Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

They say you should never judge a book by its title. 2 Samuel must be the definitive example of this. While the word “two” does indeed appear 19 times in the New International Version, this is also 19 times more than you will find the word “Samuel.”

Of course, this is because 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel used to form one big long book. In fact, before that, 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel used to form an even bigger, longer book, together with 1 and 2 Kings. As I am currently attempting to read a book of the Bible in one sitting each day, I am extremely grateful for this. Now if they could just do that with Isaiah...

The book of 1 Samuel featured Samuel anointing a good man - Saul – to be King. God blessed Saul’s kingdom. Saul became lax in properly recognising God’s authority over him however, so God took the kingdom away from him, telling Samuel to instead anoint another good man to be king – David. Saul refused to let go of the kingdom, and his life gradually descended into chaos until he died. David, having gone on the run and lost everything to Saul, never gave up on following God, and ultimately received back everything he’d lost, as well as his promised kingship.

The book of 2 Samuel picks up where 1 Samuel finished, and follows a spookily similar pattern of events, with one key difference.

Like Saul, David becomes king. Like Saul, God blesses David’s kingdom. Like Saul, David becomes lax in properly recognising God’s authority over him however, so God takes the kingdom away from him.

The key difference: Instead of trying to hang onto the kingdom, (as Saul had) David chooses humility and willingly gives it up, and so this is where the two tales really diverge.

To a certain extent, circumstances are repeating themselves for David. Last time he was on the run from his father-in-law King Saul, this time he’s on the run from his own son King Absalom.

But while his circumstances remain similar, David's response to them remains quite different. Unlike his bold fighting attitude last time, this time David is clearly a broken man, refusing to drive events, instead choosing to be weakly driven by them.

As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul's family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. He pelted David and all the king's officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David's right and left. As he cursed, Shimei said, "Get out, get out, you man of blood, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has handed the kingdom over to your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a man of blood!"

Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, "Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head."

But the king said, "What do you and I have in common, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, 'Curse David,' who can ask, 'Why do you do this?' "

David then said to Abishai and all his officials, "My son, who is of my own flesh, is trying to take my life. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I am receiving today."

So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt. The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted.

- 2 Samuel 16:5-14a (NIV)

As before, events kill David’s kingly adversary without any direct input from David himself. As before, David is gutted at his relative’s death. Unlike before, this time David is a shell of his former self. All his confidence seems to have died, such is his fear of what God may do to him the next time he sins.

Paradoxically, David's new attitude of humility seems a much better gameplan than his earlier one of proactivity. And yet, the awful death of his son makes the outcome of his humility such a hollow victory for him.

The lesson might therefore appear to be that proactivity is better than humility, but of course the second set of events is driven by David's sin with Bathsheba, obviously requiring a different response on his part.

After all that, at the end of the book, there are deleted scenes. I kid you not.


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