December 10, 2023 – 2 Samuel 3 – 4

Lesson Date: December 10, 2023

Focal Scripture Passage: 2 Samuel 3:1, 6-12, 23-27; 4:1-12

AIM: To lead students to discover some costs of selfish ambition evidenced in the lives of people described in this lesson, and to examine themselves for signs of selfish ambition so they can repent of their sins and make things right with those they have harmed.


Before class: Read the notes on 2 Samuel 3 – 4 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book.  Write the word “Ambition” on the board or screen.


INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the students’ attention to the word “Ambition” written on the board.  Ask: “What is ambition?  How would you define ambition?”  Allow time for some responses, and then tell the class that ambition might be defined as a desire to get ahead or a drive to succeed.

Ask: “What are some examples of ambition?” (they might name students working to get good grades, employees putting in extra effort to get promotions, etc.).  Ask: “Is there anything wrong with being ambitious?  Is it wrong to want to achieve success or do the very best we can?” (no).

Write the word “Selfish” to the left of the word “Ambition” on the board, so it reads “Selfish Ambition.”  Ask: “What is selfish ambition?” (trying to get ahead at the expense of others, not caring who might get hurt along the way; lying, stealing, or harming others to achieve one’s goals).  Ask: “Can you name some examples of selfish ambition?” (they might name cheating or stealing answers to a test, blaming mistakes on others, padding a resume’ to get a job or promotion, etc.).

Tell the class the title of today’s lesson is Selfish Ambition.  Tell them we will learn about some people who didn’t care who they hurt to achieve their goals, and we will discover what their selfish ambition cost them.



  1. Review.
    • Remind the class that we have just begun a study of the Old Testament book of 2 Samuel.
    • Give a new Sunday School Member Quarterly to anyone who doesn’t already have one.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (Sin’s Impact on Others; we saw how the sins of certain individuals hurt other people).
    • Remind the students that at the end of last week’s lesson, David was king over the southern tribes, ruling from Hebron (locate on the Map), and Saul’s son Ish-bosheth was king over the northern tribes, ruling from Mahanaim (locate on the Map).
  2. Abner’s Selfish Ambition.
    • Ask a volunteer to read 2 Samuel 3:1.
    • Tell the class that the Israelites were embroiled in a bloody civil war.
    • Ask: “Who was winning?” (David and his forces).
    • Read 2 Samuel 3:6-7.
    • Remind the class that Abner was Saul’s general, who put Saul’s son Ish-bosheth on the throne, sparking the civil war.
    • Ask: “According to verse 6, what was Abner doing for himself during the civil war?” (making himself stronger and more powerful).
    • Ask: “According to verse 7, what did Abner do?” (claimed one of Saul’s concubines for his own).
    • Explain the following:
      • Ancient kings often kept a harem of concubines.
      • After a king died, his concubines became the property of his successor.
      • The only person entitled to have sexual relations with the dead king’s concubines was the new king.
      • Abner taking Saul’s concubine was a blatant attempt to seize the throne.
      • Abner wanted to oust Ish-bosheth and become king. Abner didn’t care who he hurt as long as he got what he wanted.
    • Read 2 Samuel 3:8-12.
    • Tell the class that Ish-bosheth confronted Abner about stealing his father’s concubine.
    • Ask: “Did Abner apologize or repent?” (no, he was defiant and vowed to throw his support behind David).
    • Ask: “Was Abner more concerned with being a loyal general or with his own personal, selfish ambition?” (his selfish ambition).
    • Ask: “Since Abner was disloyal to Ish-bosheth and tried to seize his throne, do you think he would have been truly loyal to David?” (no).
    • Explain the following:
      • When people are more concerned with their personal ambition than with the feelings of others, they cannot be trusted.
      • Abner sent messengers to David, offering to bring all Israel under his rule.
      • David met with Abner, after which David sent Abner away to try to sway the northern tribes to follow David.
    • Remind the class that David already had a commanding general, his nephew Joab; the next verses tell how Joab reacted to Abner’s supposed change of allegiance.
    • Ask a volunteer to read 2 Samuel 3:23-25.
    • Tell the class Joab was amazed that David had sent Abner away in peace.
    • Ask: “What did Joab say Abner’s real mission was?” (to deceive David and gather intelligence for Ish-bosheth about David’s troop movements).
    • Read 2 Samuel 3:26-27.
    • Ask: “What did Joab do to Abner?” (murdered him).
    • Summarize: Abner’s selfish ambition was evidenced by his immorality, attempt to steal Ish-bosheth’s throne, and disloyalty. He paid for his selfish ambition with his life.
  3. Ish-Bosheth’s Selfish Ambition.
    • Explain the following:
      • Ish-bosheth was also an ambitious person.
      • God chose David to be the next king of Israel, but Ish-bosheth (inspired by Abner) selfishly seized his father’s throne.
      • Saul and his son Jonathan both knew that David was to be the next king (1 Sam. 23:17), so surely Abner and Ish-bosheth knew it, too.
    • Ask a volunteer to read 2 Samuel 4:1.
    • Ask: “How did Ish-bosheth react to the news that Abner was dead?” (he was fearful and weak).
    • Tell the class that Ish-bosheth was a feeble leader who depended upon the strength and ruthlessness of Abner to achieve and retain power; with Abner gone, he feared his kingdom would fall.
    • Read 2 Samuel 4:2-4.
    • Explain that these verses introduce two captains in Saul’s army, and Jonathan’s crippled son Mephibosheth, whom we will learn more about in a few weeks.
    • Read 2 Samuel 4:5-7.
    • Ask: “What did the two captains do?” (murdered Ish-bosheth while he was lying in his bed at noon, and cut off his head).
    • Summarize: Ish-bosheth’s selfish ambition was evidenced by his illegitimate power grab of the throne of the northern tribes. He paid for his selfish ambition with his life.
  4. Two Captains’ Selfish Ambition.
    • Ask a volunteer to read 2 Samuel 4:8.
    • Ask: “What did the two captains do?” (took Ish-bosheth’s head to David).
    • Tell the class that murderers usually try to hide their crimes, but these two men were proud of what they had done.
    • Ask: “Why do you think they brought Ish-bosheth’s head to David?” (they expected a great reward for killing David’s enemy).
    • Read 2 Samuel 4:9-12.
    • Ask: “What previous incident did David recall in verse 10?” (when the young Amalekite claimed to have killed King Saul; 2 Sam. 1:6-16).
    • Ask: “What did David do to these two men?” (executed them on the spot and hanged their dismembered bodies up as objects of public scorn).
    • Summarize: The two captains’ selfish ambition was evidenced in their brutal murder of Ish-bosheth, hoping to be rewarded by David. They paid for their selfish ambition with their lives.


PERSONAL APPLICATION: Remind the students that the title of today’s lesson is Selfish Ambition.  Remind them that selfish ambition is a drive to get ahead and/or enrich oneself with no regard for others; selfish ambition motivates people to lie, cheat, steal, and hurt or kill others to get what they want.

Ask: “What did Abner’s selfish ambition cause him to do?” (he stole Saul’s concubine, attempted to steal Ish-bosheth’s throne, and was disloyal to his king).

Ask: “What did Abner’s selfish ambition get him?” (he was unceremoniously murdered by the gate of Hebron).

Ask: “What did Ish-bosheth’s selfish ambition cause him to do?” (he stole the throne of the northern tribes).

Ask: “What did Ish-bosheth’s selfish ambition get him?” (he was brutally murdered in his bed).

Ask: “What did the two captains’ selfish ambition cause them to do?” (they murdered and decapitated Ish-bosheth, hoping to be rewarded by David).

Ask: “What did the two captains’ selfish ambition get them?” (they were summarily executed and their bodies were desecrated and put on public display).

Ask everyone to turn to Galatians 6.  Read Galatians 6:7-8, which says, “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.  For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.”

Tell the students that God has a law of sowing and reaping.  Tell them if we use deceit, trickery, and hurting others to get ahead, we will eventually pay for our actions.

Ask everyone to bow their head and close their eyes.  Ask: “Do you have selfish ambition?  Are you using dishonest or hurtful methods to get ahead?  If so, you will eventually pay for your actions.  Why don’t you confess your sins to God right now?  Ask Him to forgive you and make you an honest and caring person.”  Allow a moment for silent prayer, and then voice a closing prayer.


CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize Galatians 6:7-8.  Tell them if they have wronged others in their ambition to achieve, they should go back to those people and ask forgiveness.

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