2 Samuel
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

General Editor:-J. J. S. PEROWNE, D.D.,

Bishop of Worcester.





by the







[All Rights reserved.]

Etiam quae plana videntur in Scripturis

plena sunt quaestionibus.




The General Editor of The Cambridge Bible for Schools thinks it right to say that he does not hold himself responsible either for the interpretation of particular passages which the Editors of the several Books have adopted, or for any opinion on points of doctrine that they may have expressed. In the New Testament more especially questions arise of the deepest theological import, on which the ablest and most conscientious interpreters have differed and always will differ. His aim has been in all such cases to leave each Contributor to the unfettered exercise of his own judgment, only taking care that mere controversy should as far as possible be avoided. He has contented himself chiefly with a careful revision of the notes, with pointing out omissions, with suggesting occasionally a reconsideration of some question, or a fuller treatment of difficult passages, and the like.

Beyond this he has not attempted to interfere, feeling it better that each Commentary should have its own individual character, and being convinced that freshness and variety of treatment are more than a compensation for any lack of uniformity in the Series.

Deanery, Peterborough.


  I.  Introduction

Chapter I. The Book of Samuel

Chapter II. Analysis of the Second Book of Samuel

Chapter III. The Relation of the Book of Chronicles to the Book of Samuel

Chapter IV. The Chronology of the Second Book of Samuel

Chapter V. The Place of the Books of Samuel in the History of the Kingdom of God

Chapter VI. The Reign of David

Chapter VII. The Typical Significance of David’s Reign and Life

Chapter VIII. Psalms illustrative of David’s Reign

  II.  Notes

  III.  Additional Notes I–VI

  IV.  Index

Map of the Holy Land to illustrate the Books of Samuel

Map of the Environs of Jerusalem

*** The Text adopted in this Edition is that of Dr Scrivener’s Cambridge Paragraph Bible. A few variations from the ordinary Text, chiefly in the spelling of certain words, and in the use of italics, will be noticed. For the principles adopted by Dr Scrivener as regards the printing of the Text see his Introduction to the Paragraph Bible, published by the Cambridge University Press.

I have found DAVID my servant

With my holy oil have I anointed him.

I will give you the sure mercies of David.

HE shall be great and shall be called

The Son of the Most High.

And the Lord God shall give unto HIM

The throne of his father David.



The Book Of Samuel

1. Titles and Division of the Books. The two Books of Samuel, like the two Books of Kings, originally formed an undivided whole[1], and must be considered as one book for critical purposes in general introductory remarks. The Septuagint translators, regarding the Book of Samuel and the Book of Kings as a complete History of the Kingdom from its foundation to its fall, divided the work into four books, which they styled Books of the Kingdoms (βίβλοι βασιλειῶν). Jerome followed this division in the Vulgate, altering the name to Books of the Kings (Libri Regum), which is retained as an alternative title in the English Bible. This division was first introduced into printed Hebrew Bibles by the Venice printer Bomberg in 1518.

[1] The Masoretic note of the number of verses, &c., appended at the close of the Second Book in the Hebrew Bible, still treats the two books as one. Origen (quoted by Euseb. H. E. VI. 25. 3) mentions that the Jews of his day regarded Samuel as one book.

2. Meaning of the Title. The title Samuel does not denote authorship, but like the titles Joshua, Ruth, and Esther, commemorates the prominent actor in the events recorded in the book. Its adoption shews a true insight into the connexion of the history it contains. It stands as a monument of the greatness of the Prophet who was Jehovah’s instrument for establishing the Kingdom of Israel, and guiding the chosen people through a crisis in its history second in importance only to the Exodus. The book begins with the account of his birth: and his direct influence extends to the close of it, in the reign of the king whom he anointed as Jehovah’s choice.

The Second Book of Samuel must seem a strange title for a book of which not a line was written by Samuel, and in which his name is not once mentioned, unless these two considerations are borne in mind, (1) that the division of the book into two parts is not original, (2) that Samuel’s direct work really reaches all through the book.

3. Who was the Author of the Book of Samuel? To this question no answer can be given. A late Jewish tradition ascribes the authorship to Samuel himself. This obviously could only apply to the first twenty-four chapters of the First Book, and as the work forms a connected whole, it is improbable that these in their present form proceeded from his pen. It is generally agreed that the Book is a compilation from different sources, but who was the compiler there is no evidence to shew.

4. What then were these sources? Ingenious attempts have been made to analyse the component parts of the book. But apart from these conjectural theories we have several indications of the sources from which the compiler drew his materials.

(a) The chief sources were probably contemporary prophetical histories. The compiler of the Book of Chronicles (probably Ezra) expressly names as the original authority for the history of David’s reign “the chronicle (lit. words) of Samuel the seer (rôeh) and the chronicle of Nathan the prophet, and the chronicle of Gad the seer (chôzeh)[2].” It has been maintained that Samuel, Nathan, and Gad were the subjects, not the authors, of the works referred to. Even if this was so, it is evident that they contained much valuable material for the history of David’s reign. But the corresponding reference to the original authorities for the history of Solomon’s reign in 2 Chronicles 9:29 (among which the chronicle of Nathan the prophet is again mentioned), and the constant references to similar prophetic writings as authorities for the reigns of later kings[3], make it almost certain that the three prophets mentioned were themselves the historians of the period.

[2] For the distinction between rôeh and chôzeh see note on 1 Samuel 9:9.

[3] To the writings of Shemaiah and Iddo for the reign of Rehoboam (2 Chronicles 12:15): to the commentary (midrash) of Iddo for that of Abijah (2 Chronicles 13:22). Isaiah is expressly said to have written the history of Uzziah’s reign (2 Chronicles 26:22). See also 2 Chronicles 20:34; 2 Chronicles 32:32; 2 Chronicles 33:18-19.

It has been also maintained that the works referred to by the compiler of Chronicles actually were the present Book of Samuel. But it is evident that the document which he was using contained much more than these books, while at the same time certain sections of Samuel and Chronicles agree almost verbally. The most natural conclusion is that both compilers drew from the same authority, which the Chronicler expressly names. From this each felt at liberty to select such facts as bore upon the special object of his work[4].

[4] See further in Ch. III of this Introduction.

If then the Book of Samuel was compiled largely from the chronicles of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad, supplemented by other records preserved in the Schools of the Prophets, it follows that it rests upon the best possible authority. Samuel is the historian of his own life-time, which included the greater part of Saul’s reign: Nathan and Gad together give the history of David’s reign. The events of David’s life must have been familiarly known in the Schools of the Prophets at Ramah. It is expressly mentioned that when he fled from Saul he “came and told Samuel all that Saul had done to him, and he and Samuel went and dwelt in Naioth[5],” the college of prophets which Samuel had established at Ramah. To this intercourse may be referred the full and vivid account of David’s friendship with Jonathan, preserved perhaps almost in the very words in which he related his story to the prophets.

[5] 1 Samuel 19:18.

An incidental notice suggests that Gad was the medium of communication between the college at Ramah and David during his outlaw life[6]; both Gad[7] and Nathan[8] appear to have occupied official positions in David’s court; and both appear as his monitors in important crises of his life[9]. To Nathan we probably owe the full history of David’s sin and repentance, together with the series of calamities by which it was punished, which occupies so large a portion of the Second Book: to Gad may be due the account of the Numbering of the People and its consequences.

[6] 1 Samuel 22:5.

[7] 2 Samuel 24:11; 2 Chronicles 29:25.

[8] 2 Samuel 7:2 ff; 2 Samuel 12:25; 1 Kings 1:8 ff.

[9] 2 Samuel 12:1 ff; 2 Samuel 24:11 ff.

(b) The chronicles of king David (1 Chronicles 27:24), which appear from this allusion to have been of the nature of statistical state-records, may also have been consulted. From them may have been derived the formal summaries of wars such as are given in 2 Samuel 8:1-15, and lists of officials such as those in 2 Samuel 8:6-18; 2 Samuel 20:23-26; 2 Samuel 23:8-39.

(c) Express mention is made in 1 Samuel 10:25 of the fact that Samuel committed to writing the charter of the kingdom, and “laid it up before the Lord,” possibly as an addition to the book of the Law.

(d) The national poetic literature was laid under contribution. From this were taken Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10); David’s lament for Abner (2 Samuel 3:33-34); David’s thanksgiving (2 Samuel 22 = Psalms 18); the last words of David (2 Samuel 23:1-7). Whether these were preserved in writing or by oral tradition is uncertain: of David’s Lament for Saul and Jonathan it is expressly said that it was written in the “national anthology” known as the Book of Jashar (2 Samuel 1:18).

(e) Oral tradition may perhaps have supplied some particulars, though this must be a matter of conjecture.

5. At what date was the compilation made?

(a) The language points to an early date. It is pure Hebrew, free from Aramaisms[10] and late forms. Constructions which are common in the later books, e.g. Kings, are comparatively rare.

[10] i.e. grammatical forms and words derived from Aramaic or Chaldee, a dialect akin to Hebrew, used in eastern Aram (Syria) and Babylonia. These are, generally speaking, found in later Hebrew.

(b) Some time however had elapsed since the events narrated in the book had occurred. The explanation of archaic terms (1 Samuel 9:9) and reference to obsolete customs (2 Samuel 13:18), as well as the use of the formula “unto this day” (1 Samuel 5:5; 1 Samuel 6:18; 1 Samuel 27:6; 1 Samuel 30:25; 2 Samuel 4:3; 2 Samuel 6:8; 2 Samuel 18:18) indicate this. Moreover “no grand survey of a period and selection of its events, such as is demanded from the historian, is generally possible until the period itself has retired in some degree into the background[11].”

[11] Ewald, Hist. of Israel, I. 139.

(c) It must certainly have been after the death of David, since the whole length of his reign is mentioned (2 Samuel 5:5); and if the Septuagint text is correct, there are two allusions to events in the reign of Rehoboam. In 2 Samuel 8:7 that version reads, “And Shishak king of Egypt took them when he came up against Jerusalem in the days of Rehoboam the son of Solomon:” and in 2 Samuel 14:27, “And she [Tamar] became the wife of Rehoboam the son of Solomon and bare him Abia.”

(d) But even if these additions are not accepted as part of the original text, other indications point to a date not earlier than the reign of Rehoboam. The mention of “the kings of Judah” in 1 Samuel 27:6 presupposes the separation of the kingdoms. The distinction between Judah and Israel in several passages[12] has been supposed to point to the same conclusion; but this cannot be pressed as evidence. The division which existed in the early part of David’s reign was quite sufficient to account for it.

[12] 1 Samuel 11:8; 1 Samuel 17:52; 1 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 2:9-10; 2 Samuel 3:10; 2 Samuel 5:1-5; 2 Samuel 19:41-43; 2 Samuel 20:2.

(e) On the other hand there is nothing in the book which points to a later date than this: and the conclusion may fairly be arrived at that the Book of Samuel was compiled substantially in its present form soon after the Division of the Kingdoms.

6. The Canonicity of the book has never been questioned. Its acceptance in the Christian Church rests upon the fact that it formed an integral part of those Jewish Scriptures, which were received by our Lord and His Apostles as “given by inspiration of God, and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Our Lord appealed to one of the narratives contained in it as teaching the great principle that the ceremonial law must give way to the law of mercy[13]: the Magnificat shews evident familiarity with the Song of Hannah: St Peter, St Stephen, and St Paul[14] refer to the history contained in it[15].

[13] Matthew 12:3-4; Mark 2:25-26; Luke 6:3-4. Note the phrase, “Have ye not read,” a regular formula of reference to the Scriptures.

