2 Samuel 2:1 And it came to pass after this, that David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the LORD said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron.
Ver. 1. And it came to pass after this.] And after that many worthies out of several tribes had resorted unto him at Ziklag, so that he had a very great host, like the host of God. [1 Chronicles 12:1-22 Job 25:3]
Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?] Ziklag was a city of Judah, but not so fit for his purpose: because it was in the utmost borders, and now also held by the gift of the king of the Philistines, who at this time were so overruled by God, that after their victory over Saul, they stirred not against David, till, settled in the whole kingdom, he was well able to deal with them.
And he said, Unto Hebron.] An ancient and metropolitan city of Judah; where the patriarchs, to whom the land was promised, lay buried; and thereby held possession, as it were.
2 Samuel 2:2 So David went up thither, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail Nabal’s wife the Carmelite.
Ver. 2. And his two wives also.] To take such part as himself, to share with him in his prosperity as they had done in his misery. The Lord Christ likewise will shortly remove his spouse, the Church, from the land of her banishment, from the ashes of her forlorn Ziklag, to the Hebron of her peace and glory. [2 Timothy 2:12 Luke 22:28-29] He hath taken order for it already, [John 17:24] is gone a little afore to make ready, [John 14:2-3] and counteth not himself complete till he hath us all with him. [Ephesians 1:23]
2 Samuel 2:3 And his men that [were] with him did David bring up, every man with his household: and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron.
Ver. 3. And his men that were with him did David bring up.] Those that came to him, [1 Samuel 22:2] and continued with him in all his troubles. He cashiereth them not for all their recent rebellion at Ziklag, which was yet fresh, and but a few days since: but pardoning their rebellions, he maketh them partakers of his good success. Thus doth our heavenly Leader, whom David prefigured, take us to reign with him, who have suffered with him.
And they dwelt in the cities of Hebron.] They were billeted up and down in the neighbouring towns and villages, called daughters, [Joshua 21:11-12] lest he should be burdensome to his Hebronites, by quartering upon them sa great a company.
2 Samuel 2:4 And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, [That] the men of Jabeshgilead [were they] that buried Saul.
Ver. 4. And the men of Judah came.] Together with those others that had resorted to him to Ziklag from the other tribes, who were not a few. [1 Chronicles 12:1-22] Even some of Soal’s brethren of Benjamin: besides the Cherethites and the Pelethites, his bodyguard; ever very firm, and therefore dear to him, though Philistines by nation.
And there they anointed David king.] This is now the second time that he is anointed, for his further confirmation, whereof the best have need enough. It is said of our Queen Elizabeth, that as she swam to the crown through a sea of sorrows, so she brought the ship of England from a tempestuous and troublous sea to a safe and quiet harbour. The more happy was her government, because it ensued upon the stormy times of Queen Mary; she came as a fresh spring after a sharp winter; so did David to his contribules the men of Judah, who therefore gladly received him, and crowned him, after seven years’ persecution and banishment. Sic petitur caelum. Neither yet could he get the whole kingdom, till seven years after. Our Henry IV was crowned the very same day that, the year before, he had been banished the realm. Not so David. He "waited patiently for the Lord," [Psalms 40:1] and had not the kingdom till his "soul was even as a weaned child." [Psalms 131:2]
And they told David, saying, That the men of Jabeshgilead, &c.] For ill-will haply some told him so; to exasperate David against them, as favourers of his greatest enemy: but he sent them no small thanks for so doing; yea, he sendeth a kind message to the men of Jabeshgilead, and giveth them great thank for their kindness to Saul; so far was he from proscribing them, or seeking revenge upon them, as did Sulla, Marius, Anthony, Octavius, all such as had any way favoured their enemies.
2 Samuel 2:5 And David sent messengers unto the men of Jabeshgilead, and said unto them, Blessed [be] ye of the LORD, that ye have shewed this kindness unto your lord, [even] unto Saul, and have buried him.
Ver. 5. That ye have showed this kindness unto your lord.] Whose not only subjects ye were - as others - but beneficiaries also in a special mannor; for he rescued you from Nahash, king of Ammon; and I, for this your last good office to him, shall be ready to requite you; so little grudge bear I to him, or any that favoured him: you may trust me.
2 Samuel 2:6 And now the LORD shew kindness and truth unto you: and I also will requite you this kindness, because ye have done this thing.
Ver. 6. And now the Lord show kindness and truth unto you.] God’s mercy and his truth go commonly coupled in holy Scripture. His mercy moveth him to promise, his truth to perform. "For thy word’s sake" - thy truth - "and according to thine own heart" - thy mere mercy - "hast thou done all these things." [2 Samuel 7:18-21]
And I also will requite you this kindness.] He had punished the Amalekite: he promiseth to requite these Jabeshites. By rewards and punishments duly administered, the public weal is preserved, saith Plato. David could tell that "he that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God." [2 Samuel 23:3]
2 Samuel 2:7 Therefore now let your hands be strengthened, and be ye valiant: for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah have anointed me king over them.
Ver. 7. And be ye valiant.] Heb., Be ye sons of valour: and if ye like to be my liege-people - as the tribe of Judah now are - I will be your liege-lord, as Saul sometime was; that is, we will be mutually bound each to other.
2 Samuel 2:8 But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul’s host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim;
Ver. 8. But Abner the son of Ner.] An ambitionist and an atheist; for he went against God’s express command, and the light of his own conscience, [2 Samuel 3:9] to bring about his own designs, and to keep himself in the saddle; but it turned to his own ruin, and his master’s also: so vain a thing is it to strive against God. But "all men have not faith," and are therefore "unreasonable and wicked." [2 Thessalonians 3:2]
Took Ishbosheth.] Passing by Mephibosheth, the rightful heir, because young and lame, he setteth up Ishbosheth, a weak, unworthy man: as thinking to rule all under him, using him as a stale, or stalking horse: whence, [2 Samuel 3:6] not Ishbosheth but Abner is said to have made himself strong for the house of Saul.
And brought him over to Mahanaim.] Which was beyond Jordan, and not far from Jabeshgilead: which town David had so courted, and Abner therefore might be jealous of, and would thus overawe.
2 Samuel 2:9 And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel.
Ver. 9. And over all Israel.] Except the tribe of Judah, and some few others. [1 Chronicles 12:1-40] This was an ill precedent, and as it were a preparative to that great schism in Rehoboam’s days, that could never be made up again.
2 Samuel 2:10 Ishbosheth Saul’s son [was] forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.
Ver. 10. And reigned two years,] sc., Peaceably and quietly, before war fell out betwixt him and David. So Saul is said to have reigned two years, [1 Samuel 13:1] that is, free from foreign enemies, and unmolested by the Philistines. After this, there was five years’ war betwixt the house of Saul and the house of David, till Ishbosheth’s death. [2 Samuel 3:1]
But the house of Judah followed David.] Yet were they not guilty of the sin of schism: no more are the Reformed Churches, for forsaking of Antichrist, to follow the Lamb wheresoever he goeth, to set the crown upon the Lord Christ’s head.
2 Samuel 2:11 And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.
Ver. 11. Seven years and six months.] So long the Lord kept him off the full sovereignty, for the further trial and exercise of his faith and patience. Look we for the like, and bear up.
2 Samuel 2:12 And Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon.
Ver. 12. Went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon.] The same with Gibeah of Saul; hither he came with his host, to chastise Judah for their revolt from the house of Saul.
2 Samuel 2:13 And Joab the son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out, and met together by the pool of Gibeon: and they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool.
Ver. 13. And then sat down.] David and his men were loath to fight, unless it were in their own necessary defence. He remembered his oath to Saul, not to attempt against his house: and therefore came not hither himself in person, but sent Joab, with directions to hold off till needs must.
2 Samuel 2:14 And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise, and play before us. And Joab said, Let them arise.
Ver. 14. Let the young men now arise, and play before us,] i.e., Spectaculi causa pugnent, let them hack and hew one another, to make us sport; as the sword players did among the Romans, till good Theodosius forbade that bloody pastime, as hateful to God, and abhorred of all good men. At the taking of Tripolis in Barbary, the Turks, having in their hands one John de Chabis, a Frenchman, brought him into the town, and when they had cut off his hands and his nose, put him quick into the ground to the waist, and there, for their pleasure, shot at him with their arrows; and afterwards cut his throat. (a) The Spaniards day by day, for their pleasure, whip the poor Indians with cords, and drop their naked bodies with burning bacon; this being one of the least cruelties they exercise upon those wretches, to make themselves merry in the others’ misery.
Let them arise.] Joab was true touch, as they call it, and soon accepted the challenge: but better he had not; for the issue was bloody. Many martialists, fleshed with such horrid acts and aspects, make little reckoning of bloodshed. O formosum spectaculum! Oh, brave sight! said Hannibal, when he saw a pit full of men’s blood. O rem regiam! Oh, kingly act! said Valesus, when he had slain three hundred men.
