2 Samuel 5:2 (ESV) … “In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you who led out and brought in Israel. And the Lord said to you, ‘You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.’”
The qualifications for Israel’s king were written in the Law of Moses in Deuteronomy 17:14–20. The first and most important requirement was that he was to be chosen by the Lord from the people of Israel, a king “whom the Lord your God chooses” (17:15, 20 nkjv). The people knew that Samuel had anointed David king some twenty years before and that it was God’s will that David ascend the throne (2 Sam. 5:2). The nation needed a shepherd, and David was that shepherd (Ps. 78:70–72). Saul had been “the people’s king” but he wasn’t the Lord’s first choice, for God had given him as a judgment against Israel because they wanted to be like the other nations (1 Sam. 8; Hos. 13:11). The Lord loved His people and knew they needed a shepherd, so He equipped David to be their king. Unlike Saul, who was a Benjamite, David was from the royal tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and was born and raised in Bethlehem. Because of this, he was able to establish the dynasty that brought the Messiah Jesus Christ into the world, and He, too, was born in Bethlehem.
The people who gathered at Hebron reminded David that he belonged to the whole nation and not just to the tribe of Judah (2 Sam. 5:1). At the beginning of David’s career, the people recognized that God’s hand was upon him, for God gave him success in his military exploits. Present at Hebron were representatives from all the tribes, and they enthusiastically gave their allegiance to the new king (1 Chron. 12:23–40). The total number of officers and men is 340,800, all of them loyal to David. The people remained with David for three days and celebrated God’s goodness to His people.
The foundation of the Jewish nation was God’s covenant with His people as expressed in the Law of Moses, especially Deuteronomy 27–30 and Leviticus 26. If the king and the people obeyed God’s will, He would bless and care for them; but if they disobeyed and worshiped false gods, He would discipline them. Each new king was required to affirm the supremacy and authority of God’s law, promise to obey it, and even make a copy of it for his own personal use (Deut. 17:18–20). David entered into a covenant with the Lord and the people, agreeing to uphold and obey God’s law and to rule in the fear of the Lord (see 1 Sam. 10:17–25; 2 Kings 11:17).
When David was a teenager, Samuel had anointed him privately (1 Sam. 16:13), and the elders of the tribe of Judah had anointed him when he became their king at thirty years of age (2 Sam. 2:4). But now the elders of the whole nation anointed David and proclaimed him as their king. David was not an amateur, but a seasoned warrior and a gifted leader who obviously had the blessing of the Lord on his life and ministry. After experiencing years of turbulence and division, the nation at last had a king who was God’s choice and the people’s choice. God takes time to prepare His leaders, and much to be pitied is the person who “succeeds” before he or she is ready for it.