The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
The Herald of Jehovah's Kingdom
Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, as in heaven, so on earth.
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Bible Study

    Though it bears his name, this tenth book of the English Bible actually has nothing to do with Samuel. In fact, in it his name is not even mentioned. It was written by Nathan and Gad, contemporaries of King David. (1 Chronicles 29: 29) The twenty-four chapters of the second book of Samuel take up the narration of Israel's history following the death of King Saul and carry it along nearly to the end of David's forty-year reign. Hence it covers a period approaching forty years. It is a history of war and bloodshed, inter-mingled with accounts of David's domestic difficulties and human weaknesses and sins against the Lord. The thing of paramount importance is that through these wars of David the boundaries of the typical Theocracy were extended to the full limits ordained by Jehovah God.

    After lamenting the death of Israel's first king and his beloved friend Jonathan, David sought counsel from the Lord: "Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" Yes. "Whither shall I go up?" Hebron. David obeyed, and "the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah". (2:1-4) But he was not accepted by all Israel. It was only after a long and bloody civil war between the house of David and the house of Saul that "all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the LORD: and they anointed David king-over Israel". National unity, after seven and a half years of civil war, had come to Israel. The Jebusites were quickly ousted from the stronghold of Zion at Jerusalem and David moved his headquarters to that city, whence he reigned over all Israel for the next thirty-three years.—3:1; 5:1-7.

    From internal war the Israelite nation was almost immediately forced to turn to international conflict. The Philistines round about came to break up the new-found unified might of Israel; they find their military goal a vain imagination, and are themselves smitten and scattered, first at the battle of Baal- perazim and then again at the battle of Gibeon. (5:17-25) The divine record next interrupts its accounts of war for two chapters (6 and 7) to show David's zeal for Jehovah's true worship, which resulted in Jehovah's making with David His covenant for the kingdom; how he fetched the ark of the Lord from its abode of more than seventy years at Kirjath-jearim to Jerusalem (in about the sixth year of his reign at Jerusalem) ; and how he aspired to build a temple for the Lord in which the ark might be housed. But the latter privilege, Jehovah ordains, shall be Solomon's. The eighth chapter reverts back to recording David's victories in battle. The Philistines are smitten, Moab is subdued, Syria is crushed, and Edom is garrisoned by King David.

    After recounting the kindness David showed to Jonathan's crippled son Mephibosheth for his father's sake (9:1-13), war once more takes the stage. King Hanun of Ammon imputes ulterior motives to an act of kindness by David, and greatly humiliates David's servants. To meet the expected wrath of the Israelite king, Hanun hires many thousand Syrian soldiers. The mercenaries aid him little. The combined forces of Ammon and Syria are routed. A second attack on Syria's part proves so disastrous to them that they hastily sue for a separate peace with Israel. (10:1-19) A continuation of the war with Amnion is taken up at the beginning of chapter 11, but is quickly set aside for the relation of David's sin with Bath-sheba, which leads to the maneuvered death of her husband, Uriah, in battle. The full force of King David's wrong and guilt is driven home with a parable by the prophet Nathan. The babe born out of the sinful act dies, but thereafter Bath-sheba bears Solomon to David. The closing verses of chapter 12 take attention back to the conflict with Ammon and show how David leads the final victorious assault on the besieged city of Rabbah and puts the Ammonites under Israelite dominion.

    From this point onward, with the exception of one account of warrings with the Philistines and their monstrosity-giants (21:15-22), the record of Second Samuel concerns itself with David's family difficulties and internal strife in Israel. David's son Amnon falls in love with his half-sister Tamar, violates her, and then hates her. Absalom her brother bides his time, and two years later kills Amnon and flees to his grandfather, in Geshur. After three years he returns to Jerusalem and is ultimately reconciled to David.—13:1-14: 33.

    But David's trouble with Absalom was only starting. This comely third son aspired to rule over Israel, and he was unencumbered by scruples as to how he ascended the throne. First, by fair speech he "stole the hearts of the men of Israel". (15:2-6) He sowed discord among the Israelite brethren. He encouraged pettiness and peevishness, sowed the seeds of suspicion and discontent, and cultivated grudges. He threw reflections upon the justice of David's administration, and cast himself in the role of a righter of wrongs. In short, he criticized and patiently picked away at God's faithful servant David, and by sly contrast elevated himself in the eyes of many Israelites. The groundwork thus laid, the traitorous son launched the second phase of the uprising by going to Hebron to bring his plot to more tangible fruit. There the conspiracy mushroomed and finally broke over the land .in its third phase, the military push. So strong is the uprising that David is forced to abandon Jerusalem. Absalom's forces take possession.—15: 7-37.

    The vain usurper received good counsel from Ahithophel: Press the advantage gained and immediately pursue and smite David! But through Hushai the Lord defeated this good counsel and caused Absalom to hesitate and mark time till a large army was amassed. Like a rat shrewd Ahithophel deserted the sinking ship of Absalom and went and hanged himself. Soon thereafter Absalom's cause was sunk, and he went down with it. His hosts followed David across Jordan and into the country of Gilead. In the forest of Ephraim the mighty armies locked in battle. Twenty thousand rebels died. The rugged and heavily wooded terrain was not conducive to disengaging maneuvers and the outclassed Israelites were smitten by the Judeans and put to full rout. In wild flight Absalom's head with its luxuriant crop of hair was caught in the low boughs of an oak, and in this undignified and helpless position he was come upon and slaughtered by Joab. This was a direct violation of King David's explicit command to spare Absalom's life, and doubtless was the cause for Amasa's being made captain of the host in the stead of Joab.—17:1-14, 22-26; 18:1-17; 19:13.

    Yet another uprising mars the internal peace of Israel before the record of Second Samuel comes to its close. Sheba, a man of Belial, a Benjamite, drew Israel after him in rebellion. The powerful tribe of Judah sticks by David, and the warriors of the tribe take out after Sheba and his forces. In the pursuit opportunist Joab slays his rival successor Amasa and takes over the command. Soon Sheba is hemmed in in the city of Abel, and to save its own skin the besieged city cuts off Sheba's head and throws it over the wall to Joab. Thus another uprising against King David ends ingloriously.—20:1-26.

    The closing chapters tell of two visitations from the Lord. The land of Israel is hard hit by famine, three years in a row. David, ever alert to Jehovah's doings, sees more than mere coincidence in the three successive years of crop failure, and inquires of the Lord the cause. It comes out that it is the sin of Saul and his bloody house in slaying some Gibeonites that is responsible. The right of these strangers in Israel had not been respected or maintained, and atonement is made by putting to death seven of Saul's descendants. The second plague from the Lord is due to a sin on David's part. He numbers Israel, without divine authority. He is given choice of three judgments to expiate his wrong: three years of famine in addition to past famines, three months to flee before his enemies, or three days of pestilence from Jehovah. "Let us fall now into the hand of the LORD; for his mercies are great: and let me not fall into the hand of man." (24:13, 14, margin; also An Am. Tr.; Moffatt) The pestilence claimed the lives of 70,000 before it was halted at the very gates of Jerusalem.

    With all the heavy woes and troubles of the period related in Second Samuel, it was a time of glorious victories over demon-worshiping enemies. It saw the conquest of all the land of Canaan promised to the Israelites by the Owner of the earth and the universe, Jehovah God. The typical Theocracy had at last expanded its holdings to the full limits ordained for it by the great Theocrat, and the covenant for the kingdom had been made with the house of David.