2 Sam 3.1-39 begins by telling us that there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. This shows how wrong it was for Joab to accept Abner’s cease fire (2 Sam 2.28). During David’s seven year reign in Hebron, sons were born to David by many wives. Some believe that having multiple wives went against Deut 17.17 where it says, “Neither shall he (the king) multiply wives for himself, or his heart will be led astray.” However, God said he gave all of Saul’s wives to David, and other wives (2 Sam 12.8), so did the Lord break his own law in Deut 17.17? Let’s look at this.
According to an article at Goodquestionblog.com called, “Why did God give David all of Saul’s wives?”, this law does appear in Deut 17.17 and the intention of the law was to prohibit marriages with surrounding pagan countries. The justification for this law appears in our verse where it says, “or his heart will be led astray.” A woman who went to a foreign country was allowed to worship her own gods and in doing so, the husband may want to please her ( or the father-in-law) and join in. This is exactly what happened to Solomon as he got older. His wives turned his heart after other gods. He followed Ashtoreth of the Sidonians and Molech of the Ammonites. It can be safely said that if an Israelite king married multiple wives who faithfully followed Yehovah and the Torah, his heart would not have been led astray. As a result, the “spirit” or “essence” of the commandment in Deut 17.17 would not have been broken.
Now, here is the other concern. God gave the wives of Saul to David and it would appear that Saul had a large harem. Usually a son who became king would not be able to inherit the wives of his father because the Torah prohibited a father and son from marrying the same woman. But David was starting a new kingly line and he was not a son of Saul, so it was biblically acceptable for him to make these women his wives upon the death of Saul and David’s ascension to the throne.
According to 1 Chr 3.1-4, David had six sons by six wives in Hebron, and six is the number of man. Amnon (“faithful”) was born to Ahinoam the Jezreelitess, and he raped his sister. Chileab (“like his father” and also known as Daniel in 1 Chr 3.1) was born to Abigail the Carmelite. His third was Absalom (“father of peace”) was born to Maacah, the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur. He murdered his half-brother and revolted against David and died in the revolt. He is a picture of the false Messiah as we shall soon see. David would have at least 13 other sons, and Tamar a daughter, born to him in Jerusalem. He also had more children by his concubines, and he had at least ten (1 Chr 3.5-9; 2 Sam 15.16, 20.3).
Adonijah (“my god is Yehovah”) was born to Haggith and he tried to seize the throne from his father, and tried to marry one of David’s concubines named Abishag the Shunamite. But Solomon knows that Adonijah is trying to take the throne from him by taking the royal harem. David never had sexual relations with Abishag so it was legal for Adonijah to marry her. Solomon recognizes this and says, “Why do you request Abishag the Shunammite for Adonijah? You might as well request the kingdom for him” (1 Kings 2.22). Adonijah will be executed. Shephatiah (“Yehovah judges”) was born to Abital, and Ithream (“profit of the people”) was born to Eglah.
Now, Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah (“pavement”) and Ishboshet accused Abner of an impropriety for having relations with “my father’s concubine” (2 Sam 3. 6-7). Abner was making himself stronger in the house of Saul and this was seen as being very ambitious when you weren’t a successor. It seems Abner supported Ishboshet because he was weak, allowing Abner to get stronger in power and strength and be the power “behind the scenes.” As we have said earlier, to take the wife or concubine of a king as his property was seen as making a bid for the throne. Because Abner is getting stronger, perhaps Ishboshet is making up a story.
Abner denies this and is very angry. He says “Am I a dog’s head (that copulates with anything) that belongs to Judah?” Abner says he has shown nothing but kindness to the house of Saul and yet he gets accused of having relations with Saul’s concubine. He then says that he is going to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul to David, “As the Lord has sworn to David.” Ishboshet couldn’t answer Abner because Abner was a bully and Ishboshet was afraid of him. But Abner knew that David was God’s choice to be king and he is like us sometimes. We know things to be true but we delay to live it.
So, Abner joins David, but is it for the wrong reason? Is he coming to his senses knowing that David was God’s choice to be king, or is he coming for the wrong reason? As we have said, Abner was a bully and it seems that he is only coming to David now because Ishboshet offended him. Had Ishboshet not offended him, would he still have resisted David and leveraged his position, all the while knowing that David was God’s choice to be king?
David agrees to forget the past and Abner is allowed to join him, but on one condition. He wants him to bring Michal, David’s wife (1 Sam 18.26-28), with him. Saul took her away from David (1 Sam 25.44) and David wants to show no bitterness towards the house of Saul. This would also be seen as favorable to the adherents of the house of Saul and would give David a greater claim to Saul’s throne, being the son-in-law. But, there was one problem. She had to be taken from her husband Paltiel (“God delivers”), who loved her very much (2 Sam 3.13-15). Michal was taken from David and given to another, but David and Michal were never divorced (1 Sam 25.44).
So Abner begins to consolidate the people and wanted them to place David as their king over them, and this seemed good to Israel and the whole house of Benjamin. David then made a feast for Abner and his men and it was agreed that Abner would gather the people to David so that he could be king over all Israel (2 Sam 3.19-21). Meanwhile, Joab is out fighting robbers and came back with much spoil (2 Sam 3.22). He hears about what David has agreed to with Abner and is not happy about it. He knew Abner and if crossed he could be a formidable enemy. He knew what Abner was capable of. He was an expert in warfare and popular with the army. He could turn them against David and take the kingdom. He also remembers that it was Abner who killed his brother Asahel (2 Sam 2.23). In a sense, he thinks Abner is a spy and can’t be trusted.
Joab is going to do something about it. He sends messengers to Abner and asks him to come back to Hebron. When he arrives, he takes Abner off to the side to talk to him privately and stabs Abner in the belly, the same place he stabs his brother (2 Sam 2.23). He died on account of the blood of Asahel, but this is only the first one he kills. He will kill Amasa out of jealousy, and the Lord will require it from him in 1 Kings 2.32-34.
When David hears about this he says that he and his kingdom were innocent before the Lord of the blood of Abner. He also said that judgment may fall on the head of Joab and on his father’s house (all who had a hand in it). He then goes on to pronounce that Joab’s house would be cursed (2 Sam 3.29). We also learn in 2 Sam 3.30 that Abishai was in on this.
David leads the mourning over Abner. David had to show that his reign was not going to be one of brutality and murder. Joab and his brother Abishai had no right as a “goel” (kinsman redeemer) or an avenger of blood to do this because Asahel died in open warfare. Abner even tried to warn Asahel to turn back (2 Sam 2.22), but Asahel continued to pursue Abner. These events grieved David openly (2 Sam 3.35). David realizes that his nephews are going to be difficult. David is weak in respect to the kingdom because he couldn’t not inflict punishment on them. One was a general and the other an officer and a good warrior who was popular.
We will pick up here in Part 4.