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.
A. David’s Kingdom Established 1:1-8:18
I. 2 Samuel 1:1-5:10 David Becomes King
1:1-27 The News of Saul’s Death
2:1-5:5 The Gift of the Kingdom:
5:1-5 David Made King by Israel: This important moment, the union of Judah and Israel under David’s rule receives a very brief mention. Israel comes to David, at least in part, because they are out of options. Ishbosheth and Abner are both dead. Notice how in Verse 2 Saul’s authority is replaced by David’s. David is also referred to as shepherd. That was a common way of talking about kings in the ancient Near East. We also recall David’s humble beginnings as a shepherd boy.
II. 2 Samuel 5:6-8:18 David Consolidates His Kingdom: Section 5:11-8:18 seem anticlimactic after the dramatic story of Samuel, Saul, and David. These chapters lack a thematic unity and appear to be a collection of independent narratives. That does not mean these chapters have no narrative arc. The chapters begin with a list of David’s family and ends with a list of David’s official. The Philistines are defeated thus making the kingdom secure. The ark is brought to Jerusalem and Nathan gives the prophecy of David’s dynasty and the kingdom expands. There is a shift from tribal life and structure to kingdom life and structure.
5:6-10 David Captures Jerusalem: Now that David is king over the northern and southern territories of Israel, he captures Jerusalem and makes it his capital, the city of David.We do not know why David does this. It might be that he wanted a location between Judah and Israel, neutral ground. The verses having to do with the capture of Jerusalem have some textual and translation problems which make them hard to understand. Never the less, the main point, the conquest of Jerusalem is clear. As time passes a royal theology develops which has two foci; that God has chosen David and his heirs to rule Israel and that Jerusalem is the holy habitation of God.
5:11-25 Economic and Political Security: Now David receives what are essentially ambassadors from the king of Tyre. Scholars think that the bringing of cedar is part of a trading agreement, even though we are not told what Israel trades. Cedar was a symbol of wealth. David defeats Israel’s long time enemy the Philistines. This telling of the story does not reflect what was probably a longer and more complex story. But notice that David continues to enquire of the Lord before he acts. David, also like a king, acquires wives and concubines. There relationships often serve to solidify alliances.
6:1-23: David Brings the Ark to Jerusalem: Bringing the ark to Jerusalem serves to establish and legitimize David’s rule. Jerusalem is both the royal capital and the religious center of the kingdom. Remember that the ark is they main symbol of God’s presence with Israel. Until now the ark, while not lost, did seem to have been neglected. Recall that the loss of the ark was the end of the house of Eli. Psalm 132 is a liturgical remembrance of this event. Notice what a joyful event this was. Verses 6-11 are disturbing and confusing to us. Why would Uzzah die if he was trying to help keep the ark safe? The ark is holy and powerful and dangerous and thus not to be handled casually. David is upset with God but also afraid and does not being the ark into Jerusalem. Beginning with verse 12 notice how David is now “in charge” of the ark. He brings it to Jerusalem, he sacrifices, he leads the public celebration, he blesses the people and gives them food. For reasons that are not clear, Michal despises David’s dancing. She seems to feel it is unseemly and vulgar. In 1 Sam 18:20 we were told that Michal loved David but since then she has been essentially a pawn taken away from David and given to another man and then taken from that man and “returned” to David. Notice how she is referred to as “daughter of Saul” and that she is childless ( a sign that either Michal or David separate from each other and also a sign of divine disfavor). The house of Saul and the house of David are not united.
7:1-17 Nathan’s Dynastic Oracle: David, living comfortably in a fine house, wished to build a house for the Lord. Initially Nathan approves but then has a dream that tells him otherwise. God does not need or want a house. God has chosen David and his house and God’s steadfast love will remain with them forever. The Hebrew word “bayit” used in this chapter can mean “house”, “dwelling”, “Palace”, “Temple”, or “dynasty”. So every time we read one of these words in this chapter we should also consider the other meanings and think about the relationship between them. What is said, explicitly and implicitly, about the relationship between the temple and the kingship? Why do you think David is not to build the temple, but his son will? Some think it is an explanation for the fact that David did not build the temple. Others think this sequence helps give legitimacy to the dynasty and succession as part of God’s will. God’s presence is not dependent on a building ( reflecting divine freedom verses the human desire to contain and control) and God’s promises to David endure even through difficult times. The covenant between God and Moses was conditional- if… then… This covenant does not displace that covenant but is in continuity with God’s previous faithfulness to Israel. This covenant with David is unconditional and everlasting. What are the implications of God’s unconditional love and grace for Israel and for us?
7:18-29 The Prayer of David: Previously David’s prayer has been portrayed as spontaneous and more conversational. This prayer is quite formal. Notice that David is both deferential and boldly reminds God to keep God’s promises. Notice what words or phrases are repeated. What do you think of this prayer?
8:1-14 David’s Victories: This section is not so much story as a listing of military triumphs. These events probably took place over years during David’s reign, even though this listing makes it seem otherwise. Notice v 6 and 14, “the Lord gave victory to David wherever he went”, yet verse 13 says “David won a name for himself”. What is implied about divine power and human power? David is expanding his kingdom rather than securing its security.
8:15-18 The Officers of David’s Court: Verse 15 tells us David was just and did what was right. Then we have a listing of important figures. We have shifted from family to officials in these chapters. David’s doing what was just and right for all the people also implies a shift from tribal loyalties to responsibilities for the entire kingdom. Notice now there is an army loyal to the king (not a tribe). Recorders have control over records and document, not least to do with taxation. Secretary is more akin to secretary of state and adviser. David’s sons are listed as priests in the NRSV and royal advisers in the NIV. Scholars are unsure what to make of this. Perhaps the sons were priests within the household. They did not seem to act publicly as priests.
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.