Lectionary Year B
August 10, 2003
II Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

Step III: Composition

A. Immediate Context

(JFC) Pre - II Samuel 18:1-4 tell of David's organizing his troops in groups of hundreds and of thousands and he said he would go into battle with them but they talked him out of it.

Interlude # 1 - II Samuel 18:10-14 reports Joab's getting the word that Absalom is stuck in the tree branches and he asks why the messenger didn't kill Absalom. The messenger recalled David's orders to protect his son, Absalom, from danger. Joab went to kill Absalom himself.

Interlude # 2 - The verses 16-30 of II Samuel find Joab halting the fighting with Israel's soldiers. He throws Asalom's body in a pit and camouflages it. Next the chronicler comments on Absalom's monument he built to himself since he had no sons. Joab then sends two messengers to tell David of Absalom's death but the first one fails to divulge all the details, like that Absalom is dead.

Post - II Samuel 19 is about David's continuing to grieve his son's death and the troops' changing celebrating a victory into mourning the death. Joab scolds David for extending his grieving and tells him to go out and greet the troops wanting to celebrate their victory and he did. Finally David starts to re-unite Israel and Judah in a larger unit.

B. Organization of Compositional Whole

(JFC) As previously noted, 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 noted before and 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.

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