2 Samuel 3


‘The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.’ 2 Samuel 3:1-5

This war which began in the pool of Gibeon, 2 Samuel 2:12-23, turned out to be a long war, the power struggle within the house of Israel had begun.

This was the point where God was put on the back shelf as their King, and politics took over as each side placed allegiance to their kings. Here the allegiance was between Ish-Bosheth, 2 Samuel 2:10, and David. David would become stronger as a result of these conflicts, which would fulfil Samuel’s prophecy, 1 Samuel 15:28.

One of the main problems David had was having too many wives, although it was very common in these times. He had many children through them, 1 Chronicles 3:5-9, but as is always the case with having many wives, and many children with different mothers, this brings many problems.

Concerning the sons of David, Amnon raped his half-sister Tamar, the full sister of Absalom, 2 Samuel 13:1, and was murdered by Absalom, who also rebelled against his father and wanted to remove him as king, 2 Samuel 13:23-38.

We know nothing about Chileab, who is called Daniel in 1 Chronicles 3:1. Adonijah had himself proclaimed king during the final illness of David, 1 Kings 1:1-27. Apart from what we have in these verses, we also know nothing about Shephatiah or Ithream.

Abner Goes Over To David

‘During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, ‘Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?’ Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, ‘Am I a dog’s head—on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the LORD promised him on oath and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.’ Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him. Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, ‘Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.’ ‘Good,’ said David. ‘I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.’ Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, ‘Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.’ So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, ‘Go back home!’ So he went back.’ 2 Samuel 3:6-16

As the war was going on between the two households, Abner appears to be getting stronger. He was certainly looking out for himself because he goes to those who were in allegiance with Saul. It appears that Abner’s reign was getting stronger as Ish-Bosheth’s reign was getting weaker.

Abner became very angry with Ish-Bosheth because he accused him of having sexual relations with Rizpah, 2 Samuel 3:21, who was one of Saul’s concubines. This was probably Abner’s intention from the very beginning, he himself longed to be king even though he made Ish-Bosheth king, 2 Samuel 2:8-10.

This was the perfect excuse for Abner to take over as king he thinks he is wise and so, in his anger he threatens to give the throne to David, which silenced Ish-Bosheth, this would mean that all of Israel would be under David’s reign. Abner goes ahead and sends messengers to David which tells us he wants the power to shift from Ish-Bosheth to David as soon as possible.

David reminds them that he actually won Saul’s daughter in marriage in an agreement with Saul and the proof was in the hundred Philistine foreskins.

Although here it states that David paid one hundred foreskins, 1 Samuel 18:24-25 and 1 Samuel 18:27 mention that David two hundred foreskins. David had actually delivered to Saul two hundred, but only one hundred had been required, and therefore only that number is mentioned.

David, who was always thinking ahead, knows if he has Saul’s daughter, Michal as his wife, this would give him great political power within Israel, which would result in those who originally followed Saul would now follow him. The problem here was that David had no right according to God’s law to take her back as his wife, Deuteronomy 24:1-4.

Notice that Michal’s husband, Paltiel is weeping behind her, it’s possible that Michal’s love for David wasn’t as strong as it once was, 1 Samuel 18:20. David wasn’t really interested in having her back because he loved her but because of political reasons and we feel for Paltiel as he appears to have been an innocent victim of this political move.

‘Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, ‘For some time you have wanted to make David your king. Now do it! For the LORD promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’ Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person. Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole tribe of Benjamin wanted to do. When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men. Then Abner said to David, ‘Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.’ So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.’ 2 Samuel 3:17-21

At this point in time, it appears that Abner was acting honourably because he knew that the kingship of Ish-Bosheth was coming to an end. Abner also realises that the only way the Philistines would ever be defeated is when David rules over Israel as a whole as God intended.

Earlier Abner made Ish-Bosheth king, 2 Samuel 2:8-10, but he now realises that God had actually anointed David to be king, 1 Samuel 10:1 / 2 Samuel 2:4 / 1 Chronicles 14:8. Abner even goes to the length of approaching the Benjamites to encourage them to allow David to rule over all of Israel.

Joab Murders Abner

‘Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace. So Joab went to the king and said, ‘What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone! You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.’ Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died. Later, when David heard about this, he said, ‘I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the LORD concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.’ (Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)’ 2 Samuel 3:22-30

After David had sent Abner away in peace, Joab tells David that Abner has come to deceive him. Remember Abner was a man whose heart was filled with revenge, he wanted Abner dead because Abner killed his brother, Asahel, 2 Samuel 2:18-23/ 1 Kings 2:5.

After expressing his anger with David, Joab, along with Abishai start chasing after Abner, when they caught him they killed him because he killed their brother.

Keil in his commentary says the following concerning this incident. This act of Joab in which Abishai was also concerned, was a treacherous act of assassination, which could not even be defended as blood revenge, since Abner had slain Asahel in battle after repeated warnings, and only for the purpose of saving his own life. The principal motive for Joab’s action was his most contemptible jealousy or the fear lest Abner’s reconciliation with David should diminish his own influence with the king. The same was true later in his murder of Amasa, 2 Samuel 22:10.

When news got back to David about Abner’s murder, he proclaimed he was innocent in all of this but also declared a judgment against the household of Joab because he murdered an innocent man. The judgment was that someone in Joab’s family would always have issues with one of the following, running sores, leprosy, leaning on crutches, falling on the sword or lacking bread.

Willis in his commentary suggests that these five curses were, gonorrhoea, leprosy, effeminacy, untimely death and hunger. We do know that in later years, Joab was deprived of his office, which he regained only by an act of daring bravery, 1 Chronicles 11:6.

David here is expressing God’s feelings because of what Joab did to Abner and it appears that Abner was truly sincere when he planned to help David become king over all of Israel.

‘Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, ‘Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.’ King David himself walked behind the bier. They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also. The king sang this lament for Abner: ‘Should Abner have died as the lawless die? Your hands were not bound, your feet were not fettered. You fell as one falls before the wicked.’ And all the people wept over him again. Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, ‘May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!’ All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner. Then the king said to his men, ‘Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the LORD repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!’ 2 Samuel 3:31-39

Here again, we see David’s humility and respect for Saul. Abner had shown great loyalty to God’s anointed, Saul, 1 Samuel 3:1, and so, David pays his respects to Saul by mourning the loss of Abner who was one of Saul’s loyal servants.

David here is sending a clear message to all of Israel that he had nothing to do with Abner’s death and that he wouldn’t act like this to anyone else in Israel.

David says although he is the anointed king and very weak, these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for him, Zeruiah was David’s sister, 1 Chronicles 2:16.

It’s clear that David was nothing like Zeruiah’s sons, Joab and Abishai, who were David’s nephews because he never had a vengeful heart, his heart was full of mercy and forgiveness, and he was a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 13:14 / Acts 13:22.

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