2 Samuel 3:1
Now the war between the house of Saul and the house of David was protracted. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.
The House of DavidB. Dale 2 Samuel 3:1-5
A Long WarC. M. Fleury, A. M.2 Samuel 3:1-39
Perpetual WarJ. Irons.2 Samuel 3:1-39
Progress and Termination of the Civil WarW. G. Blaikie, M. A.2 Samuel 3:1-39

2 Samuel 3:1-5. - (HEBRON.)

1. The theocracy had its chief support in David and his house. On him also rested the Messianic hope (2 Samuel 7:13). Hence the importance which attaches to events of his life that would otherwise have been left unrecorded.

2. "The summary narrative of these seven years presents the still youthful king in a very lovable light. The same temper which had marked his first acts after Saul's death is here strikingly brought out. He seems to have left the conduct of the war altogether with Joab, as if he shrank from striking a single blow for his own advancement. When he does interfere, it is on the side of peace, to curb and chastise ferocious vengeance and dastardly assassination. The incidents recorded all go to make up a picture of rare generosity, of patient waiting for God to fulfil his purposes, of longing that the miserable strife between the tribes of God's inheritance should end" (A. Maclaren).

3. In the house of David, at war with the house of Saul, we see an embodiment of the great conflict between good and evil; a representation of "the household of faith" as opposed to the world, and the spirit as opposed to the flesh (Galatians 5:17). Notice -

I. ITS PROTRACTED ANTAGONISM. "And there was long war," etc. It:

1. Is rendered necessary by the opposite nature and aims of the contending parties. "These are contrary the one to the other."

2. Implies a state of constant warfare, and involves many a painful struggle. "What grievous tales of distress are folded up in these brief words!"

3. Is permitted by God for wise and beneficent purposes: to test the principles of his servants; to exercise their faith and patience; to strengthen, purify, and perfect their character.

4. And must go on to the end. "This is a battle, from which, as it ends only with life, there is no escape; and he who fights not in it is of necessity either taken captive or slain" (Scupoli).

II. ITS INCREASING STRENGTH. "David waxed stronger and stronger," in the number of his followers, the amount of his resources, the unity and vigour of their employment, the stability of his position, the extent of his influence, the assurance of his success. And all who "strive against sin" within and without also "go from strength to strength:"

1. In patiently waiting upon God and faithfully doing his will. "Wait on the Lord, be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart" (Psalm 27:14).

2. By the bestowment of his grace and the cooperation of his providence, directing, protecting, and prospering them, in accordance with his promises. Their strength is not self-derived, but "cometh from the Lord." "And he that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David; and the house of David shall be as God," etc. (Zechariah 12:8); "Greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world" (1 John 4:4); "I have all strength in him that giveth me power" (Philippians 4:13).

3. And thereby they show that God is with them, and that his righteous purposes concerning them will be accomplished.

III. ITS DECLINING OPPONENTS. "And the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker," relatively and proportionately to the growth of David's, and in consequence of the protracted antagonism and increasing strength of the latter.

1. In wilful separation from God, and seeking their own selfish ends in opposition to his will (see 2 Samuel 2:8-12). Those who fall away from God fall into self-division and self-contention (ver. 8); "and a house divided against itself cannot stand."

2. By the immovable might of God against whom they set themselves (Psalm 2:4), and his wrath, which is "revealed from heaven against all ungodliness," etc. (Romans 1:18). They are like a wave that dashes against a rock and is broken and scattered in foam. "The face of the Lord is against them that do evil" (1 Peter 3:12).

3. And thereby they prove that God is against them, and are taught that their purposes will assuredly fail and they themselves be overthrown. From the time of his defeat (2 Samuel 2:17), if not from the very first, Abner probably felt that the cause in which he had embarked was hopeless. "He recognized now most distinctly in David the rising star in Israel; and, however haughtily his words might sound, he only sought to conceal behind them his despair of Ishbosheth" (Krummacher).

IV. ITS PERILOUS RELATIONSHIPS. (Vers. 2-5.) "The increasing political strength of David was shown, as usual among Eastern monarchs, by the fresh alliances through marriage into which he now entered" (Edersheim). In addition to his three wives, Michal, Ahinoam (mother of Amnon), and Abigail (mother of Chileab, who appears to have died early), he had "Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur" (mother of Absalom and Tamar), Haggith (mother of Adonijah), Abital, and Eglah; and he afterwards still further enlarged the royal household (2 Samuel 4:13-16). "None of his sons here mentioned were eminent for virtue, and some of them were notorious for their sins." Polygamy was tolerated by the Law of Moses (1 Samuel 1:2), although the king was forbidden (Deuteronomy 17:17) to "multiply wives to himself;" and it was practised by David in conformity with ancient and prevalent custom, from political considerations and natural inclinations, without reproof (ch. 12:8); but (as his subsequent history shows) it fostered in him a sensual tendency, undermined his moral strength, and produced innumerable enmities and other evils in his family: "One deadly element of future woe mingled itself with the establishment of the kingdom of David - he brought into his family the curse of the harem. An utter lack of discipline was one of its first fruits; and it brought yet deeper ill even than that; for it poisoned all the springs of family life, and tainted it with ever-recurring impurity; working in him and all around him its universal fruits of impurity, jealousy, hatred, incest, and blood" ('Heroes of Hebrews Hist.'). "It was the immemorial custom in all those countries for the magnificence and power of a ruler to display itself in the multiplication of his establishment, that is, of his wives; forevery wife involved a separate establishment. It shows the utmost depravity when Christians seek to shelter their own unjust and shameless lives under an appeal to that of David, and that, too, although none of their other proceedings show the smallest trace of David's noble spirit, and although they are by no means ready to bear as David did the consequences of their shame" (Ewald). "If we want exemplifications of all the miseries and curses which spring from the mixture of families and the degradation of woman in the court and country where polygamy exists, David's history supplies them. No maxims of morality can be half so effectual as a faithful record of terrible effects like these" (Maurice). In view of these effects we learn that no strength or prosperity can be lasting where "the friendship of the world" is cherished, and "the lusts of the flesh" are suffered to prevail; and that victory over some opponents may be followed by defeat by other more subtle and dangerous foes. - D.

Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David.
What grief tales of distress are folded up in these brief words, "There was long war!" Probably it was only irregular war, without much bloodshed; the war of skirmish and surprise, not of pitched battles, or protracted sieges, or desperate assaults; but many a pillaged town, and many a homestead laid in ashes, and many a heart crushed to despair or maddened to fury, and many a deep and deadly curse, and many a fiendish vow of vengeance, would everywhere follow the track of war. And it was war of the most distressing and demoralising kind — not foreign but civil. Great national wars are usually attended by one counteracting benefit — they soften the keenness of private quarrels. But when parties in the same nation arc fighting with each other, as the tribes of Israel now were, private quarrels, instead of being healed, are only exasperated to greater bitterness.

1. Before the remarkable change of policy on the part of Abner that led to the termination of the war is recorded, a glimpse is given us of the domestic life of King David (2 Samuel 3:2-5); and whether it be by design or not, there immediately follows (vers. 6-11) a specimen and illustration of the kind of evils to which that mode of life was liable to give rise. Though polygamy was not allowed to David, it certainly was winked at; it was not imputed to him as guilt; it 'was not treated as an act of rebellion against God's law. But, on the other hand, this toleration of polygamy did not and could not prevent the evils to which, from its very nature, it gives rise. There could be no unity in David's family, none of that delightful feeling of oneness, which gives such a charm to the home. In his own breast, that sense of delicacy, that feeling of chastity, which has such a purifying influence in a family, could scarcely flourish. And further, as the absence of delicacy must have been characteristic of David, so was it also of his children; the unbridled passions of some of his sons gave rise to the most dismal tragedies; and left blots on their name that even time could never wash out.

2. It is immediately after this glimpse of David's domestic life that we come upon a sample of the kind of evils to which that mode of life commonly gives rise. Saul, too, had his harem; and it seems to have been a rule of succession in the East, that the harem went with the throne; hence to take possession of the one was regarded as setting up a claim to the other. When, therefore, Ishbosheth heard that Abner had taken one of his father's concubines he seems to have regarded that circumstance as a proof that Abner was setting up a claim to the kingdom for himself. Mistaking the semblance of power for the reality — forgetting that Ishbosheth had but the one, and Abner the other, Ishbosheth denounced the conduct of Abner with great bluntness and rudeness; and gave him such mortal offence that Abner abruptly and peremptorily assured him that he would not strike another blow in his service, but would at once go over to David. The loss of Abner was to Ishbosheth the loss of all. His cause had for some time been a losing one; it was now quite destroyed.

