Second Samuel


‘Observe that just as Joshua begins with “After the death of Moses” and Judges begins with “After the death of Joshua," so also 2 Samuel begins with “After the death of Saul”’.1

Some have described the two books of Samuel as the transition from anarchy to monarchy. Within the first book we can see that transition begin. However, as the reign of Saul progresses, the failure of the king of man’s choice becomes all the more evident. Although David emerges as the king of God’s choice, he does not take up the throne completely until chapter 5 of this second book.

The second book of Samuel details the triumphs of David’s reign. In the early chapters he unifies the nation, bringing together the warring factions of Judah, and the other tribes. He obtains for the unified nation a capital, taking the stronghold of Zion from the Jebusites, the ground upon which so much was to be built under the reign of his son Solomon. He establishes peace for the nation by defeating its enemies and subduing them. He extends the boundaries of the nation, ‘from the Red Sea to the river Orontes, and from the Mediterranean to the Euphrates’.2 This was an unparalleled achievement and one that prefigures the achievements of great David’s greater Son.

In David, God raised a standard. The life and record of the kings of Judah are measured by that standard. Of Abijam it is said, ‘his heart was not perfect with the Lord his God, as the heart of David his father’, 1 Kgs. 15. 3. From the establishing of the Davidic dynasty, the future kings of the nation would be taken and that which David had set up and left on record would be the guide to those that succeeded him. Politically, the systems that David put in place are also an indication of the rule of the King of kings, who will perfect those things of which David was only a foretaste.

Spiritually, the nation reaches a high point under the reign of David. It is David who brings the ark up to Jerusalem. It is David that has the exercise to build a house for God, chapter 7. Although this is only realized in the reign of Solomon, David makes the preparations from which Solomon can plan and build.

The Purpose of the Book

Although there is much that is positive in the chapters of this book, there is also a faithful record of the failures of David. Aspects of his life sowed the seeds for this failure. The multiplying of wives brought him heartache and trouble. His moral weakness, exemplified in his sin with Bathsheba, leads to the death of Uriah the Hittite, the murder of Amnon, and the rebellion of Absalom. The man who never fled from before his enemies becomes the man who flees from before his own son who has plotted his overthrow. The way of the transgressor is hard!

Apart from the substantial record of David’s life and achievements there is also a record of the lives of those who played their part alongside him. Men such as Nathan and Gad, prophets; the sons of Zeruiah, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel, soldiers; and Zadok the priest were all instrumental in the maintenance or development of David’s kingdom. Others, who help us to see something of the character of David are Mephibosheth, Barzillai, and Hushai, whilst, in a negative sense, there is Ahithophel, and Shimei.

Scott details ‘three historical circumstances’ that are mentioned in the book. These are: ‘first, the sovereign choice of David, the king; second, the sovereign choice of Zion as seat of government on the earth … and third, the ark, the basis and centre of God’s moral dealings and relationships with His people’.3

MacArthur suggests that there are four predominant themes in 1 and 2 Samuel: ‘The first is the Davidic Covenant. The books are literarily framed by two references to the “anointed” king in the prayer of Hannah (1 Sam. 2:10) and the song of David (2 Sam. 22:51) … A second theme is the sovereignty of God …
Third, the work of the Holy Spirit in empowering men for divinely appointed tasks is evident … Fourth, the books of Samuel demonstrate the personal and national effects of sin’.4

The Plan of the Book

This is a book that commences with the lament of David over the death of Saul and Jonathan and ends with the ‘song in the day that the Lord had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies’, 22. 1. It is a testimony to the grace and sustaining strength of God.

Anderson offers this broad outline: ‘The narrative of 2 Samuel moves in historical order from David’s ascent to power (1:1–5:5), to his consolidation of power (5:6–12:31), to challenges to his power (13:1–21:14), to the concluding events of his reign (21:15–24:25)’.5

Merrill offers his expanded outline as:

‘David at Hebron (chaps. 1–4)
A. Lament for Saul and Jonathan (chap. 1)
B. Battle between David and Abner (chap. 2)
C. Conflict between Joab and Abner (chap. 3)
D. Death of Ish-bosheth (chap. 4)

David’s Prosperity (chaps. 5–10)
A. The capital at Jerusalem (chap. 5)
B. The return of the ark (chap. 6)
C. The Davidic Covenant (chap. 7)
D. David’s campaigns (chap. 8)
E. David’s kindness to Saul’s family (chap. 9)
F. David’s ambassadors to Ammon abused (chap. 10)

David’s Sin and Domestic Problems (chaps. 11–21)
A. David’s adultery (chap. 11)
B. Nathan’s rebuke and David’s punishment (chap. 12)
C. Sin and murder of Amnon (chap. 13)
D. Absalom’s estrangement from David (chap. 14)
E. Absalom’s revolution (chaps. 15–18)
F. David’s return to power (chaps. 19–20)
G. Slaughter and burial of Saul’s sons (chap. 21)

David’s Final Years (chaps. 22–24)
A. David’s song (chap. 22)
B. David’s heroes (chap. 23)
C. David’s sin in taking the census (chap. 24’.6

A detailed outline is as follows:

Reigning in Hebron – Chapters 1-4

Chapter 1
The lives lost, vv. 1-16
The lamentation of David, vv. 17-27

Chapter 2
The crowning of kings, vv. 1-11
The conflict of kinsmen vv. 12-32

Chapter 3
The children of David, vv. 1-5
The concubine of Saul, vv. 6-11
The communication with David, vv. 12-21
The conspiracy of Joab, vv. 22-30
The curse upon Joab, vv. 31-39

Chapter 4
The cowardice of the sons of Rimmon, vv. 1-7
The consequences, vv. 8-12

Reigning over Israel, chapters 5-12

Chapter 5
The crowning of David, vv. 1-5
The conquest of Zion, vv. 6-12
The concubines of David, vv. 13-16
The conflict with the Philistines, vv. 17-25

Chapter 6
The Ark brought up, vv. 1-5
The anger of the Lord, vv. 6-11
The Ark brought in, vv. 12-19
The answer of David, vv. 20-23

Chapter 7
The king’s mind, vv. 1-3
The Lord’s message, vv. 3-17
The king’s meditation, vv. 18-29

Chapter 8
The king’s conquests, vv. 1-8
The king’s capital, vv. 9-13
The king’s court, vv. 14-18

Chapter 9
The king’s inquiry, vv. 1-4
The king’s invitation, vv. 5-8
The king’s instruction, vv. 9-13

Chapter 10
The affront to David, vv. 1-5
The array of forces, vv. 6-14
The attack and victory, vv. 15-19

Chapter 11
The adultery of David, vv. 1-5
The actions of Uriah, vv. 6-13
The authorization of murder, vv. 14-21
The arrogance of David, vv. 22-27

Chapter 12
The parable of Nathan, vv. 1-6
The punishment of David, vv. 7-14
The prayer of David, vv. 15-25
The progress of the conflict, vv. 26-31

Rebellion and its consequences, chapters 13-24

Chapter 13
The rape of Tamar, vv. 1-14
The repercussions, vv. 15-22
The revenge of Absalom, vv. 23-29
The reaction to the news, vv. 30-39

Chapter 14
The record of the story, vv. 1-20
The return of Absalom, vv. 21-27
The restoration of Absalom, vv. 28-33

Chapter 15
The rebellion of Absalom, vv. 1-12
The risk to David and the city, vv. 13-18
The refugees and returners, vv. 19-37

Chapter 16
The journey into hiding, vv. 1-14
The Jerusalem Council, vv. 15-23

Chapter 17
The counsel of Ahithophel, vv. 1-14
The communication with David, vv. 15-22
The camp at Mahanaim, vv. 23-29

Chapter 18
The conflict, vv. 1-8
The capture of Absalom, vv. 9-18
The communication with David, vv. 19-33

Chapter 19
The mourning of the king, vv. 1-8
The movement of David, vv. 9-15
The meetings with the king, vv. 16-43

Chapter 20
Sheba, the son of Bichri, vv. 1-3
The sword of Joab, vv. 4-13
The siege of Abel, vv. 14-26

Chapter 21
The blight of the Gibeonites, vv. 1-11
The bones of Saul and Jonathan, vv. 12-14
The battle with the Philistines, vv. 15-22

Chapter 22
The intensity of praise, vv. 1-16
The importance of righteousness, vv. 17-31
The invincibility of God, vv. 32-51

Chapter 23
The last words of David, vv. 1-7
The legacy of the mighty men, vv. 8-23
The list of other mighty men, vv. 24-39

Chapter 24
The anger of the Lord, vv. 1-9
The acknowledgement of David, vv. 10-17
The altar in the threshingfloor of Araunah, vv. 18-25

The Author and Date of the Book

As in the case of 1 Samuel, the author of 2 Samuel is not named and therefore we do not know who God chose to be His penman. We have noted that the book of 2 Samuel begins with the rule of David over Judah and concludes with the latter days of his reign over the united monarchy. Thus, as the history covers a period of about forty years, it is seen as covering 1010 to 970 BC.



Ronald Youngblood, 1 and 2 Samuel in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Tremper Longman III and David E. Garland (Eds.), Harper Collins.


W. Graham Scroggie, Know your Bible Vol. 1, Pickering and Inglis, pg. 65.


Walter Scott, Handbook to the Old Testament, Morrish, 1991, pp. 110, 111 [italics original].


J. MacArthur, Jr. (Ed.), The MacArthur Study Bible, Word, 1997, pg. 375.


Stephen Anderson, Interpretive Guide to the Bible, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2014, pg. 66.


E. H. Merrill, 2 Samuel. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures Vol. 1, Victor Books, pp. 456, 457. [my summary]


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