David appears in every chapter of 2 Samuel (although in chapter 14 he is referred to simply as “the king”). He is the man appointed by God to “shepherd My people Israel” and to “be a prince” over them (5:2). As we watch David become king, first over the tribe of Judah and eventually over all the tribes of Israel, and then reign as king, the same four themes that we saw in 1 Samuel reappear.
- There is no God besides or like Yahweh. “There is no God like you,” David confesses when God makes a covenant with him, “and no God besides you” (7:22).
- God knows and assess all human actions. God knew what David had done to Uriah and sent Nathan to report to David, “thou art the man” (12:7).
- Yahweh is sovereign over the affairs of mankind and often reverses situations based on His assessment. Thus, God sovereignly turns the sage counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness (15:31, 17:14).
- No one prevails apart from God’s favor, blessing, and empowering. David, in his song of thanksgiving in chapter 22, repeatedly acknowledges God as the reason for all of his many successes. Absalom, who did not have God’s favor, could not ultimately prevail in his rebellion against his father David.
For the most part, the first twelve chapters of 2 Samuel feature David in a very positive light. He asks and receives the Lord’s direction, his kingdom is established, he prospers in battle, and his leadership extends even over foreign nations. All begins to change when he sins with Bathsheba and murders her husband. “The thing that David had done displeased the Lord” (11:27), and no one—not even David—will escape the consequences.
Although some of these negative consequences are first felt in 2 Samuel 12, when the baby conceived with Bathsheba dies, the real consequences begin in chapter 13. From here to virtually the end of the book, David deals with one problem after another. The prophet Nathan spoke truly when he said the sword would never depart from David’s house (12:10). By the end of 2 Samuel, two of David’s sons have been killed, and David has faced and put down two rebellions. And chapter 24, the last in the book, records yet another sin of David when he takes a census of the military men in his kingdom.
There’s a very important takeaway from 2 Samuel’s frank portrait of David’s sinfulness: David may be a great king—very possibly Israel’s greatest king in terms of his godliness—but he is not a perfect king. He may be a shepherd for God’s people but he is actually a type of a greater Shepherd. Through David will come an even better king, one foreseen in the covenant God makes with David in 2 Samuel 7. God’s covenant with David marks one of those Himalayan peaks in Scripture in that God guarantees a dynasty for David forever. “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever” (7:16). How can a descendant of David rule forever? The answer, of course, is that God is looking into the future and beholding a future descendant of David who, as the long-awaited Messiah, will fulfill the prophecies uttered as early as Genesis 49:10 that when He comes to whom the kingship belongs, all the peoples will be gathered to him. He is the descendant whom David will call “my Lord” (Psa. 110:1).
A final theme in 2 Samuel is that God’s wrath against man ultimately works to His praise (Psa. 76:10). Solomon, a son who humanly speaking should never have been born, is especially loved by God and chosen to succeed David (12:25). David’s numbering the fighting men results in the hasty purchase of and sacrifice on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite, which will become the future site of the Temple (24:18-25; 2 Chron. 3:1). Grace does not make it better that we sinned, but it ensures God gets praise in the end. God deserves praise for any successes achieved in life and praise for any failures that He somehow turns for good.