What made Hebron special? There are a number of reasons.
God's having chosen Hebron made Hebron special to God, and thus to David. God always knows best. Always. God sometimes tells us to go to go in a specific direction or to places that simply do not make sense to us. That is His prerogative, and our response should be unquestioned obedience. He alone has the "big picture," and we have but a part of that picture, and a small part at that. In the case of David, however, God's choice of Hebron, not so coincidentally, also "made sense."
As Constable suggested in his "Notes" in the TEV Bible, several things made sense:
"[Judah] was David’s tribal homeland and where he had the greatest acceptance (cf. 1 Sam. 30:26-30). [Also] Hebron stood about 19 miles south-southwest of Jerusalem on the highest promontory in the Judean hill country."
Let's take these three reasons one at a time:
- The city of Hebron in Judah was located in David's tribal homeland.
Having been born in Bethlehem, David was a member of the tribe of Judah. While David was the youngest son of Jesse, God raised him up, not one of his older brothers, to be king of Israel, proving that God delights in exalting the humble and humbling the exalted. God, after, all, looks at the heart (see 1 Samuel 16:7). Clearly, David's heart was fully committed to God, as indicated by his question to the LORD about where he should go after the deaths of Saul and Jonathan.
In the wake of God's rejection of Saul as king, and after Saul's death by suicide, David, who had been anointed king by the prophet Samuel, took his rightful place in Hebron on the throne of a divided Israel. A former general of Saul, Abner, placed a puppet king, Saul's son and legal heir, Ish-Bosheth, on the throne of Northern Israel at Mahanaim (2:8-10). Whereas Ish-bosheth's reign ended after only two years (2 Samuel 3:10) when he was killed brutally by two of David's men without David's permission, David's reign in Hebron lasted over seven years (2:11).
- David's acceptance by his constituency was strongest in Judah.
Not only did David's strongest support come from his kinsmen in Hebron, but his wartime victories gave him an enviable reputation throughout Israel, north and south. Saul may have slain his thousands, but David had slain his ten thousands (1 Samuel 29:5), and the general citizenry and the soldiers who served under David recognized that the Spirit of the LORD had come mightily on David (see 1 Samuel 16:13).
Though General Abner eventually rallied to David's side and urged his constituency from Northern Israel to do the same, he too was killed, and David, by mourning his death, gained favor with Abner's constituency. In 2 Samuel 5, we read:
Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and said,
“Behold, we are your bone and your flesh. Previously, when Saul
was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and in.
And the LORD said to you, ‘You will shepherd My people Israel,
and you will be a ruler over Israel.’” So all the elders of Israel
came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with
them before the LORD at Hebron; then they anointed David king over
Israel. . . . and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over
all Israel and Judah.
- Hebron may have been a good choice militarily, as it was the highest promontory in the Judean hill country.
While David realized through much tribulation that God was with him wherever he went, whether through the valley of the shadow of death (Psalm 23:4), or to an ancient city on a hill, God could also use the topography of the land to His advantages and His purposes, whether a valley or a promontory.
- And last, Hebron was the burial place of the three great patriarchs of the Hebrews: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The city was also known as Mamre and Kiriath-arba (Arba, Scripture tells us, was the name of "the greatest man among the Anakim," and Arba was the father of Anak. See Joshua 14:15 and 15:13.)
How fitting, then, that God's choice for a king would be installed in that ancient city, where three stalwarts of the faith and their wives were buried.