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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.

Now sons were born to David in Hebron. His firstborn was Amnon, born to Ahinoam the Jezreelite. His second son[a] was Kileab, born to Abigail the widow[b] of Nabal the Carmelite. His third son was Absalom, the son of Maacah daughter of King Talmai of Geshur. His fourth son was Adonijah, the son of Haggith. His fifth son was Shephatiah, the son of Abital. His sixth son was Ithream, born to David’s wife Eglah. These sons[c] were all born to David in Hebron.

Abner Defects to David’s Camp

As the war continued between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was becoming more influential[d] in the house of Saul. Now Saul had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. Ish Bosheth[e] said to Abner, “Why did you sleep with[f] my father’s concubine?”[g]

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 demonstrating[h] loyalty to the house of Saul your father and to his relatives[i] and his friends! I have not betrayed you into the hand of David. Yet you have accused me of sinning with this woman today![j] God will severely judge Abner[k] if I do not do for David exactly what the Lord has promised him,[l] 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 Bosheth[m] was unable to answer Abner with even a single word because he was afraid of him.

12 Then Abner sent messengers[n] to David saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make an agreement[o] with me, and I will do whatever I can[p] 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.”[q]

14 David sent messengers to Ish Bosheth son of Saul with this demand:[r] “Give me my wife Michal whom I acquired[s] for 100 Philistine foreskins.” 15 So Ish Bosheth took her[t] from her husband Paltiel[u] son of Laish. 16 Her husband went along behind her, weeping all the way to Bahurim. Finally Abner said to him, “Go back!”[v] So he returned home.

17 Abner advised[w] the elders of Israel, “Previously you were wanting David to be your king.[x] 18 Act now! For the Lord has said to David, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save[y] my people Israel from[z] the Philistines and from all their enemies.’”

19 Then Abner spoke privately with[aa] the Benjaminites. Abner also went to Hebron to inform David privately[ab] of all that Israel and the entire house of Benjamin had agreed to.[ac] 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 agreement[ad] 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 soldiers[ae] 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 David[af] 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? Abner[ag] has come to you. Why would you send him away? Now he’s gone on his way![ah] 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 return[ai] 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 him[aj] in the abdomen and killed him, avenging the shed blood of his brother Asahel.[ak]

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 over[al] the head of Joab and the entire house of his father![am] May the males of Joab’s house[an] never cease to have[ao] someone with a running sore or a skin disease or one who works at the spindle[ap] 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 followed[aq] behind the funeral pallet.[ar] 32 So they buried Abner in Hebron. The king cried loudly[as] 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 hands[at] were not bound,
and your feet were not put into irons.
You fell the way one falls before criminals.”

All the people[au] 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 severely[av] if I taste bread or anything whatsoever before the sun sets!”

36 All the people noticed this and it pleased them.[aw] 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.[ax]

38 Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not realize that a great leader[ay] 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![az] May the Lord punish appropriately the one who has done this evil thing!”[ba]


  1. 2 Samuel 3:3 tn The Hebrew text does not have the word “son.” So also in vv. 3-5.
  2. 2 Samuel 3:3 tn Heb “wife.”
  3. 2 Samuel 3:5 tn The Hebrew text does not have “sons.”
  4. 2 Samuel 3:6 tn 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.
  5. 2 Samuel 3:7 tc 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 Ish Bosheth and the following preposition אֶל (ʾel) begin with the letter alef.
  6. 2 Samuel 3:7 tn The expression בּוֹא אֶל (boʾ ʾel) means “come to” or “approach,” but is also used as a euphemism for sexual relations.
  7. 2 Samuel 3:7 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. 2 Samuel 3:8 tn Heb “I do.”
  9. 2 Samuel 3:8 tn Heb “brothers.”
  10. 2 Samuel 3:8 tn Heb “and you have laid upon me the guilt of the woman today.”
  11. 2 Samuel 3:9 tn Heb “So will God do to Abner and so he will add to him.”
  12. 2 Samuel 3:9 tc Heb “has sworn to David.” The LXX, with the exception of the recension of Origen, adds “in this day.”
  13. 2 Samuel 3:11 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Ish Bosheth) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  14. 2 Samuel 3:12 tn The Hebrew text adds here, “on his behalf.”
  15. 2 Samuel 3:12 tn Heb “cut a covenant.” So also in vv. 13, 21.
  16. 2 Samuel 3:12 tn Heb “and behold, my hand is with you.”
  17. 2 Samuel 3:13 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.
  18. 2 Samuel 3:14 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.”
  19. 2 Samuel 3:14 tn Heb “whom I betrothed to myself.”
  20. 2 Samuel 3:15 tn Heb “sent and took her.”
  21. 2 Samuel 3:15 tn In 1 Sam 25:44 this name appears as “Palti.”
  22. 2 Samuel 3:16 tn Heb “Go, return.”
  23. 2 Samuel 3:17 tn Heb “the word of Abner was with.”
  24. 2 Samuel 3:17 tn Heb “you were seeking David to be king over you.”
  25. 2 Samuel 3:18 tc The present translation follows the LXX, the Syriac Peshitta, and Vulgate in reading “I will save,” rather than the MT “he saved” or “to save." The context calls for the first person common singular imperfect of the verb rather than the third person masculine singular perfect or the infinitive construct.
  26. 2 Samuel 3:18 tn Heb “from the hand of.”
  27. 2 Samuel 3:19 tn Heb “into the ears of.”
  28. 2 Samuel 3:19 tn Heb “also Abner went to speak into the ears of David in Hebron.”
  29. 2 Samuel 3:19 tn Heb “all which was good in the eyes of Israel and in the eyes of all the house of Benjamin.”
  30. 2 Samuel 3:21 tn After the cohortatives, the prefixed verbal form with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose or result.
  31. 2 Samuel 3:22 tn Heb “And look, the servants of David.”
  32. 2 Samuel 3:22 tn Heb “he”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
  33. 2 Samuel 3:24 tn Heb “Look, Abner.”
  34. 2 Samuel 3:24 tc The LXX adds “in peace.”
  35. 2 Samuel 3:25 tn 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.
  36. 2 Samuel 3:27 tn Heb “and he struck him down there [in] the stomach.”
  37. 2 Samuel 3:27 tn Heb “and he [i.e., Abner] died on account of the blood of Asahel his [i.e., Joab’s] brother.”
  38. 2 Samuel 3:29 tn 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 (ʿal) only here and in Jer 23:19; 30:23.
  39. 2 Samuel 3:29 tc 4QSama has “of Joab” rather than “of his father” read by the MT.
  40. 2 Samuel 3:29 tn 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.
  41. 2 Samuel 3:29 tn Heb “and may there not be cut off from the house of Joab.”
  42. 2 Samuel 3:29 tn 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).
  43. 2 Samuel 3:31 tn Heb “was walking.”
  44. 2 Samuel 3:31 tn A ‫מִטָּה‬ (mittah) is typically bed with a frame (which can be ornate and covered with blankets and pillows). Here, like a stretcher, it is a portable frame for carrying a body, technically a bier.
  45. 2 Samuel 3:32 tn Heb “lifted up his voice and wept.” The expression is a verbal hendiadys.
  46. 2 Samuel 3:34 tc The translation follows many medieval Hebrew manuscripts and several ancient versions in reading “your hands,” rather than “your hand.”
  47. 2 Samuel 3:34 tc 4QSama lacks the words “all the people.”
  48. 2 Samuel 3:35 tn Heb “Thus God will do to me and thus he will add.”
  49. 2 Samuel 3:36 tn Heb “it was good in their eyes.”
  50. 2 Samuel 3:37 tn Heb “from the king.”
  51. 2 Samuel 3:38 tn Heb “a leader and a great one.” The expression is a hendiadys.
  52. 2 Samuel 3:39 tn Heb “are hard from me.”
  53. 2 Samuel 3:39 tn Heb “May the Lord repay the doer of the evil according to his evil” (NASB similar).

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