Sunday, July 05, 2009

2 Samuel Draws to a Close

2 Samuel 21-24

2 Samuel 21:1-14 tells the back story behind why all of Saul's heirs were killed except for Mephibosheth. Apparently, it is a more complicated story than the brief version we earlier saw, involving three years of famine, and the realization that it was due to a past fault of Saul (his trying to wipe out the Gibeonites). Wanting now to make amends to the Gibeonites, David asked them what he should do, and they responded that he should round up seven sons of Saul and have them executed. So he did, but he did also honor their bones, along with those of Saul and Jonathan. And the famine lifted.

2 Samuel 21:15-22 tells of a battle with the Philistines in which David was finally showing his age and was almost killed, so his men told him he had better not go out and fight himself any more. In this and mention of other battles, giants (or descendents of giants) appear again, one with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot.

2 Samuel 22 is a poetic passage, a song. It is portrayed as David thanking the Lord for helping him and protecting him. The image is of a person regarding himself as righteous in the midst of lots of drama and violence, grateful for the Lord's strength in carrying him through, helping him to conquer his own enemies, and delivering him from violence.

Clearly, David himself was quite violent, having no qualms about killing those he felt he should kill. We know enough about his life story to realize that he wasn't as perfectly righteous as this passage makes him out to be (see 22:21-25). And so I find myself reading this as the inner view of a person who tries to be righteous (even if not always succeeding) and tries to be a good ruler, honoring God as he rules, and accounting for his success by giving credit to God.

2 Samuel 23:1-7 gives the last words of David: more words of thanks to the Lord.

Then 2 Samuel 23:8-39 honors the best of the brave soldiers who fought for David. The numbers do not add up correctly, if you count the actual names. And Joab is not listed among them, even though he is mentioned back at the end of chapter 20 as being in command of the whole army of Israel. It makes me wonder whether chapters 21-23 up to this point were added in later, breaking up this discussion of Important People in King David's Administration. I'll have a closer look to see whether that makes the numbers add up any better.

Finally, 2 Samuel 24 tells a story of a census, at first portrayed as commanded by the Lord (though Joab is doubtful that this could be so) and then becomes the cause of the Lord's anger. It is mysterious why this would be a problem. The building of an altar saves the day.

So, the end of 2 Samuel has these bits and pieces collected together, signalling that we are getting close to the end of David's reign. It will be interesting to see what happens next.

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