And the king and his men went to Jerusalem unto the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land: which spake unto David, saying, Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither: thinking, David cannot come in hither.
Nevertheless David took the strong hold of Zion: and the same is the city of David. . . .
So David dwelt in the fort, and called it the city of David, And David built around about from Millo and inward.
And David went on, and grew great, and the LORD God of hosts was with him.
David, being the warrior he was, had often noted in his many travels-throughout the land of Israel one city more wonderfully fortified than any other. This city was the city of Jerusalem, and so strong were its fortifications that, except for a very short time in the early history of the judges, it had remained securely in the hands of the Jebusites. Neither the children of Israel nor any other invading force had ever again been able to break the defenses of the city.
Actually, the city already then had had a long and lustrous history. This was the city of Salem, meaning Peace, over which Melchizedek, the King of Righteousness, had reigned in the days of Abram. We, know nothing at all about the preceding history of that city nor of what followed through the years when Israel was in Egypt. Just there, for a short moment upon the stage of history, the curtain of silence was drawn aside to grant us a glimpse of that man who served as king and priest of that great City in the name of Almighty God. Yet as brief as the glimpse is (Gen. 14:18-20), being king and priest of that chosen city in the name of God was sufficient to establish him forever as one of the most beautiful fore types of Christ in the Old Testament (see Hebrews 7).
It is not surprising, therefore, that David, being fully aware of all this, should come upon the idea of taking this city and establishing it as the center of life in the nation of Israel. Although it is not recorded for us, it is likely that he consulted with God concerning this plan, for at this point in his life David was most strongly aware of his utter dependence upon God in every move that he took. He consulted with God concerning all of his other battles, and no doubt he did here too. And the answer he then received was surely immediately encouraging, for this city had been ordained by God from eternity and the hills built up as they were from the beginning of time exactly with the purpose that this city might be established not only as the site for some of the most important events of all world history, but that it should be in itself a type and a picture of God’s greatest fulfillment of grace, the place at which He would dwell in living communion with His children—the type of that new city in which He will dwell forever in living communion of life with His people.
Perhaps in the eyes of the world it can not be anything other than a note of irony to recognize that already here Jerusalem, the City of Peace, could not be established unto its purpose without the fighting of a great battle. And that, of course, was only the beginning, for, from the days of David on, never has there been a city anywhere over which so many wars have been fought and so much blood has been shed. But to those whose discernment runs deeper, however, it is not strange at all. The city of God is by its very nature antithetically related to this world of sin. It can only be established and endure through constant strife with the powers of Satan which seek to overthrow it, even as its final and true king, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace Himself, acknowledged that He could only bring a sword to this world. It is only in the battle with this world and sin that true peace can ever be obtained.
The battle for which David now had to prepare, however, was not an easy one. It was not just a matter of going out upon a field and engaging the Jebusites in battle. If this was all that was required, it would have been an easy matter, for the Jebusites had but a small force of men and any well organized army could well have defeated them in an open struggle. The difficulty was with the city Jerusalem itself. Built as it was with its wall straight up from the sides of a steep hill, the city was simply inaccessible. It was a frustrating situation just to be camped against the city and to try to figure out how one might take it. All around the city were hills much higher than those upon which the city was built, but they were too far away for any projectile of any kind to be thrown across the valley. In the midst of these hills were those hills upon which Jerusalem rested with walls so straight and smooth that there was no known way to scale them. This was the strength of the Jebusite fortress and they knew it. Always they kept their city well stocked with provisions which would last them through the longest siege, while special aqueducts had been tunneled through the hills themselves to the flowing fountains in the valleys below, so that even water was no problem. Secure in their fortified city, the Jebusites taunted the army of Israel, “Except thou take away the blind and the lame, thou shalt not come in hither.” And what they said was only too true, the blind and the lame were sufficient to guard the tops of their walls, for no one would ever be able to scale them.
David, however, was a true tactician. Realizing that the city could not be taken by the ordinary methods of attack, he began to search around in his mind for other plans of attack. Thus it was that suddenly he hit upon the well known fact of this city’s extraordinary water supply. The clever system of tunnels reaching down from-the heart of the city into the bosom of the earth where the water founts flowed was one of the basic reasons for the city’s strength and one of which the Jebusites often made their boast. The thought of David was that, if the city was obtaining water from flowing fountains, these same fountains must be emptying themselves also into the valley. It left the possibility open that they might be able to find these fountains and so find an entrance into the city through the very heart of the earth. Thus it was that he called his warriors together and said, “Whosoever getteth up to the gutter, and smiteth the Jebusites, and the lame and the blind, that are hated of David’s soul, he shall be chief and captain.”
How long the search continued, we do not know, for each and every flow of water into the valley had to be carefully examined. Once again it was Joab, perhaps demoted to the ranks since his slaying of Abner, but calculating and daring still, who found the entrance. What was required we can only imagine. It may well have been that he had to wade through dark caverns filled with water or even to swim into water filled caves with no promise that he would ever be able to get out again. Nevertheless, in the end he found it, that underground cavern in the heart of the earth from which the Jebusites were getting their water. Once it was found, all that remained was for him to wait for nightfall and under the cover of darkness crawl through the gutters of tunnels which led into the heart of the city. Once inside, it was no doubt a simple matter either to throw open the unguarded gates or to thrown down ropes from the walls, giving entrance to the whole force of David.
For Joab it meant that once again he was restored to full favor, His boldness and daring had always been of the kind that David most .admired, and now with full heart he willingly restored Joab to his former position of power and influence over the army. It was a move which in the future would have tremendous effects for David and for the nation both for good and for evil. Perhaps the most serious effect of all, however, was more David’s fault than Joab’s. As time came on David trusted in that man so completely that he tended more and more to turn over responsibilities to him which he should have cared for himself, and to neglect one’s own personal responsibilities can only lead to results that are not good.
As for David, the conquest of Jerusalem opened up to him possibilities of an entirely new dimension. Here in the ancient city of Melchizedek, he saw the possibility of establishing a city beautiful and strong, dedicated completely to the service of Jehovah, Israel’s God. As time went on it would become ever more the preoccupation of his life, and of his children, too, until finally Jerusalem would become that city of which the Psalmist would sing:
Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised, in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness.
Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. . . .
Walk about Zion, and go round about her: tell the towers thereof.
Mark ye well her bulwarks, consider her places: that ye may tell it to the generation following.
For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.
Before David could begin to engage in this work, however, there were many other things which had to be cared for first, and not the least of these was the securing of his land against the enemies that surrounded it on every side.
Chief among all of the enemies of Israel for many years had been the Philistines. David knew them well. Not only had he fought many battles against them beginning with his battle with Goliath, but he had also lived among them as an ally and a friend. Nevertheless, it was they that made the first move. No sooner had they heard that all of Israel had united behind David than they came in force against him, supposing, perhaps, that as yet he was sure to be unprepared and an easy victim.
The fact was that David was quite unprepared for an engagement of this dimension, and so he withdrew his forces until he could better inquire of the Lord as to his future actions. But the Philistines only pressed farther into his land; and when David inquired, “Shall I go up to the Philistines? wilt thou deliver them into mine hand?” the answer came back, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into thine hand.”
The battle was short and the victory came easily to David even though he was greatly outnumbered by the enemy. In fact, so hasty was the retreat of the Philistines that they left their gods behind them which David burned in a great fire as a sign of his disdain. There David said also in a short verse; “The LORD hath broken forth upon mine enemies before me, as the breach of waters,” marking no doubt the fact that his force had driven right through the center of the Philistine army. Accordingly he named the place of battle Baalperazim.
Still the Philistines were not satisfied, or perhaps they felt that if they were ever to be successful against David, it had to be soon before he was completely organized. But again David inquired of God and the answer was given, “Thou shalt not go up; but fetch a compass behind them, and come upon them over against the mulberry trees. 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.” All that was needed this time was that he should cut off the retreat of the Philistine army while the Lord would stir the hearts of the enemy to fear, to flight, and to destruction. The battle was still the Lord’s, and in David all would come to know it.