[14] Acts 3:24; Acts 7:46; Acts 13:20-22.

[15] Add the references to 2 Samuel 7:12-16 in Luke 1:32-33; Acts 2:30; and to 2 Samuel 7:14 in Hebrews 1:5.

7. The historical accuracy of the book is remarkably borne out by the internal evidence. It is not to be denied that difficulties and discrepancies exist, which it is hard, perhaps impossible, to explain or reconcile. But the forcible simplicity and grace of the narrative; the vividness with which the actors in the various events stand out before us; the minuteness of detail with regard to time and circumstance; the accurate descriptions of places[16]; all agree to confirm the conclusion arrived at in § 4, that the greater part of the work is derived from the testimony of eyewitnesses and contemporaries, and in many cases handed down to us in their actual words. The apparent inconsistencies are in fact an evidence that the compiler faithfully embodied the authorities he consulted, instead of harmonizing them into what might have seemed a more consistent whole.

[16] Remarkably confirmed by the recent surveys of Palestine. See e.g. the notes on 1 Samuel 14:4; 1 Samuel 17:3. In 2 Sam. the account of David’s flight from Jerusalem (chaps. 2 Samuel 15:13 to 2 Samuel 16:14) is the best proof of the assertions made above.

8. The text of the book presents some interesting problems. Our materials for determining the text are:

(a) The Hebrew MSS. most of which are not older than the tenth and eleventh centuries a.d. They all present substantially the same text. Two points must be mentioned here in order to explain some of the notes. (1) Hebrew was originally written without vowels, except such long vowels as are represented by consonants. The present elaborate vowel system, stereotyping a traditional pronunciation and reading of the Old Testament, was not reduced to writing till about the seventh or eighth century a.d. (2) In some passages the traditional method of reading (Qrî) did not agree with the consonants of the written text (Kthîbh). In such cases the scribes did not alter the text, but appended a note giving the consonants to be read with the vowels shewn in the text.

(b) The Versions. Of these the oldest and most valuable is the Greek Version commonly called the Septuagint (Sept. or LXX), or Version of the Seventy Elders, because it was long believed to have been made by seventy or seventy-two elders despatched from Jerusalem to Alexandria at the request of Ptolemy Philadelphus. But the document on which the story with its embellishments rests is now known to be a forgery, and all that can be asserted about the origin of the Septuagint is that it was made (1) at Alexandria, (2) at different times and by different hands, (3) during the third and second centuries b.c., (4) before written vowel-points had been added to the text. The reference in Sir 46:19 to the Sept. version of 1 Samuel 12:3 (see note there) proves that this part of the version was in existence before 150 b.c.

The two most important MSS. of the LXX containing the Book of Samuel are the Alexandrine MS. (denoted by the letter A) written in the fifth century, and now preserved in the British Museum; and the Vatican MS. (denoted by the letter B) assigned to the fourth century, and preserved in the Vatican Library at Rome. The text of the former in the Book of Samuel has been corrected for the most part to agree with the existing Hebrew text: that of the latter differs considerably from it, and although disfigured by mistakes, glosses, marginal notes inserted in the text by ignorant scribes, and similar defects, appears to preserve evidence for an original text older and in some places more correct than the existing Hebrew recension[17].

[17] The most striking variations of the LXX. from the Hebrew text in 2 Samuel will be found in the notes on ch. 2 Samuel 4:6, 2 Samuel 8:7, 2 Samuel 14:27, 2 Samuel 17:3.

That the Hebrew text of Samuel is by no means free from errors is clear from internal considerations and from a comparison of the passages which exist in duplicate elsewhere[18]. The principal readings in which the Septuagint differs from the Hebrew are mentioned in the notes, partly with a view to the criticism of the text, partly to exhibit the form of the text which was current in a great part of the Christian Church for many centuries after its first foundation.

[18] See note 2 on p. 22 for a list of the passages which are common to Samuel and Chronicles; and for a discussion of the texts of ch. 22 and Psalms 18 see Additional Note III., p. 235.

This Version, with all its defects, must be of the greatest interest: (1) as preserving evidence for the text far more ancient than the oldest Hebrew MSS.: (2) as the means by which the Greek language was wedded to Hebrew thought, and the way prepared for the New Testament: (3) because it is the source of the great majority of the quotations made from the O. T. by the writers of the N. T.: (4) because it was the version in which the O. T. was studied by the fathers of the Eastern Church, and indirectly by those of the Western, until Jerome’s new translation (the Vulgate) superseded the Old Latin versions made from the Septuagint.

Next to the Septuagint must be mentioned the Chaldee or Aramaic Version known as the Targum[19] of Jonathan Ben Uzziel. This was probably not reduced to writing before the middle of the fourth century a.d., though based on much earlier oral translations. It is for the most part an accurate version; but in some passages it becomes a loose paraphrase, interspersed with comment, illustration, and fragments of Jewish tradition. A translation of the Targum of David’s Last Words is given in Additional Note IV., p. 237, as an example of this style of paraphrase.

[19] Targum signifies interpretation or translation.

Second in importance only to the LXX. is the Vulgate (Versio vulgata) or Latin Version made by St Jerome (Hieronymus) directly from the Hebrew. This great work was commenced by him about the year a.d. 389, when he was already sixty years of age, and took fourteen years to complete. The Books of Samuel and Kings were the part first issued. It is a valuable evidence for the state of the Hebrew text in the fourth century, and proves that that text has suffered comparatively little change since. Many of the variations found in the editions of the Vulgate are really interpolations from the Old Latin Version, which as mentioned above was made from the LXX. Jerome’s work “remained for eight centuries the bulwark of Western Christianity; and as a monument of ancient linguistic power the translation of the O. T. stands unrivalled and unique.”


Analysis Of The Second Book Of Samuel


The Reign of David over Judah: 1–4

  Section 1.  David’s behaviour on hearing of Saul’s death.

  (1)  Tidings of Saul’s death brought to David 2 Samuel 1:1-16.

  (2)  David’s lamentation for Saul and Jonathan 2 Samuel 1:17-27.

  Section 2.  The rival kingdoms.

  (1)  David anointed king of Judah 2 Samuel 2:1-4.

  (2)  His message to the men of Jabesh 2 Samuel 2:5-7.

  (3)  Ish-bosheth made king of Israel by Abner 2 Samuel 2:8-11.

  (4)  The civil war.

(a)  The combat at Gibeon 2 Samuel 2:12-17.

(b)  The death of Asahel 2 Samuel 2:18-23.

(c)  The pursuit 2 Samuel 2:24-31.

(d)  Asahel’s burial 2 Samuel 2:32.

(e)  Progress of David’s cause 2 Samuel 3:1.

(f)  His family 2 Samuel 3:2-5.

  Section 3.  Events leading to David’s elevation to the throne of Israel.

  (1)  Quarrel between Abner and Ish-bosheth 2 Samuel 3:6-11.

  (2)  Abner’s overtures to David 2 Samuel 3:12-21.

Michal restored to David.

  (3)  Abner murdered by Joab 2 Samuel 3:22-27.

  (4)  David’s indignation 2 Samuel 3:28-30.

  (5)  His lamentation for Abner 2 Samuel 3:31-39.

  (6)  Murder of Ish-bosheth 2 Samuel 4:1-7.

  (7)  Execution of the murderers 2 Samuel 4:8-12.

Note (a) David’s generosity to enemies: (b) his patience, and willingness to wait God’s time for his elevation: (c) continuous rise of David’s power and declension of Saul’s house: (d) disappointment of Abner’s ambitious schemes.


The Reign of David over all Israel: 5–24

  Division I.  Rise of David’s power

  Section 1.  The Foundation of David’s Kingdom at Jerusalem.

  (1)  His election and anointing 2 Samuel 5:1-5.

  (2)  Jebus captured and made the capital 2 Samuel 5:6-12.

Alliance with Tyre.

  (3)  David’s family 2 Samuel 5:13-16.

  (4)  Philistine opposition overcome 2 Samuel 5:17-25.

  (5)  David’s care for religion.

(a)  Removal of the Ark from Kirjathjearim 2 Samuel 6:1-5.

(b)  Uzzah’s death 2 Samuel 6:6-11.

(c)  Removal of the Ark to Jerusalem 2 Samuel 6:12-19.

(d)  Michal rebuked 2 Samuel 6:20-23.

  Section 2.  The Promise of eternal Dominion to the house of David.

  (1)  David’s desire to build a temple 2 Samuel 7:1-3.

  (2)  The Lord’s answer through Nathan 2 Samuel 7:4-17.

  (3)  David’s prayer and thanksgiving 2 Samuel 7:18-29.

  Section 3.  The Extension of David’s Kingdom.

  (1)  Foreign conquests.

(a)  Philistines and Moabites 2 Samuel 8:1-2.

(b)  Zobah and Damascus 2 Samuel 8:3-8.

(c)  Submission of Hamath 2 Samuel 8:9-12.

(d)  Edom 2 Samuel 8:13-14.

  (2)  Internal administration.

David’s officers of state 2 Samuel 8:15-18.

  (3)  David’s kindness to Mephibosheth 2 Samuel 9:1-13.

Note (a) the silence of the narrative about details of conquest and national progress: (b) David’s zeal for religion: (c) the almost unbroken prosperity of this period.

  Division II.  David’s Fall and its Punishment: 10–20

  Section 1.  The preliminary circumstances.

  (1)  David’s ambassadors insulted by the Ammonites 2 Samuel 10:1-5.

  (2)  First campaign. Defeat of the Ammonites and their Syrian allies 2 Samuel 10:6-14.

  (3)  Second campaign. Total defeat of the Syrians 2 Samuel 10:15-19.

  (4)  Third campaign. Siege of Rabbah 2 Samuel 11:1.

Note (a) a full account of these wars is introduced because of their connexion with David’s sin: (b) rapid growth of David’s power implied by such extensive wars.

  Section 2.  David’s Fall.

  (1)  David’s adultery with Bath-sheba 2 Samuel 11:2-5.

  (2)  Uriah summoned to Jerusalem 2 Samuel 11:6-13.

  (3)  David’s letter to Joab. Uriah’s death 2 Samuel 11:14-17.

  (4)  The news brought to David 2 Samuel 11:18-25.

  (5)  Marriage of David and Bath-sheba 2 Samuel 11:26-27.

  Section 3.  David’s Repentance.

  (1)  Nathan’s parable 2 Samuel 12:1-6.

  (2)  The King rebuked 2 Samuel 12:7-14.

  (3)  Death of Bath-sheba’s child 2 Samuel 12:15-23.

  (4)  Birth of Solomon 2 Samuel 12:24-25.

  (5)  Capture of Rabbah 2 Samuel 12:26-31.

  Section 4.  Family troubles.

  (1)  Amnon’s outrage 2 Samuel 13:1-22.

  (2)  Absalom’s vengeance and flight 2 Samuel 13:23-39.

  (3)  Recall of Absalom.

(a)  Joab’s stratagem 2 Samuel 14:1-20.

(b)  Absalom’s return 2 Samuel 14:21-24.

(c)  His person and family 2 Samuel 14:25-27.

(d)  His readmission to the king’s presence 2 Samuel 14:28-33.

  Section 5.  Absalom’s Rebellion and David’s Flight.

  (1)  Absalom’s preparations 2 Samuel 15:1-6.

  (2)  Outbreak of the rebellion 2 Samuel 15:7-12.

  (3)  David’s Flight 2 Samuel 15:13-18.

  (4)  Incidents of the Flight.

(a)  Ittai’s fidelity 2 Samuel 15:19-23.

(b)  The priests and the Ark 2 Samuel 15:24-29.

