Bible Book Number 10—2 Samuel
Writers: Gad and Nathan
Place Written: Israel
Writing Completed: c. 1040 B.C.E.
Time Covered: 1077–c. 1040 B.C.E.
1. Against what background does Second Samuel open, and how does its account develop?
THE nation of Israel was in despair over the disaster of Gilboa and the resulting inroads by the victorious Philistines. The leaders of Israel and the flower of its young men lay dead. In this setting the young “anointed of Jehovah,” David the son of Jesse, moved fully onto the national scene. (2 Sam. 19:21) Thus commences the book of Second Samuel, which might well be called a book of Jehovah and David. Its narrative is filled with action of every sort. We are carried from the depths of defeat to the pinnacle of victory, from the distresses of a strife-torn nation to the prosperity of a united kingdom, from the vigor of youth to the wisdom of advanced years. Here is the intimate account of David’s life as he sought to follow Jehovah with all his heart.a It is an account that should cause searchings of heart on the part of every reader that he may strengthen his own relationship and standing with his Creator.
2. (a) How did the book come to be called Second Samuel? (b) Who were the writers, what were their qualifications, and what record only did they seek to preserve?
2 Actually, Samuel’s name is not even mentioned in the record of Second Samuel, the name being given to the book apparently because of its having been originally one roll, or volume, with First Samuel. The prophets Nathan and Gad, who completed the writing of First Samuel, continued on in writing all of Second Samuel. (1 Chron. 29:29) They were well qualified for this task. Gad had been with David when he was a hunted outlaw in Israel, and toward the end of David’s 40-year reign, he was still actively associated with the king. Gad was the one used to pronounce Jehovah’s displeasure on David for unwisely numbering Israel. (1 Sam. 22:5; 2 Sam. 24:1-25) Overlapping and extending beyond the period of Gad’s lifetime was the activity of Nathan the prophet, a close associate of David. It was his privilege to make known Jehovah’s significant covenant with David, the covenant for an everlasting kingdom. He it was who courageously and under inspiration pointed out David’s great sin involving Bath-sheba and the penalty for it. (2 Sam. 7:1-17; 12:1-15) Thus Jehovah used Nathan, whose name means “[God] Has Given,” and Gad, whose name means “Good Fortune,” to record the inspired and beneficial information in Second Samuel. These unassuming historians did not seek to preserve memory of themselves, as no information is given of their ancestry or personal lives. They sought only to preserve the record inspired by God, for the benefit of future worshipers of Jehovah.
3. What period is covered by Second Samuel, and when was its writing completed?
3 Second Samuel takes up the narrative of accurate Bible history following the death of Saul, Israel’s first king, and carries it along to near the end of David’s 40-year reign. Thus, the period covered is from 1077 B.C.E. to about 1040 B.C.E. The fact that the book does not record David’s death is strong evidence that it was written about 1040 B.C.E., or just prior to his death.
4. For what reasons must Second Samuel be accepted as part of the Bible canon?
4 For the same reasons put forth with regard to First Samuel, the book of Second Samuel must be accepted as part of the Bible canon. Its authenticity is beyond question. Its very candor, not glossing over even King David’s sins and shortcomings, is a strong circumstantial evidence in itself.
5. What is the strongest reason for accepting Second Samuel as inspired Scripture?
5 However, the strongest evidence for the authenticity of Second Samuel is to be found in the fulfilled prophecies, particularly those relating to the Kingdom covenant with David. God promised David: “Your house and your kingdom will certainly be steadfast to time indefinite before you; your very throne will become one firmly established to time indefinite.” (7:16) Jeremiah, even in the evening of the kingdom of Judah, mentioned the continuity of this promise to the house of David with the words: “This is what Jehovah has said, ‘There will not be cut off in David’s case a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel.’” (Jer. 33:17) This prophecy has not gone unfulfilled, for Jehovah later brought forth from Judah “Jesus Christ, son of David,” as the Bible clearly testifies.—Matt. 1:1.
