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5. 2 Samuel

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Second Samuel1

D. The apex of David’s reign (1:1—8:18). See charts on p. 158.

1. Transition—God prepares David for rule over all Israel (1:1—4:12)

a. Report of Saul’s death (1:1‑16).

It is ironic that an Amalekite killed Saul. It was his failure to eradicate the Amalekites that caused his downfall. There were surely many bands of these semi-nomadic Amalekites, however, and this young man may have come from a different one than that in chapter 15. Another band was involved in the attack on Ziklag.

1 Sam 31:5‑6 says Saul committed suicide, but 2 Sam 1:10 says an Amalekite killed him. There are two possible explanations:

(1) Saul fell on his sword; his armor bearer thought he was dead and killed himself. However, Saul did not die and asked the Amalekite to finish him off (“my life is still in me” ki kol ‘od naphshi bi כִּי כל עוֹד נַפְשִׁי בִּי).

(2) The Amalekite stripped the dead Saul and made up the story of killing him, hoping for reward.2

Whatever the situation, the young Amalekite, thinking he would be greatly rewarded saw his plan backfire, and David killed him for daring to “destroy the Lord’s anointed” (1:11‑16).

b. David’s lament psalm over Saul and Jonathan (1:17‑27).

David wrote a lament and ordered that it be taught to the sons of Judah as the “song of the bow” (1:17‑18). The word “lament” is the Hebrew qinah (קִינָה) which is probably onomatopoeia (word comes from the sound). The keening sound of mourning is its root. The “song of the bow” probably means that it is to be understood as a war song. This would account for its having been written in the book of Jashar, a non-extant book that seems to have had military accounts in it.

David expresses his great love for Jonathan in this psalm. One wonders whether David understood a woman’s love when he makes this statement about Jonathan (1:26‑27).

c. David is made king over Judah (2:1‑4a).

David begins carefully to make his move toward being king over all Israel. Every action becomes critical. David’s attitude is good and proper, but he is also fully aware of the political implications of all he does. Yahweh led him to Hebron where he was anointed king by the tribe of Judah. All the rest of Israel was under the titular king Ishbosheth.3

d. David expresses thanks to the Jabesh-gileadites (2:4b‑7).

David showed genuine compassion for Saul, but he also showed political astuteness in rewarding the Jabesh-gileadites since Ishbosheth ruled Gilead.

e. Abner tries to continue the Saulide dynasty contrary to God’s purpose (2:8‑11).

Abner, Saul’s general, made Ishbosheth king and took him to the east side of Jordan from where he ruled. Ishbosheth was 40 when he became king. Abner of course ruled in fact, and Ish-bosheth was the figurehead.4

David ruled seven- and one-half years in Hebron. David’s total rule was forty years. Ishbosheth ruled only two years. These two years may be the last two of David’s seven, and it took five years for Abner to regain territory from the Philistines (2:11).5

f. Abner fights against Joab, David’s general (2:12‑32).

David’s overture to the Jabesh-gileadites who are in Ishbosheth’s and Abner’s backyard probably precipitated this military confrontation between the two groups.6 The individual contest is probably to be understood in a similar fashion to David and Goliath’s battle. The winner takes all.7 The principals of the combat are Abner (Saul’s relative and de facto head of the kingdom of the north) and Joab, Abishai, and Asahel: three sons of Zeruiah, sister of David (1 Chron 2:16). These men were rash, ruthless and somewhat precipitate in their actions. David, on more than one occasion, differentiates himself from them and seems unable to control them (2:12‑13).

Twelve young men were chosen to represent each side. The results were inconclusive as they killed one another. Consequently, the war was prosecuted, and Abner was defeated. (There was bad blood between the Gibeonites (where the battle took place) and Saul as we will learn in chapter 21. They may have been favorably disposed to David’s men.) (2:14‑17).

The second part of the account that is significant for the future involves the death of the younger brother Asahel at the hands of Abner. This will show why Joab treacherously killed Abner when he came to make a covenant with David. Asahel pursued Abner relentlessly as was his nature. In spite of Abner’s pleas, Asahel would not turn back, and Abner killed him. A truce was called, and each group went to its respective home (2:18‑32).

2. Circumstances work together to bring David to the place where he is allowed by God to take over the whole kingdom (3:1—4:12.)

A historical interlude is given showing God’s blessing on David. Apparently the war lasted most of the seven years David ruled in Hebron. However, God’s divine purposes were being realized as David grew stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker. David’s family was also increasing: he now had six wives, each of whom had a child. Take note of Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah, each of whom will figure prominently in the coming narrative (3:1‑5).

A charge against Abner by Ishbosheth caused a rift between them. Abner was the de facto ruler, while Ishbosheth was the titular head. Ishbosheth accused Abner of going in to one of Saul’s concubines (Rizpah whose love for her children is demonstrated in 21:8‑11). To “go in to a concubine” is to assert dominance (cf., e.g., Gen 35:22; 1 Kings 2:21 and esp. 2 Sam 16:20‑23). This would be a strange charge for Ishbosheth to make if it were not true. It may be that Abner was moving toward making himself king. Abner recognized that God intended for David to have the whole kingdom and openly asserted his intention of turning the northern unit over to David (3:6‑11).

Abner made an overture to David by asking for a covenant with him. David responded positively with only one condition: his wife Michal must be taken from her second husband and returned to David. This appears to be a violation of Deut 24:1‑4 as well as a very cruel act (note the way Paltiel, her husband, follows her weeping). However, David did this for political as well as personal reasons. Apparently Michal, who had loved David in her younger days, never forgave him for this act (note her attitude in 6:20‑23) (3:12‑16).

Abner demonstrated considerable finesse in convincing the northern tribes as well as Saul’s tribe of Benjamin of the wisdom of making David king. He consulted with the other segments of the kingdom and reminded them of their past love for David and erstwhile willingness to have him over them. He reminded them that God had chosen David to be the ruler of Israel and to deliver them from the Philistines (3:17‑19).

Abner’s attempts to make a covenant with David resulted in tragedy because of Joab’s treachery. Abner came to Hebron and was welcomed by David. Joab was away at the time and became very unhappy when he heard about David’s pact with Abner. Joab told David he was worried that Abner had merely come to spy out the situation, but he had two motives for murdering Abner: Abner would be his rival as general of the army, and Abner was the slayer of his brother. In typical Semitic fashion, Joab believed he had to avenge his brother’s death in spite of the fact that Abner killed Asahel reluctantly, because Asahel would not fall back. Joab’s deed is even more heinous when we remember that Hebron was a Refuge City, specifically designed to protect a man from the goel or avenger of blood (Josh 20:7). Joab sent messengers to bring Abner back and treacherously murdered him (3:20‑30).

David publicly lamented Abner’s death and convinced the people that he had nothing to do with the treachery. He led in Abner’s funeral and keened a lament (qinah קִינָה) as he did for Saul and Jonathan. David fasted until sundown. This evidence of his concern pleased the people. David admitted his impotency before the sons of Zeruiah, a tragic admission, but one that proved true throughout David’s reign. He left it to Solomon to bring judgment on the head of Joab, something he himself should have done earlier. Joab exercised enormous influence over David during the rest of his rule (3:31‑39).

The death of Abner signaled the end of Ishbosheth’s rule in Mahanaim. Two historical notes set the stage for following events: (a) two officers from among the Benjamites are mentioned who will assassinate Ishbosheth and (b) Mephibosheth is introduced as a son of Jonathan, who was crippled when his nurse dropped him. The two officers, Rechab and Baanah, murdered Ishbosheth and brought his head to David. (There seem to be two accounts of the murder of Ishbosheth: one says they went in and killed him in the house, and the other says they killed him in his bedroom. The second statement allows the writer to add the feature of the removal of the head, which would be brought to David. Cf. 3:22, 23; 5:1‑3 for similar accounts.) David rebuked them for their dastardly deed and had them executed (4:1‑12).8

3. David becomes king over all Israel and establishes his throne in the Jebusite city (5:1‑16).

a. The elders of all Israel came to make David king and acknowledged that God had chosen him (5:1‑3).

b. David’s age when he became king over Judah was 30. He reigned in Hebron seven years and over all Israel 33 years. Hence, he was 70 when he died (5:4‑5).

c. David captured the fortress of Jebus and made it his capital (5:6‑10).

The Jebusites taunted David, thinking the city was impregnable. David captured the city. The word “water tunnel” is sinnor (צִנוֹר), an obscure word which some think may refer to the Jebusite water shaft reaching up to the city. Others think it refers to a grappling hook.9 Jebus (Jerusalem) as David’s capital was to become perhaps the most famous city in the world.10

David set up his throne in the city and reinforced it. “Millo” apparently is from the Hebrew word male “to fill” (מָלֵא) and probably refers to the building of double walls or as Avigad says: “apparently the built‑up terraces on the eastern slope of the Eastern Hill, on which other structures were then built.”11 (See also 1 Chron 11:8; 1 Kings 9:15, 24; 11:27; 2 Chron 32:5.)

David’s success as a king and a leader was because the Lord of Hosts was with him (5:10). Yahweh of Hosts Yahweh ebaoth (יהוה צְבָאוֹת) is a powerful title for God. It indicates that he is in charge of heaven and earth. He was responsible for the fact that David was becoming ever more powerful.

d. More evidence of David’s advancement is shown by the interest of international people and by the growth of his family (5:11‑16).

Hiram the Tyrian king became a life‑long friend of David. This friendship was extended to Solomon as well. Eleven more sons (as well as unnamed daughters) were born in Jerusalem. Only Solomon became prominent.

e. David begins to act in the capacity of a military leader against the Philistines (5:17‑25).

The Lord sent him against the Philistines at Rephaim, and David defeated them at Baal-perazim (5:17‑21). The Philistines came against David again at Rephaim, and again the Lord led David to victory over them (5:22‑25).

4. David brings the ark, the symbol of God’s presence, to Jerusalem (6:1‑23).

a. The ark of the covenant was left in Kiriath-jearim after the Philistines returned it (1 Sam 7:1‑2).

Now David prepared to bring it to Jerusalem. The tabernacle was apparently rebuilt in Nob (1 Sam 21:1‑6). In Solomon’s day it was in Gibeon (1 Kings 3:3‑5 with 2 Chron 1:3). At this time, the ark seemed to have a separate existence, and David brought it to Jerusalem where it was placed in a special tent, but not the tabernacle (cf. 1 Chron 16:38‑39).

David assembled a picked group of 30,000 men and went to Baale-Judah to bring up the ark. God is referred to as “the Name” (hashem הַשֵּׁם), “the Lord of Hosts,” and the one who “is enthroned above the cherubim.” This latter refers to the fact that God dwelt over the outstretched wings of the cherubim, which were placed on the two ends of the ark of the covenant (6:1‑2).

The ark was placed on a new cart (as the Philistines had done, 1 Sam 6:7). The ark was supervised by Uzzah and Ahio who were sons of Abinadab. This was the Abinadab into whose house the ark was brought and whose son had been consecrated to keep the ark after the Philistines brought it to Beth Shemesh (1 Sam 7:1‑2). 1 Sam 7:2 says the ark was there for twenty years. Samuel and Saul occupied forty years and some ten years have elapsed of David’s rule. There would have been a period of seventy years during which the ark was at Kiriath-jearim. These men were either very old or they are grandsons of Abinadab (6:3‑4).

b. The first attempt to bring up the ark was a failure (6:5-11).

David and company were celebrating and worshipping before the Lord with all kinds of musical instruments when disaster struck. Uzzah reached out to steady the ark and was killed. God was making a point about his holiness as he did with the Beth Shemeshites. Uzzah acted in ignorant innocence, but he was violating the rules just the same. The text says that the “anger of the Lord burned against Uzzah, and God struck him.” There is no question of what happened. The only question is “why.” David became angry with the Lord and called the place “Perez-Uzzah” (“breaking forth against Uzzah”).12 David feared the Lord and wondered whether it was possible to bring up the ark (6:5‑9).

The ark was left at the house of Obed-Edom the Gittite for three months. Gittite could mean that he was from the Philistine city of Gath, but “gath” means a winepress and is used of a number of places. There was a Levitical city called Gath-rimmon (Pomegranate Press) in the tribe of Dan (Josh 21:24; 19:45). Obed-Edom is mentioned as a gatekeeper in 1 Chron 26:4, cf. Exod 6:21; 18:16) and from the family of Kohath and Merari. Why he was called a servant of Edom is not known. Critics want this to be a foreign deity, but there must be some other explanation.13 God’s blessing was evident on the house of Obed-Edom (6:10‑11).

c. The second attempt to bring up the ark was successful because David followed different procedures (6:12‑19).

David decided that God’s blessing on Obed-Edom signaled his intent to allow David to bring up the ark. The fact that they “carried” the ark (no mention of a cart) probably indicates that they were following God’s original instructions to have priests carry the ark on their shoulders with staves (Exod 25:12‑14). 1 Chron 15:1 may indicate that Levites were not involved in the first attempt. The hymn David sang on this occasion is recorded in 1 Chronicles 16. Compare it with Psalm 132, which is connected with the ark (Ephrathah would refer to a different place than around Bethlehem, and field of Jaar would be comparable to Kiriath-jearim) and with the Davidic covenant (6:12‑15).

Michal indicated her hatred of David when she despised him as he was dancing before the ark. Some would argue that Michal was only concerned with proper decorum, but it seems more likely that she was reflecting her anger at David for what he did to her and perhaps some disdain for the whole ark proceeding. Her father had some contact with the ark (1 Sam 14:18), but he apparently made no attempt to bring it up (although an argument could be made that the Philistine proximity made that impossible until David had defeated them). His complete disdain for the priests at Nob and whatever he did to the Gibeonites at the same time do not show a great spiritual sensitivity. Perhaps Michal reflected her father’s attitude. The ark was deposited, sacrifices were made, and David dismissed the people with gifts (6:16‑19).

d. David and Michal develop a permanent breach because she despises David (6:20‑23).

She vented her anger by calling David “a fool who uncovers himself before the maids.” David reminded her that God chose him over her father Saul (this must have been galling). David said that he was willing to go even further in abasing himself in order to glorify such a God. Michal was childless the rest of her life. It is probable that David had nothing more to do with her. This pericope is also to show that no descendants of Saul were to come from David. Had Michal had children by David, there could have been some complication in the succession. The author is showing us that one by one Saul’s house is being set aside: Saul, Jonathan, Abner, Ishbosheth, and now Michal. God has chosen David’s dynasty, as will be seen in the next chapter.