(c)  Hushai’s commission 2 Samuel 15:30-37.

(d)  Ziba’s present 2 Samuel 16:1-4.

(e)  Shimei’s cursing 2 Samuel 16:5-14.

  (5)  Absalom’s entrance into Jerusalem 2 Samuel 16:15-19.

  (6)  Events at Jerusalem.

(a)  Ahithophel’s counsel 2 Samuel 16:20-23.

(b)  Hushai’s counsel 2 Samuel 17:1-14.

(c)  Hushai’s message to David 2 Samuel 17:15-22.

(d)  Ahithophel’s suicide 2 Samuel 17:23.

  (7)  The Civil War.

(a)  Progress of the rebellion 2 Samuel 17:24-26.

(b)  Reception of David at Mahanaim 2 Samuel 17:27-29.

(c)  The battle 2 Samuel 18:1-8.

(d)  The death of Absalom 2 Samuel 18:9-18.

(e)  The news brought to David. His grief. 2 Samuel 18:19-33.

  Section 6.  Restoration of David’s authority.

  (1)  David reproved by Joab 2 Samuel 19:1-8.

  (2)  Negotiations for the king’s recall 2 Samuel 19:9-15.

  (3)  David’s return. Incidents on the journey.

(a)  Shimei pardoned 2 Samuel 19:16-23.

(b)  Meeting with Mephibosheth 2 Samuel 19:24-30.

(c)  Barzillai’s farewell 2 Samuel 19:31-40.

  (4)  Dispute between Judah and Israel 2 Samuel 19:41-43.

  (5)  Sheba’s insurrection.

(a)  The outbreak 2 Samuel 20:1-2.

David’s arrival at Jerusalem 2 Samuel 20:3.

(b)  Pursuit of Sheba. Amasa murdered by Joab 2 Samuel 20:4-13.

(c)  Siege of Abel Beth-Maachah. End of the insurrection 2 Samuel 20:14-22.

  (6)  Officers of state after the restoration 2 Samuel 20:23-26.

Note (a) how large a portion of the book is devoted to tracing the punishment of David’s sin: (b) the graphic detail in the narrative of Absalom’s rebellion: (c) David’s resignation: (d) the ominous discord between Judah and Israel.

  Division III.  Supplementary Appendix: 21–24

  Section 1.  The Famine.

  (1)  Execution of Saul’s sons 2 Samuel 21:1-10.

  (2)  Burial of the bones of Saul and his sons 2 Samuel 21:11-14.

  Section 2.  Heroic exploits in the Philistine wars 2 Samuel 21:15-22.

  Section 3.  David’s Psalm of Thanksgiving 22.

  Section 4.  David’s Last Words 2 Samuel 23:1-7.

  Section 5.  David’s heroes.

  (1)  The first Three 2 Samuel 23:8-12.

  (2)  The well of Bethlehem 2 Samuel 23:13-17.

  (3)  Abishai and Benaiah 2 Samuel 23:18-23.

  (4)  The Thirty 2 Samuel 23:24-39.

  Section 6.  David’s sin in numbering the people.

  (1)  The census taken 2 Samuel 24:1-9.

  (2)  Gad sent to offer choice of punishments 2 Samuel 24:10-14.

  (3)  The plague 2 Samuel 24:15-17.

  (4)  Purchase of Araunah’s threshing-floor and erection of an altar 2 Samuel 24:18-25.

This appendix forms a general supplement to the history of David’s reign, illustrating (a) God’s providential discipline of Israel, by two national punishments: (b) David’s character, by two of his own writings: (c) the heroic spirit of the age, by the catalogue of his mighty men, and examples of their valorous exploits.


The Relation Of The Book Of Chronicles To The Book Of Samuel

1. The First Book of the Chronicles contains another history of David’s reign. Many passages are word for word the same as the corresponding passages in the Book of Samuel[20]; and many passages agree in substance, though differing more or less in detail[21]. But much that is contained in Samuel is omitted in Chronicles, and much of the information in Chronicles is supplementary to the narrative of Samuel. Neither book is a complete history of David’s reign. each compiler selected from the materials before him such portions as suited his purpose. It is important therefore to endeavour to ascertain the principle of the selection. With this object let us examine the facts.

[20] This verbal coincidence is frequently obscured in the E.V. by different renderings of the same original. This may be partly due to the fact that the books of Samuel and Chronicles fell to the lot of different companies of translators (see Dr Westcott’s History of the English Bible, p. 147 ff.); but unfortunately the false principle of introducing variety by different renderings of the same words was deliberately adopted by the translators of 1611.

[21] The parallel sections are as follows:

1 Chronicles 10:1-12  = 1 Samuel 31

1 Chronicles 11:1-9  = 2 Samuel 5:1-3; 2 Samuel 5:6-101 Chronicles 11:10-41  = 2 Samuel 23:8-391 Chronicles 13

  = 2 Samuel 6:1-111 Chronicles 14

  = 2 Samuel 5:11-251 Chronicles 15, 16 (in part only)

  = 2 Samuel 6:12-231 Chronicles 17, 18, 19

  = 2 Samuel 7, 8, 10

1 Chronicles 20:1-3  = 2 Samuel 11:1; 2 Samuel 12:26-311 Chronicles 20:4-8  = 2 Samuel 21:18-221 Chronicles 21

  = 2 Samuel 24

2. Omissions in Chronicles. The following are the most important matters contained in Samuel and omitted in Chronicles:

(a) The history of David’s reign at Hebron and the civil war with the house of Saul (2 Samuel 1-4).

(b) David’s kindness to Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 9).

(c) David’s adultery and its punishment, including the history of Absalom’s rebellion (2 Samuel 11:2-27; 2 Samuel 12:1-25; 2 Samuel 12:13-20).

(d) The execution of Saul’s sons (2 Samuel 21:1-14).

(e) David’s Thanksgiving and Last Words (2 Samuel 22; 2 Samuel 23:1-7).

3. Additions in Chronicles. The following are the most striking additions in Chronicles to the history contained in Samuel:

(a) The catalogues of the warriors who joined David at Ziklag, and of those who came to Hebron to make him king (1 Chronicles 12).

(b) Elaborate details of the arrangements on the occasion of the translation of the Ark to Jerusalem (1 Chronicles 13:1-5, 1 Chronicles 15, 16).

(c) Many details in the account of the Plague (1 Chronicles 21).

(d) David’s preparations for the building of the Temple (1 Chronicles 22).

(e) The organization of the Priests and Levites, the army, and the civil service (1 Chronicles 23-27).

(f) The assembly of the people at Solomon’s accession (1 Chronicles 28, 29).

4. In general then the compiler of the Book of Samuel gives a history of David’s reign with special reference (a) to the vicissitudes through which he was raised by the care and guidance of Jehovah to be the head of a mighty kingdom: (b) to matters of, comparatively speaking, private interest in his life: (c) to the chastisements by which he was punished for his sin. He thus portrays David the man as well as David the King.

The compiler of Chronicles gives prominence (a) to all matters of religious ceremonial, calling special attention to the agency of the Priests and Levites[22]: (b) to the chief steps in the rise and progress of David’s kingdom, omitting the reverses which from time to time checked its growth.

[22] The Levites are only mentioned twice in Samuel (1 Samuel 6:15; 2 Samuel 15:24), and above thirty times in 1 Chron. alone.

5. These differences correspond remarkably to the age and object of the two historians. The unknown compiler of Samuel was undoubtedly a prophet, and his narrative is penetrated by a prophetic spirit[23]. He drew up, no long time after the events, a narrative of the foundation of the Theocratic Monarchy, selecting such matter as illustrated God’s providential dealings with the king He had chosen.

[23] Note for example the use of the title “Lord of Hosts,” found thirteen times in Samuel, but only thrice in 1 Chron., and then in passages copied from Samuel. See Additional Note I. to 1 Sam. p. 235.

6. The Book of Chronicles was written after the Return from the Captivity. Its author was most probably Ezra, who was a priest, and his main objects in compiling it were (a) to publish trustworthy genealogical records with a view to the re-settlement of the land, and the re-establishment of regular services in the restored temple: (b) to rekindle something of national life and spirit, and make the people feel that they were still the representatives of the Kingdom of God, and that national prosperity depended upon faithfulness to Jehovah. With this design he drew up a compendious history, tracing the fortunes of the kingdom of David from its foundation, and selecting especially such passages of the history as present the best kings engaged in promoting the cause of religion, and regulating the services of the house of God; and moreover laying particular stress upon the direct intervention of God for the reward of righteousness and the punishment of evil-doing. Its purpose is didactic rather than historical, and its tone, in accordance with the profession of its author, priestly rather than prophetic.

7. Hence the prominence given to religious ceremonial and Levitical and priestly work in the history of David’s reign: hence the silence with which the darker episodes of that reign are passed over. The historian must not be accused of unfaithfulness, or inaccuracy, or prejudice, for adopting such a method of treatment; his history does not profess to be complete, and his selection of facts is justified by the special purpose which he has in view.

Such a review of its past history was well calculated to quicken the energies of the nation for the new era of its existence upon which it was entering; and to us the preservation of the work is most valuable, presenting as it does another side of the national life, and adding in no small degree (so far as concerns the period covered by the Second Book of Samuel) to the completeness and truthfulness of the picture which we can draw of David’s reign, and the lessons which we can derive from it.

8. It remains to inquire whether the matter common to Chronicles and Samuel was taken from the latter book, or derived from the original authorities used by the compiler of Samuel. The verbal agreement of some sections favours the first supposition; but the original authorities for the history of David’s reign were still extant, and are referred to for fuller information; and while it seems probable that the compiler of Chronicles had the Book of Samuel before him, it is clear that he also drew largely from other sources to which he had access, in all probability the state records and the prophetical histories which he mentions by name[24].

[24] The Chronicles of King David (1 Chronicles 27:24) and the Chronicles of Samuel, Nathan, and Gad (1 Chronicles 29:29). See Introd. Ch. 1. § 4.


The Chronology Of The Second Book Of Samuel

1. The chronology of the Second Book of Samuel is practically the chronology of David’s reign. Unfortunately the historian has arranged his work according to the subject-matter rather than the sequence of events, and the definite marks of time are few and unconnected.

2. The subjoined table is offered as a conjectural arrangement of the principal events in David’s reign, but the dates must be distinctly understood to be only approximate. The year of David’s accession may be fixed at about b.c. 1055.

Reign of David at Hebron (2 Samuel 2:11)


Absalom’s birth

  (?) 1052 or 1050

Reign of Ish-bosheth and civil war (2 Samuel 2:10)


Reign of David at Jerusalem (2 Samuel 5:4-5)


Period of foreign wars (2 Samuel 8)


in which are to be placed


A period of peace (2 Samuel 7:1),


Mephibosheth’s elevation[25],

[25] See preliminary note to ch. 9.


The famine[26] (?).

[26] See note on ch. 2 Samuel 21:1.


Adultery with Bath-sheba


Amnon’s outrage


Absalom’s rebellion


Period of tranquillity and steady national growth[27]

[27] See Introd. Ch. VI. § 11, p. 37.


The plague

  (?) 1018

David’s death


3. This table is based upon the following considerations:

(a) Solomon was young at his accession[28], according to Josephus (Ant. VIII. 7, 8), only fourteen. The natural inference from 1 Chronicles 3:5, where he is placed last of Bath-sheba’s four sons, is that he was the youngest of her children, if not of all David’s sons[29]. David’s adultery with Bath-sheba may therefore be placed about twenty years before the close of his reign.

[28] 1 Chronicles 22:5; 1 Kings 2:2; 1 Kings 3:7.

[29] This is distinctly stated by Josephus, Ant. VII. 14. 2. It is true that a different impression is left by 2 Samuel 12:24-25; but Hebrew history not seldom passes over a long interval in silence without a hint of the intervening events. See a striking example of this in 1 Chronicles 11:1, where the whole of David’s reign at Hebron is thus passed over.

(b) Between Amnon’s outrage and Absalom’s rebellion about eleven years intervened. Two years passed before Absalom’s revenge (2 Samuel 13:23); three years were spent by Absalom at Geshur (ch. 2 Samuel 13:38); two more at Jerusalem before he was admitted to David’s presence (ch. 2 Samuel 14:28); and four[30] in plotting for his conspiracy (ch. 2 Samuel 15:7). Absalom’s rebellion cannot be placed much less than ten years before the close of David’s reign, for the kingdom had recovered from the shock, and was in such a condition of prosperity and tranquillity during several years, that David was tempted by the spirit of pride which induced him to take the census, and could make extensive preparations for building the Temple. Nor can it well be placed much earlier, for Absalom was born at Hebron (2 Samuel 3:3), and he can hardly have been less than eighteen or twenty when he killed Amnon.

[30] Reading four instead of forty in ch. 2 Samuel 15:7. See note there.

(c) If this calculation is approximately correct, Amnon’s outrage occurred shortly after David’s adultery, and the son’s indulgence of his passions was encouraged by the evil example of his father’s still recent crime. Thus David’s punishment sprang immediately out of his offence, for Amnon’s act was the seed of a long series of calamities.


The Place Of The Books Of Samuel In The History Of The Kingdom Of God

1. The Old Testament differs from ordinary histories (1) in its subject, because it is the history of the special training and discipline of God’s chosen people: (2) in its method, because it is “a history of facts as God sees them referred to their true centre in Him, explained by His dealings with men, and His workings within them[31]:” or, in other words, its writers were inspired by God the Holy Ghost to discern the true significance of events, and to relate such parts of the national history as should truly set forth the gradual evolution of God’s purpose towards His people[32].

[31] Barry’s Introduction to the Old Testament, p. 45.

[32] According to the Jewish arrangement the books of the Old Testament are divided into three classes: The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings, a division which is already recognised in the words of the prologue to Ecclesiasticus (about b.c. 150), “the law, and the prophets, and the rest of the books,” and in Luke 24:44, “the law of Moses, and the prophets, and the psalms.” It should be remembered that the so-called “historical books” of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings belong to the second group, and are entitled “The Former Prophets.” True history is prophecy.

2. The Old Testament is the history of a dispensation which was partial, progressive, preparatory. It can only be rightly understood in view of the great fact to which it looked forward. It must be studied as the record of the Divine Preparation for the Incarnation of the Son of God, which is the central event of the world’s history, the hope of all humanity, the final revelation of God to the world[33]. “It does not simply contain prophecies of Christ: it is from first to last a prophecy of Him.”

[33] There is a most suggestive sketch of the Preparation for Christianity in ch. I. of Prof. Westcott’s Gospel of the Resurrection.

3. This preparation included three main elements which must be carefully traced in each successive epoch of Jewish history: (i) the discipline and training of the chosen nation of Israel that it might be “the home[34]” to which in “the fulness of the times” God might send His Son[35]; and the instrument by which the knowledge of God might be communicated to the world at large[36]: (ii) the gradual development under the various types of Priest, Prophet, and King, of the expectation of a Deliverer who should unite in himself all these offices, and be at once a Mediator, a Teacher, a Monarch: (iii) God’s progressive revelation of Himself, “in many parts and in many fashions[37],” that men might at length be enabled to recognise “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ[38].”

[34] John 1:11, εἰς τὰ ἴδια.

[35] Galatians 4:4.

[36] John 4:22.

[37] Hebrews 1:1.

[38] 2 Corinthians 4:6.

We must examine how the period of which the history is contained in this book contributed to the preparation in each of these respects.

4. (i) The Book of Samuel is the record of a most critical epoch in the training of the nation of Israel. To understand its significance a brief survey of their whole history is necessary.

Three great periods must be distinguished in the history of Israel; the Theocracy, the Monarchy, the Hierarchy; corresponding in some degree to the three divisions of the Old Testament, the Law, the Prophets, the Writings.

(a) The Theocracy. The history of the Jewish nation begins with Abraham, the friend of God, the father of the faithful, “the ancestor of all nations which have held a monotheistic belief practically.” With him and with his family was made the first covenant of promise. In Egypt the family became a nation. The stern discipline of toil and suffering in the presence of their common enemy bound them together. The great signs and wonders of the Exodus declared their high destiny. At Sinai the covenant made with their forefathers was renewed, confirmed, and amplified to the nation. The Law was given as a schoolmaster for the childhood of the new-born nation, “a kind of external conscience” to train it to obedience. The Israelites entered Canaan, and the first part of the promise to Abraham was fulfilled.

But for a long time the nation seemed to make no progress. The period which intervened between the Entry into Canaan and the Life of Samuel was a time of anarchy and apostasy. The Book of Judges is a record of two centuries of national disintegration and religious declension. It was necessary, humanly speaking, in order that they might learn their weakness. They were unable as yet to bear the pure Theocracy, the direct government of God without the intervention of an earthly ruler. Some visible bond must be found to unite into a solid mass the scattered tribes which could not as yet be firmly bound together into one by the invisible tie of a common allegiance to Jehovah. Material and political means must prepare the way for the spiritual and religious end. Otherwise the nation must cease to exist, ground to pieces between the enemies which surrounded it on all sides. In order to make solid advance, retrogression was inevitable.

At this critical juncture God raised up Samuel, “a prophet second only to Moses,” to guide the nation through this crisis in its existence, and effect the transition to the second stage of its education.

(b) The Monarchy. The sovereignty of a visible monarch was a declension from the ideal of the Theocracy. Yet a king might have been given by God in His own time as a necessary factor in the training of the nation. But the demand for a king as made by the Israelites at this period, was the direct outcome of faithlessness. It was a defection from God. Nevertheless the request was granted. God first gave them a king according to their own ideal, that bitter experience might teach them lessons they would not otherwise learn: and then a king “after His own heart,” a true representative of the Kingdom of God. In his hands such a monarchy as we may conceive might have been asked for without sin, fulfilled important purposes by consolidating the scattered tribes into a body strong enough to maintain its independence, thus saving the nation from destruction, and preserving it to fulfil its great destiny of blessing to the world.

(c) The Hierarchy at length took the place of the Monarchy and resumed the ideal of Theocracy. When the Kingdom fell, and the discipline of the Captivity had done its work, “the unity of a Church succeeded to the unity of a nation.” The voice of prophecy ceased. In the absence of new revelations, the people pondered on the past, till at length “the time was fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God came.”

5. (ii) In what respects did the period we have to study contribute to the formation and development of the Messianic expectation? The Law with its elaborate ritual of sacrifice had pointed forward to One who should be at once Priest and Victim, and make atonement for the sin of man. Now the Kingdom turned the national thoughts to the hope of a King who should reign in righteousness, and “have dominion from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth[39].” The kingdom of David and Solomon was a type of the kingdom of that Son of David to whom in the fulness of time was given in a spiritual reality the throne of His father David[40]. It is in the Book of Samuel that the title of Messiah, the Lord’s Anointed, the Christ, is first applied to the king[41], whose visible majesty kindled prophetic hopes of a glorious future[42].

[39] Psalm 72:7-8. Psalms 2, 45, 72, 110 should be studied as illustrating the growth of the Messianic Hope in connexion with the Kingdom.

[40] Luke 1:32-33.

[41] 1 Samuel 2:10, where the Septuagint has χριστός. The same word in both Heb. and LXX. is applied to the high-priest in Leviticus 4:5; Leviticus 4:16; Leviticus 6:22.

[42] The typical character of David’s reign and life is discussed in Ch. VII. of this Introduction. See also Additional Note I., p. 233.

6. (iii) It remains to inquire how God’s revelation of Himself was carried forward in this period.

(a) One result of the establishment of the kingdom was the building of the Temple. As the king was the visible representative of the Divine government, so the centralised sanctuary testified to the unity of Him whom Israel worshipped, and both combined to present spiritual ideas in a fixed and definite shape. Monotheism was not, as has sometimes been wrongly said, an instinct of the Semitic races. The repeated idolatries of the Jewish nation prove the contrary. Only through long discipline and with constant relapses was the lesson learnt. The period of the Monarchy taught this truth in a visible and material manner, and when once learnt it was afterwards spiritualised by the destruction of the visible Monarchy and the discipline of the Captivity.

(b) Closely connected with the establishment of the Monarchy was the institution of the Prophetic Order. This was Samuel’s second great legacy to his nation. By the agency of the prophets the Will of Jehovah was made known to men; new revelations of His character and His claims were communicated; the spiritual meaning of the Law was interpreted[43].

[43] See Introd. to 1 Samuel, ch. 6.

(c) In this period was deepened the consciousness of the individual’s personal relation to God. The intimate communing with Him in prayer and praise, which is characteristic of the Psalms of David, marks a new advance in the relation of man to God. Now was laid the foundation of that Psalter in which for all succeeding time, men have found the expression and the echo of their deepest thoughts and highest aspirations.

7. To sum up briefly, the Monarchy preserved the existence of the nation, foreshadowed the kingdom of the Messiah, witnessed to the government of God. At the same time Prophecy and Psalmody interpreted the past, spiritualised the present, stimulated hope for the future.


The Reign Of David

1. The First Book of Samuel brings the history of David’s life down to the close of that period of preparatory discipline by which he was divinely educated for his high destiny[44]. The quiet life in the home at Bethlehem, the novel duties and temptations of Saul’s court, the manifold hardships and perils of exile, had done their work, and moulded the lines of that many-sided character with an ineffaceable impress. As shepherd he had acquired the spirit of calm thought and deep reflexion; as courtier he had been trained in prudent self-control and chivalrous generosity; as outlaw he had learned quick sympathy with the oppressed, knowledge of men, and power of government; and above all, each successive phase of experience had quickened and developed that conscious dependence upon God which was the fundamental secret of his strength throughout his life. Step by step he had been led forward, steadily refusing to take the shaping of his career into his own hands by deeds of violence[45], and “committing his way unto the Lord,” in the full assurance that “He would bring it to pass[46].”

[44] See Introd. to 1 Samuel, chap. 8.

[45] 1 Samuel 26:10.

[46] Psalm 37:5.

2. The Second Book of Samuel contains the history of David’s reign. When the discipline of his early life was complete, the death of Saul opened his way to the throne. The task before him was immense. Internal disorganization consequent upon the misrule of Saul’s later years: the jealousy of the partisans of the old dynasty: the antagonism of conflicting interests among the different tribes; a country overrun with victorious and powerful enemies; the certain prospect that any vigorous attempt to consolidate the kingdom would excite the hostility of foreign enemies—these were some of the difficulties which met him at the outset. And if these obstacles were successfully overcome, and he became the acknowledged sovereign of a united and powerful nation, the trial to his own character could not fail to be severe. Would he continue to be, as the essential nature of the Theocratic Monarchy demanded that he should be, the faithful “servant of Jehovah,” the obedient instrument of His Will; or would he, like Saul, assume an attitude of autocratic independence, and fall by the sin of pride and self-reliance?

