DAVID KING IN HEBRON, AND ISHBOSHETH KING IN MAHANAIM, 2 Samuel 2:1-11.
1.After this — After his lamentation over the death of Saul and Jonathan.
Inquired of the Lord — By the urim of the priest Abiathar. Compare 1 Samuel 23:9-12.
Shall I go up — David knew that he was to be king, but how to attain the throne he knew not. He had no unholy ambition, and in matters of so great responsibility he wished Jehovah to guide him.
Hebron — The ancient city of the patriarchs. See on Genesis 13:18, and Joshua 10:3. It was inexpedient for David longer to abide in the land of the Philistines, and Hebron, because of its peculiarly sacred associations and its central position in the tribe of Judah, was a most appropriate place for David to begin his reign. But it should be observed that, though he received divine counsel to go up to Hebron, he was not divinely advised to receive the kingdom from a single tribe. See note on 2 Samuel 2:4.
3.Cities of Hebron — Cities situated round about Hebron; dependent towns. He took care, says Patrick, to provide for his followers and their families, according to every one’s merit.
4.The men of Judah came — The elders of Judah, the official representatives of that tribe.
And there they anointed David king over the house of Judah — By what particular ceremony and by whom the anointing was done we are not told. He had already been anointed by Samuel, (1 Samuel 16:13,) but that was done privately in his father’s house. We shall see in the sequel that when he became king of all Israel he was again anointed. 2 Samuel 5:3. It was an ill-advised course and a dangerous policy for David to accept the kingdom of a single tribe. It was a sanction to a usurpation of power which no single tribe had a right to exercise, and it intensified that rivalry and hostility between Judah and the other tribes which at the death of Solomon resulted in the division of the kingdom. Had it not been that David had so strong a hold upon the nation’s heart, the rupture between the tribes might have occurred long before it did.
4-7.This message to the men of Jabesh-gilead was well-timed and skilfully presented. It showed David’s tenderness and respect for Saul, and in a measure served to remove from his advancement to royalty the appearance of usurpation and rebellion. But the proclamation that he had been anointed king over the house of Judah was an indirect announcement that it would be to the interest of the men of Jabesh to acknowledge him as Saul’s successor. This part of his message was, therefore, open to criticism, since it was a sort of political bid for their obedience and influence.
6.Kindness and truth — Prominent marks of the divine government. Compare Exodus 34:6. Kind to his people by being true to his promises.
I will also requite you this kindness — Rather, I also do you this kindness, namely, the attention and honour shown in the blessings I give you through these messengers. Some have thought that David here promises them future favours, but in that case the words this kindness would refer to their act towards Saul, and make the following because ye have done this thing, redundant.
7.Your master Saul is dead — And therefore ye are without a king unless ye acknowledge me, as the house of Judah have done. Surely they could not misunderstand his wishes, but the presence of the Israelitish army under Abner in Gilead made it imprudent and hazardous for the single town of Jabesh to declare for David.
8.Captain of Saul’s host — Abner’s position and influence in the army rendered it meet for him, at the present emergency, to look after the interests of the family of his fallen king. His action in making Ishbosheth king may have been hastened by this message of David to the men of Jabesh-gilead.
Ishbosheth — Called also Eshbaal. 1 Chronicles 8:33. He was the fourth and only surviving son of Saul
Mahanaim — A place of importance on the east side of the Jordan, probably at the modern Mahneh, but its site has not been satisfactorily determined. See on Genesis 32:2, and Joshua 13:26. The reason of Abner’s anointing Ishbosheth king in one of the cities east of the Jordan was, because the chief cities of the west were now in the hands of Philistines, and Mahanaim was especially appropriate from its sacred associations.
9.Gilead — The mountainous region east of the Jordan. See map, page 234.
The Ashurites — Who these were it is impossible to determine. They could not have been the people of Asshur, (Assyria,) nor the Asshurim of Genesis 25:3. Better is the reading of the Chaldee, the house of Asher, by which is meant the territory of the tribe of Asher in the north of Palestine, and the adjacent country north of the plain of Jezreel. The Vulgate, Syriac, and Arabic read, the Geshurites. But these could not have been the Geshurites of 1 Samuel 27:8, nor is it likely that Ishbosheth reigned over the kingdom of Talmai, whose daughter David had taken to wife. 2 Samuel 3:3.
Jezreel — The city and great plain of this name. See on Joshua 15:56; Joshua 17:16. This great plain was mainly occupied by the tribes of Issachar and Zebulun.
Over all Israel — With the exception, of course, of Judah, over which David had been anointed king. The recovering of all the territory specified in this verse, and the subjecting of it to Ishbosheth, probably occupied Abner and his army some time. See on 2 Samuel 2:10.
10.Ishbosheth’ reigned two years — The next verse informs us that David reigned in Hebron ever Judah seven years and six months, and therefore we must naturally conclude that for five years and six months the other tribes of Israel were without an acknowledged king. It is altogether gratuitous to assume, as some critics have done, that Ishbosheth reigned all the time that David reigned in Hebron. It is probable, however, that David was king in Hebron some time before Ishbosheth began to reign. David seems to have been anointed very soon after Saul’s death, but it must have taken Abner some time to gather up the scattered army and recover from the defeat and losses of Gilboa sufficiently to attend to the inauguration of Ishbosheth. So it is likely that David reigned in Hebron a year or more before the son of Saul was anointed at Mahanaim. Then followed two years of strife and bickering between the two governments, which was of sufficient length to be called “long war.” 2 Samuel 3:1. And after both Abner and Ishbosheth had been vilely assassinated, it is but natural to suppose that the northern tribes would wait some years to observe the manner of David’s government before they all came together to acknowledge and anoint him king. See on 2 Samuel 5:1.
