End of the line of Saul (3:2-4:12)
On becoming king of Judah, David followed the pattern of neighbouring kings by taking a number of wives (2-5). (For the more important people of David’s family and relatives see the appendix at the end of the commentary on 2 Samuel.) Meanwhile Abner became so powerful among Ishbosheth’s supporters, that Ishbosheth accused him of trying to gain the throne for himself. (According to an eastern custom, one way a person signified his claim to the throne was by claiming the king’s harem; see 12:8; 16:22.) Angry and frustrated, Abner saw that Israel could not be rebuilt on the weak foundation of Ishbosheth. He therefore decided to join forces with David, and in that way help strengthen and unify Israel (6-11).
David accepted Abner’s offer of support on the condition that Michal, David’s first wife and Saul’s daughter, be returned to him. Having Saul’s daughter as wife would further strengthen David’s claim to Saul’s throne (12-16; cf. 1 Sam 18:20-27; 25:44). Most of Israel’s leaders readily joined with Abner in
transferring their allegiance to David. Only Saul’s tribe, Benjamin, needed a little extra persuasion (17- 21).
Joab, however, was not pleased to see Abner join David’s army, for it meant he now had a rival for the post of commander-in-chief. Treacherously he killed Abner, giving the excuse that he was taking revenge on behalf of his dead brother. But David clearly considered it to be murder (22-30; cf. Num 35:19-28). David publicly showed his disapproval of Joab’s deed, and regretted that one of the nation’s finest leaders should die in such a manner. But David took no action against Joab (31-39; cf. 1 Kings 2:5- 6,32).
With the death of Abner, Ishbosheth’s kingdom collapsed, Ishbosheth himself being murdered. The royal rule of Saul’s family had come to an end, as forecast by Samuel (see 1 Sam 13:13-14). All that remained of the line of succession through Jonathan was one badly crippled child (4:1-8). David, as in the previous case of murder, showed his disapproval (for Ishbosheth had done him no harm), but this time he ordered the murderers to be executed. As always, he wanted to make it clear that he would not gain Saul’s throne through murder (9-12).