Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Reading in Samuel This Week #4 (2 Sam. 13-24)

Second Samuel Structure Chart

Samuel coverThis week we finish the reading through Samuel (sort of, since Kings is a continuation of Samuel) accompanied by 1 and 2 Samuel, The College Press NIV Commentary, by James E. Smith.  The second part of the book of 2nd Samuel tells the story of David facing the consequences of his sin with Bathsheba, along with his focus on wives, violence and gold, that will ultimately bring division and disaster to the nation. The previous posts on Samuel can be seen here, here and here. I am posting quotes from the book on my Facebook page on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday (NT is Mon-Wed-Fri) and we can discuss comments and questions about the passage there. As usual, quotes from the commentary are in blue below…

As the story continues, David has set up a chaotic atmosphere for the succession process to begin after his affair with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. The text immediately attributes the death of Bathsheba's son to God as punishment for David's sin and a very visible example to the nation, that though David was forgiven, even the king cannot escape the consequences of abuse of authority. David's repentance is real and he is fully forgiven (Solomon's birth is the indication of this), but this sin will set the course for the civil wars that will follow within the next few years and will lead to the division of the nation after Solomon.

David pleaded with God for the life of the child. He fasted and slept on the ground...This was David’s acknowledgment before all his subjects of his iniquity and of his sorrow for it. He assumed the position of a condemned criminal. His grief was for his own sin as well as for the condition of the child. 2 Samuel 12.15-17, 431

They named the child Solomon (“the peaceful”). David regarded the birth of this child as a pledge that he should now become a partaker again of peace with God...The giving of such a name was a declaration on the part of Yahweh that he loved Solomon. From this David discerned that he had been restored to fellowship with the Lord. 2 Samuel 12.24-25, 432

One cannot help but think that David's older sons were watching David's actions, and now, take action themselves in the same way, and with even worse results. Amnon thinks that he now can get away with raping his sister and David will not take action. He is right. When David takes no action, Absalom assumes the role of law enforcement and kills his brother, David's oldest son. Absalom then runs away to Geshur and spends three years as an exile. What makes this crime even more heinous, in the text, is the words the brothers use to mask their evil schemes from their father. Amnon calls Tamar "my sister," and Absalom refers to Amnon as "my brother" to get access to commit their crimes. David has now lost 3 sons in the wake of the Bathsheba affair.

When David heard about what had happened he was furious. Unfortunately, he took no action against Amnon. The Narrator refers to David by his title King which points to the irony of his impotence in respect to punishing his son for the crime. 2 Samuel 13.20-22, 440

The story turns with the return of Absalom, as he sets David's own tribe in rebellion against the throne. Joab conspires to return Absalom from exile, but David refuses to forgive him until Joab again tricks him into pardoning Absalom. Absalom immediately begins a 4 year campaign to "steal the hearts" of the leaders and people of Judah to turn them against an ever more remote David. Absalom then launches his rebellion from Hebron (the city where David declared himself king). This reignites the old rivalry between the Southern and Northern tribes which will end in the division of the kingdom after the reign of Solomon. David flees Jerusalem and Absalom pitches a tent on the roof of the palace and violates David's concubine wives (probably where David viewed Bathsheba for the first time), in order to show publicly that there was no turning back from the conflict.

Absalom played the role of the people’s prince...Using the favorite trick of the demagogue, he treated every person as his friend and equal. Simple people must have been greatly impressed by the way this prince treated them. Stole the hearts refers not so much to their affections (he already had that), but stole their understanding, i.e., he deceived or duped them. 2 Samuel 15.5-6, 452

David encouraged Zadok to take the ark of God back into Jerusalem. He had no superstitious feelings about the need to have the ark with him as apparently Saul did. David placed himself in the hands of the Lord. If he found favor in God’s eyes, he would bring David back to see that ark. His dwelling place refers to Jerusalem in general and the tent where the ark was kept in particular. If the Lord was not pleased with him, then David was prepared to endure whatever might lie ahead. Sending the ark back to Jerusalem was for him an act of faith and an act of surrender to the will of the Lord. 2 Samuel 15.25-26, 456–457

The underlying assumption in v. 10 is that Shimei’s curses were the result of the irresistible power of Yahweh. 2 Samuel 16.10, 461

The next two chapters continue the story of Absalom's rebellion. Absalom has gathered all the Northern tribal leaders to his side to get their advice on the battle along with Ahithophel and Hushai. This would indicate that David did not have a good relationship with the North. This may have been because David did not allow these traditional tribal leaders any voice in the government. Ahithophel gives his usual good advice, but Hushai, to protect David, appeals to Absalom's vanity and urges them to pursue a full scale military operation with Absalom in the lead. During the delay David musters his army and prepares his defenses. Absalom is soundly defeated. Joab kills Absalom despite David's command to spare him. David's guilt has precluded him from making sound strategic decisions regarding his son and this will plague him throughout the remaining years of his kingship.

Ahithophel had given the right advice. Yahweh, however, used Hushai’s persuasive abilities to frustrate that good advice in order to bring disaster on Absalom. 2 Samuel 17.14-16, 467

Absalom was slain not so much out of Joab’s personal revenge for property damage inflicted by Absalom (2 Sam 14:30), but out of a sense of public duty. Events had convinced Joab that he had been wrong in thinking that Absalom was the son who should succeed David. He did not believe that the king would be safe nor the kingdom at peace so long as that turbulent prince was alive. 2 Samuel 18.14-16, 476–477

The soldiers threw Absalom’s body into a big pit in the forest...David’s men piled up a large heap of rocks over him as a monument to shame over the rebel’s grave...Absalom had erected a monument in the King’s Valley near Jerusalem. He thought this monument would perpetuate the memory of his name since he had no son to do so...That pillar was called Absalom’s Monument. This fact is mentioned to underscore the contrast between this splendid cenotaph, and the heap of stones which marked the rebel’s grave in the forest of Ephraim. Thus two memorials sum up the life story of Absalom. 2 Samuel 18.17-18, 477

Though David had won the battle chaos ensued. David's grief over Absalom almost cost him his entire army. There was still tremendous rivalry between the leaders and soldiers of Judah and those of Israel. In addition the people who had followed David greatly mistrusted those who had rebelled with Absalom. David makes several wise compromises and concessions to bring the sides back together, but these compromises will have later have consequences that trouble the nation. It is amazing how David's great sin had so many far and wide reaching consequences. It not only cost him the death of 4 sons, and the deaths of many loyal followers, but it directly led to the division of the nation 40 years later.

Trouble and discontent would certainly have followed an attempt on David’s part to punish any of his enemies, and there might even have been armed resistance to his crossing. This was a day of celebration that David was still king in Israel. So the king asserted his royal authority. There would be no executions to mar the joy of that day. David took the risk of granting Shimei on oath a free pardon in spite of his earlier reprehensible conduct. 2 Samuel 19.16-23, 486

The Absalom rebellion had started in the tribe of Judah, and that tribe had been tardy in returning to their allegiance to David. Now they were fiercely loyal. Israel, which joined the Absalom rebellion belatedly, and which first proposed the return of David, now was in the forefront of rebellion. 2 Samuel 20.2, 492

The final four chapters of 2 Samuel are an appendix written with a chiastic structure. It is not written in chronological order, with some stories from early in David's reign and others from the end. 23.1-7 may be David's last written Psalm, while 22 was probably written very early in his reign. These psalms are the focus of the section and celebrate God's past deliverance and care for David while looking forward to the fulfillment of God's covenant with him. The lists of David's heroes celebrate the men God brought around him to accomplish God's plan for David. The outer part of the structure describes two incidents of judgment on the nation which David (at least in the end) handles with justice and dependence on God. This will segue into the books of Kings as David buys the plot of land on which the temple will be built.

The compilers intended for the history of David to be read theologically, i.e., in the light of this psalm. It is not David, the great and powerful king, upon whom readers should focus, but David’s great and powerful God. 2 Samuel 22, 509

The deliverance from his enemies was a reward for David’s righteousness (right living). These words are not intended as boasting, but as testimony to the faithfulness of Yahweh to guard and reward those who are faithful. David found in the divine mercies towards himself clear evidences of his standing with God. 2 Samuel 22.21-25, 513

David’s family was in the right relationship with God. This is indicated by the fact that God had made an everlasting covenant with David. God’s covenants contain promises and commitments to his people. Arranged and secured in every part indicates that this covenant had been formulated with legal correctness and was valid. It had been secured against every form of tampering. It covered every contingency. 2 Samuel 23.5, 521

The book ends with the foolish and arrogant census of David. David is punished for this and Israel is punished for their rebellions under Absalom and Sheba. The ending sets up the beginning of the books of Kings as David purchases the threshing floor for an altar. This will be the very spot where Solomon will build the temple. This will be the focus of 1 Kings.

David realized that the census was (1) an act of arrogance, (2) a manifestation of distrust of Yahweh, and (3) the action of a worldly king, not the anointed of the Lord. He confessed his sin to God. David asked that he might be forgiven of the foolish thing he had ordered. 2 Samuel 24.9-10, 536

David would accept no gifts from Araunah. He would not offer a sacrifice to the Lord which cost him nothing, for that would contradict the essential concept of sacrifice. David pointedly refers to Yahweh as my God. This is the principle which underlies all true sacrifice and all real giving to God. 2 Samuel 24.24, 541

So the Samuel material began at the “temple” of God in Shiloh (1 Sam 1:9) and concludes at the site of the future temple in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 24.25, 541

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