2 Samuel 2


David, by the direction of God, goes up to Hebron, and is

there anointed king over the house of Judah, 1-4.

He congratulates the inhabitants of Jabesh-gilead on their

kindness in rescuing the bodies of Saul and his sons from

the Philistines, 5-7.

Abner anoints Ish-bosheth, Saul's son, king over Gilead, the

Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and all Israel; over

whom he reigned two years, 8-10.

David reigns over Judah, in Hebron, seven years and six months,


Account of a battle between Abner, captain of the Israelites,

and Joab, captain of the men of Judah; in which the former

are routed with the loss of three hundred and sixty men: but

Asahel, the brother of Joab, is killed by Abner, 12-32.


Verse 1. David inquired of the Lord] By means of Abiathar the

priest; for he did not know whether the different tribes were

willing to receive him, though he was fully persuaded that God had

appointed him king over Israel.

Unto Hebron.] The metropolis of the tribe of Judah, one of the

richest regions in Judea. The mountains of Hebron were famed for

fruits, herbage, and honey; and many parts were well adapted for

vines, olives, and different kinds of grain, abounding in springs

of excellent water, as the most accurate travellers have asserted.

Verse 4. Anointed David king] He was anointed before by Samuel,

by which he acquired jus ad regnum, a right TO the kingdom; by the

present anointing he had jus in regno, authority OVER the kingdom.

The other parts of the kingdom were, as yet, attached to the

family of Saul.

Verse 5. David sent messengers unto-Jabesh-gilead] This was a

generous and noble act, highly indicative of the grandeur of

David's mind. He respected Saul as his once legitimate sovereign;

he loved Jonathan as his most intimate friend. The former had

greatly injured him, and sought his destruction; but even this did

not cancel his respect for him, as the anointed of God, and as the

king of Israel. This brings to my remembrance that fine speech of

Saurin, when speaking of the banishment of the Protestants from

France by the revocation of the edict of Nantes. He thus at the

Hague apostrophizes Louis XIV., their persecutor: Et toi, prince

redoubtable, que j'honorai jadis comme mon roi, et que je respecte

encore comme le fleau do Seigneur. "And thou, O formidable prince,

whom I once honoured as my king, and whom I still reverence as the

scourge of the Lord!"

Verse 7. Now let your hands be strengthened] David certainly

wished to attach the men of Jabesh to his interest; he saw that

they were generous and valiant, and must be of great service to

him whose part they espoused; and he was no doubt afraid that they

would attach themselves to the house of Saul, in consideration of

the eminent services Saul had rendered them in rescuing them from

Nahash, king of the Ammonites.

Verse 8. Abner the son of Ner] This man had long been one of the

chief captains of Saul's army, and commander-in-chief on several

occasions; he was probably envious of David's power, by whom he

had often been out-generalled in the field.

Verse 9. Made him king over Gilead] These were places beyond

Jordan; for as the Philistines had lately routed the Israelites,

they were no doubt in possession of some of the principal towns,

and were now enjoying the fruits of their victory. Abner was

therefore afraid to bring the new king to any place where he was

likely to meet with much resistance, till he had got his army well


Who the Ashurites were is not generally agreed; probably men of

the tribe of Ashur.

Verse 10. Ish-bosheth-reigned two years.] It is well observed

that Ish-bosheth reigned all the time that David reigned in

Hebron, which was seven years and six months. Perhaps the

meaning of the writer is this: Ish-bosheth reigned two years

before any but the tribe of Judah had attached themselves to the

interest of David. Some think that Abner in effect reigned the

last five years of Ish-bosheth, who had only the name of king

after the first two years. Or the text may be understood thus:

When Ish-bosheth had reigned two years over Israel, he was forty

years of age.

Houbigant, dissatisfied with all the common modes of solution,

proposes to read shishshith shanah, six years, for the

shetayim shanim, two years, of the text, which he

contends is a solecism; for in pure Hebrew the words would be

as they are everywhere read in the first book; and is the

reading of eleven of Kennicott's MSS., and nine of De Rossi's; but

the number two is acknowledged by all the ancient versions, and by

all the MSS. yet collated. The critical reader may examine

Houbigant on the place. After all, probably the expedition

mentioned in the succeeding verses is that to which the writer

refers, and from which he dates. Ish-bosheth had reigned two years

without any rupture with David or his men, till under the

direction of Abner, captain of his host, the Israelites passed

over Jordan, from Mahanaim to Gibeon, and being opposed by Joab,

captain of David's host, that battle took place which is described

in the following verses.

Verse 14. Let the young men-play before us.] This was diabolical

play, where each man thrust his sword into the body of the other,

so that the twenty-four (twelve on each side) fell down dead

together! But this was the signal for that sanguinary skirmish

which immediately took place.

Verse 16. Caught every one his fellow by the head] Probably by

the beard, if these persons were not too young to have one, or by

the hair of the head. Alexander ordered all the Macedonians to

shave their beards; and being asked by Parmenio why they should do

so, answered, "Dost thou not know that in battle there is no

better hold than the beard?"

Helkath-hazzurim] "The portion of the mighty;" or, "The

inheritance of those who were slain," according to the Targum.

Verse 18. Asahel was as light of foot as a wild roe] To be swift

of foot was deemed a great accomplishment in the heroes of

antiquity; ποδαςωκυςαχιλλευς, the swift-footed Achilles, is an

epithet which Homer gives to that hero no less than thirty times

in the course of the Ilias. It has a qualification also among the

Roman soldiers; they were taught both to run swiftly, and to swim


Verse 21. Take thee his armour.] It seems Asahel wished to get

the armour of Abner as a trophy; this also was greatly coveted by

ancient heroes. Abner wished to spare him, for fear of exciting

Joab's enmity; but as Asahel was obstinate in the pursuit, and was

swifter of foot than Abner, the latter saw that he must either

kill or be killed, and therefore he turned his spear and ran it

through the body of Asahel. This turning about that he might

pierce him is what we translate "the hinder end of his spear."

This slaying of Asahel cost Abner his life, as we shall find in

the next chapter.

Verse 27. And Joab said] The meaning of this verse appears to be

this: If Abner had not provoked the battle, (see 2Sa 2:14,) Joab

would not have attacked the Israelites that day; as his orders

were probably to act on the defensive. Therefore the blame fell

upon Israel.

Verse 29. They came to Mahanaim.] So they returned to the place

whence they set out. See 2Sa 2:12. This was the commencement of

the civil wars between Israel and Judah, and properly the

commencement of the division of the two kingdoms, through which

both nations were deluged with blood.

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