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The account of the struggle on the part of Saul's family for the kingdom with David, is continued in this Chapter. A quarrel takes place between Ishbosheth and Abner. The latter makes overtures to David. David's treaty with him. Abner, while attempting to bring over Israel to David's interest, is slain by Joab. David's distress at this event. These are the principal points related in this Chapter.
2 Samuel 3:1
(1) ¶ Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.
The event as here related, of the decline of Saul's interest, and the increase of David's, is just as might have been expected. But I pass over the historical part of the relation, to call the Reader's attention to an infinitely more important object veiled under the history, and to direct him to the very precious instruction, spiritually considered, contained in it.
The long war which subsisted between the house of Saul and the house of David, may serve to teach us both the length and strength of the battle which is carried on in the heart of the awakened believer, in the different dispositions of nature and grace. There is indeed long war, and dreadfully hot re-encounters, by reason of these contending powers. Speak, ye long tried, long exercised souls, who feel their force, and say what it is, for I have no ability to describe it. But what a relief to the soul is the consideration, (and I would charge it upon the mind of everyone groaning under it,) the issue of this war, is not doubtful. Your exercises are not for trial, as to the event; but for trial as to the proving the graces given you. Jesus, your spiritual David, hath already conquered for you, and in your name: and you must shortly be made more than conquerors through him and his victory. And in the mean time it is a precious thought, and ever to be cherished with the most grateful affection in the heart of the believer; though you see so little increase in the life of faith and grace, compared to what you wish; nay, as it seems to appear to you, matters sometimes grow worse and worse; yet in the strength that is in Christ Jesus, and your views of him, nature, like the house of Saul, is giving way; and grace, like the house of David, becoming every day more triumphant. That promise is absolute, The righteous shall hold on his way, and he that hath clean hands shall be stronger and stronger. Job 17:9 .
(2) And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; (3) And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; (4) And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; (5) And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron.
The sacred historian hath given a list of six of David's children. Strange that David should have multiplied wives, contrary to the law of his GOD; (see that strong precept, Deuteronomy 17:17 .) What a source of vexation did it open in his family!
(6) And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul. (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? (8) Then was Abner very wroth for the words of Ishbosheth, and said, Amos I a dog's head, which against Judah do shew kindness this day unto the house of Saul thy father, to his brethren, and to his friends, and have not delivered thee into the hand of David, that thou chargest me today with a fault concerning this woman? (9) So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the LORD hath sworn to David, even so I do to him; (10) To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Daniel even to Beersheba. (11) And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him.
I only detain the Reader to Remark, in a view of the contents of these verses, what a poor sinful, time-serving creature Abner must have been. He here confesses David's right to the kingdom, as appointed by the Lord: so that he acted contrary to his conscience. It is not said whether the crime Ishbosheth charged him with was true or false. But his resentment was unbounded. Having taken up lshbosheth's cause, without regard to God's laws, he as easily drops it, without an eye to the Lord's approbation.
(12) And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee.
Who should have thought at the onset of Ishbosheth's being set up as king against David, that the very man who set him up would become the very instrument to put him down. Reader! do not fail to observe how the Lord can make the minds of bad men minister to the very opposite to what they propose. The wrath of man shall, whether it wishes or not, praise him. Psalms 76:10 .
(13) And he said, Well; I will make a league with thee: but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first bring Michal Saul's daughter, when thou comest to see my face. (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.
Is not this a sweet feature in David's character, his love to Michal. She was his first wife - his lawful wife - his purchased wife, dearly bought; and most evident it was, he loved her. And why should not this remind me of thy love, thou dearest Husband of thy people? Though I have wandered from thee, and left my first love, and have had other lovers, and have; one after them, yet shall David send for his Michal, and will not Jesus demand his spouse, which he hath betrothed to himself forever, and which he hath purchased with a price no less dear than his own most precious blood? Be comforted, my soul, amidst all thine unworthiness, Jesus still loves; he hateth putting away; he will send for thee, and bring thee home, now he is king over all in heaven and in earth.
(15) And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish. (16) And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned.
There is somewhat affecting in this relation. Michal must have been dear to Phaltial; and yet, from her conduct to David afterwards, she doth not appear to have been very amiable. See 2 Samuel 6:20; 2 Samuel 6:20 .
(17) And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you: (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. (19) And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: 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.
The earnestness with which Abner had entered into the interest of Ishbosheth, is now manifestly as violently against him. But in all this, though he makes use of an argument to prove that it was of the Lord's designs, to make David king, yet the conduct of Abner was not directed to the divine glory.
(20) So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast. (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, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace.
Whether David considered Abner in the light of an instrument in the Lord's hand, I know not; but we hear nothing in this affair of seeking counsel from God. See, Reader! what a poor thing in itself the heart of man is; and that grace is no self-acting principle.
(22) ¶ And, behold, the servants of David and Joab came from pursuing a troop, and brought in a great spoil with them: but Abner was not with David in Hebron; for he had sent him away, and he was gone in peace. (23) When Joab and all the host that was with him were come, they told Joab, saying, Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he hath sent him away, and he is gone in peace. (24) Then Joab came to the king, and said, What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone? (25) Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest.
Though perhaps Joab's displeasure was expressed rather too violently, yet certainly it was blameable in David to countenance a traitor, such as Abner had proved himself to Ishbosheth. David felt the ill effects of such a conduct in Doeg the Edomite, upon a former occasion. 1 Samuel 22:9 .
(26) And when Joab was come out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, which brought him again from the well of Sirah: but David knew it not. (27) And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.
It may be said of Joab as of Abner, bloody men were they both. What an awful picture, in all eyes, do such characters afford of the dreadful fall of man!
(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: (29) Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father's house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread.
Very proper as it was, and becoming in David, to make an appeal to his own innocency respecting the death of Abner, lest the world should have been tempted to suspect that David sent for Abner only but to murder him; yet the imprecations which he made use of were highly reprehensible, because they were not sanctioned, as we learn, from divine authority. Dearest Jesus! how doth thy bright example of mercy strike our view, in that on the cross thou didst pray for pardon, even for thy murderers!
(30) So Joab and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.
It should seem that Abishai was privy to the deed of Joab. Paul considered himself as guilty of Stephen's death, because he was standing by, and consenting to it. Acts 22:20 .
(31) And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David himself followed the bier. (32) And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept. (33) And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth? (34) Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And all the people wept again over him. (35) And when all the people came to cause David to eat meat while it was yet day, David sware, saying, So do God to me, and more also, if I taste bread, or ought else, till the sun be down. (36) And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people. (37) For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner.
Perhaps there was a great propriety in this attention of David, respecting the death of Abner. He did all he could to testify his total disapprobation of the deed of Joab, and at the same time to inculcate an humbling lesson of the frailty and uncertainty of life among his people. But if David lamented over the death of such a man as Abner, judge how suited the pious lamentations of the people are over the deaths of the Lord's faithful servants and ministers. Whenever a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus is called home, the Church below sustains a loss, because thereby so much grace is withdrawn from the public stock, as the Lord had blessed that servant with. It may be truly said, that in the funeral of such men we bury part of Christ's body. The Lord then takes back the boon he had lent. Oh! how ought we to improve, and mark down in our mind, the precious truths they teach, that when they themselves cease to be, their labours and gracious words may survive them, that so being dead, they may yet speak. Hebrews 11:4 .
(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? (39) And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the LORD shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness.
What David meant by this expression, that the sons of Zeruiah were too hard for him, I know not, unless it was that they were too mighty in themselves and important to his interest at present, to punish, as he wished, this sin. But, in either sense, it was no compliment to David's love of justice or his faithfulness. And we find that this event was so deeply impressed upon his mind, that on his death bed he gave charge to Solomon to punish it. See 1 Kings 2:5-11.2.6 .
THIS whole chapter, except what the first verse of it teacheth, serves to show the Reader and Writer what a mass of treachery, deceit, and evil, the human heart is made up of. Alas! alas! what a state is man reduced to by the fall. Oh! blessed Jesus, how is thy glorious redemption-work raised to our adoration and delight, in the contemplation of it; since but for thy gracious undertaking, all mankind must forever have remained under this mass of guilt and ruin. Blessed be God for Jesus Christ!
Before we dismiss our review of this chapter, methinks I would have the Reader, as well as myself, pause once more over the consideration of the serious thought induced in the contemplation of the long war between the house of David and of Saul: and let each for himself enquire to which, spiritually viewed, we belong. Then when this point is ascertained, if happily through grace we are of the house and lineage of our Almighty David; let us advance one step further, and examine whether, in the long contests between grace and corruption, nature is waxing more and more feeble, and our better part is renewed day by day?
Reader! depend upon it a real follower of Jesus Christ dreads above all things, lest in the end, he should be found mistaken concerning himself in his estimate of an interest in the Lord Jesus Christ. Are you really, truly, heartily, willing to know? Go before the throne - present yourself now just as you are for judgment. - Are you resting upon any presumptive evidence of what you suppose yourself to have experienced in times past, of awakening, convincing, converting grace; or are your sole hopes founded upon the blessed assurances of Jehovah's covenant love and faithfulness solely secured to poor sinners, in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ? If the latter be your experience, and not the former; if self, with all its feelings, supposed enlargements, joys, and the uncertain ups and downs of the soul, be out of the account; and Jesus, the Lord alone, be exalted in the day you present yourself for judgment; this will confirm, in the long war between grace and corruption, that the house of David is getting stronger and stronger; and that of Saul is waxing weaker and weaker! Lord Jesus! I would say both for myself and Reader, Search us, O God, and know our hearts; try us, and know our thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in our souls, and lead us in the way everlasting.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany