Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Book of Second Samuel
DOES recognizing Jehovah’s sovereignty require our perfect obedience? Does a man of integrity always do what is right in God’s eyes? What kind of individual does the true God find “agreeable to his heart”? (1 Samuel 13:14) The Bible book of Second Samuel gives satisfying answers to these questions.
Second Samuel was written by Gad and Nathan, two prophets who were close to King David of ancient Israel.* Completed in about 1040 B.C.E., toward the end of David’s 40-year kingship, the book is primarily about David and his relationship with Jehovah. This thrilling narrative relates how a strife-torn nation becomes a prosperous united kingdom under a valiant king. The gripping drama is packed with human emotions expressed with deep intensity.
DAVID BECOMES “GREATER AND GREATER”
David’s response to the news of the death of Saul and Jonathan reveals his feelings for them and for Jehovah. In Hebron, David is appointed king over the tribe of Judah. Saul’s son Ish-bosheth is made king over the rest of Israel. David goes on “getting greater and greater,” and some seven and a half years later, he is made king over all Israel.—2 Samuel 5:10.
David captures Jerusalem from the Jebusites and makes it the capital of his kingdom. His first attempt to transfer the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem results in disaster. However, the second attempt succeeds, and David dances for joy. Jehovah makes a covenant with David for a kingdom. David subdues his enemies as God continues to be with him.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
2:18—Why were Joab and his two brothers identified as the three sons of Zeruiah, their mother? In the Hebrew Scriptures, genealogies were usually reckoned through the father. Zeruiah’s husband may have died prematurely, or he could have been considered unsuitable for inclusion in the Sacred Record. It is possible that Zeruiah was listed because she was David’s sister or half sister. (1 Chronicles 2:15, 16) The only reference to the father of the three brothers is in connection with his burial place at Bethlehem.—2 Samuel 2:32.
3:29—What is meant by “a man taking hold of the twirling spindle”? Women customarily did the weaving of cloth. Therefore, this expression may refer to men who were unfit for such activities as warfare and who were thus obliged to do the work usually done by a woman.
5:1, 2—How long after Ish-bosheth’s assassination was David made king over all Israel? It seems reasonable to conclude that Ish-bosheth began his two-year-long kingship shortly after Saul’s death, about the same time David began his in Hebron. David ruled over Judah from Hebron for seven and a half years. Soon after being made king over all Israel, he shifted his capital to Jerusalem. Hence, about five years elapsed after Ish-bosheth’s death before David became king over all Israel.—2 Samuel 2:3, 4, 8-11; 5:4, 5.
8:2—How many Moabites were executed after Israel’s conflict with them? The number may have been determined by measuring rather than by counting. It seems that David had the Moabites lie down side by side on the ground in a row. Next, he had the row measured with the length of a line, or a cord. Apparently, two line measures, or two thirds of the Moabites, were put to death, and one line measure, or one third of them, were spared.
Lessons for Us:
2:1; 5:19, 23. David inquired of Jehovah before taking up residence in Hebron and prior to going up against his enemies. We too should seek Jehovah’s guidance before making decisions that affect our spirituality.
5:12. We should never forget that Jehovah has educated us in his ways and made a good relationship with him possible.
6:1-7. Though David was well-meaning, his attempt to move the Ark in a wagon was in violation of God’s command and resulted in failure. (Exodus 25:13, 14; Numbers 4:15, 19; 7:7-9) Uzzah’s grabbing hold of the Ark also shows that good intentions do not change what God requires.
6:8, 9. In a trialsome situation, David first became angry, then afraid—perhaps even blaming Jehovah for the tragedy. We must guard against blaming Jehovah for problems that result from ignoring his commands.
JEHOVAH RAISES UP CALAMITY AGAINST HIS ANOINTED
“Here I am raising up against you calamity out of your own house,” Jehovah says to David, “and I will take your wives under your own eyes and give them to your fellowman, and he will certainly lie down with your wives under the eyes of this sun.” (2 Samuel 12:11) What is the reason for this pronouncement? It is David’s sin with Bath-sheba. Though repentant David is forgiven, he is not spared the consequences of his sin.
First the child that Bath-sheba gives birth to dies. Then David’s virgin daughter Tamar is raped by her half brother Amnon. Her full brother Absalom murders Amnon in revenge. Absalom conspires against his own father and proclaims himself king in Hebron. David is forced to flee Jerusalem. Absalom has relations with ten of his father’s concubines left behind to take care of the house. David returns to his kingship only after Absalom is killed. A revolt by the Benjaminite Sheba ends in Sheba’s death.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
14:7—What is symbolized by “the glow of my charcoals”? The glow of slow-burning charcoal is used to denote a living offspring.
19:29—Why did David respond the way he did to Mephibosheth’s explanation? Upon hearing Mephibosheth, David must have realized that he erred when he took Ziba’s words at face value. (2 Samuel 16:1-4; 19:24-28) Very likely, this irritated David, and he did not want to hear anything further about the matter.
Lessons for Us:
11:2-15. The candid account of David’s shortcomings testifies to the fact that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.
11:16-27. When we commit a serious sin, we should not try to cover it over as David did. Rather, we should confess our sin to Jehovah and seek help from the elders in the congregation.—Proverbs 28:13; James 5:13-16.
12:1-14. Nathan set a fine example for appointed elders in the congregation. They are to help those who fall into sin to correct their course. The elders must discharge this responsibility skillfully.
12:15-23. Having the correct view of what befell him helped David to respond properly to adversity.
15:12; 16:15, 21, 23. When it appeared that Absalom would ascend to the throne, pride and ambition led the brilliant counselor Ahithophel to become a traitor. Having intelligence without humility and loyalty can be a snare.
19:24, 30. Mephibosheth was truly appreciative of David’s loving-kindness. He willingly submitted to the king’s decision about Ziba. Appreciation for Jehovah and his organization should move us to be submissive.
LET US FALL “INTO THE HAND OF JEHOVAH”
There is a famine for three years because of the bloodguilt that Saul incurred by putting the Gibeonites to death. (Joshua 9:15) In order to avenge that bloodguilt, the Gibeonites ask for seven sons of Saul for execution. David gives them into the Gibeonites’ hands, and the drought ends with a downpour of rain. Four Philistine giants come to “fall by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.”—2 Samuel 21:22.
David commits a serious sin by ordering an illegal census. He repents and chooses to fall “into the hand of Jehovah.” (2 Samuel 24:14) As a result, 70,000 die from pestilence. David follows Jehovah’s command, and the scourge is halted.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
21:8—How can it be said that Saul’s daughter Michal had five sons, when 2 Samuel 6:23 states that she died childless? The most widely accepted explanation is that these were the sons of Michal’s sister Merab, who married Adriel. Likely, Merab died early, and childless Michal brought up the boys.
21:9, 10—For how long did Rizpah keep up a vigil for her two sons and the five grandsons of Saul who were put to death by the Gibeonites? These seven were hanged “in the first days of harvest”—March or April. Their dead bodies were left exposed on a mountain. Rizpah guarded the seven bodies by day and by night until Jehovah showed by ending the drought that his anger had subsided. Any heavy downpour of rain would have been very unlikely before the completion of the harvest season in October. Hence, Rizpah may have kept up the vigil for as long as five or six months. Thereafter, David had the bones of the men buried.
24:1—Why did taking a count of people constitute a serious sin for David? The taking of a census was not in itself forbidden in the Law. (Numbers 1:1-3; 26:1-4) The Bible does not say what objective moved David to number the people. However, 1 Chronicles 21:1 indicates that Satan incited him to do so. In any event, his military chief, Joab, knew that David’s decision to register the people was wrong, and he tried to dissuade David from doing it.
Lessons for Us:
22:2-51. How beautifully David’s song portrays Jehovah as the true God, worthy of our implicit trust!
23:15-17. David had such a deep respect for God’s law on life and blood that on this occasion, he refrained from doing what even resembled a violation of that law. We must cultivate such an attitude toward all of God’s commands.
24:10. David’s conscience moved him to repentance. Is our conscience sensitive enough to respond in that way?
24:14. David well knew that Jehovah is more merciful than humans are. Do we have such conviction?
24:17. David felt regret that his sin brought suffering upon the entire nation. A repentant wrongdoer should feel remorse over the reproach his action may have brought upon the congregation.
Being ‘Agreeable to God’s Heart’ Is Within Our Reach
The second king of Israel proved to be ‘a man agreeable to Jehovah’s heart.’ (1 Samuel 13:14) David never questioned Jehovah’s righteous standards, and he did not seek to pursue a course of independence from God. Each time David erred, he acknowledged his sin, accepted discipline, and corrected his ways. David was a man of integrity. Are we not wise to be like him, particularly when we err?
The life story of David vividly illustrates that recognizing Jehovah’s sovereignty is a matter of accepting His standards of good and bad and striving to abide by them as integrity keepers. This is within our reach. How grateful we can be for the lessons we learn from the book of Second Samuel! The inspired message contained in its pages is, indeed, alive and exerts power.—Hebrews 4:12.
Even though Samuel did not have a part in writing it, the book bears his name because the two books of Samuel were initially one roll in the Hebrew canon. Samuel wrote a major part of First Samuel.
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Remembering who had firmly established him as king helped David to remain humble
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“Here I am raising up against you calamity out of your own house”