Summary: Abner was driven by his own will, his own gains, and his own ambition. Such godless pursuits lead him to a life of vanity and fruitless end.
The author devoted 4 chapters in the beginning of 2 Samuel to the 7½ years before David was made King over all Israel.
• And half of this portion has to do with this man Abner, the commander who once served under Saul.
• He was only mentioned briefly in 1 Samuel as the son of Ner, Saul’s uncle (1 Sam 14:50). Saul and Abner were cousins.
After Saul’s death, he made Saul’s youngest son Ish-Bosheth King of the Northern region.
• Clearly Abner has certain influence and power. He is capable and resourceful, but he is a man driven only by his own desires.
• He lives without God. We are going to look at his life today, and draw lessons from it.
We have Ish-Bosheth (the house of Saul) ruling the North ISRAEL, with Abner being his commander, and David the South JUDAH, with Joab being his commander.
• The author then tells us in chapter 2 that Abner came up with this suggestion (2 Sam 2:14) to have 12 of his men fights 12 of David’s men (under Joab’s leadership).
• Why would Abner even suggest this is anyone’s guess – to stoke his ego, to show off, to prove that he has the better fighting men? Any of these are possible.
Abner was DRIVEN BY HIS OWN WILL
• He did what he likes to do, most likely to gratify his own desires.
• Without God, this is what we will gravitates towards. Your will presides.
The author highlighted this CONTEST at length and with great details because this event eventually led to enmity between the two houses.
• It was a foolish thing they did. What resulted was a very angry Asahel (Joab’s brother, from David’s house) pursuing Abner relentlessly, with vengeance.
• Abner warned him to stop but he refused. Abner turned around and killed him.
Foolish deeds lead to serious consequences.
• Asahel’s siblings JOAB and ABISHAI pursued Abner, wanting to take revenge. Abner cried out, “Why pursue your brothers?” (cf. 2:26)
• And the fight stopped. THIS fight ended but 2 Sam 3:1 “The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.”
Read 2 Sam 3:6-11
Abner was DRIVEN BY HIS OWN GAINS
• Abner did whatever he can to strengthen his own position.
• Without God, you live only for yourself.
He has so much power, even the King was afraid of him. Ish-Bosheth was a puppet King.
• No one dared to tell him off. The King tried but was threatened.
• Abner says he could easily switch sides and make David King over all Israel.
Listen to how Abner puts it: I can “hand you over to David” (3:8) and “transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” (3:10)
• We hear his arrogance. It’s all in his hands. It’s all about what HE CAN DO.
And he made good his threat – read 2 Sam 3:12-16.
• Hear again his arrogance (3:12) – his message to David: “Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.”
• David asked for his ex-wife Michal back (cf. 1 Sam 18), Abner easily got the King to accede to his request.
The next few verses tell us Abner went meet up with the elders of the tribes of Israel and the Benjamites to convince them to come under David’s rule.
• Particularly the Benjamites because they are Saul’s relatives. Saul is a Benjamite.
• And Abner succeeded. The tribes agreed. This is quite telling. You can see how much influence he has already garnered by this time.
• He has gotten the power and authority, through his position, over the years. He is the real power behind the throne.
Abner was DRIVEN BY HIS OWN AMBITION
• This was his game plan. With his ‘defection’ to David’s house, Abner would eventually be the commander over a bigger territory.
• It will force Ish-Bosheth to come under David, with all the tribes switching sides. It is a plot to gain control. It’s a betrayal.
• He was so driven by this ambition that he has forgotten about the men working under David. He has forgotten of Joab. Can the two of them co-exists? How can there be two commanders?
Read 2 Sam 3:22-27.
To Joab, the only obstacle to David’s reign over the entire land is Abner.
• Take him down and you would have taken Saul’s house down.
• Joab believed that Abner did not come with good intentions. It was a ploy to spy on David and plot his attack.