I. Coronation and Conflicts (2 Samuel 1:1–5:5)

1:1-4 The opening verses of 2 Samuel pick up right where 1 Samuel left off. This book is devoted to David’s forty-year reign as king. It also includes the establishment of the Lord’s covenant with David, through which the promised Messiah would come. Despite David’s faults and those of his descendants, this was a unilateral, unconditional promise that God would keep. The author of 2 Samuel wants his readers to see the events of David’s kingship against the backdrop of the Davidic covenant. He also wanted to encourage them in faithfulness to the Lord—something their ancestors frequently failed to achieve. Although earthly kings often fail, the true King of Israel is always on his throne and will never abandon his people or his promises.

3:6-11 Things began to change when Ish-bosheth accused Abner of sleeping with Saul’s concubine, Rizpah (3:7). Such an action was considered an attempt to lay claim to a king’s throne. Abner flew into a rage and accused Ish-bosheth of calling him a traitor. Abner had so much power that Ish-bosheth did not dare to respond to Abner because he was afraid of him (3:11).

3:12-16 Abner then pledged his loyalty to David and offered to make a covenant with him (3:12). The king accepted the offer on condition that Abner would bring David his first wife, Michal (3:12-13). Michal was Saul’s daughter whom he had given to David; later, he gave her to another man while David was a fugitive (see 1 Sam 18:27; 25:44). There had never been a divorce, so Michal was taken from Paltiel and given to David, legal son-in-law to Saul and rightful heir to the throne (3:15).

3:17-19 Abner then set about building support for David among the elders of Israel (3:17). He reminded them of God’s promise that David was God’s chosen servant to save his people from the Philistines and all Israel’s enemies (3:18). Abner also approached the Benjamites, Saul’s own tribe, to get their agreement to back David. Then, he brought the good news of his negotiations to David at Hebron (3:19).

3:20-23 David was happy to receive Abner and his entourage; he prepared a banquet to host them (3:20). Abner promised to go throughout all Israel and unite the people as one under David so that he could be king over the entire nation (3:21). David was obviously pleased, and the author is careful to note three times that David sent Abner on his mission in peace (3:21-23). That would become important in light of what was about to happen. When Joab returned to Hebron, he was informed of Abner’s visit (3:22-23).

3:24-25 Joab was furious that the killer of his brother Asahel had been treated kindly by David. He went to the king to accuse Abner of deceiving him as a spy. It’s hard to know for certain what Joab’s motives were. Revenge for the death of his brother? Protection of David’s throne? Jealousy that Abner might be a rival for command of David’s army? Perhaps all of the above.

3:26-27 Assuming Abner was engaging in deceit, Joab left David and concocted some deceit of his own. While David was unaware, he sent a message to Abner to come back, probably saying that David wanted to see him again (3:26). When Joab met Abner, he approached as if to speak to him privately. Then, he murdered Abner as revenge for the death of Asahel, his brother (3:27; see 2:21-23). Joab’s other brother Abishai was also involved in the plot (see 3:30).

3:28-29 David was grief-stricken at the news of Abner’s murder. He had made a covenant with him to bring about peace in Israel and to consolidate his kingdom (see 3:12-13). So, he wanted to avoid the appearance that he had anything to do with Joab’s underhanded plot. David declared that he was forever innocent before the Lord and pronounced a severe curse on Joab and his descendants.

3:30-35 David showed his genuine grief for Abner in every way possible. Consolidating all of Israel under his rule depended on it. He knew how important it was that the people of Israel understood that he was not gaining the throne through evil means. He commanded mourning for Abner (3:31), walked behind the coffin (3:31), wept at the tomb (3:32), composed a lament as he had done for Saul (3:33-34; see 1:17-27), and fasted (3:35).

3:36-39 David’s innocence was accepted by all the troops and all Israel (3:37). He lamented the violent nature of Joab and his brother, the sons of Zeruiah, but he did not discipline them for their deeds (3:38-39). The fact that Zeruiah was David’s half-sister may explain his reluctance to take action (see 17:25; 1 Chr 2:16).

4:1-3 The death of Abner spread panic throughout the northern half of Israel where Ish-bosheth was king (4:1). He was a weak ruler, and with Abner gone, the people may have feared that David would invade and conquer them. Here the author introduces two Benjaminites who had served Saul, Baanah and Rechab (4:2). But, before completing this account, the author inserts a parenthetical note.

4:4 Mephibosheth was the son of Jonathan, Saul’s son and David’s trusted friend. When Saul and Jonathan were killed by the Philistines, Mephibosheth was five years old. When his nanny fled with him in fear, she dropped him, and his feet became crippled. The author includes this note here to prepare the reader for the later story of David’s kindness to Mephibosheth, out of his love for Jonathan (see chapter 9).

4:5-8 Returning to Rechab and Baanah, the author tells us that they took matters into their own hands and cold-heartedly assassinated Ish-bosheth. He was defenseless in his bed when they murdered him (4:5-7). That they were evil men with selfish motives becomes even more evident, for they tried to curry favor with David as the new king of Israel. They took Ish-bosheth’s head to David at Hebron, hoping to be rewarded (4:8).

4:9-12 Little did they know that another man had similarly hoped for the king’s approval by eradicating David’s rival, but things didn’t turn out so well for him (see 1:1-16). David essentially told them, “The last guy who did something like this was indeed rewarded—with death!” (3:10). The cowardly nature of the attack against a righteous man horrified David (4:11). There was no evidence that Ish-bosheth was seeking to take David’s life. So David gave orders, and his men killed Re-chab and Baanah. Cutting off the killers’ hands and feet—the parts of their bodies used in the murder—served as a gruesome way of denouncing their wicked actions and warning anyone else who might think of committing a similar act (4:12). Furthermore, David needed to make it clear to all of Israel that he’d had nothing to do with this deed.

5:1-2 God was sovereignly controlling events to bring David to the national throne. All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron. They acknowledged several important facts that made David the right choice to rule over the nation. First, they were all flesh and blood (5:1)—that is, they were members of the twelve tribes of Israel, descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. In other words, they were brothers. Second, David was their national military hero, a revered leader. Even back when Saul was king, David had fought Israel’s battles. Third and most important, they recognized God’s calling and anointing on David, for God had said to him, You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will be ruler (5:2).

5:3 Previously, the men of Judah, David’s own tribe, had anointed him as king (see 2:4). But now, all the elders of Israel came to Hebron and anointed David king over Israel. It had been a long road since the day God had first commanded Samuel to anoint a young shepherd as the one to replace King Saul (see 1 Sam 16:11-13). David had endured much hardship and persecution. But, through it all, he trusted the Lord and waited on his perfect timing. Though David was by no means perfect (as 2 Samuel will soon reveal), his willingness to obtain God’s purpose for him in God’s way is a model for others to follow. David was God’s kingdom man.

5:4-5 At age thirty, David became king, ruling over Judah seven years and six months and thirty-three years over all Israel, too (5:4-5). Thus, he reigned over God’s people for forty years (5:4). The Davidic dynasty had begun. And through it, the Son of David, the Messiah, would one day come (Matt 1:1).

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