Old and in his final days, Jacob lay in his bed dying. Renamed “Israel” after a night contesting with God (Gen 32:28), he became the father of a nation. To each of his twelve sons he spoke a blessing, a prophecy concerning their future. To his son Judah, he spoke,
“Judah, your brothers will praise you;
your hand will be on the neck of your enemies;
your father’s sons will bow down to you.
You are a lion’s cub, Judah;
you return from the prey, my son.
Like a lion he crouches and lies down,
like a lioness—who dares to rouse him?
The scepter will not depart from Judah,
nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet,
until he to whom it belongs shall come
and the obedience of the nations shall be his.” (Genesis 49:8–10)
As we step into 2nd Samuel, King David is in process of fulfilling the words spoken by his ancestor Jacob. David is consolidating his kingdom. He prayed and asked God if he should go to Hebron, and when the Lord consented, David established his throne there.
From Hebron, our passage records the followers of Saul’s heir, Ishbosheth, and the followers of David fighting for an advantage. This passage is descriptive as opposed to prescriptive—it is telling us what happened, not necessarily something we should do.
Abner and Joab decided on a contest that turned violent. Wrestling turned into a knife fight. After the fighting, Asahel (Joab’s brother) pursued Abner. Abner tried to warn him off, but Asahel was persistent. Abner, with no choice, turned to fight, striking Asahel down with a spear. Joab pursued Abner until they lost the advantage and turned back. David’s army, the army of Judah, struck down 360 men while losing only 20.
From his deathbed, Jacob’s blessing to Benjamin pointed to the fact that his descendants would be fierce warriors—and they were. However, never when they rose against the tribe of Judah. Judah was destined to lead. In fact, from the book of Judges on, when Judah leads things go well. When they don’t, it doesn’t.
David partially fulfills the promise to Judah. The symbol for his reign was a lion. We are reading of his ascendency to power, which will culminate in his claiming of Jerusalem as the seat of political and religious power for the whole nation of Israel. In Jerusalem, David will receive a covenant from God in chapter 7. That covenant will extend Jacob’s promise into eternity with an eternal throne by One who would follow David’s reign—the Messiah. As Jacob said, once David receives the scepter, it will never depart from Judah.
What does this mean for us? One thought is that God has a plan. That plan includes established authorities in our lives. David was established by God, but Abner and Ishbosheth tried to hang on to the power of Saul. This act of rebellion cost hundreds of lives. How often do we try to steal the power from God’s authorities in our lives with devastating effects?
We cringe at the idea of submission. Yet, as Paul later said clearly, “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.” (Romans 13:1). Ultimately, our submission to others flows from a submission to the Lord. Every person is accountable to the Lion of Judah, the One to whom all knees will one day bow.
By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate