Lectionary Year B
July 27, 2003
II Samuel 11:1-15

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(JFC) Pre - II Samuel 10 reports David's sending some messengers to sympathize with the king of Ammon whose father, the former king, had died. The king's counselors suspected the messengers' serving David as spies and convinced their king to suspect them as well. The Ammonites punished the messengers shamefully. David, of course, supported the messengers and told them to stay there till their beards re-grew. The Ammonites hired soldiers to bolster their armed services and David's troops strategized and beat the Ammonites and foreign recruits.

Post - The rest of II Samuel 11, verses 16-27, tell of Uriah's being killed in battle, which David is told and, after she mourned as required, Bathsheba came at David's request/invitation to be his wife and they had their son.

B. Organization of Compositional Whole

(JFC) As noted repeatedly in the recent past, II Samuel continues the chronicles of I Samuel, which are about Samuel's and Saul's lives and services as Israel's first Kings and David's rise to prominence. II Samuel begins accounts of Israel's major/radical transition, definitely under God's guidance, from tribalism to a monarchy. It starts by reporting how Saul's offspring and other followers fell off the charts of leading Israel (chs. 1-4). It proceeds into David's rise to King over Judah and Israel (chs. 5-24) including David's domestic and political challenges and Solomon's assuming the throne (chs. 9-20) and a famine, the execution of Saul's descendants, more war with the Philistines, a poetic song praising God and an altar where David offers sacrifices to God to conclude the Book (chs. 21-24). Walter Brueggemann, in his Interpretation commentary, calls repeated attention to the political- technological-economic-social factors as this work's secondary aims, secondary to Yahweh's governance in the whole process of Israel's changing from "an amorphous, unstable tribal mode of life, easily open to religious idolatry, syncretism and political and military barbarism". Following the Samuel Books, Israel was a centralized monarchy and much better organized under God's directives through divinely chosen Kings.

C. Issues of Authorship

(JFC) As earlier noted even repeatedly, the Books of Samuel seem to come in real time to us as if they were written almost simultaneously with the actions they report, about 1000-960 BCE. Yet, literarily, it seems that different parts come from "varied origin and have only later been arranged in accordance with certain definite points of view", according to Hertzberg's OTL commentary. So, we might "assume", with John Bright's A History of Israel, that "these stories of the Ark (I Sam. 4:1b to 7:2; II Sam. 6 [7]) . . . were of ancient origin and in fixed form by the mid-tenth century."

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