2 Samuel 2:1. David inquired of the Lord — By Urim. When he had given a due time to his grief and mourning for Saul and Jonathan, he applied himself to God, who had appointed him to the kingdom, to know by what means he should best be put in possession of it. He did not inquire whether he should take the kingdom; for God had already signified his appointment of that, and David would not offend him nor dishonour his ordinance by unnecessary inquiries; but only where and at what time he should enter upon it; whether in Judah, as he supposed, because of his relation to that tribe and his interest in it, or in some other tribe; for he does not limit God, but resolves exactly to follow his instructions. Thus David begins at the right end, and lays his foundation in God’s counsel and assistance. Thus, in all our affairs, we ought to apply to God by prayer and supplication for his direction and aid.
He said, Unto Hebron — Which, next to Jerusalem, (part whereof the Jebusites now possessed,) was the chief city of the tribe of Judah, a city of the priests, and situated in the very centre of that tribe, to which all the people might speedily resort when need required. It stood on the top of a ridge of high mountains, equally famed for fruits, herbage, and honey. According to Mr. Sandys, who seems to have surveyed the whole region round it with uncommon rapture, and the very learned and accurate Dr. Shaw, who also considered it with singular care and attention, it was not only delightfully pleasant, but admirably fitted for olives and vineyards, and in many parts for grain and pasture. It seems therefore to have been a region peculiarly fitted for the reception of David and his men, with less inconvenience to the country than in most other places; for here they might have bread to the full, and be refreshed with springs of excellent water. Add to this, that it was a patriarchal city, venerable for the sepulchres of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, which would remind David of the ancient promises. See Delaney and Shaw’s Travels.
2 Samuel 2:3. They dwelt in the cities of Hebron — That is, the cities or towns belonging to Hebron, which was the metropolis. For in Hebron itself there was not space for them all, because it was filled with priests, and with David’s court.
2 Samuel 2:4. The men of Judah came and anointed David king — This they did on just grounds, because not only the sovereignty had been promised to that tribe, but David was designed and had been appointed by God, and at his express command anointed by Samuel to the regal office. This had long ceased to be a secret. Jonathan had known it perfectly. Saul himself had been no stranger to it; and Abner, the general of his army, was not ignorant of it, as appears by his words to Ish-bosheth, (2 Samuel 3:8-9,) and his message to the elders of Israel; and it was now universally known, at least to the men of Judah, and was the avowed reason why they advanced David to the throne. And it was reason sufficient, God’s will being obligatory upon all, and all being indispensably bound to obey it. This had been the sole foundation of Saul’s title to the kingdom, and on this ground only the Israelites had accepted him for their king. But this ground of claim Ish- bosheth, Saul’s son, had not, for he had not been appointed by God nor anointed by Samuel, or any other prophet. Indeed, properly speaking, he had no ground of claim at all, as the crown was never made hereditary in Saul’s family, but remained entirely at God’s disposal, who was the supreme king and governor of Israel, The men of Judah therefore were resolved to comply with the will and appointment of God, and not to neglect their duty, although they saw that the other tribes would neglect theirs. Yet they act with modesty; they make him king of Judah only, and not of all Israel. “Whether they did this with more despatch,” says Delaney, “to influence the determinations of the other tribes in his favour; or, whether it was delayed until their dispositions were sounded upon the point, is nowhere said. This, however, is certain, that one tribe’s acting separate and independent of the rest, was of dangerous example; nor could any thing but the divine authority justify it; and therefore it is not probable that this step was taken until all other expedients for a unanimous election had failed. And here he began the division of the kingdom, so lately predicted by Samuel;” as also, in part, the accomplishment of the prophecy delivered by Jacob, (Genesis 49:10,) that the sceptre should be settled in Judah.
