David Mourns Abner – Getting Away with Murder?

David Mourns Abner 2 SamuelKeep an even keel.” ~ Unknown

This phrase comes to mind as we visit the funeral of Abner, whom you remember was killed by Joab in previous verses.

When we read this passage, we must contemplate this question; Did Joab get away with murder?

The answer, in a sense, is yes.

So, why did King David let Joab off the hook?

Let’s read the passage from 2 Samuel chapter 3 first — Then we’ll discuss the reasons Joab went unpunished.

David Mourns Abner- Did Joab Get Away with Murder?

“So Joab and his brother Abishai killed Abner because he had put their brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon.

David Mourns Abner

Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth, and mourn before Abner.”

And King David walked behind the bier.

And they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king raised his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept.

And the king sang a song of mourning for Abner and said,

“Should Abner die as a fool dies?

Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put in bronze shackles;

As one falls before the wicked, you have fallen.”

And all the people wept over him again.

Then all the people came to provide food for David in his distress while it was still day; but David vowed, saying, “May God do so to me, and more so, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun goes down.”

Now all the people took note of David’s vow, and it pleased them, just as everything that the king did pleased all the people.

So all the people and all Israel understood on that day that it had not been the desire of the king to put Abner the son of Ner to death.

Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a leader and a great man has fallen in Israel this day?

And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too difficult for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer in proportion to his evil.” – 2 Samuel 3:30-39 (NASB)

What is a Bier?

In verse 31, the Scripture says; “And King David walked behind the bier.

So, what is a bier?

Simply put, the bier is a coffin.

This funeral procession seems close to modern times as David followed the coffin.

But, he also led the mourning showing he cared for Abner.

Loyalty Produces Flexibility

Do you know friends or coworkers who are strong-willed?

I’m sure all of us have encountered these “hard to control” people at one time or another.

Well, this is what David was up against with Joab.

Although Joab was loyal to the king, he was extremely independent.

But, he also was David’s nephew.

So, Did Joab Get Away with Murder?

To say it in today’s language; King David was in a tight spot!

Yes, he had the power to punish Joab for the unwarranted killing of Abner.

But politically, David understood by doing so he would stand the chance of upsetting the “even keel.”

Why No Punishment for Joab?

As with many Bible passages, we don’t always know the clear motivation for action — or lack of it.

But, what we do know is: The punishment of Joab would or could…

  • Cause troop rebellion
  • Develop into problems with David’s family — because Joab was family.
  • Possible revolt from Judah (David’s own tribe)
  • Losing one of David’s most skilled commanders.

So, when we look at this in hindsight, King David could have been initiating a political move — not one of justice.

Justice for All?

David mourns Abner in 2 SamuelWas Abner’s death avenged?

Was there justice for Joab?

Seemingly, the conclusion is no.

But, justice doesn’t always come during our lifetime.

You’ve seen people who lie, cheat and steal who seem to go unpunished and even live very lavish lifestyles.

Is this justice? Not in our eyes.

But, as Christians we know that judgment will fall on all of us. Deuteronomy 32:35 says:

Vengeance is Mine, and retribution;
In due time their foot will slip.
For the day of their disaster is near,
And the impending things are hurrying to them.’

So, even though David did not punish Joab for Abner’s death, God knows what he did.

We cannot judge David nor Joab because we are only human.

As my dear Uncle Hazel used to say when asked about the weather today; He’d simply answer…

“I’m not running that job this year.”


In Christ,


If you would like to discover how to receive the love and life-changing experience of Jesus Christ, please take a moment to see John 3:16 here.