We’ve spend a lot of time on תהילים and specifically הלל, and it’s time to return to ספר שמואל. The last perek we studied ended with a recap of David’s administration:
And that was very similar to the end of פרק ח:
And those summaries highlight the fact that ספר שמואל divides into three parts (the division into I Samuel and II Samuel is a much later, Christian, invention). I like to look at it as a limited television series, with three seasons:
- Season 1: שמואל א פרק א through שמואל א פרק טו: the story of Shmuel
- Epilogue: שמואל א פרק טז: David is introduced (but not yet in a starring role)
- Season 2: שמואל א פרק יז through שמואל ב פרק ח: the rise of David
- Epilogue: שמואל ב פרק ט: the story of מפיבשת
- Season 3: שמואל ב פרק י through שמואל ב פרק יט: the story of Bat Sheva and its aftermath
- Epilogue: שמואל ב פרק כ: the rebellion of שבע בן בכרי
- Appendices: שמואל ב פרק כא through שמואל ב פרק כד
The plot arc of season 3 is over; David’s תשובה is compled and he is restored to his throne in Jerusalem. The civil war between יהודה and ישראל has been suppressed by חכמה, not violence, foreshadowing the story of Shlomo and then the split of the kingdom. But before we get to the sequel, ספר מלכים, we have four chapters of appendices.
Several ספרים of תנ״ך have “appendices”, chapters at the end that are clearly out of context. This is one example of that. We see it also in ספר ויקרא, which conceptually ends with the תוכחה and (ויקרא כו:מו) אלה החקים והמשפטים והתורת אשר נתן ה׳ בינו ובין בני ישראל בהר סיני ביד משה, but continues with a perek about ערכין, appraising donations. Similarly, שמשון is the last שופט of ספר שופטים, but after that we have the stories of פסל מיכה and פלגש בגעה, which take place chronologically much earlier.
I haven’t seen any sources that discuss why the Torah or the נביא should organize the book that way, but I can hypothesize. Every ספר נבואה has a message, a מוסר השכל, that is the theme of the ספר. But that moral is not explicitly stated; it is implied in the text as a whole. There is a danger, therefore, that we will draw the wrong conclusion. For example, I discussed the appendix to ספר ויקרא in פרשת בחקותי תשפ״ב, suggesting that we might think that the ultimate sacrifice that ה׳ wants is human sacrifice, and ערכין teaches us that no, “dedicating” a person to הקב״ה means substituting their value.
So what does our set of appendices teach us?
The outermost pair are narratives of David’s failure and תשובה, which really is the theme of the last part of ספר שמואל. The lists of David’s heroes are, as we will see when we compare them to the parallels in דברי הימים, more poetic than prose. The center pair are pure poetry.
The last narrative in the chronological sequence of ספר שמואל, in פרק כ, is the rebellion of שבע בן בכרי. It foreshadows the breakup of the kingdom that will be the theme of ספר מלכים. If we look at the appendices in textual order, we end up with another transition to ספר מלכים, that foreshadows the building of the בית המקדש. But if we read the appendices as a whole, as a chiasmus, then the appendices focus on David as author of ספר תהילים, as the נְעִים זְמִרוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל.
And that, I think, is why we have the appendix, why it is important to stay until the end of the movie and watch the post-credits scene, as it were. If we only read the narratives of ספר שמואל, we see David as a violent, vindictive warlord. He may learn from his mistakes and teach us the meaning of real תשובה—and that is the מוסר השכל of our ספר—but it misses a critical part of how we are to think about King David.
These appendices serve as the transition to another book of תנ״ך, the one that features the “real” King David, the King David who we cite every day, the נְעִים זְמִרוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל: ספר תהילים.
The chiastic structure of the appendix means that we build up from the tragedy of פרק כא to the שירה of פרק כב, reminding us where we “really” belong, then move back down to the tragedy of פרק כד, which returns us to the “historical” David, and ends with David finally getting close to his ultimate goal, ויבן שם דוד מזבח לה׳.
The other thing that this appendix does, by connecting to ספר תהילים, is tell us how to read תהילים. Rav Medan discusses why ספר שמואל is its own ספר, not part of ספר שופטים and ספר מלכים:
Just as ספר תהילים teaches us how to read ספר שמואל, ספר שמואל teaches us how to read ספר תהילים: as the work of דוד המלך. תהילים jumps between celebrations of Israel on their land, connected to their G-d, and pleas for salvation from exile, when they are isolated from the land and from G-d. All of it has this underlying sense of longing for an intimate connection to הקב״ה. The human מלך ישראל symbolizes both of those connections, to the land and to ה׳:
David, as the first real king, whose life was dedicated to building the בית המקדש that he would never see, is the reification of כנסת ישראל. Connecting שמואל to תהילים makes that explicit.
With that, I want to look at these remaining perakim of ספר שמואל but focused on תהילים. So I will read them in chiastic order, looking at the narrative perakim first, and ending with poetry of (שמואל ב כג:א) וְאֵלֶּה דִּבְרֵי דָוִד הָאַחֲרֹנִים…נְעִים זְמִרוֹת יִשְׂרָאֵל.