2 Samuel 2:27
And Joab said, As God lives, unless you had spoken, surely then in the morning the people had gone up every one from following his brother.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(27) Unless thou hadst spoken.—Joab’s reply to Abner admits of either of two interpretations: (1) Joab seeks to throw the whole blame of the conflict upon Abner, by saying that if he had not proposed the combat between the champions (2Samuel 2:14) there would have been no battle, but “the people” of both sides would have separated peaceably at Gibeon; or (2), as the phrase is more generally and more probably under. stood, that Joab had intended to keep up the pursuit only until the following morning, but as Abner already sued for mercy, he was content, and would stop now.

2 Samuel 2:27. Unless thou hadst spoken, &c. — Made the motion that they should fight, giving a rash challenge; surely in the morning the people had gone up — The armies had parted in peace, without any act of hostility: it was thou, not I, that gave the first occasion of this fight. This plainly shows that Joab’s instructions were not to begin hostilities, and that Abner was the sole cause of the war. Had it not been for him, all things might have been settled by an amicable agreement that very morning. Some, however, understand Joab’s words differently: they consider him as swearing solemnly, that inasmuch as Abner had given the challenge, and proposed fighting, if he had not also begun the parley for cessation, he and his men would have pursued him and Ish-bosheth’s vanquished army the whole night.2:25-32 Abner appeals to Joab concerning the miserable consequences of a civil war. Those who make light of such unnatural contests, will find that they are bitterness to all concerned. How easy it is for men to use reason, when it makes for them, who would not use it, if it made against them! See how the issue of things alter men's minds! The same thing which looked pleasant in the morning, at night looked dismal. Those who are most forward to enter into contention, will repent before they have done with it, and had better leave it off before it be meddled with, as Solomon advises. This is true of every sin, oh that men would consider it in time, that it will be bitterness in the latter end! Asahel's funeral is here mentioned. Distinctions are made between the dust of some and that of others; but in the resurrection no difference will be made, but between the godly and ungodly, which will remain for ever.Joab's speech means either "unless thou hadst spoken (challenged us to fight, 2 Samuel 2:14), the people would have returned from the pursuit of their brethren (many hours ago, even) this morning;" or, "If thou hadst not spoken (asked for peace, 2 Samuel 2:26), surely the people would have returned, etc., in the morning, i. e. would not have ceased the pursuit until the morning." The latter interpretation is the more accordant with Joab's boastful character. 2Sa 2:19-32. Asahel Slain.

19-32. Asahel pursued after Abner—To gain the general's armor was deemed the grandest trophy. Asahel, ambitious of securing Abner's, had outstripped all other pursuers, and was fast gaining on the retreating commander. Abner, conscious of possessing more physical power, and unwilling that there should be "blood" between himself and Joab, Asahel's brother, twice urged him to desist. The impetuous young soldier being deaf to the generous remonstrance, the veteran raised the pointed butt of his lance, as the modern Arabs do when pursued, and, with a sudden back thrust, transfixed him on the spot, so that he fell, and lay weltering in his blood. But Joab and Abishai continued the pursuit by another route till sunset. On reaching a rising ground, and receiving a fresh reinforcement of some Benjamites, Abner rallied his scattered troops and earnestly appealed to Joab's better feelings to stop the further effusion of blood, which, if continued, would lead to more serious consequences—a destructive civil war. Joab, while upbraiding his opponent as the sole cause of the fray, felt the force of the appeal and led off his men; while Abner probably dreading a renewal of the attack when Joab should learn his brother's fate, and vow fierce revenge, endeavored, by a forced march, to cross the Jordan that night. On David's side the loss was only nineteen men, besides Asahel. But of Ish-bosheth's party there fell three hundred and sixty. This skirmish is exactly similar to the battles of the Homeric warriors, among whom, in the flight of one, the pursuit by another, and the dialogue held between them, there is vividly represented the style of ancient warfare.

Unless thou hadst spoken; unless thou hadst made the motion that they might fight, 2 Samuel 2:14. It was thou, not I, that gave the first occasion of this fight. Withal, he intimates that Abner was the sole cause of this war; and that if he had not given commission and command, the war had never been undertaken, but all things had been ended by an amicable agreement; which might have been made that very morning, if he had so pleased. And Joab said, as God liveth,.... Which was the form of an oath, swearing by the living God:

unless thou hadst spoken; that is, these words in 2 Samuel 2:14; "let the young men arise and play", that he had not given the challenge to fight:

surely then in the morning the people had gone up everyone from following his brother; they would have gone away and never fought at all; they were not desirous of shedding their blood, and following after them to slay them: thus he lays the blame upon Abner, and makes him to be the cause and beginner of the war. Some render the particle by "if", and give the sense, that if he had spoken what he last did sooner, the people would long before this time have desisted from pursuing them; for it was not from a thirst after their blood, and a desire to luke vengeance on them, that they pursued them, but to bring them to submission, and lay down their arms; for they could not in honour retreat until they desired it; but the former sense seems best, and is the general sense of the Jewish commentators.

And Joab said, As God liveth, unless thou hadst {o} spoken, surely then in the morning the people had gone up every one from following his brother.

(o) If you had not provoked them to battle, 2Sa 2:14.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
27. unless thou hadst spoken] Abner found fault with Joab for continuing the pursuit. Joab retorts that Abner himself was to blame for the commencement of the battle. Unless thou hadst spoken (2 Samuel 2:14), and challenged us to fight, the armies might have separated this morning without coming to blows. Joab believed that the civil war might have been avoided by timely negotiation. This explanation is the simplest, and fits the context best. Another way of taking it is, Unless thou hadst spoken, and asked for a cessation of hostilities, then to-morrow morning, but not before, the people, &c.; i.e. Joab boasts that his compliance with Abner’s request was no sign of weakness on his part, for he might have continued the pursuit until morning. But this meaning is less obvious, and less suitable as an answer to Abner.Verse 27. - Unless thou hadst spoken, surely then in the morning the people had gone up; or as the Revised Version renders, had gone away, nor followed every man his brother. The Revised Version makes the sense more plain. Joab throws the whole blame, and rightly so, on Abner. David would under no circumstances have attacked Ishbosheth, and Joab with his men had marched to the tank of Gibeon simply to repel an invading force. When there, Joab, doubtless by David's orders, had remained strictly on the defensive, and so unwilling were both armies to fight, that Abner had to resort to a most cruel scene of butchery in order to inflame their passions and force them to begin a conflict of brother against brother. But for Abner's challenge, both armies would have separated as friends. And Joab still acts upon the same principle of forbearance, and gives the signal for stopping the pursuit. He was not a man of a tender heart, but he was wise and sensible, and fully aware that the slaughter of Abner and his men, even if he could have destroyed them all, would only have rankled in the minds of all Israel, and set them against David and his rule. Then Abner turned round, asked him whether he was Asahel, and said to him, "Turn to thy right hand or to thy left, and seize one of the young men and take his armour for thyself," i.e., slay one of the common soldiers, and take his accoutrements as booty, if thou art seeking for that kind of fame. But Asahel would not turn back from Abner. Then he repeated his command that he would depart, and added, "Why should I smite thee to the ground, and how could I then lift up my face to Joab thy brother?" from which we may see that Abner did not want to put the young hero to death, out of regard for Joab and their former friendship.
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