1 However, the war was prolonged between the house of Saul and the house of David. David was becoming steadily stronger, while the house of Saul was becoming increasingly weaker.
2 Now sons were born to David in Hebron. His firstborn was Amnon, born to Ahinoam the Jezreelite.
3 His second sontn The Hebrew text does not have the word “son.” So also in vv. 3-5. was Kileab, born to Abigail the widowtn Heb “wife.” of Nabal the Carmelite. His third son was Absalom, the son of Maacah daughter of King Talmai of Geshur.
4 His fourth son was Adonijah, the son of Haggith. His fifth son was Shephatiah, the son of Abitail.
5 His sixth son was Ithream, born to David’s wife Eglah. These sonstn The Hebrew text does not have “sons.” were all born to David in Hebron.
Abner Defects to David’s Camp
6 As the war continued between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was becoming more influentialtn Heb “was strengthening himself.” The statement may have a negative sense here, perhaps suggesting that Abner was overstepping the bounds of political propriety in a self-serving way. in the house of Saul.
7 Now Saul had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. Ish-boshethtc The Hebrew of the MT reads simply “and he said,” with no expressed subject for the verb. It is not likely that the text originally had no expressed subject for this verb, since the antecedent is not immediately clear from the context. We should probably restore to the Hebrew text the name “Ish-bosheth.” See a few medieval Hebrew mss, Aquila, Symmachus, Theodotion, and Vulgate. Perhaps the name was accidentally omitted by homoioarcton. Note that both the name Ishbosheth and the following preposition אֶל (’el) begin with the letter alef. said to Abner, “Why did you have sexual relations withtn Heb “come to”; KJV, NRSV “gone in to”; NAB “been intimate with”; NIV “sleep with.” my father’s concubine?”sn This accusation against Abner is a very serious one, since an act of sexual infringement on the king’s harem would probably have been understood as a blatant declaration of aspirations to kingship. As such it was not merely a matter of ethical impropriety but an act of grave political significance as well.
8 These words of Ish-bosheth really angered Abner and he said, “Am I the head of a dog that belongs to Judah? This very day I am demonstratingtn Heb “I do.” loyalty to the house of Saul your father and to his relativestn Heb “brothers.” and his friends! I have not betrayed you into the hand of David. Yet you have accused me of sinning with this woman today!tn Heb “and you have laid upon me the guilt of the woman today.”
9 God will severely judge Abnertn Heb “So will God do to Abner and so he will add to him.” if I do not do for David exactly what the Lord has promised him,tc Heb “has sworn to David.” The LXX, with the exception of the recension of Origen, adds “in this day.”
10 namely, to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and to establish the throne of David over Israel and over Judah all the way from Dan to Beer Sheba!”
11 Ish-boshethtn Heb “he”; the referent (Ish-bosheth) has been specified in the translation for clarity. was unable to answer Abner with even a single word because he was afraid of him.
12 Then Abner sent messengerstn The Hebrew text adds here, “on his behalf.” to David saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make an agreementtn Heb “cut a covenant.” So also in vv. 13, 21. with me, and I will do whatever I cantn Heb “and behold, my hand is with you.” to cause all Israel to turn to you.”
13 So David said, “Good! I will make an agreement with you. I ask only one thing from you. You will not see my face unless you bring Saul’s daughter Michal when you come to visit me.”tn The words “when you come to see my face,” though found in the Hebrew text, are somewhat redundant given the similar expression in the earlier part of the verse. The words are absent from the Syriac Peshitta.
14 David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth son of Saul with this demand:tn Heb “to Ish-bosheth son of Saul saying.” To avoid excessive sibilance (especially when read aloud) the translation renders “saying” as “with this demand.” “Give me my wife Michal whom I acquiredtn Heb “whom I betrothed to myself.” for a hundred Philistine foreskins.”
15 So Ish-bosheth took hertn Heb “sent and took her.” from her husband Paltieltn In 1 Sam 25:44 this name appears as “Palti.” son of Laish.
16 Her husband went along behind her, weeping all the way to Bahurim. Finally Abner said to him, “Go back!”tn Heb “Go, return.” So he returned home.
17 Abner advisedtn Heb “the word of Abner was with.” the elders of Israel, “Previously you were wanting David to be your king.tn Heb “you were seeking David to be king over you.”
18 Act now! For the Lord has said to David, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will savetc The present translation follows the LXX, the Syriac Peshitta, and Vulgate in reading “I will save,” rather than the MT “he saved.” The context calls for the 1st person common singular imperfect of the verb rather than the 3rd person masculine singular perfect. my people Israel fromtn Heb “from the hand of.” the Philistines and from all their enemies.’”
19 Then Abner spoke privatelytn Heb “into the ears of.” with the Benjaminites. Abner also went to Hebron to inform David privatelytn Heb “also Abner went to speak into the ears of David in Hebron.” of all that Israel and the entire house of Benjamin had agreed to.tn Heb “all which was good in the eyes of Israel and in the eyes of all the house of Benjamin.”
20 When Abner, accompanied by twenty men, came to David in Hebron, David prepared a banquet for Abner and the men who were with him.
21 Abner said to David, “Let me leave so that I may go and gather all Israel to my lord the king so that they may make an agreementtn After the cohortatives, the prefixed verbal form with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose or result. with you. Then you will rule over all that you desire.” So David sent Abner away, and he left in peace.
Abner Is Killed
22 Now David’s soldierstn Heb “And look, the servants of David.” and Joab were coming back from a raid, bringing a great deal of plunder with them. Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, for Davidtn Heb “he”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity. had sent him away and he had left in peace.
23 When Joab and all the army that was with him arrived, Joab was told: “Abner the son of Ner came to the king; he sent him away, and he left in peace!”
24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Abnertn Heb “Look, Abner.” has come to you! Why would you send him away? Now he’s gone on his way!tc The LXX adds “in peace.”
25 You know Abner the son of Ner! Surely he came here to spy on you and to determine when you leave and when you returntn Heb “your going out and your coming in.” The expression is a merism. It specifically mentions the polar extremities of the actions but includes all activity in between the extremities as well, thus encompassing the entirety of one’s activities. and to discover everything that you are doing!”
26 Then Joab left David and sent messengers after Abner. They brought him back from the well of Sirah. (But David was not aware of it.)
27 When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gate as if to speak privately with him. Joab then stabbed himtn Heb “and he struck him down there [in] the stomach.” in the abdomen and killed him, avenging the shed blood of his brother Asahel.tn Heb “and he [i.e., Abner] died on account of the blood of Asahel his [i.e., Joab’s] brother.”
28 When David later heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord of the shed blood of Abner son of Ner!
29 May his blood whirl overtn Heb “and may they whirl over.” In the Hebrew text the subject of the plural verb is unexpressed. The most likely subject is Abner’s “shed blood” (v. 28), which is a masculine plural form in Hebrew. The verb חוּל (khul, “whirl”) is used with the preposition עַל (’al) only here and in Jer 23:19; 30:23. the head of Joab and the entire house of his father!tc 4QSama has “of Joab” rather than “of his father” read by the MT. May the males of Joab’s housetn Heb “the house of Joab.” However, it is necessary to specify that David’s curse is aimed at Joab’s male descendants; otherwise it would not be clear that “one who works at the spindle” refers to a man doing woman’s work rather than a woman. never cease to havetn Heb “and may there not be cut off from the house of Joab.” someone with a running sore or a skin disease or one who works at the spindletn The expression used here is difficult. The translation “one who works at the spindle” follows a suggestion of S. R. Driver that the expression pejoratively describes an effeminate man who, rather than being a mighty warrior, is occupied with tasks that are normally fulfilled by women (S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 250-51; cf. NAB “one unmanly”; TEV “fit only to do a woman’s work”; CEV “cowards”). But P. K. McCarter, following an alleged Phoenician usage of the noun to refer to “crutches,” adopts a different view. He translates the phrase “clings to a crutch,” seeing here a further description of physical lameness (II Samuel [AB], 118). Such an idea fits the present context well and is followed by NIV, NCV, and NLT, although the evidence for this meaning is questionable. According to DNWSI 2:915-16, the noun consistently refers to a spindle in Phoenician, as it does in Ugaritic (see UT 468). or one who falls by the sword or one who lacks food!”
30 So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner, because he had killed their brother Asahel in Gibeon during the battle.
31 David instructed Joab and all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes! Put on sackcloth! Lament before Abner!” Now King David followedtn Heb “was walking.” behind the funeral bier.
32 So they buried Abner in Hebron. The king cried loudlytn Heb “lifted up his voice and wept.” The expression is a verbal hendiadys. over Abner’s grave and all the people wept too.
33 The king chanted the following lament for Abner:
“Should Abner have died like a fool?
34 Your handstc The translation follows many medieval Hebrew manuscripts and several ancient versions in reading “your hands,” rather than “your hand.” were not bound,
and your feet were not put into irons.
You fell the way one falls before criminals.”
All the peopletc 4QSama lacks the words “all the people.” wept over him again.
35 Then all the people came and encouraged David to eat food while it was still day. But David took an oath saying, “God will punish me severelytn Heb “Thus God will do to me and thus he will add.” if I taste bread or anything whatsoever before the sun sets!”
36 All the people noticed this and it pleased them.tn Heb “it was good in their eyes.” In fact, everything the king did pleased all the people.
37 All the people and all Israel realized on that day that the killing of Abner son of Ner was not done at the king’s instigation.tn Heb “from the king.”
38 Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not realize that a great leadertn Heb “a leader and a great one.” The expression is a hendiadys. has fallen this day in Israel?
39 Today I am weak, even though I am anointed as king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too much for me to bear!tn Heb “are hard from me.” May the Lord punish appropriately the one who has done this evil thing!”tn Heb “May the Lord repay the doer of the evil according to his evil” (NASB similar).