This is one of the most interesting stretches of historical writing, or any writing, in the Bible. It incorporates what is known as the Court History (though much disputed about where it begins - chapter 8? chapter 11? chapter 13? - and whether it might really have been written by a member of David's court), with its intimate narrative perspective. The machinations of David's children, advisors, generals, and various priests and prophets are told with both theological significance and some gossipy relish. The sins of fathers are visited upon sons, the choices made by those who would be king lead to terrible ends, and yet faith in God continues to survive even in the midst of court maneuverings – a faith marked in David by a willingness to endure the punishment of God for sin even while hoping for and often receiving God's forgiveness and ultimately favor. This is the story of ancient Israel's one brief period of glory and finally peace, and while it comes at a steep price, our historian sees it primarily as a manifestation of God's faithfulness to the promises God has made to his people. Don't get lost in the oddities of chronology that crop up occasionally; instead, focus on the dramatic, moving, and powerful portraits of those who would establish and rule God's kingdom.
Questions to ponder while reading:
- Power and faith are dangerously entwined for David, as the choices he makes to secure his rule are not really to be admired; how do we see these same conflicts play out in the history of Christianity, in our nation today, and in our own lives?
- Nathan tells a parable of a man and his lamb in order for David to convict himself of his sin in setting up Uriah's death and stealing his wife, Bathsheba; how might this parable be understood as a call for justice in our time as well as then?
- II Samuel continues the issue we discussed in our meeting last week: what sort of leader (messiah, remember, is the Hebrew word for God's anointed one) does God seek? How does this portrait of David shape or shift our answer to that question?
- Finally, note that Jerusalem becomes David's new capital in chapter 5; what role does place, especially this sacred place, play in this story?