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Go to Bible: 2 Samuel 2
“To Hebron.” The town where the patriarchs were buried: Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.(top)
“Ahinoam the Jezreelitess.” This is the “Jezreel” of Judah, not the Jezreel in the Jezreel Valley. This Jezreel is in south-central Judah, not far from Maon, Ziph, and Carmel (cp. Josh. 15:56; 1 Sam. 25:43; 27:3; 30:5; 2 Sam. 2:2; 3:2; see commentary on Josh. 15:56).
“the wife of Nabal the Carmelite.” It is understood in the record that Nabal had died. David was not committing adultery here but the record is pointing out that Abigail had been married before (1 Sam 25:37-42).(top)
|2Sa 2:3||- (top)|
“the House of Judah.” That is, the tribe of Judah. The other 11 tribes of Israel were being ruled by Saul’s son Ish-bosheth at this time (2 Sam. 2:8-9). The phrase, “the House of David” was found in the Tel Dan inscription and Moabite Stone inscription, so the phraseology was well known.(top)
“shown covenant faithfulness.” The Hebrew verb translated “shown” is more literally, “done.”(top)
|2Sa 2:6||- (top)|
“and also the House of Judah has anointed me king over them.” David not only honored Saul, he was an astute leader. He knew that Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son and gone to Mahanaim some distance up the Jabbok River Valley in the Transjordan. So David took advantage of being told about the men of Jabesh-gilead and sent them a blessing and included in that the fact that he had been anointed king by the tribe of Judah. No doubt David hoped the men of Jabesh-gilead would join forces with him, giving him followers both north and south of Ish-bosheth’s capital city.(top)
“But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army,” Abner the son of Ner was Saul’s first cousin and thus a very close relative. He was the commander of Saul’s army. Although he was the commander of Saul’s army, he is not portrayed in a good light in Scripture, and sought power and position for himself. He certainly did not have a strategy for defeating Goliath even though he was the commander of Saul’s army at the time (1 Sam. 17:55). In the time that David was in Saul’s army, it was David, not Abner, who led the army in successful campaigns against the Philistines (1 Sam. 18:5, 13-16). Also, in the war with the Philistines in which Saul and three of his sons died, Abner somehow managed to escape. Also, although Abner knew David was God’s chosen king (2 Sam. 3:17-18), he decided to make Saul’s son king instead, which could only have been due to his desire for power and influence. He worked to gain influence in Ish-bosheth’s kingdom (2 Sam. 3:6-7), and when it looked like things would not go well and he was in open conflict with Ish-bosheth, he worked to shift the kingdom to David, likely hoping for a powerful position there (2 Sam. 3:9-21). His lack of military awareness was displayed and ended when he was killed by Joab. He had recently killed Joab’s brother (2 Sam. 2:18-23) and should have known that Joab would hold a grudge about it, but he seems to have been blissfully unaware of it and it cost him his life.
Looking at the career of both Saul and Abner, it seems Saul appointed Abner to be the commander of his army in large part because of his family relation to Saul. In the end, that turned out badly for Saul, Abner, and the people of Israel who all suffered because of it. Sadly, it is common for leaders or bosses to place others in jobs because of personal favoritism rather than actual qualifications. Leaders who do that knowingly, and thus cause others to suffer, will suffer for it themselves on Judgment Day, but in the meantime believers can rest in the knowledge that when Jesus is king on earth the people in leadership positions will be qualified for them. [For more about when Christ rules the earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth”].
“Ish-bosheth.” This is the same person as Esh-baal, see commentary on 1 Chronicles 8:33.
“brought him over the Jordan to Mahanaim.” The location of Mahanaim is still debated, but it is agreed that it is east of the Jordan River and likely near the Jabbok River.(top)
“and made him king.” The political situation in Israel was very confusing and uncertain at this time. As the son of Saul, Ish-bosheth had a legitimate worldly claim to the throne of Israel, and Abner had installed him as king over the northern tribes of Israel. But Israel was God’s people and God had taken the kingship from Saul and given it to David. Of course, that was what the prophet Samuel had said, and it is likely that some people doubted Samuel while others were confused about it. Nevertheless, the people of the tribe of Judah recognized God’s choice and anointed David as their king.
There is a great lesson here. The kingdom of David was a shadow of the kingdom of the Messiah and so there are many parallels between the two kingdoms. Here at the start of David’s kingdom, we see that there was a rival kingdom, a worldly one, promoted by Abner, who was more interested in himself than in the truth (see commentary on 2 Sam. 2:8). The two kingdoms fought against each other, but eventually David’s kingdom won the war and covered all Israel and even more territory than that. Similarly, Jesus came as king but was not universally recognized. From his lifetime until now there has been a spiritual war going on between his followers and the followers of his rival, Satan. But just as David won and his kingdom covered Israel, Jesus Christ will win and his kingdom will cover the earth.
“Gilead and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin and over all Israel.” This list is an interesting blend of geographical areas and tribal areas, but it is meant to communicate “over all Israel” and perhaps even more up north.
Gilead was east of the Jordan and in this context meant the territory of the tribes of Reuben and Gad. The term “Ashurites” is disputed and could refer to the Geshurites, those living in a territory in north Transjordan. Jezreel is the area of the Jezreel Valley (although the Philistines certainly controlled it after Saul’s death), and Ephraim and Benjamin were the two tribes in Israel directly north of the tribe of Judah.(top)
|2Sa 2:10||- (top)|
“the length of time.” The Hebrew is idiomatic and is literally, “the number of days.”(top)
“the servants of Ish-bosheth,” In this context, “servants” refers to men in the army.
