The Second Book of Samuel: Synopsis, Outline, Chapter-by-Chapter Summaries

The beginning of II Samuel in the Aleppo Codex, written ca. 930 CE

The Second Book of Samuel (Hebrew-English Text) contains twenty-four chapters and continues where the First Book of Samuel left off. The first portion (chs. 1-10) recounts David’s solidification of power and his successes as the second king of Israel. The second portion (chs. 11-24) recounts David’s sins of murder and adultery and the hard times that follow. These include the death of his child, a civil war by another son, exile, the loss of his wives to another man, a second civil war, a famine, and a plague brought on by David’s sinful census. Despite these punishments, David remains a legitimate king and a devotee of Yahweh.


Outline (by chapter)

1-10. David solidifies his power and begins his rule successfully 

    1. David mourns Saul and Jonathan 

    2-4. David, who is anointed king in Hebron, outperforms and outlives Saul’s heir

    5a. David captures Jerusalem

    5b-6. David conquers the Philistines and returns the ark to Jerusalem

    7. Yahweh’s promise of kingship to David

    8. David’s military victories and leading men (first list)

    9. David honors a descendant of Saul and Jonathan

    10. The Ammonite war (Part I)

11-24. David’s sin and the hard times that follow

    11-12a. David’s sin with Batsheba and the naming of his punishment

    12b. The birth of Solomon

    12c. The Ammonite war (Part II)

    13. David’s son Absalom avenges the rape of his sister

    14-19. Absalom rebels, causing David to flee Jerusalem, but is eventually defeated by David, who returns to Jerusalem

    20a. Sheba’s failed coup

    20b. David’s leading men (second list)

    21a. David hands over Saul’s descendants to death to prevent a famine

    21b. David is nearly killed in a victory over the Philistines and is forced to retire from war

    22. David’s Thanksgiving psalm for being saved from death (=Psalm 18)

    23a. David’s theophany about the just rewards of doing good and evil

    23b. A list of David’s mighty warriors

    24. David’s sinful census and the plague that follows


Chapter-by-chapter summaries

2 Samuel 1, David Mourns Saul and Jonathan: An Amalekite tells David how he killed Saul to end his suffering. David kills the Amalekite and composes a lament for Saul and Jonathan.

2 Samuel 2, Two Kings in Israel: David moves to Hebron and is anointed king of Judah. Saul’s son Ish-bosheth is anointed king of the other tribes. The generals of the two sides lead their armies into an internecine battle.

2 Samuel 3, David’s Rise; Abner’s Untimely Death: After having a falling-out with Ish-bosheth, Abner and his forces join David’s side. Joab avenges his brother’s death by killing Abner. David mourns for Abner and protests his own innocence.

2 Samuel 4, Ish-bosheth is Murdered; David Avenges his Death: Rechab and Baanah secretly murder Ish-bosheth. They tell David about their deed and he has them both put to death. Ish-bosheth’s head is buried in Abner’s grave.

2 Samuel 5, David is Anointed; David Conquers Jerusalem; David Defeats the Philistines: All of the tribes anoint David as king of Israel. David captures Jerusalem from the Jebusites and makes it his stronghold. He then routs the Philistines who assemble against him.

2 Samuel 6, Uzzah is Killed; The Ark is Moved to Jerusalem; Michal’s Punishment: God kills Uzzah for touching the ark. David transfers the ark to Jerusalem amidst a spectacular celebration. After rebuking David for his foolish dancing, Michal is punished with barrenness.

2 Samuel 7, God’s Promise to Perpetuate the Davidic Dynasty: David expresses his desire to build the temple. Although God rejects David’s request, he promises to perpetuate the Davidic dynasty forever. David prays to God and asks him to uphold his promise.

2 Samuel 8, David’s Military Might: David is victorious over the Philistines, Moabites, Arameans, Edomites, and the king of Zobah. David acquires great wealth and rules his kingdom righteously. His cabinet members are enumerated.

2 Samuel 9, David Honors Mephibosheth: David wishes to honor one of Jonathan’s descendants. He finds his son Mephibosheth and gives him land, grants him servants, and feeds him in Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 10, David Defeats the Ammonites and Arameans: David sends courtiers to the king of Ammon and they are publicly humiliated. David assembles his army and routs the Ammonite and the Aramean armies.

2 Samuel 11, David and Batsheba – Adultery and Murder: David impregnates a married woman named Batsheba. He attempts to cover up the pregnancy by having Batsheba’s husband sleep with her, but her husband refuses to do so. David has the husband killed and takes Batsheba as his own wife.

2 Samuel 12, David’s Punishment; Solomon’s Birth; The Ammonite Capital is Captured: Nathan condemns David by telling him a parable and predicting family difficulties. David and Batsheba’s son dies, but the two have a second son named Solomon. David’s general conquers the Ammonite capital.

2 Samuel 13, An Incestuous Rape; Absalom’s Revenge: Amnon rapes his sister Tamar. Absalom kills Amnon and flees from his father David.

2 Samuel 14, Absalom is Brought to Jerusalem: After pardoning a man for killing his brother, David decides to forgive Absalom for killing Amnon. Absalom is brought to Jerusalem to meet with David.

2 Samuel 15, Absalom’s Rebellion: Absalom leads a revolt and forces David to flee Jerusalem. David sends spies to Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 16, David’s Decline: Ziba supports David and accuses Mephibosheth of treason. David shows restraint when Shimei hurls epithets and stones at him. Absalom sleeps with David’s concubines in Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 17, Hushai Saves David’s Life: Hushai delays Ahitophel’s attack on David. David escapes and Ahitophel commits suicide. David’s and Absalom’s forces prepare for battle.

2 Samuel 18, David is Victorious; Absalom is Killed: David’s army routs Absalom’s forces. Absalom gets tangled in a tree and is killed by Joab. Messengers tell David about the battle and the death of his son.

2 Samuel 19, David’s Rise: David weeps for his son. He makes his way back to Jerusalem, pardons those who wronged him, and honors those who honored him.

2 Samuel 20, Sheba’s Revolt: Sheba leads the Israelites away from David. Joab pursues Sheba and besieges him in the city of Abel. The siege ends when Joab is given Sheba’s severed head.

2 Samuel 21, A Deal with the Gibeonites; David’s Close Call; Victory in Philistia: Saul’s descendants are killed by the Gibeonites. After a close call in battle, David retires from the military. His men defeat many Philistine warriors.

2 Samuel 22 (≈Psalm 18), David’s Thanksgiving Song: David sings a thanksgiving song praising Yahweh for saving him from his enemies.

2 Samuel 23, David’s Theophany; David’s Warriors: David relates a message he once received from God. David’s warriors and their military exploits are enumerated.

2 Samuel 24, David’s Census and its Repercussions: David takes a census of the people. God is enraged and kills 70,000 Israelites with a plague. David propitiates God with burnt sacrifices.