←Books ←Chapters ←Previous Next→

2 Samuel

This book continues with the aftermath of the death of King Saul, then to David’s adultery with Bathsheba and murder of her husband, to his falling out with his son Absolom, and finally his ill-advised census of Israel.

2 Sam. 1-2

Saul and his sons have died in battle, and a runner brings the news to David. But he falsely claims to have put Saul out of his misery, which he thinks will win him favor. But David, who would not dare to kill Saul himself, is incensed that this foreigner would gladly do it, so the runner is immediately executed. This is a case when a lie was used to make someone appear more noble than they really were, so it’s clearly sinful.

David, being a musician and poet, plays and sings a long lament for Saul and Jonathan, and this is where we see the familiar phrase, How the mighty have fallen! God would later describe David as a man after his own heart, and we see a glimpse of it here, in that David does not gloat over the death of the one who had tried to kill him on many occasions. God himself said in Ezekiel 33:11 that he takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Finally David is coronated king of at least part of Israel, but the troops that had been loyal to Saul were still a problem. Saul’s bodyguard Abner had made one of Saul’s sons king, so the armies of Israel and Judah face off but decide to pick twelve soldiers from each army to decide the battle. This didn’t help though; it was a stalemate, and all 24 of them wound up dead. Then the rest of the armies decide to go ahead and fight anyway, but David’s forces overcome those led by Abner, and Abner and some others run away.

2 Sam. 3

As time passes, David’s forces grow stronger and Abner’s weaker, and David has some sons whose names will come up later. But when Abner is falsely accused by his king of sleeping with his father’s concubine, Abner decides to defect to David’s side. Many today think nothing of slandering others, but there are consequences because it’s as much a sin as any other. To destroy someone’s honor out of spite or mere suspicion is no better than murder, yet we quickly jump to wild conclusions on the mere appearance of guilt, without even bothering to ask the accused for their testimony.

However, all this healing and unity is about to be ruptured. A soldier named Joab is sure that Abner had only come to spy out David’s forces, so he secretly goes off to meet with Abner as if to bring a message, only to run him through with his sword. The text adds that Joab was also avenging the blood of his brother that Abner had killed. When David hears about what Joab had done, he pronounces a curse on Joab’s descendants.

2 Sam. 4-5

As the saga continues, we learn that Jonathan had a son who was crippled due to a childhood injury, but the others in the house where he lived were murdered in their sleep by some of David’s men. They too thought they were bringing David good news, but they get the same appreciation as the one who claimed to have killed Saul. These were brutal times, yet here we are in the age of grace, virtually murdering each other over the most trivial things.

After all that, David is finally acknowledged as king over all of Israel. But there were still cities to conquer, including Jerusalem. The Fortress of Zion was part of the city itself, and it became known as the City of David. So he is now firmly established with Jerusalem as his capital, and the king of Tyre sends him workers and material with which to build his palace. Of course, a palace shouldn’t be empty, so David gets busy with more wives and concubines to give birth to more children.

Now it’s back to those arch-enemies the Philistines, and David is told by God to wait for the sound of marching in the trees to launch his attack. God intervenes at certain times for certain reasons, not the least of which is to remind people that they can’t take sole credit for their accomplishments. This should, but often doesn’t, result in humility.

2 Sam. 6

Now David sets his sights on retrieving the Ark of the Covenant, but along the way someone touches the Ark to keep it from tipping over, and God strikes him dead on the spot. Godly as David is, he is very distraught and wonders how anyone will ever be able to safeguard it. So he leaves it at that place, but since the family on whose land it’s been resting was being very blessed because of it, David is renewed in his quest to bring it to Jerusalem.

When it arrives, they all have a big party, but David dances with such manic energy that his wife Michal despises him. Scripture doesn’t tell us why, but we can only assume she felt it unbecoming of a king. So when the party ends and David comes home, Michal scolds him for his public behavior, but he doesn’t see any shame in it because of the reason for the celebration. From that day on, Michal had no more children. There is a lesson here for us as well, that we should not impose our own tastes in propriety on others, as if we have authority over them. But at the same time, if you’re going to make a public spectacle of yourself, try not to shame anyone else in the process.

2 Sam. 7-10

Now we meet the prophet during David’s reign, Nathan. David wants to build a temple for the Ark, but God tells him through Nathan that he has shed too much blood and the honor will go to his son.

