King James Bible
with Catholic Commentary by George Leo Haydock

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2 Samuel 3

David’s power increases His family. (1-6) Abner revolts to David. (7-21) Joab kills Abner David mourns for him. (22-39)

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David’s power increases His family

1 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.

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

3 And 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;

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

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

6 And 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.

Abner revolts to David

7 And 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?

8 Then 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?

9 So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the LORD hath sworn to David, even so I do to him;

10 To 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.

11 And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him.

12 And 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.

13 And 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.

14 And 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.

15 And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.

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

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

18 Now 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.

19 And 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.

20 So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast.

21 And 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.

Joab kills Abner David mourns for him

22 And, 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.

23 When 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.

24 Then 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?

25 Thou 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.

26 And 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.

27 And 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.

28 And 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:

29 Let 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.

30 So Joab, and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.

31 And 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.

32 And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept.

33 And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth?

34 Thy 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.

35 And 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.

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

37 For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner.

38 And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?

39 And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the LORD shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness.

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G Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Ver. 1. War, the particulars of which are not given. C. — But David’s power continually increased, and he was blessed with many children. H. — “Legions and fleets are not such strong bulwarks of the throne, as a numerous family.” Tacit. Hist. v.

Ver. 2. Amnon, who was murdered by Absalom, for his incest. C. xiii. 32. M.

Ver. 3. Cheleab, or Daniel. 1 Par. iii. 1. Sept. “Dalnia.” C. — Alex. “Dalouja.” H. — Others, “Abia.” — Gessur, not far from Damascus. The lady probably first embraced the true religion, though the Scripture seldom enters into these details. C. — David is never blamed for marrying strange women. Salien supposes that he entered into this alliance before the civil war broke out, that Isboseth, who had fixed his court at Mahanaim, might have an opponent near at hand. The fruits of this marriage were very unfortunate, and brought great distress upon David: so little do men know what will be the event of the most splendid connections! H.

Ver. 4. Adonias was slain by Solomon, (3 K. ii. 24. M.) for arrogating to himself the right of the first-born, and pretending that the crown belonged to him. H. — The names of his mother, and of those who follow, are barely known. Salien.

Ver. 5. Wife. She was otherwise of no nobility, but perhaps loved by David more than the rest, as Rachel was by Jacob. The Rabbins would infer that Egla and Michol are the same person. But the latter had no children, (C. vi. 23. Salien) and is mentioned v. 13.

Ver. 8. Concubine. To marry the king’s widow was deemed an attempt upon the throne. 3 K. ii. 22. Hence Solomon was so displeased at Adonias, v. 24. Some think that Isboseth formed the accusation on mere conjecture; but Abner does not deny the fact. C. — Dog’s head: of no account, like a dead dog; (H.) or no better than a servant, who leads a dog. The Jews considered the dog as one of the vilest of animals. C. ix. 8. Job xxx. 1. — Juda. This word is neglected by the Sept. Some would substitute Liduth, “to be cast away.” C. — God permits the defenders of a wrong cause to fall out, that the right one may be advanced. W.

Ver. 9. Sworn. It seems therefore that he knew of God’s appointment, and had hitherto resisted it for his own temporal convenience. H. — If both he and Isboseth were ignorant of this decree, Abner had no right to deprive the latter of the crown. Abulensis, q. 7. M.

Ver. 11. Him. And no wonder; since even David could not repress the insolence of his chief commander, v. 39. So Otho “had not yet sufficient authority to hinder the perpetration of crimes.” Tacit. Hist. i.

Ver. 12. Himself. Heb. may be also “immediately,” (Piscat.) or “in secret,” (Kimchi) as the matter seems not to have transpired. C. — Sept. Alex. “to Thelam, where he was, without delay, saying, Make,” &c. H. — Land? Is it not thine? or have not I the disposal of a great part of it? M.

Ver. 13. Thee. Could David thus authorize treachery? It is answered, that Abner knew that the throne belonged to him, and he was already responsible for all the evils of the civil war. David does not approve of his conduct, but only makes use of him to obtain his right. — Michol. He might justly think that the people would have less repugnance to acknowledge him for their sovereign, when they saw that he had married the daughter of Saul. she had never been repudiated by him. C.

Ver. 14. Isboseth. Thus he would screen the perfidy of Abner, (M.) and hinder him from using any violence. C. — The pacific king accedes immediately to the request, as he had no personal aversion to David, and saw that he was in a far more elevated condition than Phaltiel. H. — Moreover, this was no time to irritate him more, as Abner was discontented. M.

Ver. 16. Bahurim, in the tribe of Benjamin. Adric. 28.

Ver. 18. Enemies. We read not of this promise elsewhere. But how many other things are omitted in the sacred books? C. — Abner alleges God’s decree, that he may not be deemed a traitor. Cajet.

Ver. 19. Benjamin, which tribe was naturally most attached to Saul’s family. They followed, however, the example of the ten tribes, and 20 of them accompanied their general to Hebron. Salien.

Ver. 20. Feast, through joy at the reception of his wife, and of such good news. M.

Ver. 21. And may. Some Latin copies read with the Heb. “and it (Israel) may enter,” ineat.

Ver. 22. Robbers. Amalecites, (Salien) or Philistines, who had made some incursions into David’s territories. Abulensis.

Ver. 25. Dost. This explains going out, &c. H. — Joab pretends to be wholly solicitous for the king’s welfare. But he was afraid lest Abner should take his place, and he also desired to revenge Asael’s death. M.

Ver. 26. Messengers, in the king’s name. — Sira. See Judg. iii. 26. Josephus says the place was 20 stadia from Hebron. Ant. vii. 1.

Ver. 27. Middle. Sept. “sides.” — Brother; (who had been wounded in the same place) a just punishment of Abner’s licentiousness. Salien. — This was given out as the pretext of the murder; but envy seems to have been the chief promoter. M. — Joab treated Amasa in the same manner. C. xx. 10. Ambition was his god. C. — Abisai was ready to assist him to murder Abner, v. 30. Thus the fairest prospects of union seemed to vanish, and David was sincerely grieved, as he manifested in the most decided manner, confessing it was only the want of power which prevented him from bringing these merciless and potent brothers, his own nephews, to immediate punishment, v. 39. H.

Ver. 28. Innocent. I would not purchase a kingdom at such a price. C. — I beg that the crime may not be imputed to us, who are innocent. H. — God sometimes punishes a whole kingdom for the sins of the rulers. M. — Yet not without some fault of the subjects. H.

Ver. 29. Issue. Such were looked upon as unclean, (Lev. xv. 3,) and incapable of having children. Aquila translates zab, “blind.” Sept. “afflicted with the gonorrhÅ“a.” — Distaff, like eunuchs. Delrio, adag. 190. Claud in Eutrop. Tu telas non tela pati, &c. Some translate a stick, with which the blind, lame and aged endeavour to walk. C. — Any of these conditions would be very mortifying to great warriors. H. — Bread. Hunger and famine were considered as a scourge of God. Ps. lviii. 7. 15, and cviii. 10. David is not moved with hatred, but foretells what will befall the posterity of these men, whose crime he abhors. C.

Ver. 31. Joab. Requiring him to make some reparation, at least, for the offence, and to render the funeral pomp more solemn. All were obliged to rend their garments, and to put on sackcloth, on such occasions. It was very rough, and consisted chiefly of goat and camel’s hair. — Bier, contrary to the custom of kings. Some copies of the Sept. say, he “went before the bier,” (C.) where women commonly were placed. Grotius.

Ver. 33. Died. Heb. “Is Abner dead, like Nabal,” “a fool,” (Chal.) “like the wicked?” “Ought so brave a man to have died in this treacherous manner?”

Ver. 34. Iniquity. David does not spare Joab, in this canticle, which was sung by all the people. C. — He intimates, that if he had not used deceit, Abner would not have been so easily overcome. H.

Ver. 35. David. Heb. “to cause David to eat meat” (H.) at the feast, which usually accompanied funerals. Gen. l. 3. C.

Ver. 38. Israel. And that all this pomp is not unseasonable. M. — The chief, if not the only virtue of Abner, was military skill, or a blunt valour.

Ver. 39. King. Sept. “and that I am to-day a relation, (by my wife) and appointed king by the king?” H. — He seemed as yet to have little more than the title. His throne was not well established; (C. W.) and to undertake to punish the offenders now, might have had so pernicious consequences as the attempt of Isboseth to correct his general. H. — It is better to temporize than to increase the distemper, (C.) by a fruitless zeal for justice. H. — The punishment was only deferred. 3 K. ii. 5. M. — Hard. Powerful or insupportable. C. — This year was memorable for the death of Codrus, king of Athens. Salien, A. 2985.