The second book of Samuel covers King David’s reign in Israel. Warren Wiersbe offers insights and helps for our reading 2 Samuel in his commentary Be Restored (2 Samuel & 1 Chronicles): Trusting God to See Us Through.
David first shows up in 1 Samuel, where Samuel finds him as a young shepherd and anoints him king after Saul fails. Then David has his encounter with Goliath, becomes a seasoned warrior, and flees from Saul’s murderous jealousy for many years.
David appears in the beginning of 1 Kings, where he sets up Solomon to take over after he dies.
1 Chronicles documents David’s reign as well, including his preparations for the temple that he was not allowed to build, but that Solomon would.
But 2 Samuel begins with David’s finally coming into his full kingship and ends with his final battles, a list of his “mighty men,” and his “last words.”
Within the overarching progression of God’s Word and purposes, most notable in this book is the covenant God made with David that He would establish David’s line as an everlasting kingdom and that David’s son would build a house for His name: the temple which would be the centerpiece of Israel’s worship system for years to come. Ultimately David’s descendants would culminate in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, the everlasting King. Jesus is sometimes called “the Son of David.”
David is a favorite character of many, with his rags-to-riches story of the shepherd boy who became a king, his unabashed faith that God would use him to take care of Goliath, his earnestness in following the Lord, his outpouring of his heart in so many psalms that we can identify with.
David was never perfect, but he was teachable and usually readily admitted when he was mistaken.
Then came his fall with Bathsheba. Instead of turning away, as Joseph did when tempted, David continued to entertain the thought of the beautiful woman he had seen, until he called for her and lay with her. Then when she became pregnant, David tried to manipulate her husband, Uriah, one of his mighty men, to go home so the baby would be thought to be his. But Uriah was honorable and would not partake of the pleasures of home while his brothers were on the battlefield. So David arranged to have Uriah put in the hottest part of the battle, where he was killed.
When David laid aside his armor, he took the first step toward moral defeat, and the same principle applies to believers today (Eph. 6: 10–18). Without the helmet of salvation, we don’t think like saved people, and without the breastplate of righteousness, we have nothing to protect the heart. Lacking the girdle of truth, we easily believe lies (“We can get away with this!”), and without the sword of the Word and the shield of faith, we are helpless before the enemy. Without prayer we have no power. As for the shoes of peace, David walked in the midst of battles for the rest of his life. He was safer on the battlefield than on the battlement of his house (p. 83).
David’s house was in turmoil for many years after that. God forgave him when he repented (Psalm 51), but there are consequences even for forgiven sin.
All during David’s months of silence, he had suffered intensely, as you can detect when you read his two prayers of confession (Ps. 32 and 51). Psalm 32 pictures a sick old man instead of a virile warrior, and Psalm 51 describes a believer who had lost almost everything—his purity, joy, witness, wisdom, and peace—a man who was afraid God would take the Holy Spirit from him as He had done to Saul. David went through intense emotional and physical pain, but he left behind two prayers that are precious to all believers who have sinned (p. 91).
Chastening is not punishment meted out by an angry judge who wants to uphold the law; rather, it’s difficulty permitted by a loving Father who wants His children to submit to His will and develop godly character. Chastening is an expression of God’s love (Prov. 3: 11–12), and the Greek word used in Hebrews 12: 5–13 means “child training, instruction, discipline” (p. 92).
The next-to-last chapter of 2 Samuel contains David’s “last words”—not the last words of his that we see in Scripture, but probably a psalm written near the end of his life. Wiersbe suggests that since the psalm’s subject is godly leadership, it may have been written for Solomon, who would succeed David as king. In verses 3-4, David writes: “The God of Israel has spoken; the Rock of Israel has said to me: When one rules justly over men, ruling in the fear of God, he dawns on them like the morning light, like the sun shining forth on a cloudless morning, like rain that makes grass to sprout from the earth.” Wiersbe comments that godly leadership “is an awesome responsibility. It demands character and integrity (‘just’ = righteous) and a submissive attitude toward the Lord (‘the fear of God’). Without righteousness and the fear of God, a leader becomes a dictator and abuses God’s people, driving them like cattle instead of leading them like sheep” (p. 183). Wiersbe expands:
David used a beautiful metaphor to picture the work of the leader: rain and sunshine that together produce useful fruit instead of painful thorns (23: 4–7) (p. 183).
With God’s help, leaders must create such a creative atmosphere that their colaborers will be able to grow and produce fruit. Ministry involves both sunshine and rain, bright days and cloudy days; but a godly leader’s ministry will produce gentle rain that brings life and not storms that destroy. What a delight it is to follow a spiritual leader who brings out the best in us and helps us produce fruit for the glory of God! Unspiritual leaders produce thorns that irritate people and make progress very difficult (2 Sam. 23: 6–7) (pp 183-184).
With all his faults and failures, David was, for the most part, such a leader. How we need such leaders today.