When we last left off, David was just beginning to establish his rule over Israel. In fact, at this point, he was king over just one tribe of Israel – the tribe of Judah. The rest of Israel had chosen to follow King Saul’s son, Ishbosheth. However, it wasn’t really Ishbosheth that was calling the shots. Abner, the commander of Saul’s army (who also happened to be Saul’s cousin) had established Ishbosheth as King after Saul’s death. And while Ishbosheth had the title of king, as we’re going to see today, Abner was really the one in charge. But we’ll talk more about that in a minute.
So at this point, there is a civil war within Israel: The house of Saul – led by Saul’s son Ishbosheth is at war the house of David to determine who will be the rightful king of Israel. But the story doesn’t really revolve around David or Ishbosheth as much as it revolves around their army commanders.
As I’ve already mentioned, Abner was the commander of Ishbosheth’s army and Joab was the commander of David’s army.
To make this all a bit more complicated, we read in 2 Samuel chapter 2 that Abner had killed Joab’s brother in battle! Of course, this was very much in self-defence – Abner even told Joab’s brother to go fight someone else, but he refused and so – in the end, Abner was forced to defend himself and Joab’s brother was killed!
So Joab now holds a grudge and is seeking revenge against Abner for killing his brother. And as you might imagine, this grudge-match between these two army commanders had grown into a full blown civil war! The first verse of chapter 3 sums this up by saying:
That was the beginning of a long war between those who were loyal to Saul and those loyal to David.
2 Samuel 3:1a
That’s certainly not the kind of succession plan any kingdom wants to have! The transition from King Saul to King David was not going smoothly – and sadly, as we pointed out in our last message, Abner really was the driving force behind all this conflict. Had he accepted God’s choice of David to be King – this entire civil war could probably have been avoided! But as it was, Abner’s selfish ambition plunged the nation into a needless war that resulted in great bloodshed, and as we will see next week, ultimately his own demise.
So we’ll pick up today where we left off last time. Chapter 3, verse 1.