Bible Commentary: 2 Samuel 1:1-3:1

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2 Samuel 1:1-3:1

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David the Anointed King of Judah 

The book of 2 Samuel spans the 40-year reign of King David, which begins as the book opens.

An Amalekite delivers the shocking news of Saul and Jonathan's death, even reporting that he was the one who had killed Saul at Saul's request. Yet "the Amalekite's report of Saul's death is different from the account in 1 Samuel 31:4, which states that Saul died by falling on his own sword. It appears that the Amalekite's story is a fabrication. Perhaps he sought recognition or reward from David by claiming to have slain Saul" (Nelson Study Bible, note on 1:6-10; compare 2 Samuel 4:10). But having just had a run-in with a band of Amalekites (1 Samuel 30), and aware of God's judgment on them (Deuteronomy 25:19), David was in no mood to consider the merits of the story and whether or not some sort of mercy killing had been in order. The Amalekite is thus rewarded with execution—on the basis of his own testimony.

Furthermore, "David's execution of the Amalekite was a strong statement to those under his command that he had no part in Saul's death and did not reward it in any way. Thus he exemplified respect for authority and distanced himself from the charge of being a usurper" (note on 2 Samuel 1:15).

After being chased and persecuted by Saul for so long, we read that David's reaction to Saul's death is not that of a carnal-minded human being. It is rather the reaction of one who lives according to the Spirit of God. Jesus Christ Himself taught this attitude, as revealed in Matthew 5:44: "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you." The type of eulogy given in this chapter is just another testimony of David's respect, mercy, love and compassion for Saul and his sons.

David's greatest mourning is, of course, for his best friend Jonathan. Recall how Jonathan deeply loved David, and David evidently loved Jonathan nearly as much in return: "The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul" (1 Samuel 18:1; see also 18:3; 20:17; 19:1).

Sad to say, there are those who have perversely twisted Jonathan's love for David expressed in 2 Samuel 1:26—‘surpassing the love of women"—to be what God would consider an abomination. But let's look at the facts:

David's sexual interest was toward women, as evidenced by his many wives and concubines—and his sin of adultery with Bathsheba. And Jonathan evidently married because he had at least one child—Mephibosheth (see 2 Samuel 4:4).

God had specific instructions regarding sexual relationships. "You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination" (Leviticus 18:22). "If a man lies with a male as he lies with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death. Their blood shall be upon them" (20:13).

Immediately before in 2 Samuel 1:26, the very same verse in question, David focuses on Jonathan being like a brother to him—and yet, more than a brother. David's son, Solomon, used this proverb to denote a close relationship, saying, "There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother" (Proverbs 18:24). What David and Jonathan shared was deep and true friendship—and perhaps even spiritual fellowship if Jonathan had God's Spirit.

In chapter 2, David's decade or more on the run is finally over. It is time for him to begin his succession to the throne. But instead of presumptuously taking the responsibility, David first asks God where he should go from Ziklag. (Ziklag was clearly not a place from which to rule, located as it was in the remote southern area of Judah.) After moving to Hebron, David is ceremonially anointed king of Judah, even though he was already officially anointed king over all of Israel by Samuel years earlier (1 Samuel 16:13).

But division ensues as Abner, Saul's uncle and captain over Saul's troops, presumptuously appoints Saul's son Ishbosheth as king over Israel. So there are now, for the first time, two kingdoms in the land—Israel (led by the tribe of Benjamin) and Judah (by itself). There may have been several reasons for Abner's actions: 1) To keep the crown in the family. 2) An attempt to hold onto power, as Abner has great influence in the affairs of state. 3) Remember that David rebuked and embarrassed Abner after sneaking into Saul's camp.

In a confrontation between Abner and Joab (captain of David's troops), what begins as a contest of strength between 12 young men from each side turns into a bloodbath. Abner, under Ishbosheth, loses 360 men, mostly of the tribe of Benjamin. David, however, loses only 20 men, including Asahel, Joab's brother. It should be noted that the brothers Joab, Abishai and Asahel were David's nephews, all sons of his sister Zeruiah (2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 2:13-16).

For years the tribes of Israel remained engaged in civil war, during which time the "house of David" grew stronger and the "house of Saul" grew weaker.

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