David unites the tribes and becomes the king of Israel. His reign is plagued by war and scandals.
SHOOT THE MESSENGER — 1:1-27
In 1 Samuel 31:4 we learned that Saul, after being seriously wounded by an Amalekite arrow, fell on his own sword so he would not die by enemy hands. Now we have a different story. This time a very foolish Amalekite messenger goes to David with Saul’s crown and armlet. He tells David of Saul’s and Jonathon’s death and how he found Saul leaning on his spear. He identifies himself to Saul as an Amalekite, yet Saul insists that the uncircumcised one finish him off. The Amalekite thought he would get favorable treatment but instead, David had him killed. In mourning Jonathan, David, referring to his sexual relationship with Jonathan, says, “your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women (1:26). In other words, it was better then female sex.
In the first account of Sauls death, he purposely fell on his sword because he did not want to be killed by the Amalekites. In the second, he asks an Amalekite to finish him off. The writer of 2 Samuel probably meant to mask the suicide.
A HOUSE DIVIDED — 2:1-4:12
After Saul’s death, the people of Judah anointed David king over the house of Judah. Saul’s commander, Abner, made Saul’s son, Ishbaal [Ish-Bosheth], king over the other tribes. One day, twelve young men from each tribe met at an oasis. They had what is called a contest in which each grabbed the other by the head and stabbed his opponent in the side. Asahel, from the house of David pursued Abner though Abner warned him to stop or face death. Asahel persisted so Abner killed him. War broke out between the two sides; twenty of David’s men died and 360 of Abner’s died in the imbroglio (2:1-32).
Comment: Deuteronomy 7:3,4 forbids marriage to gentiles.
Abner was having an affair with one of Saul’s mistresses. When Ishbaal scolded him, Abner took offense and defected. David accepted Abner but did not trust him. On his own, Joab, brother of Asahel, killed Abner to avenge his death. David grieved Abner’s death, which pleased his people (3:1-39).
Two of Ishbaal’s captains went into his house, killed him in his bed and cut off his head. When they brought Ishbaal’s head to David, they expected gratitude. Instead, David had them killed and displayed in public with hands and feet cut off (4:1-12).
THE TRIBES REUNITE — 5:1-25
David was anointed king over the twelve tribes. He was king of Judah for seven years and six months and king over all Israel for thirty-three years. David’s first act as king over all Israel was to take Jerusalem out of the hands of the Jebusites. The Jebusites once told David that even the lame and the blind could defeat him. You can presume bloodshed when David said that whoever kills a Jebusite should also kill the lame and the blind. Jerusalem became David’s permanent residence where he expanded his family of wives, mistresses and children. One son, Nathan, was a descendant of Jesus according to Luke 3:31. Another, Solomon, was a descendant of Jesus according to Matthew 1:7 (5:1-6). On two occasions, David had victorious encounters with the Philistines.
THE ARK OF GOD — 6:1-23
David had the ark of God [the covenant] retrieved from the house of Abinadab. Two of Abinadab’s sons transported the arc on an ox driven cart. During transport, one of Abinadab’s sons touched the ark to prevent it from falling; he was killed on the spot for breaking the law. David was afraid to take the ark into Jerusalem, so he took it to Obed-edom the Gittite where it remained for three months without mishap. What makes this remarkable is that a Gittite is a Philistine. Finally David got the nerve to bring the arc into Jerusalem. When the arc was safely in the tabernacle, David celebrated by dancing about in the buff. His wife, Machal, scolded David, "How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants' maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!" For that one act of self-respect, David never had sex with her again and she remained childless.
Comment: In Bibleworld, when God makes laws you never know when he is going enforce them. Mosaic Law prescribes special handling.
- Poles are provided for carrying. They should never be removed. (Ex 25:12-15)
- The ark must be carried on the shoulders; animals not allowed. (Num 7:9)
- Anyone who touches the ark will die. (Num 4:15)
- A Levite must carry the ark. (Deut 10:18)
There are only two Abinadabs mentioned in the Old Testament. One was a son of Saul 1 Sam 31:2); the other was a son of Jesse (1 Chr 2:13) and brother of David. Neither were Levites. Of four laws, only one was enforced.
THE PROPHET NATHAN SEES THE FUTURE — 7:1-29
Prophecies are one of the cornerstones of Bible mythology. To Jews, they predicted the future of a descendant of David, who with God’s help will elevate Judaism to the supreme religion of the entire world. To Christians, the Old Testament prophecies define Jesus whose legacy founded a new religion. That Jewish scripture predicted the coming of a Christian God is one of the Bible’s absurdities. Even for Jews, no descendant of David ever came to rescue them and none will either — David’s descendants are unknown.
This chapter is not listed as a Christian messianic prophecy, because it is distinctly Jewish. Christian theology maintains that the prophecy failed even though the Books of Matthew and Luke list different genealogies connecting Jesus to David. One of Christianity’s many contradictions is that Jesus cannot be a God or a Son of God and a descendant of David at the same time. Christians try to have it all ways.
What makes this prophecy one of the most important of Bibleworld prophecies is that David was one of God’s most trusted servants. Consulting with false prophets was not one of his failings. This was a bona fide prophecy; it wasn’t incidental to some other story as many messianic prophecies are. It has the weight of David’s reputation behind it. Christians disqualify Nathan because he does not define the future messiah as a Davidic ideal (Jesus); he defines him as a direct descendant of David. The crucifixion of a man would not impact on the Christian concept of sin.The only credit Nathan gets in this chapter is for telling David that his successor will build the temple. Nathan talks to David as if he was God’s medium.
7:9 — Everywhere you went, I defeated your enemies for you. I will make your name one of the greatest on earth.
7:10 — I will make a place for the people of Israel and they will not be disturbed by evildoers anymore.
7:11 — I will make you a house. [A dynasty]
7:12 — After you pass away, I will raise your offspring and establish his kingdom.
7:13 — He shall build a house for my name and I will establish his kingdom forever.
7:14 — I will be a father to him and he shall be a son to me.
7:14 — When he commits iniquity I will inflict punishment through mortals with rods.
7:15 — I will not withdraw my love as I did with Saul.
This was to be a new covenant. As Abraham was the father of all Jews, David was to be the father of the next Jewish king who will establish an everlasting kingdom; he will be the one to build a new temple. God will never withdraw his love but like a loving father, punish him when he sins. Solomon was to establish the kingdom-forever Nathan was referring to, not the Jesus of a thousand years later. Neither did Jesus build a house in God’s name and neither was Jesus charged with any iniquities. In 1 Chronicles 28:5-7, David confirms that the prediction applies to Solomon.
The New Testament applies this prophecy in Luke 1:32-36. The angel, Gabriel, tells Mary that she will have a son who will be an ancestor of David. He will establish a kingdom without end. Then Mary says, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel explains that the Holy Spirit will impregnate her. Instead of being a son to God as in 7:14, the new king will be called the Son of God. Within five sentences, Jesus has two fathers. In Bibleworld there was nothing new about divine pregnancies and about God having a son. As far back as Genesis 6:4 it is said that the sons of God had children through human women.
Always neglected in Christian mythology is what the Old Testament prophets say this future king will do with God’s help. David explains his God’s purpose in 7:23: “Who is like your people, like Israel? Is there another nation on earth whose God went to redeem it as a people, and to make a name for himself, doing great and awesome things for them, by driving out before his people nations and their gods?” The God of David was supposed to drive out the other gods, not become a new God. In 7:24: “And you established your people Israel for yourself to be your people forever; and you, O LORD, became their God.” As we will see, the God of David never lasted forever; he disappeared when Solomon died.
THE HOLY WAR CONTINUES — 8:1-18, 10:1-19)
David and his forces subdued the Philistines in the west. After he defeated the Moabites in the east, he made them all lie on the ground. Those who measured two lengths of cord were killed; at one length, they were kept as slaves. In the north, he took Zobah and Damascus. At Zobah he killed 1700 horsemen and 20,000 foot soldiers; he crippled all their chariot horses except for a hundred chariots. When the Arameans of Damascus came to help, David killed 22,000 of them. The rest he made slaves. In the south, he killed 18,000 Edomites and made the rest slaves.God gave victory to David wherever he went (8:1-18).
Comment: Moses, Joshua and Saul, were bound by God’s law as spelled out in Deut 7:1-2 and Deut 10-18. Basically the law says kill all; take no prisoners. Saul took one prisoner, the king of the Amalekites, and God eliminated him. Now we find that David is making slaves out of his enemies and God is supporting him. In Bibleworld, you never know when God is with you or against you.
David sent a friendly delegation into the land of the Ammonites. They were sent back with their beards were half shaved off and their pants removed. The Ammonites expected retaliation so they hired 33,000 mercenaries. David killed 700 chariot teams and 40,000 horsemen, more than the Ammonites hired (10:1-19).
DAVID THE ADULTERER AND MURDERER — 11:1-27
On the spring of one year, David remained in Jerusalem while he sent Joab to lead in his place. Late one afternoon he was walking on the roof of his house when he noticed a beautiful woman bathing; she was beautiful. He inquired and learned that her name was Bathsheba and she was married to Uriah, a Hittite and soldier in his army — most likely Basheba was a Hittite too. David sent for her; they had sex and became pregnant. Now Uriah was a loyal soldier, easy for David to take advantage of. Once, David sent him home, but Uriah would not leave the king’s house and go to his wife as long Joab and the others were out fighting. So to mask his lechery, David sent a letter to Joab: “Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting and then draw back from him, so that he may be struck down and die.” Days later, Joab sent a messenger to David to tell him news of the battle and that Uriah was killed. After Bathsheba mourned, David married her, and she bore him a son. According to Deut 7:1-4, all Hittites were to be destroyed. The penalty for associating with or even marrying Hittites was death. If this story is true then according to Matthew, Jesus is not a full-blooded Jew.
NATHAN RETURNS — 12:1-27
So God sent Nathan to David. Nathan told David a parable about a poor man and a rich man. The rich man had many flocks and herds but the poor man had one ewe lamb. The lamb was treated as a pet and one of the family. When a traveler visited the rich man, he was loath to feed the visitor with one of his own stock. So he took the poor man’s lamb. David was angry; “the man who has done this deserves to die.” To this, Nathan says, “You are the man!” Instead of congratulating David for living up to Deut 7:14, God is angry because he took the Hittite’s wife by having her husband killed. Instead of killing David, God forgives him and kills the baby instead. It God seven days to kill the baby. In that time, David pleaded, fasted and slept on the ground. When the baby died, David put it behind him and went back to eating and having sex with Bathsheba. When Solomon was born, God loved him (12:1-25).
The village of Rabbah, occupied by the Ammonites, was next to fall to the Israelite sword. They took a great amount of spoil and enslaved the Ammonites.
AMMON RAPES TAMAR — 13:1-39
David’s son, Amnon, fell in love with his sister Tamar. When Amnon related his love sickness to his friend Jonadab, Jonadab suggested a scheme to get close to her by pretending sickness. So Amnon feigned sickness. When David came to visit him, he asked for Tamar to come feed him. When Tamar came, Amnon pulled her down onto his bed. She pleaded for mercy but he raped her anyway. When he was done, he coldly chased her out of his room crying. She told her brother Absalom who began to hate Amnon for what he did. When David heard, he was angry but would do nothing because Amnon was his firstborn. Two years later, Absalom invited his father and brothers to a festive occasion. David declined, but relented to Absalom’s plea to at least Amnon to go with him. When Amnon was drunk, Absalom had him killed. Absalom then fled and remained in self-imposed exile for three years. David was more upset by Absalom’s exile then he was of Amnon’s death.
ABSALOM’S COUP — 14:1-
Joab sent a woman by the name of Tekoa to David with a fabricated story. She told David of her two sons who were fighting each other and one killed the other. Her family wants revenge against her surviving son but the loss would be terrible for her and her husband. She managed to extract a promise from David to protect her son. When she related the topic to Absalom, David got her to admit that Joab sent her. So David relented and sent Joab to find Absalom but did not want his son in his presence (14:1-23).
Absalom was a handsome man from head to toe. His hair was his special pride; he cut it only once a year when it reached the weight of five pounds. He lived in Jerusalem for two years without seeing his father. He had a wife, three sons and a daughter. One day he decided he wanted to see his father, so he sent for Joab twice, but Joab would not come. So Absalom set Joab’s barley field on fire to get his attention. It worked. Absalom humbly presented himself to David and David kissed him with fatherly affection (14:24-33).
After this, Absalom gathered fifty men to join him. He stood outside the city gate to intercept anyone who came to David for a judgment. Like a hand-shaking politician, he promised everyone that if he were judge, they would receive favorable judgment. By four years he became popular with the people of Israel. For David not to know, this story must have been concocted in a scriptwriter’s imagination. When Absalom asked David to go to Hebron to fulfill a vow, David told him to go in peace. 200 men followed, but they did not know what Absalom was up to. When he arrived his messengers announced with fanfare: “Absalom has become king at Hebron!” Hebron was where David was first crowned. The plan worked, for the coup grew in strength. It was large enough to scare David into fleeing from Jerusalem to avoid disaster but he left his ten concubines in the city (15:1-16).
This was an emotional period and a time of confusion, but David thought to send Hushai the Archite to deceive Absalom. Another close advisor to David was Ahithopel, but he took sides with Absalom. It was Ahithopel who advised Absalom to insult his father by having sex with his concubine; the embarrassment will strengthen his position. Then Absalom sought Hushai’s opinion. Hushai advised to seek help from all Israel; it takes a large force to defeat an expert warrior like David. Absalom accepted Hushai’s advice but Hushai sent messengers to tell David the plan. Ahithopel killed himself (15:17-17:23).
