Saul and Jonathan and two other sons of King Saul have died in battle. Another son, Ishbaal remains. There may be others. David and all his men and all Israel mourn the loss of their king. David has created a “dirge” for their deaths. “How the mighty have fallen in the midst of the battle”. After the mourning period is completed, David inquires of the Lord whether he should return to Judah. The Lord tells him to go and directs that he should go to Hebron.
The textbook explains how important the tribe of Judah is. We are told that Jacob’s son Judah has never fully settled in Egypt and may have been the first of the tribes to return to the promised land. The tribes historical experiences have been somewhat different than the others, and they are on friendly terms with their neighbors and other Hebrews.
Hebron was the portion of the promised land which was given to Judah. It was a land closest to Egypt and it held the tombs of the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, the wife of Abraham, another Sarah the wife of Isaac, Rebekah and Leah, wives of Jacob. The site of Hebron was located deep within the Judahite heartland, far from David’s enemies. Psychologically, he is wrapped in the mantle of the patriarchs, and theologically, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is his special patron.
So David, his wives and his men and their families all go to Hebron where they settle in the surrounding towns. It is there that the people of Judah came to anoint David king. David is told that the people of Jabesh-Gilead have retrieved the bodies of Saul and his sons and given them a proper burial. David sends messengers to the people of Jabesh-Gilead, blessing them for what they have done. “May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord, and buried him! Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulnees to you.”
In the meantime Saul’s general Abner has taken Saul’s son Ishbaal and made him king of Gilead, installing him in Mahanaim. Ishbaal was 40 years old and reigned for 2 years. At the same time David was King of Judah. The map indicates that the cities were fairly close together but separated by the Jordan River. Jabesh-Gilead was in the territory of Saul.
My question is why was Abner still alive. Wasn’t it common for the King’s primary general and a select force of men to defend King Saul? Where was Abner when Saul and his sons were killed? Since Saul was in a high place, presumably watching the battle with the Philistines unfold, Abner should have been with him to direct his forces and defend the king. As in a previous lesson, Abner is not doing his duty. We saw Abner and his men asleep as David stole into camp and took Saul’s spear and water bottle.
There is a strange duel and battle between the Judahites and the men of Abner. Many Benjaminites are killed but only a few Judahites, one of whom was brother to David’s general. The death of Ashahel will lead to Abner’s death, for it appeared that Abner killed Ashahel for following him.
After installing Ishbaal as king, Abner apparently starts consolidating power. Ishbaal is just a figure-head. When Abner is asked why he slept with Saul’s concubine – an illegal action – Abner threatens to take his authority and support from Ishbaal, which he does. It is apparent that Ishbaal is afraid of him.
The war had gone on between Israel and Judah. Eventually Abner approached David and offered to “deliver the tribes of Israel” to David. David’s price of peace with Abner was his wife Michal, whom Saul had married to someone else after David went into exile. Abner arranges to bring Michal to David. Abner tells the Israelite tribes that David will save his people from the Philistines for that is what God promised.
Abner comes to visit David and David gave a feast for Abner and his men. He left David in peace. Later Joab, the brother of the slain Ashahel heard that Abner had been to visit David and went away in peace. So Joab recalls Abner and asks to speak to him privately. When they were alone together, Joab stabbed Abner and killed him in retribution for the death of his brother. David was furious and saddened. He assures everyone that he had nothing to do with Abner’s death. He mourns for Abner, fasting as it is their custom. He says to his servantsDo you know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? ” He feels powerless over Joab, but asks that the Lord pay back the one who does wickedness.
After Abner’s death, two of Ishbaal’s soldiers sneak into his house and murder him. They decapitate him and take his head to David. What were they thinking? That having killed David’s remaining opponent that they would incur his favor? They think that they are doing God’s will. David realizes that God has saved him from every adversity. He judges those who murdered Ishbaal, an innocent man, in his own home. They paid for their crime with their lives.