3. From such difficulties a weaker man might well have shrunk. But David was a born ruler of men. In his well-knit, sinewy frame, insensible to hardship, incapable of fatigue, he possessed the indispensable pre-requisite for a warrior-king[47]: but higher qualifications than these were the innate aptitude for governing which was early displayed in his control of the wild spirits who gathered round him in his outlaw life; the fearless courage which had characterised him from his earliest days[48]; and the singular power which he possessed of inspiring enthusiastic devotion in his followers[49]: and the highest qualification of all was his firm trust and unshaken dependence upon God, coupled with the consciousness of a divine commission, which led him in each crisis to “wait patiently upon God,” in the confident expectation of divine guidance[50].

[47] Observe how he regards this as the gift of God and gives thanks for it accordingly in 2 Samuel 22:34 ff.

[48] 1 Samuel 17:34.

[49] 1 Samuel 18:5; 1 Samuel 18:16; 2 Samuel 23:15 ff.

[50] See Ewald’s Hist. of Israel, III. 60.

4. There are two clearly marked periods in the history of David’s reign. During the first he reigned over Judah in Hebron, and during the second over all Israel in Jerusalem. His reign over Israel in Jerusalem is no less clearly divided into two periods in the view of the sacred historian, by the great sin which cast its fatal shadow over the later years of his life.

But the author of Samuel does not aim at giving a complete or chronological history of David’s reign. Considerable portions of it, and many events of interest and importance, are passed over in silence, or with the barest passing reference.

5. (i) David’s reign at Hebron. The first five out of the seven and a half years during which David was king of Judah only are almost a blank in the history. Northern Palestine was occupied by the Philistines after the battle of Gilboa: the adherents of Saul’s house established themselves in the Trans-Jordanic provinces: David quietly devoted himself to consolidating his little kingdom of Judah. His family grew, and some intercourse with foreign countries is indicated by his matrimonial alliance with the daughter of a petty Syrian king, Talmai of Geshur. It was not until Abner had succeeded in repulsing the Philistines, and re-organizing the disintegrated northern tribes, and had placed Ish-bosheth on the throne of Israel, that the two kingdoms came into collision. For two years a desultory civil war was waged, until at length the defection of Abner destroyed the last hopes of the house of Saul. His treacherous murder by Joab delayed the transference of the kingdom of Israel to David for a brief space only. Ish-bosheth’s assassination shortly after removed the remaining excuse which the northern tribes had for holding aloof from David. There was one man, and one only, who was capable of saving the nation in this crisis. The representatives of all Israel came to Hebron and unanimously offered the crown to him who had been designated twenty years before as the King of Jehovah’s choice, and in all the vicissitudes of those twenty years had proved his worthiness for that position. A national assembly was held with general rejoicings, David was anointed for the third time, and a solemn covenant concluded between him and his subjects.

6. (ii) David’s reign at Jerusalem, (α) before his fall. The first important undertaking of the new king was the capture of Jebus. Here he fixed his capital, and hither, as soon as circumstances permitted, he transferred the Ark. Jerusalem thus became the sanctuary as well as the capital of the kingdom. This union of the political and religious centres inaugurated a new epoch in the nation’s history. It was a visible realisation of the true principle of the Theocratic Monarchy. The day on which he welcomed the Ark into Zion, his own city, as a very Advent of Jehovah to dwell in the midst of His people, was the greatest day of David’s life. From that day dates the beginning of the sanctity of “the Holy City,” round which so many sacred associations cluster, and which has become the earthly type of heaven.

7. In this first period of his reign are most probably to be placed the great foreign wars by which he established his dominion on a secure basis. Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites, Amalekites, Edomites, Syrians up to the very banks of the Euphrates, submitted to his irresistible advance. The powerful kingdom of Tyre became his ally: Hamath voluntarily placed itself under his protectorate. It was no lust for conquest which led him into these wars: they were forced upon him by the necessities of his position in the struggle for national existence. No nation between the Mediterranean and the Euphrates could acquiesce in Israel’s rapidly increasing power without some attempt to crush so dangerous a rival.

8. One brief interval of complete peace during this period allowed him to turn his attention to the cherished wish of his life, the plan of building a worthy Temple for Jehovah. Though he was not permitted to carry it out himself, he received a rich compensation in the marvellous prophecy of Nathan, by which an eternal dominion was promised to his house, and an assurance given that his own son should carry out the plan for which the fitting time had not yet fully come.

9. With the exception of the first failure to bring up the Ark to Jerusalem, and some temporary reverses in the field of battle[51], only one great calamity, so far as we know, interrupted the rapid advance of prosperity during this period. Three years of famine, the punishment of Saul’s breach of faith with the Gibeonites, taught Israel to reverence the sanctity of national oaths and treaties.

[51] Psalms 60, title. See note on ch. 2 Samuel 8:13.

10. (β) David’s reign after his fall. The second period of David’s reign at Jerusalem opens with his great sin. From that sin dates the commencement of the great troubles of his life. The nation indeed does not seem to have suffered in its relations with foreign powers; but a series of calamities, partly involving the whole nation, partly affecting his own family only, embittered much of the last twenty years of David’s reign.

His adultery with Bath-sheba, and his murder of Uriah, were dark blots upon his character. The sin was pardoned, but it could not be left unpunished. And the punishment came from the same source as the sin.

“The gods are just, and of our pleasant vices

Make instruments to plague us[52].”

[52] King Lear, A. v. Sc. iii. 170.

The curse of polygamy, permitted indeed but discountenanced by the Mosaic law, bore its natural fruit in the quarrels of sons, whom a mistaken affection had treated with foolish indulgence. Amnon’s outrage, Absalom’s revenge, his insurrection and wretched death, with all the miseries of civil war—these are the events which fill the pages of the history.

There are sufficient reasons to account for the temporary success of Absalom’s rebellion, without accusing David of having alienated the affections of his people by misgovernment and neglect of his duties. The personal popularity of Absalom, supported by the dissatisfaction of the tribe of Judah at the loss of its special preeminence, “the still lingering hopes of the house of Saul and of the tribe of Benjamin, and the deep-rooted feeling of Ephraim and the northern tribes against Judah[53],” forces really antagonistic to one another, were combined for the moment in an attempt to overthrow David’s authority. With Absalom’s death the first of these elements was extinguished, but the two latter blazed out again in the insurrection headed by Sheba, which nearly anticipated by half a century the Disruption of the Kingdoms. The danger was averted for the time by Joab’s promptitude, but it shewed sufficiently the instability of the foundations upon which David had to build up his kingdom.

[53] Stanley’s Lect. II. 107.

11. The impression produced by the record of David’s reign in the Book of Samuel is that its latter years were a period of almost unrelieved disaster. The prophet-author is dwelling on the consequences of David’s sins, and therefore gives prominence to the calamities which punished them. But this impression needs to be corrected. The closing period of David’s reign, after the suppression of Absalom’s rebellion, must have been on the whole a time of steady growth and prosperity for the nation. Otherwise it could not have laid the firm foundation which it did for the unparalleled splendour of Solomon’s reign. Administrative improvements, religious organization, preparations for building the Temple, occupied David, and were so successfully carried out, that Solomon succeeded to unchallenged empire, and was able at once to proceed with the building of the Temple.

12. One great calamity indeed cast its shadow over the tranquillity of this period. Infatuated for a moment by a spirit of ambition and pride, which represented, it seems, a corresponding spirit in the nation at large, David ordered a census to be taken. The chastisement of pestilence rebuked both king and nation for their error.

13. Here the compiler of the Book of Samuel ends his narrative, and rightly so. The remaining scenes of David’s life are the prelude to the reign of Solomon. The preparations for the building of the Temple, the rebellion of Adonijah, the king’s parting charge to Solomon, are fitly placed at the beginning of the new era rather than at the close of the old.

14. After thus briefly indicating the salient points of the history of David’s reign, it remains to give some account of his organization of the kingdom.

(a) Military organization. The “Host,” or main body of the army, consisted of all the men of age for military service. The whole of this body was only called out in case of necessity, and received no special training. In order therefore to secure an effective army, David formed a national militia of twelve regiments, each twelve thousand strong. Each of them had its general, and was called out for a month’s training in the year[54]. Besides this militia, there was a body-guard constantly under arms, known as “the Cherethites and Pelethites[55],” and a regiment of picked troops called the Gibbôrîm or Heroes, which was always maintained at the number of Six Hundred, in memory of the days of David’s wanderings[56]. Special prowess was rewarded by admission to a band of Thirty[57], an honour comparable to that of knighthood; and exceptional deeds of daring had raised six warriors to a yet higher distinction, as “The First Three” and “The Second Three[58].” Supreme above all was Joab, the “Captain of the Host,” second in power only to the king himself, unequalled as a warrior and indispensable to David.

[54] 1 Chronicles 27:1-15.

[55] See note on ch. 2 Samuel 8:18.

[56] See note on ch. 2 Samuel 15:18.

[57] 2 Samuel 23:24-39.

[58] See 2 Samuel 23:8 ff., and note on v. 13.

(b) Civil organization. The rapid development of the kingdom necessitated careful arrangements for the administration of the state. The principal civil officers of the king’s court were the Counsellor, the Recorder or Remembrancer, the Scribe or Secretary of State, the King’s Companion or Friend, and, in the later years of his reign, the Superintendent of the Levy[59]. These, together with the king’s sons, who had the title of “Ministers[60],” the two High-priests, the Commander-in-chief of the army, and the Captain of the body-guard, formed the king’s privy council.

[59] See 2 Samuel 8:16-18; 2 Samuel 20:23-26, and notes there.

[60] See note on ch. 2 Samuel 8:18.

The management of the crown estates and revenues was entrusted to a number of officers stationed in different parts of the kingdom[61]: the maintenance of law and order was committed to a numerous body of magistrates and judges[62]: each tribe was placed under the government of a prince or ruler1[63]. Thus far the scanty notices preserved in Chronicles indicate the existence of a thorough system of internal administration, though they do not enable us to determine its details.

[61] 1 Chronicles 27:25-31.

[62] 1 Chronicles 26:29-32.

[63] 1 Chronicles 27:16-22.

(c) Religious organization. Religious institutions, no less than secular administration, occupied the care of David. He was himself the head and leader in religious movements[64], realising thereby the true ideal of the theocratic king, in complete contrast with Saul’s antagonism to both prophets and priesthood. Gad “the Seer” and Nathan “the Prophet” were his confidential advisers: the two priests, Zadok and Abiathar[65], were among his most honoured counsellors. The Priests and Levites were classified, and told off for the performance of various duties “in the service of the house of the Lord[66];” some were trained as singers and musicians under the leadership of Asaph, Heman, and Jeduthun[67]; others had the duty of watching the gates assigned to them[68]; others again were constituted guardians of the treasury[69]. These more elaborate arrangements were made in the later years of David’s reign, in connexion with his preparations for the Temple.

[64] See 2 Samuel 6:1-19, with the parallel passages in 1 Chron.

[65] See Introductory note to ch. 6.

[66] 1 Chronicles 23, 24.

[67] 1 Chronicles 25.

[68] 1 Chronicles 26:1-19.

[69] 1 Chronicles 26:20-28.

15. The main results of David’s reign may be briefly summed up as follows. (a) He consolidated the tribes into a nation, binding together the discordant elements of which it was composed into a vigorous unity, not without struggles and opposition. Short as was the duration of this unity, it gave a new strength and new aspirations to Israel. (b) By his conquests he secured to Israel the undisputed possession of its country, thereby ensuring the free field which was indispensable for the expansion and development of the nation, and through it of the true Religion which had been entrusted to its guardianship. In these two points Saul had to some extent anticipated him, and made his success possible. (c) But the noblest result of David’s work was the harmonious union of all the highest influences for good which were at work in the nation. For once the religious and the secular powers acted in perfect cooperation, each contributing to the other’s efficiency. The Theocratic Monarchy was to be no absolute despotism. Its king was the representative of Jehovah, and his power was limited by this relation. He must therefore act in obedience to the Will of Jehovah, communicated to him through the prophets. This was the ideal for which Samuel laboured. Saul was rejected for his proud endeavour to assert his own independence. David, though not without lapses and failures, on the whole realised the ideal, and was Israel’s greatest, because truest, king. (d) Consequently, as will be seen further presently (Introd. Ch. VII.), his reign was always looked back to as the golden age of the nation, the type of a still more glorious age to which the national hope looked forward as the crown and consummation of its destiny.

