Lecture 8: 2 Samuel and Kings (Part 1)
Course: Understanding the Old Testament
Lecture: 2 Samuel and Kings (Part 1)
Outline of 2 Samuel
Second Samuel unfolds in the following sections. In 2 Samuel 1 to 10 the text highlights the fact that David builds a kingdom. Of course, David doesn’t build it in his own strength. He doesn’t build it on his own. God gives David the ability to build this kingdom. God gives special promises to David in these chapters. The second section is 2 Samuel 11 to 19. These chapters are a sad reminder that no one is sinless. So 2 Samuel 11 to 19 emphasizes David’s sin and its consequences for himself, his family, and the kingdom. The third section is 2 Samuel chapters 20 to 24. These chapters explain to us God’s faithfulness to David during his last years. David himself offers a psalm that it is also found in Psalm 18. Now this psalm emphasizes all the great things that God has done and all the different ways God has delivered David during his time as king. So let’s look at 2 Samuel together recalling that we continue on to see God keeping His promises to establish Israel in the land of Canaan. The goal is for them to be a kingdom of priests that blesses all nations.
David Builds a Kingdom (1–10)
Saul the first king has ruled from 1050 to 1010 B.C. He has been killed, an account that is given in the last chapter of 1 Samuel but then also repeated in 2 Samuel 1. So the death of Saul is a bridge text between first and second Samuel. David will be king from about 1010 to 970 B.C. As we open up 2 Samuel 1 we find that David does not rejoice when he learns of Saul’s death and of Jonathan, Saul’s son’s death. In fact, he mourns them greatly and seems to lament for them in 1:17-27.
Saul’s death does not automatically allow David to rule Israel. In chapter 2, verse 1 to 7, Judah makes him their king. But other tribes support Saul’s son. His name is Ishbosheth. Both sides have armies, both sides are contending for their man to be king. The rest of chapter 2 tells us that a man named Abner rules Ishbosheth’s forces and a man named Joab leads David’s. These armies fight regularly leading to many deaths. It is a civil war not unlike what we read about in Judges 17 to 21. The conflict continues for several years.
According to chapter 3, it begins to end between Abner and Ishbosheth. Ishbosheth accuses Abner of sleeping with one of his concubines according to chapter 3 verses 6 through 7. This leads Abner to decide to turn to David’s side. But Joab, in retaliation for Abner killing one of Joab’s brothers, in turn murders Abner. In chapter 4 Ishbosheth is murdered while he sleeps. David punishes the men who murder Ishbosheth, but he does not do anything to Joab who has murdered Abner. So at this point in time the major opponents of David have been removed.
So in chapter 5:1-5 all 12 tribes anoint David king. It has taken quiet a long time for God’s promises to come true but they do come materialize. God who anointed David king in first Samuel 16 has made him king. God has remained faithful. In chapters 5 and 6 David consolidates his power in three important ways.
First according to 5:6-14 he conquers Jerusalem. He then unites the nation’s government by establishing Jerusalem the permanent capital. He now has a solid political base. Second, in 5:17-25, he subdues the Philistines. Ridding Israel of this old foe establishes his military power, his armies are strong and he has a capital city. Third, David brings the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem displaying his religious commitment and uniting Israelite worship in a central place. We find this ceremony in 6:1-23. I’ll remind you that Deuteronomy 12:1-14 had said long ago that there would be one place God would chose to put His name there so that the people would come there to worship. Jerusalem will be this place.
So he has a capital city, he has military might, and there is a religious center for Israelite worship. Each of these achievements helps make him the undisputed authority in the land. For now Israel’s’ nagging long term problems of poor military, poor organization and scattered religious rites have been solved. Because they have a good leader they follow Yahweh and defeat their enemies. No ruler since Joshua has done so much for the people.
We come to chapter 7 of second Samuel. This chapter is one of the most important chapters in the Old Testament. It has the sort of magnitude that Genesis 12:1-9 has. For from this passage all the prophets and the psalmist will look to David’s family for a Messiah, a ruler, a savior. This person will fulfill the promise that Genesis 3:15 made that a Child of a woman will defeat the serpent. And the New Testament routinely looks to David’s lineage as a source of the coming Savior. So we come to second Samuel 7.