5. God makes a covenant with David promising him a throne and a kingdom forever (7:1‑29).

a. The Davidic covenant was a pivotal point in Israel’s history.

While a basic intent of this covenant is connected with Solomon and the building of the temple, its long-range perspective has to do with the eternality of David’s throne, and ultimately is fulfilled in the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 1:32‑33). It is paralleled in Ps. 89 and 1 Chron 17.14

b. David plans to build a temple and seeks Nathan’s approval (7:1‑3).

The conversation recorded between David and Nathan is quite short. It is likely that extended discussions had taken place regarding the possibility of building a temple. David was concerned that he was living in a beautiful home while the ark was in a tent. By now David had established Jerusalem as the political and religious center (comparable to Shiloh). It was only fitting that a permanent temple be constructed. Nathan, as a court prophet, expressed his approval of David’s plan.

c. God tells Nathan that He does not approve of David’s plan (7:4‑7).

God asked whether David is the one to build the temple, thus implying his disfavor with the idea. He rehearsed his past dealings with Israel to show that he does not need a temple. This is an important theological statement about God. He is not confined to any one spot. The tabernacle and later the temple and the ark were simply means of communication with the people, but God was not confined to any of those. It was difficult to dislodge the misconception from the minds of the people.

d. God makes His covenant with David (7:8‑17).

God states his past faithfulness to David. It is almost a formulaic word that God gave to Saul (1 Sam 15:17) and now to David. Nathan will utter the words again in the condemnation of David’s adultery and murder (2 Sam 12:7‑8). Yahweh continually reminds these men that it is by his grace that they serve. God promised to appoint a place for Israel and give them peace such as they have never had before (7:8‑11a).

God also promised David that he would give him a dynasty (so the meaning of “house”). David will die, but God will raise up a descendant (seed, zera זֶרַע). This descendant will build the temple, and his throne will be established in perpetuity. God will have a special relationship with him: Father to son. When he commits iniquity, God will discipline him; yet, God will never remove his covenant kindness (ḥesed חֶסֶד) from him. Again, God states that the shift of the kingdom from Saul to David was God’s doing. Finally, God says that David’s dynasty and throne will be established forever. (Cf. Psalm 89 for elaboration on this theme.) Summary statement: Nathan carried out his commission to relate this vision to David (7:11b‑17).

e. David extols God for his great grace and mercy (7:18‑29) (cf. Psalm 89).

David expressed his thanks for God’s dealings with him in the past. (“And this is the custom of man,” 7:19, refers to the fact that God was dealing with man [David] as God reveals in the law, viz., “love thy neighbor”) (7:18-19).

David acknowledged God’s sovereignty in choosing Israel and David. Furthermore, he stated that the choice of Israel was really for God’s own glory: (1) it was according to God’s word and his own heart, (2) there is no God like Jehovah, his choice of Israel and the miraculous deliverance from Egypt was to exalt God and bring glory to him (7:20‑24).

David humbly gave thanks for God’s choice of Him and his dynasty to carry out God’s purpose (7:25‑29).

6. God’s blessing on David is evidenced in David’s victories over the surrounding people (8:1‑18).

a. The Philistines were subdued. At long last the hated harassers of Israel are brought to their knees.

The war, begun under Samuel and continued under Saul, was finished by David. “Chief city” metheg ha’ammah miyad Pelištim (מֶתֶג הָאַמָּה מִיַּד פְּלִשְׁתִּים) means the metropolis which ruled the area (1 Sam 29:2; cf. 27:1). Chronicles says “Gath and her towns” (1 Chron 18:1).

b. The Moabites were defeated, and half of the captured men are killed (8:2).

c. The Arameans of Zobah were defeated at the Euphrates River (8:3‑4).

d. The Arameans of Damascus were defeated when they went to the assistance of those of Zobah (8:5‑8).15

The result was that David garrisoned the Aramean cities with their capital at Damascus. A side note is that by limiting the advances of the Arameans, David was providing breathing space for the Assyrians in the east. With the Arameans out of the way, Assyria could grow apace.

e. The Hittite city-state of Hamath was elated at David’s victories since they removed a dreaded enemy from its southern flank (8:9‑12).16

f. The Edomites are the subject of 8:13‑14.

This is indicated by the parallel account in Chronicles (1 Chron 18:12) where Abishai was the chief instigator, and by the morphology of the name: Edom and Aram look like this in Hebrew: ארם אדם

g. A summary statement about God’s blessing on David is given (8:15‑18).

The kingdom David inherited was operated on a very simple scale. It was not highly nor well organized. David began the organization process, which was brought to a peak by Solomon. David may well have gone to Egypt for ideas on organization, and one name in the list here may even be Egyptian.17

All of 1 Samuel moves toward the events of 2 Samuel 1-8. Here in summary form are the main achievements of David: (1) He became king over all Israel, (2) He captured Jebus and made it his capital, (3) He brought up the ark, (4) He received the Davidic covenant, (5) He conquered all his enemies. The rest of 2 Samuel will answer the question. “Who will succeed me in my new dynasty?”18

E. The Struggle for Succession—Choice of Solomon (2 Sam 9:1—12:31).

1. David demonstrates grace by showing kindness to Jonathan’s son (9:1‑13).

a. David had promised Jonathan to look after his family (1 Sam 20:12‑17).

b. David’s act of kindness encouraged the rest of Israel (cf. also David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan, taking back the king’s daughter, reception of Abner and mourning for him, and killing of the men who murdered Ishbosheth).

c. Jonathan had a son named Mephibosheth (9:1‑8).

Mephibosheth’s name is Meribbaal in 1 Chron 8:33. Meribbaal means “contending for the Lord” (cf. Jerubbaal/Gideon in Judges 6:31‑32). As indicated earlier the name has been edited to drop out the name Baal because of its idolatrous connotations and to substitute “bosheth” “shameful” in its place. The meaning of Mephibosheth is “from the mouth of the god of shame.”

David inquired about descendants of Saul. “Kindness” (ḥesed חֶסֶד) is an important Old Testament word. It pertains to “grace,” “mercy,” or “kindness.” The “saint” of the Old Testament is a ḥasid (חָסִיד), that is, one who is the recipient of God’s kindness.19

A servant of Saul’s house by the name of Ziba was brought to David. He was introduced and asked about Saul’s family. Ziba told about Mephibosheth who was crippled in both feet (cf. 4:4). He was then living in the home of Machir in Lo-debar. Machir was a descendant of Manasseh (Gen 50:23), whose descendants conquered Gilead (Num 32:39, 40). This Machir showed friendship to Saul’s house when the army came to Mahanaim, but David’s magnanimous gesture to Mephibosheth probably won him over. In any event, he extended kindness to David in his distress (2 Sam 17:27). Lo-debar is in Gilead on the northeast side of the Jordan where the house of Saul had fled, and Abner had set up a rump government (9:2‑4).

David summoned Mephibosheth and treated him generously. Mephibosheth probably expected bad treatment, but David restored to him Saul’s lands and permitted him to eat daily at the king’s table. (Ancestral lands were supposed to be restored to the original owners under Mosaic law, but kings often appropriated the lands of people). Mephibosheth showed his gratitude (9:5‑8).

David called Ziba and charged him with the care of Saul’s properties. (Cf. chap. 16 for the tragic aftermath of this wonderful beginning) (9:9‑13).

2. David demonstrates wisdom in showing grace and then justice to the Ammonites (10:1‑19). (This victory is summarized in 8:12.)20

a. The death of Nahash became an occasion for a provocative act against David (casus belli) (10:1‑5).

Nahash died. He was the enemy whom Saul defeated in 1 Samuel 11. Since that time, he had become a friend of David. David’s act of kindness (ḥesed חֶסֶד) was misinterpreted, and David’s ambassadors were abused (nakedness and shaving in this way were insulting to a Semite). David told the men to stay in Jericho until their hair had regrown. Nothing is said about David becoming angry—nothing needs to be said.

b. David’s army wins the battle decisively (10:6‑19).

The Ammonites, expecting retaliation, called on Aramean allies for help. Beth-Rehob and Zoba furnished 20,000 men; Maacah, 1,000 and Tob, 12,000. David called up his army in response. The battle was set, and Joab’s generalship won the day (10:6‑14).

The Arameans decided to make a major effort to defeat David and so sent for help beyond the Euphrates. The king leading the coalition was Hadadezer (cf. 1 Kings 11:23). His name means “Hadad” (the storm god) is “help.” He was the king of Zoba. David defeated them at Helem (an unknown place on the east side of the Jordan). The Arameans became tributaries to Judah, but in later years they became the nemesis of both Israel and Judah (10:15‑19).

3. David demonstrates folly in his sin with Bathsheba (11:1—12:31).

a. Certain events set the stage for the ensuing tragedy (11:1).

It was the time of year conducive to battle, and General Joab and the army were besieging Rabbah (capital of the Ammonites who had been defeated in chap. 10). David stayed at home rather than going to the battle.21

b. David falls into temptation and yields to it (11:2‑5).

David was walking on the rooftop when he saw a beautiful woman bathing. Instead of resisting temptation, he sent messengers to find out who she was. The report came back that she was Bathsheba (daughter of an oath) daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah (Jehovah is light) the Hittite. The fact that Uriah was a Hittite indicates that he was a foreigner who had embraced the faith of David. Certainly now, David should have stopped. The woman was married and to one of his trusted loyal officers at that. Instead, he brought her to the palace and had sex with her. Bathsheba became pregnant, a rather embarrassing situation since her husband was away on a long campaign.

c. David tries to cover his sin and fails (11:6‑13).

David called for Uriah on the pretext of finding out how the siege was going. David sent Uriah to his house, hoping he would have sex with his wife and thus would be assumed to be the father of Bathsheba’s child. (How did David think that no one of all those who knew about the incident would ever tell on him?) Uriah slept with the king’s servants. David urged him to go home, but Uriah stated his tremendous loyalty to the army, ark, and general. David then tried to get him so drunk that he would go home without realizing it, but Uriah refuses to go.

d. David then decides to murder Uriah (11:14‑25).

David sent the letter of execution by the hand of the man who trusted him so explicitly that he would never think of looking at the letter (apart from the divine implications of this passage, this ironic action is masterful storytelling). Joab carried out the orders by putting Uriah in the front ranks and withdrawing from him. Uriah and others were killed, and Joab sent a report on the war (which was not going too well at that point) with the ameliorating statement that Uriah was dead. David accepted the report and laconically ordered the messenger to tell Joab that things happen that way at times.

e. David then takes over the estate he has robbed (11:26‑27) (cf. Naboth’s vineyard).

Bathsheba fulfilled her days of mourning, and David brought her to the palace. She bore a son, but the thing that David had done was displeasing to the Lord (Literaly, it was evil in his eyes).22

f. God confronts David through Nathan the prophet (12:1‑15a).

Nathan, to make his point, gave a heart‑rending parable of a man with one little ewe. David became angry and averred that the man who stole the ewe lamb was worthy of death, and that the man must make four‑fold restitution. (Because he did the deed and because he had no compassion.) Nathan then applied the parable to David: God had blessed David with everything he could possibly want. David had despised the word of the Lord by this awful act, and as a consequence, Yahweh promised that the sword would never depart from David’s house. David’s own family would turn against him, and his wives would be given to another. God would humiliate David publicly because David had acted secretly.

g. David accepts the rebuke and repents (12:13‑15a).

David recognized that his sin was ultimately only against the Lord (cf. Psalm 51). God forgave David and spared him from death, but he punished him by taking away the life of the newly born boy. Because of David’s position, his sin caused the enemies of Yahweh to blaspheme.

h. David’s son dies (12:15b‑23).

The baby became sick; David inquired of God; prayed and fasted. The child died on the seventh day, and David recognized that there was nothing more to be done. He had hoped to avert the hand of God but was unable to do so. Before this was over, David lost (1) Bathsheba’s first son, (2) Amnon, (3) Absalom, and (4) Adonijah—four sons. Is this four‑fold restitution?

i. David and Bathsheba have a second child (12:24‑25).

David named him Solomon (שְׁלמה something about peace). The Lord chose Solomon, and as a result he was also called Jedidiah.23 The historian is saying that God is going to continue his work in the theocratic kingdom through Solomon. This is the centerpiece in the frame of the Ammonite war. David’s successor will be Solomon.

j. The Ammonites are finally defeated (12:26‑31).

The siege may have lasted two years. Joab had all but won, and he sent for David to finish the battle. The “city of waters” means that it was situated on the Jabbok River. David came, defeated the city, and made the Ammonites slaves.24

F. The Struggle for Succession—Rejection of Other Sons (2 Sam 13:1—20:26). See chart on p. 158.

1. The second step in God’s judgment on David is in the sordid sin of Amnon (13:1‑39).

a. David had married a certain Maacah who was the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur.

This was apparently a small kingdom on the east side of the Jordan. David raided it according to 1 Sam 27:8. (Is this when he took Maacah?). He had two physically beautiful children from this union: Absalom and Tamar.

b. Amnon, half-brother to Tamar, lusted for her to the point of total frustration (13:1-6).

He was afraid to force the issue, but he had a “slick” friend who was a first cousin by the name of Jonadab. Jonadab advised Amnon to trick his sister by playing sick and asking for Tamar. This entire incident speaks volumes about the type of life the palace “kids” lived.

c. When Tamar comes, in spite of her protestations, Amnon forces her and rapes her (13:7‑14).

d. Amnon, having sated his lust, hates her, and sends her away (13:15‑19).

He hated her as much as he had previously thought he loved her. (Hebrew uses the word love [’ahavah אָהֲבָה] in a general way). “Love” is being used in this context to say that Amnon wanted her. We make a distinction (properly so) between lust and love. Lust gets, love gives. The New Testament distinguishes between these concepts in its language. The Old Testament distinguishes between them in its theology (13:15‑17).

Convention and Old Testament law (Deut 22:28-29) required him to marry her, but he thrust her out with no consideration. She went out mourning the fact that she was raped without recourse (13:18‑19).

e. Absalom keeps his sister in his home and plots revenge (13:20‑22).

David failed to discipline Amnon in this very serious sin and breech of ethics. Was he affected by his own sin with Bathsheba? It is truly impossible to lead and train others when your own life is not in order. LXX has an addition that gives another reason: “And he did not trouble his son Amnon’s spirit because he loved him, because he was his firstborn.” The Qumran fragment supports at least part of this reading. The addition may have come from the commentary in 1 Kings 1:5 on Adonijah’s conduct: “And his father had never crossed him at any time by asking, ‘Why have you done so?”‘

f. Absalom carries out revenge against Amnon (13:23‑39).

Absalom prepared a feast and invited David and all his brothers to come. Absalom’s servants killed Amnon, and the royal sons fled. The report came to David that all the boys had been killed. Absalom fled and the sons came home to David. Absalom escaped to his grandfather’s home on the east side of the Jordan and spent three years there. David was unwilling to forgive Absalom and bring him back.25

2. The Restoration of Absalom prepares the way for Absalom’s rebellion against his father (14:1‑33).

a. Joab’s stratagem to bring Absalom back (14:1‑24).

Joab wanted Absalom brought back, perhaps because he was next in line to succeed to the throne, but he was apparently unwilling to confront David directly since David was still opposed to the idea. As Fokkelman says, Absalom’s rage had become so dangerous that Joab intercedes, not from compassion for Absalom, but for the sake of king and country (p. 145). He coached a woman to bring a complaint to the king about the threatened loss of her son (14:1‑3). The woman presented her case and David promised to adjudicate it (14:4‑11). The woman urged him further and told him that the same situation applied to David and Absalom (14:12‑17). David asked whether this plan came from Joab, and she said, “yes” (14:18‑20). David then told Joab to bring Absalom back (14:21‑24). Yet, David refused to see Absalom.

b. Absalom is very popular in Israel (14:25‑27).

Absalom was very handsome and perhaps vain. He had three sons and a daughter, Tamar, who was apparently named after his sister.

c. Absalom insists on seeing the king (14:28‑33).

Joab did not seem to be interested in helping Absalom reconcile with his father (was he concerned that he may have done too much already?). Absalom had been back for two years for a total of five years since killing Amnon. Absalom burned Joab’s field to get his attention, and Joab then brought him to David where there was at least a superficial reconciliation.

3. The third step in God’s judgment on David is the rebellion of Absa-lom (15:1—18:33).

a. Absalom wins the people from David (15:1‑6).

Absalom developed a retinue and intercepted those who were coming to David from the northern tribes to have their cases heard. He would then plant seeds of doubt in their minds about the fairness of David. The result was that he “stole away the hearts of the men of Israel” playing on the natural disaffection between Israel and Judah.

b. Absalom begins the rebellion (15:7‑12).

He feigned a spiritual reason for his absence from court.26 He sent spies throughout the land to prepare the people for the signal of rebellion. He sent for Ahithophel, David’s counselor, who was apparently in on the conspiracy.

c. David is informed of the rebellion (15:13‑18).

A messenger brought the bad news of the rebellion, and David fled with his servants. He left ten concubines to keep the house.

d. Ittai from Gath expresses his loyalty (15:19‑23).

A number of Philistines had become loyal to David, probably during the time he was serving under Achish. Ittai is one of those very loyal followers. David admonished Ittai to go home. Ittai insisted on identifying with David.

David and the people crossed the Kidron valley on the way to the wilderness. It must have been a sad sight (indeed the people were weeping) to see the mighty potentate shamefully making his way up the Mount of Olives toward the Jordan River (15:23).

e. Zadok and Abiathar show their loyalty (15:24‑29).

These two priests brought the ark of the covenant. David sent the ark back, trusting his future to the Lord. Zadok was to keep in touch with the situation in Jerusalem and send David word.

f. Hushai shows his loyalty (15:30‑37).

David and his entourage crossed the Mount of Olives, weeping as they went. David heard that Ahithophel was among the conspirators and prayed for God to frustrate Ahithophel’s counsel. Hushai joined him, and David sent him back to Jerusalem to work with Zadok, Abiathar, Jonathan and Ahimaaz. Hushai and Absalom arrived at Jerusalem at the same time.

g. Ziba, a Benjamite, acts treacherously against his master Mephibosheth (16:1‑4).

Ziba, pretending loyalty, brought provisions to David. He claimed that Mephibosheth thought the kingdom would be restored to the house of Saul (a believable charge under the circumstances).

h. Shimei, a Benjamite, shows contempt for David (16:5‑14).

Shimei, from the house of Saul, cursed David as a bloody, evil man from whom the kingdom had been taken. Abishai, Joab’s brother, wanted to kill Shimei, but David insisted on taking the cursing as punishment from God. David and his people arrived at their destination, weary and in need of refreshment.

i. Absalom arrives at Jerusalem and meets Hushai (16:15‑19).

Hushai hailed Absalom as king, and Absalom was understandably suspicious. Hushai, however, convinced him of his loyalty.

j. Ahithophel shows his disloyalty to David by advising Absalom (16:20—17:4).

Ahithophel’s first advice was for Absalom to defile the con-cubines of David. This would infuriate David, make the breach permanent, and would show dominance over the kingdom (16:20‑22). This act was an unwitting fulfillment of God’s word to David that God would have his wives defiled openly (12:11). Ahithophel’s counsel was highly regarded in that day (16:23). Ahithophel’s second piece of advice was for Absalom to allow him to take 12,000 men and defeat David while he was weary (17:1‑4).

k. Ahithophel’s advice is rejected in favor of Hushai’s (17:5‑14).

Hushai pointed out the weakness of Ahithophel’s advice (17:5‑10). Hushai then advised that Absalom form a large force of men and overpower David over a period of time (17:11‑14). Hushai was thus buying time for David.

l. Hushai then sends word of all that had transpired by Jonathan and Ahimaaz who narrowly escape. En Rogel is near Jerusalem (17:15‑20).

m. Hushai’s advice allows David to escape across the Jordan (17:21‑23).

The lads were able to get the information to David. David and his people got across the Jordan. Ahithophel committed suicide because his counsel was rejected. Thus, David’s prayer was answered.

n. David comes to Mahanaim in Gilead (17:24-26).

Mahanaim was where Abner had set up the kingdom with Ish-bosheth. It was a fertile area and defensible. Absalom put Amasa, cousin of Joab, over his army and brought his troops to Gilead also (cf. 19:13 where David replaces Joab with Amasa to punish Joab and to win Absalom’s followers over).

o. Others show loyalty to David in Gilead (17:27‑29).

Shobi, son of Nahash was from Rabbah of Ammon. Is this a son or a grandson of Nahash, king of Ammon? Since Nahash is used of at least three people in the Bible, it may be a common enough name, and this person may be no relation to the king of Ammon. Machir, who had hosted Mephibosheth, came out to meet David. Barzillai from Gilead also welcomed David.

p. Absalom is defeated in the civil war (18:1‑33).

David mustered the troops and organized them into three major battalions. He placed the battalions under Joab, Abishai, and Ittai. David stayed in the city of Mahanaim at the request of the people because he was more valuable than anyone else. David charged the commanders publicly to deal gently with his son Absalom (18:1‑5).

The battle was joined in the forest of Ephraim. Since Absalom had moved his troops to Gilead, and David was already in Gilead, it is difficult to place this battle site. Some would argue for a place on the east side of the Jordan with this name (Forest of Ephraim), but that would be strange. David’s troops may have been drawn up in Gilead, and Absalom withdrew to the west side of the Jordan in Ephraim. Others argue that some Ephraimites must have settled on the East side of the Jordan. The trees were so thick that many people were killed as they ran or rode rapidly through the forest. 20,000 men were slaughtered (18:6‑8).

Absalom was caught in a tree and killed. The danger of riding through the forest is shown by what happened to Absalom. A soldier saw him and told Joab who chided him for not killing him. The man replied that he would not have killed him for a thousand shekels, since King David had admonished them not to hurt Absalom. Joab then thrust three darts or spears into Absalom’s heart, and his armor bearers finished him off. (KJV: darts; NASB: spears; Heb.: ševatimשְׁבָטִים staves or shafts. It is probably a smaller weapon like a dart) (18:9‑15).

Joab blew the shophar and terminated the war. Absalom’s body was thrown into a pit. Absalom had set up a pillar in his own name, so this is irony: as Absalom had boasted in his life with a monument, so now a monument will celebrate his death. There is a large conical pillar in the Kidron called Absalom’s pillar, but it is closer to New Testament times in its origin (18:16‑18).

The news was brought to David who was devastated by it. Ahimaaz wanted to go, but Joab would not let him (perhaps Joab felt that the bad news of Absalom’s death should be brought by someone else. Later David assumed that Ahimaaz would only bring good news). The Cushite (Ethiopian?) was sent with the news, and Ahimaaz was allowed to follow. David sat anxiously in the gate and was told of the runners’ coming. Ahimaaz outran the Cushite but was only willing or able to tell David that Joab’s troops had won the battle. The Cushite then told David that Absalom was dead. David began to mourn Absalom, but his response was more maudlin than compassionate, affected as much by guilt as anything else. Absalom deserved to die for what he had done, and yet David would probably have spared him (18:19‑33).

4. The fourth step in God’s judgment—restoration but more rebellion against David (19:1—20:22).

a. David’s maudlin reaction to Absalom’s death almost ruined his victory (19:1‑8a).

David’s deep grief caused the people to sneak off in confusion. They thought they had done a good thing, but David’s response said the opposite. Joab rebuked David, and though David deeply resented it, he assumed his responsibility and the people were encouraged.

b. The tribes of Israel are confused now that Absalom is dead but decide to bring David back (19:8b‑10).

That centrifugal force we spoke about earlier is at work again. David’s action was not sharp and decisive as it had once been. A vacuum was created that would be hard to deal with.

c. To avoid undue influence from the northern tribes, David urges Judah to become involved in bringing him back (19:11‑15).

David again used Zadok and Abiathar as mediators to convince Judah to receive him. David’s anger against Joab for killing Absalom, rebuking David, and all his previous acts brought David to the point of confronting this powerful man and setting him aside. Consequently, he appointed Amasa as general of the army. Judah went out to welcome David.

d. David’s restoration has an impact on several people (19:16‑43).

Gilgal belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, and Shimei and Ziba had a vested interest in welcoming David back! Ziba acted as a sycophant in bringing supplies. Shimei, with a “peasant’s cunning” (Hertzberg), begged forgiveness with the same openness he had once cursed David. He counted on the fact that “being the first of the house of Joseph” to welcome David home would make it difficult for David to kill him. It probably helped his case to have Abishai want to kill him, since the Zeruahites are out of favor with David at the moment (19:16‑23).

Mephibosheth found himself in a virtually defenseless position. As Saul’s grandson he stood to gain by David’s fall; at least psychologically. Furthermore, his own servant had convinced David of Mephibosheth’s complicity. Consequently, the best he could do was throw himself on David’s mercy. David’s response was somewhat petulant: he divided the land between Mephi-bosheth and Ziba (19:24‑30).

Barzillai was a genuine friend to David. David invited him to live with him in Jerusalem, but Barzillai eloquently begged off the invitation and sent his son [?] Chimham (note Jeremiah 41:17 which seems to indicate a fiefdom in perpetuity). This is a particularly delightful scene and shows that in the midst of the flattery and perfidy, that there were honest men with no self-interest in David (19:31‑39).

An Israelite/Judahite struggle broke out because Israel was jealous that Judah had brought David back without consulting with them. Judah argued that David was their relative, to which the Israelites responded that they were larger and therefore deserved greater consideration. This hostility planted the seed for further rebellion (19:40‑43).

e. The northern tribes follow Sheba ben Bichri, a Benjamite (20:1‑22).

Sheba was a worthless fellow (ish beliyyal אִישּׁ בְּלִיַּעַל), but all Israel followed him. David isolated the concubines whom Absalom had violated and ordered Amasa to muster all the troops to go after Sheba. When Amasa delayed, David sent Abishai to take his place. Joab went along with all his men, obviously determined not to relinquish control of the army. Joab deceived Amasa (as he had Abner) and killed him. The men were called upon to declare for David and for Joab. Abel Beth-Maacah (a northern city in Dan) was placed under siege because Sheba was there. Under the threat of destruction, a wise woman contacted Joab and advised the city to throw out the head of Sheba.27 The rebellion was over.

5. The historian lists the officials of David’s court (20:23‑25).

Chapter 20

Office

Chapter 8

Joab

Military Commander

Joab

Benaiah

Bodyguard

Benaiah

Adoram

Supervisor forced labor

None

Jehoshaphat

Recorder

Jehoshaphat

Sheva

Scribe

Seraiah

Zadok/Abiathar

Priests

Zadok/Abiathar

Ira

Cohen/Cohens

David’s sons

Of this list Hertzberg says, “The second list is thus a second edition of the first. It forms an appropriate conclusion to the section 9‑20, just as the other list closes the previous section, and like it, shows that the kingdom of David is now set in order after the tumult surrounding the succession.”28

G. A concluding section on David’s reign (2 Sam 21:1—24:25).

Chronicles has a long section devoted to David’s last days in which he prepares young Solomon for the rule and the building of the temple. That is omitted in Samuel; instead, we have two judgmental pestilences and their expiation (Gibeonites and census). The former must have taken place earlier in David’s reign and the latter toward the end. Secondly, there is a long psalm commemorating God’s deliverance of David from his enemies, then David’s last words. Finally, there is a series of vignettes from the Philistine wars celebrating David’s heroes.

1. David slays seven of Saul’s sons as punishment for Saul’s sin in breaking the Gibeonite covenant (21:1-14).

a. Sometime in David’s reign (perhaps early), there was a three-year famine (21:1‑2).

David prayed to the Lord for a reason for the drought. God told him it was because Saul had broken the Gibeonite covenant made with these non-Israelites by Joshua (Joshua 9). Saul had apparently attempted to wipe out the Gibeonites in his zeal. Josh 9:27 indicates that the Gibeonites had been made servants of the sanctuary “in the place that He would choose.” 2 Chron 1:3 indicates that the tabernacle was pitched at Gibeon. Is it possible that the Gibeonites were affected by the slaughter of the priests at Nob (1 Samuel 21); that it had some impact on them so that they were removed from the tabernacle service? When David asked, “How can I make atonement that you may bless the inheritance of the Lord,” he may have been intimating a restoration of the Gibeonites to service.29

b. David allows the Gibeonites to set the punishment (21:3‑6).

David wanted to make an atonement (’akapper אֲכַפֵּר), but the Gibeonites were not interested in money or that anyone but Saul’s family in Israel should suffer. They did want vengeance on Saul’s house. The vengeance would be against seven of Saul’s descendants. David acceded to their request. Throughout, we are reminded that Saul was God’s chosen one, yet he had rebelled against the Lord, and as a result even his sons were punished.30

c. The deed is carried out; the Saulides are killed (21:7‑9).

David spared Mephibosheth because of his oath to Jonathan. Rizpah, Saul’s concubine, lost two sons, and Merab, Saul’s daughter, lost five sons. The hanging took place in the beginning of the barley harvest (they were killed and their bodies hung up).

d. Rizpah mourns her sons and keeps the birds away from their corpses for a long time (21:10‑14a).

Rizpah protected their bodies until the rains came. Their corpses were hung in mid-April. The early rains come in November, but God ended the famine (probably by rain) so her vigil ceased earlier than November. Her task was nevertheless a long one. David, moved by what she did, collected the bones of Saul and Jonathan from Jabesh-gilead and the bones of Saul’s sons and grandsons and brought them to Zela in the tribe of Benjamin for burial.

e. God was appeased, and the famine ceased (21:14b).

2. There is a list of various battles against the Philistines and the rest of Goliath’s family is killed (21:15‑22).

a. David’s last major battle was against the Philistines (21:15‑17).

David became weary in the battle, and Ishbi-Benob (a brother of Goliath?) tried to kill him. Abishai saved the day, but David was asked by his men not to return to the battlefield. David was called “the lamp of God.”

b. Three more giants were killed by David’s men (21:18‑22).

Saph, a descendant of the giant, was killed by Sibbecai, the Hushathite. Lachmi, brother to Goliath was killed by Elhanan (with 1 Chron 20:5). This is a textual problem:

1 Chron 20:5: “and Elhanan the son of Jair killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.”

2 Sam 21:19: “and Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.”

Hertzberg argues that there are two contradictory traditions about who killed Goliath. He says that the “compiler of Samuel did not feel inconvenienced at its presence and certainly did not include the note to correct the David story!” He argues that the Chronicles text is a clumsy attempt to reconcile the passages.31 It would seem quite strange to me that the “compiler” would leave such a contradiction; therefore, I would accept the Chronicles passage not as an attempt to harmonize, but as the correct text.

The multi-digited giant was killed by Jonathan, son of Shimei, David’s brother (otherwise unknown).

Thus, five giants in all were killed including Goliath. These victories over the “giant family” are placed here (though they took place earlier in David’s reign) to show that David triumphed over all his enemies as he sang in chap. 22. Hertzberg: “Gutbrod’s hypothesis (II, p. 247) that the four warriors here in the service of the Philistines appear ‘as it were as the last of the strange and uncanny race of giants’ is attractive; it would in that case have been seen as ‘a sign of the stature and achievement of David that under his leadership it was possible to overcome the last of the race of giants which reached right back into the days of pre-history.’ This makes the preparation of this list of David’s victories comprehensible.”32

3. David’s history is presented as a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving to God (22:1‑51).

a. This psalm is parallel to Psalm 18. There are very few differences.

The psalm was placed here, and the same psalm was edited (by David?) for the Psalter. (This is an example of the way a piece of literature can be edited twice or it can be prepared for one part of Scripture and reedited for another part. These should not be looked upon as recensions within the canon, but revisions of material in the earlier books to be placed in later books.) Both, of course, were done under inspiration. As Hertzberg says, other psalms of David could have been chosen to be here, but this one shows David’s military victories.33 It also shows God’s grace throughout David’s life.

b. David speaks of his personal devotion to the Lord, and his prayer for deliverance in time of trouble (22:1‑7).

c. David uses poetic language to describe God’s deliverance (22:8‑20).

d. David speaks of his own life of obedience and God’s response to that life of obedience (22:21‑30). Note the same theology in Hannah’s psalm.

e. David extols God’s greatness and His grace (22:31‑43).

f. David recounts the way the Lord made him king (22:44‑49).

g. David concludes the Psalm with a statement on why he sings praise—God shows loving kindness (ḥesed) to David and his descendants forever (Davidic Covenant) (22:50‑51).

4. A Summary of the theology of the books of Samuel is given in David’s last words (23:1‑7).

a. David speaks of his position before God (23:1).

He was the son of a humble man, Jesse; yet he was a man raised on high. He was anointed by the God of Jacob, and the sweet singer of Israel.

b. David speaks of his prophetic office (one who speaks for God) (23:2).

c. David speaks of God’s greatness (23:3‑4).

d. David reviews the Davidic covenant (23:5).

5. A list of David’s famous soldiers is given to conclude the military summary (23:8‑39

JOAB—ARMY COMMANDER

Shammah Josheb Bashebeth Eleazar

Abishai (Chief of 30) Benaiah (chief of Guard)

1. Asahel

16. Eliahba

2. Elhanan

17. Jonathan

3. Shammah

18. Shammah

4. Elika

19. Abiam

5. Helez

20. Eliphelet

6. Ira

21. Eliam

7. Mebunnai

22. Hezro

8. Zalmon

23. Paarai

9. Maharai

24. Igal

10. Heleb

25. Bani

11. Ittai

26. Zelek

12. Benaiah

27. Naharai

13. Hiddai

28. Ira

14. Abi‑albon

29. Gareb

15. Asmaveth

30. Uriah

6. David’s sin in taking a census becomes the basis for the choice of the temple site (24:1‑25).

a. For some reason, God was angry at Israel and moved David to number them.

(1 Chron 21:1 attributes the action to Satan, who, of course, was God’s intermediary) (24:1).

b. David called Joab to number the people in spite of Joab’s remonstration.

The number was 800,000 and 500,000 for Israel and Judah respectively or 1,300,000 total fighting men (24:2‑9).

c. David’s heart was stricken by God, and he confessed his sin (24:10‑11).

d. God sent Gad, the court prophet, to confront David (24:12‑14).

David was given three choices of punishment: (a) Seven years of famine, (b) flee three months (c) three days of plague. David cast himself on God’s mercy (24:14).

e. God sent a plague in Israel that killed 70,000 Israelites (24:15‑17).

People died from Dan to Beersheba. The angel was about to smite Jerusalem when God stopped him. David confessed his sin.

f. God tells David to build an altar on the site (24:18‑25).

(1 Chron 22:1 says that David then and there chose that site for the temple.)

Excursus on the purpose of Second Samuel

The author of this book is setting out the purpose and grace of God in selecting David to be the king through whom He would bring a perpetual dynasty. As such, a good part of the book deals with who will succeed David to the throne. Much of it is devoted to who is not worthy and why. The inference may be, as Hertzberg notes,34 that David originally thought to perpetuate his line through Saul’s family. This would explain his insistence on bringing Michal back. However, she was childless, perhaps so indicating as with Abraham, that the seed would come through his choice not David’s.

