"The Book of 2 Samuel" — Bible-Study Summary with Videos
Questions / Introduction
Before delving into the text of the second book of Samuel, we'll answer a few preliminary questions to help familiarize you with the accounts therein of key people appearing in this book. To help familiarize yourself with them, see this PDF collection of their mini bios.
Who was David? David is a figure in the Old Testament who played a key role in this narrative, which depicts the transition from the period of biblical judges to the institution of kings, as highlighted by the first kingdom of Israel under Saul. Add to that the transition of kingship and leadership from Saul to David.
In the Hebrew Bible, David is described as the second king of the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah. In the biblical narrative, he was a young shepherd who first gained fame as a musician, later by killing Goliath. He became a favorite of King Saul and a close friend of Saul's son Jonathan.
Worried that David was trying to take his throne, Saul turned on him. After Saul and Jonathan were killed in battle, David was anointed king. He conquered Jerusalem, taking the Ark of the Covenant into the city and establishing the kingdom founded by Saul. While he was king, he committed adultery with Bathsheba, leading him to orchestrate the death of her husband Uriah the Hittite. As a result of that sinful act and his shedding of much blood and his fighting many wars, God denied David the opportunity to build the temple (1 Chronicles 22:8). When his son Absalom attempted to overthrow him, David fled Jerusalem during Absalom's rebellion, but, after his death, he returned to the city to rule Israel. Before his peaceful death, David chose his son Solomon as successor. David is honored in the prophetic literature as an "ideal king and ancestor of a future Messiah." Many psalms are ascribed to him.
How much of Second Samuel do you know or remember? Do you recall key verses from your previous readings and studies of 2 Samuel? Here are a few:
2 Samuel 1:4; 5:4–5; 6:6–7; 7:12–14a; 7:16; 8:13–14; 11:2–5; 12:7–8 15:13–14 19:1–4; 22:2–4.
Author: Nowhere in the Book of 2 Samuel is its author identified. It couldn't be Prophet Samuel because he died in 1 Samuel. Possible writers include Nathan and Gad.
Date of Writing: Originally, the books of 1 and 2 Samuel were one book. The translators of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) separated them, and we've retained that separation ever since. The events of 1 Samuel span approximately 100 years, from c. 1100 BC to c. 1000 BC, while the events of 2 Samuel cover another 40 years. The date of writing, then, would be sometime after 960 BC.
Purpose of Writing: Second Samuel is the record of King David’s reign. This book places the Davidic Covenant within its historical context.
Breakdown: Two Samuel can be divided into two main sections: (1) David’s hearty triumphs (chapters 1–10) and (2) David’s challenging troubles (chapters 11–20). The last part of the book (chapters 21–24) is a non-chronological appendix that contains further details of David’s reign.
This second book begins with David receiving news of the death of Saul and his sons, after which he proclaims a time of mourning. Soon afterward, he's crowned king over Judah, while Ish-Bosheth, one of Saul’s surviving sons, is crowned king over Israel (chapter 2). A civil war follows, but Ish-Bosheth is murdered and the Israelites ask David to reign over them as well (chapters 4–5).
David moves the country’s capital from Hebron to Jerusalem, subsequently moving the Ark of the Covenant (chapters 5–6). His plan to build a temple in Jerusalem is vetoed by God, who promises David the following things: (1) David would have a son to rule after him; (2) his son would build the temple; (3) the throne occupied by David’s lineage would be established forever; and (4) God would never take his mercy from David’s house (2 Sam. 7:4–16).
David leads Israel to victory over many of the enemy nations that surrounded them. He also shows kindness to Jonathan's family by taking in Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s crippled son (chapters 8–10).
Then David falls. He lusts for a beautiful woman named Bathsheba, commits adultery with her, and then has her husband murdered (chapter 11). When Nathan the prophet confronts David about this sinful act, David confesses, and God graciously forgives him. However, the Lord tells David that trouble would arise from within his own household.
Trouble does come when David’s firstborn son, Amnon, rapes his half-sister, Tamar. In retaliation, Tamar’s brother Absalom kills Amnon. Absalom then flees Jerusalem rather than face his father’s anger. Later, Absalom leads a revolt against David, and some of David’s former associates join the rebellion (chapters 15–16). He's forced out of Jerusalem, and Absalom sets himself up as king for a short period. Absalom the usurper is overthrown. However, against David’s wishes, he's killed. David mourns his fallen son.
A general feeling of unrest plagues the remainder of David’s reign. When the men of Israel threaten to split from Judah, David must suppress another uprising (chapter 20).
The book’s appendix includes information concerning a three-year famine in the land (chapter 21), a song of David (chapter 22), a record of the exploits of David’s bravest warriors (chapter 23), and David’s sinful census and its ensuing plague (chapter 24).
