“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. And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; 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; And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron” (2 Samuel 3:1-5).
The opening verse of this chapter indicates that David’s reign over Israel was not far away. This would not come without further struggles and problems, even to the point of a civil war between both camps, but behind it all was the hand of God guiding David to the throne.
Seven years of war between Judah and Israel had taken place since Ishbosheth began to rule in Israel. This was largely due to the arrogance of Abner who did all that he could to hinder David from ruling over Israel. He had installed Ishbosheth as king of Israel, but he was in fact the power behind the throne (1 Samuel 2:8-10). He started a civil war between Judah and Israel which arose out of a supposed game between both camps, resulting in the death of twenty-four young men (2 Samuel 2:11-16). Abner murdered Asahel, one of the sons of Joab (2 Samuel 2:17-23). Abner only called for a truce when he was cornered by Joab, David’s nephew, but that day three hundred and seventy-nine men had lost their lives (2 Samuel 2:24-32).
Despite the fact that the war continued for a long time, the old regime gradually became weaker, but David grew in strength throughout the land. People were coming to realise that he was God’s chosen king for a united Israel. He may have had many loses along the way, but he still prospered and increased. “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper” (Isaiah 54:17). Abner, with his superior forces, might have risen up against David, but all he sought to accomplish would turn to ashes in his hands.
David now also had a growing family. In our text mention is made of six of David’s wives. We know that he had already married Michal, Saul’s daughter, too, making seven at this juncture. David’s polygamy would turn out to be a curse for the rest of his life rather than the blessing he supposed. His six wives are listed as Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Abital, and Eglah. Some of these marriages might have been political tools to cement alliances with rulers of other nations, for Maacah was the daughter of the Syrian King of Geshur, “with a view to strengthen himself against Ishbosheth’s party, by the aid of a powerful friend and ally in the north” (Jamieson, Faussett, Brown Bible Commentary). There is a slight possibility that Eglah was another name for Michal since she out of the six is called David’s wife. Each of these wives produced potential heir for the continuance of David’s kingdom, so once again we see that David was not listening to God.
Though David was now walking with the Lord again, there was this besetting sin that continued to pollute his life. That polygamy was a sin was well known to David, and no doubt the priests would have said as much, but he seemed intent on building his empire all by himself. “Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away” (Deuteronomy 17:17). Charles Chapman writes that polygamy was “prevalent in the East at that time” and having several wives “was supposed to add to the splendour and stateliness” of a king. But this was never ordained by God. We see then that David was living by the customs and fashions of the age rather than being fully committed to the Lord. The so-called morality of our generation is never to be the guiding light for how the righteous ought to live. Public opinion and fashions are almost always wrong because they are ever changing. God and His word never change to suit the age. “With whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17) … “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6).
Mention is also made of the six sons born to David in Hebron; these were Amnon, Chileab (also called Daniel in 1 Chronicles 3:1), Absalom, Adonijah, Shephatiah and Ithream.
Amnon would go on to rape his half-sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13). He would be killed by Absalom. Absalom was considered to be handsome, but he had a wicked heart and tried to overthrow David his father (2 Samuel 15). Adonijah also tried to take the throne while David lay dying in bed (1 Kings 1). The three other sons have no record of their activities, so the silence might indicate that they were not as bad as the other three.
David only gained more problems for himself in his quest to have multiple wives. His marriages were wrong, his parenting skills seem to be non-existent, and he hindered his kingdom in many ways through this sin. “Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate” (Psalm 127:3-5). We can see what went wrong in David’s life, and the fact that he was a poor example to his successors.