An Overview of 2 Samuel

Divine Author: God the Holy Spirit “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16).

Human Author: Unknown; based on court record, eyewitness accounts, and the writings of the prophets Samuel, Nathan, Gad

Date: c. 1010 – 970, Reign of David, from the tribe of Judah

Setting: Israel, Covering a span of about 130 years

Key Verse: 2 Samuel 7:16, “And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever before thee: thy throne shall be established forever.”

Theme: The Davidic Covenant

General Facts: 2 Samuel 10th Book of the Bible; 24 Chapters; 695 Verses           

* * *

Introduction

In 1 Samuel, the lives of Samuel, Saul, and David are prominent. The contrast between the fall of the house of King Saul, and the rise of David is especially poignant. With Saul’s tragic death at the Battle of Gilboa, attention is turned to David, king of Judah, and then, king of all Israel.

Killing the Messenger 2 Samuel 1

The book of 2 Samuel opens with the report of the death of Saul by a young man that thought he could capitalize on the king’s death and be rewarded. According to the Amalekite, he personally gave the coup de gras (French, “blow of mercy”) to Saul who was mortally wounded. Then, the young man took the king’s crown, and bracelet, and brought them to David, no doubt believing he would be thanked and generously rewarded because he brought such good news (1:1-10).

The young man was wrong. When David heard the report of the death of Saul, he entered into a state of deep mourning for the fallen king, for Jonathan his son, for the people of the Lord, and for the northern tribes of Israel, for they had perished by the sword (1:11-12).

Then, David turned his attention to the Amalekite messenger, with whom he was very angry. David had a question to ask. “How wast thou not afraid to stretch forth thine hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” (2 Sam. 1:14). The Amalekite had no good answer, and was immediately executed (2 Sam. 1:13-16).

A Sad Song to Sing

After avenging the death of Saul upon the young Amalekite, David composed a song of lamentation over the house of Saul saying, “The beauty of Israel is slain upon the high places: how are the mighty fallen! 20 Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of Ashkelon; lest the daughter of the Philistines rejoice, lest the daughter of the uncircumcised triumph” (2 Sam. 1:17-27). David was a man of compassion. He could weep even for his enemies.

Personal Blessings and Political Success 2 Samuel 2

Following the death and burial of Saul, David enjoyed a season of personal blessings, military victories, and political success.

The personal blessings of David is reflected, in part, by the large family David had. Accompanied by his two wives, soldiers, and their families, David dwelt in the cities of Hebron.

The biblical narrative that David had two wives with him at Hebron, brings up the problem of polygamy for, to these wives, David added more.  

The Wives of David

  • Michal, the Jewess: The daughter of King Saul: 1 Samuel 18:27 
  • Abigail, the Carmelitess: The wife of Nabal: 1 Samuel 25:39-42
  • Ahinoam, the Jereelitess: 2 Samuel 2:2
  • Maaca: 2 Samuel 3:3
  • Haggith: 2 Samuel 3:4
  • Abital: 2 Samuel 3:4
  • Eglah: 2 Samuel 3:5
  • Bathsheba: The wife of Uriah the Hittite: 2 Samuel 12:24

Additional Wives and Concubines

2 Samuel 5:13-15; 1 Chronicles 14:3-5  

The divine ideal for marriage is monogamy (Gen. 2:18-24; Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 6:16). Only because of the hardness of men’s hearts, has polygamy, like divorce, been tolerated by God to a certain degree.

When David took unto himself Michal as a wife, he honored the divine ideal. When he multiplied wives, he went beyond the known will of the Lord, and exasperated his willful disobedience as a king.

The Law of Moses anticipated the appointment of a king in Israel, but set the boundaries for the king. He was not to acquire many wives, or else his heart would be turned from the Lord (Deut. 17:14-17).

Consider

There is a passage in 2 Samuel 12:8 which deserves some attention on the subject of polygamy, because it seems to teach that God approved the multiplication of wives by David, and promoted the practice. Speaking through the prophet Nathan, the Lord said to David, “And I gave thee thy master’s house, and thy master’s wives into thy bosom, and gave thee the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would moreover have given unto thee such and such things” (2 Sam. 12:8).  

In context, the prophet reminds David that he inherited all of Saul’s possessions and properties. If that had not been enough, God would have given David more possessions. It is not God’s approval of polygamy which is the main point Nathan was making, but the general possessions David inherited, which included Saul’s wife and concubine (1 Sam. 14:50; 2 Sam. 3:7).

The full counsel of God, is that kings were not to multiply wives, regardless of Oriental custom. David could have taken care of Saul’s possessions, including Saul’s wives, without violating the Law. It does not appear that David actually married any of Saul’s wives, so his own acts of polygamy, such as taking the wife of Uriah the Hittite, reflect his own willful transgression. 

