Our text this morning is a bit lengthy. But please read the passage before seeing my comments:
David has been anointed as king in Hebron and has thanked the men from Jabesh Gilead for their bravery in retrieving the body of Saul.
But Abner, the son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, took Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth and made him king over several tribes and “all Israel” (v. 9). Ish-Bosheth was 40 years old and reigned two years over Israel. The tribe of Judah remained loyal to David. David reigned in Hebron for 7 and 1/2 years.
Abner and Ish-Bosheth and his men meet up with David’s men at the pool of Gibeon. Abner suggests to Joab “let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.” (v. 14). Two dozen men fought and Abner’s men were defeated by David’s men.
Fleet-footed Asahel chased Abner, was warned twice to stop, but was then killed by Abner. Joab and Abishai pursue Abner. Abner calls 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 fellow Israelites?” (v. 26).
Joab stops his troops from pursuing Abner. 19 of David’s men were found missing, but David’s men had killed 360 Benjamites who were with Abner. They bury Asahel in Bethlehem. Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron at daybreak.
Several takeaways for me:
1. It is always sad when God’s people fight against God’s people! Here we have two kings — David and Ish-Bosheth — ruling over parts of Israel. God warned that there would be problems with a human king. Now there are two.
2. Entertainment can be extremely dangerous! It appears that Abner and Joab have their two dozen young men fight to entertain them?
3. Being swift of foot is no substitute for soundness of mind. Asahel may be the poster boy for milers, but his impetuosity lost him his life!
4. War must always be a last option. Abner’s appeal to Joab to stop the bloodshed was a stroke of sanity in the sadness of brother killing brother.