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The Access Bible New Revised Standard Bible, written and edited with first-time Bible readers in mind.

2 Samuel - Introduction

The book of 2 Samuel is the continuation of 1 Samuel in the Deuteronomistic History* (see the introduction to 1 Samuel). The first half of the book relates how David, after Saul's death (2 Sam 1 ), became king of Judah (ch. 2 ) and then Israel (ch. 5 ). It tells how he built a small empire through military conquest and how he established a capital and a dynasty * in Jerusalem. The LORD's promise to David of an eternal dynasty (ch. 7 ) is a key passage in the Deuteronomistic History. It brings together the themes of Jerusalem as the divinely chosen center for worship and the Davidic line as the chosen family of kings in Judah. The second half of the book describes David's problems, which are all political problems within Israel and arise from within David's extended family. These include his adultery with Bathsheba (chs. 11–12 ), the rape of Tamar and murder of Amnon (ch. 13 ), and the revolts of Absalom and Sheba (chs. 13–20 ). This last section at least has been judged by scholars to have been an independent unit known as the “Succession Narrative” or “Court History.” It lacks signs of deuteronomistic style and seems therefore to have been separate in some way from the Deuteronomistic History. There is no consensus about where it begins, however (some say ch. 9 , others 2.8–4.12 ), and the once widely held view that the “Succession Narrative” represented realistic history can no longer be sustained.

The date and setting of 2 Samuel are, of course, the same as for 1 Samuel. Scholars are of two minds, however, about how the message of the book addresses its context. Some believe that the book, especially its second half, continues the defense of David evident in 1 Samuel as a way of promoting at least the hope in the restoration of the monarchy. Others, however, see it as strongly anti-Davidic, in opposition to any attempt to reinstitute kingship in Israel. A great deal hinges on how the story in 2 Sam 11–12 is understood.

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