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.

Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of 1 Samuel

The book of 1 Samuel concerns the exploits of the righteous leader Samuel and the two men he anoints as king, Saul and David. Saul is challenged by David’s popularity and is eventually killed in a battle with the Philistines. David is a valiant warrior who must flee to the Philistines despite proving his loyalty to Saul.

Summary 1 Samuel 1: After many years of barrenness, Hannah’s prayers are answered. She gives birth to Samuel and gives him to Eli the priest so that he may serve Yahweh all the days of his life.

Summary 1 Samuel 2: Hannah thanks Yahweh by reciting a thanksgiving hymn. Eli’s sons corrupt the priesthood by stealing meat and sleeping with women who visit the temple. An angel appears to Eli and tells him his family will be punished accordingly.

Summary 1 Samuel 3: Yahweh appears to Samuel and portends the fall of Eli’s house. Although he is apprehensive, Samuel relates the bad news to Eli who accepts the prophecy as the will of Yahweh.

Summary 1 Samuel 4: After losing to the Philistines, the Israelites bring the ark with them into battle. They are routed and the Philistines capture the ark. Eli and his daughter-in-law die when they hear the disturbing news.

Summary 1 Samuel 5: The Philistines, who have the ark in their possession, are afflicted with hemorrhoids. The Philistine people beg their leaders to return the ark to the Israelites.

Summary 1 Samuel 6: The Philistines return the ark to the people of Beth Shemesh. After being punished by Yahweh for looking inside the ark, the people of Beth Shemesh ask the inhabitants of Kiriath Jearim to remove the ark from their midst.

Summary 1 Samuel 7: Samuel exhorts the Israelites to abandon their idols. They listen, and Yahweh grants them military success against the Philistines. Samuel travels throughout the land and serves as a pious leader in Israel.

Summary 1 Samuel 8: Samuel’s sons turn out to be corrupt leaders. The people tell Samuel they want a king and he is unable to convince them otherwise. Yahweh tells Samuel to heed the inimical request.

Summary 1 Samuel 9: Saul searches for his father’s missing donkeys and happens to meet Samuel. Samuel prepares a feast and tells Saul that he is destined for greatness.

Summary 1 Samuel 10: Samuel anoints Saul as king. He predicts many events that subsequently take place. When Saul returns home, Samuel assembles the people at Mizpah and publicly declares him as the first king of Israel.

Summary 1 Samuel 11: The Ammonites threaten to torture the people of Jabesh Gilead. Saul musters 330,000 troops and defeats the enemy with ease. The people celebrate Saul’s kingship at Gilgal.

Summary 1 Samuel 12: Samuel delivers a harsh speech in his old age. He criticizes the people for requesting a king, brings a miraculous rainstorm to scare them, and warns them to follow the will of Yahweh.

Summary 1 Samuel 13: In response to Saul’s offensive, the Philistines prepare to attack Israel. Saul assembles an army and offers a sacrifice before Samuel arrives. Samuel tells him he is doomed to lose the monarchy.

Summary 1 Samuel 14: Jonathan leaves the camp and kills twenty Philistine soldiers. The Philistines panic and are defeated by the Israelites. Saul, who forbade eating on the day of battle, almost kills his son for eating honey.

Summary 1 Samuel 15: Samuel instructs Saul to slaughter the Amalekites. Saul kills the Amalekite men, women, and children but spares the king and a few choice animals. Samuel informs Saul that he has been rejected by Yahweh. Samuel then kills the king of Amalek.

Summary 1 Samuel 16: Yahweh sends Samuel on a mission to anoint David as the future king. Saul is plagued by an evil spirit that is alleviated by David’s music.

Summary 1 Samuel 17: A mighty Philistine soldier named Goliath ridicules the Israelites. David travels to the battlefield and kills him with his sling. The Israelites attack and force the Philistines to retreat.

Summary 1 Samuel 18: Saul becomes jealous of David’s military victories. After failing to kill David with his own spear, Saul relegates David to the army’s front line. David succeeds in battle, marries Saul’s daughter Michal, and becomes more popular than the king.

Summary 1 Samuel 19: Saul fails to kill David. Michal helps David flee to Ramah where he stays with Samuel.

Summary 1 Samuel 20: David angers Saul when he skips the meal for the new moon. Jonathan betrays his father by helping David flee for his life.

Summary 1 Samuel 21: David convinces the priest Ahimelech to provide him with bread and a sword. David flees to the Philistine city of Achish where he feigns madness.

Summary 1 Samuel 22: David escapes from the Philistines and safekeeps his parents with the king of Moab. With the exception of one son named Abiathar, Saul has Ahimelech’s priestly family killed.

Summary 1 Samuel 23: The Philistines attack Keilah and are driven away by David. Saul chases David into the mountains but fails to capture him.

Summary 1 Samuel 24: Saul inadvertently enters David’s hiding place. Instead of killing him, David cuts off a corner of Saul’s garment as proof of his loyalty. Saul acknowledges David’s innocence and accepts his role as future king.

Summary 1 Samuel 25: David asks Nabal for provisions. Nabal spurns the request and is almost killed by David. Nabal’s wife Abigail appeases David by secretly giving him food and drink. Nabal dies and David takes Abigail as his wife.

Summary 1 Samuel 26: Saul chases after David. David sneaks into the Saul’s chambers, steals his personal items, and secretly returns to his own camp. Saul is contrite when he learns that David had the opportunity to kill him but chose not to.

Summary 1 Samuel 27: David flees to Philistia. He plunders the neighboring cities but manages to trick the Philistines by telling them he has raided Judah itself.

Summary 1 Samuel 28: The Philistines prepare to attack the Israelite army. Saul travels to En Dor, conjures up Samuel’s ghost, and is told he is doomed to fail. Although Saul is distraught, he and his men manage to travel back to the camp.

Summary 1 Samuel 29: The Philistines, with David in their ranks, prepare to attack the Israelites. David’s loyalty is questioned and he is sent home.

Summary 1 Samuel 30: David and his men return to Ziklag to find their homes burned, their possessions stolen, and their families kidnapped. The men pursue the guilty Amalekites and exact their revenge.

Summary 1 Samuel 31: Saul’s army is routed by the Philistines. His sons are killed and he commits suicide. The Philistines desecrate Saul’s body and the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead eventually bury his remains.

Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of Judges

The book of Judges recounts the battles between the Israelites and enemies such as the Canaanites, Amorites, Ammonites, Arameans, Midianites, and Philistines. It also recounts a number of battles and events that take place amongst the Israelites themselves.

Summary Judges 1: Judges begins with the conquest of Canaan. Judah conquers most of its territory but the other tribes are not as successful. While the other tribes are able to subjugate the Canaanites and Amorites to forced labor, they are unable to dispossess them from the land.

Summary Judges 2: An angel reprimands the people for forsaking God. Joshua’s death is recounted, and the people’s sinfulness is described.

Summary Judges 3: Yahweh sends Othniel to save the Israelites from the king of Aram. Yahweh then sends Ehud to kill the king of Moab. Finally, Shamgar kills 600 Philistines with an ox goad.

Summary Judges 4: Yahweh sends Deborah the prophetess and Barak the warrior to destroy the Canaanite army. The glory, however, goes to Jael the Kenite for killing the Canaanite general with a tent peg.

Summary Judges 5: Deborah and Barak sing about their victory over the Canaanites. They praise Yahweh, the Israelite warriors, and Jael, but scold the tribes that failed to join the fight.

Summary Judges 6: The Midianites oppress the Israelites. An angel appears to Gideon and tells him to destroy his father’s idols. Gideon destroys the idols and is given a sign that he will succeed at war.

Summary Judges 7: In order to emphasize His own role in the victory, Yahweh tells Gideon to diminish the troop number from 32,000 to 300. Gideon is given a sign of success, and he routs the Midianites.

Summary Judges 8: Gideon requests bread from two towns but the townspeople send him away. He kills the kings of Midian and takes revenge on the people who spurned his request by destroying their two towns. Gideon rejects an offer to be king and the Israelites worship other gods after he dies.

Summary Judges 9: Abimelech takes control of Shechem and kills his seventy brothers. When a rebellion led by Gaal precipitates, Abimelech kills the entire city. He also attacks Thebaz, but a woman kills him by dropping a millstone on his head.

Summary Judges 10: Two chiefs, Tola and Jair, rule over Israel one after the other. After their deaths the Israelites worship other gods. Yahweh is incensed and gives them over to the Amorites and Ammonites.

Summary Judges 11: Jephthah becomes the leader of the Gileadites. When the Ammonites cause trouble, he vows to sacrifice the first person he sees when he returns from war. After lecturing and defeating the Ammonites, his daughter is the first person to greet him. Jephthah offers his daughter as a sacrifice.

Summary Judges 12: Jephthah leads the Gileadites to victory over the Ephraimites. Three other chiefs named Ibzan, Elon, and Abdon rule Israel after Jephthah dies.

Summary Judges 13: An angel appears to Manoah and his wife and tells them they will have a Nazirite child. The child is born and he is named Samson.

Summary Judges 14: Samson is engaged to marry a Philistine girl. At his celebratory feast, he poses a riddle to thirty Philistine men. They cajole Samson’s wife into giving them the answer and Samson responds by killing the thirty men.

Summary Judges 15: Samson burns the Philistine fields when is denied access to his wife. After being handed over to the Philistines, Samson kills 1,000 of them with a jawbone.

Summary Judges 16: Samson falls in love with a Philistine named Delilah. She persuades him to reveal the source of his strength and then double-crosses him. He is tortured in a Philistine arena but manages to destroy the edifice. In doing so, he kills himself and the enemy in attendance.

Summary Judges 17: Micah builds a house of worship and hires a young Levite to serve as his priest.

Summary Judges 18: The Danites, who cannot find a place to live, migrate northward. They abduct Micah’s priest and seize his religious objects. They massacre the people of Laish, rename the town Dan, and set up a new religious center for themselves.

Summary Judges 19: A Levite settles in Gibeah for the night after picking up his concubine from his father-in-law’s house. The men of Gibeah attempt to sodomize him but end up raping the concubine until her death. As a response, the Levite dismembers his wife’s corpse and sends her body parts throughout the land of Israel.

Summary Judges 20: The Israelites wage war against Benjamin for the actions of Gibeah. After three days of intense battle, the Israelites nearly wipe out the entire tribe of Benjamin. All of the women and children are put to the sword and only six-hundred men survive.

Summary Judges 21: The Israelites are disturbed by the possible annihilation of Benjamin. However, they previously swore  to keep their daughters from the Benjaminites. In order to save Benjamin, they kill the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead and give the girls to the Benjaminites. The Benjaminites also kidnap girls from the annual festival and take them as their wives.

Chapter-by-Chapter Summary of Joshua

The book of Joshua has 24 chapters. Chapters 1-12 recount the conquest of the land, chapters 13-21 recount the partition of the land, chapter 22 describes a near-civil war, and chapters 23-24 describe Joshua’s final days.

Summary Joshua 1: Yahweh orders Joshua to cross the Jordan River in order to conquer the land. Joshua informs the people and reminds the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Half Manasseh about their commitment to cross over with the rest of the nation.

Summary Joshua 2: Joshua sends scouts to Jericho and Rahab saves them from the king. The scouts vow to save Rahab and her family when they return to conquer the land.

Summary Joshua 3: Yahweh promises to exalt Joshua in the eyes of the people. The Jordan River is halted and the people cross on dry land.

Summary Joshua 4: Twelve stones from the Jordan are set up at Gilgal as a remembrance for the miraculous crossing of the Jordan. Joshua also sets up twelve stones within the Jordan itself.

Summary Joshua 5: The Israelites are circumcised at the hill of foreskins, which is renamed Gilgal. The people celebrate Passover and Joshua is approached by the general of Yahweh’s army.

Summary Joshua 6: Joshua carries out Yahweh’s plan and destroys the city of Jericho.

Summary Joshua 7: The Israelites are defeated at Ai because the herem (proscription) of Jericho is violated. Achan admits his guilt and he and his entire family are stoned to death.

Summary Joshua 8: The Israelites ambush Ai and kill its 12,000 inhabitants. Joshua recites Moses’ teaching of blessings and curses upon Mount Ebal.

Summary Joshua 9: The Gibeonites dress in costume and trick the Israelites into a peace treaty. The Israelites consequently force the Gibeonites to do degrading labor.

Summary Joshua 10: Joshua protects Gibeon from the Amorites, stops the sun and moon, and conquers the land.

Summary Joshua 11: Joshua defeats the local kings who rally against him and conquers the land.

Summary Joshua 12: The kingdoms that Moses conquered east of the Jordan and that Joshua conquered west of the Jordan are listed.

Summary Joshua 13: Yahweh tells Joshua, who has grown old, to apportion the land west of the Jordan to the Israelite tribes. The land that Moses apportioned east of the Jordan is described.

Summary Joshua 14: Joshua grants Caleb the city of Hebron, just as Moses promised.

Summary Joshua 15: The boundaries and cities of Judah’s territory are enumerated. Caleb conquers his land and gives his daughter Achsah in marriage to Othniel, the man who conquers Kiriath-Sepher.

Summary Joshua 16: Ephraim is allotted its portion but is unable to dispossess the Canaanites from Gezer.

Summary Joshua 17: The sons and daughters of Manasseh are given their portion but cannot dispossess the Canaanites. When they ask for more land, Joshua tells them to clear the forests and conquer the Canaanites in the valleys.

Summary Joshua 18: Joshua sends scouts to explore and divide the land into seven portions for the remaining seven tribes. Benjamin is allotted its portion of land.

Summary Joshua 19: Joshua allots territories of land to Simeon, Zebulun, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali, and Dan. Joshua is given the town (Timnath-serah) he requests in the territory of Ephraim.

Summary Joshua 20: In accordance with Yahweh’s command, the people designate six cities of refuge for those who kill by mistake.

Summary Joshua 21: The Levites are given forty-eight cities from the territories of the twelve tribes. The conquest and settlement of the land comes to an end.

Summary Joshua 22: Joshua sends the Transjordanian tribes home and they make an altar along the way. This enrages the Cisjordanian tribes. War is averted when the Transjordanians explain that their “altar” is actually a memorial that is not meant for sacrifice.

Summary Joshua 23: Joshua gathers the people in his old age, praises Yahweh for conquering the land, and warns that intermarriage and idolatry will cause calamity

Summary Joshua 24: Joshua recounts the history of Israel, convinces the people to commit to Yahweh, and sets up a stone as a witness. Joshua dies and is buried in Ephraim.