Overview of 2 Samuel

With this report of Saul’s death, we begin a new unit in the books of Samuel continuing through 2 Samuel 5:10. The twelve tribes of Israel do not univocally declare David king after the death of Saul. In general, David controls the south, particularly Judah and its politically important central city, Hebron. But Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth becomes king of the northern tribes, often referred to simply as “Israel.” For an indefinite period of time (probably two years, see 2:10), the nations are embroiled in civil war between the house of Saul and the house of David. In a sense, the contrast between Saul and David that was so central in 1 Samuel 16–31 continues in the form of the civil war between David and Ish-Bosheth.

It has been said that the books of Samuel are organized along a complex succession of three overlapping trajectories centered on its leading characters: Samuel, Saul, and David. With the death of Saul recorded in 1 Samuel 31, David’s is the lone trajectory to follow, though it takes several years (and nearly five chapters!) to find him ruling over a unified nation Israel. After years of running from Saul, we might expect to find David rejoicing at the news that his old antagonist is dead. But as we saw in previous episodes, David has the greatest respect for the Lord’s anointed and is willing to wait patiently for the Lord to fulfill his word in due course.

Second Samuel 1 makes its point in two ways. (1) The report of Saul’s death comes to David and his men at Ziklag. The narrative reveals in graphic, even shocking ways, how deeply David feels the pain of losing Saul and Jonathan. (2) The concluding elegy expresses the same ideas in moving poetry. (Bill T. Arnold, 1 & 2 Samuel, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2003), 409.)

2] And on the third day, behold, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. And when he came to David, he fell to the ground and paid homage.

As the narrative of Saul’s death, given in the last session, was inspired; the Amalekite’s story simply a fiction of his own, invented to ingratiate himself with David, the presumptive successor to the throne. It is unlikely that Saul would have been leaning on his spear, unattended by Israelite warriors, as the Philistine chariots charged him, and had to call on a stranger who just happened to be passing by.

David’s question, “How went the matter?” evidences the deep interest he took in the war, an interest that sprang from feelings of high and generous patriotism, not from views of ambition.

The Amalekite, however, judging David to be motivated by a selfish principle, fabricated a story improbable and inconsistent, which he thought would procure him a reward. Having probably witnessed the suicidal act of Saul, he thought of turning it to his own account, and suffered the penalty of his grievously mistaken calculation (compare 2 Sam 1:9 with 1 Sam 31:4, 5).

8] And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’

The Amalekites.

The Amalekites are a reoccurring people group in the Old Testament, especially during the Exodus, Judges, and Monarchy periods. Like the Philistines, the Amalekites were persistent enemies of Israel. It’s helpful to understand who the Amalekites are as a people group and why there is such animosity between the Lord and the Amalekites.

Notes from Exodus 17:8-16 – The first conflict followed. There was no conflict at the Red Sea, but immediately after the water had been given in such wonderful abundance, Amalek appeared. Amalek is the type of the flesh. The conflict illustrates Gal. 5:17. “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh, and these are contrary, the one to the other, so that ye should not do the things ye would.” The flesh and its lusts, which war against the soul, (1 Peter 2:11) are represented by Amalek. And Amalek attacked Israel, and Israel, Amalek. The attack was made when Israel in unbelief had asked, “Is the Lord among us or not?” Even so, when God’s people do not reckon in faith with the presence and the power of the Lord the flesh rises up; but if we walk in the Spirit we shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. Arno C. Gaebelein, The Annotated Bible: Genesis to Deuteronomy., vol. 1 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 149.

Notes from 1 Samuel 30:11-15 – David appears now once more as a type of our Lord. He did not foreshadow the Lord Jesus during the months he was with the Philistines. The Egyptian is a type of the unsaved. He is an Egyptian (the type of the world); he was found in the field (“the field is the world”—Matth. 13). He was the slave of an Amalekite. Amalek as we have seen in the annotations of Exodus (Chapter 17) and in Judges, is a type of the flesh. Behind it stands Satan. Thus the unsaved, the one who is not born again, is of the world and a slave of Amalek, serving the flesh under Satan’s dominion. The physical condition of this young Egyptian also typifies the spiritual condition of the unsaved. And David in showing him mercy is a type of Christ. The young man’s confession, the bread and water given to him, can easily be applied in the Gospel. The story of the Egyptian reminds us of the parable of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke. The young Egyptian is assured of his safety; the slave of the Amalekite becomes the servant of the King. The company to which he belonged is eating and drinking and dancing. They rest secure dreaming of no danger, when all at once the battle cry of the King is upon them. It is the picture of the world. Thus sudden destruction will come upon them. And David recovered all. Arno C. Gaebelein, The Annotated Bible: Joshua to Second Chronicles, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 184.

