2 Samuel 1-3 Chapter Study
The reason Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are divided into 2 books is because of the scrolls they were originally written on.
One scroll for each book would have been far too long to use for reading or study and far too big to move around.
So they were broken into 2 scrolls each.
Though this is called 2nd Samuel – in fact, Samuel was dead at this time.
Samuel’s record concluded with ch. 24 of the first book.
The prophets Gad & Nathan probably carried on the narrative from that point to the end of 2 Samuel.
1Now it came to pass after the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, and David had stayed two days in Ziklag, 2on the third day, behold, it happened that a man came from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dust on his head. So it was, when he came to David, that he fell to the ground and prostrated himself. 3And David said to him, “Where have you come from?” So he said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” 4Then David said to him, “How did the matter go? Please tell me.” And he answered, “The people have fled from the battle, many of the people are fallen and dead, and Saul and Jonathan his son are dead also.” 5So David said to the young man who told him, “How do you know that Saul and Jonathan his son are dead?”
David knew battlefield reports were often terribly inaccurate.
David wanted to know how reliable this report was.
Had this guy seen Saul slain with his own eyes or merely heard a rumor.
Messengers who brought good news were often rewarded by the one they reported to and no doubt this guy was hoping for some kind of reward from David.
That frames the background for what this guys says next . . .
6Then the young man who told him said, “As I happened by chance to be on Mount Gilboa, there was Saul, leaning on his spear; and indeed the chariots and horsemen followed hard after him. 7Now when he looked behind him, he saw me and called to me. And I answered, ‘Here I am.’ 8And he said to me, ‘Who are you?’ So I answered him, ‘I am an Amalekite.’ 9He said to me again, ‘Please stand over me and kill me, for anguish has come upon me, but my life still remains in me.’ 10So I stood over him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen. And I took the crown that was on his head and the bracelet that was on his arm, and have brought them here to my lord.”
This guy says he knew Saul was dead because he’d ended his life.
Saul was surrounded with no chance for escape and had asked this guy to finish him.
Now – this presents a problem because 1 Samuel ends with the mortally-wounded Saul asking his armorbearer to finish him off so that the Philistines couldn’t take him alive and make a mockery of him.
When the armorbearer refused to kill him, the text says Saul committed suicide by falling on his own sword.
This guy is lying. He was one of those wretched characters who roam across a fresh battlefield striping the dead of whatever loot they can find.
He came on Saul’s body before the Philistines arrived & took the crown and armband that marked Saul as the king.
He figured David was pay the highest price for them since he was the one everyone knew was the rightful king of Israel.
He figured David would be please Saul was dead, and what better way to prove his death than to say he’d done it?
11Therefore David took hold of his own clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. 12And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and for Jonathan his son, for the people of the Lord and for the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword.
We might think David would rejoice at the news of Saul’s death.
The man who’d hounded him all over Israel was no gone and the path to the throne long barred from David was now clear.
But David took no delight in the news of Saul’s & Jonathan’s death.
He loved both men & was grief-stricken to hear that not only they, but all Israel had been handed a huge defeated by the Philistines.
13Then David said to the young man who told him, “Where are you from?” And he answered, “I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite.” 14So David said to him, “How was it you were not afraid to put forth your hand to destroy the Lord’s anointed?” 15Then David called one of the young men and said, “Go near, and execute him!” And he struck him so that he died. 16So David said to him, “Your blood is on your own head, for your own mouth has testified against you, saying, ‘I have killed the Lord’s anointed.’”
It had been in David’s power to kill Saul himself at least twice before – but he’d refused to do it.
David said there was no way he would harm someone who had at one time been used by God in such a mighty way as Saul.
God had anointed Saul to rule & though God later rejected him for his continued rebellion, David said he would not lift a finger to harm Saul.
God had put Saul on the throne, God would have to take him off.
David thought that any man who harmed Saul was really dishonoring God.
When this guy said he was an Amalekite, it only clinched David’s fury.
Amalekites had just burned David’s & his men’s homes in Ziklag.
They had just returned from wiping the raiders out.
Also, David knew years before God had given Saul a command to wipe out the Amalekites.
