Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 3:1-5. - (HEBRON.)
1. The theocracy had its chief support in David and his house. On him also rested the Messianic hope (2 Samuel 7:13). Hence the importance which attaches to events of his life that would otherwise have been left unrecorded.
2. "The summary narrative of these seven years presents the still youthful king in a very lovable light. The same temper which had marked his first acts after Saul's death is here strikingly brought out. He seems to have left the conduct of the war altogether with Joab, as if he shrank from striking a single blow for his own advancement. When he does interfere, it is on the side of peace, to curb and chastise ferocious vengeance and dastardly assassination. The incidents recorded all go to make up a picture of rare generosity, of patient waiting for God to fulfil his purposes, of longing that the miserable strife between the tribes of God's inheritance should end" (A. Maclaren).
3. In the house of David, at war with the house of Saul, we see an embodiment of the great conflict between good and evil; a representation of "the household of faith" as opposed to the world, and the spirit as opposed to the flesh (Galatians 5:17). Notice -
I. ITS PROTRACTED ANTAGONISM. "And there was long war," etc. It:
1. Is rendered necessary by the opposite nature and aims of the contending parties. "These are contrary the one to the other."
2. Implies a state of constant warfare, and involves many a painful struggle. "What grievous tales of distress are folded up in these brief words!"
3. Is permitted by God for wise and beneficent purposes: to test the principles of his servants; to exercise their faith and patience; to strengthen, purify, and perfect their character.
4. And must go on to the end. "This is a battle, from which, as it ends only with life, there is no escape; and he who fights not in it is of necessity either taken captive or slain" (Scupoli).
II. ITS INCREASING STRENGTH. "David waxed stronger and stronger," in the number of his followers, the amount of his resources, the unity and vigour of their employment, the stability of his position, the extent of his influence, the assurance of his success. And all who "strive against sin" within and without also "go from strength to strength:"
1. In patiently waiting upon God and faithfully doing his will. "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart" (Psalm 27:14).
2. By the bestowment of his grace and the cooperation of his providence, directing, protecting, and prospering them, in accordance with his promises. Their strength is not self-derived, but "cometh from the Lord." "And he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God," etc. (Zechariah 12:8); "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4); "I have all strength in him that giveth me power" (Philippians 4:13).
3. And thereby they show that God is with them, and that his righteous purposes concerning them will be accomplished.
III. ITS DECLINING OPPONENTS. "And the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker," relatively and proportionately to the growth of David's, and in consequence of the protracted antagonism and increasing strength of the latter.
1. In wilful separation from God, and seeking their own selfish ends in opposition to his will (see 2 Samuel 2:8-12). Those who fall away from God fall into self-division and self-contention (ver. 8); "and a house divided against itself cannot stand."
2. By the immovable might of God against whom they set themselves (Psalm 2:4), and his wrath, which is "revealed from heaven against all ungodliness," etc. (Romans 1:18). They are like a wave that dashes against a rock and is broken and scattered in foam. "The face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (1 Peter 3:12).
3. And thereby they prove that God is against them, and are taught that their purposes will assuredly fail and they themselves be overthrown. From the time of his defeat (2 Samuel 2:17), if not from the very first, Abner probably felt that the cause in which he had embarked was hopeless. "He recognized now most distinctly in David the rising star in Israel; and, however haughtily his words might sound, he only sought to conceal behind them his despair of Ishbosheth" (Krummacher).
IV. ITS PERILOUS RELATIONSHIPS. (Vers. 2-5.) "The increasing political strength of David was shown, as usual among Eastern monarchs, by the fresh alliances through marriage into which he now entered" (Edersheim). In addition to his three wives, Michal, Ahinoam (mother of Amnon), and Abigail (mother of Chileab, who appears to have died early), he had "Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur" (mother of Absalom and Tamar), Haggith (mother of Adonijah), Abital, and Eglah; and he afterwards still further enlarged the royal household (2 Samuel 4:13-16). "None of his sons here mentioned were eminent for virtue, and some of them were notorious for their sins." Polygamy was tolerated by the Law of Moses (1 Samuel 1:2), although the king was forbidden (Deuteronomy 17:17) to "multiply wives to himself;" and it was practised by David in conformity with ancient and prevalent custom, from political considerations and natural inclinations, without reproof (ch. 12:8); but (as his subsequent history shows) it fostered in him a sensual tendency, undermined his moral strength, and produced innumerable enmities and other evils in his family: "One deadly element of future woe mingled itself with the establishment of the kingdom of David - he brought into his family the curse of the harem. An utter lack of discipline was one of its first fruits; and it brought yet deeper ill even than that; for it poisoned all the springs of family life, and tainted it with ever-recurring impurity; working in him and all around him its universal fruits of impurity, jealousy, hatred, incest, and blood" ('Heroes of Hebrews Hist.'). "It was the immemorial custom in all those countries for the magnificence and power of a ruler to display itself in the multiplication of his establishment, that is, of his wives; forevery wife involved a separate establishment. It shows the utmost depravity when Christians seek to shelter their own unjust and shameless lives under an appeal to that of David, and that, too, although none of their other proceedings show the smallest trace of David's noble spirit, and although they are by no means ready to bear as David did the consequences of their shame" (Ewald). "If we want exemplifications of all the miseries and curses which spring from the mixture of families and the degradation of woman in the court and country where polygamy exists, David's history supplies them. No maxims of morality can be half so effectual as a faithful record of terrible effects like these" (Maurice). In view of these effects we learn that no strength or prosperity can be lasting where "the friendship of the world" is cherished, and "the lusts of the flesh" are suffered to prevail; and that victory over some opponents may be followed by defeat by other more subtle and dangerous foes. - D.
2 Samuel 3:6. - (MAHANAIM.)1 Samuel 14:50), and contributed greatly to his early successes. He introduced David to the king after his victory over Goliath, sat at the royal table (1 Samuel 20:25), was well acquainted with their relations to each other, took part in the persecution (1 Samuel 26:14), and, after the battle of Gilbea, became the main support of the house of Saul (2 Samuel 2:8). "'Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul,' but God strengthened David, whom Abner knew to have been designed for the kingdom by God" (Wordsworth). Notice:
1. His eminent abilities - military skill, prudence, energy, courage, and perseverance; as shown by the honourable position he so long held in the service of Saul, and his successful efforts after his death (2 Samuel 2:8-12). "Abner's act was not an ordinary act of rebellion against the person of David and his rightful claim to the throne; because Jehovah had not yet caused David to be set before the nation as its king by Samuel or any other prophet, and David had not yet asserted the right to reign over all Israel, which had been secured to him by the Lord, and guaranteed by his anointing as one whom the nation was bound to recognize" (Keil). Nor was he destitute of generous sentiments. If he could not be called a good man, he was "a prince and a great man" (ver. 38).
2. His worldly ambition and carnal selfishness. This was probably the main, if not the only, motive of his opposition to the Divine purpose; and to it Ishbesheth evidently attributed the conduct with which he charged him, regarding his act as an assertion of royal rights (ver. 7). His pride and self-esteem are also apparent in his haughty answer (ver. 8).
"Ambition's like a circle on the water,
3. His passionate resentment, which, as is commonly the case, was an indication of the truth of the charge brought against him; nor did he deny it, but contemptuously declared that he was too great a man and had rendered too many services to be accused of such a "fault;" and then took an oath to avenge the insult by translating the kingdom to David, "as the Lord had sworn" to him (vers. 9, 10). "This was Abner's arrogancy to beast such great things of himself, as if he had carried a king in his pocket, as that great Earl of Warwick in Edward IV.'s time, is said to have done" (Trapp). "No man ever heard Abner godly till now; neither had he been so at this time if he had not intended a revengeful departure from Ishbosheth. Nothing is more odious than to make religion a stalking horse to policy" (Hall).
4. His altered purposes. The change, although right and good in itself, was due to a passionate impulse and probably the desire of personal advantage; and, in its announcement, Abner betrayed his previous ungodliness and present hypocrisy. "Alas! how eloquently can hypocrites employ the Name of God, and take the sanction of religion, when by such means they think to advance their present interests!" (Lindsay). But, on the other hand, it may be said that his sudden wrath was only the occasion of his open avowal of an irrepressible and growing conviction of duty, and of his taking the decisive step which he had been long contemplating; and that he henceforth faithfully endeavoured to make amends for his former errors and sincerely sought the welfare of the nation. "When an opposer of God's Word honestly turns, we should, without reluctance, give him the hand, without undertaking to pass judgment on the motives that are hidden in his heart" (Erdmann). David, unlike Joab (ver. 25), put the best construction on Abner's conduct.
5. His energetic action and extensive influence. He sent messengers "immediately" (LXX.) to David, recognizing his authority, etc. (ver. 12); had communication with the elders of Israel (ver. 18); spake in the ears of Benjamin (ver. 19), who might be jealous of the transfer of sovereignty to Judah; and, having obtained their consent, came himself to Hebron with twenty men, "representatives of Israel, to confirm his overtures by their presence," partook of an entertainment "of the nature of a league," and went away in peace. "David believed that in this offer of Abner a Divine providence was to be observed which would make, as he hoped, a full end to the unhappy civil war" (Krummacher).
6. His cruel fate. "Now is Ishbosheth's wrong avenged by an enemy" (Hall). Even though his present course was in fulfilment of the Divine purpose, it averted not the consequences of his former conduct; and retribution came upon him suddenly, unexpectedly, and by a wicked hand. "One wicked man is made to be another's scourge." "Human sin must serve the purposes of God's kingdom" (Psalm 76:10). "David's kingdom is not promoted by Abner's treason, as David so expected, but rather by the taking away of Abner; thus the Lord, in the promotion of his kingdom, chooseth not the instruments nor alloweth even the means which appear good to men; but, by the contrary, he taketh away the same instruments and means in which men have most confidence, and by others more unlikely, and without men's expectation, he advanceth the cause of the Church and worketh great things" (Guild). - D.
2 Samuel 3:7-11. - (MAHANAIM.)
1. The union of wicked men rests only upon regard for their own interests. It is not founded on mutual esteem, and does not constitute true friendship (1 Samuel 18:1-4).
"The friendships of the world are oft
2. When their interests come into collision, their dissensions begin. And occasions of such collision are sure to arise. "Let us mark the inherent weakness of a bad cause. Godless men banded together for selfish ends have no firm bond of union. The very passions which they are united to gratify may begin to rage against one another. They fall into the pit which they have dug for others" (Blaikie).
3. Wicked men, engaged in a common enterprise against God, are not indifferent to their reputation in the sight of one another. "Am I a dog's head," etc. (ver. 8)? Their conscience, though perverted, is not dead; their self-esteem and love of approbation are fully alive; and they estimate to the full their claims upon the gratitude of others.. They would even have their crimes connived at for the sake of the benefits which they confer.
4. Nothing more surely tests and manifests the character of the wicked than being reproved by each other for their faults. "Proud men will not bear to be reproved, especially by those to whom they have been obliged" (M. Henry). It is otherwise with the good (Psalm 141:5).
5. The strong despise the weak, and passionately resent their complaints, however reasonable and just.
6. The weak suspect the strong, and, although they may feel justified in speaking, are put to silence by their fears. "And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him,"
7. The dissensions of the wicked are the most effectual means of their common overthrow, usually turn out to the advantage of the righteous, and promote the extension of the kingdom of God. - D.
welcomed to the side they join, and may be of some service; but they wilt not be trusted, and their service will be of doubtful value. In religion especially the adherence of such persons is to be deprecated as wanting in the right spirit, and likely to be injurious rather than beneficial. They tend to corrupt the society in which they are active and influential, and deprive it of its true strength - that of sincere, spiritual, consistent character. Observe:
1. The importance of simple and uniform obedience to the known will of God. To obey as it suits our worldly aims is not to obey at all, and the pretence of obedience is hypocritical and hateful to God. Such obedience may have its uses to others; God may overrule it for good; but it will bring no blessing to the doer.
2. The language of Abner may be adopted by us in relation to the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. "As Jehovah has sworn to his beloved Son, even so I do to him." Our knowledge of the purpose and promise of God to establish Christ's rule over all men should stimulate us to devoted service in his cause. It assures us that to be on his side is to be on God's side, on the side that must succeed. In being thus workers with God we cannot labour in vain; and labouring not in pretence, but in truth, we shall ultimately share in the glory and power of the great King whose cause we espouse (Revelation 3:21). - G.W.
2 Samuel 3:12-16. - (BAHURIM.)1 Samuel 19:11-17). Of her he had been deprived when he fled from the court of Saul; she was given to Phaltiel (Phalti), the son of Laish, of Gallim (1 Samuel 25:44), by her father, perhaps as a piece of policy, to attach him to his house, and they lived together for many years, apparently in much domestic comfort. We have here -
I. AN INJURED HUSBAND DEMANDING HIS JUST RIGHT. "Well; I will make a league with thee: but one thing I require," etc. (ver. 13). The demand was:
1. Founded upon justice; David having been unjustly and contemptuously treated.
2. Reverential toward the Law, which had been flagrantly violated. It does not appear that Michal was ever legally divorced from David.
