Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 20:3

Then David came to his house at Jerusalem, and the king took the ten women, the concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and placed them under guard and provided them with sustenance, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up until the day of their death, living as widows.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Abishai;   David;   Thompson Chain Reference - Jerusalem;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Sheba;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Joab;   Sheba;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Abner;   Sheba (1);   Holman Bible Dictionary - Abel-Beth-Maachah or Abel-Beth-Maacah;   Concubine;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Samuel, Books of;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Bichri ;   Sheba ;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - David;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Da'vid;   She'ba;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Samuel, Books of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

The ten women - He could not well divorce them; he could not punish them, as they were not in the transgression; he could no more be familiar with them, because they had been defiled by his son; and to have married them to other men might have been dangerous to the state: therefore he shut them up and fed them - made them quite comfortable, and they continued as widows to their death.

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Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-20.html. 1832.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

DAVID PUTS HIS TEN CONCUBINES IN JAIL FOR LIFE

"And David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten concubines whom he had left to care for the house, and put them in a house under guard, and provided for them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up till the day of their death, living as if in widowhood."

This writer finds no way to justify this tragic treatment of ten faithful concubines who had committed no crime, who were guilty of no unfaithfulness, and who presumably had taken good care of things during David's absence. Not the least of David's sins was his polygamous marriages, which were not only wrong in his case but provided the royal example for the wholesale debauchery of his son Solomon.

"David ... put them in a house under guard ... so they were shut up till the day of their death" (2 Samuel 20:3). Oh yes, the text says that the king "provided for them," but it was still the provision that any jailor gives his prisoners. We feel disappointment at the tenderness with which many scholars have written about this contemptible act of King David.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-samuel-20.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And David came to his house at Jerusalem,.... His palace there, which was in that part of the city called the fort of Zion, and city of David:

and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house; when he fled from Jerusalem because of Absalom, 2 Samuel 15:16,

and put them in ward; partly as a punishment for easily yielding to the lust of Absalom, and partly that they might not be seen, which would bring to remembrance his sin:

and fed them; he did not put them to death, nor put them away, but kept them thus confined, and made a proper provision for them, not suffering them to marry any other, and be maintained by them:

but went not in unto them: into their apartments to lie with them, having been defiled by his son, 2 Samuel 16:22,

so they were shut up unto the day of their death; kept in the ward till they died:

living in widowhood; neither used by the king as his concubines, as they had been before, nor suffered to many any other; or "in the widowhood of life"F15אלמנות חיות "in viduitate vitae", Pagninus, Montanus. , which is so expressed, to distinguish it from widowhood made by death; this was such sort of widowhood as obtained while their husband was living; so the Targum,"widows of their husband alive,'

or remaining.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
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Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-20.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

the king took the ten women his concubines — Jewish writers say that the widowed queens of Hebrew monarchs were not allowed to marry again but were obliged to pass the rest of their lives in strict seclusion. David treated his concubines in the same manner after the outrage committed on them by Absalom. They were not divorced, for they were guiltless; but they were no longer publicly recognized as his wives; nor was their confinement to a sequestered life a very heavy doom, in a region where women have never been accustomed to go much abroad.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-samuel-20.html. 1871-8.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(3) And David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward, and fed them, but went not in unto them. So they were shut up unto the day of their death, living in widowhood.

This act was highly proper, on account of Absalom's incestuous conduct. Alas! what evils have sprung out of the corrupt lusts of our poor, fallen nature!

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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/2-samuel-20.html. 1828.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 20:3 And David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women [his] concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward, and fed them, but went not in unto them. So they were shut up unto the day of their death, living in widowhood.

Ver. 3. And David came to his house at Jerusalem.] Which had been in his absence basely defiled, and was therefore by him newly dedicated. {Psalms 30:1, title}

And put them in ward.] He committed them to perpetual, yet liberal imprisonment: because they had not rather died, as they ought to have done, than yielded to Absalom’s lust, in so public a manner especially. Pellican here observeth that David was to blame for not punishing such others, now in his power, as were either causers or consenters to that disgrace; such as was Amasa, a chief man, then about Absalom. Of one Ode Severus, Archbishop of Canterbury, A.D. 934, we read that he excommunicated King Edwin’s concubines; and caused one of them, whom the king doted unreasonably upon, to be fetched out of the court by violence, burnt her in the forehead with a hot iron, and banished her into Ireland. (a) Absalom had no such zealots about him; but what should David have done?

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-samuel-20.html. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

2 Samuel 20:3. The king took the ten women his concubines, &c.— As soon as David arrived at Jerusalem, one of his first cares was to remove those concubines, or secondary wives, whom Absalom had so scandalously abused. He ordered them, therefore, to be separated from the palace, and maintained in a proper place of seclusion and retirement, where they ended their lives as widows. The Jews say, that the widows of their kings could never marry again. David treated them as widows, and allowed them not to appear again in public, that there might be as little renewal as possible in the minds of men of the opprobrious infamy of his son. Mahomet, who borrowed a variety of his laws from the Jews, forbade his wives to marry again after his death. See Selden, Uxor. Heb. lib. 1: cap. 10.

REFLECTIONS.—When men's spirits are exasperated in popular tumults, some crafty and ambitious head fails not to improve the circumstances for his own advancement.

1. Sheba the son of Bichri, a Benjamite, a man of Belial, thinking that he might now step into the throne, widens the breach into rebellion. Since Judah seemed to engross the king, he advises the men of Israel to renounce the ten parts they claimed, and to have no part in David. The trumpet is blown, and Sheba now is their leader. Note; (1.) We must not promise ourselves long peace here below. Whilst the old enmity reigns in the heart of the sinner, new storms will arise. (2.) Foolish quarrels have dangerous consequences. (3.) We are apt to be swinging to extremes; and those who seemed the most zealous friends sometimes turn the bitterest enemies.

2. David proceeds to Jerusalem, and his first care is to shut up his concubines, whom Absalom had defiled, Note; Obscure retirement is the fittest place for those who have made themselves publicly scandalous.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/2-samuel-20.html. 1801-1803.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

Put them in ward; partly, because they had not vigorously opposed Absalom’s lustful desire, as they should have done, even with the hazard of their lives; and partly, lest the sight of them should renew the memory of Absalom’s filthiness, and of their own and David’s reproach, which it was fit to bury in-perpetual oblivion; and partly, because it might appear incestuous to have to do with those who had been defiled by his own son; and partly, because as David would not, so it was not now convenient that any other man should have any conjugal conversation with them.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-samuel-20.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

3.Put them in ward — Shut them up in a place of security, where no one could come at them.

Fed them — Provided them with temporal comforts. “He could not well divorce them; he could not punish them, as they were not in the transgression; he could no more be familiar with them, because they had been defiled by his son; and to have married them to other men might have been dangerous to the state.” — Clarke.

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-20.html. 1874-1909.

Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible

On His Arrival In Jerusalem From Gilgal David Deals With The Problem Of The Concubine Wives With Whom Absalom Had Sexual Relations (2 Samuel 20:3).

Meanwhile, while much of this was going on, David had moved on to Jerusalem, and once there he had to decide what to do about the concubine wives with whom Absalom had publicly had sexual relations. It was in fact a tricky problem because technically the concubines were now Absalom’s former wives. Thus for David to have had further relations with them would probably have been thought of as having sex within the forbidden degrees (something which, of course, Absalom had done - Leviticus 20:11), even though strictly speaking a father lying with his son’s wife was not included in the list. It was certainly not something which David felt like risking just because of a few concubines.

This event is included here because it was David’s final act of removing all trace of Absalom’s rebellion from Jerusalem, for these concubines had unwittingly become an important symbol of Absalom’s rule. They were, however, also dynamite, for as the former king’s widows they could not be available for remarriage. This was why, although they were well treated and looked after, they had to be kept under careful guard. It was recognised that anyone who married one of these concubine widows would be able, should they so wish, to claim direct connection with the throne.

Analysis.

a And David came to his house at Jerusalem, and the king took the ten women, his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward (2 Samuel 20:3 a).

b And he provided them with sustenance, but did not go into them (2 Samuel 20:3 b).

a So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood (2 Samuel 20:3 c).

Not that in ‘a’ David ‘put them in ward’, and in the parallel he shut them up to the day of their deaths. Centrally he provided them with ample sustenance.

2 Samuel 20:3 a

‘And David came to his house at Jerusalem, and the king took the ten women, his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward.’

When David arrived back in his palace in Jerusalem, which he had left in the care of ten of his concubines, he put the ten in safe and sheltered accommodation. Due to what his son had done he could no longer see them as available to him because they had become his son’s wives, and therefore untouchable by him. But he nevertheless treated them with due honour. However, in view of their status they had also to be closely watched and guarded. Marrying someone who had been so closely connected with both the king, and then the rival king, could have given people ideas, and that could not be allowed (compare 1 Kings 2:22).

