Samuel 2 picks up immediately where the last book left off, and what we are left with is the continued tale of David’s rise to power, his conflicts, and the conflicts which eventually wrack his house.
David’s ascension to the throne comes after the death of Saul and his eldest son, whom David praises. Another of Saul’s son’s wars with David, but is betrayed and killed, evidence of this brought by the killers who expect to be rewarded by David. David instead orders their deaths for killing gods anointed. The continuity here is obvious; a demonstration of David’s continued piety and right to rule. That he garners this right form his own piety and the judgement of god rather than by might.
Davids rulership is presented seemingly briefly, but within the pretext of war. David is thus a military leader, obviously from before his ascension to the throne, and afterword, and his victory over the enemies of Israel are taken as evidence of his divine support. Problems do come to plague David however.
In a topic that became common for Renaissance painters, one that I didn’t recognize until I had afterword looked up the associations, we get David spying a bathing woman, Bathsheba, from his palace. The bathing woman is married, and David basically seducers her and than proceeds to try and get her husband to come home so that if she’s pregnant, there won’t be any awkward questions. This ultimately fails because her husband is too hide-bound and traditional and won’t leave the barracks, so David than sends him to the front lines where he gets killed. David than takes Bathsheba as a wife.
We are made to understand within the text that this is a negative act by David and that indeed, his house will ‘never abandon the sword’ because of it. Thus the moral flaw of the ‘founder’ of the house propagates into the sins of it’s children. And oh what sins! One son of David’s conspires to have sex with his sister. Another son than murders that son. David’s favourite rises up in rebellion and is eventually killed, causing much sorrow. This last part was interesting, with it’s references to public perception and a fathers’ grief. It was an interesting introspection in terms of what it means to be a ruler in a monarchical system.
So I don’t have too much extra commentary on this. We get plenty of violence, war, and some racy bits, but mostly continued justifications for David’s rule and the ruler of his family, spread with incidents in David’s reign. As history is trikes me as more of an obvious morality play that even some of the earlier, heavier handed parts of the bible. With the story of Bathsheba, the question becomes how do we know of it? It works as a historical fable of a great king and how his lust caused problems for his family, but as a sequence of events that actually happened? It’s not impossible, there are certainly comparable examples in history, but with a book that spends so much time making David look pious, we have to question when this would have been written down, and why? and by whom? My own consideration is of course that it was if not written, than formalized by priests centuries later, again, as a morality tale. We are provided with a very human motivation, and it’s consequences. Can we imagine a present day leaders indiscretions being used as justification for why certain things are negatively effecting his nation?
With David’s children in disarray, we are turning now to Kings, the tales of Bathsheba’s son, the good king Solomon, and a host of other such things. Join me next time; Kings 1!