Evil pursues sinners and will overtake them at the last in one way or another.
(Illustrated both in the case of Abner and that of Joab, v. 29).
II Samuel 1
1 Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker.
2 ¶ And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess;
3 And his second, Chileab, of Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;
4 And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;
5 And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron.
6 ¶ And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul.
7 And Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah: and Ish-bosheth said to Abner, Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father’s concubine?
8 Then was Abner very wroth for the words of Ish-bosheth, and said, Am I a dog’s head, which against Judah do shew kindness this day unto the house of Saul thy father, to his brethren, and to his friends, and have not delivered thee into the hand of David, that thou chargest me to day with a fault concerning this woman?
9 So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the LORD hath sworn to David, even so I do to him;
10 To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beer-sheba.
11 And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him.
12 ¶ And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee.
13 ¶ And he said, Well; I will make a league with thee: but one thing I require of thee, that is, Thou shalt not see my face, except thou first bring Michal Saul’s daughter, when thou comest to see my face.
14 And David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth Saul’s son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines.
15 And Ish-bosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.
16 And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned.
17 ¶ And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you:
18 Now then do it: for the LORD hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies.
19 And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: and Abner went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin.
20 So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast.
21 And Abner said unto David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel unto my lord the king, that they may make a league with thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace.
22 ¶ And, behold, the servants of David and Joab came from pursuing a troop, and brought in a great spoil with them: but Abner was not with David in Hebron; for he had sent him away, and he was gone in peace.
23 When Joab and all the host that was with him were come, they told Joab, saying, Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he hath sent him away, and he is gone in peace.
24 Then Joab came to the king, and said, What hast thou done? behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone?
25 Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest.
26 And when Joab was come out from David, he sent messengers after Abner, which brought him again from the well of Sirah: but David knew it not.
27 And when Abner was returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him quietly, and smote him there under the fifth rib, that he died, for the blood of Asahel his brother.
28 ¶ And afterward when David heard it, he said, I and my kingdom are guiltless before the LORD for ever from the blood of Abner the son of Ner:
29 Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father’s house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread.
30 So Joab and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.
31 ¶ And David said to Joab, and to all the people that were with him, Rend your clothes, and gird you with sackcloth, and mourn before Abner. And king David himself followed the bier.
32 And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept.
33 And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth?
34 Thy hands were not bound, nor thy feet put into fetters: as a man falleth before wicked men, so fellest thou. And all the people wept again over him.
35 And when all the people came to cause David to eat meat while it was yet day, David sware, saying, So do God to me, and more also, if I taste bread, or ought else, till the sun be down.
36 And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.
37 For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner.
38 And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?
39 And I am this day weak, though anointed king; and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: the LORD shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness.
II Samuel 1 – J. Vernon McGee
2 Samuel 3:1-11 – A Split in the Enemy’s Ranks
Abner’s career reveals the principles on which ambitious men build their lives. He was, according to David’s estimate, a great man and a prince, but his soul was eager for his own advancement. “Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul” (2 Samuel 3:6). He knew that David was God’s appointed king and that through him the divine purpose would move, II Samuel 3:10, 18; but yet, because it seemed likely to insure his own advancement, he set Ish-bosheth on the throne. It was a deliberate attempt to thwart God’s will, and it failed miserably. “Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker” (Isaiah 45:9)!
Ish-bosheth was a poor weak soul, a mere puppet king, who was set on the throne because he was likely to be pliant in the hands of his great general. Yet even he was aroused to protest when Abner threatened to desert him. And so the alliance between ambition and weakness was broken and the way was made for David to come to the throne of all Israel. In the meantime he ruled at Hebron, waiting, as our Lord waits at the Father’s right hand, till His enemies should be made His footstool, Acts 2:34-35.
2 Samuel 3:1—David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker.
The war between the flesh and the Spirit is long, but the end is sure. As the Baptist said of Jesus, so must the flesh say of the Spirit, He must increase; I must decrease. Sometimes, in the long strain of the war, our spirit dies down. Will the bugle never cease to ring out its alarm? Will the assaults never come, to an end? When shall we be able to lay aside sword and breastplate, and to enter the land of rest? Oh to be able to say with the Apostle (2 Timothy 4:7), “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.”
Yet take heart. The assaults diminish in frequency and strength in proportion as they are faithfully resisted. Each time you resist successfully you will find it easier to resist. The strength of the vanquished foe enters the vanquisher.
Moreover, ultimate victory is secured. “Whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5). It makes a great difference to the soldier, when he belongs to an All Victorious Legion, and serves under a Captain that never lost a fight. And there can be no doubt as to the issue in your heart or mine. “He must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet” (1 Corinthians 15:25).
At any moment we may look for the sudden collapse of a great portion of the confederacy of evil, which has so long menaced us; as when Abner suddenly came to Hebron to give in his adhesion to David. What a huge piece of cliff fell that day into the sea! Expect the sudden collapse of evils which have long troubled you.
2 Samuel 3:12-21 – Abner Wins David’s Favor
We cannot defend David’s request for Michal to be restored to him. It inflicted bitter pain on an apparently happy pair, and Michal’s revenge stung him to the quick, II Samuel 6:20. But he may have felt it right to insist on his legal status as son-in-law to the late king. It was, however, a needless precaution, as they who wait on God can dispense with expedients which are esteemed by worldly prudence.
With this exception David maintained a passive policy. The overtures for the transference of the kingdom were made by Abner. It was he who communicated with Israel and Benjamin, and then with David. Thus great events may move around us while we live in the center of God’s will in perfect peace. We must be willing to respond to the stirring bugle-call to action, but we must also have our waiting-times, when the soul is learning to possess itself in patience. The long summer days are needed to prepare for the autumn ingatherings; and the hours spent in Horeb and Carmel prepare for the stirring part that God’s servants must play in the history of their time.
2 Samuel 3:22-30 – A Treacherous Revenge
There is no doubt that Abner was guilty of disloyalty and treachery, but this did not excuse Joab’s dastardly act. He could not claim the right to act as goel—blood avenger—for his dead brother, because Asahel had died a soldier’s death in open war. Joab was probably actuated by jealousy of the military talents, the vast influence and the widespread popularity of the rival general whom he murdered in cold blood, just outside the city of refuge. Evidently he was a fierce, cruel, unscrupulous man, who hurt David more than he helped him, II Samuel 3:39. But Joab also was destined to suffer similar punishment in after-years, I Kings 2:28-34.
This world is governed according to a plan. We need not try to climb into the judgment-seat. God is there already. His rewards and punishments befall with greater certainty than we always believe. Whether their schemes are hidden amid the intricacies of state, or open to all eyes, let us be sure that evil men reap as they have sown, and suffer evils similar to those which they endeavor to inflict upon others. We all get our deserts.
2 Samuel 3:31-39 – David’s Lament over Abner
It was a noble spectacle when David followed the bier of Abner and wept at his grave. He forgot that this man had been his persistent foe, and remembered only his great personal qualities. The chaplet of elegiacs that he wove for Abner’s grave, was only second to that which he prepared for Saul’s. It is not strange that all the people took notice of it and that it pleased them. We should be particularly careful to disavow all complicity in the evil doings of those with whom we happen to be associated, and to stand clear of the wreckage that floats around us. The honor of God’s cause must be dearer to us than life.
The cultivation of a noble and generous spirit, like that which David manifested toward Saul and Abner, is an aim to which we should set ourselves with patient care. It is the outgrowth of years of self-discipline, of prayer, of fellowship with God. Life is too short to allow it to be consumed by evil and vindictive thoughts. Hand over to God all thoughts of retaliation! Certainly you must withstand the wrong-doer, when the weak and defenseless are in jeopardy; but for yourself, love and conquer!