Himself a warrior, he led the nation to victory; himself a prophet, and the pupil of one of the greatest of the prophets, he sympathised with the prophetic work, and yielded himself, without losing his royal dignity, to prophetic guidance; himself, though not by descent a priest, performing priestly functions, he was the patron of the hierarchy; and thus for a brief space, all the strongest and noblest powers of the nation were brought into harmony, and full scope given to their influences.

16. It remains to speak of David’s character. “In the complexity of its elements, passion, tenderness, generosity, fierceness—the soldier, the shepherd, the poet, the statesman, the priest, the prophet, the king—the romantic friend, the chivalrous leader, the devoted father—there is no character of the O. T. at all to be compared to that of David[70].” It was this many-sidedness of character, combined with the variety of experience through which he passed, which has made his Psalms a manual of devotion for minds of every character and of every age. Rich and varied as are the tones of the many voices which combine to form the Psalter, they are scarcely more rich and varied than the tones of the single voice of him who was its Founder; passing as they do through every variation of jubilant praise and thanksgiving, unshaken trust in God, keenest suffering, bitter sorrow for sin, heartfelt repentance.

[70] Dean Stanley in Smith’s Dict. of the Bible.

Men have wondered that the man who fell into such grievous sins should be called “the man after God’s own heart,” and regarded as the greatest king of Israel. His crimes were those of many an Oriental despot: but the sequel of those crimes—the earnest repentance, the prayer for renewal, the discipline of years by which the blessing of “a clean heart” and “a right spirit” was realised[71]—could have occurred nowhere but under the influence of true divine teaching. The whole matter is excellently summed up by “a critic not too indulgent to sacred characters” in an often, but not too often, quoted passage: “David, the Hebrew King, had fallen into sins enough: blackest crimes: there was no want of sins. And thereupon the unbelievers sneer and ask, ‘Is this your man according to God’s heart?’ The sneer, I must say, seems to me but a shallow one. What are faults? what are the outward details of a life, if the inner secret of it, the remorse, temptations, true, often baffled, never ended, struggle of it be forgotten?… David’s life and history, as written for us in those Psalms of his, I consider to be the truest emblem ever given of a man’s moral progress and warfare here below. All earnest souls will recognise in it the faithful struggle of an earnest human soul towards what is good and best. Struggle often baffled, sore baffled, down as into entire wreck; yet a struggle never ended; ever with tears, repentance, true unconquerable purpose, begun anew[72].”

[71] See Maurice’s Prophets and Kings, p. 66.

[72] Carlyle’s Heroes and Hero-worship, p. 43.


The Typical Significance Of David’s Reign And Life

1. The whole of the Jewish dispensation was designed by God to be a preparation for the coming of Christ[73]. Many of its institutions, ordinances, events, and characters, were typical: that is to say, they were intended to be as it were outlines drawn beforehand to prefigure and foreshadow Christ, and to prepare men’s minds to expect His coming.

[73] See Introd. Ch. 5.

2. The Kingdom of God in Israel was typical of the Kingdom of God afterwards to be established in the world; and the King of Israel was typical of Christ, the King of that universal kingdom. The characteristics of his office, as interpreted by a succession of prophets, led men to look for One who should perfectly realise the ideal, which had been imperfectly realised by the best of their human kings[74].

[74] See Riehm’s Messianic Prophecy, p. 59 ff.

3. The Theocratic King[75] was typical of Christ in the following respects:

[75] The ideal form of government for Israel was a Theocracy, or direct government by God without any human ruler (see Ch. 5 § 4). Theocratic King is a convenient term to describe the true position of the King of Israel as God’s vicegerent, ruling a kingdom which was not his own but God’s. See the strong expressions of 1 Chronicles 28:5; 1 Chronicles 29:23.

(1) His distinctive title was “the Lord’s Anointed:” and under this very title men were led to look for the coming Deliverer as the Messiah or the Christ[76]. (Luke 2:26; John 4:25.)

[76] The Heb. word for “the Anointed One” is Mâshîach, which was transliterated in Greek as Μεσσίας or Messiah, and translated by ὁ Χριστός, the Anointed One, the Christ.

(2) He was the visible representative of Jehovah, who was Himself the true King of Israel; the instrument of the Divine government, through whom He dispensed deliverance, help, and blessing. He would therefore be a conquering king, before whom no enemies could stand, if he was true to his calling[77]. So Christ came as the representative of God, with supreme authority in earth, delegated to Him by His Father, and destined finally to conquer all His enemies[78].

[77] 2 Samuel 7:9-10; Psalm 89:22-23.

[78] John 1:18; Matthew 28:18; 1 Corinthians 15:24-25.

(3) His will was therefore to be in perfect harmony with the will of God; and his kingdom would be, in proportion as it realised its purpose, a kingdom of righteousness and peace[79]; foreshadowing imperfectly what was never perfectly accomplished except by Christ[80].

[79] See note on 2 Samuel 23:3; and cp. Psalm 72:1-7; Psalms 101.

[80] Psalm 40:7-8; John 4:34.

(4) In virtue of this intimate relation to God he received the lofty title of God’s Son[81], a title given to no other individual, signifying God’s parental care over him, and the filial obedience due from him to God. This title is a most striking anticipation of the mysterious relationship of Christ to God.

[81] 2 Samuel 7:14, note; Psalm 2:7; Psalm 89:26-27; Acts 13:33; Hebrews 1:5.

(5) He was not only the representative of God to his people, but as the head of his people, he was their representative before God. So Christ as the Son of man, the second Adam, is the representative of the human race.

(6) As the head of a kingdom of priests (Exodus 19:6), he had a priestly character[82], although he did not exercise all priestly functions. In this also he was a type of Christ, the “High-priest over the house of God” (Hebrews 10:21).

[82] This is sometimes questioned, but was certainly the case at least with David and Solomon. David wore priestly garments, and both he and Solomon dispensed priestly blessings, and claimed the right to appoint and depose high-priests (2 Samuel 6:14; 2 Samuel 6:18; 2 Samuel 8:17; 1 Kings 2:27; 1 Kings 8:14; 1 Kings 8:55). Cp. also Psalm 110:4.

(7) He was not only to be ruler of Israel, but “head of the heathen[83],” prefiguring the universal dominion of Christ.

[83] 2 Samuel 22:44; Psalm 72:8-11.

4. In these respects any king of Israel, who at all fulfilled his office, was to some extent a type of Christ; and David, because he was the truest example of a king after God’s own heart, was the most prominent and striking type of Christ among them. David however was a type in some respects in which his successors were not.

(1) He was not only King and Priest, but Prophet also[84], thus uniting in his own person the threefold character of Christ.

[84] 2 Samuel 23:1 ff.

(2) He received the special title of “the servant of Jehovah,” given only to a few who were raised up to do special work, such as Moses the Lawgiver, and Joshua the Conqueror of the Promised Land. This was a distinctive title of Christ[85].

[85] See Matthew 12:18; Acts 3:13; Acts 3:26 (Rev. Version); Isaiah 53:11, &c.

(3) His birth-place determined the birth-place of the Messiah, whose birth at Bethlehem was brought about by a remarkable providence[86].

[86] Micah 5:2; Matthew 2:6; John 7:42.

5. For these reasons the expected Deliverer was sometimes styled not merely the Son of David, in accordance with the prophecy in 2 Samuel 7, but David[87]. No name could be more appropriate for the ideal ruler of the future than that of the king who had most nearly attained to the ideal in the past.

[87] See Hosea 3:5; Jeremiah 30:9; Ezekiel 34:23-24; Ezekiel 37:24-25.

6. But further, an examination of the quotations from the O. T. applied to Christ in the N. T. establishes the principle that the lives of the saints under the Old Covenant were typical of Christ. They were anticipations, as the lives of saints since Christ came have been imitations, of His life. Their struggles, their sufferings, their teachings, their aspirations, pointed forward to Christ, and were “fulfilled” in Him. That which was partially exemplified in them was completely exhibited in Him. Consequently “the Christian Church from the earliest times has delighted to read in the Psalms the emotions, the devotions, the life, of Christ Himself[88].”

[88] Stanley’s Lect. II. 134.

David, more than any other single individual, was a type, an anticipatory likeness, of Christ the Perfect Man. In the fervency of his aspirations, in the closeness of his communion with God, in the firmness of his trust, in the strength of his love, he was unrivalled by any human character of the Old Testament. No man ever “touched humanity at so many points;” and the manysidedness of his character, and the variety of his experience, which qualified him for practical sympathy with all ranks and all conditions of life among his subjects, made him again a type of Him whom “it behoved in all things to be made like unto his brethren[89].” He was an eminent example of the spiritual capability of the human soul as a recipient of divine illumination, preparing the way for the highest Example of all.

[89] Hebrews 2:17-18; Hebrews 4:15.

7. In these respects, both as king and as man, David was an undoubted type of Christ. Many other striking correspondences between him and the antitype whom he prefigured may be noted; for example, his occupation as shepherd, first of his flock, and then of Israel[90]: his persecution by enemies, and elevation to reign through many sufferings and trials: the misunderstandings and scorn he met with from his own relations[91]: his betrayal by one who had been admitted to his closest confidence, and so forth: but though these analogies are most interesting and instructive, it may be questioned whether they can strictly speaking be called typical.

[90] See note on 2 Samuel 5:2; and cp. Ezekiel 34:23; Micah 5:4; John 10:11.

[91] 1 Samuel 17:28; Mark 3:21; John 7:3-5.


Psalms Illustrative Of David’s Reign[92]

[92] This subject is most interestingly treated by Dr Maclaren in The Life of David as reflected in his Psalms. See also Lecture XXV. in Dean Stanley’s Lectures.

1. Of the Psalms ascribed to David by their titles many were in all probability not written by him; and of those in the case of which there is no reasonable ground for doubting the accuracy of the title a large proportion cannot be connected with any definite event or particular period of his life. Those however which either by their titles, corroborated by their contents, or from internal evidence, can be assigned to particular epochs of his life, are most valuable additions to the history, and should be carefully studied in connexion with it.

2. (i) The Translation of the Ark to Jerusalem called forth a series of Psalms, first among which is Psalms 101. It expresses the high resolves and aspirations for the purity of his kingdom and his court which filled David’s mind when he was meditating the transfer of the Ark to his new capital, which would become by virtue of its presence in an especial sense “the city of Jehovah” (v. 8). The eager exclamation “When wilt thou come unto me” (v. 2) expresses his desire to welcome the symbol of Jehovah’s Presence as a dweller in his new city.

Psalms 15, in language closely resembling the opening verses of Psalms 24, sets forth the conditions of acceptable approach to God, and dwells upon the thoughts with which he would prepare the mind of his people for the solemn event about to be celebrated.

The date of Psalms 68 is disputed, but it may well be regarded as a grand choral hymn, composed by David to be sung at the removal of the Ark to Zion, as the procession left the house of Obed-Edom. The opening words re-echo the old watchword for the setting forward of the Ark in the wilderness (Numbers 10:35). “God is represented, first as advancing at the head of the Israelites through the desert; then as leading them victoriously into Canaan; and finally as fixing His royal abode on Zion, whence He reigns in the majesty of universal dominion, acknowledged and feared by all the nations of the earth[93].”

[93] Dean Perowne’s Commentary on the Psalms.

Psalms 24 was beyond a doubt composed to be sung by choirs of Levites as the Ark passed through the gates of Zion to its new resting-place. “We can almost hear the creaking of the gates of the old fortress of Jebus, as their hinges swung sullenly open to admit the Ark of the Living God … Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in[94].”

[94] Wilberforce’s Heroes of Hebrew History, p. 253.

To these may perhaps be added Psalms 132, the opening verses of which refer to this occasion, though it was probably not written until later; and Psalms 30, apparently assigned by its title to the dedication of David’s new palace on mount Zion (2 Samuel 5:11-12).

The Psalms of this period are characterised by their lofty moral requirements, by a stern exclusiveness, a noble intolerance of pride and falsehood[95].

[95] See Stanley’s Lectures, II. 74.

3. (ii) The spirit in which the wars of this period were waged is illustrated by Psalms 20, which is a litany to be sung on the eve of the king’s going forth to battle; and by Psalms 21, which is a Te Deum of thanksgiving for his return. To these may be added Psalms 110 and perhaps Psalms 2 Psalms 60 belongs to the wars with Syria and Edom[96].

[96] See note on ch. 2 Samuel 8:13.

4. (iii) The culmination of David’s prosperity is celebrated in Psalms 18 (2 Samuel 22), written probably soon after Nathan’s visit (2 Samuel 7), in that period of peace in which he conceived the wish to build an house for Jehovah. It is the fitting expression of a heart overflowing with praise and thanksgiving, and is unrivalled for the magnificence of its poetry and the sublimity of its thought.

5. (iv) David’s Fall was the occasion of two of the most precious Psalms in the whole Psalter.

“The rock is smitten, and to future years

Springs ever fresh the tide of holy tears

And holy music, whispering peace,

Till time and sin together cease[97].”

[97] Christian Year, Sixth Sunday after Trinity.

The Fifty-first Psalm is David’s prayer for pardon and renewal, springing from the newly-awakened conviction of his sin: the Thirty-second Psalm is a review of his experience written somewhat later, in which he dwells upon the blessedness of forgiveness obtained, and describes the misery he had suffered while his sin was still unconfessed and unrepented of.

6. (v) The Flight from Absalom struck a rich vein of Psalmody. Psalms 63 is stated by its title to have been written by David “when he was in the wilderness of Judah,” in all probability between the flight from Jerusalem and the passage of the Jordan. Psalms 3 is a morning hymn, and Psalms 4 an evening hymn, composed on the day following that on which he quitted Jerusalem. Psalms 26, and possibly Psalms 62, refer to the traitors who had deserted him at this crisis; 27 and 28 probably describe his feelings during his exile at Mahanaim. The characteristic features of these Psalms are the consciousness of God’s continued help, unbroken trust, firm assurance of ultimate deliverance; eager yearning for the privileges of the sanctuary. They expand the thought of David’s words to Zadok: “If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and shew me both the ark and his habitation” (2 Samuel 15:25).

Psalms 41, 55 have been assigned to the time during which the conspiracy was being hatched: 69 and 109 have very generally been supposed to refer to Ahithophel’s treachery; and the Sept. title of 143 connects it with Absalom’s rebellion. But these references are at best doubtful; and 69 and 109 are almost certainly not Davidic.

7. (vi) There are no Psalms which can be pointed to with certainty as embodying the thoughts of David’s later years. Psalms 37 may indeed possibly be his, and if so, vv. 2–9 are a worthy summing-up of lessons learnt through the vicissitudes of a long life. Psalms 103 is assigned by the title in the Syriac version to David’s old age, but linguistic considerations almost forbid us to accept it as David’s. The “last words of David” (2 Samuel 23:1-7) seem to stand alone, and have no companion in the Psalter.



The Messianic Interpretation of Nathan’s Prophecy to David in Chap. 7

This prophecy marks an important stage in the Old Testament revelation which prepared the way for the Messiah’s coming. The primeval promise to Adam held out the hope of deliverance through “the seed of the woman[102]:” Abraham received the assurance that “in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed[103];” Jacob in his dying blessing assigned the sceptre to Judah[104]. Thus the whole human race, one nation of the race, and one tribe of the nation, were successively designated to be the means of realising the promise of blessing to mankind. And now by this prophetic declaration a further limitation was made, and the family of David was chosen out of the tribe of Judah as the depositary of the promise.

[102] Genesis 3:15.

[103] Genesis 22:18.

[104] Genesis 49:10. Cp. 1 Chronicles 28:4.

At this epoch of the national history, Israel’s hopes centred in the theocratic kingdom, in the establishment of a government whose head was to be the visible representative of Jehovah. And now by God’s message through Nathan this kingdom was for ever promised to the house of David. To it therefore men’s hopes were now directed as the destined instrument of salvation.

But this prophecy does not speak of the Messiah as an individual; it does not predict the perfect reign of a sinless king. It contemplates a succession of kings of David’s line, who would be liable to fall into sin and would need the discipline of chastisement. The perfect king in whom, as we now know, the line was to culminate, and the prophecy receive its highest fulfilment, is not yet foreshadowed.

It remained for prophet and psalmist, developing this fundamental revelation, to draw the picture of the ideal king who should spring from David’s seed, and exercise dominion as the true representative of Jehovah on earth. As each human heir of David’s line failed to fulfil the expectation, hope was carried forward and elevated, until He came to Whom is given the throne of His father David, and of Whose kingdom there shall be no end[105].

[105] Luke 1:32-33.

The subsequent references to this great promise should be carefully studied.

(a) David applies it to Solomon. 1 Chronicles 22:9-10; 1 Chronicles 28:2 ff.

(b) Solomon claims it for himself. 1 Kings 5:5; 2 Chronicles 6:7 ff.; 1 Kings 8:17-20.

(c) It is confirmed to Solomon. 1 Kings 9:4-5.

(d) It is repeatedly affirmed, that in spite of the sin of individual kings, the kingdom shall not be withdrawn from David’s house for his sake. 1 Kings 11:31-39; 1 Kings 15:4-5; 2 Kings 8:18-19.

(e) Psalms 89, written no doubt in the dark days when the monarchy was already tottering to its fall, recapitulates this promise, and pleads with God that He should not suffer it to be frustrated. See especially vv. 19–37. Psalm 132:11-12, and Isaiah 55:3, also contain distinct references to it.


On the execution of Saul’s sons

The narrative of the famine for Saul’s sin, and the consequent surrender of his sons to the Gibeonites for execution calls for some comment beyond the compass of an ordinary note. Both punishments seem to fall on the heads of those who were not personally guilty.

1. The nation was punished for the sin of its ruler committed many years before. With regard to this, Waterland[106] justly observes: “It ought not to be said, because it cannot be proved, that the Israelites of that time were punished for crimes that they were in no way guilty of. We know not how many, or who, were confederate with Saul in murdering the Gibeonites, or guilty in not hindering it. We know not how many, or who, made the crime their own by approving it afterwards.” Further it must be remembered that the king was the representative of the people. The sins of an individual member of a community must necessarily in many instances be regarded as implicating the whole community, until they are detected and repudiated[107]. Much more then must the sins of the national representative involve the whole nation in their consequences.

[106] Scripture Vindicated: Works, IV. 269.

[107] See for example the law of murder (Deuteronomy 21:1-9): the case of Achan (Joshua 7:1 ff.).

The fact that the punishment did not come until years after the sin was committed is “a recognition of the continuance of a nation’s life, of its obligations and its sins from age to age. All national morality, nay the meaning and possibility of history, depends upon this truth[108].”

[108] Maurice’s Prophets and Kings, p. 69.

2. Saul’s sons, who were not charged with being in any way personally accessory to their father’s crime, were put to death to expiate it. The sins of the father were visited upon the children. Now, as Ezekiel clearly teaches, no innocent man can be regarded as justly punishable for another’s sin[109]: but in those early ages the family was regarded as an unit, and the sins of the head of the family were regarded as involving all its members in their consequences. The sense of the rights and the responsibilities of each individual was as yet undeveloped. Consequently, as seen by the people, the execution of Saul’s sons was a judicial act of retribution; but this aspect of the transaction was only an “accommodation” to the current ideas of the age. Viewed in its essential character as sanctioned by God, it was a didactic act, designed to teach the guilt of sin.

[109] Ezekiel 18:2-4; Ezekiel 18:19-20.

God has an absolute power of life and death over His creatures, and may at any time take away the life which He has given. “The extermination of the Canaanites, and the destruction of the families of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, of Achan, and of Saul, were great lessons, and lessons which the great Master could give by the simple exercise of His right as the Lord of human life.… They were real acts, and expressed the real mind of the Deity, only as acts of instruction. God cannot punish a man for the reason of another’s sin; but it is open to God to inflict death upon His creatures, without a reason, if it so pleases Him; and of course for a reason if it be a good one:—in order to strike wholesome terror, in order to keep a standing memento, in order to associate sin with a spectacle of horror and destruction[110].”

[110] Mozley’s Lectures on the Old Testament, Lect. v. The whole lecture deserves careful study as bearing upon the question.

3. The act was no doubt one which would not have been sanctioned in a more enlightened age; but the supposition that “David seized this opportunity to rid himself of seven possible claimants to the throne” (Smith’s Dict. of the Bible, III. 1133) is a baseless calumny, sufficiently refuted by his care for Mephibosheth, and by the obscurity of the victims; and the idea that he may have been, for a while at least, “infected by the baneful example of the Phœnicians” in offering human sacrifices, is contradicted by all that we know of his character. The omission of this incident in 1 Chronicles is quite in accordance with the plan of that work, and need not be explained by assuming that when that book was written it had come to be regarded as a barbarous act of superstition, too horrible to be retained in the history. See Introd., ch. III. p. 22.


2 Samuel 22 and Psalms 18

The variations between the two texts of this Psalm in the Book of Samuel and in the Psalter present a critical problem of great interest and importance in its bearing on the integrity of the text of the O.T. Two questions obviously arise: (1) How are the variations to be accounted for: and (2) which text is to be preferred as nearest to the original.

1. It has been maintained by some critics that both recensions proceeded from the author, and are equally authentic. That in Samuel is supposed to be the original form: that in the Psalter is supposed to be a revision prepared by David himself, probably towards the close of his life, for public recitation.

This is a conjecture which can neither be proved nor disproved: but while many of the variations are certainly intentional, and due to the hand of a reviser, many are as certainly due to accidental errors of transcription.

The confusion of similar letters[111]: the omission and repetition of clauses[112]: the transposition of words[113]: are phenomena familiar to the student of the MSS. of the N.T.; and both texts have suffered to some extent from these causes.

[111] See notes on vv. 11, 42, 43.

[112] See vv. 13, 14.

[113] See vv. 5, 6.

2. Those who reject the hypothesis that both recensions proceeded from David’s own pen, are not agreed which is nearest to the original. The text in the Psalter appears to present the more polished literary form: that in Samuel is marked by several roughnesses of language and expression.

Some reserve is necessary in expressing an opinion on the question: but the present editor is inclined to believe that the text in 2 Samuel, although in many respects defective, is as a whole the better representative of the original form: and that the text in the Psalter has been subjected to a careful revision at a later date, in which peculiar forms, which perhaps were “licenses of popular usage,” have been replaced by classical forms; unusual constructions simplified; archaisms and obscure expressions explained.

