2 Samuel 3
Lange Commentary on the Holy Scriptures
III. Abner’s quarrel with Ishbosheth, defection from the House of Saul and transition to David

CHAPTER 3:7–21

7AND Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah, and Ishbosheth4 said to Abner, Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father’s concubine?5 8Then was Abner [And Abner was] very wroth for the words of Ishbosheth, and said, Am I a dog’s head which against Judah6 [a dog’s head on Judah’s side?] [ins. I] do show kindness this day [to-day] unto the house of Saul thy father, to his brethren and to his friends, and have not delivered thee into the hand of David, that 9[and] thou chargest me to-day with a fault concerning this [the] woman? [!] So do God to Abner and more also except, as the Lord [Jehovah] hath sworn to David, even so I do to him, 10To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba. 11And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him.

12And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf [or in his stead7], saying, Whose is the land?8 saying also [om. also], Make thy league [covenant] with me, and behold, my hand shall be with thee to bring about [to turn] all Israel unto 13thee. And he9 said, Well; I will make a league [covenant] with thee; but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face except10 thou first7 [om. first] bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when thou comest to see my face. 14And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, saying, Deliver [Give] me11 my wife Michal, which [whom] I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines. 15And Ishbosheth sent and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.12 16And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner [And Abner said] unto him, Go, return. And he returned.

17And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for 18David in times past13 to be king over you; Now, then, do it; for the Lord [Jehovah] hath spoken of14 David, saying, By the hand of my servant David I will15 save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines and out of the hand of all their enemies. 19And Abner also16 spake in the ears of Benjamin; and Abner went also13 to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel and that seemed good [om. that seemed good] to the whole house of Benjamin. So [And] 20Abner came to17 David to Hebron and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast. 21And Abner said unto David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel unto my lord the king, that they18 may make a league [covenant] with thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth. And David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

IV. Murder of Abner by Joab. 2 Samuel 3:22–39

22And behold the servants of David and Joab came from pursuing a troop [came from an expedition19], and brought in a great spoil with them. But [And] Abner was not with David in Hebron, for he had sent him away and he was gone in peace. 23When Joab and all the host that was with him were come, they told Joab, saying, Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he hath sent him away, and he is gone in peace. 24Then Joab came to the king and said, What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite [om. quite20] gone? 25Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner21 that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest. 26And when [om. when] Joab was come out [went out] from David he [and] sent messengers after Abner, which [who] brought him again from the well of Sirah; but David knew it not.

27And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in [to the middle of] the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib 28[in22 the abdomen] that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. And afterward when David heard it [when David afterward heard it], he said, I and my kingdom are guiltless before the Lord [Jehovah] for ever from the blood of Abner the son of Ner; 29Let it rest [be hurled] on the head of Joab and on all his father’s house, and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff [crutch23], or that falleth on [by] the sword, or that 30lacketh bread. So24 Joab and Abishai his brother slew Abner because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.

31And David said to Joab and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David himself [om. himself] followed the bier. 32And they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. 33And the king lamented over Abner and said,

Died Abner [Must Abner die] as a fool25 [or villain] dieth?

34Thy hands were not bound

Nor thy feet put into fetters.

As a man falleth before wicked men

So fellest thou.

35And all the people wept again over him. And when [om. when] all the people came to cause David to eat26 meat [bread] while it was yet day [ins. and] David sware, saying, So do God to me and more also, if I taste bread or aught else till the sun be down. 36And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them; as27 whatsoever 37the king did pleased all the people. For [And] all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner. 38And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel? 39And I am this day weak, though anointed king, and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me; the Lord [Jehovah] shall [om. shall] reward the doer of evil [wickedness] according to his wickedness.


III. 2 Samuel 3:7–21. Abner quarrels with Ishbosheth, and goes over to David

2 Samuel 3:7, 8. The falling out. Its occasion was Abner’s taking Saul’s concubine, Rizpah,28 the daughter of Aiah. The Harem was part of the property of the reigning house, and therefore fell to the successor, comp. 12:8. Taking possession of it was a political act, and signified actual entrance on royal rights, comp. 16:21, and of this act Abner was guilty. Supply from the connection Ishbosheth (comp. my father and 2 Samuel 3:8) as subject of the verb said. His question: “Why,” etc., might be taken as the expression of suspicion that Abner was thus seeking the throne, for in the ancient Orient claim to the harem was claim to the throne, so especially with the Persian, comp. Herod. 3, 68; Justin. 10, 2. But, if Ishbosheth really had such a suspicion, Abner’s conduct gives no ground for such a view; his act seems rather the outflow of passionate self-will and presumptuous contempt towards Ishbosheth. If he had really wished to seize the throne of Israel for himself, his conduct towards David (2 Samuel 3:9 sq.) would be inexplicable. His answer in 2 Samuel 3:8 shows how loose his relation to Ishbosheth and concern for his cause already was. “Dog’s head,” as in our language also, is the expression for something perfectly despicable. The. words: “which is to Judah,” omitted by Sept., are not to be connected with the preceding (Clericus: thinkest thou that I am worth no more to the Tribe of Judah than a dog’s head? Syr.: Am I the head of the dogs of Judah? Ewald: Am I then a Judahite dog’s head?—such an adjectival periphrasis would be very strange)—nor in sense to be connected with the following (Vulg.: who against Judah to-day show kindness; De Wette: who in respect to Judah now show kindness), but to be rendered simply as they stand: “who is for Judah, pertains to, holds with Judah” (Buns.). Abner is angered by the insult he thinks shown him by Ishbosheth’s reproachful question. The sense of his reply is: that Ishbosheth treats him as a despicable man, who takes no interest in him, as one who belongs to his opponents, the party of the Tribe of Judah, whereas he 1) is showing only kindness to the whole house of Saul, and 2) especially has not delivered him, Ishbosheth, into the hand of David. By adducing these his services to the royal house Abner repels the reproach based on his appropriation of the concubine.29 His words express the extremest contempt towards his king, and the strongest consciousness of services, to which the house of Saul and Ishbosheth owed everything. The “to-day” is significant;, even “now” he occupies this position towards Saul’s house; comp. the “made himself strong, was a strong helper” in 2 Samuel 3:6. The contrast to this comes out sharply in what follows. There follows—

2 Samuel 3:9–11, the sudden complete breach with the house of Saul and the solemn oath in respect to the house of David. This is the culmination of what is said in 2 Samuel 3:1 of David’s advance in strength over against the house of Saul. (On the simple כִּי in oaths see on 2:27; 1 Sam. 3:17.) The history does not show a formal divine oath, such as Abner here refers to. But the divine choice of David to be king, his anointment performed by Samuel at the divine command (1 Sam. 15:28, 29; 16:1–12), and the therewith conjoined divine declaration which Samuel declares to be inviolable (1 Sam. 15:29) because based on God’s truthfulness (comp. Num. 23:19)—all this had in fact the significance and weight of a divine oath. Abner’s words presuppose that acquaintance with the promises given to David was, through the prophetic circles, widely extended. Abigail is an example of such acquaintance among the people (1 Sam. 25:28–31).—So will I do to him; Abner does not consider himself (as Cler. thinks) as the Lord’s instrument for fulfilling his declaration to David, which he in fact was not. He merely says, that he will now make David king, as had been promised him by divine oath. The remark of Cler. that “military men do not sufficiently weigh what they say” does not apply here; for in Abner’s words there is the distinct consciousness that over against the divine promise concerning David the cause of Saul and Ishbosheth is a lost one, but at the same time also the mortified ambition that thinks its services not sufficiently recognized, and the overweening pride of a vigorous and energetic man who thinks that he can of himself make history. In spite of his reference to a divine declaration, his conduct is anything but theocratic, is rather throughout autocratic, comp. 2:8, 9: “he took Ishbosheth, and made him king.” How far his previous energetic, autocratic activity for Saul’s house was connected with ambitious, high-reaching plans for himself, is uncertain. In any case, however, so much is true: 1) that he knew David’s divine call to be Saul’s successor, and therefore stood in conscious opposition to the known will of God, and thus in conflict with himself, and 2) that it was only after his defeat in the battle with Joab (which he himself began, 2:12 sq.) and his gradually confirmed recognition of the fact that Ishbosheth was wholly unfit for the kingly rule and its maintenance in the house of Saul, and in truth the personal insult now offered him by Ishbosheth—that he suddenly decided to break with the house of Saul and go over to David. How far ambition herein influenced him along with political insight, we cannot tell; but it is not probable that he showed so much energy in gaining over all Israel to David, as is afterwards related, without hope of a high and influential position with David—With the words: “to translate the kingdom from Saul,” comp. Samuel’s word, 1 Sam. 15:28.—From Dan to Beersheba, as in Judg. 20:1; 1 Sam. 3:20.—[Bib. Com. thinks it probable that Abner had before this begun to incline towards David, so that Ishbosheth had some ground for the taunt: “which belongeth to Judah,” and this made it all the more slinging to Abner.—TR.]

2 Samuel 3:11. And he (Ishbosheth) could not answer, because he feared him. This characterizes Ishbosheth sufficiently for the explanation of the whole situation. Having with an effort plucked up courage to ask that reproachful question, he here shows the greatest feebleness, cowardice and timidity towards Abner. This also contributes to the explanation of what is said in 2 Samuel 3:1 concerning the house of Saul.

2 Samuel 3:12–21 Abner’s covenant with David.

2 Samuel 3:12. The threat against Ishbosheth is straightway carried out by sending an embassy to David. תחתו is not “in his place” (Vulg. Proverbs se, Cler., De Wette, Keil [Eng. A. V.: “on his behalf”]), which would be superfluous and unmeaning (Buns.), but, in keeping with Abner’s passionate excitement in 2 Samuel 3:9, “on the spot, immediately,” παραχρῆμα (Sept., Chald.), as in 2:23, where Keil also adopts this meaning, though he here declares that there is no ground for it.—[On this whole passage see “Text, and Gram.”—TR.]—The first “saying” (לֵאמֹר) can be taken here only in the usual sense as introduction of direct discourse, not as = “to say” in reference to the messengers. And the second “saying” is also so to be taken, and not as = “that is to say” (Buns., Then.), since it introduces another direct discourse of Abner: “Make a covenant,” which cannot except by forcing be regarded as an explanation of the question: “to whom belongs the land?” rather the demand contained in it, as a consequence of the silent answer to this question, is, on account of its importance as the chief thing in the commission of the ambassadors, naturally appended by means of a repeated “saying.” The saying: To whom belongs (or whose is) the land? does not relate to David, as if = “to whom does it belong but to thee?” This interpretation, that the land properly belonged to David by virtue of his anointment (Vat., S. Schmid, Ew. [Patrick, Bib. Com.]), would agree indeed with Abner’s acknowledgment in 2 Samuel 3:9, but not with the following words: Make a covenant with me to turn all Israel to thee, which rather indicate that Abner means to say: “the land belongs to me” (Sanct., Thenius [Scott, Philipps]).This is quite in keeping with his proud, haughty nature, as hitherto manifested in his words and conduct, and also with the facts of the case, since in fact the whole land except Judah was still subject to Saul’s house, that is, to him (Abner) as Dictator. Because he still as influential ruler controlled the greatest part of the land, he could 1) demand of David, as one standing on the same plane with him, to make a covenant with him, and 2) give him the promise (the product not only of strong self-consciousness, but also of extensive power): “my hand is with thee to turn all Israel to thee” Obviously there is here not merely implicitly involved as answer to the above question, the declaration: “the land is his whom I, the leader of the army, shall favor” (Cler.), but also the expectation that, after the fulfillment of this promise, David would assign him the highest position in the army and in the nation next to himself. Abner’s proud and haughty words hardly permit us to doubt that he was filled with such thoughts.

2 Samuel 3:13. David replies with a condition, namely, the restoration of his wife Michal30Thou shalt not see my face before (= except) thou bring Michal, etc.—Certainly we should have the opposite of David’s meaning (Then.) If we rendered: “Thou shalt not see my face except before thou bring Michal.” But, if we retain the text (לִפְנֵי), this explanation is unnecessary, rather it quite answers to the original signification of the word to render literally: “except in the face of thy bringing Michal …. in thy coming to see my face,” that is, thou shalt not see my face except by at the same time bringing me Michal when thou comest to see my face; thy coming to me to see my face shall not occur except in the presence of this fact, namely, that thou (= unless, before thou) bring Michal. It is therefore unnecessary either to omit the Prep. (לִפְנֵי) after the Sept., and change the following Inf. into a Perf., = “unless thou bring” (Then.), or to omit the “but”(כִּי אִם) = “thou shalt not see my face before thy bringing (= before thou bring)” (Böttcher).

2 Samuel 3:14 presupposes the acceptance of this condition by Abner. In realization of what Abner had threatened him with, Ishbosheth finds himself compelled to fulfil David’s condition himself, and that immediately by Abner’s own hand, to whom was assigned the duty of bringing, and who really did bring Michal to David (2 Samuel 3:15, 16). To this end David sends a formal embassy to Ishbosheth, in order legally to demand and receive Michal back, she having been illegally taken by Saul and given to another man (1 Sam. 25:44). Seb. Schmid: “that it might be manifest that he had acted legally towards Phaltiel before his king, and taken her back, not carried her off by force from a husband.” Whom I espoused to me, that is, purchased as bride, married—For a hundred foreskins, comp. 1 Sam. 18:27, where two hundred is the number given. David thus justifies his claim that Michal lawfully belongs to him, since he had lawfully won her as his wife. Besides this right to Michal, which he was now for the first time in position successfully to assert, he was led to a reunion with her partly by love (“she loved him,” 1 Sam. 18:27; 19:11 sq.), partly by a political motive; as king he could not in the presence of the people leave Michal in a relation into which she had been forced against her will,31 and he wished the people to see from his relation to Saul as son-in-law that he was free from hatred towards the latter.

2 Samuel 3:15. And Ishbosheth sent, that is, to Gallim, where Phaltiel, the present husband of Michal, dwelt, 1 Sam. 25:44, and sent Abner himself (2 Samuel 3:16). Her husband cannot part with her without sorrow. [The Jewish tradition represents Phaltiel as the guardian merely, not the husband of Michal—a view that the text does not permit.—TR.]

2 Samuel 3:16. A touching scene, briefly but vividly sketched. The faithful husband follows his wife weeping to Bahurim, where Abner, who therefore had himself brought Michal from Gallim, ordered him to return. Bahurim, the home of Shimei (19:17; 1 Kings 2:8), a village near Jerusalem (Jos., Ant. 7, 9–7) north-east, on the road between the Mount of Olives and the Jordan (Gilgal), not far from or in the plain of the Jordan (comp. 16:1, 5; 17:18).

2 Samuel 3:17–19. Abner’s preparatory negotiations with the Elders of Israel and especially of Benjamin, and his report thereon to David.

2 Samuel 3:17. Before Abner carried out David’s condition (the restoration of Michal), he had a conversation (דְּבַר־א׳ הָיָה) with the Elders of Israel, that is, the Northern Tribes with the exception of Benjamin—Both yesterday and the day before (= in times past) ye desired [= sought] David to be your king—a striking testimony to the fact that outside of Judah also there had been a favorable sentiment towards David, against which Abner had energetically established and hitherto maintained Ishbosheth’s authority. The existence of this favorable feeling towards David in the Northern Tribes is confirmed by 1 Chron. 12.

2 Samuel 3:18. Now, then, do it, that is, fulfil your desire, recognize him as your king. As reason for this demand Abner refers to a “word of Jehovah,” which indeed in the form here given: I will save my people Israel, is never expressly mentioned as spoken “to David” (so the Vulg.); but it is to be regarded as the word applied in the prophetic tradition (which Abner, 2 Samuel 3:9, is well acquainted with) to David, with which Saul (1 Sam. 9:16) received this divine commission, which in its completeness could only now be fulfilled by David.32

2 Samuel 3:19. The special elaborate and pressing negotiations with Benjamin were necessary not only because this tribe had enjoyed many advantages from the royal house of Saul, 1 Sam. 22:7 (Then.), but in general because, though numerically the smallest tribe, it had hitherto had the honor of furnishing the reigning family; it was necessary to overcome the tribal ambition and the tribe-interest, to which Saul appealed, 1 Sam. 22. The “also … also” (גַּס־גַּם), which denotes mutualness (Ew., § 352 a), points out the close connection and relation between the negotiations carried on with Benjamin as the tribe most important for David, and the earnest conversation that Abner therefore had with David (“in the ears of David”) at Hebron. He “went,” namely, after these double negotiations, in order to bring Michal to David.—All that seemed good, that is, not their demands and conditions (De Wette, Then., Buns.), which does not accord with the context or lie in the words, but (since the negotiations referred to the recognition of David’s divine right to the kingdom over all Israel, 2 Samuel 3:10) the willingness to recognize him as king, the recognition of his royal authority.—[Patrick observes that David so effectually attached the Benjaminites to him that, though they had been Saul’s closest adherents, they became David’s warm friends, and never afterwards left him. However, comp. 2 Sam. 20.—TR.]

2 Samuel 3:20. The twenty men, who accompanied Abner to David and for whom he prepared a feast, appeared “as representatives of all Israel, in order by their presence to confirm Abner’s overtures” (Keil).—[Patrick: The feast was not merely an entertainment, but of the nature of a league. Bib.-Com.: “It is remarkable that not a word should be said about the meeting of David and Michal.”—TR.]

2 Samuel 3:21. The same quickness with which Abner carried out his resolution to go over to David (2 Samuel 3:12) fulfilled the required condition (2 Samuel 3:16), pressed the preliminary negotiations (2 Samuel 3:17 sq.) in order to inform David about them, he now shows in the further proceedings, that he may institute as soon as possible the solemn installation of David as king of Israel under formal conclusion of a covenant between king and people. The gradation in his following words: I will arise and will go and will assemble all Israel to my lord, is characteristic of the rapidity, excitedness and energy that we everywhere remark in Abner. He now for the first time calls David “his lord.” He will “assemble the whole nation (i. e. in its elders and other representatives) to the solemn covenanting.” This last was not to consist in the establishment of a constitution after the nature of a “constitutional monarchy” (Then.), which is wholly foreign to the theocratic kingdom, but the words: that they may make a covenant with thee mean: they are to vow to obey thee as the king given them by the Lord, thou promising to govern them as the theocratic king, through whom as His instrument the Lord Himself will rule over His people.—And that thou mayest be king over all that thy heart desireth, that is, not: “in a way or under conditions that thou canst accept” (Then.), but he is to rule as he desires; it does not, however, mean: “as thy soul desires” (Clericus), or “according to thy pleasure” (Dathe), because the conception of the theocratic rule excluded all arbitrariness from it, but “over all, according to which is the desire of thy soul,” that is, according to the Lord’s will and appointment, over the whole people and land. David had indicated the desire of his heart in his message to the Jabeshites. Abner was dismissed by David as his king who was in accord with his purpose. That he was now looked on by David and his adherents as thoroughly a friend, and received no harm from any body, is indicated by the concluding words: And he went in peace.

IV. 2 Samuel 3:22–39. Murder of Abner by Joab and his solemn interment by David.

2 Samuel 3:22. Instead of the Sing, “came,” referring to Joab as leader of the troop, Sept., Syr., Ar. render: “they came.” “From the troop” came Joab with the servants of David, who had undertaken an expedition for booty Whither, is not said, but probably outside the Israelitish territory near the tribe of Judah. In the incomplete organization of David’s court, such expeditions were necessary for the support of the large army. “Abner was no longer with David;” probably he had purposely chosen the time when Joab, with the army, was absent, to carry out his plan. “He had gone in peace” is repeated from 2 Samuel 3:21 in contrast with the hostility afterwards shown him by Joab, when (2 Samuel 3:23) on his return he learns that Abner had meantime been with David and had been dismissed in peace. [For the correction of the rendering of this verse in Eng. A. V. see “Text, and Gramm.”—TR.]

2 Samuel 3:24. Joab’s reproach of David that he had sent Abner away—so that “he was now quite gone” (וֵיֵּלֶךְ הָלוֹךְ Ew. § 280 b)—supposes that Abner had only come with evil and hostile purpose. [Joab, of course, was afraid that he would be superseded by Abner, if the latter entered David’s service. He was younger and less renowned than Abner.—TR.]

2 Samuel 3:25. Joab gives a reason for his charge of unwisdom against David in sending Abner away in peace: Thou knowest (or, as a question, knowest thou?) Abner, that ….. In a quick, passionate speech, for the truth of which he appeals at the outset to David’s knowledge of Abner’s character (against Thenius’ remark: “had David known what Joab here says, he would have acted differently”), he makes a threefold charge against Abner, with the intent of thereby branding him as spy and traitor. He declares that Abner came 1) to trick him out of his most secret thoughts. The verb (פָּתָה) means “to be open” (Ps. 20:19), Piel “to make open, persuade, get one’s secrets from him” (Judg. 14:15; 16:5); so here; 2) to learn David’s outgoing and incoming, that is, all his present undertakings, his whole action and course of life (comp. Deut. 28:6; Ps. 121:8); 3) all that he will do, all his plans for the future.

2 Samuel 3:26. Without David’s knowledge (whether expressly in David’s name, falsely used by him, is not stated) he sends messengers and brings Abner back, making him believe, no doubt, that David had something further to say to him. The pit (or cistern) of Sirah, to which Abner had gotten when he was turned back, according to Jos. Ant. 7, 1, 5, distant twenty stadia [= nearly two and a half English miles] from Hebron, is now unknown; the name is perhaps to be derived from a verb (סוּר) meaning “to turn in” (Thenius), and denotes an inn or caravanserai. [According to others, so-called as surrounded with thorns, Sirim, סִירִים (Philippson).—TR.]

2 Samuel 3:27. [Bib. Comm.: Abner’s conduct bespeaks his entire reliance on David’s good faith.—Tr.] After Abner’s return to Hebron, Joab met him in the gate of the city, and turned him “aside to the middle of the gate, in order to speak with him quietly.” Clericus: “made him turn aside, took him apart” (the Hiphil הִטָּה is transitive as in Job 24:4; Numb. 22:23). Joab could not speak with him in the way where people were going out and coming in. He had therefore to take him aside to the places in the gate-space, where, according to the oriental custom, men used to meet for private or public conversations and consultations. To the middle of the gate.—Joab drew Abner to the middle of the inner gate-space (which was no doubt roofed) between the places of exit and entrance, because it was not so light there, and one could better escape the notice of the passers-by, who, however, were probably not very numerous. Bunsen renders well: “made him turn aside (from the way) near the middle of the gate.” For Joab wished, as he made Abner believe, to talk with him “in quiet, undisturbed, in private” (בַּשֶׁלִי). There he stabbed him in the abdomen (הַחֹמֶשׁ, comp. 2:23) [not “under the fifth rib,” as in Eng. A.V.—TR.]. For the blood of Asahel his brother see 2:23; that is, to avenge or punish the death of his brother. According to this it was an act of revenge for bloodshed. But Abner had not wilfully slain Asahel, but in self-defence, when the latter pressed on him, 2:22 sq. But blood-vengeance was appointed only for intentional killing, and he was protected by law from it, who had killed a man unintentionally (Deut. 4:41 sq.; Josh. 20:1–9). Joab’s deed was a murder, like that which he afterwards committed on Amasa, 20:11. He thereby cast false suspicion on David (comp. 2 Samuel 3:37), whose friendly relation to Abner he yet must have known, since David no doubt informed him in their conversation (2 Samuel 3:24, 25) of Abner’s true position. The avenging of blood was a mere pretext; the real ground of Joab’s deed was envy and ambition, as Josephus already rightly holds. He feared that Abner would take a higher position in the new kingdom than himself—especially would cut him out of the rank of general-in chief of the whole army. Grotius: “an equal and rival in military glory galled him.”

2 Samuel 3:28 sq. What David said of this crime. And when David after-wards heard of it.—The word “afterwards” (as the “David knew it not” in 2 Samuel 3:26) certifies that David had no share in Joab’s deed. David 1) declares his innocence of this murder. He distinguishes between himself personally and “his kingdom,” that is, his royal house, his “hereditary successors on the throne” (Thenius), who no more than himself could be visited with divine punishment therefor. Comp. 1 Ki. 2:31–33. On the other hand, he affirms 2) that the righteous punishment of God in requital of this crime must fall both on the person and on the house (the posterity) of Joab. Let the blood of Abner turn, roll, plunge on the head.—This strong expression, instead of the ordinary “let it come,” answers to the enormity of the crime and the energy of David’s righteous anger. “And let there not fail,” literally “not be cut off, separated, exterminated” (יִכָּרֵת), so that it no longer exist, comp. Josh. 9:23. One that hath an issue (זָב), one that pines away miserably with seminal or mucous flow,—comp. Leviticus 15:2 sq., and a leper, see Leviticus 13:1–46, and one that holds the distaff.—The word (פֶּלֶךְ) means in Heb., Talm., Arab, only “distaff,” never “staff” (Böttcher), comp. Prov. 31:19. Usually indeed the phrase is rendered after the Sept. (κρατῶν σκυτάλην) “one that holds a staff;” that is, a cripple, lame, or blind (the last by Aquila). But against this it is to be said with Böttcher that, apart from the fact that the word cannot be shown to mean “staff,” the phrase “one that holds a staff” does not necessarily denote a cripple, since the staff was held by “rulers and men of eminence (Judg. 5:14; Gen. 38:18; Numb. 21:18), old men (Zech. 8:4), travellers (Luke 6:3), shepherds (1 Sam. 17:40; Mic. 7:14), and where a cripple is described with a staff, the expression is quite different (Ex. 21:19).” It is therefore better (with Böttcher) to take this as a contrast to the next described unfortunate strong warrior who “falls by the sword” = the weakly “spindle-holder, unfit for war.” “The Greeks also had their Hercules with the distaff” as a type of unmanly feebleness, and for a warrior like Joab there could be no worse wish than that there might be a distaff-holder among his descendants” (Böttcher). So also Vulg., Schulz, Maurer (after Prov. 31:19 ). [In spite of this forcible and striking argument of Böttcher (which is also adopted by Thenius) it seems better to take the signification “crutch,” chiefly because the other terms of imprecation in this verse are all literal, and the term “distaff-holder” would be figurative. The rendering “crutch” or “staff” is adopted by Gesenius, Ewald, Philippson, Bible Commentary, and others, and may be given without violence to the Hebrew word, though in the one other passage in the Old Testament in which it occurs it means “distaff”—TR.] And that lacks bread.—The indication of bitter poverty. These exclamations of David express no feeling of revenge (as indeed he undertakes no revenge or punishment against Joab and his house), but commit to the holy and righteous God the inevitable punishment of such a violation of the divine command. They are not “genuinely Jewish” (Thenius), but genuinely theocratic, as the expression of the clear, energetic consciousness of God’s punitive justice which maintains the laws of the moral government of the world and the foundations of the kingdom of God, and which here he wishes may exhibit itself on Joab’s house in a fourfold manner: in miserable, levitically unclean sicknesses, in despicable weakness and crippling, in violent death, and in bitter poverty. As to Joab’s violent end, comp. 1 Ki. 2:28–34, especially 2 Samuel 3:31–33, and as respects the curse on his house, see Ex. 20:5. [The ancient Jewish writers regarded this imprecation of David’s as sinful. The text passes no opinion on it, but from the religious-theocratic point of view of the time, it would seem even necessary that the wrath of God should be specially and sharply invoked on so high-handed a crime, especially as David was not able to call the criminal to legal account.—TR.] 2 Samuel 3:30. Supplementary remark of the narrator, who 1) confirms the fact that the slaying of Asahel by Abner was the ground (pretext) for the murder of the latter just related, and 2) adds the important statement that Joab’s act was not merely personal, but also a family-act: “Joab and Abishai slew Abner.” Abishai’s part in the affair is not related. Literally: “threw themselves on him,” the verb being used with Dat. instead of Accus., Isaiah 22:13 (Böttcher, Then.).

2 Samuel 3:31–39. David’s mourning for Abner. 2 Samuel 3:31. David said to Joab (as him who by his murderous act was chiefly and terribly interested) and to all the people that were “with him” (those about him), not merely to the “courtiers” (Thenius): Rend your garments, etc.—He ordered a public mourning with all the usual ceremonies (rending garments, putting on sackcloth, that is, rough mourning garments of haircloth, and lamentations for the dead). We must distinguish two principal acts: 1) The mourning not over, for, in honor of (Ew. § 217 l) Abner, but “before” him (לִפְנֵיּ), in the presence of his corpse; 2) the burial, 2 Samuel 3:31 b sq.: And the king David followed the bier.33 The word “king” is put emphatically first to indicate the official character that he as king gave to these obsequies, in order to show his personal deep sorrow for the death of Abner which concerned the whole people, and to stifle at the outset any suspicion that he had a share in it. His “tears at the grave” showed the genuineness of his grief to the people who shared in his trouble and wept with him. His elegy (2 Samuel 3:33, 34) is the expression of the deepest sorrow over Abner’s innocent and shameful death. In reference to his guiltlessness he exclaims: Must Abner die as a worthless fellow dies?—as a nabal (נָבָּל), a fool; where this term is used of immorality and crime, these, like denial of God and godlessness (Ps. 14:1), are regarded under the point of view of foolishness; nabal always denotes hollowness, emptiness, insipidity (see Moll [in Lange’s Bible-Work] on Psalm 14:1), and signifies therefore somewhat more precisely “good-for-naught.” [The sentence may be paraphrased: is this the fate that the noble Abner was to meet, to die like a worthless fool? alas that he found so inglorious a death.—TR.] But he was murdered in shameful wise also: Thy hands were not bound and thy feet not put into fetters—with free hands, with which he might have defended himself; with free feet, with which he might have escaped from overpowering force; without suspecting evil, he was attacked and murdered as a defenceless man, who yet might have defended himself. (De Wette (against the לֹא) wrongly renders: Thy hands were never bound, thy feet never put into fetters.) Only dishonorable, wicked men could so act. This lament of David increased the grief of the people, so that “they wept still more over Abner.”

