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Friday Bible Blogging - 2 Samuel 1 to 2 Samuel 10

This entry is part of a series. For a listing of all entries in the series, go to the Index. Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

Bible2 Samuel continues on with the narrative from 1 Samuel. According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible (NOAB), at one point 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel were one book (which of course was the result of combining several previous sources), and were only split into two books with the Greek translation for spacing purposes. Recall that 1 Samuel ended with the death of Saul, so 2 Samuel picks up the story with David's rise to power.

2 Samuel, Chapter 1

Saul had just been killed at the end of 1 Samuel, so this chapter focused on David's reaction. He actually learned about Saul's death from an Amalekite warrior. The Amalekite claimed to have found Saul wounded on the battlefield, that Saul asked the Amalekite to kill him to put him out of his misery, and that the Amalekite then obliged. He took Saul's crown and armlet to deliver to David, presumably hoping to get a reward. Instead, David was furious that the Amalekite would have lifted his hand against the Lord's anointed, and had him killed.

There are two different ways to interpret this story. My first thought was that it came from a different tradition where Saul didn't kill himself. But the NOAB suggested another possibility, that the Amalekite was lying about the whole situation, and had merely plundered Saul's dead body. In the first interpretation, David's reaction would seem particularly harsh, since Saul himself had asked the Amalekite for the mercy of death. In the second interpretation, David's reaction wouldn't be too far out of line with the sort of standards I've come to expect from the Bible.

The chapter ended with a long song of lamentation that David sang for Saul.

2 Samuel, Chapter 2

On the Lord's advice, David settled in Hebron. There he was made king over Judah. One of his first acts was to reward the people of Jabesh-gilead who had recovered Saul's body from the wall of Beth-shan.

Abner, the commander of Saul's army, set up Saul's son, Ishbaal, as king over Israel. This set up the beginning of a conflict that would be the subject of the next few chapters, over who would become the ruler over all of Egypt. There was a rather odd passage about a conflict between Ishbaal's men and David's men.

14 Abner said to Joab, 'Let the young men come forward and have a contest before us.' Joab said, 'Let them come forward.' 15 So they came forward and were counted as they passed by, twelve for Benjamin and Ishbaal son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. 16 Each grasped his opponent by the head, and thrust his sword in his opponent's side; so they fell down together.

The rest of the chapter was fighting between David's supporters and Ishbaal's supporters. One point that will be important later on was when Asahel chased Abner. Abner tried to get Asahel to stop chasing him, but Asahel wouldn't stop. "So Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. He fell there, and died where he lay."

2 Samuel, Chapter 3

The fighting between the two sides continued. Abner, even though technically a servant of Ishbaal, was building up his own power. The tension came to a head when Ishbaal accused him of sleeping with one of his concubines. After that, Abner sent word to David that he was willing to work with him, and David agreed so long as Abner brought him his wife, Michal (who had been remarried in the mean time). The NOAB points out that this may not have been for a deep affection between David and Michal, but for political purposes, maintaining his marriage with the daughter of the king to give himself a legitimate claim to rule. After that, Abner began convincing the rest of Israel to side with David.

When Abner came to visit David in person, David threw a feast for him, but given their history, some of David's servants were suspicious of Abner's true motivation. In particular, Asahel's brother Joab was out for revenge. Joab sent messengers to bring Abner to him, and then "took him aside in the gateway to speak with him privately, and there he stabbed him in the stomach." David was aghast at this assassination, cursed Joab and all his descendents ("May the guilt fall on the head of Joab, and on all his father's house; and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge, or who is leprous, or who holds a spindle, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks food!"), and gave Abner a full burial and mourned for him. This collective guilt aspect of the Bible is one of the stranger aspects for a modern reader - cursing a man's whole line of descent for his actions.

The NOAB noted that this may have been another case of protesting too much, where perhaps the writers were trying to separate David from the death of Abner because others believed he had something to do with it.

2 Samuel, Chapter 4

Ishbaal's power was crumbling. Two of his captains decided that he was a lost cause, snuck into his house, and killed him. They then beheaded him and took the head to David, hoping to get a reward for killing his enemy. But David retold the story of the Amalekite that had claimed to kill Saul, and told the two captains that their actions were even worse because it was in the man's own house. So he had them killed, their hands and feet cut off, and their bodies hung up for display.

2 Samuel, Chapter 5

Now that he had no rival, David was the undisputed ruler of Israel, and consolidated his power with all the different tribes. His first campaign that's described (briefly) in the book was the conquering of Jerusalem. After that, King Hiram of Tyre sent David gifts, and had his carpenters and masons build a house for David. Then David took more concubines and wives. The chapter ended with a couple battles with the Philistines, where David first inquired of the Lord what to do, and followed Gods' instructions to ensure victory. It was notable that David and his men captured the Philistine's idols. I wonder if this is a relic from before Judaism was completely monotheistic, and if the writers thought that enemy idols still contained some type of power.

There was one strange aspect of the story of David taking Jerusalem. The king had said to him, "You will not come in here, even the blind and the lame will turn you back." On the day he conquered the city, David had said, "Whoever wishes to strike down the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack the lame and the blind, those whom David hates." And then the very next sentence read, "Therefore it is said, 'The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.' " It just seemed like odd details to include in the story.

2 Samuel, Chapter 6

David went to go get the ark of God. There was a big procession with dancers, lyre & harp players, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals. But when they hit a bump in the road, a man named Uzzah reached out his hand to stop the ark from falling. God showed Uzzah his appreciation for saving the ark, "The anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzzah; and God struck him there because he reached out his hand to the ark; and he died there beside the ark of God." This angered and scared David, so he left the ark at the house of Obed-edom the Gittite.

After three months when it was apparent that Obed-edom was being blessed by God for housing the ark, David went to get the ark for himself to take back to Jerusalem. There was another big procession, along with animal sacrifices.

Michal saw David dancing in the streets and was disgusted with him. Apparently, his clothing was rather scant, "How the king of Israel honoured himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!" David responded that he was dancing before the Lord, so there was nothing wrong with what he did. In a slightly ambiguous statement, it was revealed that Michal had no children till the day of her death. It's unclear if this was a punishment from God, or because David never slept with her again.

2 Samuel, Chapter 7

Once David was settled into his house, he saw that "the ark of God stays in a tent." So, he was going to build a permanent house for God, as well. But God visited the prophet, Nathan, and gave him a message for David. David, himself, was not to build the house for God. God would establish a house of David, and one of David's descendants would be the one to build God's house. He also made a promise to David, " I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you." David spent the second half of the chapter praising and thanking God.

2 Samuel, Chapter 8

Chapter 8 was all about David's military conquests - the Philistines, Metheg-ammah, the Moabites, King Hadadezer, the Arameans of Damascus, Betah and Berothai, the Edomites, etc. David also received tributes from King Toi of Hamath. The end of the chapter listed some of David's officers and officials, and mentioned that his sons were priests.

2 Samuel, Chapter 9

David decided to look for any remaining heirs of Saul "to whom I may show kindness for Jonathan's sake". There was one, mentioned briefly in Chapter 4, Mephibosheth. He had been dropped as a toddler when, after his father had been killed, his nurse tried to flee with him into hiding. Now, in Chapter 9, David restored to Mephibosheth the lands that had belonged to Saul, and had Mephibosheth eat at the king's table always. David summoned Saul's old servant, Ziba, and made Ziba and his family a servant to Mephibosheth, to work the fields and provide for Mephibosheth.

2 Samuel, Chapter 10

After a time, the Ammonite king, Nahash, died, and his son, Hanun, succeeded him. Based on the good way Nahash had dealed with him, David sent emissaries to Hanun to deliver his condolences. Hanun's advisors convinced Hanun that David had actually sent the emissaries as spies, "So Hanun seized David's envoys, shaved off half the beard of each, cut off their garments in the middle at their hips, and sent them away." This was apparently a grave insult to the Israelites. The Ammonites, fearing Israelite retaliation, assembled an army. David, seeing the newly formed army, sent an army of his own to confront them, led by Joab. With the Lord on their side, Joab and his forces were victorious, but the Arameans regrouped at Helam. Now, David himself led an army of even more Israelites, defeated the Arameans, and killed the commander of the their army, Shobach.


2 Samuel continues on in the same way as 1 Samuel. The hints of multiple prior sources are there, but it's still a more coherent book than some of the previous books of the Bible. And the narrative structure and stories are more entertaining than some of the previous books.

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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