3. The next step in the narrative brings us to Abner's proposal to David, to make a league with him for the undisputed possession of the throne. As a preliminary to any further arrangements, David insisted, first of all, that his wife Michael, the daughter of Saul, should be restored to him. Some have pronounced this a harsh condition, especially considering that Michal was now living as the wife of another person, who appears to have been much attached to her, and most unwilling to surrender her. It is undoubted, however, that Michal was not the wife of Phaltiel, but the wife of David; Phaltiel must have known that she was another man's wife when he received her; and it is misplaced compassion to be sorry for a man when called to surrender what he never had a right to take. It may be asked, however, what could have been David's motive for demanding back Michal, when he had so many wives without her? It might be enough to say in reply that Michal was his wedded wife, and that it would have been disgraceful to David, when he could prevent it, to allow his wife to live in adultery with another. Of all David's wives, Michal, as the daughter of a king like Saul, was the first in worldly rank; David, therefore, wished to recover her; probably also, he thought, that by having her again for his wife there would be a bond of union between the two royal families of the kingdom that might draw the people together, and save the further shedding of blood. Another consideration appears also to have influenced him. In demanding back Michal he makes special mention of the dowry he had given for her — a hundred foreskins of the Philistines. In mentioning this he probably desired to revive among the people the remembrance of his ancient services and exploits against these inveterate enemies of his country and religion. His recent alliance with the Philistines had brought him into suspicion; he wished to remind his people, therefore, of his ancient bearing towards these enemies, and to encourage the expectation of similar deeds of successful warfare.

4. When the preliminaries between Abner and David were settled Abner appears to have exerted himself with real sincerity and zeal in behalf of David. Most probably he was not sorry for the occasion of his breach with Ishbosheth; David's was obviously the rising star; probably tie was watching an opportunity to transfer his allegiance from the one to the other. Abner now became as zealous for David as formerly he had been for Ishbosheth; and in holding communication with the elders of Israel and of Benjamin, and urging them very strongly to submit to David, he did him a service which no other living man could then have rendered. The tender heart of the shepherd king was doubtless inexpressibly grieved at the continuance of the war; he would have welcomed with unbounded delight any honourable arrangement that would have prevented further bloodshed; and when Abner was seen using his great influence with the leaders of the tribes in the cause of peace, he must have appeared to David like a very angel of God. When, therefore, at the most critical moment in these negotiations, the impetuous and vindictive Joab thrust his sword through Abner's heart — when, to the revolting ferocity of the deed itself, and its glaring outrage on the laws of hospitality, he added the crime of placing in jeopardy a most delicate national negotiation, and exasperating those whom it was most desired to conciliate, David's mortification must have been unbounded.

(W. G. Blaikie, M. A.)


1. Saul's interests were natural — they were carnal — they were worldly — they were selfish. David's interests, on the contrary, were Of God — they were spiritual — they were under God's sovereign direction — they were Divine. Just such is the distinction between the Church of God and the world. What is the result? Why, just warring, jarring, contending interests; for one is in the interest of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the other in the interest of the devil. Saul's house, the carnal, selfish, worldly multitude are all under the influence of the Prince of Darkness, the prince of the power of the air, who rules in the hearts of the children of disobedience; they are all under the sway of their carnal inclinations and affections, and the men of the world ought not to be offended for being told by us what their own consciences must admit to be the fact. On the contrary, the army of David associates with the beloved soldiers of the cross; they are the ransomed of the Lord; they take this blessed book as their guide; the word of command of the Captain of their salvation is imperative, and they call on high for grace, implicity to regard and obey it. The result is that Satan's interests arc bolstered up by the former, and real Christianity is maintained by the latter.

2. Let us now take another view of the difference which subsists between the house of Saul and the house of David — I mean an experimental view. And what will you say when I declare unto you that there are both the house of Saul and the house of David in your own hearts — that there are both the house of Saul and the house of David inhabiting this body of flesh and blood — that there are all the vile corruptions and carnal inclinations of the house of Saul; but, blessed be God, there are also the especial graces, and the spiritual implantations of the house of David — an old and new nature — a propensity to every evil, as was the case with Saul, but a panting after every good, as was the case with David.

3. Observe, they are so contrary, so opposed to each other, that they are altogether irreconcilable, and it is quite in vain, therefore, to attempt a reconciliation. He that is born after the flesh will persecute him that is born after the Spirit. What fellowship can light have with darkness? What communion can Christ have with Belial? What oneness, or intimacy, can subsist between him who is a believer and him who is an infidel?

II. THE ADVANCING POWER OF THE CONQUERING SIDE. "David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker."

1. The first feature of David's prosperity lay in this, that his fame and his prowess were advancing and increasing, and his power extending. So with our glorious Lord, David's antitype; His kingdom is growing and extending, prospering and thriving, His name is exalted, and shall be exalted, and all His household.

2. But what constituted David's waxing stronger and stronger in the most conspicuous point of view, was the accessions which were constantly being made to his kingdom, and all of which were so many instances, not merely of the increase of his own strength, but of the diminution of the kingdom and power of Saul. The very way in which oar glorious David advances. All the accessions that are made to His kingdom are lawful captives delivered from the terrible power of darkness and translated into His own kingdom.

3. The next point is the warring interests between the two houses that occupy our poor nature. Is it in your power honestly to say that within the circle of your experience the house of David is waxing stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxing weaker and weaker? I want the graces growing in strength. I want to have faith like Abraham's. I want to give glory to God and believe against apparent impossibilities. I want love to be growing like John's, so that no place will do for me but the bosom of Jesus; I want hope to be victorious, strong and firm, entering within the veil, sure and steadfast. I want humility to lay me at the feet of Christ, and keep axe there. I want the zeal of the house of my beloved Lord to eat me up, and I want the meekness and patience of my Lord to make me quite immoveable to all the provocations of the wicked world through which I am passing. Oh! if the graces of Jesus were thus exercised. If the new man were always thus enthroned. If the new man were always seated uppermost, always thus favoured with supplies of grace from above, how old Adam would groan! How he would be nailed up! How he would be mortified!

II. THE RESULTS OF THE WARFARE. You know how it resulted with David: it resulted in the entire destruction of the house of Saul, in imperishable honours worn by himself and his household, his throne set above all the kingdoms of the earth, and a glorious lasting peace settled and secured. So shall it be with our glorious Christ and His household. All the honours which the covenant of grace provides, which the promises of the word unfold and exhibit, and which the grace of the Spirit can put on and wear, and which must after all return and redound to Jesus' precious name, are claimed and appropriated by the followers of the Lamb, the household of David.

1. Moreover, there is a peculiar circumstance in relation to this warfare and its results — that is that with all this fighting, and skirmishing, and wounding, never one soul is killed or destroyed.

2. The throne of our David must become noted for its fame, and be exalted above all others. It must be so established as to reign over all dominions, and put down every authority that opposes it, for it is written that He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. Then comes the glorious consummation, eternal peace.

(J. Irons.)

I. There was war. David ascended the throne of Judah, but not to enjoy peace, as he might have presupposed. The descendants of Saul opposed his election, though ratified by heaven; usurped the throne, and maintained personally, or by their representative and chief agent, Abner, unceasing and bitter opposition to his government. Is it not thus with the Christian, after his decided confirmation in the faith? When we are in Christ, or rather Christ is in us, by virtue of our spiritual elevation, then it is that the enmity between our fallen nature and the true will of God betrays itself in vehement activity.

2. The war was long. With David the literal conflict endured but seven years and six months, till the last opponent of his rightful sway was removed. With every spiritual child of God the war must endure from conversion to death, while one fragment of this infected mortality cleaves to another in animation — so thoroughly, so desperately has the opposition of Satan to God's rule preoccupied and possessed our natural being.

3. Further, it is mentioned that "the house of David waxed stronger and stronger." It must be so with the Christian. The condition of the believer is a growing one: he is perfectly born in Christ at once, but his powers and faculties are matured in action, and his progress is decided.

(C. M. Fleury, A. M.)

Abigail, Abishai, Abital, Abner, Absalom, Adonijah, Ahinoam, Aiah, Amnon, Asahel, Benjamin, Benjamites, Chileab, Dan, David, Eglah, Gibeon, Haggith, Ishbosheth, Ithream, Jezreel, Jezreelitess, Jizreelitess, Joab, Laish, Maacah, Maachah, Michal, Nabal, Ner, Paltiel, Phaltiel, Rizpah, Saul, Shephatiah, Talmai, Zeruiah
Bahurim, Beersheba, Bethlehem, Carmel, Dan, Geshur, Gibeon, Hebron
Continually, David, David's, Feeble, Grew, Lasted, Saul, Saul's, Steadily, Strong, Stronger, War, Waxed, Weak, Weaker
1. During the war David becomes stronger
2. Six sons are born to him in Hebron
6. Abner, displeased with Ishbosheth
7. revolts to David
13. David requires as a condition to bring him his wife Michal
17. Abner confers with the Israelites, feasted by David, and dismissed
22. Joab returning from battle, is displeased with the king, and kills Abner
28. David curses Joab
31. and mourns for Abner

Dictionary of Bible Themes
2 Samuel 3:1

     5087   David, reign of
     5340   house
     5606   warfare, nature of
     5607   warfare, examples
     7236   Israel, united kingdom
     8358   weakness, physical

2 Samuel 3:1-5

     5732   polygamy

The King --Continued.
The years thus well begun are, in the historical books, characterized mainly by three events, namely, the bringing up of the ark to the newly won city of David, Nathan's prophecy of the perpetual dominion of his house, and his victories over the surrounding nations. These three hinges of the narrative are all abundantly illustrated in the psalms. As to the first, we have relics of the joyful ceremonial connected with it in two psalms, the fifteenth and twenty-fourth, which are singularly alike not
Alexander Maclaren—The Life of David

The King.
We have now to turn and see the sudden change of fortune which lifted the exile to a throne. The heavy cloud which had brooded so long over the doomed king broke in lightning crash on the disastrous field of Gilboa. Where is there a sadder and more solemn story of the fate of a soul which makes shipwreck "of faith and of a good conscience," than that awful page which tells how, godless, wretched, mad with despair and measureless pride, he flung himself on his bloody sword, and died a suicide's death,
Alexander Maclaren—The Life of David

Of a Private Fast.
That we may rightly perform a private fast, four things are to be observed:--First, The author; Secondly, The time and occasion; Thirdly, The manner; Fourthly, The ends of private fasting. 1. Of the Author. The first that ordained fasting was God himself in paradise; and it was the first law that God made, in commanding Adam to abstain from eating the forbidden fruit. God would not pronounce nor write his law without fasting (Lev. xxiii), and in his law commands all his people to fast. So does our
Lewis Bayly—The Practice of Piety

A Believer's Privilege at Death
'For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.' Phil 1:1I. Hope is a Christian's anchor, which he casts within the veil. Rejoicing in hope.' Rom 12:12. A Christian's hope is not in this life, but he hash hope in his death.' Prov 14:42. The best of a saint's comfort begins when his life ends; but the wicked have all their heaven here. Woe unto you that are rich! for ye have received your consolation.' Luke 6:64. You may make your acquittance, and write Received in full payment.' Son, remember that
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

The Morning of Good Friday.
The pale grey light had passed into that of early morning, when the Sanhedrists once more assembled in the Palace of Caiaphas. [5969] A comparison with the terms in which they who had formed the gathering of the previous night are described will convey the impression, that the number of those present was now increased, and that they who now came belonged to the wisest and most influential of the Council. It is not unreasonable to suppose, that some who would not take part in deliberations which were
Alfred Edersheim—The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah

Growth in Grace
'But grow in grace.' 2 Pet 3:38. True grace is progressive, of a spreading and growing nature. It is with grace as with light; first, there is the crepusculum, or daybreak; then it shines brighter to the full meridian. A good Christian is like the crocodile. Quamdiu vivet crescit; he has never done growing. The saints are not only compared to stars for their light, but to trees for their growth. Isa 61:1, and Hos 14:4. A good Christian is not like Hezekiah's sun that went backwards, nor Joshua's
Thomas Watson—A Body of Divinity

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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