Reflections on 2 Samuel 11-24

I’m reading through the Bible in a year, and every month I (try to) post about what I’ve read. Other posts this month are on 1 Samuel , 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians and Galatians. This post is continued from 2 Samuel 1-10.

11:1-12:31

David falls. The best of men are men at best, as Alistair Begg says. David commits adultery with the wife of a man who’s away fighting David’s battles (which incidentally he should have been fighting too). It would seem that he forgot all about it until she sent word that she was expecting. David sends for the soldier, Uriah, and tries to get him into bed with his wife. The narrator portrays Uriah as having a more noble character than David, whose plans fail. He then orders Joab (remember him?) to place Uriah in a position where he’ll be killed in battle. This plan succeeds, and Bathsheba becomes David’s wife. It would seem that he’s gotten away with it until you read the last sentence in chapter 11: “But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.”

After all the sending in chapter 11, God does some sending of His own. He would not allow His servant to remain comfortable in sin. The prophet Nathan tells David a story that gets the king all worked up. David passes judgment without realising that it was about him (isn’t it always easier to see others’ sins than your own?).

Nathan pronounces God’s judgment and mercy on David. David had sinned against God’s goodness (12:7b-8). He had grasped for something, instead of asking for it (not that God would have given him another man’s wife, I think). God’s judgment would follow David for the rest of his reign, just as that sin would mar his legacy. God’s mercy consisted in sparing his life, for he deserved to die for adultery and murder.

David’s confession in verse 13 is simple and sincere. No blame-shifting like Saul had done.  The forgiveness of David’s sins—and ours—cost the life of the Son of David.

[One thing I noticed: the narrator refers to Bathsheba as “Uriah’s wife” up to the point when the baby born of the adulterous union dies. Only then does she become “David’s wife”.]

13:1-19:8

The fallout begins with Amnon, David’s eldest son, raping  his half-sister Tamar. David is furious, but does nothing. Absalom, Tamar’s brother, sees his father’s passivity and quietly plots his revenge for 2 years. He has Amnon killed at a party, and flees to his maternal grandfather who is king of a nation outside Israel where he stays for three years. Joab sees the king’s grief and contrives to have Absalom brought back to Jerusalem and pardoned (14:1-22). The king agrees, but orders that Absalom not see his face. Two years after his return, Absalom is reconciled with his father.

All is not well, though. Amnon, the heir-apparent is dead. No mention is made of Kileab, David’s second son, so scholars presume he’d also died.  Absalom deduces that the kingship should pass to him, and he stole the Israelites’ hearts to that end. He crowns himself king, but David is informed and flees Jerusalem before Absalom can attack. David is able to establish a spy ring in Jerusalem and sets out with his wives and children, as well as his soldiers and their wives and children.

One of David’s advisers, Ahithophel, sides with Absalom. David’s very own Judas Iscariot. (And like Judas, Ahithophel hangs himself.) It was he who advised Absalom to sleep with David’s concubines on the palace roof, fulfilling Nathan’s prophecy.

Absalom also has another adviser, Hushai the Arkite, who was actually David’s mole in the palace. Ahithophel and Hushai advised Absalom on how to battle David. Had Ahi’s advice been followed, it would have gone badly for David. However, Hushai’s advice stroked Absalom’s ego and so the young man went with it. David had prayed that Ahi’s advice would be made foolish (15:31). God made Absalom foolish, answering the prayer nonetheless.

So all Israel rallied behind Absalom and went to fight David and his men. David’s men were victorious and Joab The Bloodthirsty killed Absalom, despite the king’s specific orders not to harm him. David mourns his son’s death a bit too much, and Joab sets him straight.

David is once again king. He returns to Jerusalem accompanied by the men of Judah. But the men of Israel revolt, and he’s no longer king. On his way to deal with Sheba, leader of the revolt, Joab kills Amasa (his cousin) who had been commander of Absalom’s army. Sheba was hiding in a walled city, and after some negotiations, the people of the city kill him. David is king again. Phew!

21:1-24:25

The narrator finishes by recounting some episodes from David’s life. In 21:1-14, he’s cleaning up Saul’s legacy. In 21:15-22 he and his men are cleaning out the enemies of God’s people. Chapter 22 is his song of praise which also appears as Psalm 18. David’s last words in 23:1-7 point to the coming Son of David. David’s mighty men are listed in 23:8-39. These were faithful men whom God the Holy Spirit saw fit to include in Scripture! Uriah the Hittite is the last on the list. Conspicuously absent is Joab (no prizes for guessing why).

Chapter 24 tells of another of David’s sins, counting the fighting men. God mercifully gives him a choice of three forms of judgment. David chooses to fall into God’s hands. The ensuing plague kills seventy thousand. The Lord orders the destroying angel to stop, and then sends word to David to build an altar at the place where the angel stopped. That’s the spot where the temple would be built.

Sources: Bible.org, D. A. Carson, Dale Ralph Davis, Bob Fyall.

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