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2 Samuel 3:6-38

Context
Abner Defects to David’s Camp

3:6 As the war continued between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was becoming more influential 1  in the house of Saul. 3:7 Now Saul had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. Ish-bosheth 2  said to Abner, “Why did you have sexual relations with 3  my father’s concubine?” 4 

3:8 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 demonstrating 5  loyalty to the house of Saul your father and to his relatives 6  and his friends! I have not betrayed you into the hand of David. Yet you have accused me of sinning with this woman today! 7  3:9 God will severely judge Abner 8  if I do not do for David exactly what the Lord has promised him, 9  3:10 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!” 3:11 Ish-bosheth 10  was unable to answer Abner with even a single word because he was afraid of him.

3:12 Then Abner sent messengers 11  to David saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make an agreement 12  with me, and I will do whatever I can 13  to cause all Israel to turn to you.” 3:13 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.” 14 

3:14 David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth son of Saul with this demand: 15  “Give me my wife Michal whom I acquired 16  for a hundred Philistine foreskins.” 3:15 So Ish-bosheth took her 17  from her husband Paltiel 18  son of Laish. 3:16 Her husband went along behind her, weeping all the way to Bahurim. Finally Abner said to him, “Go back!” 19  So he returned home.

3:17 Abner advised 20  the elders of Israel, “Previously you were wanting David to be your king. 21  3:18 Act now! For the Lord has said to David, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save 22  my people Israel from 23  the Philistines and from all their enemies.’”

3:19 Then Abner spoke privately 24  with the Benjaminites. Abner also went to Hebron to inform David privately 25  of all that Israel and the entire house of Benjamin had agreed to. 26  3:20 When Abner, accompanied by twenty men, came to David in Hebron, David prepared a banquet for Abner and the men who were with him. 3:21 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 27  with you. Then you will rule over all that you desire.” So David sent Abner away, and he left in peace.

Abner Is Killed

3:22 Now David’s soldiers 28  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 29  had sent him away and he had left in peace. 3:23 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!”

3:24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Abner 30  has come to you! Why would you send him away? Now he’s gone on his way! 31  3:25 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 32  and to discover everything that you are doing!”

3:26 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.) 3:27 When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gate as if to speak privately with him. Joab then stabbed him 33  in the abdomen and killed him, avenging the shed blood of his brother Asahel. 34 

3:28 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! 3:29 May his blood whirl over 35  the head of Joab and the entire house of his father! 36  May the males of Joab’s house 37  never cease to have 38  someone with a running sore or a skin disease or one who works at the spindle 39  or one who falls by the sword or one who lacks food!”

3:30 So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner, because he had killed their brother Asahel in Gibeon during the battle.

3:31 David instructed Joab and all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes! Put on sackcloth! Lament before Abner!” Now King David followed 40  behind the funeral bier. 3:32 So they buried Abner in Hebron. The king cried loudly 41  over Abner’s grave and all the people wept too. 3:33 The king chanted the following lament for Abner:

“Should Abner have died like a fool?

3:34 Your hands 42  were not bound,

and your feet were not put into irons.

You fell the way one falls before criminals.”

All the people 43  wept over him again. 3:35 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 44  if I taste bread or anything whatsoever before the sun sets!”

3:36 All the people noticed this and it pleased them. 45  In fact, everything the king did pleased all the people. 3:37 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. 46 

3:38 Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not realize that a great leader 47  has fallen this day in Israel?

1 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.

2 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 Ishbosheth and the following preposition אֶל (’el) begin with the letter alef.

3 tn Heb “come to”; KJV, NRSV “gone in to”; NAB “been intimate with”; NIV “sleep with.”

4 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.

5 tn Heb “I do.”

6 tn Heb “brothers.”

7 tn Heb “and you have laid upon me the guilt of the woman today.”

8 tn Heb “So will God do to Abner and so he will add to him.”

9 tc Heb “has sworn to David.” The LXX, with the exception of the recension of Origen, adds “in this day.”

10 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Ish-bosheth) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

11 tn The Hebrew text adds here, “on his behalf.”

12 tn Heb “cut a covenant.” So also in vv. 13, 21.

13 tn Heb “and behold, my hand is with you.”

14 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.

15 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.”

16 tn Heb “whom I betrothed to myself.”

17 tn Heb “sent and took her.”

18 tn In 1 Sam 25:44 this name appears as “Palti.”

19 tn Heb “Go, return.”

20 tn Heb “the word of Abner was with.”

21 tn Heb “you were seeking David to be king over you.”

22 tc 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.

23 tn Heb “from the hand of.”

24 tn Heb “into the ears of.”

25 tn Heb “also Abner went to speak into the ears of David in Hebron.”

26 tn Heb “all which was good in the eyes of Israel and in the eyes of all the house of Benjamin.”

27 tn After the cohortatives, the prefixed verbal form with the prefixed conjunction indicates purpose or result.

28 tn Heb “And look, the servants of David.”

29 tn Heb “he”; the referent (David) has been specified in the translation for clarity.

30 tn Heb “Look, Abner.”

31 tc The LXX adds “in peace.”

32 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.

33 tn Heb “and he struck him down there [in] the stomach.”

34 tn Heb “and he [i.e., Abner] died on account of the blood of Asahel his [i.e., Joab’s] brother.”

35 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 (’al) only here and in Jer 23:19; 30:23.

36 tc 4QSama has “of Joab” rather than “of his father” read by the MT.

37 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.

38 tn Heb “and may there not be cut off from the house of Joab.”

39 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).

40 tn Heb “was walking.”

41 tn Heb “lifted up his voice and wept.” The expression is a verbal hendiadys.

42 tc The translation follows many medieval Hebrew manuscripts and several ancient versions in reading “your hands,” rather than “your hand.”

43 tc 4QSama lacks the words “all the people.”

44 tn Heb “Thus God will do to me and thus he will add.”

45 tn Heb “it was good in their eyes.”

46 tn Heb “from the king.”

47 tn Heb “a leader and a great one.” The expression is a hendiadys.



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