To demonstrate approval of David’s work the Lord makes him an astounding promise. This pledge is linked to those made to Abraham and it represents a high point in the Old Testament story. The episode begins when David desires to build a temple for the Lord (7:1-2). He thinks it’s wrong that he has a nice permanent home to live in, he has a palace, while God’s Ark sits in a tent.
At first Nathan, the king’s prophet, encourages David to build. But God instructs Nathan to tell David not build the temple, rather David’s son will build the house of worship (7:5-13). What then can David do for God? Well, the issue becomes instead of what David can do for God and turns around to what God will do for David. Yahweh appreciates David’s gesture. But instead of asking David to build God a house, Yahweh promises to build David a house (7:11). What kind of house, a royal house that consists of David’s descendants.
Hear 7:12-13: “When your days are fulfilled and you lie with your fathers I will raise up your offspring after you who shall come from your body. And I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name and I will establish the thrown of his kingdom forever.” So God promises David that his son will construct the temple and that God will establish his throne, his kingdom, his rule forever. It won’t be like in Saul’s time – when his lineage was cut off. David will be superior to Saul in that way.
Verse 14, “I will be to him a Father. And he shall be to Me a son.” This is God speaking of Solomon, David’s son, who succeeds David as king. It is interesting that throughout the Old Testament the descendant of David who was on the throne of Judah was called God’s son, that is His adopted son, His sub-regent to rule over Judah, whereas God rules over the heavens, the earth and all that is in them.
God continues to promise David in 7:14, “When he, your son, commits iniquity I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the son of men. But my steadfast love, that is my covenant love, this promise I am making will not depart from him as I took it from Saul whom I put away from before you.”
So, so far God has promised that David’s son who, as the story continues, turns out to be Solomon, will be on the throne, he will sin, he will commit iniquity but God will forgive him, and discipline him but God will not take the kingdom away from David’s family. Chapter 7:16: “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before Me. Your throne shall be established forever.” So verse 16 promises David not only will he have a son who will be on the throne, but there will be an unbroken lineage, there will always be a king from David’s line ruling.
This passage is quite significant for the rest of the Old Testament. Like Abraham, David has been promised special descendants. God will use the children of both men to bless the world. Even more importantly, the rest of the Bible argues that 2 Samuel 7:1-17, means that the Messiah, Israel’s savior, will come from David’s family.
As the course goes on we will find that Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah and the other prophets look for an ideal son of David who will serve the Lord and rule justly. Many Psalms, such as Psalm 110, expresses belief in the same thing as do the gospel writers, see Mathew 1:2 and Luke 1:2. Also see the first few verses of Romans 1. Therefore, this promise serves as a theme that unites the Old and New Testaments because it will eventually lead us to Jesus. Jesus will not just be a son of God in the sense that Solomon is a son of God. He is God the Son. He is God’s Special One, but He is also God.
The promises of Abraham of having descendants, of receiving a covenant, of having land, of blessing the nations continue to shape the Old Testament, but they are now joined by the theme of the eternal nature of David’s kingdom. Like the promises to Abraham this new idea will grow and take clearer shape as the biblical story unfolds. Only after David’s earthly kingdom disintegrates will the deeper meaning of the promise become apparent. Well after this great promise David continues to prosper. He defeats Israel’s enemies in chapter 8. He creates an organizational structure for his kingdom in chapter 8. And he also shows kindness to the son of his old friend Jonathan in chapter 9. God blesses everything the king does. His life has reached a high level of success.
David’s Sin and Its Consequences (11–19)
In chapters 11 to 19 at the pinnacle of his career David stumbles and falls. He sins in a way that causes himself and his family and his kingdom serious problems. These difficulties begin when David stays at home instead of going with his army to war. Chapter 10 tells us that he has had several great victories. He stays at home rather than fighting further in chapter 11. He sends his armies out, Joab and the men, but he stays at home according to chapter 11:1-2.
One night he sees a beautiful woman bathing. He inquires about her identity perhaps to find out if she is married. If she is unmarried he can add her to the harem. His messengers tell him however that her name is Bathsheba and she is married to Uriah one of David’s best warriors. Despite this knowledge the king sends for Bathsheba and sleeps with her. She becomes pregnant and David begins to try to conceal the affair.
