Book of 2 Samuel
From Saul to David with great tragedy and loss
By Samuel, a prophet of Israel
The royal drama that begins in the introduction book sample, first volume of Samuel continues in this second volume of the story: the transition from Saul to David as king over Israel, and the downward spiral of David’s later years in his kingdom and his own family.
Despite everything, David is still a devoted and successful king and prepares Israel for the rule of his son.
Teaching Lessons To Israel
The Second Book of Samuel picks up a story already in progress.
The First Book of Samuel begins after a long and horrifying period of chaos when the people of God were inconsistent in their faithfulness toward God. Their safety was likewise insecure as He used the surrounding peoples to teach Israel a series of lessons.
The people at last demanded a king, a military leader to guide them as all the other nations around them had. How could they be expected to defend themselves just by relying on God and on the leaders God appointed?
The Davidic Drama
Beginnings and endings are important to any story, so it is not surprising to see major changes in the study book Samuel story in chapters 1 and 24 of 2 Samuel. King Saul and Prince Jonathan are killed at the battle of Gilboa.
David realizes that the Eternal One has now placed him in the position of king, but it is a long process to heal a nation and earn the people’s trust. He starts with making Hebron his royal capital for 7 years before moving his house and the sacred covenant chest to Jerusalem for the remainder of his 40-year reign.
David starts off quite well, but once he leads Israel from Jerusalem instead of from the battlefield, his own house and the whole empire start to unravel. The Davidic drama includes everything from rape and incest to multiple attempts to take over his throne.
The Great King
The summary book 2 Samuel, for the people of Israel, this second book about their monarchy has great significance. With David the little nation of Israel finally pulls together.
They can point to this as their high point. The promise God made to David is remembered by every generation to come. He is the great king, and his royal house is critical for the future of the children of Israel and eventually for the Christian church that is to follow.
2 Samuel 1:3
At the end of 1 Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, and the armies of Israel went to war with the Philistines. The Philistine king wanted David and his men to fight for the Philistines against Israel because David was mighty in battle.
But the king’s generals convinced him that David could not be trusted, and an attack on his people sent David hurrying off in another direction just as the battle was joined between Israel and Philistia. In that battle, disaster struck: the army of Israel was routed.
Saul fought bravely but was defeated, at last falling on his own sword rather than be captured, tortured, and exhibited as a prize; and Saul’s son Jonathan, beloved friend of David, also died in the battle. The fall of the first royal house of Israel is complete, and now Israel faces grave danger.
2 Samuel 1:19
Although Saul sought David’s death on many occasions, and although David cannot act as king until Saul dies, David, the new King of Israel executes the Amalekite mercenary who has the insolence to strike down God’s rightly-anointed king for his disrespect to the position.
Demonstrating his respect for Saul, David then composes one of the most beautiful expressions of grief in the Bible, a song of loss and sadness to relay the nation’s sense of sorrow, and his own.
2 Samuel 2:1
Jonathan he misses especially because Jonathan was his friend, a companion, David says, whose love was greater than any love a woman could have for a man.
David and Jonathan shared a relationship built in adversity, and the secret they kept from Saul that preserved David’s life made the relationship stronger than what most will ever experience.
2 Samuel 3:35
This song reminds us that David may be the writer of many psalms, and that David is a great warrior, musician, poet, and soon, a great king.
David is also a person of great contradiction — not perfect, by any means — but a man of over sized loves and passions who must generally have his heart in the right place, since we’re reminded again and again that God loves him.
He is powerful, and people in his way do tend to have horrible things happen to them. But he respects the dead, and sometimes, as with Saul, grieves in ways that feel — all these centuries later — authentic.
2 Samuel 6:8
The covenant chest represents something amazing — it is filled with God’s presence and is supposed to be kept in the most separate, most holy of places. David knows that having the covenant chest near him as he rules is important.
Therefore he begins the journey toward Jerusalem. The journey is interrupted with Uzzah’s death. David leaves the covenant chest short of its final resting place, but he eventually completes the journey by bringing it into the city of Jerusalem to its final home — and bringing God’s blessing with it.
Although it is dangerous, it is also the most tangible symbol of God’s past victories on Israel’s behalf and represents God’s presence.
2 Samuel 7:1
David’s dancing is part of the celebration and ritual involved with bringing the covenant chest into the city, part of a sacred party where in addition to ritual sacrifice and shouts of joy and playing the trumpet, all of the people feast.
As the anointed king of Israel, David could behave with reserve and dignity — which his wife, Saul’s daughter Michal, apparently thinks most fitting in a king — but perhaps it is more fitting for the king God has placed on the throne to join in the worship and celebration welcoming God into their city and into their lives.
David tells Michal that he doesn’t care how other people react to his worship and praise of God, for in his own eyes — and in the eyes of the faithful — he has done what is right.
2 Samuel 9:5
David still remembers his deepest friendship. The loss of Jonathan haunts David, and he desires to show honor to the family of God’s anointed, Saul. David promised his friend Jonathan that if he ever became king, he would treat Jonathan and his descendants with kindness.
