Introduction to 2 Samuel
and Study of 2 Samuel 1-3
March 31st

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

Click here for a print- friendly version

2 Samuel (Overview)

The second book of Samuel (2 Samuel) chronicles the reign of David as king of Israel, which took place 1,000 years before the birth of Christ, perhaps between 1010 and 970 B.C.

The book is named after Samuel because he is the one who anointed David. Samuel had passed away, as noted in 1 Samuel 30, therefore he was not available to scribe the book and does not appear in it. However, his act of anointing is remembered when the time arrives to honor the new king. The author is unknown, but may have been Zabud, the son of the prophet Nathan. We will learn about Nathan when he demonstrates great courage in rebuking Davidís lack of moral clarity.

The main purposes of the book are to record the history of David and to teach us ideal qualities of leadership as exemplified by David. We can also learn to avoid the mistakes he made and follow his model of repentance when we do make mistakes. The book of 2 Samuel has two major sections, as shown below:

    Davidís Successes
    2 Samuel 1-3 (Crowning of King David) - March 31st
    2 Samuel 4-7 (The King Arrives in Jerusalem) - April 1st
    2 Samuel 8-10 (Promises Fulfilled) - April 2nd

    Davidís Struggles
    2 Samuel 11-13 (David's Big Mistake) - April 3rd
    2 Samuel 14-18 (Absalom's Rebellion) - April 4th
    2 Samuel 19-20 (Sheba's Rebellion) - April 5th
    2 Samuel 21-24 (The Appendix) - April 6th

References used for the analysis of this book include the following:

  • Abegg, Martin Jr., Flint Peter, and Ulrich, Eugene; The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible, HarperCollins Publishers, NY, NY, 1999
  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984
  • Bruggemann, Walter First and Second Samuel, Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1990
  • Draper, Robert, ďKings of Controversy,Ē National Geographic, December 2010, pages 72-91
  • Fee, Gordon D., Stuart Douglas, How to Read the Bible Book by Book, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2002
  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)
  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)
  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970
  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

2 Samuel 1-3 (Crowning of King David)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!
    In life and in death they were not divided;
they were swifter than eagles,
    they were stronger than lions.

- 2 Samuel 1:23

Summary of Chapters

The first three chapters of 2 Samuel describe the chaos that followed the death of Saul. First, David receives a falsified report regarding the death of Saul. The anointed king had died by falling on his own sword, not at the hands of the Amalekite who claimed to be the terminator. This Amalekite was probably a scavenger who happened to witness Saulís death and was quick enough to grab the crown Ė hoping to win favor with David. Subsequently, the tribe of Judah crowned David as king, but Saulís tribe of Benjamin and other tribes supported Saulís remaining son, Ish-Bosheth as king. Other tribes from the north joined with the tribe of Benjamin and an ugly civil war began. Abner remained with Saulís family as the chief commander of the armed forces and perhaps was the one in charge behind the scenes. Joab was his counterpart in Davidís army.

Eventually David and Abner negotiated a peace agreement that would unite the tribes. Abner emphasized to the Benjaminites that David was the true anointed one, but may have initiated this discussion for selfish reasons. Nevertheless, this agreement could bring an end to a long war in which the Israelites were killing each other. The agreement include a requirement for David to be reunited with his wife Michal (although he had four other wives), causing pain and loss for her other husband.

Joab was enraged when he heard that Abner had visited David and had been allowed to leave. He summoned Abnerís return and then murdered him in revenge because Abner had killed his brother in battle. David rebuked Joab and publicly mourned Abner so that all the people would know that the death of Abner was not something he had decreed.

    Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, ďTear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.Ē King David himself walked behind the bier. They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abnerís tomb. All the people wept also.

    - 2 Samuel 3:31-32 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

Does this strike you as an odd beginning to a book of the Bible? The first three chapters are filled with stories of deceit, war, and murder Ė and the moral hero is a man with five wives! Nevertheless, we have to trust that there is a reason that God has given us these chapters to study.

Biblical experts have concluded that the Amalekite who approached David with the crown of Saul was probably lying. The correct story was told in 1 Samuel 31: Saul had been mortally wounded in battle and then had literally fallen on his own sword to take his life. He had fallen on his sword in a figurative fashion earlier in the book when he began to disobey God. The result was a prolonged period of suffering that led up to his mortal death.

Meanwhile, David had waited patiently for his turn at king and was honorable to both Saul and Abner. He refused to take opportunities to murder them and sincerely wept at their deaths. Davidís action reminds us of the importance of grieving. The news about Saul meant that the path was cleared for him to be king. The news of Abnerís death signified a serious blow to the opposing kingdom. He could have elected to celebrate on both occasions. But instead he instinctively decided to stop everything and mourn his best friend, his king, and his worthy opponent. He was strong enough to kill a giant, but not too proud to weep in front of his men and his subjects on both occasions.

Itís important for us to pause our own busy lives, accept the fact that events and emotions are beyond our control, and then stop to grieve when a member of our tribe has died. Grieving allows us to honor and celebrate the life of our deceased brother or sister and allows us to achieve newness.

If you are looking for examples on how to love your enemy then you can include David on your list. However, he was not a perfect man. In addition to loving his enemies he also loved many wives and in some cases became enemies of their husbands. But we should seek to follow his example in waiting patiently, honoring his enemies, and allowing God to take revenge.

Joab had failed to learn Davidís lessons on vengeance. Instead, he became Dirty Joab, ignored Godís law, and became cursed for it. The original Hebrew text of the Ten Commandments uses the word ďmurderĒ to define a forbidden deed. This word is understood to mean a cold-blooded act not conducted in defense or in the theatre of war. We should all seek a world with peace and no war, but the reality of Davidís world and our world is that these conflicts take place. Abner had killed Joabís brother, but it was in battle, with both men armed. In fact, the brother was pursuing Joab. Joab tried to send him away, but the brother refused and Abner defended himself.

Can enemies become friends? One of the clients I work with is a Japanese bank with an office in New York. I observe the Japanese and American people working side by side and am amazed when I consider that only two generations ago our grandfathers were bitter enemies, killing each other with bombs, guns, and knives. Now we live and work together in harmony. Let us continue to pray for world peace and let God handle the revenge against those who have wronged us in our own lives.

If you are interested in a story of reconciliation between American and Japanese military men, I recommend the book Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, by James Bradley. The end of the book includes a scene in which former President G.W. Bush (aka Bush I) returns to the location where his plane was shot down in WWII. He meets a former Japanese soldier who had observed the crashing of the plane and witnessed the last minute rescue that saved airman Bush from becoming a POW. Among other quotes, the book records a selection from a speech delivered by Bush during a remembrance ceremony at Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1991: ďI hold no rancor in my heart for my former enemy(1).Ē

We received a comment from one of our readers who has two decades of experience working with Japanese counterparts in financial institutions in Japan and the United States. He concurs with the points raised above and adds the following:

    "While Flyboys was good Unbroken is a even better book that highlights eventual forgiveness after brutal experiences in a Japanese POW camp."

The book Unbroken, authored by Laura Hillenbrand, chronicles the experiences of the athlete Louis "Louie" Zamperini, who served in the Air Force and became a POW during World War II. The book was made into a movie, which was released in 2014. You can see a trailer at the YouTube object below:

Trailer for "Unbroken"

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. When was the last time you heard conflicting reports on an important current event?
    2. What is the best thing that we can do during a time of mourning?
    3. How do we gather the strength to sincerely love our enemy and leave revenge to the LORD?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that you know the truth about all things. Forgive us for any times where we tried to hide the truth or when we ignored the truth. Please help us to be honest with each other and properly mourn those gone before us.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    Prayers for our enemies


    (1) Bradley, James, Flyboys: A True Story of Courage, Back Bay Books, New York, Boston, 2003, page 333

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Samuel 4-7 (The King Arrives in Jerusalem)

    Comments and Questions
    If you have comments or questions, please add them to our Comments page, email to the author at, or share your comments or questions via the Listening for God Twitter account

    Click to follow Listening for God(@listeningforgod)