Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.
Long war — For five years longer: for it is probable, Isbosheth was made king presently upon Saul's death; and the other tribes did not submit to David before seven years were expired.
 And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;
Geshur — A part of Syria, northward from the land of Israel. Her he married, as it may seem, in policy, that he might have a powerful friend and ally to assist him against Ishbosheth's party in the north, whilst himself opposed him in the southern parts. But he paid dear for making piety give place to policy, as the history of Absolom sheweth.
 And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David's wife. These were born to David in Hebron.
Eglah — This is added, either because she was of obscure parentage, and was known by no other title but her relation to David: or, because this was his first and most proper wife, best known by her other name of Michal, who, though she had no child by David after she scoffed at him for dancing before the ark, chap. 6:23, yet might have one before that time. And she might be named the last, because she was given away from David, and married to another man. Six sons in seven years. Some have had as numerous an offspring, and with much more honour and comfort, by one wife. And we know not that any of the six were famous: but three were very infamous.
 And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul.
Strong — He used all his endeavours to support Saul's house: which is mentioned, to shew the reason of his deep resentment of the following aspersion.
 And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee.
Messengers — Who in his name might treat with David concerning his reconciliation with him. Thus God over-rules the passions of wicked men, to accomplish his own wise and holy purposes. And who then dare contend with that God who makes even his enemies to do his work, and destroy themselves? Whose, etc. - To whom doth this whole land belong, but to thee? Is it not thine by Divine right?
 And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul's son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines.
Ishbosheth — Whose consent was necessary, both to take her away from her present husband, and to persuade her to return to David. Hereby also David opened to him a door of hope for his reconciliation, lest being desperate he should hinder Abner in his present design.
My wife — Who, though she was taken from me by force, and constrained to marry another, yet is my rightful wife. David demands her, both for the affection he still retained to her, and upon a political consideration that she might strengthen his title to the kingdom.
 And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: and Abner went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin.
Benjamin — To these he particularly applies himself, because they might be thought most kind to Saul and his house, and most loath to let the kingdom go out of their own tribe; and therefore it was necessary that he should use all his art and power with them, to persuade them to a compliance with his design; and besides, they were a valiant tribe, and bordering upon Judah, and situate between them and the other tribes; and therefore the winning of them, would be of mighty concernment to bring in all the rest.
 And, behold, the servants of David and Joab came from pursuing a troop, and brought in a great spoil with them: but Abner was not with David in Hebron; for he had sent him away, and he was gone in peace.
A troop — Of robbers, or Philistines, who taking advantage of the discord between the houses of Saul and David, made inroads into Judah.
 Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father's house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread.
Let it, … — But would not a resolute punishment of the murderer himself have become David better, than this passionate imprecation on his posterity?
 So Joab and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.
Abishai — For though Joab only committed the murder, yet Abishai was guilty of it, because it was done with his consent, and counsel, and approbation.
In battle — Which he did for his own necessary defence; and therefore it was no justification of this treacherous murder.
 And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David himself followed the bier.
Joab — Him he especially obliged to it, to bring him to repentance for his sin, and to expose him to public shame.
Followed — That is, attending upon his corps, and paying him that respect which was due to his quality. Though this was against the usage of kings, and might seem below David's dignity; yet it was now expedient to vindicate himself from all suspicion of concurrence in this action.
 And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth?
As a fool — That is, as a wicked man. Was he cut off by the hand of justice for his crimes? Nothing less; but by Joab's malice and treachery. It is a sad thing to die as a fool dieth, as they do that any way shorten their own days: and indeed all they that make no provision for another world.
 Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And all the people wept again over him.
Not bound — Thou didst not tamely yield up thyself to Joab, to be bound hand and foot at his pleasure. Joab did not overcome thee in an equal combat, nor durst he attempt thee in that way, as a general or soldier of any worth would have done.
Wicked men — By the hands of froward, or perverse, or crooked men, by hypocrisy and perfidiousness, whereby the vilest coward may kill the most valiant person.
 And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.
Pleased them — They were satisfied concerning David's integrity.
 And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?
Know ye not, … — But how little, how mean are they made by death, who were the terror of the mighty in the land of the living.
 And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the LORD shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness.
Weak — In the infancy of my kingdom, not well settled in it. The metaphor is taken from a young and tender child or plant.
These men — Joab and Abishai, the sons of thy sister Zeruiah.
Too hard — That is, too powerful. They have so great a command over all the soldiers, and so great favour with the people, that I cannot punish them without apparent hazard to my person and kingdom; especially, now when all the tribes, except Judah, are in a state of opposition against me. But although this might give some colour to the delay of their punishment, yet it was a fault that he did not do it within some reasonable time, both because this indulgence proceeded from a distrust of God's power and faithfulness; as if God could not make good his promise to him, against Joab and all his confederates; and because it was contrary to God's law, which severally requires the punishment of willful murderers. It was therefore carnal wicked policy, yea cruel pity that spared him. If the law had had its course against Joab, it is probable the murder of Ishbosheth, Ammon, and others, had been prevented. So truly was he in these, and some other respects, a bloody man, which may be observed to the glory of the Divine grace, in his forgiveness and conversion.