Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 3
With the LORD’s guidance, David, his men, and their families relocated to Hebron, in Judah where he was crowned king of Judah (2:1-3).
Six Sons Born to David in Hebron (3:1-5)
“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” (3:1).
As was the custom of ancient monarchs, David had taken several wives, to whom were born six sons while he lived in Hebron (3:2-5). Of the six sons, I invite you to commit to memory the names of two: “Amnon, David’s firstborn son (3:2), and Absalom, his thirdborn son (3:3). Amnon and Absalom will become bitter rivals, as sin shadows David’s life, home, and throne in the years ahead.
The Provocation and Betrayal of Abner (3:6-11)
The ongoing war between Ishbosheth and “the house of Saul,” and “the house of David” (3:6), gave an opportunist like Abner a means to assert himself “strong for the house of Saul” (3:6). Riding on a wave of growing influence in Israel, Abner committed a grave offense against Ishbosheth, and took a woman of Saul’s harem (3:7), a concubine (a wife of lesser standing). Ishbosheth’s feeble response to the Abner’s offense, was no more than to question, “Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father’s concubine?” (3:7).
Abner’s response to Ishbosheth revealed his disdain for the king, for he asked, “Am I a dog’s head, which against Judah do shew kindness this day unto the house of Saul thy father?” (3:8) In a word, Abner defied the king, and dared Ishbosheth to charge him “with a fault” (3:8). He then committed an offense that should have cost him his life; he threatened to betray Ishbosheth, and vow allegiance to David (3:9-10). Ishbosheth, failed to respond to Abner’s threats, “because he feared him” (3:11).
Abner Betrayed Ishbosheth (3:12-21)
Abner made good on his threat, and “sent messengers to David” (3:12), and offered to betray Ishbosheth if David would covenant with him and unite Israel (3:12). David agreed with Abner, but with one stipulation: that his first wife, “Michal Saul’s daughter,” would be restored to him (3:13-14; 1 Samuel 18:25, 27). David understood, having Saul’s daughter as his wife, strengthened his claim to Israel’s throne. When Ishbosheth received David’s demand for his wife to be restored to him, he obliged his enemy, and most likely sent Abner to convey Michal to David, though Saul had given her to another (3:15-16).
Abner made public his plans to betray Ishbosheth (3:17-18), and came to David with an entourage of twenty men. They sealed their agreement with a feast, and soon after Abner departed to betray Ishbosheth (3:19-21).
Joab’s Indignation, Deception, and Dishonorable Murder of Abner (3:22-27)
At the time of David and Abner’s meeting, Joab had been away with a raiding party. When he returned to David’s camp, he was furious to learn that David was in league with Abner, the man who had killed his brother (2:22-23). Joab dared to challenge David, and asked, “What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone?” (3:24)
Joab went on to accuse David of being naive, and asserted, “25Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest” (3:25). The Scriptures do not reveal David’s response to Joab’s enquiry; however, Joab was furious. He determined to deceive, ambush and kill Abner to avenge his brother’s death (3:26).
David Rebuked Joab, and Honored Abner, as a Fallen Champion (3:28-39)
When David learned that Joab had slain Abner, he was grieved and declared he was free of his blood (3:28), but pronounced a curse on Joab and his household (3:29). David understood his desire to unite Israel was imperiled by Joab’s evil actions, and he demanded the nation, and Joab and his men, would honor Abner by outward signs of mourning (3:30-31).
David publicly lamented the manner in which Abner had been betrayed, and cried out against it saying, “Died Abner as a fool dieth? 34Thy hands were not bound, Nor thy feet put into fetters: As a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And all the people wept again over him” (3:33-34).
David’s mourning moved Israel to judge that he had not betrayed Abner, for “all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner” (3:37). David confessed, “I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah [Zeruiah was David’s sister, 1 Chronicles 2:16] be too hard for me: the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness” (3:39). Joab would be a thorn for David the rest of his life, and when he was old and dying, he challenged Solomon to avenge Abner’s death (1 Kings 2:5).
Jealousy, anger, bitterness, plots and plans for revenge, and murder are the way of the world, and sinful man. Weak men often become leaders, and are invariably in the company of evil men who seek their own advancement. It is true of kings, presidents, pastors, and employers! You would be wise to be a student of men’s character.
Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith