June 2 – 2 Samuel


(David and Absolom, by Marc Chagall)

First, and this is not a homework question, but it is something you will need to pay attention to in your reading, the first few chapters of 2 Samuel are rather confusing: basically David is working to consolidate the kingdom, which is divided into the Northern Kingdom of Israel (ruled by Ishbaal) and the Southern Kingdom of Judah (now ruled by David). Outline the events of Chapters 1-4. Who are the key players? (In class, we will want to turn our attention to the politics of those chapters and to David’s role and response to those events.)

1. Chapter 6 contains a brilliant display of the way that dialogue can work in the text. Thinking of Alter’s Chapter 4, briefly characterize both David and Michal based on their actions and especially the dialogue in Chapter 6.

2. Chapter 11 is arguably a turning point in David’s story—why? Read that chapter in the Alter translation (link just below). What is one of the repeated word patterns to which Alter draws our attention?

Chapter 11 – from the Alter translation

3. Briefly describe David’s relationship with his son, Absolon. Remember the way that Alter talked about David in the passages from the Art of Biblical Narrative dealing with the dual introduction of David–the public David and the private David. How do you see that borne out by the events in this book, particularly the events following the Bathsheba incident (and extending into the rest of the book)?

4. Bonus question! Can you discover what it is about the census at the end of 2 Samuel that gets David into trouble? Why would taking a census be such a sin?

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