2 Samuel 2:15 Then there arose and went over by number twelve of Benjamin, which [pertained] to Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David.
Ver. 15. And twelve of the servants of David.] So the Romans and Albans tried it out by three of a side - viz., the Horatii and the Curiatii; but this practice is no way warrantable, as being against faith and against charity; a tempting of God, and a trusting to the arm of flesh.
2 Samuel 2:16 And they caught every one his fellow by the head, and [thrust] his sword in his fellow’s side; so they fell down together: wherefore that place was called Helkathhazzurim, which [is] in Gibeon.
Ver. 16. And they caught every one his fellow.] With such eagerness and fury met these gallants, that each in others’ side
“ Capulo tenus abdidit ensem, ”
sheathed his sword, for a proof of his valour. Talis fait Cadmaea Tugna. But was this valour, or madness rather? Courage or outrage, whether? Josephus saith - but not well - that Abner’s twelve men only were slain. (a)
Helkathhazzurim,] i.e., The field of strong men, or of rocks, i.e., of those that stood firm as rocks, till they fell in the place.
2 Samuel 2:17 And there was a very sore battle that day; and Abner was beaten, and the men of Israel, before the servants of David.
Ver. 17. And there was a very sore battle.] Ecce hic duellum transit in acre bellum totale. "Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!" [James 3:5] It is far easier to stir strife, than to stint it; to begin a war, than to end it.
2 Samuel 2:18 And there were three sons of Zeruiah there, Joab, and Abishai, and Asahel: and Asahel [was as] light of foot as a wild roe.
Ver. 18. Light of foot as a wild roe.] Josephus saith he could make as much speed as a horse. Achilles was ποδας ωκυς, swift of foot; so was Jonathan. [2 Samuel 1:23] Harold, son of Canutus, the Dane, king of England, was surnamed Harefoot, for his agility and swiftness. This is excellent in a soldier.
2 Samuel 2:19 And Asahel pursued after Abner; and in going he turned not to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner.
Ver. 19. And Asahel pursued after Abner.] Too great a prize for him, who was impar conyressus Achilli: but he trusted too much to his own abilities-as being no less valiant of his hands, than swift of foot - and so perished. See Ecclesiastes 9:11.
2 Samuel 2:20 Then Abner looked behind him, and said, [Art] thou Asahel? And he answered, I [am].
Ver. 20. Art thou Asahel?] Abner had no mind to meddle with any son of Zeruiah, David’s sister: he therefore first turneth querist to this currist, - Luther’s words, - and then twice adviseth him to retreat from pursuing his own peril. But quisque suos patitur manes.
2 Samuel 2:21 And Abner said to him, Turn thee aside to thy right hand or to thy left, and lay thee hold on one of the young men, and take thee his armour. But Asahel would not turn aside from following of him.
Ver. 21. Lay thee hold on one of the young men.] Meddle with thy match, and contend not with him that is mightier than thou. Patroclus is no meet match for Hector. When Carolostadius opposed Luther’s consubstantiation, but weakly and insufficiently, Zuinglius said he was sorry that so good a cause wanted shoulders. (a) Heat of zeal sometimes, in the indiscreet pursuit of a just adversary, proves mortal to the agent, prejudicial to the service.
2 Samuel 2:22 And Abner said again to Asahel, Turn thee aside from following me: wherefore should I smite thee to the ground? how then should I hold up my face to Joab thy brother?
Ver. 22. Wherefore should I smite thee to the ground?] As I shall be forced to do, if thou desist not. If a man must kill or be killed, (1.) He must flee; (2.) Defend himself by all means possible, dissuading the party, as here, and otherwise as he may. That tenet of Navarrus is most false, that a man may lawfully kill another, for the avoiding of a box on the ear, and to recover his honour. And so is that of Soto, A man may kill another in his own defence, because it is a shame to flee from an adversary. These are your Popish casuists.
2 Samuel 2:23 Howbeit he refused to turn aside: wherefore Abner with the hinder end of the spear smote him under the fifth [rib], that the spear came out behind him; and he fell down there, and died in the same place: and it came to pass, [that] as many as came to the place where Asahel fell down and died stood still.
Ver. 23. Under the fifth rib.] (a) Where the liver and gall are, a sure killing place; for a punishment of his pertinacy, and too eager pursuit of a yielding enemy.
2 Samuel 2:24 Joab also and Abishai pursued after Abner: and the sun went down when they were come to the hill of Ammah, that [lieth] before Giah by the way of the wilderness of Gibeon.
Ver. 24. Joab also and Abishai pursued after Abner.] Notwithstanding the loss of their brother Asahel; which could not but be a great grief to them. The public cause was their main care.
2 Samuel 2:25 And the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together after Abner, and became one troop, and stood on the top of an hill.
Ver. 25. And became one troop, and stood on the top of an hill.] They were not so routed but that they could rally: and getting the hill, they stood upon their guard. Cuneati in collis vertice stabant. He that flieth may once fight again.
2 Samuel 2:26 Then Abner called to Joab, and said, Shall the sword devour for ever? knowest thou not that it will be bitterness in the latter end? how long shall it be then, ere thou bid the people return from following their brethren?
Ver. 26. Shalt the sword devour for ever?] The Hebrews ascribe a mouth to the sword. The Greeks call it πολεμος, q.d., πολυαιμος, from the much blood spilt by it. The Latins call it Bellum a belluis, from beasts, whose manner it is to gore and tear one another. Oh, pray that God would command the sword into the scabbard, making it to "rest and be still," [Jeremiah 47:6] that he would "scatter those that delight in war." Pompey was famous for finishing a war quickly.
Knowest thou not that it will be bitterness in the latter end?] q.d., It is likely to be so, if my men, despairing not of victory only but of life, resolve to run any hazard, and to sell their lives as dear as they can, since they must needs part with them. It is no wisdom to fight with a desperate man. Ignaviam necessitas acuit: et saepe desperatio spei causa est. Victorem a victo superari saepe videmus. (a) Justin (b) telleth, that fifteen thousand Locrians did beat a hundred thousand Crotonians: Quia omissa spe victoriae in destinatam mortem conspirarunt, whilst they despaired of victory, and took care only how to die bravely. Take heed, therefore, saith this old soldier, lest ye have sour sauce at length to your deserts; as indeed all those are sure to have who feed on the murdering morsels of sin. Revenge is sweet; but the fruits thereof are sad, and all too late repented of. All wars are woeful; but especially those they call civil,
“ Nullos habitura triumphos. ”
Peccatoris cuiusque calix mellis, in faeces fellis desinet.
Return from following their brethren.] Is it so good butchering their poor brethren? We read in the Roman history of one brother unawares killing another in battle; and that when he came to strip him to take his spoils, seeing that it was his brother, he slew himself for sorrow.
2 Samuel 2:27 And Joab said, [As] God liveth, unless thou hadst spoken, surely then in the morning the people had gone up every one from following his brother.
Ver. 27. Unless thou hadst spoken,] q.d., Thou mayest thank thyself for the hurt that is done: for thou first madest the challenge. Aequum est ut faber quas fecit compedes ipse gestet.
2 Samuel 2:28 So Joab blew a trumpet, and all the people stood still, and pursued after Israel no more, neither fought they any more.
Ver. 28. So Joab blew a trumpet.] After that Abner had first excused unto him the killing of his brother Asahel, as saith Josephus.
2 Samuel 2:29 And Abner and his men walked all that night through the plain, and passed over Jordan, and went through all Bithron, and they came to Mahanaim.
Ver. 29. And went through all Bithron,] i.e., Through the separate or divided country: sundered from Canaan by the river Jordan, as Junius rendereth it. They went back to Mahanaim, by weeping cross. Dubia est Martis alea, nec raro utrique parti noxia.
2 Samuel 2:30 And Joab returned from following Abner: and when he had gathered all the people together, there lacked of David’s servants nineteen men and Asahel.
Ver. 30. There lacked of David’s servants, &c.] War is the slaughter house of mankind, and the hell of this present world, saith one: Mars Alpha malorum. It openeth the gates of infelicity that were shut up in times of peace. Wherefore Lactantius (a) thought it not lawful for a just man to be a warrior: whose justice was to be his warfare. Some Anabaptists also hold the same. But God is called a man of war, [Exodus 15:3] and said to have war with Amalek; [Exodus 17:16] he sendeth the sword; [Ezekiel 14:17] mustereth the men; [Isaiah 13:4] ordereth the ammunition; [Jeremiah 50:25] batheth the sword in heaven. [Isaiah 34:5] David fought his battles. [1 Samuel 25:28] Captain Cornelius, who was of the Italian band, was highly accepted in heaven. John Baptist disliked not the soldiers’ calling, but directeth them how to manage it, &c.
2 Samuel 2:32 And they took up Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, which [was in] Bethlehem. And Joab and his men went all night, and they came to Hebron at break of day.
Ver. 32. And buried him in the sepulchre of his father.] This they did, likely, after that they had first been with David at Hebron, to give him an account of that expedition.
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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 2". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany