2 Samuel Summary
As 2 Samuel begins, the dust is settling after the big battle between Saul and the Philistines. David's down in the dumps over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, lamenting and writing a pretty catchy (if sad) song about it. But of course, this clears the way for him to ascend to the kingship of all Israel… Almost. Except Saul's son Ishbaal wants to be king, too.
And like that, it's on.
David's forces end up winning a decisive victory over Ishbaal—who is later beheaded by a pair of home-invading hooligans. This frees up David to launch successful military expeditions and conquests, giving "what for" to enemies as varied as the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Arameans, and the Moabites. In his greatest moment of triumph, he brings the Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem. Leaping and dancing in front of the Ark—and thus, in front of God—David puts even the most expert "Dance, Dance Revolution" fanatic to shame.
But David's not perfect. He has flaws. He seduces his general Uriah's wife, Bathsheba, and then arranges for Uriah to die in battle. God and the prophet Nathan help set him right, but the child David conceives with Bathsheba (now his wife) dies as punishment, despite David's attempts to fast and repent.
David suffers his greatest tribulations when his son Absalom revolts. Absalom had originally murdered his brother Amnon for raping his sister Tamar—though he's forgiven for this unauthorized act of vengeance, he ends up leading a popular rebellion. Against David's orders, his top general, Joab, kills Absalom on the field of fight, causing David to lock himself in his room, weeping. However, this helps bring out David's more compassionate side.
After that, David fights some more battles and puts down another rebellion. For some reason, God provokes David to violate the law by holding a census, and Israel is punished with three days of pestilence, killing tens of thousands of people. David propitiates God and sets everything to rights—which is where the Second Book of Samuel ends.
Cue Up the Sad Violins
- As 2 Samuel begins, Saul and Jonathan have just died fighting the Philistines—David almost fought for the Philistines, but ended up getting excused at the last second, and headed off to fight the Amalekites.
- Saul had committed suicide after seeing his defeat was inevitable (with, as it turns out, a little help), and Jonathan was killed in the battle.
- A survivor from Saul's army finds David and tells him the news. It turns out the survivor was an Amalekite who (at Saul's request) helped Saul finish dying, giving him a fatal sword thrust, before bringing Saul's crown and armlet to David.
- However, David is offended that this guy had the guts to help kill the Lord's anointed, so he has one of his own men kill the Amalekite.
Singing the Blues
- Then, David sings the blues. In a song, he laments the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, singing, "How the mighty have fallen!"
- He hails them both, paying tribute to their strength and good qualities, and telling the rest of Israel to weep for them in mourning.
- He also says that Jonathan's love for him was "wonderful, passing the love of a woman," before repeating again, "How the mighty have fallen."
David Tested, God Approved
- Next, David asks God if he should head up to the cities of Judah. God says, "Yeah, boyyyyyyyeeee" (or, uh, words to that effect).
- God says specifically to go to Hebron—so David packs up the ol' Station Wagon (or chariots and horses, more likely), brings his wives, his men, and all their households, and settles in Hebron, where the people of Judah make him the king of Judah.
- People tell David that the people of Jabesh-Gilead buried Saul. David praises them, saying the Lord will bless them for doing right by his anointed (even though God didn't particularly like Saul).
- Problem is, there's about to be a power struggle. Saul's son, Ishbaal, has become the head of the northern kingdom of Israel, along with Abner, Saul's head general. But the text says Ishbaal is only going to reign for two years, whereas David will have around seven as king of Judah.
- Abner and Ishbaal take their men and go and meet David's army at the pool of Gibeon. What starts out as a contest between twelve of David's men and twelve of Ishbaal's quickly escalates into full-on war, and David's men stab and kill Ishbaal's quickly. We're talking Sharks vs. Jets-style combat here, people.
- So, the rumble's on. In the end, Abner and his troops meet defeat at the hands of David's army.
- But towards the end of the battle, one of David's nephews, Asahel, gets caught up in pursuing Abner. Abner keeps telling him to turn back and chase someone else, but Asahel doesn't want to look like a wimp. It comes down to combat, and Abner kills Asahel.
- Asahel's two brothers, Abishai and Joab (an important character), chase after Abner to try to kill for killing their bro.
- However, Abner poignantly pleas for an end to this civil war, asking them how long kinsmen can go on killing each other.
- Joab thinks this is a good point, and calls off the chase. They let Abner and Ishbaal retreat with their army.
- It turns out that David's troops only suffered twenty casualties, whereas Abner and Ishbaal lost three hundred and sixty men.
- David's army buries Asahel in Bethlehem, and then marches on to Hebron.
Caught by the Fun Police
- The war keeps going, with David's house growing in power, as the house of Saul becomes weaker and weaker.
- David has six different sons with five of his wives (Amnon, the first-born, Absalom, the third-born, and Adonijah, the fourth-born, all playing important roles later on).
- Meanwhile, all is not well in the House of Saul. Ishbaal gets mad at Abner for sleeping with one of Saul's concubines—a woman named Rizpah.
- Abner's like, "I don't need this." Annoyed that his loyalty isn't recognized or rewarded, he chews out Ishbaal, and says he's going to help David take over and become the one undisputed king of Israel.
One-Sided Wife Swap
- Abner sends messengers telling David he wants to defect. David writes back and says, "Good—but you need to bring my former wife, Michal, back to me if you're going to do this."
- So, they take Michal, and Abner brings her to David. Michal's husband Paltiel follows them, weeping, until Abner tells him to go back home, which he does.
- Abner also urges all the elders of Israel to join David's side.
- When he arrives at David's palace, David holds a feast in his honor, but Abner quickly departs, heading out to rally the people of Israel to David's side.
A Dish Best Served Cold
- However, when Joab arrives at the palace after coming back from a raid, he tells David he shouldn't have let Abner get away, since he's probably still secretly working for Ishbaal.
- Without David's knowledge, Joab sends out men to apprehend Abner and bring him back to Hebron.
- They do, and when Joab goes to "speak with" Abner privately, he stabs and murders Abner—getting his revenge for Abner's murder of Asahel.
- David denies any responsibility for the murder and says that the guilt will fall on Joab's house. Although Joah continues working for David, David curses Joab's house, saying it will always be have a member who suffers from leprosy, or is hungry, or dies in battle, etc.
David's Innocent… Like, Seriously, People
- David tells all the people to mourn, wear sackcloth, and weep for Abner (including Joab). Dave follows the funeral procession and gives a tearful speech as Abner is buried.
- The people try to convince David to eat something, but he's still way distraught over Abner, and won't eat anything before sundown.
- This pleases everyone, and, it turns out, they get it—David didn't have anything to do with killing Abner.
- David tells his servants that Abner was a great man, and that the sons of Zeruiah (Joab and Abishai) are too violent for his taste, and says God will repay their wickedness… because David definitely didn't order Abner killed.
- You get that, now, right?
Abner, We Hardly Knew Ye
- With Abner dead as a doornail, it's Ishbaal's turn to go on the chopping block.
- When he gets the news of Abner's death, he's dismayed and disheartened, as are all the other people in the northern kingdom of Israel.
- Also, Ishbaal has two captains of raiding teams—Baanah and Rechab, who are Benjaminites.
- Then, in an apparent digression, the narrators say that Jonathan (Saul's son and David's friend, now dead), had a son named Mephibosheth. He became lame after his nurse dropped him as a baby, when she was fleeing after the deaths of Saul and Jonathan at the hands of the Philistines.
Natural Born Killers
- At any rate, these two raiding captains, Baanah and Rechab, decide to kill Ishbaal. They go into his house at noon, acting like they're going to ask for wheat, and then they chop his head off and take it with them.
- They ride all night and bring Ishbaal's head to David at Hebron, proclaiming their loyalty to him.
- However, this doesn't make David happy. He says that he killed the Amalekite who helped Saul commit suicide, so why won't he kill them too, for killing the son of the Lord's (formerly) anointed while he was taking a nice siesta at midday?
- So, David has his men kill Rechab and Baanah—they cut off their hands and feet, and then hang their bodies near the pool at Hebron (thus disrupting some water volleyball games, most likely).
- But they bury Ishbaal's head respectfully, putting it in Abner's tomb.
It's Good to Be the King
- Now that David's main rival for the throne is dead, the tribes of Israel come to David and agree that he's really been their true leader and the shepherd of Israel for some time. Thus, they crown him king, and David makes a covenant with them.
- He's thirty years old, now, at the beginning of his official reign, and will reign for forty years.
- He'll stay in Hebron for the next seven years, and then rule from Jerusalem for the next thirty-three.
- Next, David leads an army to Jerusalem to fight the Jebusites, who are ruling the city. To their surprise, the Jebusites are defeated, and David takes Zion.
- Apparently, the lame and the blind people of Jerusalem sided with the Jebusites, so David decides he hates them, and orders them attacked and prohibited from his house.
- David builds up the city, making it his own, with the support of his trusty friend, God.
- The King of Tyre sends cedar wood to David, helping him to build his palace.
- Furthermore, he takes more wives and concubines, and many more children are born to him.
- The Philistines attempt to attack Jerusalem, since they've heard that it's got a new king. David fortifies himself and his soldiers in their stronghold, while the Philistines amass out in the valley below.
- David asks God if God will help him fight and defeat the Philistines. God says he'll prevail.
- They handily defeat the Philistines, God acting like a "bursting flood" of vengeance.
- The Philistines abandon their idols, which are captured by the Israelites.
- This isn't the end though, and the Philistines try to attack again. God tells David to march behind the Philistine lines and face them opposite a bunch of balsam trees. When they hear the noise of marching in the tops of the balsam trees, they should interpret it as God's sign to strike—which they do, whipping the Philistines yet once more.
The Divine Bug Zapper Treatment
- David decides to bring the Ark of the Covenant from Baale-judah to Jerusalem. They load it up on a new cart, driven by two guys named Uzzah and Ahio.
- David and the whole house of Israel dance "with all their might" in front of the Ark and God, singing and playing tambourines, lyres, and other instruments.
- However, when they reach a certain point, Uzzah touches the Ark to steady it, as the oxen are shaking it, and gets struck dead.
- David, momentarily, gets scared and angry because of this—he's worried worse things will happen if he brings the Ark into Jerusalem. So, he leaves it with a guy named Obed-edom for three months.
- God blesses Obed-edom and his household, consequently, which encourages David to follow through with his plan, and move it into Jerusalem.
- So, to much fanfare, David brings the Ark into Jerusalem, sacrificing an ox to God after the Ark is six paces inside the city. He then—famously—dances "with all his might" in front of God and the Ark, clad only in a simple linen ephod (a kind of apron, loin cloth thing).
- However, when David's wife, Michal, sees his spiritual merriment ("getting happy" as American Baptists put it), she thinks he looks like a fool and despises him.
- After lodging the Ark in a tent, and offering more sacrifices to God, David distributes cakes and meat to all the people, blesses them, and says good night.
- When he gets back home, Michal dishonors him, saying he had "uncovered" himself shamefully before the people and before his servants' maids in dancing as he did.
- David somewhat mysteriously replies that God chose him to be king after Saul, and that he (David) will make himself even more contemptible in her eyes and his own, but will still have the honor of the maids she mentioned. So there, wifey.
- As punishment for her snobbishness and effrontery, Michal remains childless to the day of her death.
No "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" for God… Yet
- David feels a little awkward since he's living in a nice house made of fine cedar wood, but God's Ark is just roughing it in a tent. He suggests maybe building a temple to the prophet Nathan—and Nathan says David should do what he thinks best.
- But that night, God's voice speaks to Nathan and tells him that he actually hasn't had a problem living in a tent all these years. God reminds Nathan that he's never asked any of the former tribal leaders of Israel to build him a temple—and he won't ask David, either.
- Instead, God tells Nathan to give this message to David: God is in David's corner, protecting him and helping him do everything he's doing, blessing him.
- There will come a time, says God, when he will have a temple built—but, it will be once David has died.
- One of David's kids is going to build the temple: he'll be a good king, and won't lose God's favor—but, when he screws up, God will correct him with human violence. Also, David's successors will ultimately endure and rule forever.
- Nathan successfully relays all this info to David.
- David says a prayer of thanks to God. He expresses humility, saying that for God to elevate David's house was really impressive and overwhelming—yet at the same time, a "small thing", since God is still so much greater than kings. He hopes the people learn from the example.
- He praises God, saying that there's no one like him, and asks God if there's any other nation on earth that can compare to Israel. He also asks God to make sure that he (God) fulfills his promises towards Israel—keeping his people as his own forever, and exalting them.
- David concludes his prayer by asking God for a blessing, so that his (David's) house will last forever.
Pillage and Plunder
- David keeps up his military campaigns against Israel's enemies, and gets on a hot winning streak.
- He defeats the Philistines, taking the city of Metheg-ammah from them, and defeats the Moabites, leaving those he doesn't execute to pay tribute to him.
- Further, David wins a stunning surprise victory against King Hadadezer of Zobah, who was in the middle or restoring a monument to himself, when David's troops swept in and captured tons of horsemen, soldiers, and chariot horses.
- The Arameans of Damascus sweep in to try to help Hadadezer, but David annihilates twenty two thousand of them and reduces the rest of them to paying him tribute.
- He captures gold shields from Hadadezer's dead soldiers, and steals lots of bronze from different towns, God supporting him all the while.
Dudes with the Same Enemies = Pals
- The victory over Hadadezer pleases one of Hadadezer's old rivals, King Toi of Hamath, who sends his son, Joram, to bring silver, gold, and bronze to David.
- David dedicates these and all the precious metals he's plundered to God.
- Also, he crushes the Edomites, stations garrisons of his own troops in Edom, and makes them pay him tribute—all with God's continued and much appreciated support.
- The text then lists David's important officials: Joab is now the head of the army, Zadok and Ahimelech are important priests, as are a good number of David's sons (other less important positions are listed, too).
Best Friends 4Eva
- Because Jonathan's dead, and David still feels bad about it—considering that they were two members of the "Super Best Friends 4eva Club"—he wants to do something nice for any remaining members of Saul's family.
- The servant of Jonathan's son Mephibosheth (the baby who had been dropped by his nurse and left lame earlier in the story), Ziba, says that Mephibosheth is just the right person to help.
- David has Mephibosheth brought before him, and Mephi' bows and does obeisance to David. But David tells him not to be afraid: he's going to take care of him, and let him live in his house and eat there. He'll also give the lands originally belonging to Saul to him, as well.
- Mephibosheth is totally floored by this, and says he can't believe he deserves such kind treatment.
- David tells Ziba that he (Ziba) and his sons will till the land for Mephibosheth and provide him with food, while Mephibosheth himself will dine at David's table. Also, the text randomly mentions that Mephibosheth himself has a son named Mica. Thanks for the info, text.
- So, all this happens: Ziba and his household till Mephiboseth's land and provide him with vittles, while Mephiboseth lives it up in high style with David.
A Fine Way to Treat an Envoy
- David's allies, the Ammonites, get a new king named Hanun, after his father dies. David sends envoys to console Hanun about his dad's death, but the Ammonite princes become convinced that they're actually spies bent on overthrowing their city. So yeah, this is a great plan.
- The princes convince Hanun to take action. He captures the envoys, cuts off the pelvis-area of their garments, and shaves off their beards halfway, before sending them back to David, totally humiliated.
- When David sees how his envoys have been treated, he tells them to recoup in Jericho in order to re-grow their beards.