3. Incited by affection toward her and the memory of her early love to him.
4. Adapted to test the sincerity and fidelity of Abner, and prepare the way for further negotiations.
5. Consistent with his honour. He could not suffer his wife to live as the wife of another man without shame.
6. Calculated to remind the northern tribes of his former services against the Philistines (vers. 15, 18).
7. And to increase his influence over them by the maintenance of his family alliance with the house of Saul and the public recognition of his power. There was policy as well as principle in the condition imposed.
II. A FEEBLE RULER ENFORCING A HUMILIATING REQUIREMENT. "And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, Saul's son," etc. (ver. 14). "Not to Abner, but to Ishbosheth (for the league between David and Abner was a profound secret), whom David knew must act feebly, as he was at Abner's dictation" ('Speaker's Commentary'), "to demand the restoration of Michal, that her return might take place in duly legal form" (Keil), and that it might be apparent that he "had not taken her by force from her husband." Nothing is said of Ishbosheth's feelings on receiving the message. Like other incapable monarchs, he never exhibited any spirit except on the point of his royal dignity; and, even on this, his wrath was extinguished before the frown of Abner. Under constraint, he sent Abner himself, and took his sister from her husband. And the effect of this concession must have been to discredit him in the eyes of the people and hasten his downfall. Henceforth it was hardly necessary that Abner should disguise his intentions (ver. 17). There is no more pitiful sight than that of a man who holds the royal office without adorning it with royal qualities.
III. A HELPLESS SUBJECT SUBMITTING TO A PAINFUL NECESSITY. (Vers. 15, 16.) The scene is a pathetic one. Michal conducted forth, attended by her husband, "weeping behind her" to Bahurim (2 Samuel 19:17), on the borders of Judah, where he was compelled to part from her, with the contemptuous order, "Go, return." "And he returned" in bitter disappointment, grief, and shame. Yet he had brought his trouble on himself. How fruitful in domestic misery are imprudence, ambition, and sinful expediency! It may be long delayed, but it surely comes. Men reap. as they sow. "Wherefore all Phaltiel's tears move no pity of mine. Caveat raptor, let him beware who violently takes another man's wife, seeing shame and sorrow are the issue of such ungodly marriages" (T. Fuller). "His tears ought to have been tears of repentance for his sin against God and against David" (Wordsworth). Perchance there lay hid in the evil he now suffered the seed of future good. But here his history ends.
IV. A HAUGHTY PRINCESS RESTORED TO HER LEGITIMATE LORD. Nothing is said of their meeting. This silence is ominous; and it is to be feared that the reunion was not one of unmingled satisfaction. Time and circumstances may have changed her feelings toward David (1 Samuel 18:20), separated her more widely from him in spiritual sympathy, and developed in her heart her father's pride. She was now only one of many wives. At a subsequent meeting (2 Samuel 6:20) she was scornful, jealous, and unspiritual. And that which David anticipated with pleasure became an occasion of pain and lasting trouble. - D.
to make David king over the whole land; as they afterwards did (2 Samuel 5:1-3). A similar appeal may be addressed to others, urging them to submit to the royal authority of Christ, of whom David was a type (1 Samuel 2:10). Translated into New Testament language, it is, "We beseech you, on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God" (2 Corinthians 5:20). Consider -
I. WHAT YOU SHOULD DO. Jesus Christ is King, anointed and exalted to the right hand of God; he reigns in grace and righteousness in many hearts; but his kingdom is not yet fully revealed and universally extended on earth, and it cannot be set up "within you" except by your own consent. You must:
1. Receive him heartily as your King and Lord, your absolute Owner and supreme Ruler, as well as your Redeemer and Saviour; by a personal, inward, voluntary act; in the renunciation of whatever is opposed to his will, and the submission and surrender of your whole being to his direction and control. "Now be ye not stiff necked, as your fathers were, but yield yourselves unto the Lord" (2 Chronicles 30:8; Romans 6:13).
"Our wills are ours, we know not how; 2. Confess him openly, by uniting with his people, testifying your faith in him, and proclaiming his Name before men. "With the heart man believeth," etc. (Romans 10:10; 2 Corinthians 8:5). "Whosoever therefore shall confess me," etc. (Matthew 10:32). 3. Serve him loyally, by obeying his commandments, assisting his friends, resisting his foes, seeking his honour and the spread of his kingdom. "It is not enough that I should love the Lord myself alone; every heart must love him, and every tongue speak forth his praise." II. WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT. "NOW then do it: for Jehovah hath spoken," etc. 1. It is the purpose of God that he should reign over you. "He must reign," either in mercy or in judgment. 2. It is the promise of God that through him you may be saved from your enemies - sin, Satan, death, and hell. "There is none other Name." 3. It has been your own desire in times past that he might be your King. "Ye sought for David both yesterday and the day before to be king over you: now then do it." Under the bitter oppression of the ruler chosen by yourselves, in view of the superior worth of "the man of God's choice," in weakness, fear, and misery, you have often said. "Oh for one glorious hour of him who, in the Name of the Lord of hosts, smote Israel's most formidable foe!" But your wishes led to no practical result. "Your goodness was as the morning cloud." And now your reason, conscience, and all that is best within you urge you to accept Christ as your King. Let your feelings be translated into definite and decisive action, without which they are worse than useless. "Now then do it." "Crown him Lord of all." III. WHEN YOU SHOULD DO IT. Whatever reason exists for doing it at all should induce you to do it now. There are not a few who are persuaded of their duty, yet break the force of every appeal by delay and the intention of doing it at a future time. But: 1. The present is a most favourable opportunity. The King "waits to be gracious," and sends you the message of reconciliation. "Men and brethren, to you is the word of this salvation sent." "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 2:1, 2). 2. If you do it today, tomorrow and all your future days will be days of peace and happiness. 3. If you wait till tomorrow, it is probable that you will never do it. Your susceptibility to Divine influences will be lessened, your indisposition, which is the real cause of delay, will be increased; life is uncertain, probation is brief, the end is nigh. "Our gracious Ahasuerus (Esther 4:11) reacheth out the golden sceptre to all that have a hand of faith to lay hold of it; but then he shall take his iron mace or rod in his hand to bruise his enemies and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Say not, with the procrastinator, "To morrow" (Exodus 8:10); "Go thy way for this time" (Acts 24:25); for "the Holy Ghost saith, Today" (Hebrews 3:7). "'Cras! cras!' (Tomorrow! tomorrow!) is the cry of the raven. This is the thing that destroys many; while they are saying, 'Cras! cras!' suddenly the door is shut" (Augustine). "The man that procrastinates struggles ever with ruin" (Epictetus). "There is a circumscribed space of time appointed thee, which if thou dost not employ in making all calm and serene within, it will pass away and thou wilt pass away, and it never will return" (Marcus Antoninus, 2:4). "Defer not till tomorrow to be wise;
2. Confess him openly, by uniting with his people, testifying your faith in him, and proclaiming his Name before men. "With the heart man believeth," etc. (Romans 10:10; 2 Corinthians 8:5). "Whosoever therefore shall confess me," etc. (Matthew 10:32).
3. Serve him loyally, by obeying his commandments, assisting his friends, resisting his foes, seeking his honour and the spread of his kingdom. "It is not enough that I should love the Lord myself alone; every heart must love him, and every tongue speak forth his praise."
II. WHY YOU SHOULD DO IT. "NOW then do it: for Jehovah hath spoken," etc.
1. It is the purpose of God that he should reign over you. "He must reign," either in mercy or in judgment.
2. It is the promise of God that through him you may be saved from your enemies - sin, Satan, death, and hell. "There is none other Name."
3. It has been your own desire in times past that he might be your King. "Ye sought for David both yesterday and the day before to be king over you: now then do it." Under the bitter oppression of the ruler chosen by yourselves, in view of the superior worth of "the man of God's choice," in weakness, fear, and misery, you have often said. "Oh for one glorious hour of him who, in the Name of the Lord of hosts, smote Israel's most formidable foe!" But your wishes led to no practical result. "Your goodness was as the morning cloud." And now your reason, conscience, and all that is best within you urge you to accept Christ as your King. Let your feelings be translated into definite and decisive action, without which they are worse than useless. "Now then do it." "Crown him Lord of all."
III. WHEN YOU SHOULD DO IT. Whatever reason exists for doing it at all should induce you to do it now. There are not a few who are persuaded of their duty, yet break the force of every appeal by delay and the intention of doing it at a future time. But:
1. The present is a most favourable opportunity. The King "waits to be gracious," and sends you the message of reconciliation. "Men and brethren, to you is the word of this salvation sent." "Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 2:1, 2).
2. If you do it today, tomorrow and all your future days will be days of peace and happiness.
3. If you wait till tomorrow, it is probable that you will never do it. Your susceptibility to Divine influences will be lessened, your indisposition, which is the real cause of delay, will be increased; life is uncertain, probation is brief, the end is nigh. "Our gracious Ahasuerus (Esther 4:11) reacheth out the golden sceptre to all that have a hand of faith to lay hold of it; but then he shall take his iron mace or rod in his hand to bruise his enemies and break them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Say not, with the procrastinator, "To morrow" (Exodus 8:10); "Go thy way for this time" (Acts 24:25); for "the Holy Ghost saith, Today" (Hebrews 3:7). "'Cras! cras!' (Tomorrow! tomorrow!) is the cry of the raven. This is the thing that destroys many; while they are saying, 'Cras! cras!' suddenly the door is shut" (Augustine). "The man that procrastinates struggles ever with ruin" (Epictetus). "There is a circumscribed space of time appointed thee, which if thou dost not employ in making all calm and serene within, it will pass away and thou wilt pass away, and it never will return" (Marcus Antoninus, 2:4).
"Defer not till tomorrow to be wise;
2 Samuel 3:22-30. - (HEBRON.)References:
(1) Early life (1 Samuel 22:1);
(2) conflict with Abner (2 Samuel 2:13, 24, 30);
(3) capture of the stronghold of Zion (1 Chronicles 11:6);
(5) conflicts with the Ammonites and Syrians (2 Samuel 10:7);
(6) reduction of the Edomites (1 Kings 11:15, 16);
(7) complicity in the murder of Uriah (2 Samuel 11:14);
(9) relations with Absalom (2 Samuel 14:1, 29);
(10) defeat and murder of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:2, 14);
(11) upbraiding the king (2 Samuel 19:5);
(12) replaced by Amasa (2 Samuel 20:4);
(13) murder of Amasa (2 Samuel 20:10);
(14) defeat of Sheba (2 Samuel 20:22);
(15) remonstrance with David (2 Samuel 24:3);
(16) defection to Adonijah (1 Kings 1:7);
(17) denounced by David (1 Kings 2:5);
(18) put to death by Benaiah at the command of Solomon (1 Kings 2:28, 34).]
1. Among those who played a prominent part in David's reign the foremost man was his nephew Joab. He was possessed of great physical strength and daring, clear judgment and strong will, eminent military skill, and immense power over others; "a bold captain in bad times." With the ruder qualities of activity, courage, and implacable revenge, "he combined something of a more statesmanlike character, which brings him more nearly to a level with his youthful uncle; and unquestionably gives him the second place in the whole history of David's reign. In consequence of his successful attempt at the siege of Jebus, he became commander-in-chief, the highest office in the state after the king. In this post he was content, and served the king with undeviating fidelity. In the wide range of wars which David undertook, Joab was the acting general, and he therefore may be considered as the founder, as far as military prowess was concerned, the Marlborough, the Belisarius, of the Jewish empire" (Stanley). His patriotism was unquestionable; nor was he without piety (2 Samuel 10:12).
2. His natural gifts, good qualities, and invaluable services were more than counterbalanced by his moral defects and numerous vices. "He ever appears wily, politic, and uuscrupulous" ('Speaker's Commentary'). "He is the impersonation of worldly policy, secular expediency, and temporal ambition, eager for his own personal aggrandizement, and especially for the maintenance of his own political ascendency, and practising on the weaknesses of princes for his own interests; but at last the victim of his own Machiavellian shrewdness" (Wordsworth).
3. "Joab was a type of the national aspect of Judaism. He was intensely Jewish, in the tribal meaning of the word, not in its higher, world wide bearing; only Judaean in everything that outwardly marked Judaism, though not regarded in its inward and spiritual reality. Nor is it without deep symbolical meaning, as we have the higher teaching of history, that Joab, the typical Eastern Judaean - may we not say, the type of Israel after the flesh? - should, in carrying out his own purposes and views, have at last compassed his own destruction" (Edersheim).
I. EVIL DEEDS ARE SELDOM WROUGHT WITHOUT PLAUSIBLE PRETEXTS. It is uncertain whether Joab was aware of former negotiations between David and Abner; but on returning to Hebron from a military expedition (against marauding troops, ch. 4:2), being informed of the league that had just been made, his suspicion was aroused; he hastened to the king with the view of inducing him to share it, probably believing that Abner was not to be trusted; and finding the result doubtful or contrary to his expectation, resolved to take the matter into his own hands, on the ground of:
1. Guilt incurred by a public enemy.
2. Zeal inspired for the king's safety (ver. 25).
3. Obligation imposed by personal injury, according to the custom of blood revenge (Exodus 21:13; Numbers 35:9-35; Deuteronomy 19:1-13). This is twice mentioned by the historian (vers. 27, 30) as the ostensible ground, and was perhaps popularly regarded as a sufficient justification of his deed. "The act of Abner was justifiable homicide; but it was precisely to such cases that the rule applied, not to those of murder, against the penalties of which no sanctuary afforded protection. Besides, unless the right of avengement for blood did apply to such cases as this, whence the deep necessity of Abner to avoid slaying Asahel (2 Samuel 2:22)? It may be admitted that a case of this nature may have involved some doubt as to the application of the rule to it, and very likely it was not in such cases often enforced. But where any room for doubt existed, Joab and Abishai might interpret it in their own favour as their justification for an act the true motives of which durst not be alleged, and as a ground, on which they might claim exemption from the punishment due to murder (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illus.').
II. PLAUSIBLE PRETEXTS OFTEN COVER THE BASEST MOTIVES, though they cannot entirely conceal them.
1. Vindictiveness. Joab's act, even if it fell within the letter of the Law, which allowed punishment for homicide under certain circumstances (Numbers 35:22), was shown, by the place, the time, and the manner of it, to have been done, not from regard for justice, but from deliberate, unwarrantable, malicious revenge. So David regarded it (ver. 28); denouncing it as the "shedding of the blood of war in peace" (1 Kings 2:5), and joining it with the murder of Amasa.
2. Jealousy and ambition (1 Samuel 18:6-16). This was his main motive. He was "afraid of losing his command of the army and his dignity with the king, and lest he should be deprived of those advantages and Abner should obtain the first rank in David's court" (Josephus). Hence his suspicion and slander of Abner (ver. 25). "Through envy of the devil came death into the world" (Wisd. of Sol. 2:24).
"Envy at others' good is evermore
3. Presumption. He rudely remonstrated with the king (ver. 24), presuming upon his position; and afterwards, without the king's authority, whilst seeming to act under it, recalled the man who had been sent away under the king's protection; and gratified his private revenge, regardless of the effect of his conduct on the king's dignity and reputation.
4. Treachery. Under the pretence of speaking with him in a friendly and confidential manner, he drew his victim aside in the middle of the gate, and smote him there. Possibly Abishai alone was witness of the act. "Cursed be he that smiteth his neighbour secretly. And all the people shall say, Amen" (Deuteronomy 27:24).
III. IMPUNITY IN CRIME IS COMMONLY PRODUCTIVE OF DISASTROUS EFFECTS. Under the circumstances, it would hardly have been possible for David to punish Joab and Abishai. "Probably public feeling would not have supported the king, nor could he, at this crisis of his affairs, have afforded the loss of such generals, or brave the people and the army" (Edersheim). Great men often owe their exemption from punishment to their position. But crime, although unpunished by man:
1. Incurs the righteous displeasure of God. (Vers. 29, 39.) Human punishment does not and cannot always accord with the Divine. Although David could not punish, he durst not forgive. His words "express his moral horror at this evil deed, and at the same time the everlasting law of God's recruiting justice." "The extension of the curse to the descendants clearly refers to the threatenings of the Law; and in both cases the offensive character disappears if we only remember that whoever by true repentance freed himself from connection with the guilt, was also exempted from participation in the punishment" (Hengstenberg).
2. Incites other men to similar crimes. It is not improbable that Baanah and Rechab were induced to assassinate Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4:6) by the unavenged death of Abner.
3. Encourages the criminal to continue his evil course, increases his obduracy, and causes him to "wax worse and worse." "Joab prospered even after his sin. God gave him time for repentance. But he hardened his heart by sin. And in the end he was cut off. Successful crime is splendid misery."
4. Escapes not forever the retribution which it deserves. "Evil pursueth sinners" (Proverbs 13:21; Proverbs 29:1). Joab sinned with a strong and violent hand, and by a strong and violent hand he at length perished (1 Kings 2:34; Psalm 58:11).
"O Blind lust!
2 Samuel 3:31-352 Samuel 3:31-35. - (HEBRON.) David's lament over Abner.
"As a fool dies should Abner die? - 1. He disclaimed (before his trusted servants, as afterwards, ver. 38) against having had any part therein; declaring, "I and my kingdom are guiltless before the Lord," etc. Malicious persons, judging others by themselves, might accuse him of it; and if it had been instigated by him, he would have brought guilt upon his people as well as himself (2 Samuel 21:1; 2 Samuel 24:1, 17). 2. He invoked a curse on the head of the author of the deed; not from a feeling of personal hatred and vindictiveness, but of righteous indignation (1 Samuel 26:19). 3. He ordered a public mourning in honour of the deceased. "And David said to Joab," etc. (ver. 38). Although he durst not arrest him, he clearly indicated what he thought of his conduct, and sought to remove the odium which it cast on his own good name. 4. He followed in the procession as chief mourner, wept at the grave (John 11:35), and fasted until sunset. "There is no more beautiful picture in his life than that of his following the bier where lay the bloody corpse of the man who had been his enemy ever since he had known him, and sealing the reconciliation which death ever makes in noble souls by the pathetic dirge he chanted over Abner's grave" (A. Maclaren). "This short poem is not only a dirge; it is also an apology for David and for Abner himself" (Wordsworth). It expresses - I. ADMIRATION OF EMINENT WORTH. Abner was not a villain (fool) or murderer, deserving of being put in fetters and dying a felon's death; but brave, capable, noble-minded, "great in council, great in war," and worthy of respect and honour. A generous man sees and appreciates what is best in other men. "The generous spirit of David kept down all base and selfish feeling, and added another to those glorious conquests over his own heart which were far higher distinctions than his other victories, and in which he has left us an example which all, from the least to the greatest, should try to emulate" (Blaikie). II. AFFLICTION FOR A PUBLIC LOSS. A light was quenched "in Israel" (ver, 38). His presence and influence would have contributed to the reconciliation of the tribes and the welfare of the nation (ver. 21). David's sorrow was sincere; his tears (in confirmation of his words) evinced the tenderness and sympathy of his heart, moved the people also to tears, and (in contrast with the bearing of Joab) convinced them of his innocence and uprightness. III. ASTONISHMENT AT AN EXTRAORDINARY FATE. "The point of this indignant, more than sorrowful, lament lies in the mode in which Abner was slain" (Kitto, 'Cyc.'). How strange that Abner should have fallen in the full possession of strength to defend himself and liberty to flee from danger; neither as a prisoner taken in battle nor (in allusion to the right of blood-revenge which Joab claimed) as a murderer delivered up in bonds to the avenger by lawful authority, as he would have been if he were guilty! His fall - so different from what might have been expected and from what he merited - could be accounted for only by its having been caused by the treacherous malice and murderous violence of "sons of wickedness." IV. ABHORRENCE OF A WICKED DEED. (Vers. 29, 39.) The death of Abner was, even more than his life would have been, conducive to David's interests. "It must have seemed to him, from a prudential point of view, that it was a piece of good fortune. But the strength of his moral indignation does not suffer itself to be assuaged by worldly considerations" (Delitzsch). Hatred of wrong is a sign and measure of the love of right. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil" (Psalm 97:10). David was as severe toward evil doers as he was tender and pitiful toward the victims of their wickedness. "He was a man extreme in all his excellences - a man of the highest strain, whether for counsel, for expression, or for action, in peace and in war, in exile and on the throne" (E. Irving). - D.
1. He disclaimed (before his trusted servants, as afterwards, ver. 38) against having had any part therein; declaring, "I and my kingdom are guiltless before the Lord," etc. Malicious persons, judging others by themselves, might accuse him of it; and if it had been instigated by him, he would have brought guilt upon his people as well as himself (2 Samuel 21:1; 2 Samuel 24:1, 17).
2. He invoked a curse on the head of the author of the deed; not from a feeling of personal hatred and vindictiveness, but of righteous indignation (1 Samuel 26:19).
3. He ordered a public mourning in honour of the deceased. "And David said to Joab," etc. (ver. 38). Although he durst not arrest him, he clearly indicated what he thought of his conduct, and sought to remove the odium which it cast on his own good name.
4. He followed in the procession as chief mourner, wept at the grave (John 11:35), and fasted until sunset. "There is no more beautiful picture in his life than that of his following the bier where lay the bloody corpse of the man who had been his enemy ever since he had known him, and sealing the reconciliation which death ever makes in noble souls by the pathetic dirge he chanted over Abner's grave" (A. Maclaren). "This short poem is not only a dirge; it is also an apology for David and for Abner himself" (Wordsworth). It expresses -
I. ADMIRATION OF EMINENT WORTH. Abner was not a villain (fool) or murderer, deserving of being put in fetters and dying a felon's death; but brave, capable, noble-minded, "great in council, great in war," and worthy of respect and honour. A generous man sees and appreciates what is best in other men. "The generous spirit of David kept down all base and selfish feeling, and added another to those glorious conquests over his own heart which were far higher distinctions than his other victories, and in which he has left us an example which all, from the least to the greatest, should try to emulate" (Blaikie).
II. AFFLICTION FOR A PUBLIC LOSS. A light was quenched "in Israel" (ver, 38). His presence and influence would have contributed to the reconciliation of the tribes and the welfare of the nation (ver. 21). David's sorrow was sincere; his tears (in confirmation of his words) evinced the tenderness and sympathy of his heart, moved the people also to tears, and (in contrast with the bearing of Joab) convinced them of his innocence and uprightness.
III. ASTONISHMENT AT AN EXTRAORDINARY FATE. "The point of this indignant, more than sorrowful, lament lies in the mode in which Abner was slain" (Kitto, 'Cyc.'). How strange that Abner should have fallen in the full possession of strength to defend himself and liberty to flee from danger; neither as a prisoner taken in battle nor (in allusion to the right of blood-revenge which Joab claimed) as a murderer delivered up in bonds to the avenger by lawful authority, as he would have been if he were guilty! His fall - so different from what might have been expected and from what he merited - could be accounted for only by its having been caused by the treacherous malice and murderous violence of "sons of wickedness."
IV. ABHORRENCE OF A WICKED DEED. (Vers. 29, 39.) The death of Abner was, even more than his life would have been, conducive to David's interests. "It must have seemed to him, from a prudential point of view, that it was a piece of good fortune. But the strength of his moral indignation does not suffer itself to be assuaged by worldly considerations" (Delitzsch). Hatred of wrong is a sign and measure of the love of right. "Ye that love the Lord, hate evil" (Psalm 97:10). David was as severe toward evil doers as he was tender and pitiful toward the victims of their wickedness. "He was a man extreme in all his excellences - a man of the highest strain, whether for counsel, for expression, or for action, in peace and in war, in exile and on the throne" (E. Irving). - D.
2 Samuel 3:36-38. - (HEBRON.)1 Samuel 12:3-5).
I. THE CONDUCT OF ONE IN AUTHORITY IS CAREFULLY OBSERVED BY THE PEOPLE. Because of:
1. His elevated position, which (like a mountain peak) attracts their attention, and exposes him to their constant gaze.
2. His responsible position, which leads them to compare his actions with the principles according to which he ought to rule.
3. His influential position, which makes them watchful of his course, out of concern for their own interests.
II. ACCEPTANCE WITH THE PEOPLE IS AN OBJECT WORTHY OF BEING DILIGENTLY SOUGHT. It is not the highest object, and ought not to be sought supremely. Truth and justice are of greater worth than popularity. The praise of God must be loved more than the praise of men (John 12:43). But it should not be neglected or despised, because:
1. It conduces to his safety and happiness.
2. It renders his measures less likely to be suspected and opposed; enables him to effect his purposes for their good; increases the measure of his usefulness.
3. It aids him in his endeavours to promote the glory of the supreme Ruler.
III. THERE IS NO WAY TO SECURE IT MORE EFFECTUAL THAN THE EXHIBITION OF AN UPRIGHT AND GENEROUS SPIRIT.
1. Other ways are uncertain and variable, like the changing moods of the people.
2. This appeals to what is noblest and most permanent in them, and secures the sympathies of the most reliable men.
3. It also obtains the favour and help of God, who disposes their hearts to approve, submit, and obey.
IV. ITS ATTAINMENT IS HONOURABLE AND BENEFICIAL TO THE PEOPLE THEMSELVES.
1. It shows a readiness to be pleased, and a disposition to admire genuine excellence.
2. It confirms his devotion to their welfare, and encourages him to persevere in well doing.
3. It tends to their improvement in virtue, and thus contributes to their peace and unity, power and prosperity.
CONCLUSION. What has been said applies to other relations besides that of ruler and subject. "A good name is better than precious ointment" (Ecclesiastes 7:1) or "great riches" (Proverbs 22:1); "Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification" (Romans 15:2; 1 Corinthians 10:33; Titus 2:9); "Whatsoever things are of good report, think on these things" (Philippians 4:8). - D.
2 Samuel 3:38. - (HEBRON.)epitaph of such a man. Reflect:
1. How uncertain is the continuance of human life! This familiar but little heeded truth is set forth in an impressive manner by such an event, teaching that no station is exempt from the approach of death, no safeguards effectual against it. "Death is come up into our windows, and is entered into our palaces" (Jeremiah 9:24).
2. How unstable is the foundation of earthly greatness! It is built upon the sand, and in a moment crumbles into dust. Goodness alone (the essence of true greatness) endures and goes with the soul into "everlasting habitations."
3. How deplorable is the less of superior excellence! The world is made poorer by its removal.
4. How dreadful is the prevalence of diabolical wickedness! One assassination begets another. And at times there is abroad in society a spirit of lawlessness, recklessness, and ungodliness, which is full of peril, and calls for the earnest efforts and prayers of good men that it may be overcome.
