The House of David Grows Stronger
(1 Chronicles 3:1–4)
Abner then went to see David in Hebron and told him that the northern tribes were ready to proclaim him king. He promised to assemble all Israel to make a compact or COVENANT with David (verse 21), in which the tribes would publicly acknowledge David as their king and swear allegiance to him. Abner then left David in peace—that is, with the assurance of safe passage.
Joab Murders Abner (3:22–39)
22–25 When Joab learned that Abner had been in Hebron and that David had let him go in peace, he was upset. He was hoping to take revenge on Abner for killing his brother Asahel (2 Samuel 2:23). He said that Abner had only come to deceive David and to spy on him (verse 25).
26–30 Without David’s knowledge, Joab sent messengers to call Abner back to Hebron. There Joab met with him privately and murdered him (verse 27); Joab’s brother Abishai was in on the plot (verse 30).
Abner’s murder was a great embarrassment to David. He had just received the support of the northern tribes, and then suddenly his own military commander murders their chief representative! David announced that he was innocent of the murder and that the blood—the guilt—should fall upon the head of Joab (verse 29). Then David cursed Joab’s house and all his family members, wishing upon them various maladies and misfortunes.
Joab and Abishai justified their murder of Abner on the basis of Abner’s killing of their brother Asahel. But Abner had killed Asahel in battle; he hadn’t murdered him. Thus Joab and Abishai had no right to avenge their brother’s blood in this way. It is likely that Joab used his brother’s death as an excuse to kill Abner, fearing that Abner might replace him as commander of David’s army.
As Abner had killed Asahel, so he himself was killed by Joab. And as Joab killed Abner, so Joab himself would later be killed by the order of King Solomon (1 Kings 2:31–34). These violent men illustrate Jesus’ words: “. . . all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
31–34 Because Abner’s murder had the potential for undoing the union of the northern and southern tribes under David’s rule, David publicly did everything possible to prove that he was innocent. He took part in a public ceremony of mourning, and he sang a lament in which he likened Abner’s death to the murder of an innocent man by wicked men-such as Joab and Abishai (verses 33–34).
35–39 David was successful in convincing the Israelites that indeed he had had nothing to do with Abner’s death (verse 37). He told his men that Abner had been a prince and a great man10 (verse 38). Then he acknowledged that the sons of Zeruiah, Joab and Abishai, were at that time too strong for him to discipline and bring under his control (verse 39); instead, he left it to the Lord to repay them for the evil they had done (see Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:17–19).