The existing Hebrew text of the O.T. is so commonly regarded as free from errors that it may be worth while to note the following conclusions which seem to follow from a comparison of the two texts.

(1) That in all probability there was a period before the final close of the Canon when the letter of the text was not regarded with the same reverence as in a later age, and the scribes considered revision and alteration allowable.

(2) That it is certain that there was a long period in the history of the text of the O.T., during which it was not copied with the scrupulous accuracy which characterized the later Jewish scribes, and consequently errors of transcription crept in, as in the case of the N.T.

(3) That nevertheless the extent of the possible alteration or corruption of the text of the O.T. must not be exaggerated. In spite of considerable variations in detail, the general sense and spirit of the Psalm remain the same in the two recensions: and so, although the present “received text” of the O.T. may vary considerably in detail from the original autographs, it still preserves the substantial sense.


The Targum of 2 Samuel 23:1-7A translation of the Targum of Jonathan, or Aramaic Paraphrase of David’s Last Words, is here given as a specimen of ancient Jewish exegesis, specially interesting because it interprets the passage as a direct prophecy of the Messiah. It is right to remark that it is only in poetical passages that the Targum adds so largely to the original. For the most part it is a baldly literal translation.

1. And these are the words of the prophecy of David, which he prophesied concerning the end of the age[114], concerning the days of consolation[115] which are to come. David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was exalted to the kingdom said, the anointed by the Word of the God of Jacob, and chief in presiding over the sweetness of the praises of Israel:

[114] Cp. Matthew 13:39-40.

[115] Cp. Luke 2:25.

2. David said, By the spirit of prophecy of Jehovah I speak these things, and His holy words do I order in my mouth:

3. David said, The God of Israel spake concerning me, the Strong One of Israel who ruleth over the sons of men, judging in truth, said that he would appoint for me a king, who is the Messiah, who shall arise and rule in the fear of Jehovah.

4. Blessed are ye righteous who have wrought for yourselves good deeds, for ye shall shine as the light of His glory, as the brightness of the dawn which cometh forth in its strength, and like the sun which shall shine as the brightness of his glory, three hundred and forty-three fold[116], as the light of seven stars for seven days. More than this shall ye be magnified and prospered, who have been desiring the years of consolation that are coming, like the husbandman who waiteth in the years of drought for the rain to descend upon the earth.

[116] The cube of the perfect number seven.

5. David said, More than this is my house before God, for He hath sworn an eternal oath unto me, that my kingdom should be established as the orders of Creation are established, and should be preserved for the age which is to come; for all my needs and all my petitions are set before Him: therefore no kingdom shall be established against it any more.

6. But wicked sinners are like thorns, which, when they spring up, are soft to pluck up, but when a man spareth them, and leaveth them alone, they grow and wax strong until it is impossible to approach them with the hand.

7. So likewise if any man beginneth to approach unto trespasses, they grow and wax strong over him, until they cover him like a garment of iron, against which men cannot prevail with shafts of spears and lances. Therefore vengeance on them is not in the power of man, but with fire shall they be utterly consumed when the court of the great judgment shall be revealed and sit on the seat of judgment to judge the world.


The numbering of the people

What were David’s motives for taking the census, and why was the act sinful? An ordinary census was perfectly legitimate; it was expressly provided for by the Mosaic law[117]; and upon three occasions at least a census of the people was taken by Moses without offence[118]. It was not then the census itself which was displeasing to God, but the motive which inspired David to take it. Various conjectures have been suggested to account for David’s wish to number the people. Some suppose that he intended to develope the military power of the nation with a view to foreign conquest; others that he meditated the organization of an imperial despotism and the imposition of fresh taxes. The military character of the whole proceeding, which was discussed in a council of officers[119] and carried out under Joab’s superintendence, makes it probable that it was connected with some plan for increasing the effective army, possibly with a view to foreign conquests. But whether any definite design of increased armaments or heavier taxation lay behind it or not, it seems clear that what constituted the sin of the act was the vainglorious spirit which prompted it. In a moment of pride and ambition—pride at the prosperity of the kingdom, ambition to be like the kings of the nations round about,—he desired to know to the full over how vast and populous a kingdom he ruled, forgetting that the strength of Israel consisted not in the number of its people, but in the protecting care of God. This view is strongly corroborated by Joab’s expostulation, “The Lord thy God add unto the people, how many soever they be, an hundredfold, and that the eyes of my lord the king may see it: but why doth my lord the king delight in this thing[120]?” It was a momentary apostasy from Jehovah; an oblivion of that spirit of dependence which was the duty and the glory of the kings of Israel; the sin denounced by Jeremiah when he said: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from Jehovah[121].”

[117] Exodus 30:12 ff.

[118] See Exodus 38:26; Numbers 1:2-3; Numbers 26:1 ff.

[119] 2 Samuel 24:4.

[120] 2 Samuel 24:3.

[121] Jeremiah 17:5.

The sin was not confined to David: it had infected the nation. It is expressly said that “the anger of Jehovah was kindled against Israel[122].” It may be that now, on the very threshold of their national existence, they were tempted by visions of worldly glory to forget that Israel was not to realise its vocation to the world in the guise of a conquering secular state, but as Jehovah’s witness among the nations. If so, if pride was alienating the heart of king and people from their allegiance to Jehovah, a prompt chastisement was the truest mercy.

[122] 2 Samuel 24:1.

But it was needful for an external, visible, manifestation of the sin to precede the judgment, in order to justify the ways of God to men. The temptation was presented to David; he fell, and in his fall represented truly and faithfully the fall of the nation. The nation was not punished vicariously for its ruler’s sin, but for a sin which was its own, and was only embodied and made visible by its ruler’s act. And the punishment struck the very point of their pride, by diminishing the numbers which had been the ground of their self-confident elation. The Jewish tradition[123] that the sin consisted in the omission to pay the atonement money prescribed on the occasion of a census[124], has a certain truth underlying it. That ordinance was designed to teach the people that they were not their own, but Jehovah’s; and though there is no ground for supposing that the letter of the regulation was neglected, the spirit of it seems to have been forgotten.

[123] Jos. Ant. VII. 13. 1. “But when David desired to know the number of the people, he forgot the commandment of Moses, who enjoined that if the people were numbered half a shekel should be offered to God for each person.”

[124] Exodus 30:12.


The Topography of Jerusalem

The topography of Jerusalem is a much-disputed problem. The data of the O. T., the Apocrypha, and Josephus are extremely difficult to reconcile, and the changes which the natural features of the site have undergone in the course of centuries by the levelling of heights and filling up of valleys, make a satisfactory determination of the sites almost hopeless.

The places mentioned in the Second Book of Samuel are (a) Zion or the City of David: (b) the threshing-floor of Araunah, on which the Temple was afterwards built: (c) the Millo.

The natural features of the site of Jerusalem are briefly as follows. The plateau on which the city stands is enclosed on three sides by deep ravines: on the East by the Valley of the Kidron, dividing the Temple Mount from the Mount of Olives: on the West and South by the Valley of Hinnom. It was originally divided by another valley, called by Josephus the Tyropœon Valley, now in great part filled up with debris, which extended northwards from a point near the junction of the Valley of Hinnom with the Kidron, and separated into two branches one running west, the other north-west. “The ancient site thus consisted of three principal hills, to east, north-west, and south-west, separated by deep valleys[125].”

[125] Warren’s Temple or Tomb, p. 33.

i. All authorities agree in placing the Temple on the eastern hill[126], but where Zion should be fixed is a question hotly disputed.

[126] Marked 3 in the map of the Environs of Jerusalem.

(1) Since the fourth century it has been generally supposed that Zion or the City of David (for the two are clearly identified in 2 Samuel 5:7-9) occupied the south-western hill, and was identical with what Josephus calls the Upper City[127].” This view is maintained by Lieut. Conder, who says[128]: “The southern, higher, and larger hill must be the Upper City, the “Mountain Fort” of Zion: the knoll north of it is Akra, the site of the lower city[129].”

[127] Marked 1 in the map.

[128] Tent Work in Palestine, I. 366.

[129] Marked 2 in the map.

(2) Captain Warren, whose excavations for the Palestine Exploration Fund have brought to light much valuable information, places Zion on the north-western hill, where stood the “Lower City” or “Akra” of Josephus. The hill was originally considerably higher, but was cut down by Simon Maccabeus, when he took it from the Macedonians, because it commanded the Temple, and had afforded the enemy a post of vantage from which to annoy the Jews as they went to the Temple[130].

[130] Jos. Ant. XIII. 6. 6.

(3) Mr Fergusson (in Smith’s Dictionary of the Bible, i. 1026) maintains that the evidence of the O. T. distinctly leads to the identification of Zion with the eastern hill, on which the Temple stood. Zion, he says, is constantly spoken of as in some way distinct from Jerusalem[131]: it is spoken of as a Holy Place in terms such as are never applied to Jerusalem, but are easily intelligible if Zion was the hill upon which the Temple stood. Thus it is called “the hill of the Lord;” “the holy hill;” “the dwelling-place of Jehovah[132].” And in the First Book of Maccabees the name Mount Sion is unquestionably applied to the hill upon which the Temple stood. For example, we read: “Then said Judas and his brethren: … let us go up to cleanse and dedicate the Sanctuary. Upon this all the host assembled themselves together, and went up into Mount Sion. And when they saw the Sanctuary desolate, and the altar profaned … they rent their clothes[133].” According to this view the fortress captured by David occupied the northern part of the ridge, on which the Temple was afterwards built.

[131] 2 Kings 19:31; Psalm 51:18; Isaiah 30:19.

[132] See Psalm 2:6; Psalm 9:11; Psalm 24:3; Psalm 132:13, &c.

[133] 1Ma 4:36-38. Cp. 1Ma 4:60; 1Ma 7:33.

None of these theories is free from serious difficulties, and a discussion of the arguments would exceed the limits of our space. The following points may however be noticed.

(a) The site of the Temple was outside the limits of the City of David. This is clear from the statement in 1 Kings 8:1, that the Ark was brought up to the Temple out of the City of David; and from the fact that Araunah’s threshing floor cannot have been inside the walls, but must have been on the bare unoccupied hill outside.

(b) The sanctity of Zion may be accounted for by the fact that it was for many years the resting-place of the Ark, and was celebrated as such by David in his Psalms. The name of Zion thus became the title for Jerusalem in its quality of a holy city, and on the Return from the Captivity the name may have been applied to the most sacred part of it, the Temple Mount, although this was not the original Zion.

ii. The Temple undoubtedly stood on the eastern hill, called, in one passage only, Mount Moriah (2 Chronicles 3:1), where the threshingfloor of Araunah had previously been. The top of this hill has been artificially levelled, and its sides sustained by immense walls. On the platform thus constructed the Temple stood, but whether in the centre as Captain Warren maintains, or at the south-west angle, as Mr Fergusson supposes, is a disputed question, on which it is not necessary to enter here.

iii. The Millo—the word always has the definite article—appears to have been some important fortification already in existence. It may have protected the city on the north, the only side on which it had not the defence of precipitous ravines. Solomon rebuilt it (1 Kings 9:15; 1 Kings 9:24; 1 Kings 11:27), and Hezekiah repaired it as a defence against the Assyrians (2 Chronicles 32:5). Millo may have been an old Canaanite name: the only other place in which it occurs is in connexion with the ancient Canaanite city of Shechem (Jdg 9:6; Jdg 9:20). The Sept. renders Millo by ἡ ἄκρα “the citadel” (except in 2 Chr.), and this is the term constantly used in the books of Maccabees for the fortress which was occupied by the Macedonians, and at last captured and razed by Simon Maccabæus.

The Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges

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