2 Samuel - Introduction
Second Samuel and First Samuel were originally a single work, so that the information about date and composition in the Introduction to 1 Samuel (pp. 398–99 HB ) pertains to 2 Samuel as well. Second Samuel continues the focus on David that began in 1 Sam 16 . But David's situation changes radically from what it was in 1 Samuel. He rises quickly to fill the power vacuum left by Saul's death (2 Sam 1.1–5.5 ), becoming king first over Judah and then over Israel. The pro‐Davidic, apologetic character of 1 Samuel continues in these chapters as those who stand in David's way perish, though never by David's hand or order. David then conquers Jerusalem, establishing it as his capital, and moves the ark of the covenant there (chs 5–6 ). He proposes building a temple and is rewarded with the promise of an enduring dynasty (ch 7 ). Further wars, however, delay the temple building until the reign of Solomon ( 7.13; chs 8 and 10; 1 Kings 5.3 ).
The annihilation of Saul's line secures David's hold on the throne. (The story in 21.1–14 may once have preceded ch 9 .) Only Mephibosheth, Jonathan's crippled son, remains alive, and David keeps a watchful eye on him by bringing him to the royal court (ch 9 ). The real dangers to David's kingship, however, spring from his own weaknesses and his own family. Chapters 11–12 narrate David's adultery with Bathsheba and the resulting condemnation by the prophet Nathan. Chapters 13–19 present the revolt by David's son Absalom as punishment for David's sin. Another revolt, led by Sheba, follows in ch 20 . The book then ends with a miscellaneous collection of stories and poems in chs 21–24 .
The major critical issues in 2 Samuel revolve around chs 9–20 . These chapters (or in some views chs 13–20 ) and 1 Kings 1–2 have been dubbed the “Court History” or “Succession Narrative” (after its perceived intention of dealing with the question of who David's successor would be). Although many scholars have viewed it as almost contemporaneous with the events it narrates, the dimensions and early date of this material have been questioned recently. It is impossible to extract these chapters cleanly from the surrounding narrative and to see them as a separate source; there are, for example, ties between chs 9–20 and chs 2–4 , such as the description of Mephibosheth's injury in 4.4 and 9.3 and the importance of the “sons of Zeruiah,” David's general Joab and his brothers.
Scholars also disagree about the perspective on David in these chapters. Some point to his adultery and his inability to control his children and argue that the Court History paints both David and the monarchy in a very negative light. Others contend that the pro‐Davidic, apologetic flavor of 1 Samuel continues in that Joab and the “sons of Zeruiah” are blamed for the murders of David's enemies—Abner ( 3.26–30 ), Absalom ( 18.1–15 ), Amasa ( 20.4–10 )—while David is too conscientious for such deeds ( 3.39; 16.10; 19.22 ) and is deeply grieved by their deaths ( 3.31–37; 18.22–19.8 ). The story of David's adultery might then be taken as a later addition, negatively coloring the perspective on David (note that Absalom's revolt has its own cause in Amnon's rape of Tamar in ch 13 ). Alternatively, it has been argued that David's repentance at the end of that story is exemplary, and is immediately accepted ( 12.13 ). Perhaps it is best to say that 2 Samuel in its current form depicts David as a complex, ambiguous character.