Through the Bible in a Year: 2 Samuel 21-24

This Week’s Readings

Monday, May 28: 2 Samuel 21-24
Tuesday, May 29: Psalm 26-29, Proverbs 11
Wednesday, May 30: Psalm 30-33, Proverbs 12
Thursday, May 31: Psalm 34-37, Proverbs 13
Friday, June 1: Psalm 38-41, Proverbs 14

The overall year’s plan is here.

2 Samuel 21

There’s no record of Saul’s attack on the Gibeonites. This is something that didn’t make it into Saul’s history, which is not surprising. Saul reigned 40 years, and only a few highlights of his life are covered.

In verse 19, a lot of Bible say that Elhanan killed Goliath the Gittite. 1 Chronicles 20:5, a parallel passage, says that he killed Lahmi, the brother of Goliath. This is a problem with the text of 2 Samuel as it has come down to us. There’s little doubt it originally said that Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath. Some modern translations go ahead and render it that way rather than sticking to the obviously incorrect Hebrew text.

2 Samuel 22

This is Psalm 18, and in this case we get the exact context in which it was written. It’s one of my favorite psalms because of the awe-inspiring description of God’s rescue of David. I’ve already written commentary on it.

2 Samuel 23

Here we have a list of David’s mighty men. It’s a sad testimony that the list ends with Uriah the Hittite, the husband of Bathsheba whom David had murdered.

There was a group of three mighty men, Josheb-basshebeth, Eleazar, and Shammah. The New American Standard Bible then says that Abishai was the chief of the thirty mighty men. Only a few Hebrew manuscripts say thirty. Most Hebrew manuscripts, the LXX (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures), and the Latin Vulgate (the accepted Bible in Europe throughout the middle ages) all say that Abishai was the chief of the three.

This makes a second set of three above the thirty, and only two of this second set of three are named (Abishai and Benaiah). After that, 31 names are given, so it’s possible that "the 30" was a flexible number.

1 Chronicles 11, a parallel passage, adds another name to the 30 (making 32), and then adds 15 more names. A commentary I read said that they don’t believe those 15 are part of the thirty. Instead, Adina the son of Shiza was the chief of a group of 15 that were "with" the 30.

2 Samuel 24

I’m really not sure why it was such a bad thing for David to take a census of Israel. Perhaps the problem was motivation. Perhaps David was counting the people out of pride, glorying in the size of his kingdom. Joab’s response to David suggests this might be true (v. 3).

Somehow, though, that explanation has never been satisfying to me. The problem is that I don’t have an alternative.

So I wait. We won’t always get an answer to everything we wonder about.

Several of the cities that Joab went to can be found on this map.

The judgment fell on Israel in the form of a plague. David chose that over being pursued by his enemies and over seven years of famine. Remember, though, that this chapter begins by telling us that God was angry with Israel, and he provoked David to make this mistake because he wanted to judge Israel, not just David.

The plague is ended by David offering a sacrifice, ordered by God, that violates several tenets of the Law of Moses. David offered the sacrifices, which had been his habit anyway. The Law requires priests to offer sacrifices. The sacrifices were offered on Araunah’s threshing floor, not at the tabernacle. The Law commands that all sacrifices are to be offered at the altar of the tabernacle (or the temple after Solomon built it).

It seems obvious to me that God is not as strict about rules as some of us who want to enforce his will. It is important for us to be spiritual and pay attention to the voice and guidance of God because it’s also not okay to simply avoid doing what we know to be right (Jam. 4:17).

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