2 Samuel 3:35. David’s grief is strongest and most enduring—he refrains entirely from food. Fasting often occurs as a sign of sorrow—see 1:12. All the people (that is, as many as were present) came to cause David to eat bread—that is, not to give him to eat (De Wette), as 2 Samuel 13:5 (an impossible conception in respect to “all the people”), but to demand of him to take food. Josephus: “his friends tried to force him to take nourishment.” It was the custom for mourners to fast immediately after the death of their friends, whereupon their relatives and friends exerted themselves to comfort them, and persuaded them to strengthen themselves with food and drink, comp. 12:16, 17, 20; Jer. 16. Perhaps the people here acted in accordance with this custom; but their demand may also be referred to the mourning meal that followed the burial. But David refuses with an oath;34 up to evening he will eat nothing. The expression of grief here reaches its culmination.

2 Samuel 3:36. The people took notice of it—namely, of his deep sorrow, and estimated this expression of his mourning as corresponding to the intensity of his grief. It pleased them, as35 all that the king did pleased all the people.—Thus he was not only freed from suspicion of share in the murder of Abner (2 Samuel 3:37). but won the love and confidence of the people.

2 Samuel 3:38. An echo of the elegy: Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?Not: “great prince” (Thenius, after Sept., omitting the copula), since the distinction between the prince=“army-leader” and the great man is perfectly appropriate. Abner was a “prince” by his distinguished military ability, which (as this exclamation intimates) David might have employed for all Israel; he was a “great man” by reason of his lofty qualities of character and virtues, his power of action, his courage, the honorable self-conquest he exhibited in turning from his previous false course of opposition to David, the obedience that he yielded to the will of God, and the zealous desire he showed to serve by deeds the true king of Israel. On account of his natural noble endowments and these moral36 qualities, Abner rightly seems to David to be a great man in Israel, not merely, therefore, in the incorrect sense in which the term has been applied to a Napoleon.

2 Samuel 3:39. The usual explanation: “but I am still weak….. and these men are too strong for me;” that is, as a weak young king I feel unable to bring a man like Joab to justice; I must therefore confine myself to an imprecation, and leave the punishment to God (Jos., Theod., Brent., Tremell., S. Schmid, Clericus, De Wette, Keil [Patrick]), is wholly untenable; for David could not and durst not so express himself. It would have been very unwise to acknowledge his fear and weakness in respect to Joab and Abishai; nor would it have been true; for he who had conquered Abner, by whose side stood 600 heroes, in whose grief over Abner’s murder all the people shared, no doubt had power to punish this crime; such a self-exculpation based on confession of weakness does not at all agree with the courage and fearlessness that form a fundamental trait of David’s character.—Against Ewald’s explanation: “I indeed now live in palaces and am crowned king, and yet the sons of Zeruiah are out of my reach,” it is to be remarked with Thenius that the word רַךְ [Eng. A. V.: “weak, tender”]) for whose meaning “well living” he cites Isa. 47:1; Deut. 28:54–56, is used in those passages in a bad sense=delicatus [luxurious, effeminate], and that the other adj. (קָשִׁים) cannot mean “out of reach;” and there is the further objection to this rendering that David had as yet no very splendid position, and his dwelling proudly in royal palaces is out of the question. Against Bunsen’s rendering: “hard, out of my reach” (Ex. 48:25), Thenius rightly remarks that hard and out of reach are two different conceptions, and that the former can be used only of things, not of persons. Böttcher translates: “And I am to-day easy, and am crowned king, but these men—are too rough for me,” and finds in the “easy” (רַךְ) a double contrast, on the one hand between David’s present comfortable circumstances and Abner’s sad death, and on the other hand between the easy disposition (natural in easy circumstances) inclined to pardon (as was lawful and right for the king), and the rough deed of the sons of Zeruiah. But 1) “we cannot suppose such a double meaning in the declaration” (Thenius), and 2) the history is in conflict with this supposition of royal well-living on the part of David, who with his men must have depended chiefly for their living on the booty taken in their incursions. Thenius alters the text37 after the Sept. and translates: “know ye not that… and that I am to-day weak and am raised to the position of the king. Those men… are harder than I. Jehovah reward,” etc. But the text of the Sept in the first third of the verse is too confused38 to allow an emendation of the Hebrew to be based on it. Nor could David yet have said: “I am raised to the position of the king.” Holding to the text, we might rather adopt Thenius’ explanation, according to which David, over against Abner’s greatness and importance for all Israel (which he had just affirmed), sets his own present situation, in which this distinguished man would have been of the greatest value to him, so that the sense would be: “How well in my situation could I have used such a man as Abner, I who have just been set on the throne! What these men have done I could not have done! (comp. 16:10). But God will judge!” Yet in this explanation also a confession of weakness would be the chief point, which in David’s present situation is altogether improbable. David was actually not “set on the throne” in respect to all Israel; that does not take place till 2 Samuel 3:1. The little word “just” is put in. Before the whole people David has avowed the deepest, sincerest grief of heart for Abner by declaring that he would continue his fasting till the sun went down. Then follows in 2 Samuel 3:36, 37 the parenthetical double statement of the impression that his conduct made on the people: they approved his feeling, and were firmly convinced that he had no part in the murder. It is then further related in 2 Samuel 3:38 (which connects itself with 2 Samuel 3:35) how David expressed to the narrower circle of “his servants” (that is, his immediate royal retinue) his grief at the loss that he and Israel had suffered by Abner’s death. In 2 Samuel 3:39 follows immediately the avowal of his disposition of mind, that he as king showed himself soft and weak, while those men showed themselves so hard. The contrast of “soft” and “hard” (here evidently intended) is thus fully preserved in respect not to the political situation, but to mental constitution. The meaning of David’s words would thus be: Wonder not that I so give myself up to grief. You know what a great man we and all Israel have lost. I am then soft and weak, I, an anointed king, while these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are in disposition harder than I. They (at least Joab) were obliged indeed to take part in the ceremony of mourning (2 Samuel 3:31); their hard, inflexible mind, whence proceeded the evil deed, showed itself in their mien and deportment at the ceremony. This gave David occasion to contrast his weakness, his absorption in grief with their hardness, a contrast that is sharpened by his comparing them with himself as king. The concluding words: The Lord will reward.… are the natural expression of the feelings and thoughts that filled David’s soul when he looked at their hardness and inflexible defiance (comp. 2 Samuel 3:29).


1. “The house of Saul grew weaker and weaker” 2 Samuel 3:1. This is the theme of the following narrative of Ishbosheth’s kingdom under Abner’s lead and guidance. In the first place, the heir to Saul’s throne appears as a very weak man, unfit to rule, without character or will, who is merely an object of Abner’s mighty, unlimited activity, and never (except for a moment in the affair of the concubine) attempts to take the position of subject [that is, independent agent] in respect to Abner. While David undertakes nothing of his own will and strength in order to overthrow the dynasty of Saul and gain the promised kingdom over all Israel, patiently waiting for the fulfilment of the promise given him, this fulfilment is already introduced by the fall of Saul’s house through its own weakness, and by its loss of the royal throne through the incapacity of its representative for the royal office, with the co-operation at last of Abner, who was still its only support. Ishbosheth appears as a will-less, weak mock-king in degrading dependence on the mighty, vigorous, heroic nature of Abner. When the latter, in reply to the charge made against him of high-handed and reckless proceeding against the royal house, breaks forth into anger, discarding all reverence for his royal master and openly announcing his defection to David, Ishbosheth has nothing to answer, because he fears Abner. Indeed in his utter helplessness Ishbosheth seems to have entertained the thought of sharing the royal dignity with David, being perhaps ready to cede to him the greater part of the power. At least he became Abner’s passive tool so far as to lend his hand to the fulfilment of the condition on which David was willing to yield to his proposals, namely, the restoration of Michal. “The Scripture presents in him a living example of how the sacredly held right of legitimate inheritance has no root when it is not ennobled by a vigorous personality. When the divine calling is lacking, no legitimate pretensions help” (P. Cassel, Herz. s. v.).

2. “David grew stronger and stronger.” This second statement also in 3:1 is in respect to David the title of this section. While David bears himself patiently and humbly in respect to his royal interests, the spirit of the people, under the misrule of Ishbosheth, turns to him more and more in the desire that he may be king over the remaining tribes also (2 Samuel 3:17). Even the bearer and support of Saul’s kingdom, the mighty Abner, inclines secretly to him on the ground of his ever clearer consciousness and conviction that it is Jehovah’s will that the kingdom of Israel should depart from the house of Saul and pass over to David; till his rupture with Ishbosheth leads to his open transition to David’s side. Abner had indeed, against his better convictions, maintained his partisan position against David and continued his hostile efforts against him, and it was only after the overthrow of his hitherto unlimited power and the violence done to his self-esteem and ambition, that he came to the conclusion to abandon his position as David’s opponent; and certainly ambitious plans and views for his position in the new kingdom were not wanting in his transition to David and his energetic efforts for David. But all this could give David no ground to reject Abner’s offer; rather he was under obligation to employ this unsought change in Abner’s mind and position (which entered into his life as a factor permitted by the Lord) for the end (fixed not by himself, but by the Lord) of his kingdom over all Israel, the kingdom of Saul falling to pieces of itself, when the Dictator, who had furnished its outward support, left it. Abner’s defection from Ishbosheth and effort to gain from the whole people the recognition of David’s authority was an important preliminary step thereto. But further, by a wonderful providence of God, Abner’s shameful murder by the envious, ambitious Joab was to lead to this result, namely, that, after the Elders of the people had already shown themselves willing to recognize his authority over all Israel, the whole people gave him their love and confidence; “all that he did pleased them” (2 Samuel 3:36).

3. The realization of the plans and aims of the wisdom of God in the development of David up to his ascension of the royal throne in Israel is secured by the co-operation of human efforts and acts (like Abner’s and Joab’s), which have their ground not in zeal for the cause of the kingdom of God, but in selfish ends and motives of the self-seeking, sinful heart. Human sin must subserve the purposes of God’s government and kingdom.—The absolute freedom of control in the things of His kingdom takes the activity of human freedom into its dispensations, and weaves them into the fast closed web of divine arrangements and acts, in which they fulfil the plans of divine wisdom.—J. Hetz (Geschicht. Davids I. 309) remarks on 2 Samuel 3:18: “Here also it is to be noted how, merely by preparing circumstances, the free actions of men have been forced to accord with divine declarations, of which fact this theocracy gives so many examples.”

4. David’s words concerning Joab and his house are no more the expression of revenge than the orders that he gives to Solomon in his last words (1 Kings 2:5 sq.) respecting the punishment of Joab for this bloody crime (against Dunker, Gesch. des Alterth. I. 386); but they express his moral horror at this evil deed, and at the same time the everlasting law of God’s requiting justice, which reaches not merely the person, but also the posterity (Ex. 20:5) of the offender. David (though, as theocratic king, he had the right to do it) does not himself execute the deserved act of divine righteousness on Joab, not, as the common view is, because he felt himself too weak in his royal office, but because he wished to avoid the appearance of personal revenge, especially now when Abner had just done him such great services. He therefore committed to the Lord the requital and expiation of this crime, 2 Samuel 3:39. This could be accomplished, however, only through a human instrument. The commission to this end he accordingly gave to his son Solomon (1 Kings 2:5 sq.), who, not as his son, as a private person, but as his successor on the throne and as theocratic king, had therein an official duty to fulfil. For “in the kingdom of God, in which ruled the law of earthly requital, such a crime might not go unpunished” (O. v. Gerlach).

5. In David’s ethical conduct in this important episode also, which immediately precedes his ascension of the promised throne, we see individual prefigurations of his humble obedience to the Lord, without whose will he will take no step in life. Under the strongest temptations to arbitrariness and violence, which were the rule with the ancient oriental princes, he maintains strict self-control, exhibits uniform circumspection, a wisdom and discretion cognizant of God’s ways, and does not permit anger at the deed of horror that had been done under his eyes to lead him to immediate, bloody punishment. We must guard against exaggerated demands on the morality of the Old Testament men of God, that we may not unfairly judge them by an improper standard, and that we may not pervert the truth of the divine development of revelation by confounding the stand-points of the Old and New Testaments. David’s invocation of divine punishment on Joab (2 Samuel 3:29) (wherein, indeed, we must distinguish between the eternal truth of the divine justice and the sinful element of subjective passion) is held by some to be unjustifiable from the Christian point of view. To this it is to be replied once for all, that David belongs to the Old Testament, not the New Testament economy, stands on the stand-point of the Law, not of the Gospel, and therefore is not to be ethically judged according to the New Testament stand-point.

[Dr. Erdmann’s remarks on David’s moral motives are determined in part by his interpretation of 2 Samuel 3:39, about which there is much room for doubt. It may be merely a confession of political weakness that he here makes privately to his friends, in which case his self-control is simply political sagacity. David had high moral and spiritual qualities; at the same time we must guard against the determination to find the loftiest theocratic motives in every act of his life. Dr. Erdmann holds that in 2 Samuel 3:39 David affirms his own softness of nature as reason for his deep grief over Abner, in contrast with the hardness of Joab. The objection to this is that it does not explain sufficiently why David immediately appends an appeal to God for the punishment of the doer of evil. Further, the reason assigned by our author for David’s failure to punish Joab (namely, his desire to avoid the appearance of revenge) seems unsatisfactory; nobody would have accused him of personal vengeance. To the usual interpretation Dr. Erdmann objects that a confession of political weakness on David’s part would have been unwise and untrue. But, what more natural than that he should make such a statement to a select body of friends; and that it was not true, we are not warranted in saying, since we do not know Joab’s power and position. The words of the Heb. may refer to political relations, and such a statement would accord with the whole history. It must be allowed, however, that the words are obscure.—TR.]


2 Samuel 3:7 sq. The designs that God has with His chosen ones for the furtherance of His kingdom often have the way smoothed for them through human sins.—Single wicked deeds, proceeding from momentary passionate excitement, do often in God’s government give occasion for changes having important consequences.—Division among the opposers of God’s kingdom must subserve the furtherance of His aims, and on the contrary, discord among those who, on a like ground of faith, wish to live and labor for the same tasks in the kingdom of God must help the wicked one and further his aims.

2 Samuel 3:12 sqq. 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.

2 Samuel 3:13. Where the honor of God and His holy ordinances are concerned, a man should guard his rights, and demand reparation of a right that has been impaired.

2 Samuel 3:17 sq. He who has left the ways of unrighteousness, upon which for a long time he had consciously or unconsciously gone, and returned to the way of truth and righteousness, will exhibit the sincerity of his change by a so much the more earnest striving to restore the damage done by his previous conduct, and to carry into execution the previously hindered aims of divine wisdom and love.

2 Samuel 3:23 sq. That there is a kingdom of evil is proven by the fact that a man’s turning from evil to good, which pleases God and is a joy to the angels, commonly excites bitterness and hate in wicked men, who see their aims and plans thereby interfered with, and awakens an envy and jealousy that does not shrink from the most wicked deeds.

2 Samuel 3:28 sq. The honor of one’s good name is too precious a possession to let even the suspicion cleave to it of participation in other men’s guilt. Manly honor demands that in every way, by word and deed and behaviour, one should set forth his innocence when the circumstances and relations give occasion to untrue and unjust accusations.

2 Samuel 3:33 sq. In lamenting the loss of great men who were prominent in advancing the kingdom of God, we not merely render to them the honor they deserve, but also praise God who gave them.

2 Samuel 3:36. That king will be most honored and loved by his people who walks in the ways of God, and by a noble disposition, magnanimity and hearty goodness himself awakens the nobler feelings of his people.

2 Samuel 3:39. In patience and humility must we refer to God the Lord the righteous requital for wicked transgression of His holy commandments. Indifference thereto makes one a partaker of like guilt.—[Comp. above at close of “Hist. and Theol.”—TR.]

On 2 Samuel 3:8. SCHLIER: How many stand together and seem the most inseparable friends, so long as each hopes to gain his end; but only let this aim remove to a distance, only let it become manifest that a selfish or ambitious desire is not going to be fulfilled, and how soon is all rent in twain! For there is nothing that really unites men but the fear of God. No friendship is permanent and progressive that is not rooted in the fear of God.—[2 Samuel 3:9, 10. SCOTT: While men go on in their sins apparently without concern, they are often conscious that they are fighting against God.—TR.]—On 2 Samuel 3:16. F. W. KRUMMACHER: It appears from this occurrence that, amid the wilderness of ruined domestic relations by which Israel was then overgrown, there was yet here and there to be found the flower of a true and inward love and fidelity. This bloomed in David’s house also, but not unstunted, and he has not remained untouched by the curse which God had laid upon the abomination of polygamy in Israel.—On 2 Samuel 3:21. “When a man’s ways please Jehovah, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” Prov. 16:7.

[2 Samuel 3:27. HENRY: In this, 1. It is certain that the Lord was righteous. Abner had against the convictions of his conscience opposed David, and had now deserted Ishbosheth, under pretence of regard to God and Israel, but really from pride and revenge. 2. It is as certain that Joab was unrighteous. (1) Even the pretence for what he did was very unjust. (2) The real cause was jealousy of a rival. (3) He did it treacherously, under pretence of speaking peaceably to Abner, Deut. 27:24. (4) He knew that Abner was now actually in David’s service.—TR.]

[ROBINSON: 2 Samuel 3:33. Are we all, in our several stations, grieved for the wickedness which we are compelled to witness, and which we cannot prevent or remedy?

2 Samuel 3:39. Those who possess the highest authority cannot do all they would. We should compassionate rather than envy their situation.—HENRY: 2 Samuel 3:38. When he could not call him a saint and a good man, he said nothing of that; but what was true he gave him the praise of, that he was “a prince and a great man.”

2 Samuel 3:39. This is a diminution, (1) To David’s greatness; he is anointed king, and yet is kept in awe by his own subjects. (2) To David’s goodness; he ought to have done his duty, and trusted God with the issue. Fiat justitia, ruat cœlum.—TAYLOR: Had he put Joab to death, public opinion would have sustained him in the execution of justice; and even if it had not, he would have had the inward witness that he was doing his duty to the state. For a magistrate to be weak, is to be wicked.… O what suffering—may I not even say what sin?—David might have saved himself from, if he had only thus early rid himself of the tyrannic and overbearing presence of Joab!—WORDSWORTH: He would have probably prevented other murders, such as that of Ishbosheth and of Amasa; and he would have been spared the sorrow of giving on his death-bed the warrant of execution against Joab, to be put in effect by Solomon. “Impunity invites to greater crimes.” “He is cruel to the innocent who spares the guilty.”—TR.]

[2 Samuel 3:15, 16. We pity a man who weeps in helpless and apparently innocent suffering. But consider a little, and it may appear that this is only the consequence of a wrong action he committed long ago (1 Sam. 25:44). Our pity is not thereby destroyed; but its character is greatly changed.

2 Samuel 3:17, 18. How gracefully rulers can yield to the popular wish when they conclude that it is their own interest to do so. And how zealous some men will suddenly become to carry out God’s own will when their own places have been so changed as to coincide therewith!—HALL: Nothing is more odious than to make religion a stalking-horse to policy.—TR.]

[2 Samuel 3:25. An ambitious and unscrupulous man is quick to discern, and ready to distort, the selfish aims of others. “Set a thief to catch a rogue.” And one who acts from impure motives exposes himself to be accused of grossly wicked designs which he has not at all entertained.

2 Samuel 3:27, 30. O mad ambition, that pleads fraternal love and sacred duty to the dead as an excuse for the foul deed that removes a rival! (The principle of blood-revenge did not apply, for Asahel was killed in war; and if it had applied, Hebron was a city of refuge.)

2 Samuel 3:33, 34. The bitterest fruit that even civil war can bear is assassination, a thing to awaken horror in every noble mind.—TR.]

[2 Samuel 3:38. Abner, the soldier turned politician.—Or a sermon might be made on the general career and character of Abner. See 1 Chron. 9:36; 1 Sam. 14:51; 17:57; 26:3–14; 2 Sam. 2. and 3., and the notes; and comp. 4:1.—TR.]


1 הָלַךְ with Vb. or Adj. (1 Sam. 2:26) indicating progressive increase. Ges. § 131, 3, Rem. 3.

2 חָזֵק is not=חָזָק “strong” (Böttcher on Ex. 19:19), but Partcp. or Verbal Adj.=“strengthening” (neuter), as נָּדֵל (1 Sam. 2:26).

3[This rhyming in propositions and division is a somewhat common practice in Germany.—TR.]

42 Samuel 3:7. The lacking subject “Ishbosheth” is supplied in 5 MSS., some printed EDD., and all the VSS. except Chald.; but this shows only that they regarded this name as the proper subject, not that it was originally in the text. Whether it stood originally in our Heb., or we have here a fragment of a fuller narrative in which the subject of the verb was indicated by the context, cannot now be determined.—Before “to his brethren,” in 2 Samuel 3:8, the copula “and” is inserted in all VSS. except. Chald., and in some MSS.—TR.]

52 Samuel 3:7. In כִּילֶנֶשׁ the quiescent Jod instead of dagh. forte (as is frequent in Chald.). The origin of the word is unknown; comp. Chald. פַלְנִיםָא “vigorous beast,” perhaps “one that has reached years of puberty,” (Levy); but comp. Arab. falhas and uflud.—TR.]

62 Samuel 3:8. This rendering of Eng. A. V., taken from the Vulg., cannot be well gotten from the Heb.; the translation in brackets is the one now generally adopted.—Instead of הִמְצִיתִי (for הִמְצִאתִי) “delivered,” Syr. has שׁלם and Sept. has ηὐτομόλησα = הִשְׁלַמְתִּי (Then.).—The change of Prep, after חֶסֶד (עִם and אֵל) is to be noted—Symmachus renders “dog’s head” by κυνοκέΦαλος “dog-headed.”—TR.]

7[2 Samuel 3:12. תַּחְתּוֹ Qeri תַּחְתָּיוְ. Two general renderings of this phrase are found in the Ancient VSS.: “in his place” (Sym.: “instead of him,” Vulg., Proverbs se dicentes, Chald., “from his place,” Syr. omits it) and “on the spot” (Sept. παραχρῆμα, followed by Erdmann). The former best accords with the usage, and gives a good sense.—TR.]

