Saturday, April 6. 2 Samuel 2 – 5

Who is Abner?

We meet him half way through 1 Samuel and his exact identification is difficult. 1 Samuel 14:51 says Abner was Saul’s uncle, but the geneology presented there makes them cousins. The genealogy in 1 Chronicles 8:33 presents Abner clearly as an uncle, and despite the difficulty, it’s probably best to land on the relationship of uncle/nephew. This works well in the account. Abner is Saul’s uncle. David is Joab’s uncle (Joab is the son of David’s sister – 2 Samuel 26:6).

Interestingly, Joab knows that David is God’s choice for the monarchy of Israel, yet he deliberately supports Saul’s son, Ish-bosheth. Then, he makes a play for Saul’s concubine which, in ancient society was to intrude on a man’s house making it, in the case of Saul’s house, a play for the kingship (we will see Absalom do the same thing later).

Abner gets caught, and in a fit of pique switches to David’s side.

It is not to David’s credit that he doesn’t realize the folly of trusting someone who switches sides so easily – particularly someone who, in the case of his duplicity over Saul’s concubine has demonstrated that he cannot be trusted. This is one of those occasions when David, though seemingly forgiving and compassionate, does not demonstrate the wisdom of a good ruler.

There’s a lesson here. Too often we want to give people the benefit of the doubt, forgive and forget. But one should never forget that there is more to life and relationships than words, promises, and feigned loyalty. There are also actions. Jesus said: “By their fruit you will know them.” When people have demonstrated untrustworthiness by the way they live their lives, it’s one thing to forgive them. It is another entirely to wipe the slate clean and grant trust to one who has yet to demonstrate trustworthiness. In order to be trustworthy, one must demonstrate by his life that he is worthy of trust.

Thursday, April 5. 2 Samuel 2 – 4

You shouldn’t miss the role of family in the monarchies of Saul and David.  Abner, the head of Saul’s army was the brother of Saul’s father.  Joab, the head of David’s army was the son of David’s sister, Zeruiah.

Though the Old Testament seems to be terribly patriarchal by modern standards, women were not without power.  The fact that Joab’s father is never named (only his mother) might indicate that in that family, she was firmly in control.  Connection with well-placed women could give a man right to position.  If, for example, Abner really did have a relationship with Ish-Bosheth’s concubine, it would indicate an attempt by Abner to claim Ish-Bosheth’s throne.   Ultimately, this is one of the reasons David asks that Michal be restored to him.  Being married to the daughter of Saul would give him a claim on Saul’s throne.  (You will see this again when Absolom sleeps with David’s concubines).

Two things stand out to me in chapter three: First, the violence.  The civil war between the house of Saul and David has more in common with the worldly power struggles than with a holy Israel.   But second is the sheer effrontery of Abner.  He knew God promised Saul’s kingdom to David (3:10, 18).  And yet, he led the opposition to David’s rule.  Then, when his feelings were hurt, he went over to David’s side.  David may have mourned the loss of Abner, but it is difficult not to believe that Abner got what he deserved.  Abner was an incredibly strong person, physically and politically.  He “ran” Israel.  But he could not overcome the will of God.