A Bloody Path to the Throne
Men came from all over Israel to join David in Ziklag. Soon he had a great army. After Saul died, David asked the Lord if he should return to Judah. The Lord told him, “Yes, go to the city of Hebron.” So David and his men and their families moved back. The men of Judah decided to make David the king of their tribe. But the eleven other tribes decided to follow Abner, who had been Saul’s commander. Still loyal to his former boss, Abner crowned Ish-Bosheth, one of Saul’s remaining sons. This started a civil war that lasted seven and a half years between those who supported Saul’s family and those who supported David. Abner led Ish-Bosheth’s army, and David appointed Joab, his nephew, as his military commander. The two armies met for the first time on opposite sides of a pool of water. They decided to select twelve young men from each side to fight in hand-to-hand combat. The side with the most men left standing would be victorious. They paired up, but both groups had such skillful warriors that each one killed his opponent. All 24 men died! Immediately a fierce battle broke out between the remaining men. David’s commander, Joab, was victorious. However, Abner, who led Ish-Bosheth’s army, killed Joab’s brother during the battle. Joab was heart-broken and very angry. Even though Abner’s men had been defeated, his influence continued to grow in Israel. But, one day Ish-Bosheth accused Abner, his commander, of sleeping with his deceased father’s concubine. Abner was enraged! He said, “How dare you say that? My loyalty to your father Saul is the only thing that has kept me from handing you over to David. Because of that accusation, I am going to make David the king over all of Israel.” Abner sent a message to David, “I’m ready to sign an agreement that will unite Israel and make you the king.” David responded, “I will make the agreement with you if you will bring Michal, the daughter of Saul, when you come.” (Although David had married Michal, Saul had given her to another man when David had become a fugitive.) Abner sent guards to get Michal, and they took her away from her new husband. Abner convinced all the elders that David should become the new king of Israel. Then he went to Hebron to personally tell David the news. David prepared a feast for him and his men. After the meal, Abner left to make the final arrangements for the coronation. As soon as he left, Joab returned from leading his men on a raid. When he heard that Abner had been there and had made an agreement with David, he was furious. “Why did you let Abner escape?” he asked. “Don’t you realize that they are trying to trap you?” Then Joab secretly sent men to find Abner and bring him back. He lied and said that David needed to talk with him again. When Abner returned, Joab took him aside privately—and stabbed him in the stomach! Abner fell to the ground and died. When David heard the news, he was distraught. He knew that Joab had killed Abner in cold blood as an act of revenge for the death of his brother.
Do you tend to try to take matters into your own hands when things aren’t going the way you want them to? Joab certainly did, and his actions caused great pain for those in his family (see 2 Samuel 3:28-29).
The justice we seek must be for God’s sake—never for our own revenge!