The Bible: Samuel 2

It’s been a while since my last Bible post, but I am determined to get through the whole thing, even if there is no way I’ll manage my original finish-it-in-a-year goal. (It seemed so easy at the time!) Anyway:

Apparently the reason why there are two-part books in the bible sometimes (Samuel 1, Samuel 2; with Kings 1, Kings 2 and Chronicles 1, Chronicles 2 to come) is because these books were too long to be written on individual scrolls as they originally were. These books are literally scroll 1 of the text and scroll 2 of the text, separated into two parts for practical convenience rather than from narrative intent. This explanation helps a lot with understanding the naming conventions because by the time we get to Samuel 2, the character Samuel is dead some chapters back.

In Samuel 1, we are introduced to David as the plucky rebel who is gets quite the reputation for defeating enemies and surviving assassination attempts by King Saul, and being generally much beloved by the populace.

In Samuel 2, David is now king and it’s maybe a lesson that plucky rebel types do not necessarily make the best kings. In particular, the king in these circumstances (intermittent civil war and periodic invasions) needs to be fairly ruthless (according to his advisers.) If he’s not willing to kill potentially traitorous friends and family, then his advisers are more than willing to do so in his stead and against his wishes.

At this point we’ve got an emotional king who will dance lasciviously in the streets when he’s happy (chapter 6), rend his clothes and refuse to eat when sad (chapter 12), and willing to send a soldier on a suicide mission so as to marry the widow (chapter 11). He’s supported by Joab, a politically practical and ruthless adviser more than willing to kill people with whom the king has already promised peace. The neighboring kingdoms are understandably wary.

Also, King David’s son Absalom tries to take over, and part of this is sleeping with all of his father’s wives. Urg. There is much conspiring by various individuals on both sides. King David, however, manages to send out his army to fight Absalom’s army while also instructing his army to be gentle with his son.

So King David’s army manages to defeat Absalom’s army and find Absalom* but then sort of wander around wondering what to do about the guy who just lead an unsuccessful rebellion but who their king wants treated gentle. Joab pulls out his daggers and kills Absalom where he hangs (chapter 18). Then Joab rides back to Jerusalem, where King David is in deep mourning for his son Absalom. Joab tells him that David is going to stop that mourning, get up and start celebrating with the returning troops or Joab is going to be leading the next rebellion. King David hops to it (chapter 19).

Anyway, civil unrest and external warfare continues, and King David sings a song of praise for the lord that is particularly questionable given the juxtaposition with actual events.

Plus, in chapter 24, David decides to hold a census, Joab argues that counting the population is an insult to God, and God is so incensed by David’s decision to go ahead that he sends a plague to kill 70, 000 men over the course of three days. David builds a special alter to the Lord and the plague finally stops.

Summary: David makes for a wishy-washy king and there is a bunch of civil unrest.

Moral: I don’t even know.

* Absalom managed to ride his mule under a tree, get his neck caught on a branch, and have his mule wander off without him. He’s just sort of swinging there trying to get down while his father’s army wonders what to do about him. Hahahaha!

Next up: Kings 1

One comment on “The Bible: Samuel 2

  1. Ben Kuipers says:

    If you haven’t already, you need to read “God Knows” by Joseph Heller (of Catch-22 fame), which is about the musings in old age of King David.

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