The two forces met in the forest of Ephraim, the servants of David against the men of Israel and Absalom. How many actually fought is not clear but it was reported that 20,000 men if Israel died by the sword. The forest with its rough terrain claimed even more lives. David ordered Joab and his commanders to be merciful with Absalom, but it was not to be. Absalom was found hanging by his head from the thick branches of a great oak; probably it was his thick hair that got him entangled. When Joab came to him, he impaled Absalom with three spears. Then ten of Joab’s men struck him even more until he died. The king wept and mourned over the loss of his son (17:24-18:33).
DAVID DIVORCES HIS WIVES — 21:1-3
In 19:13 David promoted Amasa to replace Joab, probably because he killed Absalom. The coup left hard feelings between the people of Israel and the people of Judah. David’s reaction to Absalom’s lecherous invasion of his concubine was to put them all under house guard. He provided for them but he never went near them again. “They were shut up until the day of their death, living as if in widowhood.”
SHEBA’S COUP AGAINST DAVID — 20:4-23
A Benjamite from the tribe of Saul by the name of Sheba led the people of Israel away from David. Now David was afraid that Sheba could be more a threat than Absalom. When he summoned Amasa to meet him in three days with some men from Judah. Amasa was late, so David sent Joab’s men with Joab in the group. When they met Amasa at Gibeon, Joab pretended to be friendly, but when he got close, he stabbed Amasa in the belly so violently that his entrails fell out. Joab and his men pursued Sheba to the walls of Abel-Beth-maacah. When Joab’s forces were battering the city walls to break it down, a so-called wise woman came to Joab and promised Sheba’s head if he would not knock down the wall. So the woman told her people of her agreement with Joab and her people threw Sheba’s head over the wall. And Joab left the city to take command of the army of Israel.
GIBEON JUSTICE — 20:1-14
In Joshua 9, the Gibeonites had saved themselves by tricking Joshua into an oath not to kill them; the Gibeonites then lived as slaves. Now a famine had spread throughout the land. After three years God told David that he was angry because Saul “put the Gibeonites to death.” There is no record of Saul killing any Gibeonites, so we don’t know when this dastardly deed took place or if God was acting out of pretense. If we wanted to find a reason why God would punish the people, the worst to be said is that they obeyed their king. To the Gibeonite survivors, David asked, “What do you say that I should do for you.” They responded, “let seven of his [Saul’s] sons be handed over to us, and we will impale them before the Lord at Gibeon on the mountain of the Lord.” So David gave seven of Saul’s sons to the Gibeonites and they were impaled during the early days of harvest time. One grieving mother stayed by her son’s corpses to keep the animals away. Whether the famine continued or abated, the Bible does not say, but we can be sure it made no difference.
Lev 18:21; 20:2 forbids human sacrifice and Deut 24:16 teaches that sons shall not be put to death for their fathers. Perhaps was a lawyer’s loophole — the Gibeonites were not descendants of Semites. Or maybe it was God’s arbitrariness. The law doesn’t apply when God says it doesn’t apply. But you can never know when it doesn’t apply.
MORE PHILISTINE GIANTS — 21:15-22
The Philistines produced another giant, Ishbibenob, who vowed to kill David. The Philistines produced three other giants; one of them had hands with six fingers and feet with six toes. They were all killed in the fighting.
DAVID’S PLAGUE — 24:1-
God was mad at the people of Israel for no stated reason — probably for no reason. So he told David to take a census of the people of Israel and Judah. (1 Chr 21:1 says Satan told David to take a census. Exodus 30:11-16 says Moses took a census at God’s direction. It was a tax, but God called it atonement money. The federal government takes one every ten years.) It took nine months and twenty days to count all the people. There were 800,000 Israel soldiers and 500,000 Judah soldiers. Now David was not always a fast thinker. When the count was in he realized he sinned, so he asked God to take away his guilt. God gave him three choices: three years of famine; three months of being chased by his foes; or three days of pestilence throughout the land.
Let there be no doubt that David had a strong sense of self-preservation. Better for his people to be killed by a merciful God then for him to be chased by humans, he thought. So God sent a pestilence that killed 70,000 people.When the angel was about to destroy Jerusalem, God stopped him. The avenging angel was then by the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite where David saw him. At the instructions of Gad the prophet, David bought the threshing floor, built the altar and made a few sacrifices — the plague stopped. There is no mention whether David stopped the plague before the third day.