Monday, October 22, 2012

Second Samuel

Second Samuel.  The Holy Bible.  New King James Version.  Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982.

The prophet Samuel died before the events described in this second book named for him.  Like First Samuel, this book continues the history of the establishment of a monarchy in Israel.  In particular, it covers most of the reign of David.

The book begins with the death of Saul.  He was the king who preceded David and the father of David’s close friend Jonathan, who died in the same battle.  David mourned the loss of the king and his friend, even though he knew it cleared the way for him to take the crown.

David’s ascension to the throne was rocky even though he had been selected by God to fill the position.  The southern tribes, Judah, received David as king, but the rest of Israel was led by Saul’s son Ishbosheth.  The two were at war, which ended when Ishbosheth was killed by two of his own men.

That is only the beginnings of the intrigues that plagued David’s reign.  No doubt part of this was the instability of a new kingdom, where many people were seeking to acquire and consolidate power.

Part of this instability may have come from David himself.  At his best he was described as a man after God’s own heart.  He loved God.  He was brave and generous. He was a great military leader and a canny diplomat.  He was all too human as well.  He was lustful.  He didn’t want to face trouble, especially within his own family, which led to an insurrection led by his son Absalom.  He allowed his office to remove him from his people, his troops, and his family, and the isolation made him vulnerable.  Sometimes his temper got the better of him.

On the whole, though, David is remembered as a great king.  He consolidated his country.  He defeated foreign enemies.  He surrounded himself with faithful and capable advisers and assistants.  He especially was faithful to God; even though he slipped he returned to God, acknowledging Him and seeking His way for himself and the kingdom.

There is a lot of exciting history in this book.  Most of it is very tightly summarized.  If someone wanted to novelize this book, expanding and fictionalizing the detailed plot, they could probably produce a series of thick novels packed with enough intrigue and action to keep even a jaded reader of thrillers engaged.  For a religious book that you might think would want to polish and aggrandize the reputation of a powerful and beloved king, the Biblical historians are surprisingly frank.  They do not turn away from David’s shortcomings or the swirl of conniving in his court.