“Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the LORD said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel. So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah” (2 Samuel 5:1-5).
The time had come for the promise and plan of God to be fulfilled, for now all Israel, both north and south, would come under David’s dominion. He had not forced himself upon anyone or imposed his rule on objectors; instead he had waited patiently, though not without difficulties caused by others, for this event to take place.
Though there would still be some work to do, the coming of the tribe leaders to David set in motion the reunification of Israel and the acceptance of him as their single ruler. The people of Israel had waited seven and a half years before they acknowledged David’s right to rule over all Israel. This meant that they not only had refused to come under David’s authority, but they had rejected God’s will for them. The sad fact is that this procrastination had caused the death of many men, which could have been avoided if they had submitted to David earlier.
According to 1 Chronicles 12:23-38 almost three hundred and fifty thousand people presented themselves before David in Hebron that day. This made David’s coronation official and revealed that the vast majority of Israel, who were represented by this great crowd, had bowed their knee to him. Israel had chosen him as their king even though it was in the plan and purpose of God. There was still opposition to David which may be indicated by the small turn out of the tribe of Benjamin because of their loyalty to Saul. “And of the children of Benjamin, the kindred of Saul, three thousand: for hitherto the greatest part of them had kept the ward of the house of Saul” (1 Chronicles 12:29).
This crowd were made up of the military men and war heroes of the tribes, and pledged their full allegiance to David. “All these men of war, that could keep rank, came with a perfect heart to Hebron, to make David king over all Israel: and all the rest also of Israel were of one heart to make David king” (1 Chronicles 12:38). Some of them were wise tacticians, “And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do” (1 Chronicles 12:32).
The phrase “We are thy bone and thy flesh” indicates that they acknowledged David as a true son of Israel despite the lies they had been fed by Saul. What they probably did not realise that day was the fact that they were coming inline with God’s will. “Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother” (Deuteronomy 17:15). They also remembered how loyal David had been to King Saul when he led the army out to fight with the enemies of Israel. By stating that he was the true “captain over Israel” they were showing that they were well aware of the will of God and that it was David and not Saul that had led Israel to victory in the past. Maybe there was more in the song, “Saul hath slain his thousands, and David his tens of thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7), than we first imagined. They knew that David would “feed” them, that is care for them like a shepherd, rather than become a despot like Saul; and this is exactly what he did throughout his reign. David was not made “king to advance his own glory, but for the good of his people; whom he ought to rule with all tenderness, and to watch over with all diligence” (John Wesley). The psalmist writes, “He chose David also his servant, and took him from the sheepfolds: From following the ewes great with young he brought him to feed Jacob his people, and Israel his inheritance. So he fed them according to the integrity of his heart; and guided them by the skilfulness of his hands” (Psalm 78:70-72).
Everyone committed themselves to David’s rulership, but we notice that he had a “league” or a covenant with them in the sight of God or in accordance with “the word of God” (1 Chronicles 12:23). It can be seen as an exchange of vows before the crowning of David took place.
This was the third time David had been anointed as king over God’s people. The first, by the hand of Samuel, had taken place almost twenty years earlier (1 Samuel 16:12). The second took place seven and a half years before this third one when Judah submitted to him (2 Samuel 2:4). This third anointing establishes David as king over a united Israel.
There was a celebration of David’s crowning which lasted for three days, “And there they were with David three days, eating and drinking: for their brethren had prepared for them. Moreover they that were nigh them, even unto Issachar and Zebulun and Naphtali, brought bread on asses, and on camels, and on mules, and on oxen, and meat, meal, cakes of figs, and bunches of raisins, and wine, and oil, and oxen, and sheep abundantly: for there was joy in Israel” (1 Chronicles 12:39-40). “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice” (Proverbs 29:2).
Though David is installed as king of Israel, it does not mean that his troubles are over. He will still have to take Jerusalem and make it his capital, endure many family and national issues, and deal with his sin. The marvellous thing here is that we see God’s plan, purpose and promise coming to fruition despite the apparent impossibilities along the way. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).