CONTENTS OF SECOND SAMUEL
6. How does David react on hearing news of the death of Saul and of Jonathan?
6 Early events of David’s reign (1:1–4:12). Following Saul’s death at Mount Gilboa, an Amalekite fugitive from the battle comes hurrying to David at Ziklag with the report. Hoping to curry favor with David, he fabricates the story that it is he himself who took Saul’s life. Instead of commendation, the Amalekite receives only the reward of death, for he has condemned himself by testifying to striking “the anointed of Jehovah.” (1:16) The new king, David, now composes a dirge, “The Bow,” in which he laments the death of Saul and of Jonathan. This rises to a beautiful climax in its touching expression of David’s overflowing love for Jonathan: “I am distressed over you, my brother Jonathan, very pleasant you were to me. More wonderful was your love to me than the love from women. How have the mighty ones fallen and the weapons of war perished!”—1:17, 18, 26, 27.
7. What other events mark the early part of David’s reign?
7 At Jehovah’s direction, David and his men move their households to Hebron in the territory of Judah. Here the elders of the tribe come to anoint David as their king in 1077 B.C.E. General Joab becomes the most prominent of David’s supporters. However, as a rival for the kingship over the nation, Ish-bosheth, a son of Saul, is anointed by Abner, the chief of the army. There are periodic clashes between the two opposing forces, and Abner kills a brother of Joab. Finally, Abner defects to David’s camp. To David he takes Saul’s daughter Michal, for whom David long ago paid the marriage price. However, in revenge for the slaying of his brother, Joab finds an occasion for killing Abner. David is greatly distressed at this, disclaiming any responsibility. Soon thereafter Ish-bosheth himself is murdered as he is “taking his noonday siesta.”—4:5.
8. How does Jehovah prosper David’s reign over all Israel?
8 David king in Jerusalem (5:1–6:23). Though he has already ruled as king in Judah for seven years and six months, David now becomes undisputed ruler, and representatives of the tribes anoint him as king over all Israel. This is his third anointing (1070 B.C.E.). One of David’s first acts as ruler of the entire kingdom is to capture the stronghold of Zion in Jerusalem from the entrenched Jebusites, surprising them by way of the water tunnel. David then makes Jerusalem his capital city. Jehovah of armies blesses David, making him greater and greater. Even Hiram, rich king of Tyre, sends David valuable cedars and also workmen to construct a house for the king. David’s family increases, and Jehovah prospers his reign. There are two more encounters with the warlike Philistines. In the first of these, Jehovah breaks through the enemy for David at Baal-perazim, giving him the victory. In the second, Jehovah performs another miracle by making a “sound of a marching in the tops of the baca bushes,” indicating that Jehovah is going ahead of Israel to rout the armies of the Philistines. (5:24) Another outstanding victory for Jehovah’s forces!
9. Describe the events connected with bringing the Ark up to Jerusalem.
9 Taking 30,000 men with him, David sets out to bring the ark of the covenant from Baale-judah (Kiriath-jearim) to Jerusalem. As it is being brought along with great music and rejoicing, the wagon on which it is riding gives a lurch, and Uzzah, who is walking alongside, reaches out to steady the sacred Ark. “At that Jehovah’s anger blazed against Uzzah and the true God struck him down there for the irreverent act.” (6:7) The Ark comes to rest at the house of Obed-edom, and during the next three months, Jehovah richly blesses the household of Obed-edom. After three months David comes to take the Ark in the right manner the rest of the way. With joyful shouting, music, and dancing, the Ark is brought into David’s capital. David gives vent to his great joy in dancing before Jehovah, but his wife Michal takes exception to this. David insists: “I will celebrate before Jehovah.” (6:21) In consequence Michal remains childless until her death.b
10. What covenant and promise of Jehovah next come to our attention?
10 God’s covenant with David (7:1-29). We now come to one of the most important events in David’s life, one that is directly connected with the central theme of the Bible, the sanctification of Jehovah’s name by the Kingdom under the promised Seed. This event arises out of David’s desire to build a house for the ark of God. Living in a beautiful house of cedars himself, he indicates to Nathan his desire to build a house for Jehovah’s ark of the covenant. Through Nathan, Jehovah reassures David of His loving-kindness toward Israel and establishes with him a covenant that will abide for all time. However, it will be not David but his seed who will build the house for Jehovah’s name. In addition, Jehovah makes the loving promise: “And your house and your kingdom will certainly be steadfast to time indefinite before you; your very throne will become one firmly established to time indefinite.”—7:16.
11. With what prayer does David express thankfulness?
11 Overcome by Jehovah’s goodness, as expressed through this Kingdom covenant, David pours out his thankfulness for all of God’s loving-kindness: “What one nation in the earth is like your people Israel, whom God went to redeem to himself as a people and to assign himself a name and to do for them great and fear-inspiring things? . . . And you yourself, O Jehovah, have become their God.” (7:23, 24) Fervently he prays for the sanctification of Jehovah’s name and for the house of David to become firmly established before Him.
12. What wars does David fight, and what kindness does he show to Saul’s house?
12 David extends Israel’s dominion (8:1–10:19). However, David is not left to rule in peace. Wars are yet to be fought. David proceeds to strike down the Philistines, the Moabites, the Zobahites, the Syrians, and the Edomites, extending Israel’s boundary to its God-ordained limits. (2 Sam. 8:1-5, 13-15; Deut. 11:24) He then turns his attention to the house of Saul in order that for the sake of Jonathan, he might express loving-kindness toward any remaining. Ziba, a servant of Saul, calls to his attention a son of Jonathan, Mephibosheth, who is lame in the feet. Immediately, David requires that all of Saul’s goods be turned over to Mephibosheth and that his land be cultivated by Ziba and his servants to provide food for Mephibosheth’s house. Mephibosheth himself, however, is to eat at the table of David.
13. By what further victories does Jehovah show that he is with David?
13 When the king of Ammon dies, David sends ambassadors to Hanun his son with expressions of loving-kindness. Hanun’s counselors, however, accuse David of sending them to spy out the land, and so they humiliate them and send them back half-naked. Angered by this affront, David sends Joab with his army to avenge the wrong. Dividing his forces, he easily routs the Ammonites and the Syrians who had come up to help them. The Syrians regroup their forces, only to be defeated once again by the armies of Jehovah under the command of David and suffer the loss of 700 charioteers and 40,000 horsemen. Here is further evidence of Jehovah’s favor and blessing on David.
14. What sins does David commit over Bath-sheba?
14 David sins against Jehovah (11:1–12:31). The following spring David again sends Joab into Ammon to lay siege to Rabbah, while he himself remains in Jerusalem. One evening from his rooftop, he happens to observe the beautiful Bath-sheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite, as she is bathing. Bringing her to his house, he has relations with her, and she becomes pregnant. David tries to cover up by bringing Uriah back from the fighting at Rabbah and sending him down to his house to refresh himself. However, Uriah refuses to please himself and have relations with his wife while the Ark and the army are “dwelling in booths.” In desperation David sends Uriah back to Joab with a letter saying: “Put Uriah in front of the heaviest battle charges, and you men must retreat from behind him, and he must be struck down and die.” (11:11, 15) In this way Uriah dies. After Bath-sheba’s period of mourning is passed, David immediately takes her to his house, where she becomes his wife, and their child, a son, is born.
15. How does Nathan pronounce prophetic judgment on David?
15 This is bad in Jehovah’s eyes. He sends the prophet Nathan to David with a message of judgment. Nathan tells David of a rich man and a poor man. The one had many flocks, but the other had one female lamb, which was a pet in the family and “as a daughter to him.” However, when it came to making a feast, the rich man took, not a sheep from his own flocks, but the female lamb of the poor man. Incensed at hearing this, David exclaims: “As Jehovah is living, the man doing this deserves to die!” Back come Nathan’s words: “You yourself are the man!” (12:3, 5, 7) He then pronounces prophetic judgment that David’s wives will be violated publicly by another man, that his house will be plagued by internal warfare, and that his child by Bath-sheba will die.
16. (a) What meanings attach to the names of David’s second son by Bath-sheba? (b) What is the final outcome of the assault on Rabbah?
16 In sincere sorrow and repentance, David openly acknowledges: “I have sinned against Jehovah.” (12:13) True to Jehovah’s word, the offspring of the adulterous union dies after seven days’ illness. (Later, David has another son by Bath-sheba; this one they call Solomon, which name comes from a root meaning “peace.” However, Jehovah sends through Nathan to call him also Jedidiah, meaning “Beloved of Jah.”) Following his soul-shaking experience, David is called by Joab to come to Rabbah, where the final assault is being made ready. Having captured the city’s water supply, Joab respectfully leaves to the king the honor of capturing the city itself.
17. What internal troubles start to afflict David’s household?
17 David’s domestic difficulties (13:1–18:33). David’s household troubles get started when Amnon, one of David’s sons, falls passionately in love with Tamar, the sister of his half brother Absalom. Amnon feigns illness and asks that the beautiful Tamar be sent to care for him. He violates her and then comes to hate her intensely, so that he sends her away in humiliation. Absalom plans vengeance, biding his time. About two years later, he prepares a feast to which Amnon and all the other sons of the king are invited. When Amnon’s heart becomes merry with wine, he is caught off guard and put to death at Absalom’s order.
18. By what subterfuge is Absalom restored from exile?
18 Fearing the king’s displeasure, Absalom flees to Geshur, where he lives in semiexile for three years. Meanwhile, Joab, the chief of David’s army, schemes to bring about a reconciliation between David and Absalom. He arranges for a wise woman of Tekoa to pose a fictitious situation before the king concerning retribution, banishment, and punishment. When the king passes judgment, the woman reveals the true reason for her presence, in that the king’s own son Absalom is in banishment in Geshur. David recognizes that Joab has planned this but gives permission for his son to return to Jerusalem. It is another two years before the king consents to see Absalom face-to-face.
19. What conspiracy now comes into the open, and with what result to David?
19 Despite David’s loving-kindness, Absalom soon works up a conspiracy to seize the throne from his father. Absalom is outstandingly handsome among all the valiant men of Israel, and this adds to his ambition and pride. Each year the shearings of his luxuriant head of hair weigh about five pounds [2.3 kg]. (2 Sam. 14:26, footnote) By various crafty maneuvers, Absalom begins to steal the hearts of the men of Israel. Finally, the conspiracy comes out into the open. Gaining his father’s permission to go to Hebron, Absalom there announces his rebellious purpose and calls for the support of all Israel in his uprising against David. As great numbers flock to the side of his rebel son, David flees from Jerusalem with a few loyal supporters, typical of whom is Ittai the Gittite, who declares: “As Jehovah is living and as my lord the king is living, in the place where my lord the king may come to be, whether for death or for life, there is where your servant will come to be!”—15:21.
20, 21. (a) What events occur during David’s flight, and how is Nathan’s prophecy fulfilled? (b) How does treacherous Ahithophel come to his end?
20 While in flight from Jerusalem, David learns of the treachery of one of his most trusted counselors, Ahithophel. He prays: “Turn, please, the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness, O Jehovah!” (15:31) Zadok and Abiathar, priests loyal to David, and Hushai the Archite are sent back to Jerusalem to watch and report on Absalom’s activities. Meanwhile, in the wilderness, David meets Ziba, the attendant of Mephibosheth, who reports that his master is now expecting the kingdom to revert to the house of Saul. As David passes on, Shimei, of Saul’s house, curses him and hurls stones at him, but David restrains his men from taking vengeance.
21 Back in Jerusalem, at Ahithophel’s suggestion, the usurper Absalom has relations with his father’s concubines “under the eyes of all Israel.” This is in fulfillment of Nathan’s prophetic judgment. (16:22; 12:11) Also, Ahithophel counsels Absalom to take a force of 12,000 men and hunt David down in the wilderness. However, Hushai, who has won his way into Absalom’s confidence, recommends a different course. And just as David has prayed, the counsel of Ahithophel is frustrated. Judaslike, the frustrated Ahithophel goes home and strangles himself. Hushai secretly reports Absalom’s plans to the priests Zadok and Abiathar, who, in turn, have the message relayed to David in the wilderness.
22. With what sorrow is David’s victory tempered?
22 This enables David to cross the Jordan and to choose the site of battle in the forest at Mahanaim. There he deploys his forces and commands them to treat Absalom gently. The rebels suffer a crushing defeat. As Absalom flees on a mule through the heavily wooded forest, his head gets caught in the lower branches of a massive tree, and there he hangs suspended in midair. Finding him in this predicament, Joab kills him, in utter disregard for the king’s command. David’s deep grief on hearing of the death of his son is reflected in his lament: “My son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! O that I might have died, I myself, instead of you, Absalom my son, my son!”—18:33.
23. What arrangements mark David’s return as king?
23 Closing events of David’s reign (19:1–24:25). David continues to mourn bitterly until Joab urges him to resume his rightful position as king. He now appoints Amasa as head over the army in place of Joab. As he returns, he is welcomed by the people, including Shimei, whose life David spares. Mephibosheth also comes to plead his case, and David gives him an equal inheritance with Ziba. Once again, all Israel and Judah are united under David.
24. What further developments take place that involve the tribe of Benjamin?
24 However, there are more troubles in store. Sheba, a Benjaminite, declares himself king and turns many aside from David. Amasa, ordered by David to gather men to put down the rebellion, is met by Joab and treacherously murdered. Joab then takes over the army and follows Sheba to the city of Abel of Beth-maacah and lays siege to it. Heeding the advice of a wise woman of the city, the inhabitants execute Sheba, and Joab withdraws. Because Saul had slain Gibeonites and the bloodguilt was still unavenged, there comes to be a three-year famine in Israel. To remove the bloodguilt, seven sons of Saul’s household are executed. Later, in battle with the Philistines again, David’s life is barely saved by Abishai his nephew. His men swear that he must no more go out to battle with them “that you may not extinguish the lamp of Israel!” (21:17) Three of his mighty men then perform notably in striking down Philistine giants.
25. What is expressed in the songs of David next recorded?
25 At this point, the writer breaks into the account with a song of David to Jehovah, paralleling Psalm 18 and expressing thanks for deliverance “out of the palm of all his enemies and out of Saul’s palm.” Joyfully he declares: “Jehovah is my crag and my stronghold and the Provider of escape for me. The One doing great acts of salvation for his king and exercising loving-kindness to his anointed one, to David and to his seed for time indefinite.” (22:1, 2, 51) There follows the last song of David, in which he acknowledges, “The spirit of Jehovah it was that spoke by me, and his word was upon my tongue.”—23:2.
26. What is stated concerning David’s mighty men, and how does he show respect for their lifeblood?
26 Coming back to the historical record, we find listed the mighty men who belong to David, three of whom are outstanding. These are involved in an incident occurring when an outpost of the Philistines has been established in Bethlehem, David’s hometown. David expresses the desire: “O that I might have a drink of the water from the cistern of Bethlehem that is at the gate!” (23:15) At that, the three mighty men force their way into the Philistine camp, draw water from the cistern, and carry it back to David. But David refuses to drink it. Instead, he pours it out on the ground, saying: “It is unthinkable on my part, O Jehovah, that I should do this! Shall I drink the blood of the men going at the risk of their souls?” (23:17) To him the water is the equivalent of the lifeblood they have risked for it. The 30 mightiest men of his army and their exploits are next listed.
