2 Samuel 21-24
: structure, context and meaning in the Samuel conclusion

  • Herbert H. Klement

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The examination of the final chapters of the books of Samuel offered here proceeds initially from an unease about the frequent pejorative appraisal of them as an unsuitable, late addition that is out of place in its context. Taking a cue from the recent interest in initial and concluding texts in the context of literary and "Canonical" methods, the work attempts to describe this text complex, with its six chiastically arranged units, in terms of its literary function as a concluding text in relation to the rest of the preceding book.

Following remarks of W. Brueggemann and J. Flanagan, the ring structure is further compared with other groups of texts in the Samuel corpus. The specific, overarching macrostructure which is thus perceived is structured not according to linear-chronological principles but according to patterns of parallelism and chiasmus. This observation of a concept of order that is distinct from modem western convention is understood, following Emma Brunner-Traut, as deriving from an "aspectival" perception of reality. By means of this kind of reading, many inner relationships open up, binding the closing chapters to the other parts of the book in such a way that it is shown to be a unified literary work.

The two poetic texts are shown to stand in a complex relationship with the four other songs of the books of Samuel. The allusion to the prophet Gad belongs in a series of six encounters between David and prophets, arranged as a set of three pairs. The two lists of soldiers are interpreted by analogy with the double lists of the sons and ministers of David. The final contrast, in the closing chapter, between the two kings, Saul and David, and the polarity - expressed in the tension between centre and periphery - between rule of Yahweh and sin of the kings, both mirror and finally draw together the main themes of the book.

These relationships suggest that the appraisal of the closing chapters as a late addition is in need of revision. It will be argued that they should be interpreted in close connection with the rest of the book.
Date of Award1995
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
  • University of Oxford
SupervisorJ. Gordon McConville (Supervisor) & Richard Thomas France (Supervisor)


  • bible study
  • Samuel appendix
  • old testament
  • exegesis
  • theology
  • books of Samuel
  • 2 Sam 21–24

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