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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 2

Verses 1-7

The Anointing of David at Hebron (2:1-7)

Saul’s death brought division. Two rival Hebrew kingdoms arose. One under David embraced Judah and was centered at Hebron, whither David went with his wives, household, and armed men, under divine instruction, presumably secured by consulting Abiathar’s oracle. The other kingdom was set up, as we shall see immediately, across Jordan, under Saul’s son, Ishbosheth.

Hebron was an ancient city dating back to patriarchal days (Genesis 13:18; Genesis 23:2). Here the men of Judah assembled and anointed David as their king. David at once sought to cultivate the men of Jabesh-gilead because of their loyalty to Saul and their treatment of his dead body. There was policy in this. Such loyalty could mean much if transferred to David, and these men were in the area where Saul’s followers were seeking to perpetuate his kingdom.

Verses 8-32

The Civil War with Ish-bosheth (2:8-32)

Abner, Saul’s commander, was trying to establish a continuation of Saul’s dynasty across Jordan at Mahanaim. He made Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth, king. According to 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39, the man’s name was originally "Eshbaal" (Ish-baal) , literally, "man of Baal." Thus we have a term borrowed from Canaanite fertility cults employed in a Hebrew name — a by no means uncommon practice. It shows that practices and divine titles used by the Canaanite inhabitants were taken over by the Hebrews. In Hebrew, the term "Baal" could mean "Lord" and thus it could serve as a title applied to God. Thus, the name of Eshbaal is not necessarily any indication of pagan affiliations. In the time of the eighth-century prophets, the combination of names with "Baal" came into disrepute, especially because of the spread of fertility cult rites in the worship of the Lord (Hosea 2:16). Probably for this reason the name is changed to "Ish-bosheth," which means "man of shame."

Ish-bosheth was made king over all the tribes except Judah ("Ashurites" probably refers to the Asherites), and his capital was in Gilead, a region particularly favorable to Saul’s family because the late king had done so much for it (1 Samuel 11). Ish-bosheth was probably a minor, since Abner seems to have assumed the powers of regent. By the pool of Gibeon, Abner and his men met Joab and David’s followers, who may have been the party sent by David to Jabesh-gilead. Fighting began as a contest between twelve men from each party, but this tournament developed into a general conflict in which Abner’s party was routed. Pursued by Asahel, Joab’s brother, Abner fled from the field of battle. He sought to evade Asahel, fearing a blood feud with Joab should he slay his fleet-footed pursuer (vs. 22). Evasion and persuasion failing, he killed Asahel, but Joab and Abishai took up the pursuit. They followed after Abner and the Benjaminites who joined him, but at last yielded to Abner’s plea and gave up the pursuit, allowing him to return with the remnants of his band across Jordan to Mahanaim. The "Arabah" is the depression of land extending from the Sea of Galilee through the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqabah. Probably Joab’s decision was dictated by common sense; he was far from his base and his band was weary.

This is the first important appearance of Joab, David’s nephew (1 Samuel 26:6; 1 Chronicles 2:16). His dominant role in subsequent events will be seen as the story develops. He was a loyal follower whose military leadership and prowess stood David in good stead, so that Joab became an indispensable commander-in-chief.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Samuel 2". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/2-samuel-2.html.