As we saw when we were studying that story in 1 Sam 15, the Amalekites represent sinful flesh.
It constantly pulls on us, seeking to drag us down and back into bondage & sin.
There’s only one thing to be done with the flesh, it’s what God told Saul to do with Amalek – wipe it out!
Don’t leave any little corner, one little part to draw comfort from. Be done with it once and for all.
Saul didn’t, and because of that – he lost his place; his anointing was lifted.
At the end of his life – who comes along to loot his dead body, but one of those he’d failed to get rid of.
That’s the picture we’re to see here – the lesson we’re to learn
The once great Saul – anointed & used of God, a man of incredible potential – dead, with the cause of his ruin crouching over him, looting his glory.
How many potentially great men & women of God have been felled by some seemingly little thing that ended their usefulness to God?
How many of God’s anointed pass on leaving behind, not a reputation for excellence, but with the specter of some scandal marking their grave?
Let me use an example:
Jimmy Swaggart was a powerful preacher who’s ministry saw thousands won to faith.
But he gave a little corner of his private life to lust & it destroyed him.
Today, people don’t remember the good Swaggart did, the effect of God’s anointing on him; they remember one thing – his sin.
Even with David we see a bit of this. When most people think of David, they remember 2 main stories.
1) His battle with Goliath
2) His sin with Bathsheba
This Amalekite lurking over Saul’s slain body, stealing his glory as represented by that crown, is a reminder to us of what happens when we refuse to follow God’s will and go our own way.
There is a way that seems right unto a man, but it’s end is the way of Death!
17Then David lamented with this lamentation over Saul and over Jonathan his son, 18and he told them to teach the children of Judah the Song of the Bow; indeed it is written in the Book of Jasher:
This book is mentioned in Joshua 10:13 as well. It was a collection of songs & poetry that was known by the people of that time.
This song is an expression of David’s true heart toward Saul & Jonthan.
19“The beauty of Israel is slain on your high places! How the mighty have fallen! 20Tell it not in Gath, Proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon—Lest the daughters of the Philistines rejoice, Lest the daughters of the uncircumcised triumph. 21“O mountains of Gilboa, Let there be no dew nor rain upon you, Nor fields of offerings.For the shield of the mighty is cast away there! The shield of Saul, not anointed with oil. 22From the blood of the slain, From the fat of the mighty, The bow of Jonathan did not turn back, And the sword of Saul did not return. 23“Saul and Jonathan were beloved and pleasant in their lives, And in their death they were not divided; They were swifter than eagles, They were stronger than lions. 24“O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul, Who clothed you in scarlet, with luxury; Who put ornaments of gold on your apparel. 25“How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle! Jonathan was slain in your high places. 26I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan; You have been very pleasant to me; Your love to me was wonderful, Surpassing the love of women. 27“How the mighty have fallen, And the weapons of war perished!”
David’s sorrow & grief over the loss of both Saul & Jonathan is great.
What missing from this song is any hint of bitterness.
David doesn’t say, “It’s so sad Saul’s dead – but it serves him right for trying to kill me.”
Some modern liberal commentators use v. 26 as the basis for claiming David was a homosexual.
This is ridiculous!
David is not speaking of a sexual or romantic love when he speaks of his affection for Jonathan.
The bond that united them was that they were both cut form the same spiritual cloth.
They both had a passion for God and a faith in Him unmatched by the rest of their acquaintances.
Both men knew the other shared the same kind of outlook on life and this forged a bond & devotion between them that was as emotionally strong as romantic love. But there was nothing sexual about it.
1It happened after this that David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up to any of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” David said, “Where shall I go up?” And He said, “To Hebron.”
As we saw in ch. 30, now that David has returned to the Lord after a dark time of serious backsliding, he won’t do anything without seeking God’s direction.
Abiathar the pries brings the ephod and David asks what he’s to do.
God tells him to go to Hebron, the current central city of the tribe of Judah, his tribe.
2So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite. 3And David brought up the men who were with him, every man with his household. So they dwelt in the cities of Hebron. 4Then the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.
With Saul now out of the way, the leaders of the tribe of Judah follow through on what they knew Samuel the Judge & Prophet had made clear – that David was God’s pick to replace Saul.
But notice it’s only the men of Judah who install David as king in Hebron, the capital of Judah.
The other 11 tribes do not recognize him yet.
And they told David, saying, “The men of Jabesh Gilead were the ones who buried Saul.”
One of the first things David would be concerned about was the disposition of Saul’s body.
He then got a report of how the men of Jabesh Gilead had taken a huge risk in going to Beth Shan to removed Saul’s & his sons’ bodies from the wall and gave them a proper burial.
5So David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead, and said to them, “You are blessed of the Lord, for you have shown this kindness to your lord, to Saul, and have buried him. 6And now may the Lord show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness, because you have done this thing. 7Now therefore, let your hands be strengthened, and be valiant; for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”
When the Philistines learned that the men of Jabesh Gilead had taken Saul’s body to honor it with a decent burial, they might attack.
So David sent them a message that if that happened, David would come to defend them.
This was a smart move on David’s part.
Securing the loyalty of the Jews living on the east side of the Jordan was crucial if he was to eventually rule over the entire nation.
So he tells the men of JG that he honored Saul was much as they did. If they get into trouble for it, he’ll stand with them.
This would have been a major comfort for the people of JG for the simple reason that the Philistine victory up in their area had seen the native Jews all flee. There were no real allies nearby to JG now.
Just as Saul had come to their defense against the Ammonites 40 years before, David says he will come now if the Philistines attack.
8But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim; 9and he made him king over Gilead, over the Ashurites, over Jezreel, over Ephraim, over Benjamin, and over all Israel.
Abner was the lead general over Saul’s troops.
He took the eldest surviving son of Saul and following the tradition of the time installed him on Saul’s throne.
The ceremony was held on the eastern side of the Jordan River at Mahanaim.
It’s curious that Abner was still alive & fancied himself a king maker.
If he was supposed to be Saul’s commander, why wasn’t he with Saul at the end on Mt. Gilboa?
As we’ll see, Abner was a wily fellow who thought himself the real power in Israel.
He set the weak Ishbosheth on the throne because he’d be easy to manipulate.
In 1 Chron 8, we learn Ishbosheth’s real name was Esh-Baal, = “fire of Baal” – lightening.
Saul’s spiritual decline is marked by his naming his kids after pagan deities.
Here in 2nd Samuel, he’s called Ishbosheth = “son of shame.”
Like his elder brother Jonathan, Ishbosheth ought to have refused to take the throne since God had made it so clear David was the rightful king.
10Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. Only the house of Judah followed David. 11And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.
Following Ishbosheth’s death, the leaders of the other tribes took a while before they got around to asking David to come and reign over them.
12Now Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 13And Joab the son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out and met them by the pool of Gibeon. So they sat down, one on one side of the pool and the other on the other side of the pool.
Abner was the chief commander of Ishbosheth & the north, Joab was David’s main general & commander of the army of Judah.
They met at Gibeon which is right at the northern border of Judah to settle the issue of who should rule.
14Then Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men now arise and compete before us.” And Joab said, “Let them arise.” 15So they arose and went over by number, twelve from Benjamin, followers of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and twelve from the servants of David. 16And each one grasped his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called the Field of Sharp Swords, which is in Gibeon.
The means of settling the dispute would be by representative combat, as we saw with David & Goliath.
But this time, instead of just one champion for each side, they’d use 12 each – symbolizing the contest was to see who would rule the 12 tribes of Israel.
The outcome of the conflict didn’t solve anything because all 24 elite warriors died of their wounds.
Seeing this, both armies started up on each other. When Joab’s side began to win, Abner called for a retreat
17So there was a very fierce battle that day, and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David. 18Now the three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab and Abishai and Asahel. And Asahel was as fleet of foot as a wild gazelle. 19So Asahel pursued Abner, and in going he did not turn to the right hand or to the left from following Abner. 20Then Abner looked behind him and said, “Are you Asahel?” He answered, “I am.” 21And Abner said to him, “Turn aside to your right hand or to your left, and lay hold on one of the young men and take his armor for yourself.” But Asahel would not turn aside from following him. 22So Abner said again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I face your brother Joab?” 23However, he refused to turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the blunt end of the spear, so that the spear came out of his back; and he fell down there and died on the spot. So it was that as many as came to the place where Asahel fell down and died, stood still.
Everyone knew the 3 brothers were tight. Asahel’s death would be hard for the other 2 and they would vow revenge.
24Joab and Abishai also pursued Abner. And the sun was going down when they came to the hill of Ammah, which is before Giah by the road to the Wilderness of Gibeon. 25Now the children of Benjamin gathered together behind Abner and became a unit, and took their stand on top of a hill. 26Then Abner called to Joab and said, “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that it will be bitter in the latter end? How long will it be then until you tell the people to return from pursuing their brethren?” 27And Joab said, “As God lives, unless you had spoken, surely then by morning all the people would have given up pursuing their brethren.” 28So Joab blew a trumpet; and all the people stood still and did not pursue Israel anymore, nor did they fight anymore.
Tired from the furious retreat, Abner’s men came to a place where they could take a stand.
Joab realized if he pressed the attack his men would be slaughtered, so he called off the pursuit.
29Then Abner and his men went on all that night through the plain, crossed over the Jordan, and went through all Bithron; and they came to Mahanaim. 30So Joab returned from pursuing Abner. And when he had gathered all the people together, there were missing of David’s servants nineteen men and Asahel. 31But the servants of David had struck down, of Benjamin and Abner’s men, three hundred and sixty men who died.
Joab had lost only 20 while Abner lost 360; 18 to 1. You can’t fight many battle like that and call it a win.
32Then they took up Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb, which was in Bethlehem. And Joab and his men went all night, and they came to Hebron at daybreak. 1Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. But David grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.
The battle results continued much as they had in that first battle at Gibeon.
2Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; 3his second, Chileab, by Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; the third, Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; 4the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; 5and the sixth, Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.
Michal; Saul’s daughter, was David’s first wife. She’d been given to another man when David went into exile.
Then we read of Ahinoam & Abigail. But now we learn of 4 other women he married, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, Eglah.
We’ve already mentioned David’s polygamy and the problems it will cause him.
There’s a lesson for us in David’s multiple marriages.
You see, David was following the convention of the time, which was for a king to have multiple wives.
Many of these women were daughters of important and powerful men.
A king increased his influence and wealth by alliances with other power-brokers.
There was no better way to make an alliance than by marriage & producing grandchildren for your ally.
Also, the more wives, concubines & kids, the more a king’s glory was supposed to shine.
The idea was that he was strong & virile –important qualities for ancient kings because it marked the favor of God.
David probably married these women to seal alliances and build his power base.
Certainly he knew the principle of God’s Word that marriage was for one man and one woman for life.
As we saw in an earlier study, the Law specifically said the king was NOT to multiply wives.
But he conveniently set God’s Word aside, justifying his marriages by saying it was normal & expected for someone in his position.
This is something many other wise mature Christians do – they know something they’re doing isn’t God’s will, doesn’t reflect true holiness, but they rationalize and justify it by saying that, well, everyone else is doing it.
God’s Word was given for a different time; things have changed.
Society & morality have evolved.
It might not be right for others, but it’s okay for me.
Surely that doesn’t apply to me, here, now.
And besides, we‘re not under law, we’re under grace.
It’s amazing how much spiritual sloppiness & immorality gets excused by a careless view of grace.
When grace becomes a cover & excuse for sin, it isn’t grace.
God bestows His grace to enable holiness, not to excuse sin.
A sure clue we’re playing a dangerous game is when we argue with ourselves about whether or not it’s okay to do something.
Notice that the devil did not come to Eve and argue with her over all the reason why she should NOT eat the fruit of the tree.
She knew what was right; his argument was aimed at getting her to doubt what she knew to be true.
And so it is with us.
David knew having multiple wives was wrong. He justified it by hiding behind the cloak of tradition.
The fact is – no one was fooled – specially not his wives & children.
6Now it was so, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner was strengthening his hold on the house of Saul. 7And Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. So Ishbosheth said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?”
It was the custom that when a new king came to the throne, his father’s concubines became his.