5. How mysterious are the ways of Divne Providence, in permitting the innocent to perish, the godless to succeed, the guilty to be spared!
7. How profitable is the remembrance of a noble minded man! "Know ye not," etc.? "He being dead, yet speaketh." - D.
I. GREAT MEN SHOULD BE HIGHLY VALUED. Great generals and naval commanders. If war must be, it is of vast importance that it should be conducted by able captains. But not only these, men great in the arts of peace, - great statesmen, philosophers, historians, scientists, poets, artists, preachers, etc. Especially when distinguished ability is combined with unselfish devotion to the good of the nation or the race. For selfish ambition belittles the great, and moral corruption renders them powerful for evil instead of good. Abner's greatness was marred by his unscrupulous ambition, and Joab was worse than he. The multitude are very dependent on great leaders, whether in war or peace, and can do little without them. "Thou art worth ten thousand of us" (2 Samuel 18:3). Leading and inspiring the many, they make them partners in their own greatness. The influence of their deeds, or (in the case of intellectual leaders) their thoughts, raises others towards their own level. The character as well as the progress of a people depends a good deal on its great men.
II. GREAT MEN MUST DIE. In some conditions of society their lives are more exposed to peril than the lives of others - whether from the assassin, or from fickle monarchs or ambitious rivals, using the forms of law to put them out of their way; or the cares incident to greatness may shorten their days. "I have said, Ye are gods... but ye shall die like men" (Psalm 82:6, 7) - a truth they should bear in mind to keep them sober and humble, to stimulate their diligence, and preserve in them a sense of responsibility to God; a truth which others should remember, that they may not idolize the great, nor unduly confide in them (see Psalm 146:3, 4) or dread their anger (Isaiah 51:12), nor, to secure their favour, sin against him who lives forever; and that they may be themselves the more content to die.
III. GREAT MEN SHOULD BE HONOURED AFTER DEATH. By general mourning; by honourable burial; by commemoration of their virtues and services, in elegies (as here), or biographies, or monuments to their memory; by carrying out their unaccomplished purposes for the public good; and withal by praise to God for them and their services. Such honour is due to the men themselves, and tends to the good of society by exciting emulation, etc. In conclusion:
1. Let Britons bless God for the large number and long succession of great men who have adorned and served their country in all departments; and pray that the succession may be maintained to the latest times. Not only are such men invaluable while they live; their works and memories survive them as a perpetual treasure. The truly great do not die altogether.
"But strew his ashes to the wind
2. Let us be thankful that it is not necessary to be great in order to be either happy or useful. Goodness is the essential thing. A comfort to the many who can never be distinguished.
3. Yet real greatness is possible to all. Through faith in Christ we become children of God, "heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ," to be "glorified together" with him (Romans 8:17). In the kingdom of heaven greatness is secured by conscientious obedience to the Divine commandments (Matthew 5:19), humility (Matthew 18:4; Luke 9:48), and self abasing, self-denying service of others (Mark 10:42-45). Such greatness is substantial and immortal (1 John 2:17).
4. Let us rejoice that the great "Captain of our salvation" lives forever, in fulness of power to save and bless all who trust in him. - G.W.
2 Samuel 3:39. - (HEBRON.)2 Samuel 16:10; 2 Samuel 19:22; 1 Kings 2:5). Their spirit and conduct were different from his, obnoxious to him, and constrained him to make this confession to his confidential servants on the evening of the day of Abner's funeral. "It was one of those moments in which a king, even with the best intentions, must feel to his own heavy cost the weakness of everything human, and the limits of human supremacy" (Ewald).
I. NO MAN, HOWEVER HIGHLY EXALTED, IS EXEMPT FROM WEAKNESS. "I am this day weak [tender, infirm], and an anointed king." The most absolute monarch cannot do all he would. Truly good men, though anointed and endued with spiritual power, are by no means perfect, but are "compassed with infirmity." The weakness of a strong man is felt:
1. In contending against the evil that surrounds him and presses in upon him like "the proud waves."
2. In performing the duties that rest upon him, and attaining the ideal of character at which he aims. "I will walk within my house with a perfect heart," etc. (Psalm 101:2-8).
3. In effecting the purposes which he may have formed for the good of others.
II. THE WEAKNESS OF A STRONG MAN IS OFTEN OCCASIONED BY HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH OTHER MEN. "And these men, sons of Zeruiah, are too hard [rough, obstinate, powerful] for me." His relationships with them (formed, it may be, independently of his choice, and conducive, in some respects, to his good) not unfrequently:
3. Become an occasion of hindrance, temptation, and peril. For, unlike him in whom the prince of this world "had nothing" (John 14:30), every man possesses an inward, carnal propensity on which outward evil may take hold, and thereby cause him to stumble.
III. THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF HIS CONDITION FILLS HIM WITH DEEP DISTRESS. "I am this day weak," etc., which is a complaint of:
1. Painful restraint imposed upon him with respect to conduct he cannot approve.
2. Necessary endurance of men whom he cannot punish, and with whom he may not, out of regard to his own position and the common good, enter into open conflict.
3. Partial and not altogether blameless failure in the fulfilment of the obligations of his high calling. David has been severely condemned for not punishing the sons of Zeruiah; but in order to justify such condemnation, we should have a better acquaintance with all the circumstances of the case. He was not without sinful infirmity. Yet whose conviction of what is absolutely right exactly corresponds with his consciousness of actual performance? "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak."
IV. THE CHIEF ALLEVIATION OF HIS TROUBLE IS CONFIDENCE IN THE RIGHTEOUS RETRIBUTION OF GOD. "Jehovah reward the doer of wickedness according to his wickedness." This is expressive of:
1. Dependence on the Divine power to accomplish what he himself cannot do.
2. Faith in the Divine permission of unrequited evil for a time, for wise and beneficent ends.
3. Desire for the maintenance, vindication, and triumph of eternal righteousness in the earth (vers. 22-30). "The Lord will render to him according to his works" (2 Timothy 4:14). "Jehovah shall reward," etc. This was the text to which Lady F. Cavendish directed attention on the occasion of the lamented death of her husband, Lord Frederic Cavendish; and which was so remarkably fulfilled in the fate that afterwards overtook his assassins. "It is the hope of the oppressed and the patience of the saints." - D.
I. THE EVIL.
1. Objectively. Truth, the expressed will of God, is rightful sovereign of men, but it very partially rules. Many "sons of Zeruiah" are "too hard for" it, silence its utterances, oppose its power, prevent its sway. But it is king notwithstanding, and, by the Divine judgments it expresses, will determine men's destiny, though they may refuse to let its precepts regulate their conduct.