Their friendship was important to David; and although he thinks all of Saul’s family has been destroyed, he wants to find out if somewhere there might be a relative of Jonathan whom he may honor in gratitude for all Jonathan did for him.
2 Samuel 10:1
Mephibosheth, the last surviving son of Jonathan, could escape notice in a warlike culture where physical prowess is valued. But David elevates Mephibosheth to the king’s table and honors him. David’s fulfillment of a promise to a long-dead friend is one of the most attractive stories about the king in the books of Samuel.
While David proves too hard and even ruthless at times, his gentleness to those who are helpless is an endearing trait. It is this softness and desire to follow God against all odds that gives him special honor among the kings of Israel.
2 Samuel 11:10
David is frustrated by this. If Uriah doesn’t have sexual relations with his wife, then everyone will know that Bathsheba has been unfaithful — and they might remember her secret trip to the palace.
2 Samuel 11:15
David’s seduction of the beautiful Bathsheba and the plot to murder her husband, Uriah, represent low points in David’s life.
Even when someone has a reputation for good character — and David must have one, since he is beloved of God — temptation can lead him to act totally against his own values.
David takes Bathsheba because he wants her and because he has the power to do so; he orders her husband into battle to be killed because he is unable to cover his lustful advances.
2 Samuel 12:1
At first glance, David seems no different than many people who are given power and who use it without regard for what is right or what is fair.
In this affair, David looks like the rich and powerful leaders the Hebrew prophets elsewhere in the Old Testament are constantly condemning.
He has a moral and ethical failure as most of the kings who follow him also have. He exploits a loyal servant and wreaks havoc on his house.
2 Samuel 12:26
The Israelites believe God punishes or rewards based on religious and ethical behavior, so David knows he deserves to be punished for the things he has done.
But Nathan tells him that his punishment will come through the loss of the son conceived in adultery with Bathsheba and through the growth of conflict within his own family.
The baby does die despite David’s prayer and fasting, and David’s children will soon display the kind of destructive behavior that will all but tear the royal house apart.
2 Samuel 13:23
Oh the shame and intrigue within David’s family. The lust and deception Amnon exhibits is not greatly different from that of his father.
It, in turn, poisons Absalom and David’s relationship. The eventual revolt and death of David’s son Absalom are the final fruits of David’s sins in desiring another man’s wife and sending that man to his death.
Nathan has promised there would be discord in the royal household, and that discord rocks David’s family, leading to death and division among his children.
2 Samuel 15:33
Since the days of the exodus, Israel has always been something of a “mixed group.” Now during David’s flight from Jerusalem, many non-Israelites pay homage and give loyalty to their king. Hushai the Archite and Barzillai the Gileadite are just two of these.
2 Samuel 18:4
David is torn between his duties as king and his duties as father. When his own son attempts to overthrow him, he is forced to flee his kingdom and is subjected to ridicule and contempt.
Absalom sleeps with all the royal concubines, a deadly insult, and it looks as though David will be overthrown just as Saul was before him.
Even now with Absalom leading an outright rebellion, dishonoring his father, and seeking his death, David seeks to spare his son.
2 Samuel 18:9
David takes the fight into a forested area rather than staying out in the open field. Since his army is more experienced in fighting in such terrain, there is an opportunity for a smaller force to defeat a larger one.
Absalom’s men (and Absalom himself, as illustrated in the following verses) die as a result of not knowing how to fight in the forest and avoid its pitfalls.
2 Samuel 19:1
David should never be counted out. Hours before, Absalom has everything going his way, and David is run out of his kingdom. Smart and fierce, he doesn’t spend all those years hiding from Saul and fighting with little or no resources for nothing.
Although he orders his generals to be merciful to his son Absalom, his forces win a great victory against the rebel forces, and David’s general Joab kills Absalom and removes a threat to the security of the kingdom.
But David’s reaction again is tender; although his son might have killed him if he’d been given the chance, David laments his death. As king, as father, and as follower of the Lord, he knows he could have done better; but now it is too late, and all he can do is mourn the consequences of his past actions.
2 Samuel 22:2
At last the day comes when David has conquered — at least, temporarily — all his enemies, and he marks this day by rejoicing.
In the same way that he composed songs to lament Saul’s and Jonathan’s deaths, David composes a psalm of joy to the Lord who is his strong fortress and his security.
He gives God the credit, but he also claims — and rightly, of course, in spite of his occasional transgressions — that he has tried to do what God asked him to do, has tried to keep the ways of God.
2 Samuel 23:8
David has been brought up from his position as a lowly shepherd, the youngest son in the household, to the pinnacle of success by his faith in God and his own willingness to follow God.
It has been an adventure fraught with danger and intrigue, and marked with loss and heartbreak along the way. David’s own failings find themselves reflected — and magnified — in his children.
But here is one of the high points of the story of the people of God, united at last under a powerful and beloved king, and victorious against their enemies.