2nd Samuel 1 - 4

As we come to 2 Samuel, we should be reminded again that this is the second portion of a complete and unified book. While the focus of 1 Samuel is upon the rise and fall of Samuel and Saul, the focus of 2 Samuel is upon the rise and fall of David.

2 SAMUEL - The Triumphs & Troubles of David







Davidís Triumphs

Davidís sin

Davidís Troubles


Reign over Judah

Reign over all Israel




Last Acts & Words

David in Hebron

David in Jerusalem

7Ĺ Years

33 Years (5:5)



1. David Receives a Report.

Now it came about after the death of Saul, when David had returned from the slaughter of the Amalekites, that David remained two days in Ziklag.

And it happened on the third day, that behold, a man came out of the camp from Saul, with his clothes torn and dust on his head. And it came about when he came to David that he fell on the ground and prostrated himself. (2 Samuel 1:1-2).

1 Samuel ends with the narrative of the death of Saul. We are given a parallel narrative in this chapter, but it comes from the lips of a messenger who claims to be an eye witness. The problem is that this messengerís story contradicts the one given in 1 Samuel 31.

1 Samuel 31

2 Samuel 1

Saul hit by Philistine archers.

Implied wounds.

Saul asks armor bearer to kill him. Armor bearer refuses.

Saul asks Amalekite to kill him. Amalekite agrees.

Saul falls on his own sword.

Amalekite kills Saul.

Story is told to us by the narrator of the book.

Story is told to David by the Amalekite.

How shall we resolve this seeming contradiction? There are several possibilities.

m It is possible that Saul fell on his own sword, but that his life continued to linger and that this Amalekite came along and finished the job.

m It is equally possible that the Amalekite was lying in order to receive a reward from David. To this end, he brings the royal crown and bracelet to David (1:10).

2. Davidís Reaction.

David had been a fugitive for a number of years. The reason for this had been the jealous hatred on the part of Saul. Saul is now dead. Davidís reaction is all the more striking.

a. Mourning.

Then David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so also did all the men who were with him.

And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening for Saul and his son Jonathan and for the people of the Lord and the house of Israel, because they had fallen by the sword. (2 Samuel 1:11-12).

The tearing of oneís clothes was a sign of mourning - possibly a visual showing of the baring of one soul.

Saulís fate as king had originally been foretold to him by the tearing of Samuelís robe. Saul had tried to grab Samuel and had mistakenly torn Samuelís robe. Samuel had told him that, in the same way, the kingdom would be torn from his grasp. Now it has taken place. But instead of rejoicing, David tears his own robe as a sign of grief and mourning.

b. Execution of the Amalekite.

And David said to the young man who told him, "Where are you from?" And he answered, "I am the son of an alien, an Amalekite."

Then David said to him, "How is it you were not afraid to stretch out your hand to destroy the Lordís anointed?"

And David called one of the young men and said, "Go, cut him down." So he struck him and he died.

And David said to him, "Your blood is on your head, for your mouth has testified against you, saying ĎI have killed the Lordís anointed.í" (2 Samuel 1:13-16).

The Amalekite had evidently come seeking a reward for killing the enemy of David. He evidently knew that David had been a fugitive and that Saul had attempted on more than one occasion to put him to death. He reasoned that David would be so glad to hear this news the he would reward the one who put to death his enemy. Instead he is put to death for having killed the one whom God had anointed.

There is a warning here. It is a warning against acting or speaking against one whom God had anointed. God takes His people seriously. He deals harshly with those who treat His people harshly - even when they are in the wrong.

Saul had sinned greatly. But in spite of his sin, he was still one who had been anointed by God. As such, he held a position of honor.

3. Davidís Song of Lament.

Then David chanted with this lament over Saul and over Jonathan his son, 18 and he told them to teach the sons of Judah the song of the bow; behold, it is written in the book of Jasher. (2 Samuel 1:17-18).

David composes a lament over the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. It is found in verses 19-27. Three times it repeats the refrain, "How have the mighty fallen!" (1:19, 25,27).

This song became known as "the song of the bow" (1:18). It is a song of lament for both Saul and Jonathan.

The beauty of Israel has been slain on high places (19).

How have the mighty fallen! (19).

Daughters of the Philistines (20).

m A curse on the mountains of Gilboa (21).

m Weapons

w Shield of Saul (21)

w Bow of Jonathan (22)

w Sword of Saul (22)

m The blessing of Saul and Jonathan together (23).

Daughters of Israel (24).

How the mighty have fallen! (25).

Jonathan slain on high places (25).

w Ode to Jonathan (26).

How the mighty have fallen! (27).

David hopes in verse 20 that the news of Saulís death would not be told in Gath or in Ashkelon so that the daughters of the Philistines might not sing as did the daughters of the Israelites over Saul and Davidís former victories.

A thousand year later, the descendant of David would stand over the city of Jerusalem and would also issue a lament. His lament would be for those who are destined to fall; for those who are going to die in their sins. His lament calls for repentance. The good news of the gospel is that, when you come to Him in faith and repentance, He pronounces a eulogy in your behalf. The word "eulogy" means "good words." When you trust in Christ, He proclaims some wonderful things about you; things that accompany salvation.



1. Move to Hebron.

Then it came about afterwards that David inquired of the Lord, saying, "Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?" And the Lord said to him, "Go up." So David said, "Where shall I go up?" And He said, "To Hebron."

So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite.

And David brought up his men who were with him, each with his household; and they lived in the cities of Hebron. (2 Samuel 2:1-3).

When David had left Israel and settled in the land of the Philistines, he had not inquired of the Lord. But now he does so and is instructed to return to Judah. Specifically, he is directed to the city of Hebron, centrally located in the highlands of central Judah.

This was the burial place of the patriarchs.

m Abraham and Sarah.

m Isaac and Rebecca.

m Jacob and Leah.

As such, this was the most prestigious city in all of the land of Judah.

2. David Anointed as King over Judah.

Then the men of Judah came and there anointed David king over the house of Judah" (2 Samuel 2:4a).

David had already been anointed by Samuel. Now he is anointed by the men of Judah.

Davidís First Anointing

Davidís Second Anointing

Anointed by Samuel.

Anointed by the men of Judah.

Private anointing.

Public anointing.

Signified a promise of future kingship.

Signified a present recognition of kingship.

Davidís first act of kingship is to commend the honorable actions of the men of Jabesh-gilead.

David slays the man who claimed to have killed Saul


David writes a lament over Saul and Jonathan


David commends those who rescued the body of Saul

The obvious conclusion is that Davidís rule over Judah was not the action of a rebel who was usurping authority, but one who had gone out of his way to honor the Lordís anointed one.

3. Ish-bosheth and Abner.

But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saulís army, had taken Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim.

And he made him king over Gilead, over the Ashurites, over Jezreel, over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, even over all Israel. (2 Samuel 2:8-9).

The name "Ish-bosheth" ( ) means "man of shame." He is elsewhere called "Esh-baal" ("fire of Baal"). He was the fourth son of Saul (1 Chronicles 8:33; 9:39).

Abner had been the cousin of Saul and the commander of his army. He moves to consolidate his position by placing Ish-bosheth, the last surviving son of Saul, upon the throne. Meanwhile, he will be the real power behind the throne.

As we read this, we ought to remember what is at stake. It is through David that the promised Messiah is going to come. If Abner succeeds, then there will be no Messiah and no salvation and we shall all die in our sins. If Abner succeeds, then we shall not have a Savior and we shall only have a "man of shame."



His name means "beloved."

His name means "man of shame."

Anointed by the men of Judah.

Made king by Abner.

King over Judah.

King over Israel.

Reigned 7Ĺ years.

Reigned 2 years.

4. Conflict at Gibeon.

This section is presented in chiastic form. At its center is the killing of Asahel, younger brother to Joab.

David is made king in Hebron (2:4).

Ish-bosheth is made king in Mahanaim (2:8-9).

Abner calls for a beginning of hostilities (2:14).

Abner kills Asahel (2:23).

Abner calls for an end to hostilities (2:26).

Abner and his men return to Mahanaim (2:29).

Joab and his men return to Hebron (2:32).

The scene of this event is by the pool of Gibeon (2:13). Gibeon was a Canaanite city (not the same as Gibeah, the city of Saul). It original inhabitants were the ones who had tricked Joshua into joining into a covenant with them. Gibeon now lay within the territories of Benjamin.

Now Abner the son of Ner, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon with the servants of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul.

And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them by the pool of Gibeon; and they sat down, one on the one side of the pool and the other on the other side of the pool. (2 Samuel 2:12-13).

The pool of Gibeon is still a major landmark in Israel today. It is 37 feet in diameter and 82 feet deep. To reach its bottom, it is necessary to descend a long stone staircase cut into the side of the pool and then go 167 feet through a tunnel which descends another 93 steps to a large cistern where water collects.

This is the first mention in the Bible of Joab. We have seen his older brother Abashai in 1 Samuel. Abashai had been the one to go with David down into the camp of Saul when he had taken Saulís jug of water and his spear. And yet, it is Joab who will rise to become the commander of Davidís military.

Then Abner said to Joab, "Now let the young men arise and hold a contest before us." And Joab said, "Let them arise."

So they arose and went over by count, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. (2 Samuel 2:14-15).

In verse 14 Abner says, "Let the young men... hold a contest." The Hebrew literally means, "to play." However, Abner is speaking euphemistically. He is calling for representative combat. Just as David had fought Goliath, each serving as representatives of their own peoples, so now Abner suggests a similar contest of arms.

On each side there will be 12 men. Their battle will determine who shall reign over the 12 tribes of Israel.

And each one of them seized his opponent by the head, and thrust his sword in his opponentís side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hassurim, which is in Gibeon (2 Samuel 2:16).

Helkath-hatzurim means "the field of enemies" or "field of trouble." is the word for "field" or "parcel of land." is the word for "enemy" or "trouble" (that which an enemy brings).

And that day the battle was very severe, and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David. (1 Samuel 2:17).

Although the conflict began with only 12 men from each side, it did not remain such a limited engagement. Others joined the fray and it developed into open battle. Although they were in a town of Benjamin, it was the men of Judah who won the victory.

Now the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab and Abishai and Asahel; and Asahel was as swift-footed as one of the gazelles which is in the field.

And Asahel pursued Abner and did not turn to the right or to the left from following Abner. (2 Samuel 2:18-19).

As the Israelites are routed, Asahel chases after Abner. Abner recognizes that he is being pursued and twice warns Asahel to cease and desist. He realizes that if he kills Asahel, there will be no future peace between himself an Joab. But Asahel is relentless.

However, he refused to turn aside; therefore Abner struck him in the belly with the butt end of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died on the spot. And it came about that all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still. (2 Samuel 2:23).

Asahel would later be remembered as one of Davidís "Thirty" - one of his elite guard.

Joab continues the pursuit until his band finally catch up with Abner on the "hill of Ammah" (location currently unknown). It is here that Abner calls for an end to the hostilities, "Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that it will be bitter in the end?" (2:26).

The outcome of the battle is an overwhelming victory for Davidís men. His losses number 19 men plus Asahel. The Israelite losses number 360 men.



Now there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; and David grew steadily stronger, but the house of Saul grew weaker continually. (2 Samuel 3:1).

This verse sets the pattern for the next two chapters of 2 Samuel which will culminate in the death of Ish-bosheth and the acceptance of David as king over a united Israel.

The House of Saul

The House of David

Ish-bosheth made king of Israel

David is king of Judah

Abner is Captain of his army

Joab is Captain of his army.

Grew weaker continually (3:1).

Grew steadily stronger (3:1).

Abner has falling out with Ish-bosheth (3:6-11).

Abner negotiates with David (3:12-21).

Abner murdered (3:22-30).

David mourns Abner (3:31-39).

Ish-bosheth murdered (4:1-8).

David avenges Ish-bosheth (4:9-12).

1. Abner is Disaffected.

And it came about while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David that Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul. 7 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 fatherís concubine?"

Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, "Am I a dogís head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hands of David; and yet today you charge me with a guilt concerning the woman. 9 May God do so to Abner, and more also, if as the Lord has sworn to David, I do not accomplish this for him, 10 to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to establish the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba." And he could no longer answer Abner a word, because he was afraid of him. (2 Samuel 3:6-11).

The falling out between Ish-bosheth and Abner took place over a woman. Specifically, it was over Abnerís allegedly taking for himself the former concubine of Saul.

This was not a sexual issue. The issue was entirely political. To take the concubine of a king was an act of rebellion. It was to declare your own kingship. When Absalom rebelled against his own father, one of his first acts upon entering Jerusalem was to sleep with his fatherís concubines.

Did Abner actually commit this act? We are not told either way. The silence of the passage in the face of Ish-boshethís accusation seems to indicate that he did and that this was a part of Abnerís "making himself strong in the house of Saul."

Abner does not deny the allegation. What he does do is to insist that he has been loyal to the house of Saul. However, he warns that this will no longer be the case.

2. Abnerís Negotiations.

Then Abner sent messengers to David in his place, saying, "Whose is the land? Make your covenant with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring all Israel over to you." (2 Samuel 3:12).

Abner now puts his threat into action, negotiating with David to hand the kingdom to him. David is agreeable to the transaction, asking as a sign of good faith that Michal, his first wife and the daughter of Saul, be returned to him.

Abner was as good as his word, first returning Michal to David and then speaking to all of the tribes of Israel, relaying how that God had promised to use David as the deliverer of Israel.

3. Joab Murders Abner.

Abner travels to Hebron and is greeted by David as the final preparations are made to make David the king of the combined Israelite nation.

As Abner departs, Joab arrives from a raiding party and learns that Abner has come and gone. Joab is still bitter over the death of his brother, Asahel. He plots to murder him.

When Joab came out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah; but David did not know it.

So when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the middle of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he struck him in the belly so that he died on account of the blood of Asahel his brother. (2 Samuel 3:26-27).

Joab is avengine what he considers to be a blood feud. It is not a feud that Abner desired. But Joab is not willing to forgive or forget. Instead of leaving his vengeance in the hands of the Lord, Joab determins to take it himself.

David responds by placing a curse upon Joab and his house for having committed this act of murder and by declaring a national day of mourning.

This is not how a king was supposed to act. It isnít very "presidential." David isnít riding on a white horse and showing himself to be strong and victorious. His heart is one of humility. It is a part of what makes him a man after Godís own heart.

4. The Murder of Ish-bosheth.

Now when Ish-bosheth, Saulís son, heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost courage, and all Israel was disturbed. (2 Samuel 4:1).

The phrase "he lost courage" is literally, "his hands weakened." There is a play on words here, for Abner had promised that his hand would be with David (3:12) and that Israel would be thus saved by the hand of David (3:18).

Ish-bosheth had relied heavily upon the strength and the military experience of Abner. Sensing his lack of courage and leadership, two of the Israelite commanders take it upon themselves to assassinate Ish-bosheth and bring his head to David, thinking to thereby ingratiate themselves with David.

Now when they came into the house, as he was lying on his bed in the bedroom, they struck him and killed him and beheaded him. And they took his head and traveled by way of the Arabah all night.

Then they brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David at Hebron, and said to the king, "Behold, the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; thus the Lord has given my lord the king vengeance this day on Saul and his descendants." (2 Samuel 4:7-8).

Apparently, they had forgotten Davidís reaction when Saul had been killed upon the Mountains of Gilboa. Instead of a reward, they are themselves put to death, once again illustrating the principle that God reserves the exclusive right to raise His had against His anointed ones.

We can see both a parallel as well as a contrast between the death of Ish-bosheth and the death of his father, Saul.

Death of Saul

Death of Ish-bosheth

King of all Israel.

King of the northern and western tribes.

Killed on a battlefield.

Killed in his bedroom.

His death announced by an Ammalekite who claimed to have killed him.

His death announced by two commanders who had murdered him.

The Ammalekite was put to death by David.

The commanders were put to death by David.

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