- David's success and sons, verse 1-5.
- Abner's quarrel with Isbosheth, verse 6-11.
- His treaty with David, verse 12-16.
- He undertakes to bring Israel over to David, verse 17-21.
- Joab murders Abner, verse 22-27.
- David's concern and mourning over him, verse 28-39.
Long war - For five years longer: for it is probable, Isbosheth was made king presently upon Saul's death; and the other tribes did not submit to David before seven years were expired.
Geshur - A part of Syria, northward from the land of Israel. Her he married, as it may seem, in policy, that he might have a powerful friend and ally to assist him against Ishbosheth's party in the north, whilst himself opposed him in the southern parts. But he paid dear for making piety give place to policy, as the history of Absolom sheweth.
Eglah - This is added, either because she was of obscure parentage, and was known by no other title but her relation to David: or, because this was his first and most proper wife, best known by her other name of Michal, who, though she had no child by David after she scoffed at him for dancing before the ark, chap. 6:23, yet might have one before that time. And she might be named the last, because she was given away from David, and married to another man. Six sons in seven years. Some have had as numerous an offspring, and with much more honour and comfort, by one wife. And we know not that any of the six were famous: but three were very infamous.
Strong - He used all his endeavours to support Saul's house: which is mentioned, to shew the reason of his deep resentment of the following aspersion.
Messengers - Who in his name might treat with David concerning his reconciliation with him. Thus God over-rules the passions of wicked men, to accomplish his own wise and holy purposes. And who then dare contend with that God who makes even his enemies to do his work, and destroy themselves? Whose, &c. - To whom doth this whole land belong, but to thee? Is it not thine by Divine right?
Ishbosheth - Whose consent was necessary, both to take her away from her present husband, and to persuade her to return to David. Hereby also David opened to him a door of hope for his reconciliation, lest being desperate he should hinder Abner in his present design. My wife - Who, though she was taken from me by force, and constrained to marry another, yet is my rightful wife. David demands her, both for the affection he still retained to her, and upon a political consideration that she might strengthen his title to the kingdom.
Benjamin - To these he particularly applies himself, because they might be thought most kind to Saul and his house, and most loath to let the kingdom go out of their own tribe; and therefore it was necessary that he should use all his art and power with them, to persuade them to a compliance with his design; and besides, they were a valiant tribe, and bordering upon Judah, and situate between them and the other tribes; and therefore the winning of them, would be of mighty concernment to bring in all the rest.
A troop - Of robbers, or Philistines, who taking advantage of the discord between the houses of Saul and David, made inroads into Judah.
Let it, &c. - But would not a resolute punishment of the murderer himself have become David better, than this passionate imprecation on his posterity?
Abishai - For though Joab only committed the murder, yet Abishai was guilty of it, because it was done with his consent, and counsel, and approbation. In battle - Which he did for his own necessary defence; and therefore it was no justification of this treacherous murder.
Joab - Him he especially obliged to it, to bring him to repentance for his sin, and to expose him to public shame. Followed - That is, attending upon his corps, and paying him that respect which was due to his quality. Though this was against the usage of kings, and might seem below David's dignity; yet it was now expedient to vindicate himself from all suspicion of concurrence in this action.
As a fool - That is, as a wicked man. Was he cut off by the hand of justice for his crimes? Nothing less; but by Joab's malice and treachery. It is a sad thing to die as a fool dieth, as they do that any way shorten their own days: and indeed all they that make no provision for another world.
Not bound - Thou didst not tamely yield up thyself to Joab, to be bound hand and foot at his pleasure. Joab did not overcome thee in an equal combat, nor durst he attempt thee in that way, as a general or soldier of any worth would have done. Wicked men - By the hands of froward, or perverse, or crooked men, by hypocrisy and perfidiousness, whereby the vilest coward may kill the most valiant person.
Pleased them - They were satisfied concerning David's integrity.
Know ye not, &c. - But how little, how mean are they made by death, who were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.
Weak - In the infancy of my kingdom, not well settled in it. The metaphor is taken from a young and tender child or plant. These men - Joab and Abishai, the sons of thy sister Zeruiah. Too hard - That is, too powerful. They have so great a command over all the soldiers, and so great favour with the people, that I cannot punish them without apparent hazard to my person and kingdom; especially, now when all the tribes, except Judah, are in a state of opposition against me. But although this might give some colour to the delay of their punishment, yet it was a fault that he did not do it within some reasonable time, both because this indulgence proceeded from a distrust of God's power and faithfulness; as if God could not make good his promise to him, against Joab and all his confederates; and because it was contrary to God's law, which severally requires the punishment of willful murderers. It was therefore carnal wicked policy, yea cruel pity that spared him. If the law had had its course against Joab, it is probable the murder of Ishbosheth, Ammon, and others, had been prevented. So truly was he in these, and some other respects, a bloody man, which may be observed to the glory of the Divine grace, in his forgiveness and conversion.