Lectionary Year B
August 3, 2003
II Samuel 11:26-12:13a

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

Pre - II Samuel 11:1-25 tells of David's discovering and sending to get Bathsheba, his impregnating her and his trying to get her husband, Uriah, to appear to be the father of the child she carries. When Uriah remains unfalteringly faithful to his troops, David has to fashion logistics to get him killed in battle.

Post - II Samuel 12:13b-31 begins with a report of Nathan's claiming that God has put away David's sin and that he will not die (prematurely). It seems to assure David of God's merciful forgiveness and predicting that, rather than David, David and Bathsheba's son will die (prematurely) because of his misdeed which the Lord utterly scorns. David fasted and refused to sleep on his bed as long as the boy was sick. When the boy died, David bathed and worshiped and ate heartily. He comforted and slept with Bathsheba and she bore another son, Solomon, whom God loved and vowed to call him Jedidiah. Then Joab captured Rabbah and got David to come and claim victory over all of the country of Ammon.

B. Organization of Compositional Whole

(JFC) As noted right repeatedly in the 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 (chapters 1-4). It proceeds into David's rise to King over Judah and Israel (chapters 5-24) including David's domestic and political challenges and Solomon's assuming the throne (chapters 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 (chapters 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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