Though the Bible does not specifically say it, Amalek is commonly regarded as an illustration of our fleshly, carnal nature.

  • Like our fleshly nature, Amalek focuses its attack on the tired and weak (Deuteronomy 25:17-18).
  • Like our fleshly nature, Amalek does not fear God (Deuteronomy 25:17-18).
  • Like our fleshly nature, God commanded a permanent state of war against Amalek (Exodus 17:16).
  • Like our fleshly nature, the battle against Amalek is only won in the context of prayer and seeking God (Exodus 17:11).
  • Like our fleshly nature, God promises to one day completely blot out the remembrance of Amalek (Exodus 17:14).
  • Like our fleshly nature, Joshua wins the battle against Amalek (Exodus 17:13).
  • Like our fleshly nature, Amalek was once first but will one day be last (Numbers 24:20).
  • Like our fleshly nature, Amalek allies itself with other enemies in battle against God’s people (Judges 3:13). David Guzik Commentary

10] So I stood over him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them here to my lord.”

I stood over him and killed him. The Amalekite’s story conflicts with 1 Sa 31:3–6, where Saul is depicted as taking his own life. It appears that the Amalekite fabricated this version of Saul’s death, expecting David to reward him. His miscalculation of David’s response cost him his life (see v. 15).

14] So David said to him, “How was it you were not afraid to put forth your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?”

Apparently after the period of mourning is over, David questions the messenger again. David wants to know something of the man’s background. The man affirms that, in addition to being an Amalekite, he is the son of an “alien.” David has now learned all that he needs to know concerning the man. Since his father was a resident alien, living in Saul’s realm, the young man can be expected to have at least minimal knowledge about Israel’s basic traditions, including the inviolability of “the LORD’s anointed.” By the Amalekite’s own testimony, he had destroyed the Lord’s anointed king, something David had never done (see 1Sa 24:6, 10; 26:9, 11).

15] Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go near, and execute him!” And he struck him so that he died.

This just punishment of the Amalekite precluded any untrue accusations by David’s political opponents that he might have had a part, directly or indirectly, in the death of Saul. Though David had numerous opportunities to slay Saul, he always regarded him as the Lord’s anointed.

David’s reverence for Saul, as the Lord’s anointed, was in his mind a principle on which he had faithfully acted on several occasions of great temptation. In present circumstances it was especially important that his principle should be publicly known; and to free himself from the imputation of being in any way accessory to the execrable crime of regicide was the part of a righteous judge, no less than of a good politician.

27] “How the mighty have fallen, And the weapons of war perished!”

The song ends as it began, with the central theme of “How the mighty have fallen!” David’s lament for Saul and Jonathan is characterized by both passion and restraint. While giving full vent to his feelings on hearing the report of their death, David displays no bitterness toward his mortal enemy Saul. Since in v.18 David orders that the men of Judah be “taught” his lament, apparently the epic hymns of Israel’s history were intended to be taught and applied from generation to generation. David’s lament may well have been a favorite. (ExpBibCommAbr)

A lesser saint would have rejoiced that his enemy was slain, but David was a man after God’s own heart and felt keenly the tragedy of Saul’s sin. Of course, David’s dear friend Jonathan was also dead; the sin of a disobedient father had brought judgment upon innocent people, including his son.

David’s lamentation is touching; see Prov 24:17. This “Song of the Bow” connects with Jonathan’s use of the bow (1 Sam 20:20ff). There are no unkind words about Saul in this song. David’s chief concern is that the Lord’s anointed has been slain and the Lord’s glory has been dimmed. He is anxious that the unsaved enemy not rejoice over this victory.

In 1 Sam. 10:23, Saul “stood higher” than any other man, but now he had fallen lower than the enemy!