27. What final sin does David commit? How is the resulting plague stopped?
27 Finally, David sins in numbering the people. Pleading with God for mercy, he is given the choice between three punishments: seven years of famine, three months of military defeats, or three days of pestilence in the land. David replies: “Let us fall, please, into the hand of Jehovah, for many are his mercies; but into the hand of man do not let me fall.” (24:14) The nationwide pestilence kills 70,000 persons, being stopped only when David, acting on Jehovah’s instructions through Gad, purchases the threshing floor of Araunah, where he offers up burnt sacrifices and communion sacrifices to Jehovah.
28. What striking warnings are contained in Second Samuel?
28 There is much to be found in Second Samuel that is beneficial for the modern reader! Almost every human emotion is painted here in colors of the fullest intensity, those of real life. Thus, we are warned in striking terms of the disastrous results of ambition and revenge (3:27-30), of wrongful lust for another’s marriage mate (11:2-4, 15-17; 12:9, 10), of traitorous action (15:12, 31; 17:23), of love based only on passion (13:10-15, 28, 29), of hasty judgment (16:3, 4; 19:25-30), and of disrespect for another’s acts of devotion.—6:20-23.
29. What excellent examples of right conduct and action are to be found in Second Samuel?
29 However, by far the greatest benefit from Second Samuel is to be found on the positive side, by heeding its many excellent examples of right conduct and action. David is a model in his exclusive devotion to God (7:22), his humility before God (7:18), his exalting of Jehovah’s name (7:23, 26), his proper viewpoint in adversity (15:25), his sincere repentance of sin (12:13), his faithfulness to his promise (9:1, 7), his keeping balance under trial (16:11, 12), his consistent reliance on Jehovah (5:12, 20), and his deep respect for Jehovah’s arrangements and appointments (1:11, 12). No wonder that David was called “a man agreeable to [Jehovah’s] heart”!—1 Sam. 13:14.
30. What principles are applied and illustrated in Second Samuel?
30 The application of many Bible principles is also to be found in Second Samuel. Among these are the principles of community responsibility (2 Sam. 3:29; 24:11-15), that good intentions do not alter God’s requirements (6:6, 7), that headship in Jehovah’s theocratic arrangement should be respected (12:28), that blood is to be regarded as sacred (23:17), that atonement is required for bloodguilt (21:1-6, 9, 14), that a wise one can avert disaster for many (2 Sam. 20:21, 22; Eccl. 9:15), and that loyalty to Jehovah’s organization and its representatives must be maintained “whether for death or for life.”—2 Sam. 15:18-22.
31. How does Second Samuel provide foregleams of God’s Kingdom, as attested to in the Christian Greek Scriptures?
31 Most important of all, Second Samuel points forward to and gives brilliant foregleams of God’s Kingdom, which he establishes in the hands of the “son of David,” Jesus Christ. (Matt. 1:1) The oath that Jehovah made to David concerning the permanence of his kingdom (2 Sam. 7:16) is cited at Acts 2:29-36 with reference to Jesus. That the prophecy, “I myself shall become his father, and he himself will become my son” (2 Sam. 7:14), really pointed forward to Jesus is shown by Hebrews 1:5. This was also testified to by Jehovah’s voice speaking from heaven: “This is my Son, the beloved, whom I have approved.” (Matt. 3:17; 17:5) Finally, the Kingdom covenant with David is referred to by Gabriel in his words to Mary concerning Jesus: “This one will be great and will be called Son of the Most High; and Jehovah God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule as king over the house of Jacob forever, and there will be no end of his kingdom.” (Luke 1:32, 33) How thrilling the promise of the Kingdom Seed appears as each step in its development unfolds before our eyes!