You will find an introduction and outline to 2 Samuel, here.
A prayer to use before you read from the Book of Common Worship:
God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out upon us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that, being taught by you in Holy Scripture, our hearts and minds may be opened to know the things that pertain to life and holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
An Outline of 2 Samuel, from Birch and Gunn:
A. David’s Kingdom Established 1:1-8:18
B. 2 Samuel 9:1-20:26 David’s Family and David’s Throne
9:1-13 Mephibosheth, Son of Jonathan
10:1-12:31 War, Adultery, and Murder
13:1-14:33 Rape, Murder, and Exile
13:1-22 Amnon Rapes Tamar: This is a hard story to read. It has been called “a text of terror” (Phyllis Trible). Recall Nathan’s pronouncement to David ( chapter 12). Tamar, unlike Bathsheba does speak and act in this story. Nevertheless, this is still a man’s world. Tamar quickly gives two arguments against Amon’s intented actions, one that Israel’s social and moral principles would be violated. Second that she and Amnon would have their reputations ruined. Lastly, Tamar suggests that they ask the king to arrange their marriage. This idea seems odd and unpalatable to modern persons but reflects the reality of the times. As a woman, she is essentially powerless, but marriage at least preserves her honor. Amnon does not listen to her. After the rape, he orders Tamar out of his presence. Amnon, in this story, is defined by his feelings and desires. Tamar again tries to salvage something out of this terrible situation. According to the law (Ex 22:16-16; Deut 22:28-29) Amnon must marry her. Otherwise she faces a future of shame, unable to marry and have children. Amnon does not listen. Tamar will not be silent. She might have tried to keep what happened quiet but she does not. What do you think of Absalom and David’s response? They appear to be more concerned with public appearances and politics than with Tamar.
13:23-39 Absalom Kills Amnon: After two years Absalom avenges Tamar by killing Amnon. The text is unclear whether this was planned or if Absalom took advantage of an opportunity. Notice that Absalom, like David with Uriah, does not kill directly but relies on others to do his bidding. The report of what happened grows and David is advised that Absalom has killed all David’s sons. Jonadab- the one who aided Amnon in the rape of Tamar- tells the king that only Amnon is dead. Absalom flees to his maternal grandfather, Talmai for three years.
14:1-33: The Restoration of Absalom: Joab contrives to have Absalom reconciled to David. Some scholars believe that verses 15-17 are out of place and belong after verse 7. The woman from Tekoa, who Joab sends to David, recalls Nathan’s parable to David. David takes pity on the woman and compromises on the practice of blood vengeance. As he did when Nathan confronted him, David acts and Absalom can come home. But they are not completely reconciled, David does not want to see Absalom. In verse 27 we are told that Absalom has three sons and one daughter. We would expect the sons to be named but we are told only the daughter’s name- Tamar. What does that suggest to you? After another two years Absalom takes steps for further reconciliation. Joab, is loyal to David and not Absalom, and it takes an extreme act to get Joab’s attention. Joab accomplishes what Absalom asks, but we are not told how. Notice how the reconciliation is told. “the king” is the one who kisses Absalom, not his father David. What does that imply?
15:1-16:14 Rebellion and Exile:
15:1-12: The Seeds of Revolt: Absalom takes on the articles of a royal prince- chariots, horses, and men (soldiers?). Absalom also places himself by the gate where he can build support for himself and foster discontent with David. Absalom is patient, he waits four years before he acts. He has secret messengers throughout Israel. Blowing a ram’s horn was part of the enthronement ritual. Hebron was an ancient Yahwistic shrine and the capital of the tribe of Judah. Absalom was born in Hebron and David was anointed king over Israel and Judah there. The two hundred guests that Absalom brings with him (v11) are in a difficult position. They are away from Jerusalem where they might have been able to safely disavow Absalom and pledge loyalty to David. But now to David, it must seen that they have supported Absalom.
15:13-16:14 The Retreat from Jerusalem: Once again David finds himself fleeing for his life. David appears to have mostly non-Israelite forces left. David tells Ittai the Gittite commander that they do not need to follow David. But Ittai stays with David. The language of this dialogue recalls the dialogue between Ruth and Naomi. Ittai the foreigner is loyal, where Absalom the son is not. In verses 24-30 David encounters the priests who have the ark with them. David sends the priests and the ark back to Jerusalem. He realizes his future is in God’s care and cannot be affected by carrying the ark around as if it were his to command. In verse 30 what is described is a penitential procession, not a military retreat. David in this portion of the story reminds us of the younger David, who when he fled Jerusalem depended and relied upon God. But David also is not passive, he sends the priests and Hushai into the city to be his sources of information about Absalom’s activities. In 16:1-4 Ziba the servant of Saul and Mephibosheth- Jonathan’s son- re enters the story. Ziba will side with David but tells David that Mephibosheth is on Absalom’s side. But why would Mephibosheth imagine that Absalom’s victory would restore Saul’s kingdom? David encounters other supporters of Saul who curse him. Some of David’s followers want to respond with violence, but David forbids it. Recall in 1 Sam 26:8-9 and 2 Sam 3:30,39 that David has had do restrain Abishai’s actions before. Again, David decides to rely on God.
16:15-17:23 Debate, Message and Escape:
16:15-23 The Strategies of Ahithophel and Hushai: Hushai, following David’s instructions is in Jerusalem and meets Absalom. Hushai must convince Absalom that he will be loyal to Absalom, but notice his use of language. He says “Long live the king” but does not say which king. He pledges loyalty to the one chosen by “the Lord, by these people, and by all the men of Israel” again not saying who exactly he thinks that is. Eventually he must tell a lie- ‘ I will serve you’ (v19). Absalom asks Ahithophel what he should do next and Ahithophel’s advice is given serious status (v23). Ahithophel gives advice that fulfills Nathan’s oracle against David (12:11-12). Absalom’s actions, “he went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” serves to publicly humiliate David and to defy David as king. Notice that this happens on the roof, just as in with David and Bathsheba.
In these chapters, David is portrayed differently than he has been in the previous chapters. David now is more like the David of earlier in the story. Why do you think that is?
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of 2 Samuel
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Birch, Bruce C., “The First and Second Books of Samuel, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 2 Keck, Leander E., ed. (Nashville”Abingdon Press) 1994.
Gunn, David M. “2 Samuel” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
McKenzie, Steven L, “2 Samuel” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Aporcryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Fully Revised 4 th Edition, Michael Cougan, ed. (New York:Oxford University Press) 2010.
Stinespring, William F. and Burke O. Long “2 Samuel” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds.(New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.