- The Ammonites, seeing how they've managed to tick off David, get ready for a fight—they get tens of thousands of Arameans (and some other people) to march against the Israelites. They mass at the gates of Jerusalem and in the country beyond, surrounding the city in front and behind.
- Joab—the head general of the army, now—decides to take some crack troops under his command, while putting the others under the command of his brother, Abishai.
- Joab's special forces successfully beat back the Ammonites, causing the Arameans and everyone else to flee, as well.
Aramean Armies Redux
- The Arameans and their king (still Hadadezer), probably ashamed at all this, gather together even more Arameans.
- They all get together at a place called Helam, under the leader of a commander named Shobach.
- David personally leads out an army to defeat them, killing forty thousand of their men, destroying seven hundred chariot teams, and also killing Shobach.
- In the end, the Arameans are forced to make peace with Israel and pay tribute to the Israelites.
"You Saw Her Bathing on the Roof"
- Now, David's personal life really heats up—in a bad way.
- It's springtime, which is also wartime, and David has sent Joab and the army out to fight the Ammonites, while he stays in Jerusalem.
- One day, David is taking a stroll on his palace's roof, and he happens to see a beautiful woman bathing nearby.
- David is smitten, and he sends someone to figure out who the woman is. Turns out, it's Bathsheba, the wife of one of David's generals, Uriah the Hittite.
- David sends his messengers to bring Bathsheba to him (she was bathing to purify herself after her period).
- They sleep together, and Bathsheba gets pregnant.
An Awkward Houseguest
- As if nothing is going on, David sends for Uriah and asks him how the army is doing, and then tells him to go wash his feet in his (Uriah's) house. Uriah goes and does this, and then David sends him a gift.
- But Uriah doesn't go to sleep in his own house—he sleeps on David's steps. When David asks him why he's doing this, Uriah says it's because the rest of Israel's army (along with the Ark) is still camping and roughing it, so it would feel wrong for him to go into his own house and sleep with his wife (which is, you know, what ol' Davey just did).
- David keeps him for another day, and gets Uriah drunk in the evening during a feast, but Uriah still doesn't go into his own house. Uh oh.
Murder Most Foul
- Deviously, David sends a letter to Joab (Uriah himself unwittingly delivers it, actually) telling him to put Uriah out in the fiercest part of the battle, and then draw back, so he gets killed.
- Joab accomplishes this, but other Israelite warriors are killed in the process, as well.
- Joab tells the messenger that if David is angry about the other warriors being killed, he should tell him that Uriah the Hittite is dead.
- The messenger gives David the full story, and David tells him to tell Joab not to worry about it, and to keep trying hard to overthrow the city they're attacking.
- Bathsheba is pretty upset about Uriah's death—but David takes her into his house and marries her, and she gives birth to David's son.
- Yet someone is displeased by all of these murderous shenanigans: God.
- God sends the prophet Nathan to David to tell him a short story.
- Nathan tells David that there was once a poor man who had a little ewe lamb that he cared for. It was his favorite pet, and he fed it and treated it kindly as though it were a daughter to him.
- But one day, a traveler was visiting a local rich man, and, instead of killing one of his own sheep, the rich man took the poor man's lamb and fed it to his guest.
- David angrily says that the rich man should've been killed for doing such an evil thing. He should, at least, be forced to pay back the poor man four-fold for stealing his sheep.
- Nathan says, "Dude—don't you get it? You are the rich man."
David's Punishment: More of a Yellow Card than a Red Card
- Nathan further clarifies God's message for David and his punishment for this terrible sin. God raised David up to these heights, made him king, gave him plenty of wives and wealth. But greedy for more, David stole and coveted another man's wife, and murdered that man to boot. Yikes.
- As punishment, God says that David's house will always be at war, and that David's "neighbor" (actually, it turns out to be a family member) will sleep with David's own wives in the plain sight of Israel. Double yikes.
- David admits he's sinned against and before God. Nathan says that's good, and David won't die or lose God's favor forever.
- But he needs to pay the penalty. Dun dun dun.
Not Losing His Appetite
- So. God gives the kid David had with Bathsheba some sort of illness—and the boy looks like he's on his way to dying.
- David begs God not to let his son die. He fasts and prays.
- The elders try to pull David out of his state of fasting and repenting, but David refuses to get up.
- Soon enough, the child dies. David sees the servants whispering about it and realizes what's happened. The servants confirm it.
- So, David gets up, washes, anoints himself, worships God, and then breaks his fast and eats.
- His servants are surprised, since David was fasting when the child was still alive but not now, after he's died.
- David replies, saying that he fasted because he thought there might be a chance God would spare the child.
- But now there's no point—David will go to his child in death, but his child won't come back to him in life.
Better Call Sol
- David consoles Bathsheba, and they have another child—Solomon (who will grow up to succeed David as king).
- God loves Solomon and sends Nathan to convey this through a message. They give Solomon the second name Jedidiah, meaning "Beloved of the Lord."
- Meanwhile, Joab keeps fighting the Ammonites, and takes their royal city. He tells David to come and lead the rest of the army to take over the rest of the city of Rabbah (not just the royal part, apparently), so that it will be called by David's name and not Joab's.
- David succeeds, takes the king's crown, plunders the city, makes its citizens work at hard labor, and then proceeds to make short work of the other Ammonite cities.
No Kidding—This Next Part is Awful
- As if the last series of events wasn't bad enough, things are about to get pretty disturbing again.
- David's first-born son Amnon has fallen in love with (or, more accurately, become sexually obsessed with)… his sister, Tamar (technically, his half-sister).
- Amnon turns to his crafty cousin, Jonadab, after Jonadab asks him why he looks so haggard and beat-up. Amnon admits he's in love with his sister, so Jonadab tells him to pretend to be sick and then ask Tamar to come into his room to prepare food for him.
- So, Amnon does this.
- David tells Tamar to go to Amnon's house to feed him. When she arrives, she prepares some cakes, but Amnon refuses to eat with other people around. So the other people leave, and Tamar and Amnon are left alone.
- Then, Amnon seizes her and asks her to sleep with him—but she says that this is clearly wrong and a violation of the basic morals and laws of Israel.
- But she says that if he asks the king, David will probably give him permission (perhaps this is doubtful.)
- Amnon doesn't listen—and rapes his own sister.
- After committing this heinous crime, Amnon is overcome with loathing for Tamar and kicks her out of his room, despite her protestations that this is (according to Israel's laws) an even worse crime than the one he just committed. But Amnon has his servants forcibly kick her out anyway.
- Tamar puts ashes on her head and tears her long robe, crying as she walks away.
Revenge… with a Side of Lamb Kofta
- Tamar goes to her brother (by the same mother), Absalom, who comforts her, but tells her not to speak of what happened for the present.
- When he hears what happened, David gets very angry, but doesn't want to punish Amnon, since he is his first-born child. Yet Absalom now hates Amnon.
- Two years later, Absalom decides that it's time to take revenge.
- He invites David and David's servants to go hang out with some sheep-shearers and Absalom in Ephraim. David, as Absalom apparently expected, doesn't want to go—so Absalom asks if Amnon can go.
- David seems reluctant (maybe a bit suspicious), but he says yes. So Amnon and the king's other sons go with Absalom.
- Thus, when Amnon and Absalom are feasting with the sheepshearers, Amnon gets drunk and merry. Absalom orders his servants to kill him while he is intoxicated—and they do.
- King David's other sons run away.
Just a Renegade Who Had it Made
- A rumor reaches David that Absalom has killed all of David's sons.
- David weeps and tears his clothes, but Jonadab steps up and says that Absalom has probably just killed Amnon for what he did to Tamar.
- This proves to be the case, as the king's other sons all arrive safely at the palace, where they mourn Amnon's death.
- Meanwhile, Absalom runs away, and hides with the son of the King of Geshur.
- But King David gets over Amnon's death—after all, he was totally awful—and yearns for Absalom to return.
Wisdom, Tekoan Style
- Joab sees how distraught the king is over Absalom. So he gets a wise woman from Tekoa to go to the king and pretend to be in mourning.
- She says things Joab wanted her to say, telling David that she is a widow. She says she had two sons who got into a fight and killed each other.
- But when people demanded justice—wanting to kill the remaining son—she became upset, since this was her one remaining child and the only heir to his dead father's name.
- David says that she can go back to her house and he will give orders concerning her.
- She says that she will bear the guilt for keeping her son alive and not David.
- David says he will make sure that she remains safe and promises that her son will be safe, too.
Easy on the Outcasts
- Then, the woman asks to speak privately with David. She admits that she really is asking him why he won't forgive Absalom and let him return home.
- The wise woman says that we're all going to die, but that God isn't interested in taking away a life prematurely or for bad reasons. He'll let outcasts re-enter his presence before they die.
- David asks her if Joab put her up to this—and she admits this was the case.
- David tells Joab he can bring Absalom back, but that Absalom won't be permitted to come into David's presence.
- Joab thanks David and goes to retrieve Absalom.
- Absalom, says the narrator, was the most handsome guy in all the land. He would grow his hair really long and only cut it once a year.
- He had three sons and one daughter—a beautiful woman named Tamar, like his sister.
- After two years of living in Jerusalem without seeing his father, Absalom decides it's time to make up. He tries to use Joab as a middleman to make things right, but Joab fails to respond to two of Absalom's requests.
- So, Absalom has his servants set Joab's barley field on fire. When Joab comes to ask him why he did this, Absalom says it's because Joab has been ignoring him.
- Absalom just wants to see the king, and if it gets him killed so be it.
- So, Joab arranges the meeting. Absalom prostrates himself in front of David, and David kisses him, forgiving him.
People's Choice Award
- Now, Absalom begins to grow in power. He gets fifty men and a chariot with horses.
- Early in the morning, he regularly goes out and stands beside the palace gate. He meets with people who are there to meet the king and tell him their problems.
- Absalom reassures people about the justness of their suits, but tells them that no one is appointed to listen to their issues. If he was the judge, he says, he would be able to help them.
- He kisses all the people who come to him, and steals the hearts of the people of Israel.
- After four years in Jerusalem, Absalom asks David if he can go to Hebron. David gives him permission, but when Absalom goes there, he sends out messengers to announce that Absalom has become the new king of Israel at Hebron.
- Absalom brings unwitting people with him, and gets David's counselor Ahithophel to go with him, as well.
- His rebellious conspiracy grows in power.
Got a Plan—Run Away Fast as You Can
- When David's messengers tell him about Absalom's increasing power and how he's won Israel's favor, David orders his people to flee Jerusalem—however, he leaves ten concubines behind to keep watch over the palace.
- On the way out, David stops and tells one of his officials—Ittai the Gittite—to go back to his people, the Gittites, since it wouldn't be fair to force him to wander around with David.
- However, Ittai pledges to continue with David and to serve him forever. David lets him stay with him, bringing along all his men.
- The priests Zadok and Abiathar are about to bring the Ark along too, but David tells them to stay in the city—if God wants him to return, he'll see the Ark again. (So, they remain with the Ark in Jerusalem.)
- David and his people walk weeping up the Mount of Olives. When David hears that Ahithophel has joined Absalom, he prays to God, asking God to make Ahithophel's counsel sound foolish.
- After reaching the top of the Mount of Olives, David sends his official Hushai the Archite, to go back to Jerusalem and pretend to serve Absalom when he takes over. Hushai can work with Zadok and Abiathar, and use their sons to help them spy and bring news back to David.
- So Hushai goes back to Jerusalem, arriving just before Absalom does.
What's Yours is Ziba's
- Heading down the other side of the mountain, Ziba (Mephiboseth's servant who you might remember from earlier) catches up with David, bringing donkeys and food for the people to ride and eat.
- David asks where Mephiboseth is, and Ziba tells him that he stayed behind in Jerusalem to side with Absalom, hoping he would help restore Saul's kingdom for him.
- David says that everything that once belonged to Mephiboseth is now Ziba's, and Ziba pays obeisance to David.
Kicked When He's Down
- As David passes through the city of Bahurim, a man from Saul's house named Shimei comes out and curses David, throwing stones at him, and claiming that God is punishing David for betraying Saul by giving his kingdom to Absalom.
- Abishai (Joab's brother) tells David that they should kill this dude. But David says that Shimei might just be cursing him because God told him to.
- He says, furthermore, that God might actually comfort or recompense David for the curses that Shimei is hurling at him—rather than actually making him be cursed.
- Shimei follows along for a while, still cursing. Eventually, David reaches the Jordan, and cools off.
Concubine O' Mine
- Meanwhile, back in Jerusalem, Hushai (David's secret spy) runs up to Absalom, praising him.
- Absalom, concerned, asks him why he has betrayed David to join him.
- Hushai says that he's merely choosing to follow the man Israel has chosen to follow, just as he did when Israel chose David.
- Absalom asks his counselor, Ahithophel, what he should do, now, and Ahithophel tells him to sleep with the concubines his father has left behind in the palace—this will make Absalom all the more repulsive to David, and will also (somehow) strengthen Absalom's people.
- So—since everyone considers Ahithophel to be almost infallible, like an "oracle of God"—Absalom does this, before all of Israel (thus fulfilling part of the prophecy Nathan had made against David).
Y'all Got Counseled
- Ahithophel continues to give advice. He tells Absalom that he, Ahithophel, should be permitted to ride out with twelve thousand men. They will surprise David in the midst of his exhaustion, and kill him. With David dead, everyone else will come back, and join Absalom's new government.
- Absalom and all his people think this sounds like pretty good advice.
- But Absalom decides to get a second opinion from Hushai the Archite (actually, a spy for David).
- Hushai doesn't think Ahithophel is giving very good advice (even though he probably is). He thinks that David isn't going to go down so easily—he and his men are valiant warriors, and they'll put up more of a fight than Ahithophel thinks.
- What they should do, says Hushai, is launch a major battle campaign, with all of Israel gathered together to fight David.
- Absalom decides that Hushai's advice is better—and the narrator chimes in, saying that God helped Hushai defeat the counsel of Ahithophel.
They Forget about the Well Every Time
- Hushai tells the two pro-David priests, Zadok and Abiathar, what Absalom's plans are, and they send a servant-girl to tell him to keep going and not to camp at the fords overnight.
- But when Zadok's sons, Ahimaaz and Jonathan, receive the message, a boy spies them and notifies Absalom.
- Fleeing from Absalom's men, a couple in Bahurim, allow Ahimaaz and Jonathan to hide in a well in their backyard. When Absalom's searchers arrive, the couple tell them that Ahimaaz and Jonathan have already gone on ahead.
- Ahimaaz and Jonathan successfully pass the message to David—and, in case Absalom ends up following Ahithophel's advice anyway, David heads onwards, successfully crossing the Jordan with all his people before dawn.
- Back in Jerusalem, Ahithophel is so distraught over Absalom refusing his counsel that he returns home and hangs himself.
- David and his people flee to the city of Mahanaim, while Absalom and his Israelites cross the Jordan, encamping in the land of Gilead. Absalom's chief general is a guy named Amasa, Joab's brother-in-law.
- Arriving in Mahanaim, kindly people provide David and his supporters with an ample amount of supplies and food.
- David divides his army, appointing different officers and commanders. He splits the army into thirds, appointing Joab, Abishai, and Ittai the Gittite over each part.
- David says that he'll go out and fight, too, but the people object to this, saying that he's too important (sort of like the king in chess).
- So David stays behind, but he tells his commanders not to kill Absalom, and to deal gently with him if they find him.
