2 Samuel 10:1-12:31 – War with the Ammonites and the Arameans


2 Samuel 10:1-12:31


David’s wars with the Ammonites and the Arameans provide the context for his adulterous affair with Bathsheba and his arranged murder of her husband, Uriah. David’s sin will have serious repercussions for the remainder of the book.


Several features argue for seeing 2 Samuel 10-12 as a distinct literary unit:

  • This and the next literary unit both begin with time indicators identical in Hebrew: “Some time afterward” (10:1) and “Some time passed” (13:1).
  • War with the Ammonites (10:1-11:1a; 12:26-31) forms a frame around the David and Bathsheba narrative (11:1b-12:25).
  • The parallel in 1 Chronicles omits 2 Samuel 11:1b-12:25, moving directly from 2 Samuel 11:1 to 12:26 (1 Chronicles 20:1-2).

Several attempts at finding a literary structure for these chapters have failed to win support. The following is based upon the pairing of David with the other notables in the story, especially those with Bathsheba and their resultant sons, and the paired displeasure of Joab and the Lord (“troubled” and “displeased” are similarly described in Hebrew with the idiom “it was evil in the eyes of…”):

Frame: War with Ammon (10:1-11:1a)
A David and Bathsheba: a son conceived (11:1b-5)
B David and Uriah (11:6-24)
C Joab “troubled” (11:25)
A′ David and Bathsheba: a son born (11:26-27; 27a in Hebrew)
C′ The Lord “displeased” (12:1a; 11:27b in Hebrew)
B′ David and Nathan (12:1-15a)
A′′ David and Bathsheba: a son dies, Solomon conceived and born (12:15b-25)
Frame: War with Ammon (12:26-31)

It is possible that the chronology of the events of these two chapters has been disturbed in order to lift up their theological and/or literary significance. It is doubtful that Joab’s war against the Ammonites would have lasted two years. Several scholars have made the further point that the events framed by these military campaigns make better chronological sense prior to the events of 2 Samuel 8:3-12.

Nevertheless, the text as it stands admirably sets David’s encounter with Bathsheba in dramatic relief. The absence of her husband, Uriah, which made the encounter possible, is due to his position at the front. Similarly, David’s attempts to have him killed make use of Uriah’s valiant efforts fighting the Ammonites for his king.