Israel transformed from a divided, defeated nation to a prosperous, unified, and victorious empire in a forty-year period. The story of such a great transformation is found in 2 Samuel.
2 Samuel is the tenth book in most English Bibles, and it is the fourth book among the “former prophets” in Hebrew. 1 and 2 Samuel were originally one book, divided into two in antiquity; such is why there is no break in the narrative between 1 Samuel 31:13 and 2 Samuel 1:1. The book receives its name from the prophet/judge Samuel who featured prominently in 1 Samuel; the Greek name, 2 Reigns, perhaps more accurately describes its events: 2 Samuel describes the forty-year reign of David, ca. 1000-960 BCE. 1 and 2 Samuel were likely written at the end of the united monarchy or perhaps toward the beginning of the divided kingdom (ca. 950-850 BCE), and finally put together with the rest of the history of Israel around 600-500 BCE.
2 Samuel begins with the immediate aftermath of Saul’s death and the seven-year period during which David consolidates control over Israel (2 Samuel 1:1-5:13). During this time David hears of Saul’s death, executes the one who asserted he had killed Saul, and lamented over Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:1-27). David is then crowned king of Judah while Ishbaal the son of Saul was made king over the rest of Israel: for seven years they fought, David gained the advantage, and Abner, Ishbaal’s strongman, is about to defect to David but is killed by David’s officer Joab (2 Samuel 2:1-3:39). Ishbaal was killed in a conspiracy, and David had his assassins executed as well; David is then made king over all Israel, conquers Jerusalem and makes it his capital (2 Samuel 4:1-5:13).
2 Samuel 5:14-10:9 chronicles David’s great success before the LORD. During that time David defeats the Philistines, the Moabites, the Edomites, the Ammonites, the Arameans and the kings of Zobah and Hamath. Meanwhile, he arranges to have the Ark of the Covenant brought to Jerusalem, and while David intends to build a house (temple) for the LORD in Jerusalem, God promises that his son will be the one to build it, and because of David’s faithfulness, God promises that there would always be one of his descendants on his throne. David also shows kindness to Meribaal of the house of Saul on account of Jonathan.
2 Samuel 11:1-20:26 describes David’s adultery with Bathsheba, her pregnancy, and his attempt to cover up his deed. This ultimately led to the death of her husband Uriah the Hittite, and the passage goes on to show how God confronted David regarding his sin through the prophet Nathan as well as the consequences of that sin: David’s son Amnon defiles Tamar his daughter, Absalom, David’s son and Tamar’s full brother, murders Amnon, departs, is reconciled to his father, and then conspires against him. Absalom is declared king in Hebron and David and his men flee; in the battle that follows, David’s men gain the victory and Absalom is killed. One Sheba later rebels, but the insurrection is quickly put down.
2 Samuel 21:1-24:25 represents an appendix to the story, chroncling other events in David’s time. David avenges the blood of the Gibeonites by handing over some of Saul’s relatives; wars against the Philistines are described; 2 Samuel 22:3-51 presents the same psalm as Psalm 18:1-50; David’s last words are recorded; David’s mighty men are listed with some of their deeds; and David’s census, its consequences, and the obtaining of the threshing-floor of Araunah the Jebusite is described, the place where Solomon son of David will build the Temple.
2 Samuel vividly describes David’s successes and trials: God was always with him, giving him victory over his enemies and providing a measure of stability and prosperity to Israel, but it was all threatened by David’s presumptuous sins and their consequences. Yet David always remained a man after God’s own heart, repented of his sin, accepted the consequences, and maintained his rule. Let us trust in God like David did and seek to serve Jesus the son of David who ever reigns over His Kingdom!
Ethan R. Longhenry