This chapter contains the relation of David's accession to the throne of Hebron, A party however is formed by Abner the Captain of Saul's host, in favour of Ish-bosheth, Saul's son; which became the source of a long contention between the house of David and the house of Saul. David reigns in Hebron, and Ish-bosheth in Mahanaim.
2 Samuel 2:1
(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.
If the Reader will again, in this chapter, consult 1 Chronicles 12:23 to the end, he will there discover the means, under God, by which David's kingdom became established. David consulted God after the death of Saul, what steps he should take, as this verse relates. Oh! how sweet and profitable it is to do so in everything. Reader! do turn to those two precious verses, and endeavor to keep them in your memory, for the mind to turn upon all occasions of your life: I mean, Isaiah 42:16 and Proverbs 3:6.
(2) So David went up thither, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail Nabal's wife the Carmelite. (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.
Observe how a prudent man, not only attends to his own personal concerns, but to the concerns of his family. There is nothing said of his children, neither can we learn from the word of God whether David had any at this time. Indeed as his first born was born in Hebron, it should seem that this event took place after he came to the kingdom. See 2 Samuel 3:2.
(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.
Our Lord sprang out of Judah. Is it not worthy remark, that this should be the first of all the tribes to acknowledge David as their king? Hebron was appointed by the Lord for David's court: perhaps it might be more considerable than any other in point of bulk, as a province at that time; for it should seem that it had many cities for David's household to dwell in.
(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. (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. (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.
There was certainly a great affection of the mind in the person of David, and which manifested itself upon various occasions. This remembrance of the men of Jabesh Gilead perhaps more particularly, for the love they bore Saul and Jonathan is an instance of it. And there is another mentioned, 1 Chronicles 12:16-17.
(8) ¶ But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim; (9) And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel.
The opposition made to David for the crown was in fact made against the government of God; for all Israel could not but know, that David had been long before both appointed and anointed as the successor of Saul in the kingdom. And one might have thought, that the success of David against the Philistines, and the awful end of Saul, would have prompted all Israel as one man to have fled to David, the moment Saul was dead, to have called him to the government. But alas! what punishment, or what distresses are heavy enough, unsanctified by the Lord, to bring home the heart to him? But Reader! let us not stop here in our improvements on this view of things in Israel. Was not David, in this instance, as in many others, a lively type of the ever blessed Jesus? When the Lord Jehovah set Christ as his king in Zion, did not the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing, against the Lord, and against his anointed? Psalms 2:1. Precious Jesus! make me one of thy happy subjects, with holy joy and thankfulness to bend my knee before thee, and with the heart confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord and king to the glory of God the Father!
(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. (11) And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.
There is no very easy method of ascertaining from whence these dates commenced, or how to reconcile the seven years and half of David with the two years of Ishbosheth. But it may serve to teach us that during this opposition many grievous events to persons, and families, and tribes, must have taken place. While the confederate powers of sin, the world, and Satan join in opposition to the reign of grace in the soul; the believer finds many sharp conflicts, which make him groan and go heavily.
(12) And Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. (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. (14) And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise, and play before us. And Joab said, Let them arise. (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. (16) And they caught everyone 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. (17) And there was a very sore battle that day; and Abner was beaten, and the men of Israel, before the servants of David.
This Abner was uncle to Saul, and no doubt covered his pretence under a sense of duty: but what a flimsy covering in opposition to the sovereignty of God. The first meeting of the two armies appears to have been by way of challenge. Similar perhaps to that of more modern duels, in which men to avoid the sneer of fools, venture to brave Omni potency, and plunge unsent and uncalled before their time into everlasting misery; of everyone of which it may be said, as was in after days said of this very Abner; Died Abner as a fool dieth! 2 Samuel 3:33. The sinful play, as it is here called, soon became serious work, and terminated in a bloody battle, so that the place of the slain was called Helkath-hazzurim; that is, the field of hardy men.
(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. (19) And Asahel pursued after Abner; and in going he turned not to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner. (20) Then Abner looked behind him, and said, Art thou Asahel? And he answered, I am. (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. (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? (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.
This event of the flight of Abner and his army, and the pursuit of Joab's army after him, is very properly introduced here by way of relating the death of Asahel. Perhaps a youth of more courage than prudence against so expert an old soldier as Abner. The circumstance of everyone that came to the spot whence he died, stopping, seems to have been from the gracious goodness of God, because it thereby retarded the pursuers, and afforded time to Abner's army to escape. I believe there are a thousand, and perhaps ten thousand, such events in every man's life, which we call casual; but which, by a kind of preventing providence, minister to the Lord's design, in bringing about other events with which themselves apparently have nothing to do.
(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. (25) ¶ And the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together after Abner, and became one troop, and stood on the top of an hill. (26) Then Abner called to Joab, and said, Shall the sword devour forever? 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? (27) And Joab said, As God liveth, unless thou hadst spoken, surely then in the morning the people had gone up everyone from following his brother. (28) So Joab blew a trumpet, and all the people stood still, and pursued after Israel no more, neither fought they anymore.
The ground which Abner gained, and the blessing of the sun going down, gave time for each party to consider. Pauses in life, as on numberless occasions, are precious things. Abner's address is well ordered, though not founded in truth. He had began the quarrel. He had proposed first the play by which the after battle was brought on. Joab's answer is a noble one, and most generous towards a falling enemy, though he takes care to lay the blame wholly where it was due. If he had not first spoken, there would have been no battle; and if he had not now spoken, Joab's forbearance would have been manifested in the morning the same. But Reader, in praising Joab, do not fail to discover the hand of a gracious God in the event. Here would I ever keep a fixed eye.
(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. (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. (31) But the servants of David had smitten of Benjamin, and of Abner's men, so that three hundred and threescore men died. (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.
The separation of the two armies, and their return to their respective places, for the present put a stop to the war. But Reader! there is no truce, no respite, no cessation in that war, which sin and Satan make against the holy army of our spiritual David. When once the Christian soldier hath buckled on his armour he never puts it off till he is undressed by death. Dearest Jesus! do thou arm me for the fight, that I may endure hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 2:3.
BEHOLD Reader! in the instance of David in this chapter, that the death of one enemy only makes way for the appearance of another. If Saul be dead, Saul hath a son still to persecute and harass the life of David. If the Lord in mercy delivers his people from this or that trial; others shall succeed. They that will live godly in Christ Jesus must, and shall, suffer persecution. It is, as our adored Redeemer told his disciples, and all have found it, through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom. Though David was elected by God himself to the kingdom, yet long conflicts he must go through before he gets even a prospect of obtaining it: and when all opposition in the death of Saul seemed for the time to have died away: yet new Sauls arose to oppose. Yes! depend upon it, Reader, the chosen of God will never in this world be without the opposition and malice of the enemy. It is and must be so. Nay indeed, it forms one of the very evidences of their character. Let you and I therefore mark this down in large letters, for our every day's memorandum; and let those sweet words of Christ not only reconcile our hearts, but cause them to rejoice in the blessed testimony. If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own; but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen ye out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Blessed Jesus! May I have these sweet marks, and carry about with me these precious assurances of thy love, to help my mind on to a continually rejoicing in thee and thy great salvation.
But let me not dismiss this Chapter before that I have taken from it another delightful lesson. Did David bring up with him, when the Lord appointed him to go up to Hebron to his kingdom, did he bring up with him all that appertained to him, and leave nothing behind? And shall not my soul rejoice in the blessed certainty, that my David, even the Lord Jesus Christ, my king and my God, will bring up to that kingdom he is gone to take possession of in eternal glory, all his followers? Is Jesus now in the Hebron of Hebrons, in the heaven of heavens; and will he be satisfied there, while any of his household are left below? Shall there indeed an hoof be left behind in the spiritual Egypt, in the Ziklag country of the Philistines? No, thou dear Redeemer, thou saidst thyself before thy departure, that thou didst only go before to take possession of it in thy people's name. Thou art gone to receive a kingdom, and wilt return. Oh! for faith in lively exercise to believe the record which God hath given of his dear Son. Shortly thou wilt come to take me home to thyself, that where thou art there may I be also. Never, never my soul, lose sight of these sweet words of my Jesus; but let their animating assurance have a living influence upon all thy words, and thoughts, and actions. Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am, that whey may behold my glory which thou hast given me. That they all may be one as thou Father art in me, and I in thee; that they also may be one in us. I, in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in me, and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as thou hast loved me.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 2". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany