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Deeper Commentary

2Sa 3:1 Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: and David grew stronger and stronger, but the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker-
The inspired commentator presents the civil war as it was, a feud between two families, who came from opposite sides of Jerusalem, only about 20 km. from each other. As discussed on chapter 2, David was waiting for God's word to come through for him and was not using his own strength. Yet he was made stronger and stronger, in contrast to how Abner makes himself strong, in his own strength, for the Saulides (:6).

2Sa 3:2 To David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess-
We must recognize that there will be anomalies in the lives of our brethren- just as there are in the lives of us all (if only we would examine ourselves ruthlessly enough to see them). And in some ways at some times, God goes along with them. Thus He gave Saul’s wives to David (2 Sam. 12:8), which would’ve involved David being married to both a mother and daughter- for he had married Saul’s daughters. And this giving of Saul’s wives to David may not have occurred simply after Saul’s death. For David’s eldest son, Amnon, was borne by Ahinoam (2 Sam. 3:2), who was initially Saul’s wife (1 Sam. 14:50). Now this is not to justify sin. Adultery, taking another’s wife or husband, is all wrong. Let there be no mistake. But God at times sees the bigger, or longer, perspective, and tolerates things which we may quite rightly find intolerable. And if He loves us despite of our sin and failure- are we surprised that we are invited to show love to others in the face of their sin and failure toward us? A black and white insistence upon God’s standards being upheld in the lives of others, demanding their repentance for having hurt us, is what has caused so much division between believers. Whilst God alone will apportion the guilt for this, in the final, unalterable, ultimately just algorithm of Divine judgment, it’s worth observing that the fault for division isn’t always with the sinners, the wider thinkers, the freewheelers; but with the inflexible intolerance of those in power.

"Amnon" means 'faithful' and we might have expected him to be David's logical successor. But one great theme of David's personal life was his disappointment in his children and wives.

2Sa 3:3 his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite-
We would rather have expected Chileab as the son of David's most spiritual wife to be his successor. But 'restrained by his father' might mean that David initially thought so too, and was so restrictive of Chileab that he didn't work out that way at all.

The third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur-
Solomon wished to imitate his father David in every sense; his own real personality only really came out in the Ecclesiastes years, when he took to drink, materialism, women and idolatry. It  took  the  influence  of his parents many years to wear off. David  had  weaknesses  for  horses (2 Sam. 8:4) and many wives; and Solomon  followed  in  these  steps  too. Note that David had six sons in seven years by six different women, including Gentiles (1 Chron. 3:3). For Geshur was one of the tribes the Israelites ought to have driven out of the land (Josh. 13:13), and Talmai was sufficiently against David to provide refuge for Absalom (2 Sam. 13:37). "Geshur" means "joining" and such a joining in marriage to these people is another example of David's unwisdom with women.

 And in addition to these, David had children by “the concubines” (1 Chron. 3:9). Doubtless Solomon reasoned, albeit   deep   within  his  psyche,  that  such  behaviour  was legitimate  because  David  his father had done it. David  seems to have over interpreted the promises made to him  about Solomon and the temple, and assumed that  his  interpretation was certainly correct. And Solomon did exactly the same. The weaknesses of the parents all too easily are repeated by the children to an even greater extent.  

This marriage with a Gentile was contrary to the spirit of the law (Ex. 34:16; Dt. 7:3; Josh. 23:12). It wasn't blessed, as his rebel son Absalom later took refuge in Geshur. The marriage was surely for political reasons, wanting an ally in the area of Ishbosheth’s capital. For Talmai’s kingdom was right next to Mahanaim (2 Sam. 15:8; Dt. 3:14). David had attacked, murdered and pillaged the people of Geshur (1 Sam. 27:8,9: "David and his men went and made a raid on the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites... David attacked the land and saved neither man nor woman alive; he took away the sheep, cattle, donkeys and camels and the clothing"). As with his living in Gath and serving Achish, we see how facile and shallow are human political alliances.

2Sa 3:4 the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital-
The contrast of this section seems to be intentional with the note in 2 Sam. 2:2, that David arrived in Hebron from Ziklag with only two wives. We could get the impression that David's spiritual life was in some areas in steady decline from the time he slew Goliath in his youth. And yet he died in faith.

2Sa 3:5 the sixth, Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron-
The birth of six sons, although these were not all his sons, is perhaps presented as a point of continuity with faithful Hannah who also had six sons, the firstborn of which had been David's mentor Samuel. Critics have raised the complaint that Eglah means "cow" and is an unusual Hebrew name for a king's wife. We wonder if this is a name that David gave her after a failed marriage or rejecting her as his wife. It's possible it is a name he gave Michal, who is otherwise unmentioned here. Although David's polygamy was less than ideal, his having children by his wives is contrasted favorably in this section with Abner's sleeping with one of Saul's concubines.

2Sa 3:6 It happened that while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner made himself strong on behalf of the house of Saul-
The idea may be that Abner exalted himself to be the effective leader of the house of Saul, with a view to becoming their leader in place of Ishbosheth. He was after all Saul's cousin. But the narrative continues to show that having recognized he was losing militarily (:1), he wanted to seek peace with David. And he uses the argument about Rizpah as an excuse.

2Sa 3:7 Now Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah: and Ishbosheth said to Abner, Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?-
This could have been seen as an intentional challenge to Ishbosheth, for sleeping with a king's concubine was an effective statement of having taken the throne. This is what Absalom did to David during his rebellion. Abner was Ishbosheth's uncle and Saul's cousin (1 Sam. 14:50) and was the logical one to be king if Ishbosheth was incompetent. He is presented as sleeping at noon and generally weak, so Abner maybe thought he was doing the right thing for Saul's side by taking over as king. It seems he did indeed plan to take over the throne from Ishbosheth... but he re-thought and decided on loyalty to David, to God's word about David and the unity of Israel. And David accepted that, suspicious as it would've looked.

2Sa 3:8 Then was Abner very angry for the words of Ishbosheth, and said, Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hand of David; and yet you charge me this day with a fault concerning this woman!- 
See on :11. David had made it very clear that he would not slay any of the house of Saul. He had promised this to Saul and Jonathan, and was very careful to show absolute grace to them. But God worked so that despite keeping this oath, God all the same removed from the house of Saul all serious contenders for the throne. So Ishbosheth was not at any real risk of losing his life if Abner handed him over to David. It all seems to me as if Abner was orchestrating this falling out in order to provide himself with a face saving excuse to achieve unity with David, and as it were surrender power on good terms. It is not even clear if he did indeed sleep with Rizpah.       

2Sa 3:9 God do so to Abner, and more also, if, as Yahweh has sworn to David, I don’t do even so to him-
Abner was aware of the promises to David. I have elsewhere suggested that the essence of the promises to David in 2 Sam. 7 had been made to him at a far earlier stage. See on 1 Sam. 25:28, where Abigail uses the terms of 2 Sam. 7 ["a sure / established house"]  well before they are recorded as being given. Abner realizes that God's promises require a man to be in step with them, and in a sense, to be the human channel of their fulfilment. And he is saying that he is willing to be that channel for their fulfilment. Abner consistently comes over, as noted often on 2 Sam. 2, as indeed seeking the throne for himself, but not wanting excessive bloodshed, and realizing that it would be better for all concerned if he resigned any pretensions to power. And here he demonstrates, despite his aggressive exterior, that he appreciates the promises to David and is not going to be like Saul and fight in vain to stop God's word coming true.

It's possible that Abner is referring to the same unrecorded prophetic word mentioned by David's men in 1 Sam. 24:4,5- that David would have the kingdom instead of Saul. We note Abner was with Saul at that time in the wilderness. And yet as with David's men, we wonder whether Abner just imagined this word. Because if he indeed knew it, then why had he been disobedient to it by fighting against David for the kingdom not to be transferred from Saul to David? Of course it could be also that this is all a statement of repentance by Abner- that seeing God had said this, he was now going to be obedient to it. His defeats had made him realize that he was fighting against the fulfilment of God's word.

2Sa 3:10 to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beersheba-
It was because David's heart was 'turned away' from sin, that God 'turned away' the kingdom from Saul to David (s.w. Ps. 119:37). As noted on :9, Abner realizes this and seeks to now work for and not against God's purpose for Saul. For God had promised to set up / establish the throne of David, and Abner is now effectively repenting of fighting to stop that happening.

2Sa 3:11 He could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him-
I suggest Abner was loud mouthed and crudely spoken (:8), but beneath that rough exterior there was a genuine repentance, and always a desire to avoid excessive bloodshed between brethren, as noted throughout 2 Sam. 2. We too need to see through the surface level appearance of some brethren to their spiritual essence.

2Sa 3:12 Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf saying, Whose is the land? Make your alliance with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you, to bring all Israel around to you-
Although Abner controlled more land of Israel than David, the answer to his question, according to the law of Moses, was: "Yahweh" (Lev. 25:23 etc.). The land was God's. So they should not be fighting over who ruled it. It's similar to how the two sides in the battle of 2 Sam. 2 both realized at least subconsciously that brethren should not be fighting each other. Unity arguments are accepted in the hearts of all members of God's people, but it's a question of recognizing this in humility.

The idea seems to be 'The land is yours'. But he feared the consequences of his surrender, and wants there to be an agreement or alliance granting him personal safety. Saul had slain the priests of Nob because their hand was with David (s.w. 1 Sam. 22:17); perhaps Abner wishes to say that now, he too was with David and disassociated himself from Saul's actions. He saw that Yahweh's hand was with David in order to make him king over all Israel, and Abner now wanted to be working with that hand, with his hand in God's; and to cease resisting it.

2Sa 3:13 He said, Good; I will make a treaty with you; but one thing I require of you. That is, you shall not see my face, unless you first bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see my face-
We are left, intentionally, wondering what exactly were David's motives here. He may have considered that Saul's daughter's marriage was going to mean that her husband Paltiel was a potential contender for the throne, and he wanted to remove that potential threat by breaking up their marriage. But that would have reflected a lack of faith in the promises that he would surely become king of Israel. Rather I suspect this was done from motives of personal bitterness. He had killed men in order to get Michal as wife, even though he ought to have been given her freely in return for slaying Goliath. That she had married another man was an intolerable insult for any Hebrew man, and it seems in weakness David acted like a secular person rather than a spiritual one.

2Sa 3:14 David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, whom I pledged to be married to me for one hundred foreskins of the Philistines-

David was very astute and this nuances all his apparent grace to Saul's family. And yet the fact he was so sharply astute means that grace, which is so illogical, would have not come naturally to him. The desire to have Saul's daughter again as his wife was surely politically motivated. He was seeking to win over Saul's supporters, so resuming his marriage with Saul's daughter was going to help that. But David paid no attention to the pain he would cause her husband. Again we see his apparent grace to the house of Saul was nuanced by his undoubted political agenda. David may also have been looking for assurance that Abner really did have power in Benjamin and over the other tribes. If he could indeed bring Michal to David in relationship, then he would demonstrate that he had the power to bring all Israel to David. And knowing David's mixed motives, it's not to much to think that he wanted to hurt and punish both Michal and Paltiel. For to know your wife was sleeping with another man would've been hard for David to respond to in grace. David was clearly angry that he hadn't been given Michal as promised when he slew Goliath, and that even when he paid the required dowry and married Michal, Saul had given her to another man when Michal didn't go out to join her husband in the wilderness [cp. Abigail]. Paltiel's obvious love and affection for Michal is set up in contrast with David's heartless treatment of her, and him. We note that Michal loved David in 1 Sam. 18:20 but there is never any reference to David loving Michal. So it seems as David took Michal so Abner took Rizpah, likewise for political reasons. So although in 2 Sam. 2 David faithfully trusts in Yahweh and not his own strength, he now seems to fail and resorts to human tactics. It's typical of human faith that we can't seem to maintain it for long on a high level but always revert, at least temporarily, to the strength of our flesh.

As discussed on :13, it seems David felt bitterly the betrayal. He had actually paid 200 foreskins for her, and anyway Saul should have given her to him for slaying Goliath. Despite having many wives and children, he could not bear the thought that she was married to another man. And so he broke up an apparently loving marriage (:16) for the sake of his own pride and need for control. And he was to do the same with the marriage of Uriah and Bathsheba.

We note in 2 Sam. 3:1-16 David's bad treatment of Michal's husband, who follows his wife with tears in a most unmasculine but genuine response to David taking her from him. Paltiel walks behind her, when a woman in those days was supposed to walk behind a man [cp. Russian 'zamuzhem', behind a husband, to describe a married woman]. Paltiel was publically shamed; the way Abner abruptly tells him to stop following his wife and go home is as if Abner treats Paltiel as a dog. He did this when he already had at least six wives; the information about his wives and children precedes the narrative about him breaking up Michal and Paltiel's marriage. Although David calls Michal his "wife" [Heb. isshi], the record calls Paltiel her husband [Heb. 'ish]. This failure is then repeated by David when he takes Bathsheba and slays Uriah, breaking up a good marriage even though he had many "sheep". He was wrong in how he treated Paltiel. But his conscience didn't kick in. And so one sin led him to another sin, against Uriah, in essence the same but of far greater magnitude. We reflect how his taking of Abigail in 1 Sam. 25 also involved the displacement of her husband, Nabal- but by the hand of providence. It's as if David intentionally misread this as meaning that he had the right to remove the husbands of women he wanted. The progression is all so psychologically credible. David wanted to test Ishbosheth and Abner's loyalty [as Abner had formerly been Saul's general], and so he asked them to get Michal back to him as his wife. He clearly didn't love Michal; it was all for the sake of politics. We must be aware that sexual rights over a woman, especially the wife of another, were seen as a sign of political dominance and control; David lived in a culture where the politics of power were sexualized. We think of Absalom sleeping with David's wives publically. And we wonder whether his taking of Abigail was similarly motivated. This usage of women rather than loving them is what led him to the failure with Bathsheba. David is recorded as being loved by many people- Jonathan, Michal, Saul's servants, all Israel etc. But he is never recorded as loving anyone himself. Nathan's parable presents David as a man with many animals, representing his women- possibly suggesting this was how he saw his wives.

2Sa 3:15 Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Paltiel the son of Laish-
"Her husband" reflects God's view that Paltiel and Michal were married. David's argument that Michal was his wife originally wasn't really accepted by God, because He accepts second marriages.

The request was made from Ishbosheth, who was technically the king of Israel, in order to prove David's authority over him. And it could be that Michal and Paltiel had fled from David to Mahanaim. But David's resumed marriage with Michal wasn't blessed; it all seems a very personal and political thing.

Prov. 18:22 LXX may allude to Michal: "He that puts away a good wife, puts away a good thing, and he that keeps an adulteress is foolish and ungodly". This reading would then be a justification of how Solomon's father David had put away his wife Michal, Saul's daughter, who had then married Phaltiel, a relationship Solomon liked to see as adultery. Constantly Solomon uses his knowledge of Divine truths to justify himself and his father, just as God's truth can likewise be abused today.

2Sa 3:16 Her husband went with her, weeping as he went, and followed her to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, Go! Return! And he returned-
Bahurim was about 20 miles from Mahanaim, near Jerusalem. We have the tragic image of the loving husband walking behind her weeping as she is led away from him. This was not only a breach of Mosaic law, but displayed a sad elevation of politics above others’ relationships and marriages. It may be significant that her renewed marriage with David wasn’t blessed with any children (2 Sam. 6:23). The record elicits our sympathy for Paltiel, and leaves us with the impression that David was heartless and callous when it came to others' relationships.

2Sa 3:17 Abner had communication with the elders of Israel saying, In times past, you wished for David to be king over you-
The northern tribes had been supportive of David, as all Israel had been after the victory over Goliath. But Abner seems to admit that it was he who had persuaded them otherwise. He is now showing the fruits of repentance by undoing the division he had created.

2Sa 3:18 Now then do it; for Yahweh has spoken of David saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David, I will save My people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies’-
This was the Divine intention for Saul (1 Sam. 9:16), but Abner recognizes that now it had all been transferred to David. The interests of the nation as a whole, who had recently been defeated by the Philistines at Gilboa, were better served by David than Abner. For David had God's prophetic word on his side, and could bring deliverance. Abner had a number of options open to him; he could have fled to a neighbouring country, or sought some other way of resolving things with David. But he comes over as genuinely repentant, and honestly doing what he can, no matter at what loss of face, to bring Israel completely under David's control. See on :22.

2Sa 3:19 Abner also spoke 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 to the whole house of Benjamin-
As noted on :18, Abner's repentance was genuine. Having persuaded the northern tribes to accept his 'unity with David' plan, he then worked on Benjamin, Saul's own tribe, his own tribesmen. He spoke in their ears, and it "seemed good" to Benjamin as well as the other tribes to accept David as king. There would have been hawks within Benjamin, who were not persuaded; and some of them emerge in later history in rebellion against David. But Abner must be credited with bringing about a remarkably quick agreement that in practice paved the way for David to rule all Israel. And it was only he, as the effective leader and army general, who could have achieved this. "All that seemed good" may be alluded to in the description of another unity process between brethren in Acts 15:25,28.

2Sa 3:20 So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. David made Abner and the men who were with him a feast-
The feast was surely a sign of acceptance and reconciliation, an idea which is continued in the feast of the Lord's supper which we experience in our days. The twenty men would have been the escort for both Abner and Michal.

2Sa 3:21 Abner said to David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your soul desires. David sent Abner away; and he went in peace-
Abner had already secured the general agreement of the other tribes (:19), and now he wanted them to send representatives to make a covenant with David. This would have been a guarantee of their safety, and finally was achieved in 2 Sam. 5:1. The name "Abner" is stressed many times in :17-21, because this whole unity process depended solely upon him. His assassination was therefore all the more shameful.

2Sa 3:22 Behold, the servants of David and Joab came from an engagement, and brought in a great spoil with them-
"An engagement" is literally "a raid" and connects with how the men who would assassinate Ishbosheth were also "captains of raiders" (2 Sam. 4:2). There is some thread of similarity being drawn by the record between these men and Joab. The point was that they were all used by God in order to one by one remove the contenders for the throne [i.e. Abner and Ishbosheth]; and so to providentially leave the way open for David to take the throne over all Israel. In this lies the significance of this otherwise irrelevant detail about Joab having just lead a raid.

Abner had rightly argued that God's promise to deliver Israel from the Philistines was to now be fulfilled through David (:18). We presume this victory of Joab had been against the Philistines. We recently read of how David divided the spoil from the fight with the Amalekites amongst Judah in order to demonstrate in hard terms his ability to save them from their neighbours, and we wonder if he did likewise. 

But Abner was not with David in Hebron; for he had sent him away, and he was gone in peace-
Here we have the hand of providence; for if Joab had been in Hebron when Abner was there, he would have surely murdered him and the whole peace process would have been majorly derailed, likely leading to more bitter civil war. We can note from this that unity between brethren is God's will and He will work, within the confines provided by human freewill, to enable it.

2Sa 3:23 When Joab and all the army who was with him had come, they told Joab saying, Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he has sent him away, and he is gone in peace-
The "they" were presumably those who like Joab considered that David was again being naive towards the house of Saul, and should have murdered Abner instead of making peace with him. Constantly we see David's belief in grace and unity leading him to do things which harder minded individuals found more than annoying; they reacted against it in the harshest of terms. Three times we read that David sent Abner away in "peace" (:21,22,23). This strong emphasis suggests the "peace" was of forgiveness. Abner had repented and David had forgiven him. But this kind of grace was unheard of for the likes of Joab and society of those days. In their eyes, treason against a king was a capital offence, and grace didn't come into it.

2Sa 3:24 Then Joab came to the king and said, What have you done? Behold, Abner came to you. Why is it that you have sent him away, and he is quite gone?-
The implication is that David should have murdered him, and not let him go away in peace, with a guarantee of safe passage. We see the internal harmony of the record in that Joab's reaction here to Abner's being sent away in peace is in spirit so similar to his frustration with David over the death of Absalom (2 Sam. 19:6). We note the internal consistency in the record of Joab's character; another reason to believe these records are absolutely credible and inspired by God. See on 2 Sam. 20:10.

2Sa 3:25 You know Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive you, and to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you do-
Throughout the preceding verses, I have sought to demonstrate Abner's sincere repentance and genuine desire for unity under David. But Joab speaks as if he knows for sure that Abner is fake, and that David knows this too. Hatred of brethren leads to conspiracy theories about them being entertained, in the face of all evidence to the contrary. And then those theories become perceived as not only absolute fact in the mind of those who have nursed them, but they reflect their positions on to others, claiming that others in their hearts know them to be true. These ancient histories speak directly to the situations we encounter in relationships today.

2Sa 3:26 When Joab had come out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah; but David didn’t know it-
Joab's desire to personally murder Abner was premeditated, and he bears complete responsibility for it. He would have been given life in prison for this kind of behaviour today. But he was not demoted or disciplined much by David, because David himself, whilst strongly disagreeing with Joab's actions, failed to perceive the value of human life as he ought to have done. This is cited as a reason why he couldn't build the temple. And because of this, Joab went on to commit another such murder in 2 Sam. 20:10.

2Sa 3:27 When Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him quietly, and struck him there in the body, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother-
The language of striking in the body recalls how Abner had struck Joab's brother Asahel in the body (see note on 2 Sam. 2:23), although as noted there, Abner did not wish to do this. The manner of death was really Asahel running into his own death at the spear point, despite Abner warning him about it, rather than Abner consciously slaying him. Joab is therefore presented as far less ethical than Abner. As Asahel had intended to kill Abner by a blow to his back as he fled from him, so his brother Joab slew Abner from behind. And Joab didn't learn from this; he does the same to Amasa (2 Sam. 20:10). See on 2 Sam. 4:6.

We surely have here the excuse Joab gave ["for the blood of Asahel"]. Abner had done all he could that Asahel not die and probably only intended to wound him with the blunt end of his spear. Joab's clear concern was that Abner would replace him as general and second in command. Joab's later murder of Amasa was from similar fears.

The other contenders for the throne all died "in the midst" of somewhere- Saul "in the midst of the battle" (2 Sam. 1:25), Abner killed in the midst of the gate, and Ishbosheth killed in the midst of his house (2 Sam. 4:6). The idea is that there was some common Divine hand in the removal of these men, all by His providence rather than David's own strength.

2Sa 3:28 Afterwards, when David heard it, he said, I and my kingdom are guiltless before Yahweh forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner-
I have sought to demonstrate so far that Abner consistently comes over as indeed having sought the throne for himself, but not wanting excessive bloodshed, and finally repenting. He realized that it would be better for all concerned if he resigned any pretensions to power. He demonstrates, despite his aggressive exterior, that he appreciates the promises to David and is not going to be like Saul and fight in vain to stop God's word coming true. I therefore consider David's grief for his murder as not at all theatrical, but genuine. And all Israel also realized this.

2Sa 3:29 Let it fall on the head of Joab, and on all his father’s house. Let there not fail from the house of Joab one who has an issue, or who is a leper, or who leans on a staff, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks bread-
This was a stinging curse for one who had been so loyal to David, effectively wishing his exclusion from God's people (Lev. 13:46). And it was an age when curses were believed to have real power. But we note that David doesn't dissociate from Joab; he remains in power throughout David's life. And this lack of real discipline means that he does the same to Amasa (2 Sam. 20:10). Disciplining others wasn't David's strong point, and he paid for it. Like all of us, he was a mixture of softness and hardness.

2Sa 3:30 So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had killed their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle-
This was indeed the motivation, but additionally I suggest that Joab wanted to be seen as the king maker, and disliked the way that Abner was going to go down as the architect of Israel's unity because of his own repentance, humility and resignation of his own aspirations to power. "In the battle" is perhaps added to show that any attempt by Joab to appeal to the laws of avenging blood was totally inappropriate and out of context.

2Sa 3:31 David said to Joab, and to all the people who were with him, Tear your clothes, and clothe yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. King David followed the bier-
The fact David had to tell Joab to do this shows that Joab was not the least bit repentant.

2Sa 3:32 They buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept-
This continues the frequent theme of David and his people being at one, sharing the same feelings. It looks ahead to the unity of the Lord Jesus with His people (see on 2 Sam. 5:1).

2Sa 3:33 The king lamented for Abner and said, Should Abner have died as a fool dies?-
We have here a lament song, composed and sung by David the musician, as he did over Saul and Jonathan. He sees Abner as a "fool" in that he had failed to perceive just how bad was Joab. Although Joab might have appealed to the laws about revenging slain blood, David clearly considered that they did not apply. For effectively, Abner had slain Asahel against his will and in self defence against a man literally aiming to stab him in the back. We could also translate "Should Abner die as Nabal died?". He insists Abner is not the type who had to be slain by Divine stroke.

2Sa 3:34 Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put into fetters. As a man falls before the children of iniquity, so you fell. All the people wept again over him-
His hands were free to fight and his feet free to run away; so he was killed by deceit.

The sons of Zeruiah, Joab and Abishai [who was also party to the murder, :30] are called not sons of Zeruiah but sons of iniquity. It is the phrase used for the Gentiles outside of covenant with God (2 Sam. 7:10); another hint that David had been given many of those promises before the time when Nathan is recorded as presenting them to him. See on 1 Sam. 25:28. David laments that Abner was deceived into his death, assuming others had the same desire for peace which he had. He had been free to fight or run, but did not because he was deceived. Or David may mean that Abner had done nothing to deserve even prison; because David had forgiven him, and Abner had genuinely repented.

2Sa 3:35 All the people came to cause David to eat bread while it was yet day. David swore saying, God do so to me, and more also, if I taste bread, or anything else, until the sun goes down-
David strangely binds himself under the same curse as Saul had enforced upon the people in 1 Sam. 14:24. We wonder why this was. Perhaps it was simply that he truly loved Saul, and had him in mind at this time of hatred against the house of Saul; and so subconsciously he alludes to the words of Saul, although out of context. This again adds veracity to the record; this is typical of language usage at times like this.

2Sa 3:36 All the people took notice of it, and it pleased them; as whatever the king did pleased all the people-
This means that the people also were persuaded that Abner was genuine in his repentance, and had been honestly trying to do his best to undo the division his power seeking had caused. Otherwise they would not have agreed with David. 

2Sa 3:37 So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to kill Abner the son of Ner-
In days of limited communication and the inevitable miscommunications this resulted in, it was quite an achievement to persuade all Israel that Abner's murder had not been orchestrated by David. The depth of David's convictions about Abner's sincerity was so great that somehow it spread throughout the land.

Politically, the murder of Abner was a stroke of good fortune for David. Saul's son was weak, and now the only other leader of the opposition had been murdered. Had David proactively tried to kill Abner, the followers of Saul would not have naturally come under his control. And then an internal feud, apparently about money or wealth, leads to Ishbosheth the Saulide "king" being murdered by his own men (2 Sam. 4). This chain of events set David up to be king over all Israel. But David waited on God to fulfil the promise that he would be king of all Israel, even if it took seven years after Saul's death. Despite David's political astuteness, his trust in God's word is indeed admiral. With Abner's death and Israel's acceptance that David had no part in it, David was now the natural king of all Israel. David's attitude contrasts with that of Absalom and the others who later tried to grasp the Kingdom from David. David waited in trusting faith for the Kingdom and he received it, in good measure. The others tried to grasp it in their own strength and by their own device; and failed. Likewise the promise to David that his dynasty would continue to reign (2 Sam. 7) was given to him by grace and in love, and David accepted it in total humility. The very opposite to the grasping spirit of those who later tried to take his throne. David is likewise to be commended for not just grabbing Abigail from Nabal, but waiting for Nabal to die by God's hand. This highlights his later failure with Bathsheba.

2Sa 3:38 The king said to his servants, Don’t you know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?-
"Prince" suggests that David may well have considered elevating Abner to some position of senior rulership in the united kingdom. As captain of Saul's army, it may have been David's intention to replace Joab [who was captain of David's army] with Abner. This would have been another reason why Joab wanted to murder him. But the man's greatness was in his humility and desire for unity, built around the fruits of his very genuine repentance and hatred of bloodshed between brethren.

2Sa 3:39 I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah are too hard for me. May Yahweh reward the evildoer according to his wickedness
This was the language and exact situation David had experienced when on the run from Saul. He was anointed king, but weak, and he had to leave Yahweh to reward Saul for his wickedness. But he now transfers all those feelings about Saul onto Joab. This was how strongly David viewed the hatred of Joab for Abner.  "Weak" translates a word meaning humble or tender and which therefore has connections with Messianic prophecies- the same word is in Zech. 9:9, "Your king comes, meek...". David could be implying here that he is the Messianic king- the meek and "anointed king". Whereas the sons of Zeruiah didn't fit that description because they were not humble. They were "hard" just as Nabal had been "hard" (1 Sam. 25:3) but as noted on :33, they wrongly treated Abner as Nabal. When they were in fact the Nabal who deserved judgment.

Or we can read this as David saying that now Joab had made it so much harder to achieve unity in Israel. How now could they all be coaxed under David's kingship, seeing David's man and nephew Joab had just killed Saul's cousin Abner? We are indeed weaker without all our brethren.