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Tag: Abner

Abner’s Quest for Power and Control

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.

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The Sordid Tale of Abner

Two weeks ago we began our study of 2 Samuel – which is really just a continuation of our study of 1 Samuel which we concluded back in 2021! So in a lot of ways, we’re jumping right into the middle of the story – a story that many of us either missed the first half or have forgotten how it all started. But don’t worry – even if you don’t remember part one of this story, I’ll do my best to remind us of the key details as we go along.

For now, probably the key thing you need to know is that the nation Israel is currently in a bit of a state of civil war. In our passage today, Israel is still a very young nation – it’s had only one king thus far in it’s history and that king has just died. So now Israel is at a crucial conjuction. Who will lead Israel next?

One of the twelve tribes of Israel (Judah) has chosen David to be their new King – while all the rest of Israel has pledged their loyalties to King’s Saul’s son, Ishbosheth.

However, our passage today doesn’t really revolve around either David or Ishbosheth – but rather around their respective army commanders – Joab (the commander of David’s army) & Abner (the commander of Ishbosheth’s army).

Now before we read today’s passage, let me just re-read the last verses we looked at last week. This is kinda the setup for today’s story. 2 Samuel chapter 2, verses 8-11.

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David Waits for the Lord

So last Sunday we either started a new series or continued an old one – both statements are true – it just depends on how you think about it! We began working through the book of 2 Samuel – which is really just a continuation of 1 Samuel.

Back in 2020/2021, we worked our way through the book of 1 Samuel – looking at characters like Hannah, Eli, Samuel, Saul, eventually David. We concluded that book with the death of Saul after he was mortally wounded in a battle against the Philistines.

Now of course, years before Saul’s death, David had been chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to be the future king of Israel. That had happened when David was still a boy. But now David had grown up, had risen through the ranks of the armies of Israel (very successfully, I might add), and was now quite famous throughout the land of Israel. However, King Saul was so jealous of David’s success and popularity, that he had become determined to kill David. And so David and a band of his faithful men had been on the run from Saul that for the last several years – hiding out in Philistine territory – pretending to be allied with them so that Saul would leave them alone!

But now, the Philistines had just defeated Saul’s army at Mount Gilboa and both Saul and his three sons were killed. And that’s about where 1 Samuel concludes and 2 Samuel begins.

We read in 2 Samuel chapter 1 last Sunday how an Amalekite had brought David the news that Saul and his sons were killed in battle. This Amalekite even claimed to be the guy to put Saul out of his misery after he had been mortally wounded by the Philistines. Of course, we’re not entire sure if that was true, since 1 Samuel 31 says that Saul fell on his own sword and died – while this Amalekite claimed that he killed Saul after Saul asked him end his suffering and spare him from being captured by the Philistines.

But however it actually happened, this young Amalekite man tells David that he was the one to end the life of Saul and that he has now brought to David King Saul’s crown and royal armband.

And this is where we’re going to pick up the story today.

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David Spares Saul’s Life Once Again

Three weeks ago, we read in 1 Samuel chapter 24 about how David spared the life of King Saul after Saul inadvertently stumbled into the very cave where David and his men were hiding. It was the perfect opportunity for David to kill the man that had been relentlessly hunting him, but David refused to harm the Lord’s anointed King and made a point of proving to Saul (by cutting off a corner of his robe) that even though he could have killed him, he didn’t. When Saul realized how merciful David had been to him, he humbly admitted that David was a better man than he and would one day be a great king over Israel. Saul then stopped his pursuit of David and went home very much humbled. 

That was all in chapter 24. Today, we find ourselves in chapter 26, although we might mistakenly think we’re re-reading chapter 24 because these two stories are strikingly similar. The details are different, but the storyline is almost identical.

In today’s chapter, Saul again resumes his pursuit of David, and again David has a perfect opportunity to kill Saul. But like in chapter 24, David refuses to kill Saul and makes a point of proving to Saul that he has no intentions of harming him in anyway. 

We begin this morning in 1 Samuel chapter 26, starting at verse 1. It reads like this:

Now some men from Ziph came to Saul at Gibeah to tell him, “David is hiding on the hill of Hakilah, which overlooks Jeshimon.”

2 So Saul took 3,000 of Israel’s elite troops and went to hunt him down in the wilderness of Ziph. 1 Samuel 26:1-2

Now if all of that sounds just a little bit familiar to you, that’s great – that means you’ve been paying attention! This is now the second time that the men of Ziph have come to Saul and have ratted out David’s hiding place. You might remember the first time they did that back in chapter 23. In that chapter we read:

19 But now the men of Ziph went to Saul in Gibeah and betrayed David to him. “We know where David is hiding,” they said. “He is in the strongholds of Horesh on the hill of Hakilah, which is in the southern part of Jeshimon. 20 Come down whenever you’re ready, O king, and we will catch him and hand him over to you!” 1 Samuel 23:19-20

That was the first time the men of Ziph betrayed David – and at that time, David narrowly avoided being captured by Saul at the Rock of Escape as Saul had to go home to fight off the Philistines. But now, here again in chapter 26, David has returned to his old stronghold on the hill of Hakilah and again, the men of Ziph have ratted out his location to King Saul. I don’t know what these guys had against David, but they sure seemed determined to sell him out.

As for Saul, when he hears where David is hiding, he gets right back into his old routine and he gathers 3000 of his best troops and heads out to hunt David down in the wilderness of Ziph.

But hold on a second. 

Hadn’t Saul learned his lesson and repented of his evil ways after David had spared his life back at that cave? Remember how Saul had humbly admitted that he was in the wrong to hunt down David and that David was surely God’s choice to be king? Do you remember that? Let me re-read those verses for you… This is back in chapter 24 again…

16 When David had finished speaking, Saul called back, “Is that really you, my son David?” Then he began to cry. 17 And he said to David, “You are a better man than I am, for you have repaid me good for evil. 18 Yes, you have been amazingly kind to me today, for when the Lord put me in a place where you could have killed me, you didn’t do it. 19 Who else would let his enemy get away when he had him in his power? May the Lord reward you well for the kindness you have shown me today. 20 And now I realize that you are surely going to be king, and that the kingdom of Israel will flourish under your rule.

1 Samuel 24:16-20

From what we read in these verses, Saul certainly seemed to be very sincere in what he said, right? He was in tears, acknowledging that David was a better man than he. He humbly stated that David would surely be king and that the kingdom of Israel would flourish under his rule.

But now, just a short time later, we see Saul right back on the hunt – trying to capture and kill David once again! So what do we make of this?

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