Although not stated, it’s generally accepted by Jewish tradition that Samuel is the author of 1 Samuel, however, since we read about his death, in 1 Samuel 25:1, it’s widely accepted that someone else wrote the account of his death.
Jewish tradition also indicates that Samuel was the author of 1 Samuel 1-24, and the prophets Gad and Nathan wrote 1 Samuel 25-31, all of 2 Samuel, 1 Chronicles 29:29-30. The writer of 2 Samuel also refers to other writings that aren’t a part of the Bible, such as the Book of Jashar, 2 Samuel 1:18, and The Chronicles of King David, 1 Chronicles 27:24.
Since the history of 2, Samuel covers the period of the 40-year reign of King David, which is from about 1055 B.C. to 1015 B.C. It was a period of struggle as the kingdom had transitioned from the reign of Saul to the end of the reign of David.
In the Jewish canon of Scriptures, the books of 1 and 2 Samuel are one book, this makes sense as 2 Samuel is basically a continuation of 1 Samuel. The historical events from 1 Samuel 31 to the end of 2 Samuel are parallel with 1 Chronicles 10-29. 2 Samuel continues the theme of how God preserved the seed-line nation of Israel, and in particular, the seed of David through whom He would bring the Messiah into the world, 2 Samuel 7.
The Book of 2 Samuel is about King David and within it, we read about the events of Israel while David was king. We read about many wars and how they secured the city of Jerusalem, which would become their capital. We read about David’s love for God and God’s love for him.
For the most part, David was a good king, but he did make some huge mistakes. He had sex with a married woman called Bathsheba and he ordered the death of Bathsheba’s husband.
We also read about how David’s own son, Absalom, fought against David and wanted to become king and we how time and time again how God saved David from all his enemies.
The most glorious part of the history of Israel was the United Kingdom, so-called to distinguish it from the Divided Kingdom which followed, it lasted from about 1095 to 975 B. C. and included the reigns of three great kings, Saul, David, and Solomon. The story of this period is related in the two books of Samuel, l Kings 1-11, 1 Chronicles 1-2 and 1 Chronicles 9.
You will remember that for about 300 years the twelve tribes of Israel had been loosely governed by judges. The last and greatest of these was the prophet Samuel. But the children of Israel wanted to be like their neighbours; they came to Samuel and asked for a king.
Although God was much displeased with their request, He instructed Samuel to anoint as their king a young man named Saul who stood head and shoulders above the people. The people gathered at Mizpeh and were presented with their new ruler who was so timid that he hid among the baggage.
Saul began his forty-year reign well. Israel was beset by enemies and he undertook the task of driving them back. His army defeated the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Moabites, the Edomites and others. Soon Saul was a popular figure among the people. But his popularity went to his head and he ceased to be a humble servant of God.
Instead, he became self-willed, bent on doing things the way he wanted them done, regardless of the will of God. On one occasion he was commissioned to ‘utterly destroy the Amalekites.’ Instead, he spared the king and saved some sheep and cattle to sacrifice.
Because he had thus disobeyed the Lord, Samuel rebuked him with the words, ‘Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.’ 1 Samuel 15:22. From that time on, God rejected Saul as king.
Saul deeply loved him and selected him as his armour bearer. David quickly rose to prominence by slaying with a sling the champion of the Philistines, the giant Goliath. The ensuing glory given to David provoked the jealousy of Saul who began to suspect that David was trying to supplant him as king. From that time on Saul sought to kill David and for years hunted him as an outlaw over the hills of Israel.
Perhaps the most beautiful friendship in the Bible is that of David and Jonathan, the son of Saul, who, although he realised that David would become king instead of himself, constantly sought to save David from his father’s ire. Saul and Jonathan both fell in battle with the Philistines to prepare the way for David as king.
After Saul’s death, David was crowned king of the tribe of Judah while Saul’s sorry son, Ishbosheth, reigned over the rest of Israel. When his kingdom collapsed after seven years, David’s authority was extended over all of Israel. David selected Jerusalem as his capital and set about the task of making Israel a great nation. In successive wars, he expanded the kingdom from the Nile to the Euphrates River.
David was truly a man after God’s own heart. The Lord declared of him, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after mine own heart, which shall fulfil all my will.’ Acts 13:22.
The psalms written by David are an expression of his complete devotion to God. This consecration was especially evident in his constant willingness to obey all the Lord’s commands. We may learn from him that we cannot expect the approval of God unless we are always willing to do what He asks of us without question.
Despite David’s success and his faithfulness to God, he made one grave mistake that followed him to his death. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah, the Hittite. Some stories have portrayed Bathsheba as a siren who intentionally seduced David. Nothing in the Bible bears out this idea.
To cover up his sin, David had Uriah placed in the thick of battle so that he might be slain, and then, when he was dead, took Bathsheba as his wife. All of this greatly displeased God and Nathan the prophet was sent to rebuke David by telling him the parable of the ewe lamb, 2 Samuel 12.
David repented, but his troubles now began. His son Absalom murdered his own brother. Later Absalom led a revolt against David and died in the attempt. For a time, David was forced to flee. Adding to his grief, another son, Adonijah, attempted to usurp the kingdom with the help of David’s trusted general, Joab.
To forestall the kingdom from falling into the wrong hands, David had his son, Solomon, crowned king while he yet lived. Shortly thereafter David died, bringing to an end the forty-year reign of a great man of God.
Solomon’s rule was in sharp contrast with his father’s. While David had faced turmoil for almost his entire reign, Solomon’s was one of unbroken peace. He began auspiciously. In a dream, he asked for God’s wisdom rather than riches and honour, and because of his thoughtful request was rewarded with all three. Solomon’s wisdom is known to all.
Three thousand proverbs and 1005 songs came forth from this sage! Much of his wisdom is recorded for us in the three books which he wrote and which we will study in another lesson. Politically he extended the influence of Israel to its greatest height making it a world power.
The fabulous wealth of Solomon astounds us, even to this day. He had 1400 chariots, 12,000 horsemen and an annual income of six hundred threescores and six talents of gold. And he didn’t have to pay an income tax!
On one occasion he was given an outright gift of one hundred and twenty talents of gold by the queen of Sheba. When she visited Solomon to see if all the reports of his fame were true, she was so amazed that she exclaimed, ‘Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.’ 1 Kings 10:7.
The greatest of all Solomon’s accomplishments was his building of the temple of God to replace the tabernacle in which Israel had worshipped since the wilderness wanderings. Probably no structure in the world’s history has equalled it in cost. Built by 183,000 men in seven and a half years, it cost an immense sum of money to erect.
The great wealth of Solomon eventually led to his undoing. He sought every kind of pleasure and married 700 wives and 300 concubines. Most of these were idolaters and what a time he must have had in trying to please them all. His high cost of living led him to tax the people heavily, much to their dissatisfaction.
His reign had started with wisdom and wealth; it ended with women and idolatry. When his forty-year rule ended he was a thoroughly disillusioned and unhappy man. In his revelry, he had laid the groundwork for the division of his great kingdom after his death.
When news concerning Saul and Johnathon’s death got back to David, David was deeply stressed over the report, he was mourning, hence why he tore his clothes and put dust over his head.
Notice that the Amalekite reported to David what had happened, it was a different story from the account we read about in 1 Samuel 31:1-13 / 1 Chronicles 10:1-12. We don’t know why he changed some of the details concerning Saul and Johnathon, possibly because he wanted to get paid for giving his report.
The Amalekite, reports that Saul asked him to kill him, it’s a possibility that when Saul fell upon his own sword, he didn’t instantly die, 1 Samuel 31:4, and so, at that point, he asked the Amalekite to kill him. Whatever the real account was doesn’t really matter but what does matter, is the motives behind the Amalekite telling David in the first place, he was looking for a reward for being the one who killed Saul.
The response of David and his men, to the Amalekite’s report, was more mourning and deep remorse because Saul, God’s anointed King of Israel, 1 Samuel 10:1, had been killed by the hands of an uncircumcised man. With the friendship and love David had for Johnathon, 1 Samuel 18:1, would have only added to his emotional pain.
When David asks the man where he was from, he replied he was a foreigner, an Amalekite, this tells us he was a stranger living in the land of the Israelites. It’s clear that he didn’t really belong to God because unlike Saul’s armourbearer, 1 Samuel 31:4, he shows no respect or concern for killing God’s anointed.
This was the reason why David ordered the Amalekite to be killed, also in doing so he would be carrying out God’s earlier command to destroy all the Amalekites, 1 Samuel 15:3, something which Saul failed to do, 1 Samuel 15:4-22.
As part of a lament, for Saul and Johnathon, David ordered all the people of Judah to be taught the lament of the bow which was written in the Book of Jashar. We don’t have any record of this book today, but it was probably an Israelite record of poems and songs written for heroes of Israel, Joshua 10:12-13.
David’s lamentation is simply beautiful Hebrew poetry, David became famous for writing these poems, 2 Samuel 23:1, and songs and many are found within the Psalms. In this lament, David expresses his deep sorrow over the death of Saul and his friend Johnathon and he highlights the fact that it is God who is working through Israel.
Gath and Ashkelon were the two main cities of the Philistines that in the text stand for the entire country of Philistia. Gilboa was the place where Israel was defeated and both Saul and Jonathan killed, 1 Samuel 31:1.
David no-where rejoices over the death of Saul, despite Saul’s several attempts to kill him which tells us a lot about David’s respect for him as God’s anointed king, Luke 6:37.
David ends his lament with some beautiful words about his dear friend Johnathon.