Verses 1-5 – David suffered much heartache because of many wives. Polygamy was socially acceptable practice for kings at this time, even though God specifically warned against it (Deuteronomy 17:14-17). These sons that David had with these different wives caused him great trouble. Rape (13:14), murder (13:28), rebellion (15:13), and greed (1 Kings 1:5, 6) all resulted from the jealous rivalries among the half brothers. Solomon, one of David’s sons and his successor to the throne also took many wives who eventually turned him away from God (1 Kings 11:3, 4).
Verses 6, 7 – To sleep with any of the king’s wives or concubines was to make a claim to the throne, and it was considered treason. Because Ish-Bosheth was a weak ruler, Abner was running the country. Ish-Bosheth may have been right to speak out against Abner’s behavior, but he didn’t have the moral strength to maintain his authority (3:11). The lack of a moral backbone became the root of Israel’s troubles over the next four centuries. Only 4 of the next 40 kings of Israel were called “good.” When you believe something is wrong, do not let someone talk you out of your position.
Verse 8 – By saying, “Am I a dog’s head?” Abner was angry that Ish-Bosheth had admonished him because Abner had put Ish-Bosheth on the throne in the first place. Prior to this conversation, Abner realized that he could not keep David from eventually taking over Israel. Because he was angry at Ish-Bosheth, Abner devised a plan to turn over the kingdom of Israel to David.
Verses 13, 14 – Michal had been married to David. She was Saul’s daughter and had been given to David but in a fit of jealousy, Saul had taken her and given her to Paltiel (1 Samuel 25:44). Now David wanted his wife back before he would negotiate peace with northern tribes. Paltiel was the unfortunate victim caught in the web of Saul’s jealousy.
Verse 19 – Saul, Ish-Bosheth, and Abner were all from the tribe of Benjamin so the elders of that tribe meant that Abner was serious about his offer.
Verses 26-29 – Joab took revenge for the death of his brother instead of leaving justice to God. Abner had killed Joab’s brother Asahel in self-defense. People who killed in self-defense were to be safe in cities of refuge; Hebron was such a city (Joshua 20:7). Joab showed his disrespect for God’s laws by killing Abner in this city called Hebron.]
Verse 29 – David was saying that Joab’s descendants would be unclean, unhealthy, and in want.
Verse 39 – Joab and Abishai were the sons of Zeruiah David mentioned. David had especially a hard time controlling Joab because; although he was intensely loyal, he was strong willed, and preferred to do things his own way. While David opposed the murder, he allowed it to remain unpunished.