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.
And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess;
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;
And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;
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.
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?
This action of Abner's seems a most evident proof that he intended to seize on the government; and it was so understood by Ish-bosheth; see Parallel Texts.
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?
Am I a dog's head
This was a proverbial expression among the Hebrews to denote whatever was deemed worthless and contemptible. Something similar to this was the answer of the Turkish commander at Beer, on the Euphrates, to a request made to see the castle. "Do they," said he, "take me for a child, or an ass's head, that they would feed me with sweet meats, and dupe me with a bit of cloth? No, they shall not see the castle."
So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the LORD hath sworn to David, even so I do to him;
So do God
as the Lord
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.
And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him.
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.
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.
Heb. saying. Thou shalt.
As Michal was not divorced, but violently separated from David, he had a legal right to demand her, and was justified in receiving her again. It is probable, also, that her marriage with Phaltiel was a force upon her inclinations; and whatever affections he might have for her, it was highly criminal for him to take another man's wife. David required Michal probably both out of affection for her, and to strengthen his interest, by asserting his affinity with the house of Saul.
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.
And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.
And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned.
Heb. going and weeping.
And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you:
in times past
Heb. both yesterday and the third day.
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.
for the Lord
By the hand
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.
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.
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.
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?
Joab and his brother Abishai, David's nephews, had been very faithful and highly useful to him in his distresses; and, from gratitude and natural affection, he had inadvertently permitted them to assume almost as much ascendancy over him as Abner had over the pusillanimous Ishbosheth: he trusted and feared them too much, and allowed them all the importance they claimed; which had emboldened them, especially Joab, to a high degree of presumption.
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.
that he came
and to know
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.
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.
Joab was afraid that Abner, after rendering such essential service to David, would be made the general of the army; and therefore, under pretence of avenging the death of his brother, he treacherously assassinated the unsuspecting and too-confiding Abner: and such was the power of this cool-blooded and nefarious murderer, that the king dared not bring him to justice for his crime. But, while Joab's conduct cannot be too severely reprobated, the justice of God is apparent in Abner's punishment; who, from ambition, had pertinaciously, against his conscience, opposed the declared will of God; and was induced by base resentment to desert Ish-bosheth, and offer his services to David: see ver. 6-10; 4:6.
for the blood
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:
Genesis 4:10 *marg:
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.
Heb. be cut off. an issue.
So Joab and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.
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.
David, intending no doubt to punish Joab, and to lessen his authority with the people, commanded him to take upon him the office of chief mourner; but, as his revenge was gratified, his rival removed, and no heavier punishment inflicted, it is probable his hardened mind would feel but little objection to the ceremony.
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.
And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth?
as a fool dieth
That is, as a bad man, as the word frequently signifies in Scripture.
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.
The hand of malefactors were usually secured with cords, and their feet with fetters; a custom to which David affectingly alludes in his lamentation over the dust of Abner. Thy hands, O Abner, were not bound, as found to be a malefactor, nor thy feet put in fetters; thou was treated with honour by him whose business it was to judge thee, and thy attachment to the house of Saul was esteemed rather generous than culpable: as the best of men may fall, so thou fellest by the sword of treachery, not of justice.
Heb. children of iniquity.
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.
And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.
Heb. was good in their eyes. as.
And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?
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.