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Then was Abner very angry because of the words of Ish-bosheth, and he said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show loyalty to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not given you into the hand of David; and yet you charge me this day with a fault concerning this woman! Bible

“Am I a dog’s head.” It is unclear why Abner used this expression. It may have simply been because dogs were unclean animals and known to be backbiters (and they were also sexually promiscuous) and they were looked down upon in biblical society (unlike today when dogs are loved and considered faithful companions). Some fanciful explanations have been made to try to explain the expression, but there is no good reason not to take it at face value and admit we do not know why Abner used it.

“loyalty.” The Hebrew word is checed (#02617 חֶסֶד), and it has a wide range of meanings, but its basic meaning is covenant loyalty. However, it was also used of loyalty and the actions associated with loyalty, thus the translation “kindness” in many English versions. There is no indication in the text that Abner and Saul made a covenant together, so the REV simply has “loyalty” here.

Abner could have indeed transferred the whole kingdom to David, something he now tried to do, but he had not moved in that direction because of his loyalty to Saul, so he was greatly insulted that Ish-bosheth would basically accuse him of trying to take Saul’s throne by sleeping with Rizpah. It is not clear why Abner slept with Rizpah. It does not seem he was trying to take Saul’s throne by stealth, and he knew the prophecies that David would be king. Perhaps it was as simple as the fact that she was beautiful and available.

“have not delivered you into the hand of David.” Surprising words from the mouth of Abner! This shows that he knew about God’s condemnation of Saul and the promise that David would be king (1 Sam. 13:13-14; 15:26-28, and 1 Sam. 15:35-16:14), but why he had not acted on that earlier is unknown other than what he said was his loyalty to Saul. In any case, Ish-bosheth’s criticism of Abner changed his position and he began to work to turn the kingdom over to David.

This incident is a clear example in the Word of God showing the power of words. Because of this one reproof by Ish-bosheth, Abner’s direction in life changed. No wonder there are so many verses in the Bible about being careful with our words and what we say.

“this woman.” Abner does not mention Rizpah by name, but calls her “this woman,” which in this context is a reflection of the lower cultural status of women at the time, something that shows up in many verses in 1 and 2 Samuel.


Commentary for: 2 Samuel 3:8