Summary: Second Samuel 3:22-39 shows us attributes that belong to God's king.


After the death of King Saul (1:1), David was anointed as king over the tribe of Judah in the city of Hebron (2:4). Saul’s surviving son, Ish-bosheth, was set up as a puppet king over “all Israel” in the north by Abner, Saul’s military general who had survived the battle against the Philistines on Mount Gilboa (2:8-9). General Abner and David’s commanding general, Joab, had tried to resolve the situation between the two sides (2:12-32). Unfortunately, their solution did not work, and this led to war (2:17), “a long war” (3:1), between the two sides. On the first day of the battle, Abner killed Joab’s brother, Asahel (2:23). It is clear that Abner did not want to kill Asahel, but Asahel would not stop pursuing Abner, and so Abner reluctantly killed Asahel on the battlefield.

After about seven and a half years (2:11), there was a falling out between Ish-bosheth and Abner (3:6-11). Abner decided to transfer his allegiance to David in Hebron, with the promise that he would bring all Israel with him over to David (3:12-21). Remarkably, David met with Abner, enjoyed a feast with him, and sent him back to Israel “in peace” (3:21). David was seeking to establish God’s kingdom of peace on earth.

However, David’s general, Joab, was not present when all of this occurred. He was not at all happy to hear what David had done. In fact, he deceptively called for Abner to return to Hebron, and then he and Abishai murdered Abner in cold blood.

Let’s read about David mourning for Abner in 2 Samuel 3:22-39:

22 Just then the servants of David arrived with Joab from a raid, bringing much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David at Hebron, for he had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the army that was with him came, it was told Joab, “Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he has let him go, and he has gone in peace.” 24 Then Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Behold, Abner came to you. Why is it that you have sent him away, so that he is gone? 25 You know that Abner the son of Ner came to deceive you and to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you are doing.”

26 When Joab came out from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern of Sirah. But David did not know about it. 27 And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother. 28 Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29 May it fall upon the head of Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who falls by the sword or who lacks bread!” 30 So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon.

31 Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and mourn before Abner.” And King David followed the bier. 32 They buried Abner at Hebron. And the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. 33 And the king lamented for Abner, saying,

“Should Abner die as a fool dies?

34 Your hands were not bound;

your feet were not fettered;

as one falls before the wicked

you have fallen.”

And all the people wept again over him. 35 Then all the people came to persuade David to eat bread while it was yet day. But David swore, saying, “God do so to me and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!” 36 And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people. 37 So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king’s will to put to death Abner the son of Ner. 38 And the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39 And I was gentle today, though anointed king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are more severe than I. The Lord repay the evildoer according to his wickedness!” (2 Samuel 3:22-39)

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