The Author of 2 Samuel and God's Eternal Laws

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    In this essay I broadly discuss the laws in the Succession Narrative (SN) and more specifically I discuss David’s failure to administer justice and the chaos that ensues as a result of David’s inability to administer justice.
    The author of the SN, far from being an apologist for David or Solomon, was instead railing against David’s abuse of authority. David, Amnon, Absalom and Solomon, and other members of the royal court, are objects of satirical attack for consistently failing to honor God’s laws. Moreover, the narrative is pejoratively critical of David’s administration of justice. In particular, David never seems to administer justice correctly: his adjudications are either too harsh, too lenient or inconsistent. Furthermore, it is implied that David’s inability to administer justice effectively is the justifying reason for Absalom’s revolt – and the cause of the ensuing chaos of a civil war. In particular, Absalom’s hatred for Amnon gives rise to his vigilante behavior as there is no discernible action on David’s part to acquit Absalom’s anger.
    Nevertheless, the author of the narrative does not suggest that the administration of justice is always a straightforward and unambiguous matter. Amnon’s rape of Tamar and Absalom’s act of ordering the killing Amnon present complex legal and moral problems. I argue that these problems need to be adjudicated by reference to the undergirding moral principle of the law, namely, hesed. On the contrary, David does not extend the moral principle of hesed when situations call for it and instead manipulates the concept of hesed to further his own ambitions. Indeed, David’s administration of justice is largely self-serving. Such legal adjudications are satirized in this narrative, as they do not result in the better ordering of society. In many cases they involve an abuse of authority and are, therefore, acts of corruption.
    The body of my argument is broken into four sections: (1) David has no regard for the law. In this section I argue David does not keep the laws himself and uses the legal system to advance his own purposes; (2) Poor administration of justice. In this section I argue that David’s administration of justice is not in keeping with good ethical judgement and the essence of hesed; (3) David does not administer justice when the laws are unclear and the laws give rise to a dilemma. In this section I argue that David does not apply the concept of hesed when the laws are unclear; (4) David is corrupt. In this section I argue that David’s abuses of power are an affront to God. Furthermore, it is apparent that the purpose of this narrative is to call for reform.
    Original languageEnglish
    Publication statusPublished - 2017
    EventInternational Society of Biblical Literature - Humbodlt University , Berlin, Germany
    Duration: 07 Aug 201711 Aug 2017 (conference link)


    ConferenceInternational Society of Biblical Literature
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