- The battle happens in the forest of Ephraim. David's troops slaughter Absalom's, with casualties running up to twenty thousand men. The narrator claims that the forest itself ended up killing more people than the sword (presumably, with riders tripping over roots and stuff like that).
Bad Hair Day
- In the midst of the fighting, Absalom runs into some of David's soldiers, while riding on his mule. His long hair gets caught in a tree branch, and he is lifted off the mule, stuck in mid-air.
- But, mindful of what David said, the soldiers don't want to kill him. Joab comes along and asks them what they're waiting for. One of the soldiers says he wouldn't even kill the king's son for money.
- Joab says that that's ridiculous, grabs three spears, and sticks them all at once into Absalom's heart, killing him.
- His ten armor-bearers also help strike and kill Absalom.
- Joab recalls the troops, and the battle ends. They bury Absalom in a pit in the woods, covering it in stones.
- A monument Absalom built still remains standing in the King's Valley, says the narrator.
- Ahimaaz offers to go tell David what's happened, but Joab sends a Cus***e instead, saying it wouldn't be appropriate to send Ahimaaz, since the king's son died (for some reason). But Ahimaaz protests, so Joab lets him run, too.
- David sees two runners coming to bring him news. Ahimaaz outruns the Cus***e and tells David that they've won the battle. But he says he doesn't know what happened to Absalom, though he saw some sort of great tumult (which is a lie).
- When the Cus***e appears, he gives David the real scoop, telling him Absalom is dead.
Get Over It, Dude
- David continues to lament Absalom's death alone in his chamber, while the army—ashamed and embarrassed, despite their big win—returns to the city.
- Joab comes into David and tells him to man up. Absalom hated him and was a rebel, and it's demoralizing to see David broken up over the death of an enemy, while his soldiers, who've just won a victory, feel like he hates them.
- Joab says David needs to go out and speak kindly to his soldiers, or else they'll all abandon him.
- So, David puts himself together, heeds Joab's advice, and sits before his soldiers at the city gates.
Malice Toward None, Charity for All
- In the aftermath of the battle, Israel is confused about what's going to happen. The majority of people sided with Absalom, so they don't know how David is going to react to being their king again, or what they should do about making him the king again.
- David sends out messages telling people not to worry about how they sided against him and not to hesitate in letting him rule them again.
- He even goes so far as replacing Joab with Amasa—Absalom's commander—as the new head of David's army. In return, Amasa helps win the people's hearts back to David.
- David comes back over the Jordan into Judah, and Shimei and Ziba respectively come to meet him.
- Shimei apologizes for the curses he flung at David earlier. Abishai suggests that it would be a good idea to kill Shimei, but David angrily rejects this solution. He forgives Shimei and swears that he won't kill him.
King David, AKA Judge Judy
- Next, Mephibosheth—who hasn't cut his beard or washed his clothes since David left—comes up to David.
- David asks Mephibosheth why he didn't come with him, and Mephibosheth says that Ziba deceived him. He abandoned Mephibosheth in Jerusalem, and rode away before him.
- David says that Mephibosheth and Ziba will both split the land, now, but Mephibosheth says that Ziba can have it all, since David returned safely.
- David also agrees to provide for an eighty year old man named Barzillai who helps him over the Jordan, and also accepts the servant Barzillai offers to him.
- When David arrives in Judah, the people of Israel say that the people of Judah shouldn't be allowed to monopolize the king and make him their own. But the people of Judah argue more fiercely in favor of their privileged position with the king, and win.
- Right after the Absalom rebellion ends, another starts. A "scoundrel" named Sheba gets all the people of Israel to follow him in rebellion. But Judah stays with David.
- David takes the ten concubines who slept with Absalom and has them live in a separate house. He provides for them, but doesn't pay them any visits, if you know what we mean.
- To deal with Sheba's rebellion, David sends Amasa to summon the people of Judah. However, he ends up taking a long time, so Daniel tells Abishai to take his men and pursue Sheba.
- Joab brings his men along with Abishai, too. When they meet up with Amasa, Joab (likely remembering how Amasa replaced him) acts like he's going to greet Amasa and kiss him. But, instead, he takes out his sword, and slices Amasa's guts open with one stroke. Amasa dies, obvi.
Kicking It Ichabod Crane Style
- One of Joab's soldiers hides Amasa's body (still half-alive at this point) on the side of the road, while everyone else rides on to follow Joab into battle against Sheba.
- They pursue Sheba until they trap him in a city called Abel, in Beth-Maacah. As they prepare to besiege the city, a wise woman comes out to talk to Joab.
- She tells Joab that this is a peaceful city and that they don't want any trouble.
- Joab says he's not looking for trouble, he just wants to capture Sheba and kill him.
- So the wise woman goes to the people of Abel, and they agree to kill Sheba. They chop his head off and throw it over the city walls to Joab.
- Joab leads the troops back to Jerusalem—and, now, with Amasa dead, he's the general in charge of the whole army again.
Human Shish Kebabs
- A famine strikes Israel for three years. David implores God, asking him why, and finally God says that it's because Saul unjustly killed many of the Gibeonites (who are not part of Israel, but Israel was supposed to be nice to them).
- So, David asks the Gibeonites how he can make this up to them. They say that they're not very interested in getting silver and gold or cash—they'd prefer having seven of Saul's sons, so that they can impale them to death.
- David agrees. He spares Mephibosheth, because he loved his father (Jonathan), but hands over seven sons of Saul to the Gibeonites.
- The Gibeonites impale the seven sons at the beginning of the barley harvest.
- A former concubine of Saul's, Rizpah—two of whose sons were just killed in this weird sort of human sacrifice—goes and sits on sackcloth where the deaths happened, and prevents wild animals from eating the impaled bodies. Lovely.
- When David hears about this, he takes the bones of Saul and Jonathan from the people of Jabesh-Gilead and gives them a proper burial to lie with Saul's ancestors. He also has people gather the bones of the impaled sons (presumably burying them properly as well.)
- After all this, God removes the famine.
The Philistine Not-Football Giants
- David continues to fight the Philistines, but he begins to grow weary.
- A Philistine giant named Ishbibenob threatens to kill David, but is killed by Abishai before he can follow through on this threat.
- David's troops tell him that he shouldn't fight with them anymore, since he's too important to lose on the battlefield.
- David's warriors manage to kill other giants who've been fighting for the Philistines: Sibbecai the Hushathite kills one named Saph, a dude named Elhanan kills one named Goliath the Gittite, and David's nephew Jonathan kills a giant with six fingers on each of his hands and six toes on each of his feet.
A Sticky Situation
- This chapter consists entirely of a song that David sings praising God, after God has saved him from his enemies and from Saul.
- He says that God is his rock, his shield, and other metaphors for a protector, stating plainly that God has saved him from his enemies.
- David said he felt like he was surrounded by death: the underworld of Sheol seemed to be all around him.
- But God heard his cries for help. In fire and anger, God moves against David's enemies, making the heavens and the earth quake. God flies on a cherub and covers himself in darkness, with light like coals flaming in front of him.
- God's act of saving David is, he says, like parting the Red Sea for Moses all over again.
- God draws David out of "many waters," saving him from his enemies forever, and bringing him into a "broad place."
- God, says David, rewarded him for his righteousness. David claims that he followed God's rules and didn't deviate from them.
- God appears to people they way they themselves are—if they're loyal, God will be loyal. If they're pure, God will be pure. But if they're wicked and perverse, God will be wicked and perverse.
- If people are humble, God will save them, but, if they're proud, he'll look to take them down.
- David praises God for giving him his strength and his ability to rule and compete in combat, and for granting him victory over his enemies.
- Even, says David, foreigners were made to serve David—thanks to God's help. The other nation's were cowed, and David remained Israel's head-of-state.
- David ends by further praising God for saving him and helping him, calling him a "tower of salvation."
A Bit Premature
- Even though David isn't dead yet (and won't die until the beginning of 1 Kings), this chapter begins with David's last words.
- The actual "last words" begin by saying that they're the last words of David, God's favorite.
- David says that the spirit of God speaks through him, saying that a ruler who rules his people justly is like sunlight in the morning, or like a sun in a cloudless sky, its light gleaming off of the recently fallen rain on the land.
- He asks rhetorically if his house isn't a bit like this ideal image of just rulership. In the end, he says, godless people are like so many thorns that are picked up with a spear and then burned.
- The rest of the chapter proceeds with a long list of all David's best warriors.
- These include Josheb Basshebeth, who once killed eight hundred men at one time. He was the head of a unit of three elite warriors, including Eleazar son of Dodo—who fought ferociously against the Philistines—and Shamah, who also fought against the Philistines successfully.
- The three warriors did bold things, like sneaking behind enemy lines to get a drink for David—which he was too embarrassed to drink, and so offered it to God.
- Abishai, says the narrator, was a great warrior—though not quite equal to the Three.
- Another warrior, Benaiah, accomplished amazing feats, like killing a ferocious lion and a fearsome Egyptian. He later was the head of David's bodyguard.
- For some reason, God gets mad at Israel, and provokes David to do something wrong: conduct a census.
- When David gives the order, Joab is skeptical and asks him why he wants to do this.
- David wins the argument, and Joab leads the census team through the whole land, returning in a nine months and twenty days.
- Turns out, says Joab, that there are eight hundred thousand men fit to be soldiers in Israel and five hundred thousand in Judah.
From God to Gad
- Yet, David suddenly realizes that what he did was wrong. He apologizes to God, and waits for God to send news in return.
- God sends a message through a prophet named Gad: David can have three years of famine, three months of running from his enemies, or three days of pestilence.
- David says he would prefer to fall into the hands of the Lord than into human hands.
- So, God sends three days of pestilence to Israel, killing seventy thousand people.
Freaked Out by an Angel
- Yet, while standing on the threshing floor or Aruanah the Jebusite, David sees this angel of pestilence. He suddenly feels horrible about all the people dying, and he says that it is him—David—alone who has sinned. He asks for the penalty to fall on his house.
- God tells Gad to tell David to build an altar on the threshing floor to end the pestilence.
- So David goes to build an altar on the threshing floor, offering to buy it from Araunah. Araunah thinks this is a good idea, and offers oxen to sacrifice, and wood for burning, as well.
- But David insists on paying Araunah, because he doesn't want to give God cheap-o offerings.
- The sacrifices go off without a hitch, and God ends the plague on Israel. Finis.