Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 3

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-39

2 Samuel 3:1 . Long war, of contention and strife, rather than of bloody battles.

2 Samuel 3:3 . The daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur. David had invaded the country of this prince, and might have led her away among the captives; and in that case she might be married by an Israelite.

2 Samuel 3:8 . Am I a dog’s head? This phrase is brief, and therefore obscure. Moses says, thou shalt not bring the price of a dog’s head into the house of the Lord. Abner gives himself this low name to show his folly in opposing the house of David.

2 Samuel 3:9 . Except as the Lord hath sworn to David. Why had he then resisted David for seven years? Had he obeyed from the first, he had not killed Asahel, neither had Joab revenged his brother’s blood. They that take the sword shall perish by the sword.

2 Samuel 3:15 . Took her from her husband. The original term here rendered husband is not baalah, her husband, but only ishah, her man, which is often rendered keeper or overseer. Abarbanel thinks that Phaltiel was an old man, and that Saul had entrusted Michal to his care; but this is perfectly gratuitous.

2 Samuel 3:22 . Joab came from pursuing a troop of Philistines, or their allies.

2 Samuel 3:27 . Joab smote Abner under the fifth rib. This Hebraism displeases the critics. LXX, εις την ψοαν in the groin, which coincides with the discharges of the feces.

2 Samuel 3:28 . I and my kingdom are guiltless of the blood of Abner. Moses directs the elders to wash their hands, and attest their innocence when a man was found murdered; because the Lord is the avenger of blood: and David’s curse fell on the head of Joab when Solomon slew him at the altar.


This chapter presents us with David’s rising household; and as he had but one son by each wife, we may conclude that he did not take this step till the fifth or sixth year of his reign; and that in this he followed the custom of the age, with a view to the stability of his throne. A king having but six wives would be thought a model of continence to all the kings of the east; such is human policy; it proved to David however a source of inquietude and trouble all his life, and disturbed his kingdom after his death. No man can violate the law of God without incurring his displeasure. The first woman he married in Hebron was Maachah, daughter of the king of Geshur, beyond the Jordan. This was not unlawful, if she were a captive in war, or a proselyte to Judaism; but if David intended this alliance to strengthen him on his throne, it proved the greatest source of all his calamities. Absalom, after the assassination of his brother Amnon fled to Geshur, where he plotted the dethroning of his sire. Good men guided by the divine counsel, have no need of any sinful policy.

While David thus strengthened himself in his kingdom, Abner did the same for the house of Saul; but in the skirmishes which happened, and in the scale of national influence, the house of David grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul weaker and weaker. So the kingdom of Christ shall rise and spread in all the earth, and the kingdom of darkness shall be overwhelmed in its progress. So grace shall triumph over nature in the faithful soul till sin is all destroyed, and till every thought is brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.

The means by which David was confirmed in his kingdom highly exemplify the wisdom and wonders of providence. Abner, wishing to reign while Ishbosheth had the name, took Rizpah, Saul’s favourite concubine, a woman of influence, for his concubine. The relict of a king being deemed sacred in her person, Abner incurred by his presumption a severe reproof. This so mortified his pride, and inflamed his anger, that he swore to bring over the kingdom to David. This his conscience had long suggested was his duty, and a duty he owed more to God than to David. Had he done so on Saul’s death, and from a loyal motive, he had secured his life, and immortalized his name among the worthies of Israel. But acting now from a base motive, God would not accept his services. The wicked very often do the Lord’s people a great service; but aiming solely to gratify their own passions, they have no reward. Abner acted as another wicked man, and was permitted to fall before he had lived to perform his vow.

If Abner was treacherous, Joab was still more so; and through mere malice against him, urged the right of avenging his brother’s blood, as though Asahel had not fallen in fair battle. With these purposes he forged the king’s commands to recal Abner, and taking him aside he stabbed him in that part of the body where he had pierced Asahel with the hilt of his spear. He did more, he traduced his memory as having come to Hebron to betray David. Hereby Joab completed his character as an assassin, and associated his name with those who ought not to see the light of the sun.

However much this crime of Joab might contribute to ruin the houshold of Saul, it awfully implicated David in the guilt of injustice. Joab was his nephew; he was his general, and had been the faithful companion of his exile; therefore his feelings would not suffer him to put him to death. This was wrong, for justice is more than the greatest of men. David had cause afterwards to repent; yet he honoured Abner as a prince in his burial, and entailed a curse on his assassin. How unhappy are princes when surrounded by factions of wicked men.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 3". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.