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LEADERSHIP TRANSITION SPARKS CIVIL WAR BETWEEN HOUSE OF JUDAH – Southern Tribe (DAVID AND JOAB = military leader) AND HOUSE OF ISRAEL (ABNER= Saul’s military leader AND ISHBOSHETH = puppet king) 11 other tribes to the North

Last Week (Handout) – 2 very different reactions to the death of Saul and his 3 sons

– Amalekite – opportunity to advance his own self interests; we looked at the lying account of Saul’s death which he fabricated to try to impress David

– David – grieving over the national impact of the loss of these heroic figures

(implications for Israel’s testimony to the world; concerned for God’s glory) — and his personal loss of his close friend Jonathan

This week: INTRODUCTION Chap 2:

Tragedy of brother fighting against brother; friend against friend in any type of civil war; Look at how many people died in our country’s own civil war; many stories of how top level generals who were the best of friends were opposed to each other on opposite sides of this battle; human interest side of the grief and tragedy involved

cf. conflicts within the local church – pain and suffering involved; people not being led of the Lord and willing to follow His direction and submit to His Word;

1) Are there legitimate reasons to leave a local church? How many people have left another church over some type of conflict or dissatisfaction (not from moving geographically) – Difficult subject

– Can’t respect the leadership

– Have areas of differences in biblical conviction that are significant enough to warrant a change

2) But many times the source of the conflict is selfish ambition; some form of a power play; a desire on the part of someone to promote themselves into leadership and gather disciples for themselves

James 4:1-2 – Examine our own motivations

Acts 20: 28-30 – Be alert to the danger from within

3 John 9 – Recognize the selfish ambitious profile — indictment against Diotrephes – “who loves to be first among them” – does not accept the apostolic instruction – not content with whatever his role was in the church – had a “lord it over the flock” mentality rather than one of servant leadership

This is why this account from back in Israel’s history is so relevant to us today


A. (:1-4a) Crowned King over Judah in Hebron (the Second Anointing of David)

1. (:1) Asking God for Direction

a. “Shall I go up to one of the cities of Judah?”

Answer: “Go up”

Previously he had left the cities of Judah “inquiring” of his own heart (1 Sam. 27:1) and taken refuge in the cities of the Philistines – major change in orientation for David

Importance of seeking direction from the Lord – even in a case where David should have had a high degree of confidence; guarding against presumption and self advancement; faith = dependence upon God for our daily walk …

What does the Lord want me to do; When? Where?

Young people – what is your attitude towards following the will of the Lord? What are you seeking?

Are we just drifting through life or actively asking God what He wants us to be doing?

Some people have trouble saying NO … responding emotionally to needs rather than asking God for direction

Probably more people have trouble saying YES to what God has clearly revealed …

Principle: John 7:17 “If anyone is willing to do His will, he will know of the teaching, whether it is of God or whether I speak from Myself”

Why does David limit his inquiry her to “the cities of Judah”?

b. “Where shall I go up?”

Answer: “To Hebron”

Davis: It was an ideal place for the capital in Judah since it was situated near the center of the tribe. It was well protected, being located in the mountains, and it had a long sacred history.” 20 miles south of Jerusalem

2. (:2-3) Relocation Program for David, His Family and His Key Leaders

a. David – “so David went up there”

b. Two Wives – “and his two wives also,

Ahinoam the Jezreelitess

and Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite”

c. Key Leaders with their Households

“And David brought up his men who were with him, each with his household and they lived in the cities of Hebron.”

3. (:4a) Anointed King over Judah

“Then the men of Judah came and there anointed David king over the house of Judah.”

This was the second anointing – remember 1 Samuel 16:13 – this first anointing was before his family household; his second anointing was before the tribe of Judah in our passage; his third anointing was before the entire nation – 2 Sam. 5:1-5

B. (:4b-7) Strategic Alliance with Jabesh-gilead

1. (:4b) Alliance Prompted by Kind Act

“And they told David, saying, ‘It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul.’”