Skipping over more of David’s mopping up of Israel’s enemies, we come to the establishment of his officials, including a priest named Zadok. That name will figure prominently in the millennial kingdom prophecy of Ezekiel after ch. 39, which is the time of the restored Davidic kingdom mentioned in Amos 9:11, which the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 quoted in reference to a yet future kingdom.

Now you may recall the crippled son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, and ch. 9 is where David takes him to his palace to live, to honor Saul’s memory. But when David extends the same honor to another person in the land of the Ammonites, they don’t trust him, so they humiliate his messengers and sent them back. Then the Ammonites muster an army because they expect David to retaliate, and more battles ensue.

2 Sam. 11

It’s in the time of these battles that we meet the famous Bathsheba, whom David sees bathing on her rooftop, since he did not go out to battle this time. Some will make her out to be a seductress, but bathing on rooftops was not uncommon, because no building but the king’s palace would be high enough to see them. And David, with his multiple wives and concubines, apparently wasn’t satisfied.

This only proves that excuses offered for cheating spouses are just that: excuses. Some so-called Christian leaders actually blame an unfaithful husband on his wife being boring, unhealthy, or unsubmissive. But Jesus said that it is our own eye or hand that causes us to sin. God will deal with genuine tempters, but he’ll also deal with the ones who give in to them.

Now David sends for her, and it turns out she’s married to a man named Uriah the Hittite. We won’t see until ch. 23 that he was no ordinary soldier in David’s army. But David isn’t in a sensible mood at all, so he impregnates Bathsheba. Again, commentators may condemn her for going along with this, but what woman was going to defy the king in those days? The scriptures do not condemn her but instead put all the blame on David.

Her husband was at the battlefield, so David concocts a lame plot to get Uriah to think he’s the baby’s father. He summons Uriah under the pretense of wanting a report on the military campaign, but he really expects Uriah to spend the night with his wife. Instead, he spends it in the barracks because he is more honorable than David, in that he can’t allow himself to relax while his men are camped in the open field.

So David keeps him there another night, then tries getting him drunk, but Uriah just won’t violate his conscience. So David is enraged and sends word to Joab to put Uriah on the front lines and then withdraw and leave him alone near the enemy city wall, where he will be killed. This is David rationalizing that he’s off the hook for mudering Uriah so he can take his wife and add her to his collection.

This version of David’s scheming actually works, but of course other men are killed as well because of it, so David has more than Uriah’s blood on his hands. This chapter ends with a simple statement about God being angry, but we’re about to find out just exactly how angry he is.

2 Sam. 12

The prophet Nathan is sent to confront David, but he does so by telling him a crime story that David takes as an actual event. David gives the proper verdict for this crime, but then Nathan shouts in his face, You are the man! After continuing to ream David about his act of adultery, murder, and ingratitude toward God, Nathan informs him that though he himself will not die for this since he expressed deep regret, violence would never leave his family. Furthermore, his wives and/or concubines would be raped in front of him by his own son in broad daylight. In this way, David’s concealed crimes will be on public display in front of the whole nation. And on top of all that, the baby he conceived with Bathseba would die.

The critics scream about this apparent injustice against the baby, but it is David and Bathsheba who would suffer; the baby would be in paradise. Death is not the worst thing for the innocent and the righteous, who are much better off in the afterlife. And of course, no supporter of abortion has any right to fault God for this.

As the baby becomes more ill, David keeps begging God to spare him, but God’s decision is final. David fasts and prays for seven days, but the baby dies and the servants are afraid he’ll do something desperate. Yet to everyone’s shock, he gets up, washes, worships God, and eats a meal. They ask why he’s acting this way, and he explains that as long as the baby lived there was a glimmer of hope that God might relent. But now there’s no more reason to hope, so he has to move on.

Then he comforts Bathseba, and in time they have another baby, Solomon. In all of this, we see both the justice and the mercy of God, because he will keep his promises to David no matter what. God also honors the stolen and bereaved wife by making her the mother of the next king in David’s line.

2 Sam. 13

After more battles the curse quickly becomes evident again. David’s son Amnon has a half-sister named Tamar, and Amnon wants her as a lover. So his friend hatches a plot for Amnon to lure her to his bedroom so he can rape her. But as soon as he does, he instantly flips from being madly in love with her to hating her. So he sends her away in humiliation, but her brother Absolom just tells her it’s nothing and he takes her into his home. David hears about it and is at least angry, but he does nothing to Amnon either.

Yet in time Absolom begins to hate Amnon and waits for the opportune moment to murder him. It takes two years, but he manages to lure Amnon to a place where sheep are being sheered and the men get drunk afterwards. So he has his servants kill him, and they all take off because they know David will be irate.

But the message given to David is that Absolom killed all his brothers, so David is beside himself with grief until another person refutes the false report. The sons return without Absolom, who had run away to another place and would stay there for three years. But David would keep longing to see him, which will turn out to almost cost him the kingdom.

2 Sam. 14

Now because Joab knows David wants to see Absolom, he does something no self-respecting Christian man would dream of: consult a wise woman. And again I would confront the commentators and the likes of Josephus about their claims of women being unfit to give legal testimony.

She tells a story for the same reason Nathan did: to get David’s decision on principle, before he knows who the story is really about. But this time David realizes what’s going on, and he figures out who put her up to this. Even so, he grants Absolom’s return to Jerusalem, but he has to go to his own house rather than see his father, and he would stay there for two years.

Yet the family drama has just begun. Absolom is a handsome man from head to toe, and he has unusually thick hair that he has cut once a year. His father still won’t see him though, and Joab won’t relay any messages, so he decides to essentially throw a tantrum to get attention by burning one of Joab’s fields. Now Joab has to go talk to him, and Absolom asks why he was brought home if he can’t see his father.

2 Sam. 15

So finally he’s taken to see David, but in the meantime Absolom has collected a loyal group of men to serve as his own bodyguard. He starts what amounts to a political campaign by sweet-talking people at the city gate, and like any politician, he sows discontent with the ruling party and makes promises he has no intention of keeping. This goes on for four years, and then he makes up a cover story to leave the area and begin an insurrection without arousing his father’s suspicion. Not even Absolom’s men knew what he was planning.

Now when David gets wind of what’s really going on, he and his men take off in fear, which seems really bizarre. But keep in mind that David loves Absolom too much to strike him down, so he probably runs away to avoid battle. Absolom had played his hand shrewdly by winning the people’s hearts before making his military move, so David surely recognized that the best strategy for the moment was to retreat. However, he makes the mistake of leaving behind ten of his concubines to take care of the palace. Remember that curse from Nathan?

Then we’re told that the priests of Zadok had taken the Ark with them as well, but David tells them to take it back to Jerusalem, to which he will return someday to see if God is still with him. A short time later, David hatches a plan to infiltrate Absolom’s advisory group and steer them the wrong way. He sends some of his own advisors to claim they were now siding with Absolom, and they would report Absolom’s plans to the priests of Zadok who had returned to Jerusalem.

2 Sam. 16-17

As David continues to run, he comes across a man from Saul’s extended family named Shimei, who begins to hurl a continuous stream of insults and curses and rocks at David along the way. But though David’s men want to kill Shimei, David won’t allow it because he realizes that this is part of God’s curse on him.

Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Absolom has been advised by a respected man named Ahithophel to unwittingly carry out part of the curse Nathan prophesied: Sleep with the concubines David left in the palace, in a tent up on the roof where everyone could see. The motivation was to fan into flame the antagonism between himself and his father, but this was God’s curse coming to pass.

After this, Ahithophel advises Absolom to allow him to go and chase after David to the point of exhaustion, then strike him down and take his men back to join Absolom’s army. But David’s planted advisor Hushai suggests a different strategy, one that requires Absolom himself to go into battle. Obviously, Hushai just wants Absolom out where he’ll be vulnerable. But his advice is accepted and the truly wise plan of Ahithophel is rejected, which was humiliating and devastating for any trusted advisor. Remember, this is all God’s doing.

Another thing to remember is the communication line from Hushai to David. The infiltrators relay the message of Absolom’s plans, but they’re exposed and Absolom sends out men looking for them. They hide in a well and the woman there covers them up, and once again we see the use of a (literal) cover story to send the men off on a wild goose chase.

So the infiltrators escape, and again we can only assume that if the commentators are consistent they will say that God really wanted them to die because the woman shouldn’t have hidden them or told a lie. Then Ahithophel, the humiliated advisor, goes home and settles his estate and then commits suicide. People today underestimate the deep pain humiliation can cause, but God will hold to account anyone who assassinates a person’s character.

2 Sam. 18

Now we come to what is arguably the most painful episode in David’s life. He intends to go out to do battle with Absolom’s forces, but his soldiers wisely insist that he stay in the city, because David is the only one Absolom cares about killing. Even so, he instructs his generals to treat Absolom gently.

David’s army soundly defeats Absolom’s, though it says that the forest claimed more lives than the soldiers. But then as Absolom rides through the forest his ultra-thick hair gets caught in some branches, leaving him dangling while the mule he was riding just keeps going. But despite David’s orders, when Joab comes upon Absolom, he thrusts three spears into him and kills him.

At the news of Absolom’s death, the battle is called off and the enemy soldiers run to their homes. But when the news finally reaches David, instead of celebrating his army’s victory he goes up to his room and weeps bitterly. Of course, weeping when your army wins demoralizes the soldiers and makes them ashamed in victory. So Joab goes to David and lectures him about such behavior; it can’t go on just because of David’s personal loss. If he doesn’t pull himself together, he will have no loyal soldiers left by morning.

In his diatribe, Joab informs David that he seems to love his enemies and hate his friends. This is another lesson for the Christian community, which is known for treating each other like worse enemies than the devil himself. Outrage that should be reserved for those who deliberately subvert the faith is heaped upon anyone holding an opinion not in line with our own on disputable matters. Such attitudes have dismembered the Body of Christ into a thousand pieces.

Another excuse Christians make for loving God’s enemies and hating his friends, is that we fear chasing away what is believed to be a potential convert if we dare to defend ourselves or our faith. But not only is that untrue, since not everyone is a seeker or will run away, the far greater sin is for Christians to devour each other in public, in front of the enemies of God who laugh at how we do their work for them. The Christian community has a reputation of shooting its wounded.

2 Sam. 19-21

After this, David returns to Jerusalem and a united Israel. But Shimei, that annoying pest that cursed David and threw rocks at him, realizes he’s in deep trouble, so he falls before David and begs for mercy, which David grants.

But there are always still some who don’t like the way things turn out, so someone named Sheba decides to split the people of Israel from the people of Judah after some bickering between them. But Joab, who had been expelled for killing Absolom, goes after Sheba.

As they catch up to him and the army of Israel, they put up a seige ramp to break through the wall of the city where Israel was camped. Once again we meet a wise woman, who speaks to Joab and tries to get him to stop from destroying the city. He tells her that his only goal is to find this rebel leader, and she promises to throw Sheba’s head to him over the wall. When the deed is done, Joab returns to Jerusalem to see David.

But then a famine strikes the land for three years, and David finds out from God that it’s because of the remaining evil men who had been loyal to Saul. So he goes to the Gibeonites to see what they want in reparations for what Saul had done, and all they ask is for David to hand over seven of Saul’s male descendants to be executed.

Then it’s back to dealing with those infernal Philistines, and we’re told of the deaths of some giants, one of which was the brother of Goliath, and another having six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. Many seem to think that all the giants had this feature, but this is the first time it’s mentioned in scripture.

2 Sam. 22-24

Chapter 22 is a song of David, and chapter 23 records his final poetic words. He speaks of the covenant God made with him, to preserve his family dynasty. And then, as mentioned earlier in the account of Bathsheba and her murdered husband Uriah, we see the list of David’s warriors, all having achieved extraordinary feats in battle.

But we’re not quite finished with David’s lapses of judgment just yet, and again we wonder why such faults would be recorded if the scriptures were Jewish fiction. David orders a census of the number of available soldiers in Israel, though Joab can’t imagine why it’s needed. Afterwards, David feels great remorse and asks God’s forgiveness, but God tells him to pick his punishment from 3 choices: Seven years of famine, three months of persecution from enemies, or three days of plague in the land. David chooses door number three, and the plague takes the lives of 70,000 men. So much for the census. But only then does David offer to exchange his life for the people, since they were innocent.

This is the end of 2 Samuel, so we’ll have to wait for the study of Kings to read the circumstances of David’s death. Yet his family still has some drama to play out before then.

↑ Page Top