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.