City located East of the Jordan (called the TransJordan area – study your roots in school = across the Jordan River) and further north than the tribe of Judah – had been rescued by Saul – 1 Samuel 11 – great heroic account of Saul delivering them from the Ammonites

They had shown their great loyalty to Saul by risking their lives to collect his bones for burial

Very strategic initiative by David – extending his influence beyond the borders of just Judah

2. (:5-6) Reciprocal Kindness Offered

a. “because you have shown this kindness to Saul your lord, and have buried him”

b. Reciprocal Blessing from the Lord

– lovingkindness

– truth

– goodness

Look at what the Lord has to offer us in response to whatever service we perform for Him – very lopsided equation

First, it is always the Lord who initiates any blessing – We love because He first loved us

Second, you can never out give the Lord

Remember the anxious question of the disciples of Jesus – what are we going to gain for having made significant sacrifices to follow you? How did Jesus respond?

Rom. 8:18 “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us”

3. (:7) Strategic Call for Loyalty to Leadership of David – Get with the New Program

a. Call for Loyalty and Commitment and Strength and Courage

“Now therefore, let your hands be strong and be valiant”

b. Can’t Live in the Past

“for Saul your lord is dead,”

c. Coronation Offers Validation

“and also the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”


A. (:8) Initiative of Abner to Prolong the Line of Saul

“But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim.”

But Abner – there is always an obstacle to gum up the works; something to be overcome by faith and trust in the Lord; we fight spiritual battles

Background of Abner – important to understand his motivation – had been very prominent for a long time as Saul’s right hand man and commander of his troops

Member of the royal family – first cousin of Saul through his father Ner (1 Sam. 14:51)

1 Sam. 17:55 – Abner whom Saul consulted back in battle of David with Goliath – he had been chief military commander for a long time; 1 Sam. 20:25 – Abner given more honored position than even Jonathan at king’s feast; faithful and loyal servant of Saul;

Also commanded the troops which had pursued David; had acted as Saul’s bodyguard – 1 Sam. 26:13-16 – had been shown up big time by David – had no expectation that he would be shown any favor by David

Feared giving up his personal position and power in the new regime; David had Joab = his own leaders – Not concerned with God’s will or God’s kingdom program

Background of Ish-Bosheth: Youngest son of Saul … but still old enough to fight; 40 years old at this point; Where was he in the battle against the Philistines where his 3 brothers died?? Very weak individual; a puppet king manipulated by Abner –

Raises question of how should the leadership of God’s people be established?? Normal kingship would be by family heredity – but God had other designs – Sovereign appointment of David – Contrast between the flesh and the Spirit

Warren Wiersbe: There’s a modern touch to this scenario, for our political and religious worlds are populated by these same three kinds of people. We have weak people like Ish-Bosheth, who get where they are because they have “connections.” We have strong, selfish people like Abner, who know how to manipulate others for their own personal profit. We also have people of God like David who are called, anointed, and equipped but must wait for God’s time before they can serve.

B. (:9) Extent of Rival Kingdom – over all Israel

“He made him king over Gilead, over the Ashurites, over Jezreel, over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, even over all Israel.”

Why was Israel willing to follow Abner?

C. (:10-11) Contrast Between Reign of David and Ish-Bosheth

“Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he was king for two years. The house of Judah, however, followed David. The time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.”

It would appear from this timetable that David was king for about 5 1/2 years before Ish-bosheth was crowned – what happened during this period?? Ish-bosheth regaining control of the northern territory from the Philistines??


A. (:12-13) Staging of the Confrontation

1. (:12) Abner and His Forces

“Now Abner the son of Ner, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon with the servants of Ishbosheth the son of Saul.”

2. (:13a) Joab and His Forces

“And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them by the pool of Gibeon; “

7 miles NW of Jerusalem

3. (:13b) Hostile Stare Down

“and they sat down, one on the one side of the pool and the other on the other side of the pool.”

Presents an interesting image – not rushing into conflict – recognizing that civil war presents some unique difficulties

B. (:14-16) Representative Challenge with Tragic Results

1. (:14) Agreement on Terms of Challenge

“Then Abner said to Joab, ‘Now let the young men arise and hold a contest before us.’ And Joab said, ‘Let them arise.’”

Was this a good idea? Suspect because we see the initiation came from Abner

Not that out of the ordinary back in those times – cf. incident between David and Goliath

2. (15) Appointing the Twelve Man Teams

“So they arose and went over by count, twelve for Benjamin and Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David.”

These would be the choicest of the fighting men

3. (:16) All Die! — Fight to the Death Proves Inconclusive

“And each one of them seized his opponent by the head, and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is in Gibeon.”

