II Samuel :: Catholic News Agency
II Samuel

Author: Unknown

Date Written: 930-517 BC

Date of Narrative: c.1010-970 BC


In 2 Samuel we see God's hand working in the midst of human weakness.  He has called David and anointed him for the kingship, yet David's house is full of sin.  God blesses him despite his sinfulness.


The beginning of the book tells of David's gradual rise to power.  First, he is crowned king of Judah in Hebron while Saul's son, Ishbosheth is crowned over the other tribes.  This situation persists for 7 years.  Finally, some of Ishbosheth's military leaders start defecting to David's side.  Ishbosheth's top commander, Abner, defects.  Then Rehab and Baanah, also military officials, assassinate Ishbosheth and bring his head to David.  David becomes angry with them for harming the Saul's offspring so he has them executed.  After the death of Ishbosheth, all the tribes of Israel recognize David as their king.  Though the kingdom is unified under David, its unity is later tested during Absalom's coup and Sheba's rebellion.


David brings the ark from the house of Abinadab to Jerusalem with much celebration (6).  The book of 2 Samuel also preserves two songs of David: a lament for Saul and Jonathan (1) and a prayer of thanks for deliverance (22).  It narrates David's military victories over Philistia, Moab, Aram, Edom and Ammon (5,8,10,21).


In Ch. 7, God establishes his covenant with David.  He promises to keep David's descendents on the throne forever, to bless his kingdom with peace and to have a father-son relationship with David's successors.  David's most important descendent is Jesus, who reigns forever as the last king of the line of David.


In a dramatic turn of events, David commits adultery with Bathsheba and murders her husband (11).  This gravely sinful act prompts Nathan to prophesy that the "sword will never depart" from David's house-a removal of God's promise of peace to his house.  Soon the child of David's illicit union dies as a baby.  Then David's other children begin infighting of the worst sort.  David's firstborn son, Amnon, rapes Tamar, one of David's daughters (13).  Then Absalom, who is Tamar's full brother and David's third son, avenges his sister by killing Amnon.  Absalom flees the country.  When he finally returns, he curries favor with the people, launches a coup and has himself crowned at Hebron to challenge his father's rule (15).


David and his household have to flee Jerusalem to escape Absalom.  The military forces of David and Absalom battle each other (18).  In the course of the battle, Joab kills Absalom against David's explicit orders, thus ending the rivalry for the kingship.  David's final sin in 2 Samuel is the institution of a census which expresses his reliance on manpower instead of the Lord (24).  Gad prophesies a plague from the Lord in response to David's act of unfaithfulness.


The sons of Zeruiah: Joab, Abishai and Azahel are part of the core of David's most faithful soldiers.  Abner kills Azahel in battle, so Joab takes his revenge on Abner against David's orders.  Joab also kills Absalom and Amasa, a man in David's inner circle.  David does not judge Joab in his lifetime, but asks Solomon to execute him (1 Kgs 2).  Abishai plays a key role in David's military throughout his reign.  A few other characters are involved in the subplots of 2 Samuel, for example, Mephibosheth, Ziba and Shimei.


2 Samuel helps us see God's hand at work in history in the context of human weakness.  Despite David's failings, God used him to unite the kingdom.  He ultimately accomplished his purpose for the house of David in his own Son, Jesus.


By Mark Giszczak


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