Let Your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and Your ‘No’ be ‘No.’ (2 Sam 3.9)

So may God do to Abner and so may he add to it!


The beginning of this chapter in 2 Samuel tells us that there was a “long war” between the house of David and the house of Saul. Ishbaal, Saul’s surviving heir, was claiming the throne of Israel, but David was anointed king chosen by God. The writer tells us that David was winning this war.

Abner, the commander of Saul’s army (now Ishbaal’s army) was gaining power among Ishbaal’s people. When a report came to Ishbaal’s ears that Abner had been sleeping with Saul’s concubine, Rizpah, he confronts the commander. Concubines were often given to kings as part of a deal with a political or foreign ally. Such a concubine belonged to the king—so much so that even if the king’s son slept with one, it was considered incest.

Because Saul was dead, and Ishbaal was cleaning his throne, the concubine belonged to Ishbaal as the presumptive king. For Abner to sleep with her was not only insubordinate, but it also showed an arrogance and, in Abner’s case, a clue to his selfish ambitions.

Abner’s response to the king calling him to account, and Ishbaal’s response, show the power that Abner holds. It is clear that he is using the king to further his purposes, using the weakness of Ishbaal. Upon being confronted, Abner becomes angry and cites his past loyalty to Ishbaal. His anger leads him to state that he will switch sides and help David become king of all Israel. Ishbaal does not respond because he is afraid. (Some think this was all up setup by Abner to gain more power because he could see that the war was going in David’s favor.)

In the midst of his rant, Abner pronounces a prayer-curse. The language of the curse is common in speeches by kings. Abner says, “So may God do to Abner and so may he add to it!”1


The purpose of the curse was to make a declaration and a curse upon oneself should the declaration not be so: like an oath (“so help me God”), but stronger. For example, Jonathan gave his loyalty to David and included a curse upon himself if he didn’t tell David of his father’s plans against David.2 Saul pronounced a similar curse about what he would do when the person who did not fast during the battle was found (which turned out to be his son Jonathan).3 We will encounter other similar curses in later passages.

Read the full study of this prayer by becoming a patron of the Praying Through the Bible project for less than a cup of coffee per month.

Editor's Picks