Memo 1083: The King and His Court

In Study 1072, we saw David's need to organize his kingdom in 2 Samuel 8 and related it to your need to organize your own world of purpose, creativity, life, ministry, and work as is grew and expanded. Now 11 studies later, we see in 2 Samuel 20 that the writer shared with us a revised structure and new personnel of David's kingdom:

Joab was over Israel’s entire army; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; Adoniram was in charge of forced labor; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; Sheva was secretary; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; and Ira the Jairite was David’s priest (2 Samuel 20:23-26).

There are only four verses and I want to be careful not to see too much in these few verses, but I find it interesting that the Holy Spirit felt it important to share this. Let's see if we can make sense of the changes that took place.


In 2 Samuel 8, we had seen the lineup as follows:

David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people. Joab son of Zeruiah was over the army; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was recorder; Zadok son of Ahitub and Ahimelek son of Abiathar were priests; Seraiah was secretary; Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; and David’s sons were priests (2 Samuel 8:15-18).

The first thing we notice is that after Absalom's rebellion in 2 Samuel 20, David's sons were no longer listed as priests. They should not have been priests in the first place, and David was probably guilty of making a place for his sons simply because they were his sons, and not based on their anointing or calling. The practice of hiring and promoting family when they aren't qualified is called nepotism and David seemed to be guilty of it, but corrected his mistake the second time around.

Then we see in the new structure that David had his own priest named Jairite. There's no biblical directive for the king to have a personal spiritual advisor and he didn't have one in 2 Samuel 8. Perhaps David decided after his troubles with Bathsheba, his family's uprising, and his constant dealing with local problems that he needed more spiritual input and oversight.

Finally, there is a disturbing appointment in the second list that wasn't in the first: "Adoniram was in charge of forced labor." Who were those among the people forced to work for David? Were they soldiers captured from his many wars and made to serve as slaves? Were they from among David's own people, perhaps his opponents? And what were those forced laborers working on? The Bible doesn't answer those questions but there is one omission in the second list that is noticeable in its absence that may give us a clue.


In 2 Samuel 8, we were told that "David reigned over all Israel, doing what was just and right for all his people." That endorsement or commendation is missing in the second list. It's difficult to maintain good leadership over a long period of time without resorting to the use and possible abuse of power. Perhaps David's historian withdrew the compliment because it was no longer true and the presence of a forced labor overseer would seem to indicate there was a shift in David's leadership style, despite having access to a personal priest whenever he needed him.

If you're going to maintain your throne, the place of leadership and fruitfulness God has assigned you, you will have to work at keeping your attitude and heart free from misusing the power you have. It would seem that David's personal spiritual advisor or priest could not prevent this from happening, and your connection to spiritual sources won't prevent you from doing the same unless you recognize the danger. As I have pointed out in earlier studies, the only way not to allow your success to go to your head is to serve others.

David began to serve his family by giving them positions they did not deserve and his kingdom and the people suffered because of it. Then he started to use others as forced laborers for whatever reason. I urge you to realize the dangers inherent in leadership power and do what you can to stay close to the needs of people and not just your own or those closest to you. Have a blessed week and Happy New Year!


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