Key People

2 Samuel


The honest compliments of an opponent are often the best measure of someone’s greatness. Although Abner and David frequently saw each other across battle lines, the Bible gives a glimpse of the respect they had for each other. As a young man, David had served under Abner. But later, Saul’s campaign to kill David was carried out by Abner. After Saul’s death , Abner temporarily upheld the power of the king’s family. But the struggle between Abner and Saul’s heir, Ishbosheth, brought about Abner’s decision to support David’s claim to the throne. It was during his efforts to unite the kingdom that Abner was murdered by Joab.

Several years earlier, in a battle between Ishbosheth’s army under Abner and David’s forces under Joab, Abner fled and was pursued by Joab’s brother, Asahel. Abner fold Asahel twice to stop following him. But the eager young soldier refused, so Abner killed him. Joab was determined to avenge his brother.

Abner realized Saul’s family was doomed to defeat and David would be the next king, so he decided to change sides. He hoped that in exchange for his delivering Saul’s kingdom, David would make him commander in chief of his army. David’s willingness to accept this proposal was probably another reason for Joab’s action.

Abner lived by his wits and his will. To him God was someone with whom he would cooperate if it suited his plan. Otherwise he did what seemed best for him at the time. We can identify with Abner’s tendency to give God conditional cooperation. Obedience is easily when the instructions in God’s Word fit in with por plans. But our allegiance to God is tested when his plans are contrary to ours. What action should you take today in obedience to God’s Word?

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Commander in chief of Saul’s army and a capable military leader

    • Held Israel together for several years under the weak king Ishbosheth

    • Recognized and accepted God’s plan to make David king over both Israel and Judah

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • He had selfish motives in his effort to reunite Judah and Israel rather than godly conviction

    • He slept with one of the royal concubines after Saul’s death

Lessons from his life

    • God requires more than conditional, halfhearted cooperation

Vital statistics

    • Where: Territory of Benjamin

    • Occupation: Commander of the armies under Saul and Ishbosheth

    • Relatives: Father: Ner. Cousin: Saul. Son: Jaasiel

    • Contemporaries: David, Asahel, Joab, Abishai

Key verse

    • “Then King David said to his officials, ‘Don’t you realize that a great commander has fallen today in Israel?” (2 Samuel 3:38).

Abner’s story is told in 1 Samuel 14:50-2 Samuel 4:12. He also mentioned in 1 Kings 2:5, 32; 1 Chronicles 26:28; 27:16-22.


Sometimes love is not enough - especially if that love is little more than the strong emotional attraction that grows between a hero and an admirer. To Michal, Saul’s daughter, the courageous young David must have seemed like a dream come true. Her feelings about this hero gradually became obvious to others, and eventually, her father heard about her love for David. He saw this as an opportunity to get rid of his rival for the people’s loyalty. He promised Michal’s hand in marriage for David’s success in the impossible task of killing 100 Philistines. But David was victorious, and so Saul lost a daughter and saw his rival become even more popular with the people.

Michal’s love for David did not have time to be tested by the realities of marriage. Instead, she became involved in saving David’s life. Her quick thinking helped him escape, but it resulted in Saul’s anger and her separation from David. Her father gave her to another man, Palti, but David eventually took her back.

Unlike her brother Jonathan, Michal did not have the kind of deep relationship with God that would have helped her through the difficulties in her life. Instead, she became bitter. She could not share David’s joyful worship of God, so she hated it. As a result, she never bore David and children.

Beyond feeling sorry for her, we need to see Michal as a person mirroring our own tendencies. How quickly and easily we become bitter, with life’s unexpected turns. But bitterness cannot remove or change the bad things that have happened. Often bitterness only makes a bad situation worse. On the other hands, a willingness to respond to God gives him the opportunity to bring good out the difficult situations. That willingness has two parts: asking God for his guidance and looking for that guidance in his Word.

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Loved David and became his first wife

    • Saved David’s life

    • Could think and act quickly when it was needed

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Lied under pressure

    • Allowed herself to become bitter over her circumstances

    • In her unhappiness, she hated David for loving God

Lessons from her life

    • We are not as responsible for what happens to us as we are for how we respond to our circumstances

    • Disobedience to God almost always harms others as well as harming us

Vital statistics

    • Occupations: Daughter of King Saul, wife of King David

    • Relatives: Parents: Saul and Ahinoam. Brothers: Jonathan,Malkishua, Abinadab, Ishbosheth (and possibly Ishvi). Sister Merab. Husbands: David, Palti

Key verse

    • “But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul, looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him” (2 Samuel 6:16)

Michal’s story is told in 1 Samuel 14:-2 Samuel 6. She is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 15:29.


This prophet lived up to the meaning of his name, “He [God] has given.” He was a necessary and helpful gift from God to David. He served as God’s spokesman to David and proved himself a fearless friend and counselor, always willing to speak the truth, even when he knew great pain would result.

In Confronting David's multiple sin of coveting, theft, adultery, and murder in his affair with Bathsheba, Nathan was able to help David see his own wrongdoing by showing that he would not have tolerated such actions from anyone else. David’s repentance allowed Nathan to comfort him with the reality of God’s forgiveness and at the same time remind him of the painful consequences his sin would bring.

Nathan’s approach helps us judge our actions. How often do we make choices that we would condemn others for making? It is helpful to ask ourselves how God and others see our actions. Unfortunately, we have a huge capacity to lie to ourselves. God still provides two safeguards against self-deception: his Word and true friends. In each case, we get a view beyond ourselves. You are holding God’s Word. Let it speak to you about yourself, even if the truth is painful. If you don’t have a friend like Nathan, ask God for one. And ask God to use you as a suitable Nathan for someone else.

Strengths and accomplishments

    • A trusted adviser to David

    • A prophet of God

    • A fearless but careful confronter

    • One of God’s controls in David’ life

Weakness and mistake

    • His eagerness to see David build a temple for God in Jerusalem made him speak without God’s instruction

Lessons from his life

    • We should not be afraid to tell the truth to those we care about

    • A trustworthy companion is one of God’s greatest gifts

    • God cares enough to find a way to communicate to us when we are in the wrong

Vital statistics

    • Occupations: Prophet, royal adviser

    • Contemporaries: David, Bathsheba, Solomon, Zadok, Adonijah

Key verse

    • “So Nathan went back to David and told him everything the Lord had said” (2 Samuel 7:17)

Nathan’s story is told in 2 Samuel 7-1 Kings 1. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 17:15; 2 Chronicles 9:29; 29:25.


Ammon was king David’s firstborn son, born and raised during the years between David’s rise to fame and his rise to power. He grew into a prince with too much time on his hands and too little control over his thoughts. Amnon set in motion one of the most shameful and destructive series of actions in the royal family. He allowed himself to become obsessed with sexual desire for his half sister Tamar. When his attempt to seduce Tamr failed, he raped her. Then his “desire” for her became loathing and he humiliated her. He even made it look like the incest was his sister’s fault. Tamar’s full brother Absalom later avenged her shame by killing Amnon.

David was an ineffective father. He failed to train or discipline his children. Although he found out and was furious about Amnon’s actions, he did nothing. Amnon, like the rest of his siblings was a child out of control. He was frustrated when he couldn’t have his way yet was disgusted when he did get his way. Without direction, his actions led to self-destruction. The Bible records not even a hint of remorse for what he had done to Tamar.

Family relationships can be sources of strength or systems of dysfunction. We can think about childhood by counting scars and nightmares or by remembering security and dreams. We may be creating in our own children one or the other of these histories. In what specific ways have you been setting the painful issues of the past in your own life? In what ways are you contributing to a better past for your children?

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Allowed lustful desires to dominate his life

    • Listened to his cousin Jonadab’s bad advice

    • Raped and then rejected his half sister, Tamar

Lessons from his life

    • Children who have everything often lack purpose and direction in their lives

    • Thoughts and impulses turn self-destructive if not controlled or channeled

    • Parents contribute good or evil by action or inaction in their children’s lives

    • The distance between lust and hatred is very short

Vital statistics

    • Where: Hebron

    • Occupation: Prince

    • Relatives: Father: David. Mother: Ahinoam. Many half brothers including Absalom, Adonijah, and Solomon. Half sister: Tamar.

    • Contemporaries: Nathan, Jonadab, Joab, Ahithophel, Hushai

Key verse

    • “Then suddenly Amnon’s love turned to hate, and he hated her even more than he had loved her. ‘Get out of here!’ he snarled at her” (2 Samuel 13:15).

Amnon’s story is told in 2 Samuel 13:1-39. He is also mentioned in 2 Samuel 3:2 and 1 Chronicles 3:1.


A father’s mistakes are often reflected in the lives of his children. In Absalom, David saw a biter replay and amplification of many of his own past sins. God had predicted that David’s family would suffer because of his sins against Bathsheba and Uriah. David’s heart was broken as he realized that God’s predictions were coming true. God forgave David, but he did not cancel the consequences of his sin. David was horrified as he saw his son’s strengths run wild without the controls God had built into his own life.

By most casual evaluations, Absalom would have made an excellent king, and the people loved him. But he lacked the inner character and control needed in a good leader. His appearance, skill, and position did not make up for his lack of personal integrity.

David’s sins took him away from God, but repentance brought him back. In contrast, Absalom sinned and kept on sinning. Although he relied heavily on the advice of others, he was not wise enough to evaluate the counsel he received.

Can you identify with Absalom? Do you find yourself on a fast track toward self-destruction? Absalom wasn’t able to say, “I was wrong I need forgiveness.” God offers forgiveness, but we will not experience that forgiveness until we genuinely admit our sins and confess them to God. Absalom rejected his father’s love and ultimately God’s love. How often do you miss entering back into God’s love through the door of forgiveness?

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Was handsome and charismatic like his father, David

    • Kindly comforted his sister, Tamar, after she had been raped and allowed her to live with him

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Avenged the rape of his sister, Tamar, by killing his half brother Amnon

    • Plotted against his father to take away the throne

    • Consistently listened to the wrong advice

Lessons from his life

    • The sins of parents are often repeated and amplified in their children

    • A smart man gets a lot of advice; a wise man evaluates the advice he gets

    • Actions against God’s plans will fail, sooner or later

Vital statistics

    • Where: Hebron

    • Occupation: Prince

    • Relatives: Father: David. Mother: Maacah. Half brothers: Amnon, Kileab, Solomon, and others. Sister: Tamar.

    • Contemporaries: Nathan, Jonadab, Joab, Ahithophel, Hushai

Key verse

    • “But while he was there, he sent secret messengers to all the tribes of Israel to stir up a rebellion against the king. ‘As soon as you hear the ram’s horn, ‘his message read, ‘you are to say, “Absalom has been crowned king in Hebron’” (2 Samuel 15:10).

Absalom’s story is told in 2 Samuel 3:3; 13-19.


Joab, the great military leader, had two brothers who were also famous soldiers: Abishai and Asahel, Joab proved to be the greatest leader of the three and was the commander of David’s army throughout most of David’s reign. There is no record that his troops ever lost a battle.

Joab was a fearless fighter like his brothers. Unlike them, he was also a brilliant and ruthless strategist. His plans usually worked, but he was seldom concerned about those hurt or killed by them. He did not hesitate to use treachery or murder to achieve his goals. His career is a story of great accomplishments and shameful acts. He conquered Jerusalem and the surrounding nations, defeated Abner, and reconciled Absalom and David. But he also murdered Abner, Amasa, and Absalom, took part in Uriah’s murder, and plotted with Adonijah against Somon. That plot led to his execution.

Joab set his own standards - he lived by them and died because of them. There is little evidence that Joab ever acknowledged God’s standards. On one occasion he confronted David about the danger of taking a census without God’s command, but this may have been little more than a move to protect himself. Joab’s self-centeredness eventually destroyed him. He was loyal only to himself, even willing to betray his lifelong relationship with David to preserve his power.

Joab’s life illustrates the disastrous results of having no source of directions outside oneself. Brilliance and power are self-destructive without God’s guidance. Only God can give the direction we need. For that reason, he was made available his Word, the Bible, and he is willing to be personally present in the lives of those who admit their need for him.

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Brilliant planner and strategist

    • Fearless fighter and resourced commander

    • Confident leader who did not hesitate to control event the king

    • Helped reconcile David and Absalom

    • Masterminded the conquest of Jerusalem

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Was repeatedly ruthless, violent, and vengeful

    • Carried out Davis’s scheme to have Uriah, Bathsheba's husband, killed

    • Avenged his brother’s murder by murdering Abner

    • Killed Absalom against David’s orders

    • Plotted with Adonijah against David and Solomon

Lesson fro his life

    • Those who live by violence often die by violence

    • Even brilliant leaders need guidance

Vital statistics

    • Occupations: Commander in chief of David’s army

    • Relatives: Mather: Zeruiah. Brothers: Abishi, Asahel. Uncle: David

    • Contemporaries: Saul, Abner, Absalom

Key verse

    • “Do as the said, ‘the king replied. ‘Kill him there beside the altar and bury him. This will remove the guilt of Joab’s senseless murders from me and from my father’s family’” (1 Kings 2:31).

Joab’s story is told in 2 Samuel 2-1 Kings 2. He is also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 2:16; 11:5-9, 20, 26; 19:8-15; 20:1; 21:2-6; 26:28; and in the title of Psalm 60.


Most great leaders struggle with a few followers who try too hard. For David, Abishai was that kind of follower. HIs fierce loyalty to David had to be kept from becoming destructive - he was too willing to leap to his leader’s defense. David never put down Abishai’s eager loyalty. Instead, he patiently tried to direct its powerful energy. This approach, while not completely successful, saved David’s life on at least one occasion. At three other times, however, Abishai would have killed for the king if David had not stopped him.

Abishai was an excellent soldier, but he was better at taking orders than giving them. When he wasn’t carrying out David’s orders, Abishai was usually under the command of his younger brother Joab. The two brothers helped each other accomplish great military feats as well as shameful acts of violence -Abishai helped Joab murder Abner and Amasa. When he was effective as a leader, he led mostly by example. But all too often he did not think before he active.

We should be challenged by Abishai’s admirable qualities of fearlessness and loyalty, but we should be warned by his tendency to act without. It is not enough to be strong and effective; we must also have the self-control and wisdom that God can give us. We are to follow and obey with our hearts and our minds.

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Known as one of the heroes among David’s fighting men

    • A fearless and willing volunteer, fiercely loyal to David

    • Saved David’s life

Weaknesses and mistakes

    • Tended to act without thinking

    • Helped Joab murder Abner and Amasa

Lessons from his life

    • The most effective followers combine careful thought and action

    • Blind loyalty can cause great evil

Vital statistics

    • Occupation: Soldier

    • Relatives: Mather: Zeruiah. Brothers: Joab, Asahel. Uncle: David.

Key verses

    • “Abishai son of Zeruiah, the brother of Joab, was the leader of the Thirty. He once used his spear to kill 300 enemy warriors in a single battle. It was by such feats that he became as famous as the Three. Abishai was the most famous of the Thirty and was their commander, though he was not one of the Three” (2 Samuel 23:18, 19).

Abishai’s story is told in 2 Samuel 2:18-23:19. He is also mentioned in 1 Samuel 26:1-13; 1 Chronicles 2:16; 11:20, 18:12; 19:11, 15.

David’s Mighty Men

One way to understand David’s success is to notice the kind of men who followed him. During the time he was being hunted by Saul, David gradually built a fighting force of several hundred men. Some were relatives, others were outcasts of society, many were in trouble with the law. They all had at least one trait in common - complete devotion to David. Their achievements made them famous. Among these men were elite military groups like “the Three” and “the Thirty.” They were true heroes.

Scripture gives the impression that these men were motivated to greatness by the personal qualities of their leader. David inspired them to achieve beyond their goals and meet their true potential. Likewise, the leaders we follow and the causes to which we commit ourselves will affect our lives. David’s effectiveness was clearly connected with his awareness of God’s leading. He was a good leader when he was following his Leader. Do you know whom the people you respect most are following? Your answer should help you decide whether they deserve your loyalty, Do you also recognize God’s leading in your life? No one can lead you to excellence as your Creator can.

Strengths and accomplishments

    • Able soldiers and military leaders

    • Shared many special skills

    • Tough frequently outnumbered, were consistently victorious

    • Loyal to David

Weakness and mistake

    • Often had little in common beyond their loyalty to David and their military expertise

Lessons from their life

    • Greatness is often inspired by the quality and character of the leadership

    • Even a small force of able and loyal men can accomplish great feats

Vital statistics

    • Where: They came from all over Israel (primarily Judah and Benjamin) and from some of the other surrounding nations as well

    • Occupations: Various backgrounds - almost all were fugitives

Key verses

    • “So David left Gath and escaped to the cave of Adullam. Soon his brothers and all his other relatives joined him there. Then others began coming - men who were in trouble or in debt or who were just discontented - until David was the captain of about 400 men” (1 Samuel 22:1, 2).

Their stories are told in 1 Samuel 22-2 Samuel 23:39. They are also mentioned in 1 Chronicles 11-12.