“went out.” In this context this phrase has a military connotation, such as “went out to battle.”
“to Gibeon.” Gibeon was in the tribal area of Saul, and it seems that in going to Gibeon, Abner wanted to shore up the southern border of the tribes that might well follow he and Ish-bosheth instead of David.(top)
|2Sa 2:13||- (top)|
“play.” The Hebrew word is sachaq (#07832 שָׂחַק), and it generally means “to laugh, play, mock” (older lexicons often have “make sport” when “sport” referred to laughing and playing). According to the HALOT Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament, when combined with “in our presence” it means to struggle or fight. This was a fight or to-the-death contest in front of others. Although it has been suggested that is was some kind of winner-take-all battle, the context argues against that because that limited fight led to the larger battle (2 Sam. 2:17). Many different suggestions have been made for how to translate sachaq in this context: “fight” (NET); “fight it out” (CJB, NJB); “fight hand-to-hand” (NIV, NLT); “compete” (HCSB, ESV); “perform” (NAB); “hold a contest” (NASB); “play” (JPS, KJV, RSV); “make sport” (DBY, Rotherham). It may be that sachaq was used as a way for Joab to speak of the fight in a mocking and minimizing fashion even though lives were at stake, which they were.(top)
|2Sa 2:15||- (top)|
“seized his opponent by the head, and thrust his sword.” The verb “thrust” is left out of the text, such that the verb “seized” is with both the head and the side, likely indicating that the action was simultaneous; the opponents grabbed each other’s heads and thrust at the same time.
“Helkath Hazzurim.” The meaning of this is uncertain, which is one reason why most versions leave it untranslated. Various suggestions have been made, such as “Field of sides” (NAB), “Field of flints” (NET), and “Field of sword edges” (Schocken Bible).(top)
|2Sa 2:17||- (top)|
“three sons of Zeruiah were there.” Zeruiah was David’s sister (1 Chron. 2:13-16), so Joab, Abishai, and Asahel were David’s nephews.
“as swift of foot as one of the gazelles.” Asahel was a fast, smooth runner who could run long distances. People like that were valuable in the ancient world, which had not telephone or other quick method of long-distance communication. They often became royal runners.(top)
|2Sa 2:19||- (top)|
|2Sa 2:20||- (top)|
“take his spoil for yourself.” If one man killed another in battle, the victor could take the armor of the one he killed, and that was to his honor, showing his courage and ability in battle. Sadly, the young man Asahel greatly overestimated his ability. He was so brash and inexperienced that he followed too closely to Abner. Abner, a seasoned warrior and acquaintance of Joab, Asahel’s brother, did not want to kill Asahel and tried to get him to pick a fight with someone else that he might be able to beat. But when Abner could not dissuade Asahel from trying to kill him, because Asahel was so close, Abner was able to simply ram the back end of his spear through Asahel and kill him. The back of the spear was often pointed so it could be stuck in the ground and stay upright.
This is a sad record, because Asahel was likely a good person but inexperienced and overconfident; Abner did not want to kill him, and later Asahel’s brother Joab killed Abner.(top)
|2Sa 2:22||- (top)|
|2Sa 2:23||- (top)|
“the hill of Ammah that lies before Giah.” Both locations are unknown. But they were “on the road to the wilderness of Gibeon,” so Abner and his army were heading east or northeast. So when Joab pursued Abner, the motion of those armies was to the east. Eventually Abner will return to Mahanaim, across the Jordan River and to the north and east from the battle site.(top)
“the sons of Benjamin.” Abner was a Benjamite, so it makes sense that the men of Benjamin would form a group positioned to defend him. Tribal loyalty always runs very deep.(top)
“the end will be bitterness.” Hand-to-hand combat has always been a nasty business, and here we see how close the opposing armies were because Abner and Joab are so close they can speak to each other. Abner was right of course. Israelite killing Israelite would only end in bitterness.(top)
|2Sa 2:27||- (top)|
“shofar.” The ram’s horn trumpet, not the metal trumpet.(top)
|2Sa 2:29||- (top)|
“David’s servants.” David’s “servant” in this context are the men of his army.(top)
|2Sa 2:31||- (top)|
“Hebron.” The town of Hebron was 15 miles south of Bethlehem, so we can see why it took Joab and his army all night to get there. Hebron was David’s capital at this time in history, so Joab and likely a good part of David’s army lived there.
“went all night.” Soldiering has always been a physically demanding job. Here we see Joab and his army march all night to reach Hebron. But then, life is difficult and demands mental and physical toughness on the part of every human. The Devil is the god of this age and the whole world is under his influence, so of course life is difficult (2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19). It is easy to whine and complain about things, but that never changes the circumstances, it only makes the situation more difficult and intolerable. Mature people realize life is difficult and don’t whine about it, they just soldier on. The difficulty of this life should make our great Hope of paradise on earth shine even more brightly.
[For more on the wonderful future earth, see Appendix 3, “Christ’s Future Kingdom on Earth.” For more on how the future will unfold from this present age to the Millennial Kingdom to the Everlasting Kingdom, see commentary on Rev. 21:1].(top)