2 Samuel 20:3 b

‘And he provided them with sustenance, but did not go into them.’

In that sheltered accommodation he provided them with ample food and drink, and no doubt forms of entertainment, but abstained from having sexual relations with them because they were now his son’s widows, something which was almost certain to have put them in the eyes of many people within what would have been seen as the forbidden degrees (it was forbidden for a son to have sexual relations with his father’s wives, and probably the reverse therefore held true). It was not a matter of being unkind to them, but of political necessity.

2 Samuel 20:3 c

‘So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.’

Thus as royal widows they were provided with all the comforts under the king’s protection, while at the same time being kept under close guard. This does not necessarily signify that they were not allowed out, veiled and suitably guarded. It only indicated that they had to be constantly watched. The necessity for this arose because, as we have already seen, to have allowed anyone else to have sexual relations with them could have endangered the throne and complicated the succession.

We must not necessarily feel that they had been hard done by. They had simply been unfortunate. And yet we must remember that they would have had every luxury, would been provided with amusements, and would probably have had as much freedom as most highbred women of the day. All that they had really lost was a place in the official harem, and an occasional night with David, and even that would not have been guaranteed, even if Absalom had not ‘defiled’ them. Indeed many probably envied them greatly. Their great loss would be in the fact that they could no longer have children.

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Pett, Peter. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "Peter Pett's Commentary on the Bible ". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pet/2-samuel-20.html. 2013.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

2 Samuel 20:3. But went not in unto them — He looked upon them as become impure to him, having been defiled by his son. They were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood — Being royal wives, it was not proper they should be married to any one else, and therefore David did not give them a bill of divorce, but shut them up close, that no man might have converse with them. And indeed it would not have been prudent to have let them be so much as seen abroad, as that would have renewed the remembrance of Absalom’s crime.

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Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-samuel-20.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Widowhood, or celibacy, (Menochius) like nuns. (Grotius; Salien) --- David could not with propriety approach to them, (Estius) as they resembled his daughters-in-law; (Leviticus xviii. 15.; Menochius) and no other person could marry them, while he was still their husband. (Haydock) --- The punishment of seclusion was very small in the East, where women seldom go out. The Jews assert, that the widows of the Hebrew kings could not marry again. (Selden, Uxor. i. 10.) --- The like custom formerly prevailed in Spain. (Council of Toledo, xiii. 3., A.D. 683.; [Council] of Saragossa, canon 5., A.D. 691.) So great was the respect for the king or the apprehension, lest those who married their widows, should aspire to the throne. (Calmet)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-samuel-20.html. 1859.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward, and fed them, but went not in unto them. So they were shut up unto the day of their death, living in widowhood.

The king took the ten women his concubines. Jewish writers say that the widowed queens of Hebrew monarchs were not allowed to marry again, but were obliged to pass the rest of their lives in strict seclusion. So are the wives of the emperor of China. On the death of the reigning sovereign all his women are transferred from the palace to a separate mansion, where they live in seclusion during the rest of their lives (Macarlney, p. 375). David treated his concubines in the same manner, after the outrage committed on them by Absalom. They were not divorced, because they were guiltless; but they were no longer publicly recognized as his wives; nor was their confinement to a sequestered life a very heavy doom, in a region where women have never been accustomed to go much abroad.

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-samuel-20.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(3) Living in widowhood.—This was the necessary result, under the system of polygamy, of what had happened. The clause may be understood as “in widowhood of life,” as in our version, or “in widowhood of the living,” i.e., while their husband was living, as in the Chaldee.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-samuel-20.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And David came to his house at Jerusalem; and the king took the ten women his concubines, whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in ward, and fed them, but went not in unto them. So they were shut up unto the day of their death, living in widowhood.
ten women
15:16; 16:21,22
and put
The confinement and retired maintenance of these women was the only measure which in justice and prudence could be adopted. In China, when an emperor dies, all his women are removed to an edifice called the palace of chastity, situated within the palace, in which they are shut up for the remainder of their lives.
ward
Heb. an house of ward.
Genesis 40:3
shut
Heb. bound. living in widowhood. Heb. in widowhood of life.
Reciprocal: Genesis 35:22 - lay with;  Genesis 38:26 - And he knew;  Judges 19:1 - a concubine;  Psalm 30:1 - at the;  1 Corinthians 5:1 - that one

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 20:3". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-samuel-20.html.