†DAVID GREW STRONGER AND STRONGER
2 Samuel 2:8Ė3:39†††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††
Key Verse: 3:1
ďThe war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.Ē
Last week we studied Davidís powerful and passionate lament over the death of Saul and Jonathan. David was anointed as king over Judah. Though Saul was dead, Godís promise to establish his kingdom did not come right away. David had to wait for 7 more years. From chapters 2 to 5, we see the story of the struggles between Saulís house and Davidís house. The kingdom is divided into two camps-Ish-Bosheth is king in Mahanaim and David is king in Hebron. There were wars and murders in this divided kingdom. But 3:1 summarizes the inevitable outcome that David would prevail to establish the united kingdom of Israel. Davidís kingship is revealed during this period of division. Letís learn the painful realities of the divided kingdom and Davidís care for the people and his desire to unify the nation as one people under God. May God bless us to learn Godís heart to establish David as a king for the sake of people!
PART I WAR BETWEEN HOUSES OF DAVID AND SAUL (2:8-3:5)
Look at verses 8 and 9. ďMeanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul's army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.Ē Although David became king over the house of Judah by popular anointing, Abner makes Ish-Bosheth king over all Israel (9). Abner emerged as the real power behind the throne of Israel since Saul was dead. In reality Ish-Bosheth was a do-nothing puppet king while Abner son of Ner was pulling the strings behind the scenes. But the house of Judah followed David. Since David is the man after Godís own heart according to 1 Samuel 13:14, following David implies following the Lord. Now Ish-Bosheth is king in Mahanaim and David is king in Hebron. It was inevitable for them to try to seize the otherís kingdom. The competition centered on the two generals-Abner, Saulís cousin and Joab, Davidís nephew.
††††††††††† Letís see how they began to engage in the battle of Gibeon. Their battle started with the contest of teams of champions. Here comes the hand to hand contest by the pool at Gibeon.
†Look at verses 13-16. ďJoab son of Zeruiah and David's men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side. Then Abner said to Joab, "Let's have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us." "All right, let them do it," Joab said. So they stood up and were counted off-- twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent's side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.Ē They chose twelve champions from each side representing twelve tribes of Israel and the contest ended in blood. †It was like a gladiator sport. Romans enjoyed the bloody sport of gladiators cheering young fighters die in the bloody fight. 24 young and brave soldiers died two by two mercilessly because two generalsí bloody pride. There were no winners in this contest. This battle was remembered in the name given to the place: Helkath-Hazzurim-the field of daggers. The contest ended in draw with each man slaying his opponent. More fighting broke out when both sides saw the blood of their men.
Look at verse 17. ďThe battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by David's men.Ē Now letís look at the interesting contest between Abner and Asahel. Look at verse 18-23. ďThe three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. Abner looked behind him and asked, "Is that you, Asahel?" "It is," he answered. Then Abner said to him, "Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons." But Asahel would not stop chasing him. Again Abner warned Asahel, "Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?" But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel's stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.Ē †We have here the contest between Abner and Asahel. Asahel, the brother of Joab and cousin to David, was one of the principal commanders of David's forces, and was famous for swiftness in running: he is compared to a gazelle. Gazelles are fleet of foot. A gazelle can reach speeds of 40 miles (64 kilometers) an hour. Though fleet-footed, Asahelís speed as a runner would eventually prove to be his own downfall. Abner flees the pool at Gibeon to get out of harmís way. But Asahel trusting his speed determined to capture Abner as his prisoner to end the war and open the way for David to be the king of Judah and Israel. This young warrior wanted to get the victory trophy. He was blinded by his human ambition. This made him eager in hot pursuit of Abner. Nothing seemed to deter his chase after Abner like police car chases after the speeding driver. However, he was not comparable to Abner as a skillful experienced soldier. It was his mistake. Abner tells Asahel to give up the chase three times. However, rash Asahel ignored his warnings. He refused to listen. Abner even suggested alternative way to get out of this situation. But still Asahel refused to accept his suggestion. Asahelís full-speed momentum hurls him onto the butt of the spear of Abner and Asahel died instantly. It was a tragic death of young man who could have won the Olympic gold medal in running. Though he was an able man, he lacked listening ears with discipline and humility. Asahelís rashness caused bitter relationship between Abner and Joab and invited more bloodshed. Asahel is a symbol of young men who only depend on their human ability but fail to use their talents properly. Human ability without discipline can cause us pain and disaster. Proverbs 5:23 says, ďHe will die for lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.Ē For example, Samson was a man of great strength but he did not listen to his parentsí plea. He fell in love with the Gentile woman. He became a prisoner of Philistines enemies in spite of his exceptional strength because he revealed his secret to a foxy woman Delilah. (Jdg 16:23) 1 Peter 5:5 says, ďYoung men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, ĎGod opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.íĒ God can use young men with humility in his salvation work. Listening to the elders brings peace and joy. I am delighted to work with our YDJ members because they are listening to my discipline. They showed 7 AM Bible study on Saturday. God is using YDJ members who are very able because they are humble to listen and grow.
Look at verses 24-28. ďBut Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill. Abner called out to Joab, "Must the sword devour forever? Don't you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their brothers?" Joab answered, "As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued the pursuit of their brothers until morning." So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.ďAbner reminded Joab that they were brothers and should stop fighting. Joab agreed and they returned to their camp. †According to verses 30-31, besides Asahel, Joab lost 19 soldiers while Abner lost 360 men. The eighteen-to-one ratio in favor of David demonstrates how terrible was the cost of Abnerís arrogance(14) and how thoroughly Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by Davidís men. David had God on his side; his side therefore was victorious.
††††††††††† Look at verse 3:1. ďThe war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.Ē The war continued between them a long time. But Ish-Bosheth was no match to Davidís strength. The outcome of the war is a foregone conclusion. David grew stronger and stronger against the entire house of Saul. Though God was invisible, God was strengthening David and his kingdom. God was fulfilling his will behind scenes. Look at 1 Samuel 16:13-14. ďSo Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and from that day on the Spirit of the LORD came upon David in power. Samuel then went to Ramah. Now the Spirit of the LORD had departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.Ē Long ago the Spirit of the Lord had come upon David and departed from Saul. From that time on, David was the rising sun while Saul was the setting sun. During the war between the two rivals, David was silent and did not engage in any military campaign against Israel. For seven and a half years David reigned in Hebron, but was silent there rather than fighting. As we know, David was a battle-tested warrior and successful military campaigner. But he did not take active steps to put down Abnerís rebellion. David was very gracious towards his possible enemies. David was very patient and showed faith in God. He trusted Godís sovereign will that God would deliver the kingdom of Israel to him. He waited for Godís time for seven and a half years patiently. David experienced the pain of division during his exile in the desert. He wanted to see the unified Israel by the provision of Godís leading. Division is costly. Division between North and South Korea caused the Korean War and brought pain and sorrow to this day. We cheered President Ronald Reagan when he tore down the Berlin wall with Gorbachev. King David wanted peace and unity among Godís people. †
Verses 2-5 show us the strengthening of the kingdom of David. Look at verses 2-5. ďSons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maacah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream the son of David's wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.Ē During his reign in Hebron David began to build a substantial family which symbolized his power as a king. Six sons were born to him through his six wives. Many sons strengthened David's position but at the same time they brought headaches because they were born from different mothers. There would be fierce competitions and sibling rivalry among his sons for power because they had different mothers. It was David's fault to multiply wives, contrary to the law in Deut. 17:17 which says, ďHe must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.Ē It was a bad example to his successors. His three sons born in this time Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah brought disaster to David later. It is important to raise up children with one wife.†
PART II ABNER GOES OVER TO DAVID (6-39)
In this part we know why David did not put down Abnerís rebellion. David knew that Abner would come to his side. It was a matter of time. David knew that Abner would not get along well with Ish-Bosheth. Abner was a smart politician and he knew the collapse of the house of Saul was inevitable. So he decided to transfer the kingdom to David. He was looking for the right time. Ish-Boshethís surprise question to Abner in verse 7-ďWhy did you sleep with my fatherís concubine?Ē- provided a golden opportunity for Abner to act. Look at verses 8-10. ďAbner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said and he answered, "Am I a dog's head-- on Judah's side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven't handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the LORD promised him on oath† and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David's throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba." What was Abnerís basis to transfer Saulís kingdom to David? 1 Samuel 15:28 says, ďSamuel said to him, ĎThe LORD has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to one of your neighbors-- to one better than you.íĒ Abner found the reason why he should transfer the kingdom to David. It was the will of God to set David as the king of Judah and Israel. He quoted the Bible for his cause. He was right in doing this. He was siding with God in this time. So Abner vowed that he would become Godís instrument in bringing about what God promised to David. He found the cause to transfer the power to David peacefully. Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner.
Look at verses 12-15. ďThen Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, "Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you." "Good," said David. "I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me." Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, "Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins." So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish.Ē It appears that this transfer plan was the work of Abner. But from the spiritual point of view, it is clear that God is working behind the scenes to deliver the northern tribes into Davidís hand. David accepted Abnerís proposal with one condition: he bring Michal, Saulís younger daughter with him when he comes to Hebron. What was the broader significance of Davidís bringing Saulís daughter Michal back as his wife? First, if Abner agrees to bring her with him, he has turned his back on Saulís house for good and has accepted David succession to Saulís throne. David tested genuine intention of Abner. Abner passed this test. Second, David wanted to show all people that he had the right to claim to Saulís throne by reclaiming her as his wife because he paid the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins. Third, David wanted to remind Ish-Bosheth that it was his responsibility to return his wife to him now. †In this way David was putting everything in the right place.
††††††††††† We see that Abnerís intension to transfer the kingdom to David was very sincere. He did not act alone like a dictator. He conferred with the elders of Israel. He shared his plan with them and asked their support. He made environment for reunification of the kingdom of Israel. His counsel to the elders is straightforward: time has come, and there is no reason to delay any longer in making David king over all Israel. On his way to Hebron, Abner pays special attention personally to the Benjamites who are Saulís kinsmen (19). Benjamites decided to side with king David overcoming their personal attachment to the house of Saul. They recognized the importance to honor the will of God giving up their personal feelings towards Saul. Arriving in Hebron with Michal Abner and his twenty men sit down to a feast prepared for them by David. Wow, David prepared a feast for Abner, his longtime enemy general. Indeed, David was a good shepherd for the people of Israel. David wanted to welcome all kinds of people under his kingship. David forgave Abnerís sin of delaying the unified kingdom by setting the puppet king in Israel. Davidís hospitality won Abnerís heart. Look at verse 21. ďThen Abner said to David, ĎLet me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a compact with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.íĒ In this time Abner did not want to delay his mission but wanted to go back to Mahanaim at once and assemble all Israel so that David may make a compact with all Israel. Abner wanted to pave the way to the rule of David as soon as possible. He was like Abrahamís servant who wanted to take Rebekah to his master without delay. Gen. 24:56 says, ďBut he said to them, ĎDo not detain me, now that the LORD has granted success to my journey. Send me on my way so I may go to my master.íĒ He put his mission above several days of feast and celebration. With his offer to bring all Israel into a covenant relationship with David, Abnerís defection to Davidís camp was complete. Now David sent Abner away, and he went in peace. ďAbner went in peaceĒ implied that David had promised Abnerís safe return. At the outset, peace mood prevailed between Abner and David. Everything seemed to be so far and so good. The unified kingdom of Israel became a reality after seven and a half years of bloodshed and hostilities among brothers. But Satan works hard when there are many good things in store. Davidís promise for Abnerís peaceful return would prove to be tragically meaningless as we see in the next section.
††††††††††† From verses 22-39 we witness the murder of Abner. Two contrasting events occurred in this section. Joab kills Abner in verses 22-27, and David claims his innocence of Abnerís death in verse 28 and David curses Joab in verse 29. In parallel David mourns Abnerís death (31-35), everyone acknowledges Davidís innocence (36-37), and David praises Abner and curses Joab (38-39) Joab was absent when Abner and David made peace for the nation. Joab was upset about Davidís peace treaty with Abner. Without Davidís knowledge, Joab retrieved Abner back to Hebron. Joab deceived Abner and killed him in cold blood to avenge his brother Asahel. It was like Cain murdering his brother Abel in Gen 4:8, ďNow Cain said to his brother Abel, "Let's go out to the field." And while they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him.Ē We should not become like Cain and Joab. The murder of Abner brought a chilling effect to the peaceful transition of power. It was like the assassination of former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat who tried to bring peace between Israel and Palestine. Joab also saw the potential rivalry with Abner for the position of the commanding officer in the unified Israel. He wanted to remove Abner, his potential contender in advance. He revenged his brother Asahelís death by killing Abner. History proved true. Bloodshed brings more bloodshed. Bin Laden blamed Christian Crusade for the poverty and sufferings of the Muslims. He launched so called the holy war Jihad to kill Americans to revenge the invasion of the Christian crusaders. We saw the horrible destruction of the Twin Towers in 9-11. The war in Iraq and Afghanistan followed. We do not know when this vicious circle of violence and hostility will end. We have to follow the Scripture in this matter. Romans 12:19 says, ďDo not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord.Ē Forgiveness brings peace and revenge brings death.
††††††††††† David wept and mourned over the death of Abner. David ordered Joab and his men to walk in front of the funeral procession and he followed the bier in the rear. David also cursed Joab who was his devoted general and relative. How could he do that? It was not easy to do that. But David overcame personal favoritism and carried justice no matter who was involved. All Israel knew that David was innocent for the death of Abner. If David mourned at length for Saul and Jonathan, he mourned no less for Abner. Look at Davidís lament in verses 33-34. ďThe king sang this lament for Abner: "Should Abner have died as the lawless die? Your hands were not bound, your feet were not fettered. You fell as one falls before wicked men." And all the people wept over him again.Ē Though Abner had been his enemy for a long time, Davidís acceptance of Abner defined his kingship. David was a good shepherd for his people including his enemies. We find the image of Jesus in David, his forgiving grace for all people. David won peopleís heart through sharing his sorrow for the death of general Abner. What kind of kinship do we find in David? He was a king of peace, justice, forgiveness, humility, and shepherd heart. Indeed, he was a king of unity not a king of division. He brought all people together under Godís sovereign rule by embracing his enemy Abner. In spite of setbacks and tragedies, Godís time has come to use King David as a shepherd king to bring the Messiah Jesus as the descendant of David. May God bless us to follow the example of David by forgiving others and sharing our sorrows with them! May God bring the rule of our King Jesus to our family, campus and nation and the world. I pray that Jesus our Messiah King may come to us and rule us with peace and love. Letís read the key verse 3:1