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Bible Commentaries

Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 3

Verses 6-8

2 Samuel 3:6-10.3.8. Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul Immediately after the sacred historian has informed us that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul, we have an account of Ish-bosheth's accusing him of a criminal intimacy with his father's concubine. Both these circumstances put together, excite a just suspicion that Abner meant, when he was strong enough to throw off the mask, to set up for himself, and lay Ish-bosheth aside; it being clearly enough to be collected from the course of this history, that an attempt upon the king's concubine was then understood as an attempt upon the crown. However this might be, Abner was enraged at the charge, and broke out into bitter resentment. Am I a dog's head, said he, which, &c.? that is, according to Bochart, "Do you pretend to treat me, as if I was a leader or manager of a pack of dogs, rather than a general of the armies of Israel?" Or, more simply, "Do you take me for a miscreant, for a dog, for one of the vilest of animals?" Conformably to which Majus reads, "Am I a dog, I, who am the chief of Judah,—the first person of my country, &c.?" See his Observat. Sacr. tom. 1: p. 174.

Verse 9

2 Samuel 3:9. So do God to Abner, and more also We have here a clear discovery of the character of Abner. Instigated by revenge, he not only threatens to abandon his master, but acknowledges the injustice of the cause in which he had engaged, and the divine appointment of David to the throne. "Such," says Pellican, "is the character of many courtiers. Irritated upon slight occasions to the greatest contradictions, they are less the subjects of kings than their masters."

Verse 13

2 Samuel 3:13. One thing I require David did right in making this stipulation; for, whatever may be said of his other wives, he had certainly a claim to this, as she was his first wife, and a king's daughter: and there was something of true generosity in this, both to her and to Saul, in that he received her after she had been another man's, remembering how once she loved him; knowing, probably, that she was without her consent separated from him, and to shew that he did not carry his resentment of Saul's cruel and unjust persecutions of him to any of his family; whereas many princes, for much less provocations of a wife's father, would have turned off their consorts, in revenge of them; and even put them to death for having been married to another. Chandler. Mr. Bayle considers it as cruelty in David to ravish Michal from a husband who loved her so well; see 2 Samuel 3:16.; that is, Mr. Bayle thinks it a great cruelty in David to disturb Phaltiel in an adultery which was agreeable to him, and to restore Michal to her only husband, the husband of her affection and her choice, for whom she had so much tenderness as to save his life at the hazard of her own. Phaltiel certainly is no proper object of pity; and yet his distress upon this occasion as one of the finest pictures of silent grief that any history has left us. Conscious that he had no right to complain, or molest Michal with his lamentations, he follows her at a distance, with a distress silent and self-confined, going and weeping behind her. However such fine paintings of nature pass unregarded in the sacred writings, I am satisfied that in Homer we should survey this with delight. The Jewish rabbies are unanimously of opinion, that Phaltiel was a strictly religious man, and had no nuptial commerce with Michal. Note; Polygamy had long received sanction from prevailing custom; but it is in itself evil, and no custom or authority can consecrate a bad practice. And could David, indeed, have foreseen how his children would have turned out, it would have abated his joy at their birth; for three of them at least lived to give him many a bitter pang. So often do we find our scourges in that wherein we promised ourselves the greatest comfort.

Verse 27

2 Samuel 3:27. For the blood of Asahel his brother How empty and ill-founded are the purposes of vain man! Abner, who promises kingdoms, (2 Samuel 3:10.) cannot secure to himself one single hour of life. David had sent him away, and he departed in peace; but being called back by Joab, he fell. Envy, doubtless, and jealousy of Abner's merit with David in gaining over the tribes to him, were principal motives to this base action, as well as revenge for the blood of Asahel.

Verse 29

2 Samuel 3:29. Let it rest on the head of Joab Houbigant very properly renders this in the future tense, but it shall, or will rest upon the head of Joab, and on all his father's house, and there will not fail, &c. by which rendering every thing doubtful in the text is removed. The king commanded a general mourning to be made for Abner; and it is remarkable, that the command begins with Joab. David wept over Abner, and buried him with all solemnity, himself attending the bier, which was not the custom of kings; and he added a lamentation (2 Samuel 3:33.) which every eye will discern to be truly poetic in the most literal translation, though none have pretended to determine the measure.

As dies the criminal, shall Abner die?— Thy hands not bound, Nor to the fetters were thy feet applied: As is their fate that fall Before the faces of the sons of guilt, So art thou fallen.

Josephus says, that David interred Abner magnificently, and that he wrote funeral lamentations to his honour; i.e. as some suppose, he raised a magnificent tomb for him, and engraved upon it an epitaph in his praise.

Verse 35

2 Samuel 3:35. All the people came to cause David to eat When any one died among the Jews, it was customary with the friends of the family to resort to the house immediately after the funeral, and bring the best provisions they had along with them, to support and refresh their friends in afflictions to the utmost of their power, The presumption was, that the people in affliction forgot, or, it may be, neglected their proper refreshment, at a time when they most needed it; and therefore it was the business of friendship, and one of its kindest offices, to supply that care. Agreeably to this usage, all the people waited upon the king, to cause him to take meat, as the text express it, whilst it was yet day; but David absolutely refused to touch a morsel; and confirmed the refusal by an oath, that he would taste nothing till the sun went down. He was resolved to clear his innocence by all the tests of real sorrow; and, to satisfy the people that this was a just occasion of grief, he put them in mind of his dignity to whom he paid it: 2 Samuel 3:38.

Verses 36-39

2 Samuel 3:36-10.3.39. It pleased them: as whatsoever, &c.— David's behaviour towards Abner had its success. The sincerity of his sorrow was seen by all the people, and he was universally acquitted of all guilt in his death: nor was this all; he took care to let his servants know, and they doubtless took care to inform the people, that nothing but the weak and unsettled condition of his affairs, 2Sa 3:39 hindered him from executing just vengeance upon the author of it. In short, his whole behaviour on this occasion gave great satisfaction to his people, as did every part of his conduct. Whatsoever the king did, pleased all the people. Rare felicity of princes! or, shall I add? felicity peculiar to David! The fall of a man like Abner must inspire every mind with grave and serious reflections: A great man fallen! fallen by so unexpected and so surprising a treachery! in the very instant of returning to his duty; and in the eye of a great revolution, seemingly depending upon his fate!—True:—but then this great man sported with the lives of his brethren; and perhaps deliberately opposed himself to the dictates of his known duty to Gods for a series of years. He spilled the first blood shed in this civil war. As to David, he evidently declined all occasion of combat with his adversaries: we hear of him no where out of Hebron during the whole course of this long civil war. This surely may be numbered among his felicities, never to have drawn his sword upon a subject in a contest of seven (and a war of five) years' continuance. It is true, Abner was now returned to his duty; but it is as true, that he returned to it now, as he departed from it before, upon a pique, and from motives of ambition, interest, and revenge. He well knew the purposes and declarations of God in relation to David, and yet he deliberately opposed himself to them. And it is but just in the appointments of Providence, (and nothing is more conspicuous in his government of the world,) not to permit the wicked to effect that good from wrong motives, which they once obstructed upon the same principles. The occasions of duty, once notoriously neglected, seldom return, at least to equal advantage. Let no man decline the good which is in his power; if he once does so, he is no more worthy to be the happy instrument in the hand of God of effecting it.

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Bibliographical Information
Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 3". Coke's Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tcc/2-samuel-3.html. 1801-1803.