Foreshadowing in “2 Samuel”
The Lord Jesus Christ is seen primarily in two parts of 2 Samuel. First, the Davidic Covenant as outlined in 2 Samuel 7:16: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” That covenant is reiterated in Luke 1:31–33 through the words of an angel who appeared to Mary to announce Jesus’ birth to her. Christ is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant; he's the Son of God in the line of David who'll reign forever. Second, Jesus is seen in the song of David at the end of his life (2 Sam. 22:2-51). He sings of his rock, fortress, deliverer, refuge, and Savior. Jesus is our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:7–9), the Deliverer of Israel (Romans 11:25–27), the fortress to whom “we have fled to take hold of the hope set before us” (Hebrews 6:18), and our only Savior (Luke 2:11; 2 Timothy 1:10).
Practical Applications in “2 Samuel”
Anyone can fall. Even a man like David, who truly desired to follow God and was richly blessed by God, was susceptible to temptation. His sin with Bathsheba should be a warning to all of us to guard our hearts, our eyes, and our minds. Pride over our spiritual maturity and our ability to withstand temptation in our own strength will lead to a personal downfall (1 Cor. 10:12).
God is gracious to forgive even the most heinous sins when we truly repent. However, healing the wounds caused by sin doesn't always erase the scar. Sin has natural consequences; even after he was forgiven, David reaped what he'd sown. His son from the illicit union with another man’s wife was taken from him (2 Sam. 12:14–24) and David suffered the misery of a break in his loving relationship with his heavenly Father (Psalms 32 and 51). How much better to avoid sin in the first place, rather than having to seek forgiveness later!
Second Samuel ends with elderly David's own words of praise to God, who'd delivered him from all his enemies (22:31–51), and with words of expectation for the fulfillment of God's promise that a king will come from the house of David and "rule over people in righteousness" (23:3–5). These songs echo many of the themes of Hannah's song (1 Sam. 2:1–10); together they frame the basic narrative. David would finally build an altar and, on it, sacrifice burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. The LORD then answered David's prayer in behalf of the land, and the plague on Israel was curtailed (2 Sam. 24:25).
Milestones throughout “2 Samuel”
As 2 Samuel picks up where 1 Samuel left off, the themes of humility and pride continued, as David mourned the loss of Saul and Jonathan. His faithfulness to God ushered in a united Israel that finally defeated the surrounding Philistines and established a kingdom in the land.
A New King David lamented the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. In time, he became king of Judah, then of Israel. He captured Jerusalem, making it Israel's capital.
Davidic Covenant Once in his palace, David wanted to build God a rightful house. Instead, God promised David that an eternal royal house would come from his descendants.
David and Bathsheba When David committed terrible sins, God spared him. But the damage was done: A future of family strife embroiled in politics, rebellion, and death would begin.
Sin and Consequence Family strife continued as Amnon raped Tamar, and vengeful Absalom (David's son) murdered Amnon two years later, then attempted to usurp David's rule but was violently killed. David grieved for the loss of his son.
Future Hope Despite his failures, David remembered God's goodness in his life; he believed that God would deliver the promised Messiah through David's descendants — and that's exactly what God did.
Discipleship Lessons Abound in the Life of David
Why do readers — believers and not-yet-believers — love David's story in 1 and 2 Samuel?
David's story is exciting David and Goliath, caves and deserts, beautiful women and palace intrigue, last-minute escapes and pursuits by two kings. . . It's exhilarating!
David's story is inspiring David was both a committed believer and a prolific singer-songwriter. He learned to trust Yahweh in the depths of depression, the extremes of danger, and the heights of jubilation.
David's story is human You'll watch this flawed man fall very low and find repentance, grace, and forgiveness. He'll ultimately be restored and redeemed.
David's story is hearty Do you approach God faithfully? Indeed! David, the great warrior and leader of men, integrated the faith of God into his life and lasting career. So can we. So stay tuned for the life-changing tips that David will reveal to you.
David's story is morally challenging He lived in a world far from our own — with palaces and harems, as well as encounters with giants and fierce hand-to-hand combat. But underlying the differences and challenges that we'll see him face are the moral guidelines designed to keep us steady as we walk the LORD's straight, well-lit path, as David did.
Come along with us as we continue our hearty study of Second Samuel. As you read, study, and discuss it, may you never be the same. When you're ready to dig in, start here with the Hearty Boys' first Bible study of the second book of Samuel.
Intro Video: “The Second Book of Samuel”
† Watch this introductory video clip created by The Bible Project on bibleproject.com.
- Q. 1 Assuming that you've read 1 and 2 Samuel at least once, what about them is meaningful to you? . . . Is there an element of David, or another character's behavior, that you're using today? If so, what is it?
- Q. 2 If the book of Samuel were dropped from the Bible, what would be missing from the story of God's redemptive work in history? . . . How about in your own life?