The book of Second Samuel opens with the story of an Amalekite who lied to David about Saul’s death. David killed this man for being willing to “destroy the Lord’s anointed” (2 Samuel 1:14).
After mourning the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, the Lord told David to go to Hebron. There the tribe of Judah accepted him as their king. Meanwhile, in opposition, Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, decided to make Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son, king of the remaining tribes of Israel. Here we have the beginning of the civil war: The House of David vs. The House of Saul.
In chapter 2 of Second Samuel we read about one battle in particular: the battle at Gibeon. After David’s men won this battle, Asahel, the youngest of Zeruiah’s three sons, decided to chase Abner. I don’t know if it was adrenaline or delirium that prompted this chase. Abner tried to get Asahel to stop chasing him and go find someone as young and inexperienced in battle as himself, but Asahel refused to listen. Sadly, this chase ended with Abner regretfully killing Asahel.
Remember when I said Asahel was the youngest of three sons?
Well, his two older brothers, Joab and Abishai, were not thrilled about Abner killing their brother. Now they wanted to kill Abner. Abner was able to convince them to reconsider. He called for a truce to prevent another civil war. They agreed.
Remember when I said Abner was the one who decided to make Ish-Bosheth king of Israel after Saul died?
Well, this was most likely motivated by selfish ambition. Abner would stand a better chance of remaining the commander of the army if Saul’s son took over, rather than David. However, after Ish-Bosheth accused Abner of sleeping with Saul’s concubine, Abner quickly shifted his loyalty towards David. He decided to join forces with David and agreed to “. . . go at once and assemble all of Israel for [his] lord the king . . .” (2 Samuel 3:21). This change of heart is motivated by vengeance.
David was fine with Abner’s willingness to help all of Israel enter into covenant with him as king. He sent Abner off in peace.
Then, the brothers, Joab and Abishai . . . remember them?
Well, they heard about Abner’s visit with David! Joab got way out of line and basically called David a fool for dealing as he did with Abner. He then decided, behind David’s back, to go and kill Abner.
I just knew David was going to deal with him the way he dealt with that Amalekite for his willingness to kill the Lord’s anointed.
After all . . . remember when I said that David sent Abner off “in peace?”
This means Joab’s decision to kill Abner was totally wrong. Well, David decided to leave it up to the Lord to “repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds” (2 Samuel 3:39). In other words, Joab’s crime went unpunished for the time being.
Well, David said he was “weak” (2 Samuel 3:39). Perhaps he thought about the fact that to kill Joab right then and there was something his newly established relationship with the northern tribes could not handle. He did not yet feel secure enough in his own position to publically bring Joab to justice. Or, perhaps he wanted to avoid ANOTHER civil war and, instead, take more steps towards unity.
Just when we think the murders may come to a halt, partners in crime Baanah and Rekab killed Ish-Bosheth. The motive was to gain fortune and some degree of prestige in David’s court. David did not fall for their attempt to imply their actions were for his sake. He knew their true motives and was displeased with this shedding of innocent blood. David did with them what he was unable to do with Joab and oh-so-willing to do with the Amalekite: he had them killed.
Remember when I said Hebron was where the Lord told David to go after Saul’s death?’
Well, that’s where they buried the head of Ish-Bosheth: in Abner’s tomb at Hebron. And all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and he became king over all of Israel, conquered Jerusalem, and defeated the Philistines.
Whew, that’s a lot to remember, huh?
Do you prefer short bullet points to help you apply all these “things to remember” to your real life: “what the heck . . .”- “OMG . . .” – day-to-day situations?
Here you go:
- Don’t lie like the Amalekite.
- Pick your battles wisely, unlike Asahel.
- Learn from Abner and check your motives.
- Practice some self-control so you don’t end up making the mistake Joab made.
- Last but not least, do as David did: go where the Lord tells you to go so that, in His timing, you’ll rise to the position He’s established for you and have victory over your enemies as promised.
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- Reading Assignment for Week #10 (July 28th – Aug 2nd): 2 Samuel 6-10
- Week 10 Journal Questions for 2 Samuel 6-10
- 1 & 2 Samuel Outline