2 Samuel 2:5-7. That ye have showed this kindness — This respect and affection. For as it is an act of inhumanity to deny burial to the dead, so it is an act of mercy and kindness to bury them. The Lord show kindness and truth unto you — That is, true and real kindness; not in words only, but also in actions, as you have done to your king. I also will requite you — So far am I from being offended with you for this kindness to my late enemy. This shows the great generosity of David’s spirit, who expressed such affection and gratitude to those who had honoured the dead body of one that hated and sought to kill him. Let your hands be strengthened — Be not afraid lest the Philistines should punish you for this act, but take courage. For, &c. — Or rather, though your master Saul be dead — And so your hearts might faint, as if you were now as sheep without a shepherd. The house of Judah have anointed me king — This he mentions that they might not be discouraged on the ground of their wanting one to head them, for he intimates that, being invested with the royal dignity by the tribe of Judah, he would look upon himself as bound to protect them also.
2 Samuel 2:8. Abner took Ish-bosheth — Abner was not only Saul’s general, but his near kinsman also, and in this instance his interest and ambition, and perhaps also envy, strongly influenced him. He knew that Ish-bosheth, if advanced to the sovereignty, would only have the name of a king, while he himself had the power. It appears, however, sufficiently from the sequel of his history, that he was well acquainted with David’s divine designation to the throne; but should he now submit to it he must no more hope for the chief command of the army. Joab was in possession of that under David, and well deserved to be so; and it was not probable he would displace him, a tried friend and a near kinsman, (being the son of Zeruiah, David’s sister,) to make way for an inveterate enemy newly reconciled. Nor was this all; Ish-bosheth was Abner’s near kinsman; whom, if he did not support, the interest of his tribe and of his family must fall with his own. Add to all this, that Abner commanded under Saul in all the expeditions he made against David; and it appears sufficiently from the history that David was greatly an over-match for him in all military conduct. Thus envy, ambition, interest, and personal pique led him to espouse the cause of Ish- bosheth, whom he brought over Jordan with him to Mahanaim, a place in the tribe of Gad, (Joshua 13:26,) which he chose for his residence, the better to gain that part of the country to his interest, to be more out of the reach of David’s and the Philistines’ incursions, and to have the better opportunity of recruiting his army among a people not only brave and courageous, but well affected to the cause he had espoused. See Delaney.
2 Samuel 2:9-11. He made him king over Gilead — Over all the tribes on the other side Jordan, which are comprehended under this name. Over the Ashurites — That is, the tribe of Asher, as the Chaldee paraphrast and others understand it. Over Jezreel — A large and rich valley, situate in the borders of the tribes of Zebulun, Issachar, and Naphtali, and so put for them all. And over all Israel — All the tribes on this side Jordan, save only the tribe of Judah. Ish-bosheth was forty years old — Being born in the year that Saul was made king; for Saul reigned forty years, Acts 13:41. And reigned two years — Before there was any hostility between him and David, which, after it began, continued five years and a half, during which time David resided in Hebron, and was king over the tribe of Judah, and Ish-bosheth reigned over Israel, or rather Abner, for that general had the power, and left him only the name of a king.
2 Samuel 2:12-13. Abner and the servants of Ish-bosheth went out to Gibeon — They passed over Jordan into the country of Benjamin, where Gibeon was, (Joshua 18:25,) to fight with Judah, and to bring them into subjection to Saul’s son. It ought to be remarked, that David did not begin any hostility, but waited to see how God would dispose of things in his favour. And Joab and the servants of David went out — To oppose the designs of the Israelites, Joab being the chief commander of David’s forces. And met together by the pool of Gibeon — Where the two opposite armies put themselves in a posture for battle.
2 Samuel 2:14. Abner said, Let the young men now arise, and play before us — That is, show their prowess and dexterity in fighting together, or make trial of their courage and strength, that we may see which of us has the braver soldiers. He speaks like a vain-glorious and cruel man, and a soldier of fortune, that esteemed it a sport to see men wounding and killing one another. So this he designed, partly for their mutual recreation, and trial of skill; and partly, that by this occasion they might be engaged in a battle. But he is unworthy the name of a man who is thus prodigal of human blood.
2 Samuel 2:15-17. There went over twelve of Benjamin — Ish-bosheth’s men were still most forward to begin hostilities. They caught, &c. — That is, each of the servants of David last mentioned, or every one of both sides caught the man that was his opposite; by the head — That is, by the hair of the head, which they wore very long in those days. And thrust his sword into his fellow’s side — Killed his opponent. So they fell down together — Either all the twelve men of Benjamin, slain by the servants of David, or else the whole four and twenty fell down dead together. That place was called Hel-kath-hazzurim — Or, The field of rocks, that is, of men who stood like rocks, immoveable, each one dying on the spot where he fought. There was a sore battle that day — The men of Israel, it seems, enraged at the loss of their valiant men, began a general battle.
2 Samuel 2:18-19. Three sons of Zeruiah — She was David’s sister, and therefore these were his nephews. Asahel was light of foot as a wild roe — He was a gallant man, and one of David’s twelve captains, remarkably valiant, but more remarkably swift. Asahel pursued after Abner — Being desirous of the glory, either of taking or killing the greatest man in Israel.
2 Samuel 2:21-22. Abner said, Turn thee aside, &c. — If thou art ambitions to get a trophy or mark of thy valour, desist from me, who am an old and experienced captain, and go to some young and raw soldier; try thy skill upon him, and take away his arms from him. Abner was very unwilling to kill Asahel, which he knew he was able to do, and therefore he endeavoured, by fair speeches and motives, to induce him to desist from his design of attacking him. How should I hold up my face to Joab thy brother? — Who was a fierce man, and who, Abner knew, would study revenge.
2 Samuel 2:23. He fell down there and died — So Asahel’s swiftness, which he presumed on so much, only forwarded his fate: with it he ran upon his death, instead of running from it. As many as came to the place stood still — Ceased from the pursuit; fearing, perhaps, the same fate if they followed further; or staying out of respect to Asahel, that his body might not be exposed to any indignity.
2 Samuel 2:26. Bitterness in the latter end — It will produce dreadful effects. In civil wars, as Cicero speaks, (Familiar Epist., lib. 4.,) all things are miserable, and nothing more miserable than victory itself, which makes the conqueror do many things against his will, to satisfy those by whom he conquers. Joab seems to have been very sensible of this, from his withdrawing his forces so readily from the pursuit. From following their brethren — By nation and religion; descended from one common ancestor of Israel, and worshipping one and the same God. How forcible is this argument, even if applied to all men, and how ought it to induce all kings and princes to avoid all wars as much as possible, forasmuch as all mankind are brethren, and made of one blood.
2 Samuel 2:27. Unless thou hadst spoken, &c. — Made the motion that they should fight, giving a rash challenge; surely in the morning the people had gone up — The armies had parted in peace, without any act of hostility: it was thou, not I, that gave the first occasion of this fight. This plainly shows that Joab’s instructions were not to begin hostilities, and that Abner was the sole cause of the war. Had it not been for him, all things might have been settled by an amicable agreement that very morning. Some, however, understand Joab’s words differently: they consider him as swearing solemnly, that inasmuch as Abner had given the challenge, and proposed fighting, if he had not also begun the parley for cessation, he and his men would have pursued him and Ish-bosheth’s vanquished army the whole night.
2 Samuel 2:28-29. So Joab blew a trumpet — Caused a retreat to be sounded. Neither fought they any more — Neither at that time, nor probably at any other, in a pitched battle. And Abner and his men walked all that night — He made the best of his way to Jordan; crossed it, and rested nowhere until he came to Mahanaim, that he might get out of the reach of David’s forces.
2 Samuel 2:30. There lacked of David’s servants nineteen men — This renders it probable that the twelve men of Judah, who in the beginning of the fight engaged in combat with as many men of Benjamin, were not killed; for if they were, then there would have been no more than seven men killed in the subsequent battle; which is not likely.
2 Samuel 2:32. They took up Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father — The rest they buried in the field of battle. Thus are distinctions made on earth, even between the dust of some and of others! But in the resurrection no difference will be made, except between good and bad, which will remain for ever. Joab and his men went all night — Having carried Asahel to Beth-lehem and buried him there, they marched all the next night toward Hebron, Joab hastening home to give an account of his conduct to David.
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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 2". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany