Bible Book List

2 Samuel 3 International Standard Version (ISV)

Abner Changes Loyalties

After this, a state of protracted war existed between Saul’s dynasty and David’s dynasty, and the dynasty of David continued to grow and become strong while the dynasty of Saul continued to grow weaker. During this time, sons were born to David while he was living in Hebron. His firstborn was Amnon by Ahinoam from Jezreel, his second was Chileab by Abigail, widow of Nabal from Carmel, his third was Absalom by Maacah, daughter of King Talmai from Geshur, his fourth was Adonijah by Haggith, his fifth was Shephatiah by Abital, and his sixth was Ithream by David’s wife Eglah. They were all[a] born to David in Hebron.

While war continued between the dynasties of Saul and David, Abner was growing in influence within the dynasty of Saul. Meanwhile, Saul had a mistress[b] named Rizpah, who was the[c] daughter of Aiah. Ish-bosheth[d] asked Abner, “Why did you have sex with my father’s mistress?”

What Ish-bosheth[e] said made Abner furious, so he replied, “A dog’s head for Judah—is that what I am? Up until today I’ve kept on showing loyalty to your father Saul’s dynasty, to his relatives and friends, and I haven’t turned you over to David, but you’re charging me today with moral guilt regarding this woman! Therefore may God do to me[f]—and more also!—just as the Lord has promised to David, since I’m doing this for him: 10 I will take away the kingdom from the dynasty of Saul by making the throne of David firm over Israel and Judah—from Dan to Beer-sheba!”

11 Ish-bosheth[g] couldn’t say another word in response to Abner, because he was terrified of him. 12 So Abner sent messengers to David at Hebron to ask him, “Who owns this land? Cut a deal[h] with me, and look!—I’ll lend my hand in bringing all of Israel over to you!”

13 David replied, “Sounds good to me! I’ll cut a deal[i] with you under one condition: you’re not to show yourself in my presence unless you bring Saul’s daughter with you when you come to see me.” 14 Then David sent a delegation to Saul’s son Ish-bosheth to say, “Give me my wife Michal, to whom I was engaged with a dowry of 100 Philistine foreskins.”[j]

15 So Ish-bosheth ordered that she be taken away from her husband, Laish’s son Paltiel. 16 Her husband accompanied her, crying as he followed after her all the way to Bahurim, where Abner told him, “Leave! Go back!” So he went back.

David’s Dynasty is Strengthened

17 Later, Abner had a talk with the elders of Israel. He said, “In the past you were looking to see David made king over you. 18 So do it, then! Because the Lord has said this about David:

‘Through my servant David I will save my people Israel
    from the control of the Philistines
        and from all of their enemies.’”

19 Abner also addressed the tribe of Benjamin. Furthermore, with David’s permission,[k] Abner said anything that seemed like it would be good for Israel and for the entire tribe of Benjamin.

20 Afterwards, Abner brought 20 soldiers to David at Hebron, and David threw a party for Abner and the men who were with him. 21 So Abner told David, “Give me permission to go out and rally all of Israel to your majesty the king so they can enter into a formal agreement with you to reign over everything that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner off, and he went away in peace.

Joab Murders Abner

22 Right about then, David’s servants returned from a raid, bringing plenty of war booty with them, but Abner wasn’t in Hebron with David, since David[l] had sent him away and Abner[m] had left in peace. 23 When Joab returned with his entire army, Joab was informed, “Ner’s son Abner visited the king, and he has dismissed him. He has left in peace.”

24 So Joab approached the king and asked him, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you! What’s this? You sent him away? He’s long gone now! 25 You know Ner’s son Abner came to mislead you, to learn your troop movements,[n] and to learn everything you’re doing!”

26 As soon as Joab left David, Joab[o] sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah, but David was not aware of this. 27 When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab brought him aside within the gateway to talk to him alone and then stabbed him in the abdomen.[p] So he died for shedding[q] the blood of Joab’s[r] brother Asahel.

28 Later on, David found out about it and proclaimed, “Let me and my kingdom remain guiltless forever in the Lord’s presence for the death[s] of Ner’s son Abner. 29 May judgment[t] rest on Joab’s head and on his father’s entire household. May Joab’s dynasty never be without one who has a discharge,[u] who is a leper, who walks with a cane,[v] who commits suicide,[w] or who lacks food!” 30 He said this[x] because Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner after he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.

31 David ordered Joab and all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes, put on sackcloth, and mourn for Abner.” King David walked behind the funeral procession, 32 and they buried Abner at Hebron. The king wept loudly at Abner’s grave, and all the people wept, too. 33 The king composed this mourning song for Abner:

“Should Abner’s death be like a fool’s?
34 Your hands were not bound,
        nor were your feet in irons.
As one falls before the wicked,
    you have fallen.”

Then all the people cried again because of him. 35 Everyone tried to persuade David to have a meal while there was still daylight, but David took an oath by saying, “May God to do like this to me and more, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”

36 Everybody took note of this and was very pleased, just as everything else the king did pleased everyone. 37 As a result, the entire army and all of Israel understood that day that the king had nothing to do with the murder of Ner’s son Abner.

38 The king reminded his staff,[y] “Don’t you know that a prince and a great man has fallen today in Israel? 39 Today, even though I’m anointed as king, I’m weak. These men, sons of Zeruiah, are too difficult[z] for me. May the Lord repay the one who acts wickedly in accordance with his wickedness!”


  1. 2 Samuel 3:5 The Heb. lacks all
  2. 2 Samuel 3:7 Or concubine; i.e. a secondary wife; and so throughout the chapter
  3. 2 Samuel 3:7 The Heb. lacks who was the
  4. 2 Samuel 3:7 Lit. And he; cf. vs. 8
  5. 2 Samuel 3:8 Cf. 1Chr 8:33, where he is named Esh-baal; i.e., a man devoted to Baal
  6. 2 Samuel 3:9 Lit. to Abner
  7. 2 Samuel 3:11 Lit. he
  8. 2 Samuel 3:12 Lit. covenant
  9. 2 Samuel 3:13 Lit. covenant
  10. 2 Samuel 3:14 Cf. 1Sam 18:25ff
  11. 2 Samuel 3:19 Lit. in the hearing of David; i.e., with David’s tacit knowledge
  12. 2 Samuel 3:22 Lit. he
  13. 2 Samuel 3:22 Lit. he
  14. 2 Samuel 3:25 Lit. to know your comings and goings
  15. 2 Samuel 3:26 Lit. he
  16. 2 Samuel 3:27 Lit. him there the fifth; i.e., below the fifth rib
  17. 2 Samuel 3:27 The Heb. lacks shedding
  18. 2 Samuel 3:27 Lit. his
  19. 2 Samuel 3:28 Lit. blood
  20. 2 Samuel 3:29 Lit. guilt
  21. 2 Samuel 3:29 I.e. one who is ceremonially unfit to serve God; cf. Lev 13:46
  22. 2 Samuel 3:29 Lit. who needs a staff
  23. 2 Samuel 3:29 Lit. who falls on a sword
  24. 2 Samuel 3:30 The Heb. lacks He did this
  25. 2 Samuel 3:38 Lit. servants
  26. 2 Samuel 3:39 Or violent
International Standard Version (ISV)

Copyright © 1995-2014 by ISV Foundation. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED INTERNATIONALLY. Used by permission of Davidson Press, LLC.

2 Samuel 3 New International Version (NIV)

The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.

Sons were born to David in Hebron:

His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel;

his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel;

the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;

the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;

the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;

and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah.

These were born to David in Hebron.

Abner Goes Over to David

During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, “Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?”

Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, “Am I a dog’s head—on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath 10 and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 11 Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.

12 Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, “Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.”

13 “Good,” said David. “I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”

15 So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. 16 Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.

17 Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, “For some time you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now do it! For the Lord promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’”

19 Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person. Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole tribe of Benjamin wanted to do. 20 When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

Joab Murders Abner

22 Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace.

24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone! 25 You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.”

26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.

28 Later, when David heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy[a] or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.”

30 (Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)

31 Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.” King David himself walked behind the bier. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also.

33 The king sang this lament for Abner:

“Should Abner have died as the lawless die?
34     Your hands were not bound,
    your feet were not fettered.
You fell as one falls before the wicked.”

And all the people wept over him again.

35 Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”

36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. 37 So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner.

38 Then the king said to his men, “Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? 39 And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!”


  1. 2 Samuel 3:29 The Hebrew for leprosy was used for various diseases affecting the skin.
New International Version (NIV)

Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Viewing of
Cross references