Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 3

Bridgeway Bible CommentaryBridgeway Bible Commentary

Verse 1

Two kings in Israel (2:1-3:1)

The Philistines now controlled much of Israel’s territory west of Jordan (see 1 Samuel 31:7). Believing that David was still friendly to them, the Philistines allowed him to become king over Judah in the south, no doubt thinking that this would help to divide and weaken Israel further. The tribes east of Jordan, however, were still free, and David quickly tried to win their support (2:1-7). But Abner (Saul’s army commander and his cousin; see 1 Samuel 14:50) had beaten David to it. Having escaped across Jordan, he appointed Saul’s son Ishbosheth as king over all Israel (apart from Judah), though he himself was the one who had the real power (8-11).

David’s army commander was his nephew Joab (1 Chronicles 2:13-16). Both Abner and Joab were eager to control the strategic town of Gibeon, and when the two happened to meet near the town they agreed to an armed contest between selected young men from each side (12-14). The limited contest grew into a furious battle, which Joab’s army won (15-17). Joab and Abner had long been rivals (see 1 Samuel 26:5-6), but for Joab the rivalry became hatred when Abner killed Joab’s brother (18-25). Abner’s army fared badly, and only his personal appeal to Joab brought a break in hostilities (26-32).

Over the next two years the supporters of Ishbosheth and the supporters of David were in constant conflict. Victory consistently went to those on David’s side (3:1).

Verses 2-39

End of the line of Saul (3:2-4:12)

On becoming king of Judah, David followed the pattern of neighbouring kings by taking a number of wives (2-5). (For the more important people of David’s family and relatives see the appendix at the end of the commentary on 2 Samuel.) Meanwhile Abner became so powerful among Ishbosheth’s supporters, that Ishbosheth accused him of trying to gain the throne for himself. (According to an eastern custom, one way a person signified his claim to the throne was by claiming the king’s harem; see 12:8; 16:22.) Angry and frustrated, Abner saw that Israel could not be rebuilt on the weak foundation of Ishbosheth. He therefore decided to join forces with David, and in that way help strengthen and unify Israel (6-11).

David accepted Abner’s offer of support on the condition that Michal, David’s first wife and Saul’s daughter, be returned to him. Having Saul’s daughter as wife would further strengthen David’s claim to Saul’s throne (12-16; cf. 1 Samuel 18:20-27; 1 Samuel 25:44). Most of Israel’s leaders readily joined with Abner in transferring their allegiance to David. Only Saul’s tribe, Benjamin, needed a little extra persuasion (17-21).

Joab, however, was not pleased to see Abner join David’s army, for it meant he now had a rival for the post of commander-in-chief. Treacherously he killed Abner, giving the excuse that he was taking revenge on behalf of his dead brother. But David clearly considered it to be murder (22-30; cf. Numbers 35:19-28). David publicly showed his disapproval of Joab’s deed, and regretted that one of the nation’s finest leaders should die in such a manner. But David took no action against Joab (31-39; cf. 1 Kings 2:5-6,1 Kings 2:32).

With the death of Abner, Ishbosheth’s kingdom collapsed, Ishbosheth himself being murdered. The royal rule of Saul’s family had come to an end, as forecast by Samuel (see 1 Samuel 13:13-14). All that remained of the line of succession through Jonathan was one badly crippled child (4:1-8). David, as in the previous case of murder, showed his disapproval (for Ishbosheth had done him no harm), but this time he ordered the murderers to be executed. As always, he wanted to make it clear that he would not gain Saul’s throne through murder (9-12).

Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 3". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". 2005.