Second Samuel continues the story of King David begun in 1 Samuel, including his military victories, centralization of the cult in the new capital of Jerusalem, and God’s promise of an eternal dynasty. David’s human failings–as a person, as a father, and as a king–as well as God’s judgment and grace, complete this portrait of Israel’s greatest king.
The life of David, presented so graphically with all the faults of the human condition, can serve as a mirror of our own humanity. Seeing how God works in and through David can help us discern the activity of God in our own relationships with the Lord and with others.
WHERE DO I FIND IT?
Second Samuel is the tenth book in the Old Testament. It follows 1 Samuel and precedes 1 Kings.
WHO WROTE IT?
Ancient tradition identifies Samuel as the author of the first twenty-four chapters of 1 Samuel and asserts that the rest of 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel were completed by Nathan and Gad. Today, many scholars believe that 1 and 2 Samuel are part of the Deuteronomistic History (DtrH) and that various older traditions have been gathered together and edited by a nameless exilic editor or editors.
WHEN WAS IT WRITTEN?
The final event recorded in Kings occurred in 561 B.C.E. Since the return from Babylon (538 B.C.E.) is not recorded, one assumes that 2 Samuel reached its final form sometime between these two dates (561 and 538). It was written during the Babylonian exile as part of the Deuteronomistic History, though the older traditions that comprise much of the narrative are considerably earlier than this.
WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
Second Samuel recounts the long reign of David, beginning with his becoming king over Judah and Israel, followed by his brilliant military success and consolidation of the kingdom, and concluding with his failures as a human, a father, and a king.
HOW DO I READ IT?
Second Samuel looks like a history of the new institution of kingship in Israel. While important historical information is presented, some of it is at odds with the presentation found in 1 Chronicles. Both Chronicles and Samuel should be read as theological, rather than historical, presentations of the early years of the monarchy. Second Samuel is part of a larger narrative (the Deuteronomistic History) designed to demonstrate the reasons for the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722/721 B.C.E. and Judah’s exile to Babylon in 587/586 B.C.E.