Dave Burnette's Commentary

2 Samuel Chapter 3

Written By: God through Inspiration
Penned By: Nathan, Zabud, & Gad 
Date Penned: (930 BC)
Overview: A Record of David's Reign (c 1-24)
Theme: David's Successes (c 1-10)
Message: David Becomes Stronger (v 1-39)

2 Samuel 3 Commentary

(3:1) Israel's Civil War - The events recorded in 2 Samuel 2 led to a long war between David's followers and the troops loyal to Abner and Ish-bosheth. Civil war rocked the country at great cost to both sides. Israel and Judah had lost sight of God's vision and purpose for them: to settle the land (Genesis 12.7), to drive out the Canaanites (Deuteronomy 7:1-4), and to obey God's laws (Deuteronomy 8:1). Instead of uniting to accomplish these goals, they fought each other. When you face conflict, step back from the hostilities and consider whether you and your enemy have common goals that are bigger than your differences. Appeal to those interests as you work for a positive outcome.

(3:2-5) David and Polygamy -  David suffered much heartache because of his many wives. Polygamy was a socially acceptable practice for kings at this time, although God had specifically warned against it Deuteronomy 17:14-17). Sadly, the numerous sons born to David's wives caused him great trouble. Rape (2 Samuel 13:14), murder (13:28), rebellion (15:3), and greed (1 Kings 1:5-6) all resulted from the jealous rivalries among the half brothers. Solomon, one of David's sons and his successor to the throne, also took many wives, and they eventually turned him away from God (1 Kings 11:3-4). Although most people don't practice polygamy today, people who divorce or remarry also must guard against rivalry among their children.

(3:6-7) Abner Disobeys God's Laws - To sleep with any of the king's wives or concubines was to make a claim to the throne, and it was considered treason. Because Ish-bosheth was a weak ruler, Abner was running the country; thus, he may have felt justified in sleeping with Saul's concubine. Ish-bosheth, however, saw that Abner's power was becoming too great.

(3:7) Ish-bosheth Fails to Speak Truth - Ish-bosheth may have been right to speak out against Abner's behavior, but he didn't have the moral strength to maintain his authority (3:). Lack of moral backbone became the root of Israel's troubles over the nest four centuries. In the coming centuries, very few kings in Israel and Judah would be called "good." It takes courage and strength to stand firm in your convictions and to confront wrongdoing in the face of opposition. When you believe something is wrong, do not let yourself be talked out of your position. Firmly deny the wrong and uphold the right.

(3:8) Ish-bosheth Confronts Abner - By saying, "Am I a dog's head ... against Judah?" Abner meant, "Am I a traitor for Judah?" He may have been refuting the accusation that he was trying to take over the throne, or he may have been angry that Ish-bosheth was scolding him after Abner had helped put him on the throne in the first place. Prior to this conversation, Abner had realized that he could not keep David from eventually taking over Israel. Because he was angry at Ish-bosheth, Abner devised a plan to turn over the kingdom of Israel to David in return for being made general of David's army.

(3:12-13) Abner Makes a Deal with David - By this time Abner realized that it was useless to fight for the weak ruler Ish-bosheth. Nothing could prevent David from becoming king of all Israel, because God was with him (3:18). Abner designed a deal with David to prevent David's men from seeking revenge against him for being the commander of both Saul's army (1 Samuel 26:5-7) and the northern confederacy (2 Samuel 2:8).

(3:12-13) David Accepts Abner's Terms - In an effort to reunite all Israel, David agreed to Abner's deal. Ish-bosheth was not God's appointed king, as Saul had been; therefore, David accepted Abner's terms.

(3:13-16) David Wants Michael Back - Michal had been married to David. Saul had arranged the marriage as a reward for David's acts of bravery (1 Samuel 17:25; 18:24-27). Later, however, in one of his jealous fits, Saul took Michal away from David and forced her to marry Phaltiel (called Phalti in 1 Samuel 25:44). Now David wanted his wife back before he would begin to negotiate peace with the northern tribes. Perhaps David still loved her (but see 2 Samuel 6:20-23 for the tension in their relationship). More likely, he thought that marriage to Saul's daughter would strengthen his claim to rule all Israel and demonstrate that he had no animosity toward Saul's house. Phaltiel was the unfortunate victim caught in the web of Saul's jealousy and David's political maneuvering.


(3:19) The Tribe of Benjamin - Saul, Ish-bosheth, and Abner were all from the tribe of Benjamin. So Abner's work to gain the support of the elders of that tribe proved that he was serious about his offer to help bring unity. There was now a strong possibility of overcoming tribal jealousies and uniting the kingdom 


(3:26) The Revenge of Joab - Joab took revenge for the death of his brother instead of leaving justice to God. But that revenge backfired on him (1 Kings 2:31-34). God will repay those who deserve it (Romans 12:19). Refuse to rejoice when your enemies suffer, and don't try to get revenge. Seeking revenge, even when you feel justified, will ruin your own peace of mind and increase the chances of further retaliation.

(3:27) Abner Kills Asahel - Abner had killed Joab's brother Asahel in self-defense. On top of that, Abner actually had been trying to run away from Asahel (2:17-23). But Joab treacherously murdered Abner to avenge his brother's death and to save his position of military leadership. Jab killed Abner in Hebron, a city of refuge (Joshua 20:7), where Abner should have been safe from an avenger (Numbers 35:22-25). Although Asahel's death was not accidental, Hebron was a place of refuge and the most inappropriate place for revenge, but Joab did not care and did as he pleased. Job was later executed at Solomon's command (1 Kings 2:28-34), fulfilling the punishment required under the law for murder (Exodus 21:12-14).

(3:29) David Rebukes Joab - Why did David say such harsh words about Joab? David was upset over Abner's death for several reasons: (1) He was grieved over the loss of a skilled military officer. (2) He wanted to place the guilt of Abner's murder on Joab, not himself. (3) He was on the verge of becoming king over the entire nation, and having Abner's support was important for winning over the northern tribes. Abner's death could have revived the civil war. (4) Jab had violated David's agreement to protect Abner. Joab's murderous act ruined David's plans, and David was especially angry that his own commander had committed the crime.

(3:81-39) David Instructs Joab - David ordered Joab to mourn, possibly because few people were aware that Joab had committed the crime and because David did not want any further trouble. If this is true, David was thinking more about strengthening his kingdom than about justice.

(3:31) David Leads the Mourning - By walking behind the procession (that is, behind the bier, or casket), David was leading the mourning.

(3:39) David Has a Hard Time Controlling Joab - Joab and Abishai were the two sons of Zeruiah whom David mentioned. David had an especially hard time controlling Joab because, although he was intensely loyal, he was strong-willed, preferring to do things his own way. In exchange for his loyalty, however, David was willing to give Joab the flexibility he craved. But in the long run David was too soft on Joab. This leadership flaw would cost David dearly. Joab's murder of Abner is an example of his fierce independence. While David opposed the murder, he allowed it to remain unpunished because (1) to punish Joab could cause the troops to rebel; (2) Joab was David's nephew, and any harsh treatment could cause family problems; (3) Joab was from the tribe of Judah, and David didn't want rebellion from his own tribe; and (4) to get rid of Joab would mean losing a skilled and competent commander who had been invaluable in strengthening his army.

Dave Burnette's Life Application


Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter, making application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Today we continue in the book of 2nd Samuel with Chapter 3. In our text, David becomes a more decisive leader, Abner negotiates with David, and Joab kills Abner. In making an application, we see the tragic consequences of revenge. Abner had killed Joab's brother in battle, and as a result, Joab killed Abner, a friend of David. This action resulted in Joab losing his friendship and position in David's Army. In life today, we see the same results of revenge. Powered by bitterness, we see revenge has no winners. The Lord says that when others do us wrong, we are to turn the other cheek. The Lord is and will deal with those who wrong us. Our revenge causes the Lord to deal with us about this sin. How about you? Do you struggle with taking revenge on others? Don't take matters into your own hands. Stay far away from retaliation, and let the Lord fight your battles.


2 Samuel 3

2 Samuel 3

 1Now 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.

 2And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess;

 3And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;

 4And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;

 5And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron.

 6And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul.

 7And Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah: and Ishbosheth said to Abner, Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father's concubine?

 8Then was Abner very wroth for the words of Ishbosheth, and said, Am I a dog's head, which against Judah do shew kindness this 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 thou chargest me to day with a fault concerning this woman?

 9So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the LORD 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, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee.

 13And he said, Well; I will make a league with thee: but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first bring Michal Saul's daughter, when thou comest to see my face.

 14And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul's son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which 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.

 16And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned.

 17And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you:

 18Now then do it: for the LORD hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies.

 19And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: and Abner went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin.

 20So Abner came to 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 they may make a league with thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace.

 22And, behold, the servants of David and Joab came from pursuing a troop, and brought in a great spoil with them: but 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 gone?

 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.

 26And when Joab was come out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, which 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 the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.

 28And afterward when David heard it, he said, I and my kingdom are guiltless before the LORD for ever from the blood of Abner the son of Ner:

 29Let it rest 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, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread.

 30So 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 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 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.

 35And when all the people came to cause David to eat meat while it was yet day, David sware, saying, So do God to me, and more also, if I taste bread, or ought else, till the sun be down.

 36And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.

 37For 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 shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness.