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2 Samuel 3-5

Supplemental notes for the Daily Bible Study Bible Reading Plan

by Wayne Blank

2 Samuel Chapter 3

Israel was now in a state of civil war. David had much less territorial resources and military forces, but he made steady gains over the surviving house of Saul due to a combination of David's tactical skills, a battle-hardened core of loyal (like David, they had been outcasts from the rest of Israel under Saul, so their dedication to David and Judah was secure) warriors, and the greatest asset of all, David was The Lord's choice for king. David's capital at Hebron (where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were buried - see The Tombs Of Hebron) was secure enough that David even began producing a large (and later very troubled) family.

The City of David

"There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; and David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.

And sons were born to David at Hebron: his first-born was Amnon [see Tamar and Amnon], of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; 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 the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron." (2 Samuel 3:1-5 RSV)

Saul's son Ish-bosheth was installed as king by the men who had a vested interest in maintaining the regime that Saul created after he became defiant toward The Lord. They were the real power of the kingdom; Ish-bosheth had little respect in the eyes of those who served him because in fact they were serving themselves. They nevertheless saw the writing on the wall, that David was winning the war against them, so almost any excuse would be sufficient for them to transfer their "loyalty" to David. In Abner's case, it was due to accusations over one of Saul's concubines.

"While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul. Now Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah; and Ish-bosheth said to Abner, "Why have you gone in to my father's concubine?" Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth ... And Ish-bosheth could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him." (2 Samuel 3:6-8,11 RSV)

Abner was the commander of Saul's army. He knew David's capabilities, right from the time that Abner brought David to Saul after his famous defeat of Goliath. Abner sent word to David that he could make the army that David was fighting into an allied army, under David. David accepted the amazing offer; David even demanded that his estranged wife Michal be taken from her new husband and returned to David. More amazingly, weak Ish-bosheth surrendered to his enemy's demand.

"And Abner sent messengers to David at Hebron, saying, "To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring over all Israel to you."

And he said, "Good; I will make a covenant with you; but one thing I require of you; that is, you shall not see my face, unless you first bring Michal, Saul's daughter, when you come to see my face." Then David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth Saul's son, saying, "Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed at the price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines." And Ish-bosheth sent, and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, "Go, return"; and he returned." (2 Samuel 3:12-16 RSV)

Before Abner could transfer the army to David however, he was assassinated by David's nephew Joab because of Abner's lawful killing of Joab's brother Asahel in battle.

"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. And when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he smote him in the belly, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother." (2 Samuel 3:26-27 RSV)

2 Samuel Chapter 4

Ish-bosheth's kingdom was now rapidly crumbling. The death of Abner was a severe psychological blow. The knives were now out, literally, for Ish-bosheth.


"When Ish-bosheth, Saul's son, heard that Abner had died at Hebron, his courage failed, and all Israel was dismayed. Now Saul's son had two men who were captains of raiding bands; the name of the one was Baanah, and the name of the other Rechab" (2 Samuel 4:1-2 RSV)

Baanah and Rechab, officers in Ish-bosheth's army, assassinated and beheaded their own king right in his palace.

"Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ish-bosheth, as he was taking his noonday rest. And behold, the doorkeeper of the house had been cleaning wheat, but she grew drowsy and slept; so Rechab and Baanah his brother slipped in.

When they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him. They took his head, and went by the way of the Arabah all night, and brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David at Hebron. And they said to the king, "Here is the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; The Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring." (2 Samuel 4:5-8 RSV)

David's response to the king killers was not what they expected, partly perhaps to dissuade anyone doing the same to him some day.

"But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, "As The Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, when one told me, 'Behold, Saul is dead,' and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and slew him at Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous man in his own house upon his bed, shall I not now require his blood at your hand, and destroy you from the earth?"

And David commanded his young men, and they killed them, and cut off their hands and feet, and hanged them beside the pool at Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth, and buried it in the tomb of Abner at Hebron." (2 Samuel 4:9-12 RSV)

2 Samuel Chapter 5

Despite the circumstances of the victory, David's royal position was now secure and complete. The tribes of Israel now had one king.


"Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, "Behold, we are your bone and flesh. In times past, when Saul was king over us, it was you that led out and brought in Israel; and The Lord said to you, 'You shall be shepherd of my people Israel, and you shall be prince over Israel.'"

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before The Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel.

David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years." (2 Samuel 5:1-5 RSV)

The transfer of David's capital to Jerusalem came next. The "Jebusite city" would now become the City of David.

"And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, "You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off" - thinking, "David cannot come in here." Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion [see Who, What or Where Is Zion?], that is, the city of David." (2 Samuel 5:6-7 RSV)

Fact Finder: (a) Who was the first human king of Israel? (b) What happened when David became king of Judah? (c) What happened after David became king of all of Israel?
(a) See Israelite Monarchy - The Origin
(b) See Israelite Monarchy - The Civil War
(c) See Israelite Monarchy - The United Kingdom

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