8[2 Samuel 3:12. The difficulties in this text are 1) the double לֵאמרֹ “saying;” 2) the absence of the Art. Before אָרֶץ “land;” 3) the obscurity of this question. The Heb. text is supported by the VSS., except that the second לֵאמרֹ is omitted in Syr., Arab., and in a few MSS., and the second in Sept., and the Sept. text of the question is corrupt (the Vat. Sept shows an imperfect triplet: Abner sent messengers to David εἰς θαιλάμ οὖ ἦν παραχρῆμα, in which θαιλάμ seems to be corrupted out of תחתו למי, ο͂υ ῆν is for οῦ γῆν, while παραχρῆμα is translation of תחתי). It appears that the question and the second לאמר were not understood; Chald.: saying, I swear to him who made the land, saying—Syr.: what is the land?—The best course seems to be to omit the second לֵאמרֹ, and seek a meaning in the question.—TR.]

9[2 Samuel 3:13. Some VSS. and MSS. have “David,” which is merely the expression of the obvious subject;—TR.]

10[2 Samuel 3:13. As the Heb. stands it can only be rendered “except on condition of thy bringing,” (so Bib. Com. and substantially Erdmann); Böttcher’s suggested readings לִפְנַי “before” (adv.) and לְפָנַי “before me,” are dropped by himself as unnatural here. He and Wellhausen see a duplet in this text (כי אם and לפּני), which is not improbable, but not necessary. If, in that case, the latter be adopted, the Inf. of the text is retained; if the former, the Perf. must be read.—TR.]

11[2 Samuel 3:14. There is no need of inserting this Dat. in the Heb. text, since it is easily supplied from the context, and its omission is in accordance with Heb. usage. But in 2 Samuel 3:15 the suffix must be written אישָׁהּ “her husband.” TR.]

12[2 Samuel 3:15. Such is the form in the Qeri or margin; the Kethib or text has Lush, which perhaps means the same thing “lion.” Apparently by inversion the Sept. writes the name Selle.—TR.]

13[2 Samuel 3:17. Literally, “both yesterday and the day before”.—TR.]

14[2 Samuel 3:18. אֶל—so Sept., Syr., Arab., Keil, Cahen; but Vulg., Philippson, Erdmann “to David.” Thenius would read עַל “concerning” (as the context requires) on the ground that אל cannot so be rendered; but see Jer. 22:18.—TR.]

15[2 Samuel 3:18. The text has the Inf., which after אָמַר some would render “Jehovah said to save” = “said that He would save,” but this is hard on account of the intervening לֵאמרֹ. and the Impf. is now generally read with many MSS. and printed EDD., and all the Ancient VSS.—TR.]

16[2 Samuel 3:19. The נַּם “also” qualifies not the succeeding word “Abner,” but the preceding “spoke,” “went” (Wellh.).—TR.]

17[2 Samuel 3:20. The Heb. has no Prep. here, employing the Acc. of the point reached; but some MSS. and EDD. insert בְּ, and so all VSS. except Chald., which has לְ.—TR.]

18[2 Samuel 3:21. The Sept. has the first person, “I will make a covenant with him,” which is against the syntax of the context.—TR.]

19[2 Samuel 3:22. Lit. “from the troop (or predatory band),” so the VSS. except Aquila, who has “Geddur” (נדר) which he renders μονοζώνου or εὐζώνου. The Heb. expression is somewhat hard and obscure, but may have been a technical one.—The Heb. Perfects are here from the connection properly rendered by Eng. Plups. “had sent,” “was gone.”—TR.]

202 Samuel 3:24. The Inf. Abs., the force of which cannot be exactly given in English. Perhaps the Sept. “in peace” here was designed as a rendering of this Inf., though it is not improbable that it is merely a repetition from the two preceding verses; it is therefore not to be inserted in the Heb. text (against Wellh.).—TR.]

21[2 Samuel 3:25. The phrase “the son of Ner” is omitted by Syr. and Ar., and its points are omitted in one MS. (224 Kenn.)—why, is not clear.—The Sept. rendering: “dost thou not know the wickedness of Abner?” is a weakening of the original; the Syr. also has the neg.-interrog. form, and renders very well “that he came to flatter thee.”—TR.]

22[2 Samuel 3:27. The Prep. is omitted in the text, but some MSS. insert אֶל, and so the VSS., according to the Heb. usage.—TR.]

23[2 Samuel 3:29. Böttcher and Erdmann (with Vulg. and Syr.) render: “one that holds a distaff,” that is, an effeminate man (Prov. 31:19). See the Exposition.—TR.]

24[2 Samuel 3:30, Erdmann renders: “but Joab and Abishai had slain Abner,” as if the purpose of the verse were to give the reason for the murder. Wellhausen holds the verse to be an interpolation on the ground that it adds nothing except the inclusion of Abishai in the guilt in order to justify David’s curse on Joab’s family. It seems better, however, to regard the verse not merely as giving the reason for the murder (which is given in verse 27), nor as superfluous, but as a concluding summing up of the incident, as is so common in Heb. narration.—TR.]

25[2 Samuel 3:33. Sept.: “Will Abner die according to the death of Nabal?” taking נָכָל (fool) as a proper name. So in 2 Samuel 3:34 it has οὐ προσήγαγεν ὠς Νάβαλ, misunderstanding the כִּנְפוֹל of the Heb., which it read כְּנָכָל.—TR.]

26[2 Samuel 3:35. De Rossi cites a reading in some MSS. לְהַכְרוֹת “to make a feast” (2 Kings 6:23), which Kimchi said was written but not read, perhaps a clerical error.—TR.]

27[2 Samuel 3:36. כְּכֹל. Wellhausen objects that this כְּ cannot be rendered as a conjunction (as in Eng. A. V.), and therefore prefers the Sept., which omits the כְּ. Syr. accords with Sept., and Chald and Syr. insert “and” before בְּעֵינֵי. The reading of Greek and Syr. (“and good in their eyes was all that the king did, and good in the eyes of all the people”), however, contains a weak repetition, and something like the Heb. text is required by the connection.—TR.]

28[See 21:8–11 and Gen. 36:24.—TR.]

29[It is supposed by some that Abner did not marry Rizpah, but used her as a harlot.—TR.]

30 הֱבִיאֲךָ (as elsewhere after לִפְנֵי) like the Perf., instead of the usual הֲבִיא׳(Ex. 23:30; Lev. 23:14 sq.; Deut. 4:28). לִפְנֵי here = “before.” Ew., § 238 d, § 337 c.

31[Whether she was divorced from David does not appear.—TR.]

32Instead of the Inf. הוֹשִׁיעַ read with all VSS. and many MSS. the Impf. אוֹשִׁיעַ.

33[The bier (מִטָּה) was a bed-like structure, often magnificent. So Herod’s, Jos. Bell. Jud. I. 23, 9. See more in Comms. of Pat. and Philipps.—TR.]

34 אִם is asseverative particle = “if,” that is, “surely not;” כִּי introduces the oath.

35 כְּכֹל. [On this see “Text and Gramm.”—TR.]

36[Of these moral qualities nothing is said in the narrative. Abner may have possessed them, but we know nothing about it. Our author's picture is the creation of his own imagination—TR.]

37He reads וְאָנֹכִי to connect with the preceding וְכִי (καί ὅτι ἐγώ) and הַמֶּלֶךְ מוּקָם תַּחַת instead of מֶלֶךְ וּמָשׁוּח.

38 συγγενής for רַךְ—probably corrupted from ἀσθενής (Böttcher)—and καθεσταμένος ὐπό βασιλέως alongside of καθεστ. εἰς βασιλέα.

Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.
Lange, John Peter - Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical

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