Whatever justification may be found for polygamy in the Old Testament economy, the ethics of the New Testament Christian is that “each man is to have his own wife, and each woman is to have her own husband (1 Cor. 7:2, NASB). The spiritual leaders of the church are to have only one wife (1 Tim. 3:2). Their example is to be followed by the congregates (1 Peter 5:3; Heb. 13:7). A husband and wife become one flesh, in the sight of God (1 Cor. 7:2). How can this mystical union take place with multiple wives?

Civil Unrest in Israel Continues

The death of Saul left a political vacuum in Israel. To fill the void, Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, took Ish-bosheth, a son of Saul, and made him a king over Israel, with the exception of the tribe of Judah, which chose David to be their king. Ish-bosheth reigned for two years before being murdered by his own captains (2 Sam. 4:1-7). Meanwhile, David reigned over the house of Judah for seven years and six months (2:10-11).

Consider

It is instructive to note that Ish-bosheth (Heb. “man of shame”), was originally known as Ish-baal (Heb. “man of Baal”). The abhorrence of Baal worship by faithful Israelites led to the substitution of the word for shame in the place of the Canaanite deity (Holman Bible Dictionary). The point is that those who worship false gods engage in shameful behavior, and inclined to die an earlier death. Ish-bosheth died at the age of forty-four.

A United Kingdom 2 Samuel 2 – 5

Eventually, all the tribal leaders of Israel came to David in Hebron, weary with civil wars, and anointed him king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned for forty years (5:1-4).

One of David’s first acts was to go to the city of Jerusalem, conquer the Jebusite’s stronghold, or fortress, and rename the area Zion (Heb. “mountain”). The same is the City of David (5:6-10; 1 Chron. 11:4-9). Jerusalem would be the political capital of Israel, and it would be the spiritual center of attention for here, the Ark of the Covenant would be brought. Prayer and praise would be offered in Jerusalem, or Zion, the City of David. Isaiah would come and refer to Zion as the City of God in the New Age. “Therefore, thus saith the Lord God, Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste” (Isa. 28:16; 1:27; 33:5).

A Desire to Build a Temple 2 Samuel 7

Following his military conquests, and the establishment of the capital of Israel in Jerusalem, David had an idea. Going to Nathan the prophet, king David said unto him, “I dwell in a house of cedar, but the ark of God dwelleth within curtains” (7:2). David was bothered by the fact that while he lived in splendor, the Ark of the Covenant, the dwelling place of God was inconspicuous. What David wanted to do was to build a beautiful Temple for the Lord God.

A Delay is not a Denial

The word of the Lord came to Nathan so he could respond to the desire of David’s heart. With the divine response from the Lord, the Davidic Covenant was established (7:3-17). David would not be permitted to build a Temple to God, but his son would. This delay was not a denial to honor the desire of David’s heart.

David was not to feel rejected. Indeed, rather than let David build a house for the Lord, the Lord was going to build a house for David. From David’s royal line would come, not only a Temple for the Lord, but the Messiah, who would set up an eternal kingdom. The Messianic promises would be amplified in the Psalms, and in the prophets. Study Psalm 2, 72, 132, 145; Isaiah 11; Ezekiel 34; and Zechariah.

The Davidic Covenant of 2 Samuel 7:5- 17, merges with the Abrahamic Covenant, for the Lord had promised Abraham that his seed would be a blessing to all the nations (Gen. 12:1-3; 15:1-6; 17:9). The Messiah would come through the line of David, and be a blessing to all the nations. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Rev. 7:9).

Expanding Israel’s Territories Through Military Conquest 2 Samuel 9 – 10

In chapters 9 and 10, David returned to the battle fields to fight against the Philistines, and subdue them, along with other armies and nations, “as he went to recover his border at the Euphrates River” (9:1-3).

Consider

A Promise Made, a Promise Kept

Contemporary Dispensationalist, and Messianic Christian Zionists, are convinced that the land promises God made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are as yet unfilled. The Scriptural evidence is otherwise. Study the following passages.

“And the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein” (Joshua 21:43).

“And, behold, this day I am going the way of all the earth: and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls, that not one thing hath failed of all the good things which the Lord your God spake concerning you; all are come to pass unto you, and not one thing hath failed thereof” (Joshua 23:14).

“David smote also Hadadezer, the son of Rehob, king of Zobah, as he went to recover his border at the river Euphrates” (2 Sam. 8:3).

“And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life” (1 Kings 4:21).

“Blessed be the Lord, that hath given rest unto his people Israel, according to all that he promised: there hath not failed one word of all his good promise, which he promised by the hand of Moses his servant” (1 Kings 8:56).

1 Kings 4:20-21

“Judah and Israel were many, as the sand which is by the sea in multitude, eating and drinking, and making merry. 21 And Solomon reigned over all kingdoms from the river unto the land of the Philistines, and unto the border of Egypt: they brought presents, and served Solomon all the days of his life” (1 Kings 4:20-31).

