Saul’s defeat – David’s victory! (2 Samuel 1:1)

Phillips gives an excellent review of the final events of 1 Samuel to connect the story with what is to come in 2 Samuel.  “1 and 2 Samuel is one book in the original Hebrew composition. During the second half of the third century BC, 70 scribes translated the Hebrew Old Testament into the Greek Septuagint. Because the scrolls at that time did not have enough space for the content of Samuel, it was divided into two books.”[1] Don’t miss the similarity between the opening words of 2 Samuel and those of some earlier books. Joshua begins recounting the death of Moses. Judges begins recounting the death of Joshua. 2 Kings will start by recounting the death of Ahab. It might be that this formula was the deciding factor as to where the book of Samuel was to be divided into two books. 2 Samuel begins by telling us of Saul’s defeat and David’s victory. “After the death of Saul, when David had returned from striking down the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.”

Phillips writes, “As we begin to study 2 Samuel, we encounter in David another man whose life was dramatically changed by news of a death. Second Samuel picks up the story directly where 1 Samuel left it off. This is to be expected since originally, until the time of its translation into Greek, Samuel was a single book in the Bible. First Samuel 29 tells of David’s armed band of fugitives marching in the Philistine host as it advanced toward its invasion of Israel and of how David was providentially delivered from the battle that would take place in the north. Chapter 30 tells of his return to his southern base at Ziklag, only to find that Amalekite raiders had made off with their wives, children, and property. David and his men pursued and defeated these raiders and returned to Ziklag. The final chapter of 1 Samuel then relates the result of the battle between King Saul and the Israelites against the massed Philistine host. When 2 Samuel begins, the reader knows what David does not yet know: Saul was defeated and killed, and the Israelites were scattered in defeat.”[2]

David had just returned from defeating the age-old enemies of Israel, the Amalekites. When Moses led Israel out of Egypt, the Amalekites would attack the rear of the Israelite procession to such an extent that Moses had to recruit Joshua to go to war with them.  We saw the rise of Moses’ successor in the victorious person of Joshua. Here we see Saul’s successor in the victorious person of David. The English Standard Translation says David “struck down” the Amalekites, while some other translations say he “slaughtered” them. The main point seems to be that while the Philistines were defeating Saul, David was defeating the Amalekites. From his first appearance in the Bible, David is seen as a very different kind of leader than Saul.


[2] Phillips, Richard D. 2018. 2 Samuel. Edited by Richard D. Phillips, Philip Graham Ryken, and Iain M. Duguid. Reformed Expository Commentary. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing.