Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 3

Kretzmann's Popular Commentary of the BibleKretzmann's Commentary

Verses 1-21

Abner Leaves Ishbosheth for David

v. 1. Now, there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David, literally, "the war was protracted," a state of war continued to exist, since neither acknowledged the other as king, although outward hostilities were apparently not renewed; but David, patiently waiting and relying upon the promise of Jehovah, waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker; David gained in adherents in the same measure as Ishbosheth lost them.

v. 2. And unto David were sons born in Hebron; and his first-born was Amnon, of Ahinoam, the Jezreelitess;

v. 3. and his second, Chileab (or Daniel, 1 Chronicles 3:1), of Abigail, the wife of Nabal, the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom, the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur, a small principality in Syria;

v. 4. and the fourth, Adonijah, the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah, the son of Abital;

v. 5. and the sixth Ithream, by Eglah, David's wife. The three women mentioned last are otherwise unknown. These were born to David in Hebron, the fruit of his strange polygamous marriages.

v. 6. And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, while the state of hostility continued, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul, his strong influence enabled the house of Saul to maintain itself.

v. 7. And Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah; and Ishbosheth said to Abner, Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father's concubine? The reproof was given because Abner, by his action, had presumed upon royal rights, for in the ancient Orient claim to the harem was claim to the throne, the suspicion thus being that he aspired to be king.

v. 8. Then was Abner very wroth for the words of Ishbosheth, for he seems to have been self-willed and presumptuous in his conduct toward the weak man whom he had made king, and said, Am I a dog's head, a low, contemptible person, which against Judah, who sides with Judah? (I) do show kindness this day unto the house of Saul, thy father, to his brethren, and to his friends, and have not delivered thee in to the hand of David, that thou chargest me today with a fault concerning this woman? Ishbosheth owed position, kingdom, everything to Abner, who seems to have been on his side merely out of loyalty for Saul; but there was no personal bond between them, and Abner regarded the charge flung into his face as an insult.

v. 9. So do God to Abner, and more also, a strong oath of a vigorous, autocratic man, except, as the Lord hath sworn to David, even so I do to him,

v. 10. to translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, to take it away and transfer it, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba, from the extreme north to the extreme south of Canaan. Abner had evidently recognized the fact, even before this, that Ishbosheth was wholly unfit for the kingly rule, and the latter's charge now brought matters to a head.

v. 11. And he, Ishbosheth, could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him, he was too feeble, too cowardly, to back up his reproof with action.

v. 12. And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, as an embassy representing him, saying, Whose is the land? His pride caused him to intimate that he was the real master of Israel. Saying also, Make thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee to bring about all Israel unto thee, to get all the northern tribes to acknowledge David, with the expectation that he would be given a high position in the army of the united country.

v. 13. And he, David, said, Well; I will make a league with thee; but one thing I require of thee, this was his one condition upon whose fulfillment he insisted, that is, Thou shalt not see my face except thou first bring Michal, Saul's daughter, when thou comest to see my face. It was not merely that Michal was his lawful wife, but David had also a political reason in his union with Israel's princess, namely, that of gaining the favor of the northern tribes.

v. 14. And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, Saul's son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines, that being the purchase price, the morning gift which Saul had demanded, 1 Samuel 18:25,

v. 15. And Ishbosheth, who would not have been able to refuse the demand of David even if he had been so inclined, sent and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel, the son of Laish, the man who seems to have taken her in good faith, 1 Samuel 25:44.

v. 16. And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim, on the boundary of Judah, his behavior showing that he was truly fond of Michal. Then said Abner, who, in accordance with David's condition, had taken charge of this mission, unto him, Go, return. And he returned.

v. 17. And Abner, even before he restored Michal to her rightful husband, had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past, literally, "yesterday as well as the day before," to be king over you, their dissatisfaction with Ishbosheth had probably been voiced more than once;

v. 18. now, then, do it: for the Lord hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of My servant David I will save My people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines and out of the hand of all their enemies. This was the promise implied in the prophetic tradition and the duty laid upon the king chosen by Jehovah.

v. 19. And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin, here distinguished from the northern tribes, because its members had been very strongly attached to the house of Saul; and Abner went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin. In return for their recognition of David's royal authority they wanted the same advantages as the men of Judah; they were fully ready to acknowledge him.

v. 20. So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him, as representatives of all Israel, as witnesses of the covenant. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast, a formal festival meal.

v. 21. And Abner said unto David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel unto my lord the king that they may make a league with thee, acknowledging him as the chosen king of Jehovah, through whom, as His instrument, the Lord Himself would rule over His people, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth, over the entire people of God. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace, regarded by David as a true friend to his cause. Even the adversaries of God and Christ are often instrumental in carrying out the counsel of God and in furthering the cause of Christ. And many a person who first strongly opposed the Lord has been brought to a better understanding and has embraced the good cause.

Verses 22-39

Abner Murdered by Joab, Mourned by David

v. 22. And, behold, the servants of David and Joab, the latter being the general of the army of Judah, came from pursuing a troop, they had been out on a raid against one of the neighboring nations, and brought in a great spoil with them, such expeditions being necessary at that time to support the army. But Abner was not with David in Hebron; for he had sent him away, and he was gone in peace, dismissed as on the best footing with David.

v. 23. When Joab and all the host that was with him were come, they told Joab, some people promptly informed him, saying, Abner, the son of Ner, came to the king, and he hath sent him away, and he is gone in peace.

v. 24. Then Joab, who was filled with hatred against Abner, came to the king and said, What hast thou done? Behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, instead of holding him captive? And he is quite gone; no one had made a move to secure him.

v. 25. Thou knowest Abner, the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, with an evil and hostile purpose, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest. In his reproach of David, Joab accused Abner of being a spy, a traitor, who was seeking information favorable to his schemes. The object was, of course, to make David so unfavorably disposed toward Abner that he would overlook the revenge which Joab was planning.

v. 26. And when Joab was come out from David, after this interview, he sent messengers after Abner, which brought him again from the well, or cistern, of Sirah, for he had progressed to that point when the messengers reached him; but David knew it not, he was unacquainted with Joab's plans, much less did he approve of them.

v. 27. And when Abner was returned to Hebron, undoubtedly under the impression that David had some further instructions for him, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, in secret, in private, his attendants therefore retiring, and smote him there under the fifth rib, in the abdomen, that he died, for the blood of Asahel, his brother, for whom Joab considered himself an avenger. Joab's deed was murder and cast false suspicions on David; his real ground for committing it was false ambition and envy, for he feared that lie would be superseded by the more renowned Abner.

v. 28. And afterward, when David heard it, he said, I and my kingdom are guiltless before the Lord forever from the blood of Abner, the son of Ner.

v. 29. Let it, the guilt, rest on the head of Joab and on all his father's house, the punishment of God should turn, roll, plunge upon the entire family of Joab; and let there not fail from the house of Joab, not one escaping this fate, one that hath an issue, Leviticus 15:2, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, being a cripple, or that falleth on the sword, finding his death in battle, or that lacketh bread. Terrible sicknesses, violent deaths: and poverty: those were the afflictions with which the posterity of Joab was ever to be punished.

v. 30. So Joab and Abishai, his brother, who was an accomplice, slew Abner because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle. The deed showed traits in Joab's character which appeared once more at a later time, in the murder of Amasa, 2 Samuel 20:10.

v. 31. And David said to Joab and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, the signs of deepest grief, and mourn before Abner, in the presence of his corpse, by an official lamentation. And King David himself followed the bier, his share in the ceremonies showing the deep personal sorrow which he felt.

v. 32. And they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, his tears being further evidence of the genuineness of his grief; and all the people wept, sharing his trouble and his sympathy.

v. 33. And the king lamented over Abner, in an elegy expressing his deepest sorrow over Abner's innocent and shameful death, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth, like a good-for-nothing, worthless fellow?

v. 34. Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters, he was not guilty of any crime; as a man falleth before wicked men, before assassins, so fellest thou, murdered in malice. And all the people, moved by the lament of this elegy, wept again over him.

v. 35. And when all the people came to cause David to eat meat, to partake of food, while it was yet day, David sware, saying, So do God to me and more also if I taste bread or aught else till the sun be down; his grief culminated in his voluntary fasting.

v. 36. And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them; as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people, he won the love and confidence of the people by his manner of acting and freed himself from all suspicion of complicity in the murder of Abner.

v. 37. For all the people, those present in Hebron, and all Israel, to whom the news was brought, understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner, the son of Ner.

v. 38. And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel? Abner had been a prince by reason of his distinguished military ability, and a great man on account of his lofty character and virtues of value to the nation.

v. 39. And I am this day weak, still powerless to act as the occasion really required, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, be too hard for me, he did not feel able as yet to bring them to justice. The Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness. Into Jehovah's hands, for the present, David placed this matter for adjustment. If fleshly zeal, anger, jealousy, revenge, are the motives actuating a person, the Lord will punish him in due time.

Bibliographical Information
Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 3". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". 1921-23.