Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 3

Abner and Rizpah

2 Samuel 3:6-7

King Saul had a concubine called Rizpah, by whom he had two sons (21:8). A concubine is a wife of lower rank than the man’s main wife or wives. For example, she may have previously been a slave in his house; or she may be the main wife’s maid.

Saul was now dead, so his concubine was free to marry another man. Perhaps Abner took Rizpah into his home as an additional wife, or perhaps he merely used her for sex. However, his true purpose was to show his power over Ish-Bosheth, the king whom Abner himself had appointed over Israel. In that way, Abner’s action was like Reuben’s behaviour in Genesis 35:22 or Absalom’s behaviour in 2 Samuel 16:20-22. Each of these men tried, by this act, to show how powerful they were.

Ish-Bosheth was Saul’s son, so Abner’s behaviour with his father’s concubine upset him. In addition, he realised that Abner was controlling him. Abner had already started a war, which he was losing, against David’s men. Now he had taken for himself this woman whom, by tradition, Ish-Bosheth was responsible for. Abner seemed to think that he was the real king. Ish-Bosheth’s government already seemed to be under Abner’s control; now Abner was claiming control over his family too. If Ish-Bosheth did nothing, Abner could soon declare himself to be king instead of Ish-Bosheth.

So Ish-Bosheth accused Abner of wrong behaviour. Abner had no right to take Rizpah for himself, Ish-Bosheth said. However, Abner was much too powerful a man to agree that he had acted wrongly. Instead, he became extremely angry that Ish-Bosheth had dared to speak against him.

Next part: Abner declares his true opinions about David (2 Samuel 3:8-11)


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