amnon and Tamar

Amnon is David’s eldest son. He fell in love with his niece Tamar, daughter of Absalom, David’s third son (2 Samuel 3,2-3). By trickery, he raped her, then humiliated her by throwing her out. His brother Absalom had him assassinated, then ran off far away from David (2 Samuel 13 & 14).

Absalom usurps the kingdom of David

Chapters 15 to 19,5 tell us about Absalom’s plots to dethrone his father. He seized the throne momentarily and abused David’s concubines.

strong tensions between Israel and Judah

The sharp tensions between the North (Israel) and the South (Judah) appeared when David returned to the throne. The two regions disputed over the king (2 Samuel 19,41-20,2). The revolt of Sheba, a Benjamite (from the North), prepared the scission between the two parts of the kingdom which took place forty years later (towards 931 BC). The cry of insubordination to David by Sheba will then be repeated by the rebels of Israel against Judah: “What share have we in David? … To your tents Israel! Henceforth look after your own house, David!” (1 Kings 12,16)

The Israelites’ establishment of a kingdom resolved nothing, it even worsened the situation between them and envenomed their relation with the neighboring peoples. The kings committed serious errors, abuses even. Samuel’s warnings against them were justified by their behavior which will go, as the books of the Kings reveal, from bad to worse. The words that Samuel addressed to the community in 1 Samuel 8,10-18 were realized: “… When that day comes, you will cry out on account of the king you have chosen for yourselves, but on that day God will not answer you!”

The census

David’s census of the people was considered as an impiety, because it meant putting confidence in oneself rather than in God, capable, He, of increasing the population by looking after its wellbeing. The mentality of the time related any initiative to God. It is thus He who provoked David against the Israelites and pushed him to count them. But the First Book of Chronicles, written five centuries later, rectifies in specifying: “Satan rose against Israel and incited David to take a census of the Israelites.” (1 Chronicles 21,1) Was it God or Satan then who inspired David? Or wasn’t it a simple desire of David who hoped to see the number of combatants of Judah higher than Israel’s, his adversary? Because this census disappointed the king: “David’s heart misgave him for having taken a census of the people.” (2 Samuel 24,10) Why? It was that the number of combatants of Israel exceeded that of the combatants of Judah, at David’s service: 800,000 versus 500,000 according to 2 Samuel 24,29, yet 1,100,000 versus 470,000 only according to 1 Chronicles 21,5 which also adds: “Joab had found the king’s command so distasteful that he had taken no census of Levi or of Benjamin.” (1 Chronicles 21,6) Something to make the king’s heart tremble before an evident surplus number of enemies… without counting the warlike tribes of Levi and Benjamin… not included in the census!

Which of the two censuses are we to believe? Where is the historical truth? Did God inspire those two different texts? Still another that demands a critical and discerning spirit. This text written after David’s disappointment, interprets the census as a curse.

This episode enables us to better understand why all the decisions that were taken by Moses and others were considered, often mistakenly, as coming from God. It took some time, and especially the Light of Jesus-Christ, to distinguish what was, in the Scriptures, really inspired by God. We understand why Jesus had said to those who rejected him: “You are from your father, the devil, and you prefer to do what your father wants” (John 8,44). This means that the refusal of recognizing Jesus as the Messiah is never inspired by God, but by the devil (meditate 1 Corinthians 12,3).