Mittelstaedt: The contest turned bloody as the warriors began drawing their swords and killing each other, while their comrades on each side looked on. You can understand why the battleground came to be called Helkath Hazzurim, that is, the “field of daggers.”

Josephus records centuries later that there must have been some type of collusion for this knife fight to end in the death of all 24?? Does seem like a surprising outcome; very honorable process; nobody cheats and comes to the aid of someone else; strict one-on-one combat

C. (:17) Escalation to Total Engagement with Many Casualties and Defeat of Abner

“And that day the battle was very severe, and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David.”

Opportunity here to cut things off or to escalate the conflict – more of an emotional reaction than a reasoned out strategic decision … look at how conflicts escalate in families and in the church ….

Short sentence but very heavy ramifications; think of all the family connections affected


A. (:18-19) Fleet Footed Asahel Doggedly Pursuing Abner

“Now the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab and Abishai and Asahel; and Asahel was as swift-footed as one of the gazelles which is in the field. And Asahel pursued Abner and did not turn to the right or to the left from following Abner.”

1 Chron.2:16 — Zeruiah = David’s sister; these are David’s nephews

Asahel determined to run down Abner and end the conflict; youthful zeal and confidence – but not very shrewd; Ambitious just like Abner

Some trust in horses and some in chariots (and some in speed) … but apparently Asahel was not trusting in the wisdom of the Lord to direct him or the power of the Lord to grant him success

B. (:20-22) Abner Tries to Avoid Killing Asahel

1. (:20) Verifies His Identity

“Then Abner looked behind him and said, ‘Is that you, Asahel?’ And he answered, ‘It is I.’”

2. (:21) Offers Him Options

“So Abner said to him, ‘Turn to your right or to your left, and take hold of one of the young men for yourself, and take for yourself his spoil.’ But Asahel was not willing to turn aside from following him.”

MacArthur: To gain the armor or spoil of the enemy general, Abner, who was fleeing the defeat, would be to possess the greatest trophy. Asahel was ambitious to get it, while Abner kept warning him and suggested he take the spoil of some other soldier for his trophy, since he was not able to defeat Abner

3. (:22) Pleads with Him to Break Off the Pursuit

“And Abner repeated again to Asahel, ‘Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?’”

Did not want things to get personal between him and Joab

C. (:23) Abner Forced to Kill Asahel

1. Asahel Forced the Issue

“However, he refused to turn aside”

2. Asahel Impaled in Tragic Fashion

“therefore Abner struck him in the belly with the butt end of the spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died on the spot.”

Configuration of the spear?? Sharp wooden point – not what you hold the spear by – there is a handle in the middle – for practice you throw the butt end into the ground so you don’t dull the sharpened metal end – equally balanced

3. Asahel Mourned by All

“And it came about that all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still.”

Shocking sight


A. (:24-25) Abner Forced Into Making a Last Stand

1. (:24) Cornered and Forced to Take a Stand

“But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and when the sun was going down, they came to the hill of Ammah, which is in front of Giah by the way of the wilderness of Gibeon.”

2. (:25) Prepared to Fight to the Finish

“And the sons of Benjamin gathered together behind Abner and became one band, and they stood on the top of a certain hill.”

B. (:26-27) Agreement that Further Bloodshed Would Be Senseless – Assigning of Blame

1. (:26) Plea of Abner – Call off your Dogs

“Then Abner called to Joab and said, ‘Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that it will be bitter in the end? How long will you refrain from telling the people to turn back from following their brothers?”

What hypocritical words by Abner – he had instigated the whole fight

2. (:27) Rejoinder by Joab – You Started It

“And Joab said, ‘As God lives, if you had not spoken, surely then the people would have gone away in the morning, each from following his brother.”


A. (:30) Losses on Joab’s Side

“Then Joab returned from following Abner; when he had gathered all the people together, nineteen of David’s servants besides Asahel were missing.”

B. (:31) Greater Losses on Abner’s Side

“But the servants of David had struck down many of Benjamin and Abner’s men, so that three hundred and sixty men died.”

C. (:32) Burial and Moving On

“And they took up Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb which was in Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men went all night until the day dawned at Hebron.”

Great moment of restraint for Joab; his brother had been killed; he clearly had the upper hand; yet did not wipe out Abner

But this was not the end of the civil war – look at opening of chap 3; eventually would result in death of Abner itself

Cf. 3:1 which continues the story