THE BATTLE OF GIBEON, 2 Samuel 2:12-32.
12.Went out from Mahanaim — That is, marched out from the capital of the kingdom of Ishbosheth. Having been successful in bringing all the northern and eastern tribes to acknowledge Ishbosheth as king, Abner seems to have thought to bring over the tribe of Judah also. He at least began the fight. Gibeon — The modern el-Jib, a few miles northwest of Jerusalem. See on Joshua 9:3.
13.Joab — Who here appears as leader of David’s men, but was not made captain of his hosts till after the capture of the Jebusites. Chap. 2 Samuel 5:8, and 1 Chronicles 11:6.
The pool of Gibeon — The same as the great waters of Gibeon mentioned Jeremiah 41:12. It is probably identical with the great reservoir still seen just northeast of the city, and supplied with water from a fine fountain in the rocks just above it. The fountain “is in a cave excavated in and under the high rock, so as to form a large subterranean reservoir. Not far below it, among the olive trees, are the remains of another open reservoir, about the size of that at Hebron, perhaps one hundred and twenty feet in length by one hundred feet in breadth. It was doubtless anciently intended to receive the superfluous waters of the cavern.” — Robinson.
14.Let the young men now arise, and play before us — Implying that the contest between the house of Saul and the house of David should be decided by this action of the young warriors. This would save a needless effusion of blood, and Joab accepted the challenge. שׂחק, to play, would thus mean the war play of single combat, and the bloody consequences showed that this was the understanding of the contending parties.
16.By the head — By the hair of the head or by the beard. Alexander, before entering into battle, ordered his men to shave their beards, because, said he, “in battle there is no better hold for the enemy than a beard.”
They fell down together — The whole twenty-four of them. “The left-handed Benjamites, and the right-handed men of Judah — their sword hands thus coming together — seized each his adversary by the head, and the whole number fell by the mutual wounds they received.” — Stanley.
Helkath-hazzurim — Hebrew, smoothness of the rocks; apparently in reference to a smooth, rocky surface on which the combatants fought. Other explanations of the name have been given, as, the field of the plotters; field of strong men; field of swords; field of sharp edges; but none of them are sufficiently careful of the meaning of the Hebrew words.
17.There was a very sore battle — The bloody combat just described brought on a general engagement between the two armies, in which David and his men were victorious.
18.Three sons of Zeruiah — Zeruiah was their mother, and a sister of David. “Their father is unknown, but seems to have resided at Beth-lehem, and to have died before his sons, as we find mention of his sepulchre at that place. 2 Samuel 2:32. They all exhibit the activity and courage of David’s constitutional character. But they never rise beyond this to the nobler qualities which lift him above the wild soldiers and chieftains of the time. Asahel, who was cut off in his youth, and seems to have been the darling of the family, is only known to us from his gazelle-like agility. Abishai and Joab are alike in their implacable revenge. Joab, however, combines with these ruder qualities something of a more statesmanlike character, which brings him more nearly to a level with his youthful uncle, and unquestionably gives him the second place in the whole history of David’s reign.” — Stanley.
21.Lay thee hold on one of the young men — One of the common soldiers.
Take thee his armour — Asahel’s object was to slay Abner and take his armour as a trophy.
22.Wherefore should I smite thee to the ground — Abner knew that his youthful pursuer was no match for him in strategy or war, and he did not wish to kill him because of the personal enmity that would thus arise between himself and Joab. See note on 2 Samuel 3:39.
23.He refused to turn aside — He believed that he could conquer Abner, and he was unwilling to lose the opportunity of gaining that honour.
The hinder end of the spear — Which was sharpened, so as to stick in the ground when not in use. 1 Samuel 26:7.
Under the fifth rib — Rather, in the abdomen. The Hebrew word comes from the root חמשׂ, to be fat.
Stood still — Horror stricken at the bloody sight.
24.Ammah’ Giah — Places now unknown. Such incidental allusions to places long since forgotten furnish evidence of the genuineness and credibility of the history.
26.Shall the sword devour for ever — Shall there be no cessation of the conflict already so disastrous to us all?
It will be bitterness in the latter end — Bitter because of the losses on either side, and still more bitter from the fact that it might have been avoided.
27.Unless thou hadst spoken — As thou didst this morning, saying, “Let the young men arise and play.” 2 Samuel 2:14. That challenge provoked the war. Had it not been uttered the two armies would have separated without fight or bloodshed.
29.Through the plain — The valley of the Jordan.
Bithron — Literally, the broken or divided place. As no locality bearing this name is ever afterwards mentioned, and the Hebrew word has the article — all the Bithron — it probably designates not a single place, but the broken and intersected region beyond the Jordan through which one must pass in order to go from the river to Mahanaim.
30.Nineteen men and Asahel — Whilst Abner lost three hundred and sixty men. But Abner’s army had been weakened and disheartened by the defeat at Gilboa, and perhaps by other subsequent struggles with the Philistines, whilst Joab’s men were probably all picked warriors, who had for years followed David, and taken lessons from his consummate military skill.
32.Came to Hebron at break of day — Literally, it became light to them, in Hebron. Perhaps the day after the burial of Asahel is meant, as it was sunset when the pursuit ceased. 2 Samuel 2:24. But it was not impossible for David’s men to have taken Asahel from the wilderness of Gibeon to Beth-lehem, a distance of twelve or fifteen miles, buried him, and gone on to Hebron, fourteen miles further, in the course of a single night. Joab and his hardy companions were used to long marches and rapid movements.
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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 2". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany