2 Samuel 3


Account of the children born to David in Hebron, 1-5.

Abner being accused by Ish-bosheth of familiarities with

Rizpah, Saul's concubine, he is enraged; offers his services

to David; goes to Hebron, and makes a league with him, 6-22.

Joab, through enmity to Abner, pretends to David that he came

as a spy, and should not be permitted to return, 23-25.

He follows Abner, and treacherously slays him, 26, 27.

David hearing of it is greatly incensed against Joab, and

pronounces a curse upon him and upon his family, 28, 29.

He commands a general mourning for Abner, and himself follows

the bier weeping, 30-32.

David's lamentation over Abner, 33, 34.

The people solicit David to take meat; but he fasts the whole

day, and complains to them of the insolence and intrigues of

Joab and his brothers: the people are pleased with his

conduct, 35-39.


Verse 1. There was long war] Frequent battles and skirmishes

took place between the followers of David and the followers of

Ish-bosheth, after the two years mentioned above, to the end of

the fifth year, in which Ish-bosheth was slain by Rechab and


Verse 6. Abner made himself strong] This strengthening of

himself, and going in to the late king's concubine, were most

evident proofs that he wished to seize upon the government. See

1Ki 2:21, 22; 12:8; 16:21.

Verse 8. Am I a dog's head] Dost thou treat a man with indignity

who has been the only prop of thy tottering kingdom, and the only

person who could make head against the house of David?

Verse 9. Except, as the Lord hath sworn to David] And why did he

not do this before, when he knew that God had given the kingdom to

David? Was he not now, according to his own concession, fighting

against God?

Verse 11. He could not answer Abner a word] Miserable is the lot

of a king who is governed by the general of his army, who may

strip him of his power and dignity whenever he pleases! Witness

the fate of poor Charles I. of England and Louis XVI. of France.

Military men, above all others, should never be intrusted with any

civil power, and should be great only in the field.

Verse 13. Except thou first bring Michal] David had already six

wives at Hebron; and none of them could have such pretensions to

legitimacy as Michal, who had been taken away from him and

married to Phaltiel. However distressing it was to take her from a

husband who loved her most tenderly, (see 2Sa 3:16,) yet prudence

and policy required that he should strengthen his own interest in

the kingdom as much as possible; and that he should not leave a

princess in the possession of a man who might, in her right, have

made pretensions to the throne. Besides, she was his own lawful

wife, and he had a right to demand her when he pleased.

Verse 14. Deliver me my wife] It is supposed that he meant to

screen Abner; and to prevent that violence which he might have

used in carrying off Michal.

Verse 16. Weeping behind her] If genuine affection did not still

subsist between David and Michal, it was a pity to have taken her

from Phaltiel, who had her to wife from the conjoint authority of

her father and her king. Nevertheless David had a legal right to

her, as she had never been divorced, for she was taken from him by

the hand of violence.

Verse 18. The Lord hath spoken of David] Where is this spoken?

Such a promise is not extant. Perhaps it means no more than,

"Thus, it may be presumed, God hath determined."

Verse 21. He went in peace.] David dismissed him in good faith,

having no sinister design in reference to him.

Verse 27. And smote him there] Joab feared that, after having

rendered such essential services to David, Abner would be made

captain of the host: he therefore determined to prevent it by

murdering the man, under pretense of avenging the death of his

brother Asahel.

The murder, however, was one of the most unprovoked and wicked:

and such was the power and influence of this nefarious general,

that the king dared not to bring him to justice for his crime. In

the same way he murdered Amasa, a little time afterwards. See

2Sa 20:10. Joab was a cool-blooded, finished murderer. "Treason

and murder ever keep together, like two yoke-devils."

Verse 29. Let it rest on the head] All these verbs may be

rendered in the future tense: it will rest on the head of Joab,

&c. This was a prophetic declaration, which sufficiently showed

the displeasure of God against this execrable man.

Verse 31. David said to Joab] He commanded him to take on him

the part of a principal mourner.

Verse 33. The king lamented over Abner] This lamentation, though

short, is very pathetic. It is a high strain of poetry; but the

measure cannot be easily ascertained. Our own translation may be

measured thus:-

Died Abner as a fool dieth?

Thy hands were not bound,

Nor thy feet put into fetters.

As a man falleth before the wicked.

So hast thou fallen!

Or thus:-

Shall Abner die

A death like to a villain's?

Thy hands not bound,

Nor were the fetters to thy feet applied.

Like as one falls before the sons of guilt,

So hast thou fallen!

He was not taken away by the hand of justice, nor in battle, nor

by accident: he died the death of a culprit by falling into the

hands of a villain.

This song was a heavy reproof to Joab; and must have galled him

extremely, being sung by all the people.

Verse 36. The people took notice] They saw that the king's grief

was sincere, and that he had no part nor device in the murder of

Abner: see 2Sa 3:37.

Verse 39. I am this day weak] Had Abner lived, all the tribes of

Israel would have been brought under my government.

Though anointed king] I have little else than the title: first,

having only one tribe under my government; and secondly, the sons

of Zeruiah, Joab and his brethren, having usurped all the power,

and reduced me to the shadow of royalty.

The Lord shall reward the doer of evil] That is, Joab, whom he

appears afraid to name.

WE talk much of ancient manners, their simplicity and

ingenuousness; and say that the former days were better than

these. But who says this who is a judge of the times? In those

days of celebrated simplicity, &c., there were not so many crimes

as at present I grant: but what they wanted in number they made up

in degree: deceit, cruelty, rapine, murder, and wrong of almost

every kind, then flourished. We are refined in our vices; they

were gross and barbarous in theirs: they had neither so many ways

nor so many means of sinning; but the sum of their moral turpitude

was greater than ours. We have a sort of decency and good

breeding, which lay a certain restraint on our passions, they

were boorish and beastly, and their bad passions were ever in full

play. Civilization prevents barbarity and atrocity; mental

cultivation induces decency of manners: those primitive times were

generally without these. Who that knows them would wish such ages

to return?

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