Civil war between the house of Saul and the house of David continued for a “long” time (see 2 Sam. 3:1). Despite the long war David is not mounting a massive revolution to forcefully destroy Saul’s house. Slowly David is growing stronger and stronger over the house of Saul. But civil war doesn’t seem to be the best way to unite a fractured kingdom. How about marriage alliances? David may have been driven in part by the beauty of these wives he had acquired while in Hebron, but political alliances has likely far more to do with it. For example, David’s marriage to Maacah, daughter of the king of Geshur, meant David had support to the north of Ish-bosheth and with Hebron to the south of him, David had him surrounded. David takes back his wife Michal whom Saul took away, even giving her to another man, Paltiel (2 Sam. 3:15). David may have sought a son to be born to Michal thus uniting Saul’s and David’s house, but Michal remains barren (see 2 Sam. 6:23). The text of 2 Samuel 3 seems to focus only on Paltiel’s loss over Michal, which perhaps is a foreshadow of David taking someone else’s bride for his own benefit later in his life (see 2 Sam. 11).
The reader of Deuteronomy, which a king was supposed to be since he had to make a copy of the law (Deut. 17:18), would know that in Deuteronomy 17 we find expectations of the kings of Israel, “And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold” (v. 17). The author of 2 Samuel doesn’t report directly on this passage, but be sure you are not so pro-David, that you give him a pass for these actions. David did not act wisely with his marriage alliances. This is why we glory in Christ Jesus, David’s Son and David’s Lord, who is forever faithful to His one bride (see 2 Tim. 2:11-13)!
Abner, the commander of Saul’s army has continued to show steadfast love (Hebrew: hesed) to the house of Saul. Ish-bosheth sees that Abner is growing stronger and may fear that he will seek his throne and position as king of Israel. Because of this, Ish-bosheth accuses Abner of sleeping with his dads (Saul’s) concubine Rizpah. Peter Leithart writes, “An ancient king’s brides and concubines represented the kingdom in several respects. Because they constituted part of a king’s household, wives and concubines were part of a king’s inheritance, passed into the care if not into the bed of his successor (see 2 Sam. 12:8)” (A Son to Me: An Exposition of 1 & 2 Samuel, 173). But Ish-bosheth is badly mistaken, and as a result Abner looks to align Israel over to David (2 Sam. 3:9-10). David and Abner make a covenant with one another, once fighting enemies, now united and confirming that covenant over a meal (very similar to what we do with communion, see 1 Cor. 11). Sadly, things take a drastic turn for the worse.
Three times the text tells us that Abner was sent away by David in peace (vv. 21, 22, 23). Joab cannot believe David would let his enemy go peaceably. Of course, Joab had several things at play. For starters, Abner killed his brother Asahel in battle, after warning the young man twice (see 2 Sam. 2:21-23). Joab and his other brother Abishai were seeking revenge for their younger brother. Joab also may have feared his position being lost or downgraded if Abner, a senior official, brought all Israel over to David. Joab acts without David’s knowledge and calls Abner back. Abner, having received safe passage from David doesn’t expect anything and that is when Joab strikes in the midst of the gate at Hebron. Hebron, a city of refuge for a manslayer (see Joshua 20:1-7). Abner killed Asahel in battle after warning the young man to turn aside, he didn’t and got himself killed for it. Abner isn’t in this respect considered a manslayer, and shouldn’t be killed for his actions. Joab and Abishai are not in the right to carry out vengeance in this manner, for Abner graciously warned their brother and killed him in battle, not having hatred in his heart toward him. Abner is killed in the midst of the gate, a place of judgment in a town, by being struck in the stomach like Asahel was (2 Sam. 3:26-27).
Joab certainly put a wrench in the kingdom coming over to David, which is why you see David seeking to remove himself from his nephews (see 1 Chron. 2:16) crime both privately (2 Sam. 3:28-30) and publicly (2 Sam. 3:31-37). It isn’t surprising that David reigned in Hebron for as long as he did, seven years and six months (2 Sam. 2:11). Nevertheless, Yahweh was handing the kingdom over to His servant, His anointed, whom He had chosen. No amount of death or interference will be able to thwart God’s plans. This is why we again glory in Christ Jesus, who died once for all and who now “Lives that death may die.” Death did not and cannot slow Him down! So we confidently trust our covenant keeping God knowing, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever” (Rev. 11:15b).