2 Samuel 3

Civil War

1 The war between the house of Saul and the house of David was long and drawn out, with David growing stronger and the house of Saul becoming weaker.
2 Sons were born to David in Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, by Ahinoam the Jezreelite;
3 his second was Chileab, by Abigail, the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; the third was Absalom, son of Maacah the daughter of King Talmai of Geshur;
4 the fourth was Adonijah, son of Haggith; the fifth was Shephatiah, son of Abital;
5 the sixth was Ithream, by David's wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.[a]
6 During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner kept acquiring more power in the house of Saul.[b]
7 Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah daughter of Aiah, and Ish-bosheth questioned Abner, "Why did you sleep with my father's concubine?"
8 Abner was very angry about Ish-bosheth's accusation. "Am I a dog's head[c] who belongs to Judah?" he asked. "All this time I've been loyal to the house of your father Saul, to his brothers, and to his friends and haven't handed you over to David, but now you accuse me of wrongdoing with this woman!
9 May God punish Abner and do so severely if I don't do for David what the Lord swore to him:
10 to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish the throne of David over Israel and Judah[d] from Dan to Beer-sheba."
11 Ish-bosheth could not answer Abner because he was afraid of him.
12 Abner sent messengers as his representatives to say to David, "Whose land is it? Make your covenant with me, and you can be certain I am on your side to hand all Israel over to you."
13 David replied, "Good, I will make a covenant with you. However, there's one thing I require of you: Do not appear before me unless you bring Saul's daughter Michal here when you come to see me."
14 Then David sent messengers to say to Ish-bosheth son of Saul, "Give me back my wife, Michal. I was engaged to her for the price of 100 Philistine foreskins."[e]
15 So Ish-bosheth sent someone to take her away from her husband, Paltiel son of Laish.[f]
16 Her husband followed her, weeping all the way to Bahurim. Abner said to him, "Go back." So he went back.

The Assassination of Abner

17 Abner conferred with the elders of Israel: "In the past you wanted David to be king over you.
18 Now take action, because the Lord has spoken concerning David: 'Through My servant David I will save My people Israel from the power of the Philistines and the power of all Israel's enemies.' "[g]
19 Abner also informed the Benjaminites and went to Hebron to inform David about all that was agreed on by Israel and the whole house of Benjamin.
20 When Abner and 20 men came to David at Hebron, David held a banquet for him and his men.
21 Abner said to David, "Let me now go and I will gather all Israel to my lord the king. They will make a covenant with you, and you will rule over all you desire." So David dismissed Abner, and he went in peace.
22 Just then David's soldiers and Joab returned from a raid and brought a large amount of plundered goods with them. Abner was not with David in Hebron because David had dismissed him, and he had gone in peace.
23 When Joab and all his army arrived, Joab was informed, "Abner son of Ner came to see the king, the king dismissed him, and he went in peace."
24 Joab went to the king and said, "What have you done? Look here, Abner came to you. Why did you dismiss him? Now he's getting away.
25 You know that Abner son of Ner came to deceive you and to find out about your activities and everything you're doing."
26 Then Joab left David and sent messengers after Abner. They brought him back from the well[h] of Sirah, but David was unaware of it.
27 When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab pulled him aside to the middle of the gateway, as if to speak to him privately, and there Joab stabbed him in the stomach. So Abner died in revenge for the death of Asahel,[i] Joab's brother.[j]
28 David heard [about it] later and said: "I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner.
29 May it hang over Joab's head and his father's whole house, and may the house of Joab never be without someone who has an infection or leprosy or a man who can only work a spindle[k] or someone who falls by the sword or starves."
30 Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon.[l]
31 David then ordered Joab and all the people who were with him, "Tear your clothes, put on sackcloth, and mourn over Abner." And King David walked behind the funeral procession.[m]
32 When they buried Abner in Hebron, the king wept aloud at Abner's tomb. All the people wept,
33 and the king sang a lament for Abner:[n] Should Abner die as a fool dies?
34 Your hands were not bound, your feet not placed in bronze [shackles]. You fell like one who falls victim to criminals. And all the people wept over him even more.
35 Then they came to urge David to eat bread while it was still day, but David took an oath: "May God punish me and do so severely if I taste bread or anything else before sunset!"[o]
36 All the people took note of this, and it pleased them. In fact, everything the king did pleased them.
37 On that day all the troops and all Israel were convinced that the king had no part in the killing of Abner son of Ner.
38 Then the king said to his soldiers, "You must know that a great leader has fallen in Israel today.
39 As for me, even though I am the anointed king, I have little power today. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too fierce for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil!"

2 Samuel 3 Commentary

Chapter 3

David's power increases His family. (1-6) Abner revolts to David. (7-21) Joab kills Abner David mourns for him. (22-39)

Verses 1-6 The length of this war tried the faith and patience of David, and made his settlement at last the more welcome. The contest between grace and corruption in the hearts of believers, may fitly be compared to this warfare. There is a long war between them, the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; but as the work of holiness is carried on, corruption, like the house of Saul, grows weaker and weaker; while grace, like the house of David, grows stronger and stronger.

Verses 7-21 Many, like Abner, are not above committing base crimes, who are too proud to bear reproof, or even the suspicion of being guilty. While men go on in sin, and apparently without concern, they are often conscious that they are fighting against God. Many mean to serve their own purposes; and will betray those who trust them, when they can get any advantage. Yet the Lord serves his own designs, even by those who are thus actuated by revenge, ambition, or lust; but as they intend not to honour him, in the end they will be thrown aside with contempt. There was real generosity both to Michal and to the memory of Saul, in David's receiving the former, remembering probably how once he owed his life to her affection, and knowing that she was separated from him partly by her father's authority. Let no man set his heart on that which he is not entitled to. If any disagreement has separated husband and wife, as they expect the blessing of God, let them be reconciled, and live together in love.

Verses 22-39 Judgments are prepared for such scorners as Abner; but Joab, in what he did, acted wickedly. David laid Abner's murder deeply to heart, and in many ways expressed his detestation of it. The guilt of blood brings a curse upon families: if men do not avenge it, God will. It is a sad thing to die like a fool, as they do that any way shorten their own days, and those who make no provision for another world. Who would be fond of power, when a man may have the name of it, and must be accountable for it, yet is hampered in the use of it? David ought to have done his duty, and then trusted God with the issue. Carnal policy spared Joab. The Son of David may long delay, but never fails to punish impenitent sinners. He who now reigns upon the throne of David, has a kingdom of a nobler kind. Whatever He doeth, is noticed by all his willing people, and is pleasing to them.

Footnotes 15

Chapter Summary

INTRODUCTION TO SECOND SAMUEL 3

This chapter begins with the continuation of the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, 2Sa 3:1; and gives an account of the wives of David, and his sons by them, 2Sa 3:2-5; of a quarrel between Ishbosheth and Abner, 2Sa 3:6-11; and of Abner's proposal to make a league with David; but David would not see his face unless Michal his wife was returned to him, who was accordingly, 2Sa 3:12-16; and of the interest Abner made with the elders of Israel in favour of David, which he reported to him, and promised to make more, 2Sa 3:17-21; but Joab returning from a pursuit, and with great spoil, just as Abner departed, and hearing of it, chided David for letting him go, and privately sent for him back, and treacherously murdered him, 2Sa 3:22-27; from which murder David cleared himself and his kingdom, and for it made dreadful imprecations on Joab and his family, 2Sa 3:28-30; and buried Abner with great lamentation, expressing much concern for his death, and the high opinion he had of him, 2Sa 3:31-39.

2 Samuel 3 Commentaries