2 Samuel 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.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(39) I am this day weak.—David’s high appreciation of the importance and value of Abner shows that Joab’s jealousy was not without ground, and there is a tone of deep sadness in his words, “these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me.” He knew their ungoverned passions, their bold lawlessness, and at the same time their great power and popularity with the army, and he dared not punish them. He leaves their judgment to God.

2 Samuel 3:39. And I am this day weak — Hebrew, רךְ, rack, tender; that is, his kingdom was young, was in its infancy, as we speak, and not well settled and confirmed. The metaphor is taken from a young and tender plant. And these men — Joab and Abishai; the sons of my sister Zeruiah, be too hard for me — That is, too powerful. They have so great an interest in, and command over all the soldiers, and are in such great favour with the people, that I cannot punish them without apparent hazard to my person and kingdom; especially now, when all the tribes, except Judah, are in a state of opposition against me. But although this might give some colour to the delay of their punishment, yet it was a fault that he did not punish them in some reasonable time; both because his indulgence proceeded from a distrust of God’s power and faithfulness, as if God could not make good his promise to him against Joab and all his confederates; and because it was contrary to God’s law, which severely requires the punishment of wilful murderers, with which law David had no power to dispense. It was therefore carnal, wicked policy, yea, cruel pity, in him to spare them. He ought to have done his duty, and trusted God with the issue. If the law had had its course against Joab; it is probable the murder of Ish-bosheth, Ammon, and others, had been prevented. But in this instance, David, though anointed king, is kept in awe by his own subjects, and bears the sword in vain, contenting himself, as a private person, to leave the murderers to the judgment of God, saying, The Lord shall reward the evil- doer according to his wickedness — In the mean time, however, it must be acknowledged, he detested their actions, and was not so overawed by them but he had courage to show it. 3:22-39 Judgments are prepared for such scorners as Abner; but Joab, in what he did, acted wickedly. David laid Abner's murder deeply to heart, and in many ways expressed his detestation of it. The guilt of blood brings a curse upon families: if men do not avenge it, God will. It is a sad thing to die like a fool, as they do that any way shorten their own days, and those who make no provision for another world. Who would be fond of power, when a man may have the name of it, and must be accountable for it, yet is hampered in the use of it? David ought to have done his duty, and then trusted God with the issue. Carnal policy spared Joab. The Son of David may long delay, but never fails to punish impenitent sinners. He who now reigns upon the throne of David, has a kingdom of a nobler kind. Whatever He doeth, is noticed by all his willing people, and is pleasing to them.To eat meat ... - Fasting was a sign of the deepest mourning 2 Samuel 1:12. The fast lasted until the sun was set. 33, 34. the king lamented over Abner—This brief elegy is an effusion of indignation as much as of sorrow. As Abner had stabbed Asahel in open war [2Sa 2:23], Joab had not the right of the Goel. Besides, he had adopted a lawless and execrable method of obtaining satisfaction (see on [258]1Ki 2:5). The deed was an insult to the authority, as well as most damaging to the prospects of the king. But David's feelings and conduct on hearing of the death, together with the whole character and accompaniments of the funeral solemnity, tended not only to remove all suspicion of guilt from him, but even to turn the tide of popular opinion in his favor, and to pave the way for his reigning over all the tribes more honorably than by the treacherous negotiations of Abner. Weak, or tender, in the infancy of my kingdom, not well rooted and settled in it. The metaphor is taken from a young and tender child or plant.

The sons of Zeruiah; Joab and Abishai, the sons of my sister Zeruiah.

To hard for me, i.e. two powerful. They have so great a command over all the soldiers, and so great favour with the people, that I cannot punish them without apparent hazard to my person and kingdom; especially now when all the tribes, except Judah, are yet in a state of opposition against me. But this, although it might give some colour to the delay of their punishment for a season, yet it may seem to have been one of David’s infirmities, that he did not do it within some reasonable time, both because this indulgence proceeded from a distrust of God’s power and faithfulness; as if God could not, or would not, make good his promise of the kingdom to him, without and against Joab and all his confederates; and because it was contrary to God’s law, which severely requires the punishment of wilful murderers, Genesis 9:6 Exodus 21:14 Numbers 35:21, which David had no power to dispense with. And David might and should have remembered how dear Saul paid for this very thing, that he dispensed with God’s command, and spared these whom God commanded him to slay, 1Sa 15. And it seems David’s conscience oft smote him for this; which made him watch for a fit opportunity to remove, and then punish him, and having neglected it till death, he declareth his sorrow for that neglect, by giving Solomon a charge to execute it after his death, 1 Kings 2:5,6,34. And I am this day weak, though anointed king,.... Which seems to be given as a reason, or for an excuse why he did not inflict just punishment upon the murderer, according to the law of God, because he was "weak"; not in body or mind, but with respect to the kingdom, that was like a tender branch, or in its infant state; and great care and caution were to be used that it was not overturned: he was a king by unction, not by birth; a son of the late king was yet up against him, and was possessed of the far greater part of the kingdom; he was indeed anointed by Samuel to be king over all Israel; but as yet he was not put into the possession of the kingdom he was anointed to; he was anointed and made king over Judah, and invested with the office of king there, and settled in it; and yet his power was not very great there, for as follows:

and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, be too hard for me; his sister's sons, Joab and Abishai, they were a check upon him; he could not do what he would, their influence was so great, both in the court and in the camp; the one was general of the army, and the other a considerable officer in it, and both variant men, and very respectable among the people, for their achievements in war, and the success they had; so that they were very much out of the reach of David to bring them to justice, without shaking his kingdom; and therefore in point of prudence he thought it best to connive at this fact until he was more established in the kingdom. Whatever may be said for this conduct, it is certain he was too dilatory, and which did not sit easy upon his mind, and therefore gave it in charge to Solomon before his death not to suffer Joab to go to his grave in peace, 1 Kings 2:5. Some take these words, "weak" and "hard", in a different sense, that David was weak or "tender" (x), as it may be rendered, tenderhearted, of a merciful disposition, and therefore spared Abner when he was in his hands, though he had done him so much harm, who was the Lord's anointed; but these men, his sister's sons, were of cruel tempers, more unmerciful than he, and therefore slew him; but the first sense seems best:

the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness; which may be considered either as an imprecation of evil on Joab, or a prediction, that sooner or later righteous judgment would be rendered to him by the Lord; with whom he leaves it to take vengeance on him, satisfying himself with this for the present, that though it was not in his power to do it, the Lord would in his own time and way: but after all that can be said in favour of David, he seems to have been too much in fear of men, and too distrustful of the power and promise of God to establish him in his kingdom, and was too negligent of public justice; which had it been exercised, might have prevented other sins, as the murder of Ishbosheth, to which the authors of it might be encouraged by this lenity.

(x) "tener", Pagninus, Montanus.

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.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Verse 39. - I am this clay weak...the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me. David would gladly have had Abner as a counterpoise to Joab's too-great power. As it was, though an anointed king, he had but one tribe loyal to him; the rest were the subjects of a rival; and the Philistines were oppressing all alike. Had Abner's enterprise been carried out, all the tribes would have been united under his sway. He could thus have made head against the Philistines, and Abner, in command of the Benjamites and other tribes, would have curbed the fierce self-will of Joab. As it was, the sons of Zeruiah might be reprimanded, and could not treat David as Abner had treated Ishbosheth; but they were indispensable. David had a strange set of men around him in those outlaws (1 Samuel 22:2); and Joab, brave, skilful, and unscrupulous, was a man after their own heart. They had just returned with great booty from a foray under his command; and it was a brave and manly thing in David to reprove him so openly, and dismiss him from his command. Had he attempted more, and Joab had stood upon the defence, there were plenty of "men of Belial" (1 Samuel 30:22) to side with him, and David might have met with the fate threatened him at Ziklag (1 Samuel 30:6). As it was, he proved himself to be king, and Joab, in spite of everything, remained a most faithful officer, and the right hand man in his kingdom, and one even trusted with perilous and disgraceful secrets (2 Samuel 11:14).



Although the appointment of such a funeral by David, and his tears at Abner's grave, could not fail to divest the minds of his opponents of all suspicion that Joab had committed the murder with his cognizance (see at 2 Samuel 3:37), he gave a still stronger proof of his innocence, and of the sincerity of his grief, by the ode which he composed for Abner's death:

33 Like an ungodly man must Abner die!

34 Thy hands were not bound, and thy feet were not placed in fetters.

As one falls before sinners, so hast thou fallen!

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