He brings Uriah home from war but Uriah will not sleep with his wife. David gets Uriah drunk and then tries to send him to Bathsheba, still he will not go home. Finally David has Joab make sure that Uriah dies in battle. Then he marries Bathsheba and it seems David has covered his tracks, all this in chapter 11.
But at the end of chapter 11 we find that this thing displeases the Lord. So in chapter 12 God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David with what he has done. And the king to his credit admits his sin and repents of his sin in a way that Saul never would. There is great tragedy here, but at least there is repentance.
Further tragedies grow out of what David has done as his moral influence wanes. We see one of his sons raping his half-sister. This leads to the half-sister’s brother, a man named Absalom, killing his half-brother and trying to overthrow his father. So chapters 13 to 19 are taken up with revenge for a sister, civil war that grows out of it, terrible death and loss in Israel. God has promised David an eternal kingdom. He has promised David his son will sit on his thrown. God keeps His promise to David.
David gets control of himself and leads his men back to Jerusalem. His sin with Bathsheba has brought death, misery and civil war yet God pardons him and allows him to remain king. The Bible rarely offers a more striking portrayal of the effects of sin, punishment, and God’s ultimate forgiveness. David remains on the thrown but only at a terrible personal cost.
David’s Last Years (20–24)
In chapters 20 to 24 David’s final years are marked by yet more turmoil. In chapter 20 he endures a rebellion led by a man named Sheba. Once again God rescues David’s kingdom and restores him to power. Yet according to chapter 21, war continues with the Philistines and some of Saul’s mistakes continue to haunt the people. Yet through all these difficulties God keeps the promise to David that he and his descendants will remain on the thrown. David’s failings do not negate Gods faithfulness. And the king praises the Lord’s goodness in chapter 22:1 through 23:7. This is a full and wonderful confession of David of all that God has done for him. Whatever his other flaws, and there are many, David rarely forgets how he rose from shepherd boy to king. He is not guilty of ingratitude, he always gives God the praise for the good things he has.
One last rather difficult story ends 2 Samuel. For some unstated reason, Yahweh becomes angry at Israel, and then He incites David against Israel by ordering him to take a national census (24:1ff). In this last chapter of the book, David commands Joab to number the people with the counting of warriors in mind. Even Joab, who is hardly a moral giant, thinks this plan is wrong. It seems to be presumptuous, it seems to not trust the Lord.
Apparently, Joab thinks David fears another rebellion or has perhaps grown proud. Joab loses the argument so the project proceeds. After the census is taken David feels guilty and learns that God will now punish the nation. Thousands of people die in a plague before the Lord relents. David admits his sin and asks God to punish him, not the people. Thus this odd punishment stops as it began with no explanation. After the plague David worships Yahweh. He purchases a threshing floor, offers a sacrifice there and receives God’s forgiveness as the book ends. This threshing floor becomes the place where the temple will be built later.
As 2 Samuel ends God’s promises to Abraham have basically been fulfilled. His heirs have become a great nation. His descendants have become a homeland and possess a covenant with Yahweh. Israel even seems to have solved the leadership crisis and David has helped the people become a special people who live for the Lord in the midst of the world. After decades of floundering in a sin cycle that includes all sorts of religious sins including polytheism and the worship of idols Israel appears to be beginning a great new era in its history. Yahweh continues to bless the people, correct their faults and turn their errors into benefits.
1 & 2 Kings
The story of Israel’s kingdom continues in 1 and 2 Kings. These books move from David’s death in chapters 1 and 2 and Solomon’s rise to the throne in about 970 B.C. And the books will continue to tell Israel’s story down to about 560 B.C. But instead of the nation growing stronger and stronger and getting greater and greater, this account describes how the nation declines and falls. We will go from the heights of David and Solomon’s kingdoms to the division of the kingdom through many, many decades of sin, with some revival of religion then finally failure, ongoing sin, and God visiting the punishments described in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 27 and 28 on the people.
So 1 and 2 Kings give us about 400 years of history from 970 to 560 B.C. and it tells us the story of a great fall of the nation. Along the way the books give us a dazzling array of characters and events.
Starting with David’s death in chapter 1, 1 Kings 1 to 12 tells the story of the rise and fall of Solomon’s family. So the first section of 1 Kings is 1 Kings 1 to 12 which gives us the rise and fall of Solomon’s family. In chapters 13 to 15 we have the rise and fall of Jeroboams’ family. Third section, 1 Kings 16 to 2 Kings 10 we have the rise and fall of Omri’s family. In 2 Kings 11 to 17 we have the decline and fall of Northern Israel. And in 2 Kings 18 to 25 we have the decline and fall of Judah.
Let me repeat those, 1 Kings 1 to 12: the rise and fall of Solomon’s family. Solomon rules all 12 tribes of Israel from 970 to 930 B.C. When he dies the kingdom divides into two sections. One of those sections is led by Jeroboam. His family’s rise and fall is told in 1 Kings 13 to 15. After Jeroboams’ death, several years thereafter, a man named Omri leads Northern Israel. His family’s story is told in 1 Kings 16 through 2 Kings 10. Once this prominent family falls 2 Kings 11 to 17 describes the decline and fall of the Northern Kingdom. That is the 10 Northern tribes that split with Judah and Benjamin when Solomon died in 930 B.C.
This portion of what is left of the kingdom ruled by Saul, David, Solomon, these 10 tribes are defeated by the Assyrian nation and their capital is destroyed in 722 B.C. And then 2 Kings 18 to 25 describes the fall of Judah and Benjamin, the two tribes that split with the 10 northern tribes of Israel when Solomon died in 930 B.C. Judah is destroyed by Babylon in 587 B.C. The book ends by giving us an account of about 27 or 30 years beyond that defeat. We will go over these major sections. There are a lot of characters and there are a lot of kings so I am going to try to emphasize these major families and the major events as a way of holding these books depicting 400 years of history together.
The Rise and Fall of Solomon’s Family (1 Kings 1–12)
Just as Joshua’s death links Joshua and Judges and Saul’s death links 1 and 2 Samuel, David’s death provides a transition between 2 Samuel and 1 Kings. According to the first chapter David has grown old now and cannot even stay warm with the help of a beautiful young woman named Abishag. Given his condition a new king must take the throne. As when Saul died this current situation causes rivalry and upheaval. David's son Adonijah proclaims himself king with the support from Joab and other prominent leaders. But Nathan the prophet and others want Solomon to replace David. And after a struggle well described in the rest of chapter 1, Solomon becomes king.
In chapter 2 David advises Solomon in three areas. First, he encourages Solomon to follow God and obey the covenant. He says Yahweh will then bless Solomon and keep the promises made in 2 Samuel 7. Second, David tells his son to execute Joab and some men who aided Absalom’s revolt. Of course, Joab, the killer of Abner and others, has long deserved some sort of punishment. David’s advice reveals a potential flaw in David. He never punished Joab or the others but he asked Solomon to do so. Political expediency sometimes takes over justice. Third, David asks Solomon to reward some old friends. His counsel is wise: Solomon must learn to trust God, distrust his enemies and honor his allies. Probably no one in Israel’s history understood the difficulty of balancing these aspects of leadership better than David.
When David dies in chapter 2, an era has passed. David was a great military leader. He was flawed ethically but he never served any god other than Yahweh. He kept his covenant commitments in these areas. When he sinned he repented, but David’s life shows the difficulty of trying to balance politics and faith in God and family and power. But David is a great figure, alongside Abraham and Moses he is one of the greatest figures in the entire Old Testament. It is to David that God makes the promise of the Messiah who will bless all nations in fulfillment of His promise to Abraham and His promises to Moses and His promises to Noah. So David is an extraordinary figure and his death marks the passing of an important era.
Solomon’s reign begins auspiciously. Things are very encouraging because in chapter 3 and following Solomon asks God to give him wisdom to lead the people. And God grants him wisdom in great measure. In fact, he becomes famous for his wisdom. His wisdom includes dividing the nation into new districts in chapter 4. It included building the temple in chapter 5 and chapter 6. He takes great pains to make plans to build the temple and gains the workmen and the material and the temple is completed. In chapter 7 the temple is furnished and in chapter 8 the temple is dedicated.
It would be important for us to understand a few things about the temple. Perhaps the following information will help you conceptualize the temple and understand a bit about it. Temple construction began in the fourth year of Solomon’s reign, or about 966 B.C. By current standards the temple was not very big. It was 30 feet wide, 90 feet long, and 45 feet high. Hundreds of modern and not so modern churches are a lot larger.
What made the temple so stunning was its interior and furnishings. Inside the stone walls were covered with cedar and the cedar with gold. Ornate carvings adorned the sanctuary as well. Many scholars today think that these carvings reminded Israel of God’s creation of the world and of the original fact that the garden was a place of worship and now God’s temple will be a garden in the midst of the world.
All the utensils for worship were finely crafted and made of precious metals. The temple itself was, as I said, 30 feet by 90 feet and 45 feet high or about three stories high. The temple building itself was divided into two parts just as the tabernacle was. The larger portion was a place where the priest could go and offer prayers and incense before the Lord.
There was a special room, however, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept and once a year the priest would go in and offer Day of Atonement blood on it. So the ceremony from Leviticus 16 was transferred to the temple when the temple was built.
Outside the temple building proper was a sacrificial altar where the people could come bring their sacrifices. Only the priest could go in the temple remember and only the high priest could go into the Holy of Holies where the Ark of the Covenant was. But the people could come to the outside portion of the temple courtyard bringing their sacrifices where they would be offered on an altar.
Beyond that place as time passed there was an area where Gentiles could come, people who didn’t yet profess faith in the Lord God. Or also people who were in the process of joining, becoming full members of Israel. The temple was next door to Solomon’s palace. Therefore the government arm of Israel and the worship arm were very close together. So later on when we read about the prophets preaching nearby in the temple, they are often easily within earshot of the king, and his officials and the government’s comings and goings of the day.
I consider the dedication of the temple to be the high point of Solomon’s reign. It is here that Solomon shows most faithfulness to the Lord God. In 8:22-61 he offers a wonderful prayer to the Lord about the temple. He admits that God can’t be conformed or confined in any single space and that God is greater than this temple. And the Lord has chosen to put His name there. And He has chosen to dwell with Israel there. And he also confesses that Israel must have their hearts right with Him if their worship is to be accepted, if the sacrifices that will be offered there, if the psalms that will be sung there, if the teaching of the word of God that will happen there is to be acceptable to God their hearts must be right.
He also asked that the Lord would bless the people and when they sin and confess their sin that God would forgive them and that He will be with them. Solomon is humble in this prayer, he is godly in this prayer and he shows himself to be the right sort of king. At the end in the time of dedication in 8:62-66 the king and the people offer sacrifices to the Lord and Solomon donates enough animals to keep the sacrifice going for some years ahead.
Sadly, as he gets older, Solomon turns away from the Lord. Chapters 9 and 10 indicate that he was renowned for his wisdom, the whole world knows of the greatness of Solomon. But in chapter 11 the text says that as he gets older he marries women from other lands and he builds worship sites for the gods from those other lands. And he begins to worship these other gods. And because of this sin the Lord tells him that the kingdom will be torn from him.
Ten tribes ultimately leave the nation of Israel to form a new nation. These 10 tribes are from the northern part of the country. This will leave only Judah and Benjamin to be descendants of Solomon. But because God has made promises to David that his kingdom will endure he does not do away with the lineage of David and the lineage of Solomon completely. But David’s descendants are ruling now over a much smaller portion after Solomon dies.
Solomon, like his father, like Moses, like Joshua, like Samuel is a great figure in the Bible. He is a man of extraordinary wisdom and he has a part in books of wisdom such as Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. And yet he is also a man who doesn’t always live wisely. He is a man who turns away from the Lord at the end of his life. And he mixes the religion of Moses that is revealed by God with religions from other countries. So he stands as a warning to all of us that just because we are wise and understanding in portions of our lives and during parts of our lives does not mean that we are safe from the temptations and the failures that can arise in life. We must practice wisdom till the end of our days not just for part of our days.
And so as we look at the life of Solomon like all biblical characters except Jesus he is a man who sins. Solomon is a man who sins. But yet God uses him, flawed as he is, for His purposes of keeping His promises to Noah and Abraham and Moses and David.