Abner had taken Aiah, one of Saul’s harem, as his own when Saul died.
Ishbosheth saw this as nothing less than a huge over-reach on Abner’s part, taking something that belonged to him as the king.
8Then Abner became very angry at the words of Ishbosheth, and 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 delivered you into the hand of David; and you charge me today with a fault concerning this woman? 9May God do so to Abner, and more also, if I do not do for David as the Lord has sworn to him— 10to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beersheba.”
Abner was furious at Ishbosheth’s question.
Of course, his fury was the result of the fact that he was in fact being smoked out – Abner really did think the throne ought to be his. He was the real power behind it and knew it.
Abner’s words here prove that he did know the rightful king was David.
He was willfully opposing God’s choice in supporting Ishbosheth.
He’d been one of Saul’s counselors who’d stirred him up against David, thinking if David came to the throne he’d lose his place at court.
But this insult was too much and now he deiced to throw his support to David, if David would have him.
11And he could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him. 12Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to David, saying, “Whose is the land?” saying also, “Make your covenant with me, and indeed my hand shall be with you to bring all Israel to you.”
There it is 0 Abner believes he has the power to sway the northern tribes to recognize David as king.
David still wanted his first wife even though Saul had married her to another guy.
David probably felt that Michal would help greas4e the skids for the northern tirbes acceptance of him as their monarch, since he was Saul’s son in law.
14So David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” 15And Ishbosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish. 16Then her husband went along with her to Bahurim, weeping behind her. So Abner said to him, “Go, return!” And he returned.
This is just a really sad scene.
17Now Abner had communicated with the elders of Israel, saying, “In time past you were seeking for David to be king over you. 18Now then, do it! For the Lord has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David, I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and the hand of all their enemies.’” 19And Abner also spoke in the hearing of Benjamin. Then Abner also went to speak in the hearing of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel and the whole house of Benjamin. 20So Abner and twenty men with him came to David at Hebron. And David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. 21Then Abner said to David, “I will arise and go, and gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.
This was a summit meeting between Abner & David. Abner said the initial word of the elders of the northern tribes was positive.
Terms were drawn up for the formal uniting of the two groups and Abner departed with an agreement on when and where the formal coronation would take place.
22At that moment the servants of David and Joab came from a raid and brought much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David in Hebron, for he had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23When Joab and all the troops that were with him had come, they told Joab, saying, “Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he sent him away, and he has gone in peace.” 24Then Joab came to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you; why is it that you sent him away, and he has already gone? 25Surely you realize that Abner the son of Ner came to deceive you, to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you are doing.” 26And when Joab had gone from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, who brought him back from the well of Sirah. But David did not know it. 27Now when Abner had returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him privately, and there stabbed him in the stomach, so that he died for the blood of Asahel his brother.
Joab was simply after revenge for Abner’s having killed his brother.
But it was a death from battle and ought never have been something that was a cause for revenge.
Joab throws a huge wrench in David’s plan to unite the nation by killing Abner.
This will look like nothing but terrible treachery on David’s part.
Abner had come under a flag of truce – his safety was guaranteed.
28Afterward, when David heard it, he said, “My kingdom and I are guiltless before the Lord forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29Let it rest on the head of Joab and on all his father’s house; and let there never fail to be in the house of Joab one who has a discharge or is a leper, who leans on a staff or falls by the sword, or who lacks bread.” 30So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had killed their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.
David laid a huge curse on Job & his family for this hideous act of treachery and the danger it placed the entire nation it.
David wanted everyone to know neither he nor anyone else in his court had anything to do with it.
31Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes, gird yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn for Abner.” And King David followed the coffin. 32So they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. 33And the king sang a lament over Abner and said: “Should Abner die as a fool dies? 34Your hands were not bound Nor your feet put into fetters; As a man falls before wicked men, so you fell.” Then all the people wept over him again. 35And when all the people came to persuade David to eat food while it was still day, David took an oath, saying, “God do so to me, and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!” 36Now all the people took note of it, and it pleased them, since whatever the king did pleased all the people. 37For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king’s intent to kill Abner the son of Ner. 38Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me. The Lord shall repay the evildoer according to his wickedness.”