2. Subjectively. Conscience, enlightened by truth, is anointed by God as king. "Had it strength as it had right, had it power as it had manifest authority, it would absolutely govern the world" (Bishop Butler). But in actual government it is often "weak." The lower part of human nature is in rebellion against the higher. Appetite and passion and ill-regulated lawful affections, and all these hardened into habits, are "too hard" for it. Hence come degradation, ruin, misery, now and hereafter.
II. THE REMEDY. The redemption effected by the death of our Lord, realized in the heart by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit, is the only effectual remedy. "Our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin." "Sin shall not have dominion over you; for ye are not under law, but under grace" (Romans 6:6, 14). The revelation of God and man, of sin and holiness, in the cross of Christ; the deliverance from condemnation secured thereby; the new Divine power which is imparted to the believer; the love to his Redeemer which is planted in his heart; the filial relation into which he is brought to God; the new hopes by which he is inspired; - these rescue him from slavery to sin, and give him freedom and will and power to serve God and righteousness (see Romans 6 and Romans 7, and Romans 8:1-4). The rightful Sovereign is replaced on the throne, strong to govern, not yet with absolutely universal and perfect sway, but with the assured prospect of it. Let, then, those who groan under the consciousness of their moral weakness accept the great Deliverer, and submit themselves to his methods of imparting strength to the soul.
III. THE SEEMING RESEMBLANCE BETWEEN DAVID AND HIS DIVINE SON. It might seem as if our Lord Jesus, like David, might say, "I am... weak, though anointed King." Long has he been exalted to his throne at the right hand of God, as Lord of all; "from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool" (Hebrews 10:13). Yet how small a portion of mankind is actually under his moral and spiritual sway! and these how imperfectly! How much power have his foes, even where he does really rule! And his open foes and false friends seem to speak and act as they please with impunity. It is not, however, that he is "weak," or that any are "too hard for" him. He is long suffering, and delays to execute judgment; but let his enemies continue impenitent and incorrigible, and they will learn by experience that he is strong to punish them. "Vengeance has leaden feet, but iron hands." "The mill of God grinds late, but it grinds to powder." Meanwhile he uses his foes as slaves to aid in working out his purposes. And as to the limits of his moral and spiritual rule, we must remember that, in extending and perfecting it, he pays respect to the freedom of men. It is not a matter of mere power, but of instruction and persuasion. He counsels, warns, invites, manifests his own yearning pity and love, stirs the conscience, moves the heart; but he does not compel - cannot do so consistently with his own purpose or the nature of man and of the rule he would establish. But let us yield ourselves heartily to him, and we shall find that he is as strong as ever to save and make strong those who trust in him. - G.W.
I. THE CERTAINTY OF THE DIVINE PUNISHMENT OF EVIL DOERS. This follows from:
1. The relations of God to men. As Ruler, Lawgiver, Judge. He will certainly not fail in the exercise of the functions which belong to these relations. Even if we think of him as Father, we may be equally certain that impenitent sinners will not go unpunished. What would a father be worth who should allow a depraved son to defy himself, and seriously injure other children of the family, with impunity? If he can by any means, gentle or severe, reform him, well, - this he will prefer; but if not, he must banish and abandon him. And to say that Omnipotent love need not and cannot resort to this extremity of punishment is to go beyond our knowledge, and contrary to the plain statements of Holy Writ, where the chastisement which reforms and the punishment which crushes are clearly distinguished. To make Gehenna a purgatory is certainly to add to the teaching of our Lord respecting it.
2. His threatenings. Those of conscience and those of Holy Writ. They abound throughout the Bible, and are nowhere more frequent and awful than in the teaching of the tender and loving Christ.
3. His character. As holy and just, loving righteousness and hating iniquity; truthful in regard to his threatenings as well as his promises.
4. His omniscience. Men often succeed in hiding their evil deeds or themselves from their fellow men; but it is impossible thus to escape Divine judgments (see Job 34:21, 22).
5. His omnipotence. Criminals may in some states of society be, like Joab, too strong to be punished by those in authority; but God is mightier than the mightiest. There is, therefore, no possibility of resisting his judgments.
6. The teachings of experience. The penalties which follow violations of natural law. The results of wrong doing upon body, mind, circumstances. The penalties inflicted by society on those who practise certain forms of wickedness.
II. THE SATISFACTION WITH WHICH THIS CERTAINTY IS SOMETIMES REGARDED BY THE RIGHTEOUS. According to the Revised Version the words are a wish, a prayer; but even according to the Authorized Version they are uttered with evident satisfaction. David desired that justice should be executed on Joab; and, feeling his own inability to execute it, was relieved by the assurance he felt that it would not therefore fail of execution. Would such a feeling be wrong in a Christian? St. Paul did not think so. "Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward [or, 'will reward'] him according to his works" (2 Timothy 4:14, where there are two readings, as here two renderings). In the case of powerful villains injuring and trampling down the weak, but who cannot be reached by human justice, can any one doubt that the feeling of confidence that the justice of God can and will reach them is a proper feeling to cherish, although it should be associated with the desire that they may, if possible, be converted? In the case of impenitent sinners in general, it is the known purpose of God to punish them according to their works. Shall his children disapprove his conduct, or only silently submit; or not rather acquiesce, approve, and, at times at least, cherish complacency? Does not the prayer divinely taught to them, "Thy will be done," apply to this part of his will? They bear the image of God's righteousness as well as loving kindness. They have strong regard for his character and honour, as well as for the happiness of his creatures. They cannot but desire that all rebellion against him should be put down by the power of his love on the hearts of the rebels, if it may be; if not, by the severe measures of his justice. In the case of serious wrong done to ourselves, we are doubtless to suppress all emotions of revenge, and to pray for and be ready to forgive the wrong doer; yet the above cited expression of St. Paul shows that, in certain circumstances, we may remit the offender to Divine justice; and in another place (Romans 12:19) he gives this as a reason for not avenging ourselves: "It is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord." The love which is so characteristic of Christianity is not, then, incompatible with hatred of sin and the desire that sin should be punished. The two are identical when the punishment is desired that the sinner may be led thereby to repentance. They are not incompatible, when, the persistence and impenitence of the sinner being supposed, love for others and zeal for the law and government of God produce at least acquiescence in his judgments. It should be observed, however, that such emotions as we have been speaking of are to form but a small part of the inner life of the Christian. Indignation against evil, and desire for its punishment, need rather to be restrained and guided, than inculcated and cherished. The sentiments towards others which should ordinarily predominate are those of pure and direct benevolence. Yet let sinners lay to heart that, unless they repent and seek salvation through Christ, God will certainly render to them according to their wickedness. "Be sure your sin will find you out." "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." - G.W.