2 Samuel 3


Civil War

    • There was a long war between the houses of Saul and David with David growing stronger and stronger and the house of Saul becoming weaker and weaker.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “This civil war likely continued for most of the seven-plus years that David ruled from Hebron. The truce called by Joab and Abner (2:26-28) was short-lived.”

      • ESV Study Bible explains, “Chapters 3-4 describe the slow steps of the process whereby David grew stronger and stronger (3:1) and thus became king over all Israel. A major concern of the author is to show that David was not guilty of involvement in the death of Abner or Ishbosheth.”

David’s Sons Born in Hebron

    • These are the sons that were born to David in Hebron:

      • Amnon was his firstborn, his mother was Ahinoam from Jezreel.

      • Chileab was his second, his mother was Abigail, Nabal of Carmel’s widow.

      • Absalom was his third, his mother was Maacah, who was the daughter of Talmai, the king of Geshur.

      • Adonijah was fourth, his mother was Haggith.

      • Shephatiah was fifth, his mother was Abital.

      • Ithream was sixth, his mother was David’s wife Eglah.

          • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “Geshur was a small Canaanite kingdom in the upper Transjordan (the area east of the Jordan) near the sea of Galilee. Marrying into neighboring royal families created political alliances and secured David’s position against the northern tribes. Solomon also followed this practice (1 Kgs 3:1; 11:1).”

        • NIV Cultural Background Study Bible writes, “The numeric growth of David’s family attests to the growing strength of his house, in contrast to the house of Saul (v. 1). Four additional wives (or concubines) aid in the process of David’s siring six sons, and in 5:13-16, after David’s arrival in Jerusalem, further wives/concubines will be added, and at least eleven more children will be born to David (cf 1 Ch 3:1-9). It was common practice among powerful kings in the ancient Near East to multiply wives and children. Kings established their political strength through the network that was established through marriage alliances. The Biblical narrator withholds judgment for the time being on David’s ‘royal’ behavior, though the instruction in Dt 17:14-20 to future kings of Israel is that they ‘must not take many wives’ (Deut 17:17).”

        • Guzik adds, “Chileab is also known as Daniel in 1 Chronicles 3:1. The few mentions of this son indicate that perhaps he died young or that he was an ungodly, unworthy man.”

        • I’m going to take this opportunity to address an elephant in the room. Why did God allow polygamy in the Old Testament? I’ve seen several explanations that try to avoid the clear and obvious fact that God did, in fact, allow for polygamy in the OT. They don’t hold water. So, I’ll share a couple of sources that I believe provide superior answers:

          • Let’s start by establishing that the OT undeniably allows for polygamy, it’s not just silent on the issue leading us to speculate that it was wrong, just not addressed. The article, How Should We Respond to Old Testament Polygamy,” lays the foundation for this well. Here are two of many examples the article mentions:

            • The truth is that the story of polygamy in the Old Testament is, well, a problem. There is no purchase in hiding the truth. Although monogamy was clearly God’s intent from the beginning, the picture blurs pretty quickly after Adam and Eve’s first sin and expulsion from the Garden. Accommodations were made. By Genesis 4, you have Cain’s son Lamech taking two wives. The patriarchs Abraham and Jacob themselves had multiple wives and concubines.”

          • Moses had two wives as well. The Mosaic Law likewise accommodated the practice of marrying more than one wife, including captured prisoners from foreign conquests (Deut. 21:1-17). It also made provisions for continuing the family line by marrying a brother’s wife if he died without producing heirs (Deut. 25:5-12). And the stories keep coming: Gideon, one of Israel’s champions, had many wives; Elkanah, a presumably godly man and the father of Samuel, had two wives. In sum, during the Old Testament times, polygamy was not only permitted, it was sanctioned.”

          • The Bible does not specifically say why God allowed polygamy. As we speculate about God’s silence, there is at least one key factor to consider. Due to patriarchal societies, it was nearly impossible for an unmarried woman to provide for herself. Women were often uneducated and untrained. Women relied on their fathers, brothers, and husbands for provision and protection. Unmarried women were often subjected to prostitution and slavery.”

            • So, it seems that God may have allowed polygamy to protect and provide for the women who could not find a husband otherwise. A man would take multiple wives and serve as the provider and protector of all of them. While definitely not ideal, living in a polygamist household was far better than the alternatives: prostitution, slavery, or starvation. In addition to the protection/provision factor, polygamy enabled a much faster expansion of humanity, fulfilling God’s command to ‘be fruitful and increase in number; multiply on the earth’ (Genesis 9:7). Men are capable of impregnating multiple women in the same time period, causing humanity to grow much faster than if each man was only producing one child each year.”

          • Why did it change? It is not so much God’s disallowing something He previously allowed as it is God’s restoring marriage to His original plan. Even going back to Adam and Eve, polygamy was not God’s original intent. God seems to have allowed polygamy to solve a problem, but it is not the ideal. In most modern societies, there is absolutely no need for polygamy. In most cultures today, women are able to provide for and protect themselves—removing the only ‘positive’ aspect of polygamy. Further, most modern nations outlaw polygamy. According to Romans 13:1-7, we are to obey the laws the government establishes. The only instance in which disobeying the law is permitted by Scripture is if the law contradicts God’s commands (Acts 5:29). Since God only allows for polygamy, and does not command it, a law prohibiting polygamy should be upheld.”

        • This leads us to a couple of interesting questions. 1) Could there be a circumstance today in which God condones polygamy? 2) Some religious groups take some pretty unorthodox stances (for example, requiring Torah observance today) on the basis of the idea that God’s laws never change. How can we properly understand God’s unchanging nature in light of the clear change in Biblical teaching on polygamy from the OT to the NT? I believe the article, “Does Jesus Contradict the Old Testament on Polygamy,” makes some very valid and thought-provoking points. (Note: I don’t agree with all of the views or statements presented by the author of the article.)

            • With respect to the first question, the author poses a difficult scenario: “When an African tribal chief converts to Christianity, what happens to all his wives? Should he divorce them and send them back to their parents’ home in shame and penury, or should he live away from them in a separate house, but continue to provide for them financially? This is a classic problem for missionaries in countries that practice polygamy, and one to which there is no easy answer—just the fervent hope that the next generation will marry only one wife! It must seem very strange for those polygamous families when their normal, socially acceptable lifestyle is suddenly regarded as immoral.”

            • If we have already accepted the underlying reasons that God allowed polygamy in the OT, we can certainly see how these same circumstances could potentially still apply in other countries. Just food for thought…

            • With respect to the second question, the author suggests, “Although Jesus said that this was how things were at the ‘beginning,’ this doesn’t mean that God had subsequently given the wrong commands to Moses. It was the purpose of these commands, rather than the commands themselves, that was important. It was God’s purpose that Jesus and Paul were upholding…God’s purpose for marriage was to help individuals find mutual support in families. When there were too few men due to warfare, this purpose was accomplished by allowing polygamy to ensure male heirs. In more stable times, polygamy resulted in many men remaining single because wealthy men could have many wives. In order to maintain God’s purposes at times like these, the rule about polygamy had to change. God’s purposes are eternal, but his commands change in order to carry out those purposes in different situations.”

              • While I don’t find this “purpose” explanation completely satisfying, I do feel that it has merit. The purpose of ideal, Biblical marriage between one man and one woman is not merely to “help individuals find mutual support in families,” so that is a shortcoming of this view. For example, the article “What About Polygamy in the Bible” from Answers in Genesis notes, “Scripture compares the relationship of husband and wife to that of Christ and the church. In Ephesians 5:25–33 Paul explained this relationship and referred back to Genesis 2:24. Once again, God’s standard for marriage is defined as one man and one woman. Paul finished this analogy by stating, ‘let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband’ (Ephesians 5:33).” However, helping “individuals find mutual support in families” certainly is a purpose (among others) for marriage.

            • It certainly seems that God sometimes makes allowances that depart from His ideal due to the fallen state of mankind. (Also see the example of Jesus’s discussion of divorce in Matthew 19:8.) I personally believe these combined approaches are a very Biblically consistent and exegetically sound way to answer the questions about polygamy in the OT and extenuating circumstances (perhaps like differing societal structures in foreign countries) today.

            • In the interest of heading off one objection to the “purpose” view at the pass: would this “purpose” view of marriage that can change based on societal circumstances be used to support homosexual marriage? No. Emphatically no. That conclusion would not logically follow from this argument. The Bible is not in any way ambiguous on homosexuality as as it is with polygamy. Scripture as whole consistently and unequivocally defines homosexual union in any context as sin.

Abner Joins Forces with David

    • During the war between the houses of Saul and David, Abner was strengthening himself in Saul’s house. Now Saul had a concubine named Rizpah who was Aiah’s daughter. And Ishbosheth questioned Abner, “Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “A king’s wives and concubines were a reflection of his power and position, often involving political alliances through marriage, and so for an outsider to sleep with one of these women was, among other things, a direct assault on the husband’s status and position. In the Bible, to sleep with a royal wife or concubine was tantamount to usurping the throne…, and even to ask to marry a concubine of a deceased king was considered treason (1 Ki 2:22). In the present episode, the narrator does not state explicitly whether Abner had or had not slept with Saul’s concubine Rizpah, but it does state that ‘ Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul’ (v. 6), perhaps aggravating Ishbosheth’s suspicions. Abner’s incensed response in v. 8 to Ishbosheth’s charge- unless he was feigning indignation- suggests that he was innocent of the specific charge.”

    • Abner was furious about Ishbosheth’s accusation. He said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? To this day I have been loyal to your father Saul’s house, to his brothers, and to his friends, and I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of wrongdoing with this woman? May God do so to Abner and more if I don’t accomplish for David what Yahweh swore to him: to transfer the kingdom from Saul’s house and establish the throne of David over Israel and Judah from Dan all the way to Beersheba!” Ishbosheth didn’t dare say another word to Abner because he was afraid of him.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Abner was aware that God had chosen David to be king over all Israel (see also 3:18). Whether an ally or enemy, Abner was a powerful man…Ishbosheth’s silence speaks loudly of his weakness as a ruler. Abner, who had installed him as king (2:8-9), was the real power behind Ishbosheth’s reign.”

      • ESV Study Bible adds, “People in general also seem to have had knowledge about a promise of God to David (2 Sam 3:18; see also 1 Sam 24:4; 25:30).”

      • Guzik says, “If Abner knew that David was God’s choice for king, he had no good reason to fight against him before this. Abner is a good example of those of us who know things to be true, but we don’t live as if they were true…Abner did the right thing in joining David’s side, but he did it for the wrong reason. Instead of joining David because Ishbosheth offended him personally, he should have joined David because he knew that David was God’s choice to be king.”

    • Then Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf saying, “Who does the land belong to? Make your covenant with me and I will give you my support to bring all of Israel over to you.” David replied, “Good. I will make a covenant with you, but I have one requirement of you. You will not see my face unless you bring Saul’s daughter Michal with you when you come to see me.”

      • Guzik writes, “Apparently, David was not done adding to his collection of wives. He insisted on receiving Michal as his wife again for at least three reasons. David remembered that Michal was his wife by both love and right and that King Saul took her away as part of a deliberate strategy to attack and destroy David. David wanted to show that he harbored no bitterness towards Saul’s house, and he would show this through his good treatment of Saul’s daughter. David wanted to give himself a greater claim to Saul’s throne as his son-in-law.”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible adds, “Saul’s treatment of Michal was almost certainly motivated more by political considerations than by concern for her best interests, and the same can probably be said of David’s motivation in demanding her back. She is a pawn in a power play…Further, the text’s poignant picture of Paltiel ‘weeping behind her all the way’ (v. 16) seems intended to contrast Paltiel’s affection with with David’s political maneuvering.”

    • Then David sent messengers to Saul’s son Ishbosheth saying, “Give me my wife Michal whom I betrothed to myself for the price of 100 Philistine foreskins.” So Ishbosheth sent orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel, who was Laish’s son. However, her husband followed behind her, crying after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back.” So he returned home.

      • ESV Study Bible notes, “In 1 Sam 18:25-27, David gave Saul 200 Philistine foreskins though Saul had demanded only 100 as a bride-price, so the extra hundred was in essence a gift. David here just states that he has legally paid the bride-price.”

      • Guzik remarks, “This fits with the personality of Abner as we know him throughout 1 and 2 Samuel. Abner was a very tough guy.”

    • Abner advised the elders of Israel, “In the past you wanted David to be your king. Take action now because Yahweh has promised David: ‘By the hand of My servant David I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes “Apparently, there had been growing momentum among the elders of Israel in the north to accept David as king, though the text has made no mention of it to this point.”

    • Abner also spoke in person to the Benjaminites. Then he went to Hebron to tell David all that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin had agreed to do. When Abner, accompanied by 20 men, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a banquet for them. Abner told David, “Let me go at once and gather all of Israel to my lord the king. They will make a covenant with you and you will reign over all that your heart desires.” So David dismissed Abner and he left in peace.

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “Because Saul was from their own tribe, the men of Benjamin no doubt viewed David, from Judah, as a usurper of Saul’s throne. However, Abner was well-respected in Saul’s regime and so was able to elicit support for David even among Saul’s own tribe. The narrator emphasized that David sent Abner safely on his way as a friend and an ally (restated in 3:22-23). David was at peace with Abner and was not involved in the renowned military leader’s murder (cp 3:28-29).”

The Murder of Abner

    • Now David’s men and Joab were returning from a raid and had brought a large amount of plunder back with them. Abner was no longer in Hebron with David because David had dismissed him and he had left in peace. When Joab and the men with him arrived, Joab was informed, “Ner’s son Abner came to the king; he dismissed him and he left in peace.”

    • Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he’s gone! You know Ner’s son Abner. He came here to deceive you, observe your movements, and discover everything you’re doing.”

    • Then Joab left David and sent messengers after Abner. They brought him back from the well of Sirah, but David was unaware of this. When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in an inner chamber at the gate as if to speak with him privately. There, Joab stabbed him in the stomach and killed him, avenging the blood of his brother Asahel.

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “City gateways in ancient Israel were not simple openings, but complex affairs often involving several chambers, where elders would sit and business was transacted. Joab’s action would not have aroused suspicion but, as the text indicates, would only have suggested that Joab wished to have a private word with him…”

    • Later when David heard about this he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before Yahweh for the blood of Ner’s son Abner. May the guilt hang over Joab’s head and on his whole family. May the family of Joab never be without someone who: has a running sore, or a skin disease, or holds a spindle, or falls by the sword, or lacks food.” Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible explains, “David would have gained much benefit from an alliance with Abner, so he is truly distressed by Joab’s unsanctioned act of violence. In distancing himself from Joab’s egregious murder of Abner, David curses Abner using formulaic language familiar from elsewhere in the ancient Near East. First, he calls down upon Joab’s family the worst of chronic and socially ostracizing diseases…David concludes his curse by invoking death (‘falls by the sword’) and poverty (‘lacks food’) on Joab’s family.”

      • ESV Archaeology Study Bible clarifies what the curse of holding “a spindle” means, “The spindle was frequently associated with women’s work and functioned widely in the ancient Near East as a symbol of femininity (cf Prov. 31:19). However, when associated with men, it carried a negative connotation, implying fearfulness,weakness, and vulnerability…The biblical prophets utter curses of feminization against the defeated armies of Egypt and Assyria (Isa 19:16; Nah 3:13), and Jeremiah applies the image to warriors of Babylon, who ‘have ceased fighting; they remain in their strongholds; their strength has failed; they have become women’ (Jer 51:30). Thus David’s curse likely refers to feminization of Joab’s male relatives, which would cause them to be fearful and, hence, unfit for military service. This would have been a particularly suitable punishment, as Joab and his sons were trained soldiers.”

      • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible provides a similar example found in the “Hittite Soldier’s Oath” of “the curse of effeminacy on disloyal soldiers.” “Their oaths would ‘change’ those who were disloyal into women by having them dress as women, break their weapons, and be given women’s accessories.”

    • Then David ordered Joab and all the people with him, “Tear your clothes, put on sackcloth, and mourn over Abner.” And King David walked behind the funeral bier. They buried Abner in Hebron. The king wept aloud at his tomb, and all the people wept also. The king sang the following lament for Abner:

      • Should Abner have died like a fool?

      • Your hands weren’t bound and your feet weren’t weren’t fettered. You fell the way one falls before the wicked.

    • And all the people cried over him again. Then all the people came and urged David to eat while it was still day, but David took an oath saying, “God do so to me and more if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “David’s public presence in the mourning procession, his open weeping at the gravesite, and his dramatic fast made evident to the public that he had not ordered Abner’s killing. Burying Abner in Hebron, David’s capital city at the time, rather than at some northern site reinforced Abner’s shift of support from Saul to David. Presumably it encouraged others from the northern tribes to follow Abner’s example.”

      • On David’s lament, the same source continues, “’as fools die’: Abner was deceived by Joab, and enemy who posed as a friend…Normal warfare could not defeat Abner, a seasoned warrior. Only treachery could…”

    • All the people noted this and it pleased them. In fact, everything the king did pleased them. So that day, all the people there and all of Israel understood that the king had no part in the killing of Ner’s son Abner.

    • Then the king said to his men, “Don’t you realize that a great leader has fallen in Israel today? Today I am powerless even though I am the anointed king. These men, Zeruiah’s sons, are more violent than me. May Yahweh repay the evildoer according to his evil.”

      • NLT Illustrated Study Bible writes, “Just as Ishbosheth could not control Abner, David could not control Joab. However, David had faith that the Lord would repay Joab for murdering Abner.”

Click here to go to chapter 4