A Tragic Triangle 2 Samuel 11

In the midst of David’s success, the tragic story is told of a tragic triangle between David, Bathsheba, and her husband, Uriah the Hittite. It is a story of lust, deceit, betrayal, and murder. In a time when kings went forth to battle, David lingered at the palace. The occasion came when David saw a beautiful woman bathing. The sensual passions of David were aroused. The king sent for the woman whose name was Bathsheba, and engage in an inappropriate relationship with her. Bathsheba became pregnant.

In desperation, David and Bathsheba tried to cover their sin. Sending for Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, the king suggested he return home for rest and recreation. Uriah was an honorable man and loyal to his soldiers. He could not go home when his men were compelled to encamp in open fields (11:1-11).

When enticement to enjoy the comforts of home failed, David held a banquet for Uriah. The objective was to get him drunk enough to go home and spend intimate time with Bathsheba so there could be a pretense the child she carried would be his. Again, Uriah refused to go home and be with Bathsheba (11:12).

With cleverness spawned by the devil himself, David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah. The loyal solider and faithful servant of the king carried his own death warrant for Joab was instructed to place Uriah in a fierce battle with the enemy, and then withdraw support from him. As it was planned, the assassination of Uriah was accomplished under the disguise of general warfare. David was informed that his dark deed was done. “Uriah the Hittite is dead”, said the messenger to the king (11:13-23).

Bathsheba played her part well in this adult game of intrigue, and murder. When she heard that Uriah her husband was dead, “she mourned for her husband” (11:26). Of course, she did. Then, after an appropriate amount of time passed, Bathsheba went to David and became his eighth wife (11:27).

Thou Are the Man! 2 Samuel 12

Because no action can escape the eyes of the Lord, God sent his prophet Nathan to confront David with a convicting story (12:1-7). The heart of David was smitten, and while he sincerely repented, there was going to be a high price to pay. Never again would his own house know peace (12:10). His many wives would be ravished openly by others (12:11). What was done in secret would be made known to all the world (12:13). The child that was to be born was to die (12:14). So many people are affected by the sins of others. Desperately did David plead with God to spare the life of the child, but news was brought to him. The child is dead (12:15-19). Study Psalm 51.

The Sins of the Father Continue 2 Samuel 13 – 14

The sons of David repeat his mistakes in their misguided behavior, beginning with the rape of Tamar by her half-brother, Amnon (13:1-17). When the rape of Tamar was reported to her brother Absalom, he was enraged and plotted a way to kill Amnon. The exacting of revenge by Absalom against Amnon took two years to develop, and then the deed was done. Word was sent to the king, “Amnon is dead”, and Absalom is in hiding. Several years would pass before Absalom could be reconciled to his father over the murder of Amnon (13:18-14:33).

Absalom’s Rebellion 2 Samuel 15 – 18

The reconciliation that took place at the royal palace between David and Absalom was superficial. A seed of bitterness had been sown in the heart of Absalom when David delayed seeing him after Absalom returned to Jerusalem. The seed of bitterness took root and grew, until it manifested itself in the plot to kill his father, and take over the throne. This plot was forty years in the making, but intrigue, and patricide was in the mind of Absalom. He was tired of waiting. He would take action, having won the hearts of many people (15:1-13). When David was told, “The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom”, David took some of his servants and fled the city of Jerusalem, knowing that he could not escape Absalom (15:14-30).

For the second time, David was forced to flee from his own home to the wilderness. The hunter has become the hunted.

The End of the Rebellion

The rebellion finally ended when Absalom fled from the pursing forces of Joab, got his long hair entangled in the low hanging branches of a tree, and then had his heart pierced with three spears by Joab as he was suspended in the air, his horse having fled from under him. Ten young men then surrounded Absalom and killed him. His body was thrown, without ceremony, in a great pit, and heavy stones were placed on top of him (15:31 – 18:17).

Unfortunately, Absalom’s rebellion did not end before the prophetic words of Nathan could be fulfilled. The concubines of David were sexually violated by him in the sight of all Israel (16:22).

When word reached David that Absalom was dead, he wept once more, as he had wept for Saul and Jonathan. His commander in chief of the army, Joab, had to encourage him to stop crying over his enemies, and be the king God intended for him to be. It was good counsel (18:24-19:7).

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: 2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted; 3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance” (Eccl. 3:1-4).

The Last Days of David 2 Samuel 19 – 20

In the sunset years of his life, David returned as king to rule over Israel, to show mercy and grace to individuals, such as Shimei (2 Sam. 19:15-23), and Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Saul (19:24-30), and Barzillai, the sixty-year-old Gileadite (19:31-39).

What David could not cease to stop, was the petty jealousies between representatives of the ten northern tribes of Israel, and the representatives of the tribe of Judah. Individuals argued over privileges, position, and power, in trying to be near the king (2 Samuel 19:40-43).

The Disloyalty of Sheba

There was one man in Israel who did not want to be near the king. In fact, he wanted people to have nothing to do with David. Sheba convinced many to be as disloyal to David as he was. “So, every man of Israel went up from after David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri” (2 Sam. 20:2a). Only the men of the tribe of Judah remained committed to their king (20:2b).

After a period of sober reflection, David realized how dangerous to his reign Sheba could be, David knew he had to destroy this new enemy. The mission fell to Joab and his men. During the pursuit that followed, Sheba fled to the city of Abel of Beth-maachah, where he was betrayed. As Sheba had betrayed his God, country, and king. Women cut off the head of Sheba and tossed it before Joab. The rebellion was over, and the city was spared destruction (20:3-23).

The End of an Era 2 Samuel 21 – 24

The final chapters of 2 Samuel record a series of events that are not in chronological order, but reflect the heart of the king.

A House of Blood

The first narrative deals with a famine in the land. According to the Bible, there are some weather events that are directly related to man-made conditions. When Saul, and his bloody house killed the Gibeonites, the weather condition in Israel was affected. “Then there was a famine in the days of David three years” (2 Sam. 20:1).

When David asked the leaders of the Gibeonites what restitution they required, the response was surprising. There was no financial compensation requested, but a sense of justice. Seven descendants were to be given the Gibeonites for execution. The request was granted. Seven descendants of Saul were turned over to the Gibeonites, and they were executed at the same time. Their death was by hanging (20:1-10).

Then David gathered the bones of Saul and Jonathan and gave them a proper place of burial (20:12-14). With that, “God was intreated for the land.” It was going to rain again. The famine was over, and so was a large part of David’s life. He would die at 70 years of age.

A House of Pride

In chapters 22 and 23, there are two large Davidic poems which commemorate his life, and the everlasting covenant God made with him (23:5).

Chapter 24 provides the narrative of yet another sin of the Sweet Singer of Israel, the sin of pride. David numbered the people of Israel for no other reason than because he was lifted up with pride over the great nation which he ruled. The numbers were impressive. The army of Israel alone numbered 800 thousand valiant men of war. The kingdom of Judah provided 500 thousand more soldiers. It was a formable army, but it also took away from ultimate dependance on God. “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the Lord our God” (Psalms 20:7).

Nevertheless, it was wrong for David to do what he did. Many people paid a terrible price for David’s transgression, despite his repentance (24:10-17).

With Hope for the Future

The last few verses of 2 Samuel tell how David purchased the land from Araunah that would be the place where the Temple would eventually be built (24:18-25). “So, David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver. 25 And David built there an altar unto the Lord, and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings. So, the Lord was intreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel” (2 Sam. 24:24-25). There was hope for the future.

Lessons from 2 Samuel

  • As the Amalekite learned, it is not good to take credit for opposing the Lord’s anointed, if that individual has proven themselves to be unworthy of respect.  Christians are to pray “for kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty” (1 Tim. 2:2).
  • The fact that David multiplied wives unto himself demonstrated a blatant disregard for the Law, and for the divine ideal. While David is worthy of being emulated in many areas of his life, no one should find freedom to violate the known will of the Lord just because others do.
  • There is no need for self-promotion in the Christian’s life. It was the Lord who promoted David by establishing his authority in the sight of all the people. It is the Lord who will exalt any person to leadership of His own choosing. No Christian should seek to exalt self in kingdom work.
  • Sometimes a grand idea can only be accomplished by someone else. This does not mean the idea is not valid, or the desire of the heart is not worthy. It does mean that God is the one who will do the specific work in His kingdom.
  • God has a plan for our lives linguistically, what He wants us to say, occupationally, what He wants us to do, and geographically, where He wants us to be. When David moved outside these three spheres of God’s plan for his life, there was one disaster after another. Many people were hurt, a child died, and the scars of sin remained for the world to consider for generations to come.
  • Be careful about the counsel you receive. The counsel of Ahithophel encouraged Absalom to greater acts of evil, by seducing his father’s concubines (2 Sam. 16:15-23). “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. 2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night. 3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper” (Psalm 1:1-3).
  • There is a modern debate as to whether or not weather conditions are changed by men, or simply a product of nature. Though the Bible does not address the issue of Climate Change by that name, there are a number of stories in Scripture that indicate man does change the weather by being moral, or immoral. Study Genesis 6 – 8; 18:16 – 19:29; 2 Samuel 21; James 5:17.
  • It is always good to sing unto the Lord, especially when the heart is despondent. “O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. 2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. 3 For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods” (Psalms 95:1-3). In every situation in life remember to sing a spiritual song.

Leave a Reply