The thread of Saul’s rejection is woven throughout the book. His death and that of his three sons; Michal’s childlessness; the Gibeonite affair resulting in the death of seven descendants; Sheba, Ziba, and Mephibosheth all bear on this topic and show that not only Saul, but his line was rejected.

The emphasis is then placed on David’s sons. Chapter 9 through the end of the book turns on this issue of succession. The reason for placing the Ammonite war in chapter 10 is to show how David’s heinous sins resulted in the birth of Solomon. This boy was called Jedidiah (whom Yahweh loves) by the Lord Himself to show that He was electing Solomon as the next king. Chronicles develops this idea much further.

Amnon was the eldest son and in line for the throne, but his character was so awful, that obviously he could not be king. On the other hand, Absalom, who looked and acted the part of a prince could never be king because he could not wait on the Lord. The third in line was Adonijah who was pronounced a “spoiled brat” in 1 Kings. He likewise was not God’s choice. Solomon was the son of David who would build David’s house and God’s House.


1For the theological background of Samuel and Kings, see Heater, “A Theology of Samuel and Kings.”

2McCarter agrees with this explanation, II Samuel, p. 59.

3In the “individual combat” (2:15), Benjamin is the chief tribe of the rest of Israel.

4Ishbosheth is a change in name what was probably made in the Hebrew text by later scribes. The name Baal was once used of Yahweh since it means “lord” or “master.” The confusion with the Canaanite deity, however, required that it be dropped. Consequently, names that once had as the divine element, Baal (e.g., Ish Baal: Man of Baal), were changed to “Man of the Shameful (bosheth) deity.” The LXX still has Ish Baal (as does 1 Chron 8:33), so the text was probably changed by the Sopherim. (Sopherim were the pre-Masoretic scribes who worked with the text. For a good discussion see McCarter, II Samuel, pp. 85‑86.)

5So Keil and Delitzsch, The Books of Samuel, p. 295.

6See Merrill, Kingdom of Priests, p. 181, who suggests that Saul’s ancestors were the Jabesh-gileadites who were brought in to marry the few men left in Benjamin (Judges 21).

7See McCarter, II Samuel, loc. cit., for a good discussion of the historical parallels.

8Even though David knew God had given him the kingdom, he refused to come to the throne by force. Thus, he refused to kill Saul on two different occasions. He was quite willing to work out a peaceful arrangement with Abner without bloodshed. The same attitude was displayed here in that he was not willing to kill Ishbosheth to gain his territory. This is a good example of trusting God for the details instead of trying to work them out by oneself. Everything David did worked to his political advantage, but it would be wrong to charge him with crass motives. He was putting into practice the many things he learned as a youth (wisdom) and then as a fugitive in trusting Yahweh to bring about His divine will. See also, Heater, “Young David and the Practice of Wisdom,” pp. 50-61.

9See Unger, Archaeology and the Old Testament, p. 206.

10See the diagram of the city in Avigad, Discovering Jerusalem, p. 25, and a beauti-ful reconstruction of the city and recent archaeology in H. Shanks, “The City of David after Five Years of Digging,” BAR 11 (1985) 22-38. See also the URL http://archpark.org.il/intro. asp.

11Avigad, Discovering Jerusalem, p. 24.

12In 5:20 David named the place of victory Baal Perazim because the Lord “broke through against his enemies.” Here it is Perez Uzzah because the Lord “broke through” against Uzzah.

13Cf. McCarter, II Samuel, loc. cit.

14See J. Walvoord, “The Kingdom Promises to David,” BibSac 110 [1953]: 97‑110.

15See Unger, The Arameans of Damascus.

16See Wright, Biblical Archaeology, p. 125.

17See Wright, Biblical Archaeology, pp. 125, 126. On David’s sons being priests, cf. 1 Kings 4:5 where the parallel (1 Chron 18:17 has “chief advisors).” C. Amerding (“Were David’s Sons Really Priests?” in Current Issues in Biblical and Patristic Interpretation, pp. 75-86) argues that the sons really were priests. See also my discussion in “A Theology of Samuel and Kings,” p. 120.

18See the charts on p. 158.

19Cf. Ps. 16:10. Note that David shows this kindness to a descendant of Saul for “Jonathan’s sake” as God has shown us kindness for “Jesus’ sake” (Eph. 4:32) (9:1).

20Chapters 10 and 12:26-31 are a window frame around David’s sin. The Ammonite war is summarized in chapter 8. Apparently, this unit gives details to set the stage for David’s sin, which ultimately resulted in the birth of Solomon whom God chose as the next king. See the excursus, p. 240.

21In 21:15-17, his men encouraged him to stay out of battle.

22In the presentation of the history of Israel by the writer of 1 and 2 Samuel, there is the constant theme that those who obey the Lord will enjoy his blessing, and that those who disobey the Lord will be disciplined. It is being made clear that not even the messianic prototype is able to sin with impunity. David’s sin was especially egregious because of his unique position. The sin consisted of adultery and murder; both punishable by death according to the Mosaic law.

23The name means, “Yahweh loves.” The word “love” seems to have the meaning of “choose” on occasion. When God says he loved Jacob and hated Esau, he is speaking of his choice, not of an emotional response. Jesus means the same thing when he says that children are to hate their parents. He is saying that they must choose God over their parents.

24See McCarter, II Samuel, loc. cit., who shows that this is not torture of the Ammonites, but enslavement for work.

25I believe Fokkelman (Narrative Art and Poetry in the Books of Samuel 1:126, 452‑53) is correct in his analysis of this passage. He arrives at an opposite meaning for the context than is usually given. Two words need to be reinterpreted: “And the heart of King David longed to go out to Absalom.” (“Heart” must be supplied. It has dropped out of the text as indicated by the versions and Qumran.) The preposition “to” in Hebrew (אֶל ’el) and “upon” or “against” (עַל ’al) are semantically similar and quite often cross over in usage (this is particularly so in Jeremiah). Furthermore, two MSS have עַל ’al. Fokkelman would read (following a forthcoming article by Jongeling, “Joab and the Tekoite Woman”): “David really wanted to go out against Absalom.” The word “comforted” in the niphal can have the meaning of “to be sorry” and therefore, we should read “because David was sorry for his son Amnon because he had died.” This is supported further by the fact that David refused to see Absalom when he returned. Fokkelman argues that Joab would have gone directly to David had he been favorably disposed toward his son; that the indirect approach was only partially successful.

26Note that David did a similar thing with Saul for different reasons (1 Sam 20:6). Saul plotted the murder of David who fled, pretending to go to a feast. Absalom plotted the murder of David using the same ruse.

27See an excellent discussion of the wise woman in the archaeological context of Abel-Beth Maacah by Nava Panitz-Cohen and Naama Yahalom-Mack, “The Wise Woman of Beth Maacah,” BAR 45:July-September, 2019, pp. 26-33.

28Hertzberg, First and Second Samuel, p. 375.

29See Ibid., pp. 382‑83.

30If this event took place prior to David’s elevation of Mephibosheth in chapter 9, we must assume that David had said something like: “Make sure you leave any of Jonathan’s sons alone.”

31Hertzberg, 1 and 2 Samuel, p 387.

32Ibid., p. 388.

33Ibid., p. 393.

34Hertzberg, First and Second Samuel, pp. 375-79.

Related Topics: Introductions, Arguments, Outlines, Teaching the Bible

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