II Samuel Chapter 3
Memory verses for this week: Psa 48:14 For
this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even
Overview of II Samuel 3: In this next chapter of II Samuel, there is
record of the lingering war between the house of David and the house
of Saul. Record is made of David’s immediate family at Hebron. Also,
the incident of Abner defecting to David is recorded. This is
followed by the sordid account of Joab’s murder of Abner.
I. War Between House of David and House of Saul
2 Sam 3:1 Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the
house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house
of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.
As time passed, David’s political and military fortunes strengthened
whilst those of the remnants of Saul’s forces diminished.
The sacred writer notes briefly, “Now there was long war between the
house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and
stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.”
II. David’s Family in Hebron (Detailed in I Chronicles 3:1-4)
2 Sam 3:2 And unto David were sons born in
Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess;
2 Sam 3:3 And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the
Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of
Talmai king of Geshur;
2 Sam 3:4 And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the
fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;
2 Sam 3:5 And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David's wife. These were
born to David in Hebron.
2 Sam 3:6 And it came to pass, while there was war between the house
of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for
the house of Saul.
While David lived in Hebron, he evidently took additional wives and
began to raise a large family. Six different sons are mentioned by
his six separate wives. David already had married Ahinoam and
Abigail. After settling in Hebron he also married Maacah, Haggith,
Abital, and Eglah.
David’s first-born son Amnon would later become infamous in his
crime against his sister. It is of interest that his fourth born son
was Adonijah who would later seek to succeed his father’s throne.
Absalom later would attempt to take the throne by going against his
father. The rest of his wives and sons mentioned remained in
In verse 3, the mention of “Talmai king of Geshur” likely refers to
a region of Syria according to II Samuel 15:8.
2 Sam 15:8 For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in
Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem,
then I will serve the LORD.
2 Sam 15:9 And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and
went to Hebron.
It may be that David married Maacah not only for his personal
interest in her, but to strengthen political and military alliances
in that direction. The kingdoms of David and Solomon had its
greatest influence to the northeast which is toward Syria.
The focus now returns to the lingering war between the house of
David and that of Saul. Though Ishbosheth was the supposed king of
the eleven tribes of Israel, the real power behind his tenuous
throne was Abner. Though additional battles between David and Abner
are not recorded, a period of a ‘cold war’ certainly existed.
III. Abner Deserts to David
2 Sam 3:7 And Saul had a concubine, whose
name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah: and Ishbosheth said to Abner,
Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father's concubine?
2 Sam 3:8 Then was Abner very wroth for the words of Ishbosheth, and
said, Am I a dog's head, which against Judah do show kindness this
day unto the house of Saul thy father, to his brethren, and to his
friends, and have not delivered thee into the hand of David, that
thou chargest me to day with a fault concerning this woman?
2 Sam 3:9 So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the LORD
hath sworn to David, even so I do to him;
2 Sam 3:10 To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to
set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even
2 Sam 3:11 And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he
The ascendancy to power wielded by Abner quickly turned to arrogance
of power. Abner took an interest in a young woman who had formerly
been a concubine of Saul and began an affair with her. Ishbosheth,
Saul’s son, was shocked. His outrage was not so much over the
immoral nature of Abner’s affair but rather his lack of respect for
his deceased father, King Saul, in carrying on with one of his
A concubine in Old Testament to Israel was sort of a second class
wife. Such a woman was viewed as belonging to the man with which she
was involved but without the full status of marriage. Although
Ishbosheth was upset by the affair, Abner was enraged that he had
been called on it. He was utterly insulted by Ishbosheth finding
fault. He claimed that he had been treated like a dead dog and one
with its head cut off at that.
Abner reminded Ishbosheth that it was only by his help that the weak
king had not been defeated by David. In light of that, Abner
defiantly demanded why Ishbosheth would interfere in his love
affair. There likely was a mixture of carnal anger, and
embarrassment for being called for his actions. Therefore, Abner
defiantly warned (V-9), “So do God to Abner, and more also, except,
as the LORD hath sworn to David, even so I do to him.”
The thought is that as far as Abner was concerned, David ought to be
king even as God had earlier sworn to him. There was no doubt about
it, Abner made his sentiments clear in verse 10 “To translate the
kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David
over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba.” The
interests of Abner were that the rule of Israel be passed (i.e.,
translated) from the feeble dynasty of Saul to David. David should
be made king over all of Israel from Dan in the far north to
Beersheba in the far south. The weak character of Ishbosheth’s reign
is noted in verse 11 “And he could not answer Abner a word again,
because he feared him.” The days of Ishbosheth as king of Israel
were numbered. He could do nothing against his traitorous general.
IV. Abner Sends Messengers to David
2 Sam 3:12 And Abner sent messengers to
David on his behalf, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make
thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to
bring about all Israel unto thee.
2 Sam 3:13 And he said, Well; I will make a league with thee: but
one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face,
except thou first bring Michal Saul's daughter, when thou comest to
see my face.
2 Sam 3:14 And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul's son,
saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an
hundred foreskins of the Philistines.
Abner, the disloyal general, therefore sent messengers to David.
They were to the effect that if David would make a pact of amnesty
to him, he would deliver the outstanding eleven tribes to David,
making him king thereof. It is quite evident that David did not
immediately embrace Abner’s offer. He may have been suspicious, and
therefore ordered a significant condition. David therefore sent word
back to Abner, “Well; I will make a league with thee: but one thing
I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou
first bring Michal Saul’s daughter, when thou comest to see my
face.” The word translated as well (bwj towb) most basically means
‘good.’ The idea is “Fine, I will make an agreement with you.”
Before David would have any further contact with Abner, he demanded
his first wife Michal be returned to him. David sent messengers to
Ishbosheth Saul’s son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I
espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines. A point
of interest is that David directed his demand to Ishbosheth though
the contact had been made by Abner.
David already had six wives. Michal, his first, would make seven.
Clearly, polygamy was an accepted social custom of the day.
Furthermore, David intended to remove her from the man with whom she
had been living, thus breaking up that marriage. It may be that
David held that only he was her lawful husband. In any event, David
wanted her back. It is noteworthy that Saul had only required
one-hundred Philistine foreskins from David. He in fact had
delivered two hundred, (I Samuel 18:25-27). However, here, he merely
indicated what had been required to obtain Michal as wife.
2 Sam 3:15 And Ishbosheth sent, and took
her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.
2 Sam 3:16 And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to
Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned.
2 Sam 3:17 And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel,
saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you:
2 Sam 3:18 Now then do it: for the LORD hath spoken of David,
saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel
out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their
2 Sam 3:19 And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: and Abner
went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed
good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin.
Upon receiving the demand from David, Ishbosheth sent, and took her
from her husband. This truly is one of the personal tragedies of the
Old Testament. Phaltiel was victimized in this ordeal. He
accordingly was broken hearted. Bahurim was a town of the tribe of
Benjamin on the road between Jericho and Jerusalem. Michal, Abner,
and party evidently were coming from Gilead which is east of the
Jordan River which was the seat of Ishbosheth. Abner wasted no time
in starting negotiations to make David king over all Israel.
Emissaries from Abner were sent to the various leaders of the
nation. Apparently upon Saul’s death, there had been a groundswell
of support for David to be king over the entire nation. That did not
come to pass inasmuch as Abner at that time threw his support to
Ishbosheth, Saul’s son. Times had changed and it was apparent that
greater Israel was aware that Samuel had anointed David to be the
next king of the entire nation. There is no specific record of the
statement made by Abner regarding David delivering Israel from the
Philistines. However, that clearly was the popular perception across
the land. Abner therefore urged the leaders of the nation to unite
Furthermore, the old general was careful to build consensus of all
parties involved (with the exception of Ishbosheth). He conferred
with the leaders of the tribe of Benjamin because that was the tribe
of Saul and Ishbosheth. He wanted them to come on board with the
gathering momentum of making David king. Abner thus brought word to
David for his consideration of his careful negotiations including
that to which Benjamin would agree.
Matthew Henry made these comments on II Samuel.
Many, like Abner, are not above committing base crimes, who are too
proud to bear reproof, or even the suspicion of being guilty. While
men go on in sin, and apparently without concern, they are often
conscious that they are fighting against God. Many mean to serve
their own purposes; and will betray those who trust them, when they
can get any advantage. Yet the Lord serves his own designs, even by
those who are thus actuated by revenge, ambition, or lust; but as
they intend not to honour him, in the end they will be thrown aside
with contempt. There was real generosity both to Michal and to the
memory of Saul, in David's receiving the former, remembering
probably how once he owed his life to her affection, and knowing
that she was separated from him partly by her father's authority.
Let no man set his heart on that which he is not entitled to. If any
disagreement has separated husband and wife, as they expect the
blessing of God, let them be reconciled, and live together in love.
2 Sam 3:20 So Abner came to David to
Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men
that were with him a feast.
2 Sam 3:21 And Abner said unto David, I will arise and go, and will
gather all Israel unto my lord the king, that they may make a league
with thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart
desireth. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace.
2 Sam 3:22 And, behold, the servants of David and Joab came from
pursuing a troop, and brought in a great spoil with them: but Abner
was not with David in Hebron; for he had sent him away, and he was
gone in peace.
2 Sam 3:23 When Joab and all the host that was with him were come,
they told Joab, saying, Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and
he hath sent him away, and he is gone in peace.
Record of that historic conference is thus noted. “So Abner came to
David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and
the men that were with him a feast.” It is clear that David was
gracious and hospitable to the delegation. Abner got right down to
business. He said to David, “ I will arise and go, and will gather
all Israel unto my lord the king, that they may make a league with
thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth.
And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace.” Abner offered to
David the crown of the entire nation. The fact that twenty men were
with Abner gave David indication of the consensus of the rest of the
tribes. Moreover, those twenty men witnessed the good will of David
toward both Abner and them. That would prove crucial in the events
soon to follow.
Abner and his party thus departed in peace. No final resolution of
the matter had been reached, but all seemed happy with its prospect
of peace. It is clear that Israel at large had little confidence in
Ishbosheth. No details are provided as to how Ishbosheth would be
deposed as king. Events soon to happen would resolve that problem.
During these negotiations, Joab, David’s lieutenant general had been
away. Evidently, Joab had been sent by David on a mission to pursue
after a band of marauding Philistines. Though unstated, they likely
may have been Philistines or perhaps Amalekites. Returning in
victory, Joab learned of Abner’s visit in his absence. There was no
love lost by Joab on Abner. If you recall, it was Abner who had
personally killed Joab’s younger brother Asahel in the battle of
Gibeon. Joab never forgave Abner for that.
V. Joab Comes to the King
2 Sam 3:24 Then Joab came to the king, and
said, What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it
that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone?
2 Sam 3:25 Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to
deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to
know all that thou doest.
2 Sam 3:26 And when Joab was come out from David, he sent messengers
after Abner, which brought him again from the well of Sirah: but
David knew it not.
Upon learning of Abner’s visit, Joab was enraged. He promptly
marched in to David and demanded an explanation. Then Joab came to
the king, and said, What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto
thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone?
Joab was astounded that David had received his enemy. He thus warned
David, (v25), “Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to
deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to
know all that thou doest.” As far as Joab was concerned, Abner had
come to gather intelligence of David’s situation. In his mind, Abner
had only come to deceive David to lure him to defeat.
Verse 26 show that without the knowledge or consent of David, when
Joab was come out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, which
brought him again from the well of Sirah: but David knew it not.
Though otherwise not described, the well of Sirah apparently was on
the road going north out of Hebron. Abner had apparently stopped
there for the night. Word was thus sent to Abner to return to
VI. Joab’s Murder of Abner
2 Sam 3:27 And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him
aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there
under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his
Abner was murdered by Joab in revenge for killing Asahel.
2 Sam 3:28 And afterward when David heard
it, he said, I and my kingdom are guiltless before the LORD for ever
from the blood of Abner the son of Ner:
2 Sam 3:29 Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father's
house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath
an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that
falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread.
2 Sam 3:30 So Joab and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he
had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.
2 Sam 3:31 And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were
with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn
before Abner. And king David himself followed the bier.
2 Sam 3:32 And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up
his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept.
2 Sam 3:33 And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as
a fool dieth?
2 Sam 3:34 Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters:
as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And all the
people wept again over him.
2 Sam 3:35 And when all the people came to cause David to eat meat
while it was yet day, David sware, saying, So do God to me, and more
also, if I taste bread, or ought else, till the sun be down.
Upon hearing of Joab’s deed, David was greatly displeased. David
wanted it made clear that he had nothing to do with Abner’s death.
Furthermore, he assigned the guilt thereof to Joab’s family. David
thus issued a curse against his former friend. As far as David was
concerned, he invoked the descendants of Joab to not fail to have
disease (i.e., an issue), be lepers, be crippled, be suicidal, or
impoverished. Further detail of the crime is noted. It is clear that
Abishai, Joab’s brother, assisted him in murdering Abner. Their
motive was revenge for what Abner had done to their brother.
David clearly was grieved over what had happened. He made quite
public his mourning for Abner’s untimely decease. David thus
declared a time of official mourning for Abner. He, himself, led in
public grief over his demise. Abner was thus buried at Hebron. David
further eloquently eulogized him.(V-33) “ And the king lamented over
Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth?” The answer to that
rhetorical question was apparent. Abner did not so die (V-34) “ Thy
hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man
falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou.”
He was not bound as a criminal. Rather, before wicked men he was
killed. Once again, David showed his utter displeasure for what Joab
and Abishai had done. After David’s remarks at the grave side, all
the people wept again over him. After the funeral, (v35) David
fasted in grief over what had happened throughout the day of Abner’s
funeral. He invoked an oath of death against himself if he ate that
2 Sam 3:36 And all the people took notice
of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all
2 Sam 3:37 For all the people and all Israel understood that day
that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner.
2 Sam 3:38 And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that
there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?
2 Sam 3:39 And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these
men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the LORD shall reward
the doer of evil according to his wickedness.
There is no indication that David was anything less than utterly
sincere in his public mourning. However, it bode well for him.
Citizens took note of his innocence in this sordid affair. The
righteous character of David was apparent to the people of Israel.
As David would years later utter, “He that ruleth over men must be
just, ruling in the fear of God” (II Samuel 23:3). He had openly
demonstrated his just character for all to see.
David therefore lamented to his confidants, “Know ye not that there
is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?” The young
king would only praise the fallen general Abner. The wisdom of David
is thus further manifested. He also despaired over the folly of his
own subordinates. It may be that David did not think he had the
political strength to bring Joab and Abishai to justice.
Furthermore, they were his nephews. As genuine war heroes, Joab and
Abishai were for the moment untouchable by David. However, he
committed the matter into God’s hands to mete out justice. Evil
pursues sinners and will overtake them at the last in one way or
another as so illustrated here in the lives of Abner and Joab.
Psa 34:13 Keep thy tongue from evil, and
thy lips from speaking guile.
Psa 34:14 Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.
Psa 34:15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous, and his ears
are open unto their cry.
Psa 34:16 The face of the LORD is against them that do evil, to cut
off the remembrance of them from the earth.
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