Superstition Mountain Moonlight

INNER STRIFE AND DIVISIONS

Slowly David is gaining strength against the house of Saul.  Perhaps he will have some respite from the warfare he never wanted.

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.  And unto David were sons born in Hebron: and his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess;  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;  And the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;  And the sixth, Ithream, by Eglah David’s wife. These were born to David in Hebron.  2 Samuel 3:1-5

While David is enjoying some domestic peace, the heirs of Saul were not.  Abner had made a choice to serve the son of Saul without consulting God.  His impulsive ways would accumulate over time.

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.  And Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah: and Ishbosheth said to Abner, Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father’s concubine?  Then was Abner very wroth for the words of Ishbosheth, 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?  So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the LORD hath sworn to David, even so I do to him;  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 Beersheba.  And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him.  2 Samuel 3:6-11

Abner was the power behind the throne of Ishbosheth, and the king was aware of the threat he presented.  He could do no more to change his destiny than his father had been able to do.  The winds of change were blowing.

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.  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.  And David sent messengers to Ishbosheth Saul’s son, saying, Deliver me my wife Michal, which I espoused to me for an hundred foreskins of the Philistines.  And Ishbosheth sent, and took her from her husband, even from Phaltiel the son of Laish.  And her husband went with her along weeping behind her to Bahurim. Then said Abner unto him, Go, return. And he returned.  2 Samuel 3:12-16

David welcomed an ally, but he had an unpaid debt from the house of Saul to collect.  His old love for Michal seemed important at this time.  Later he may question the value of this decision.  Her other husband was not too thrilled with the deal either.

And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you:  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.  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.  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.  2 Samuel 3:17-20

The end of a war is a good reason to feast.  Not everyone understands peace though.

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.  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.  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.  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?  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.  2 Samuel 3:21-25

Joab the warrior is sure that Abner came only as a spy, and warns David.  A false accusation is a dangerous step, and Joab initiated no investigation to confirm his suspicions.  He engages some actions of his own now.

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.  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.  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:  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.  So Joab, and Abishai his brother slew Abner, because he had slain their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.  2 Samuel 3:26-30

Unknown to David, Joab slays Abner to avenge his brother’s death in battle earlier.  He has taken the job of revenge away from the Lord now.  David disowns this deed and curses the house of Joab to disease and war.  He orders the troop of Joab to repent.

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.  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.  And the king lamented over Abner, and said, Died Abner as a fool dieth?  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.  2 Samuel 3:31-34

David honored the dead peacemaker, and buried him with genuine mourning.  Yet it seemed that the peaceful reunion of Israel was again slipping away.

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.  And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever the king did pleased all the people.  For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it was not of the king to slay Abner the son of Ner.  And the king said unto his servants, Know ye not that there is a prince and a great man fallen this day in Israel?  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.  2 Samuel 3:35-39

The people of Judah and all of Israel all recognized that David fasted for grief, and did not celebrate his former enemy’s death.  He trusted God to avenge this man’s death.  Saul’s son was troubled by these reports.

And when Saul’s son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.  And Saul’s son had two men that were captains of bands: the name of the one was Baanah, and the name of the other Rechab, the sons of Rimmon a Beerothite, of the children of Benjamin: (for Beeroth also was reckoned to Benjamin.  And the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and were sojourners there until this day.)  And Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son that was lame of his feet. He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jezreel, and his nurse took him up, and fled: and it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.  2 Samuel 4:1-4

Ishbosheth had two commanders left, and Jonathan had one surviving son.  His military men would become a problem, while the son of Jonathan will be part of David’s life later.

And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, who lay on a bed at noon.  And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him under the fifth rib: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.  For when they came into the house, he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, and they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night.  2 Samuel 4:5-7

So Abner’s defection inspired the other leaders to turn against Ishbosheth by an assassination.  They carried the head of their victim to David.

And they brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the LORD hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.  And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the LORD liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,  When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings:  How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?  And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.  2 Samuel 4:8-12

Never be hasty to go to judgment thinking that you are righteous.  David doesn’t reward murder, or those who cultivate favor by evil.  By now Israel should be getting a message.  Abner went to war without seeking God, and the sons of Rimmon slew their king without a God given incentive.  We can’t afford to do what seems right in our own eyes. 

We witness the decline of our modern nation due to a general popular retreat from faith in Jesus Christ.  Oh sure, we have lots of Gods, as did the Canaanites.  Revenge takes our armies to places we can’t get out of.  Our economy is owned by our enemies.  But we have Joseph, Daniel, and David to remind us that a remnant will prosper in the worst of times. 

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