The circumstances under which Abner was placed served to develop his real character and showed him to be ambitious and unprincipled. He had been intimately associated with Saul and had been influenced by the spirit of the king to despise the man whom God had chosen to reign over Israel.
His hatred had been increased by the cutting rebuke that I had given him at the time when the cruse of water and the spear of the king had been taken from the side of Saul as he slept in the camp. He remembered how David had cried in the hearing of the king and the people of Israel,
1Sa 26:16 This thing that you have done is not good. As the LORD lives, you deserve to die, because you have not guarded your master, the LORD’s anointed. And now see where the king’s spear is, and the jug of water that was by his head.”
This reproof had rankled, angered him, and he determined to carry out his revengeful purpose and create division in Israel, whereby he himself might be exalted. He employed the representative of departed royalty to advance his own selfish ambitions and purposes.
He knew that the people loved Jonathan. His memory was cherished, and Saul’s first successful campaigns had not been forgotten by the army. With determination this rebellious leader went forward to carry out his plans.
Mahanaim, on the farther side of Jordan, was chosen as the royal residence, since it offered the greatest security against attack, either from me or from the Philistines. Here the coronation of Ishbosheth took place.
His reign was first accepted by the tribes east of Jordan and was finally extended over all Israel except Judah. For two years the son of Saul enjoyed his honours in his secluded capital. But Abner, intent upon extending his power over all Israel, prepared for aggressive warfare.
And “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.”
At last treachery overthrew the throne that malice and ambition had established. Abner, becoming incensed against the weak and incompetent Ishbosheth, deserted to me, with the offer to bring over to me all the tribes of Israel.
His proposals were accepted by me, and he was dismissed with honour to accomplish his purpose. But the favourable reception of so valiant and famed a warrior excited the jealousy of Joab, the commander-in-chief of David’s army.
There was a blood feud between Abner and Joab, the former having slain Asahel, Joab’s brother, during the war between Israel and Judah. Now Joab, seeing an opportunity to avenge his brother’s death and rid himself of a prospective rival, basely took occasion to waylay and murder Abner.
2Sa 3:27 Now when Abner had returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him privately, and there stabbed him in the stomach, so that he died for the blood of Asahel his brother.
When I heared of this treacherous assault, I exclaimed, “I and my kingdom are guiltless before the Lord forever from the blood of Abner the son of Ner. Let it rest on the head of Joab; and on all his father’s house.”
In view of the unsettled state of the kingdom, and the power and position of the murderers—for Joab’s brother Abishai had been united with him—I, could not visit the crime with just retribution, yet I publicly manifested My abhorrence of the bloody deed.
The burial of Abner was attended with public honours. The army, with Joab at their head, were required to take part in the services of mourning, with rent garments and clothed in sackcloth.
I manifested his grief by keeping a fast upon the day of burial; I followed the bier as chief mourner; and at the grave I pronounced an elegy which was a cutting rebuke of the murderers.
2Sa 3:33 And I king sang a lament over Abner and said: “Should Abner die as a fool dies?
2Sa 3:34 Your hands were not bound Nor your feet put into fetters; As a man falls before wicked men, so you fell.” Then all the people wept over him again.
2Sa 3:35 And when all the people came to persuade me to eat food while it was still day, I took an oath, saying, “God do so to me, and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!”
David’s magnanimous recognition of one who had been his bitter enemy won the confidence and admiration of all Israel. “All the people took notice of it, and it pleased them: as whatsoever I 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.”
In the private circle of my trusted counsellors and attendants I spoke of the crime, and recognizing my own inability to punish the murderers as I desired, I left them to the justice of God:
And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me. The LORD shall repay the evildoer according to his wickedness.”
Abner had been sincere in his offers and representations to me, yet his motives were base and selfish. He had persistently opposed me as the king of God’s appointment, in the expectation of securing honour to himself.
It was resentment, wounded pride, and passion that led him to forsake the cause he had so long served; and in deserting to me he hoped to receive the highest position of honour in my service. Had he succeeded in his purpose, his talents and ambition, his great influence and want of godliness, would have endangered my throne and the peace and prosperity of the nation.
“When Saul’s son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.” It was evident that the kingdom could not long be maintained. Soon another act of treachery completed the downfall of the waning power.
Ishbosheth was foully murdered by two of his captains, who, cutting off his head, hastened with it to the king of Judah, hoping thus to ingratiate, find favour for themselves.
They appeared before me with the gory witness to their crime.
But I answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all adversity,
2Sa 4:10 when someone told me, saying, ‘Look, Saul is dead,’ thinking to have brought good news, I arrested him and had him executed in Ziklag—the one who thought I would give him a reward for his news.
2Sa 4:11 How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous person in his own house on his bed? Therefore, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and remove you from the earth?”
“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.”
So I commanded my young men, and they executed them, cut off their hands and feet, and hanged them by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner in Hebron.
After the death of Ishbosheth there was a general desire among the leading men of Israel that David should become king of all the tribes.
2Sa 5:1 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and spoke, saying, “Indeed we are your bone and your flesh.
2Sa 5:2 Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’ ”
2Sa 5:3 Therefore all the elders of Israel came to me at Hebron, and I made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed me king over Israel. Thus through the providence of God the way had been opened for me to come to the throne. I had no personal ambition to gratify, for I had not sought the honour which I received.
More than eight thousand of the descendants of Aaron and of the Levites waited upon me. The change in the sentiments of the people was marked and decisive. The revolution was quiet and dignified, befitting the great work they were doing.
Nearly half a million souls, the former subjects of Saul, thronged Hebron and its environs. The very hills and valleys were alive with the multitudes.
The hour for the coronation was appointed; the man who had been expelled from the court of Saul, who had fled to the mountains and hills and to the caves of the earth to preserve his life, was about to receive the highest honour that can be conferred upon man by his fellow man.
Priests and elders, clothed in the garments of their sacred office, officers and soldiers with glittering spear and helmet, and strangers from long distances, stood to witness the coronation of the chosen king.
I was arrayed in a royal robe. The sacred oil was put upon m brow by the high priest, for the anointing by Samuel had been prophetic of what would take place at the inauguration of the king. The time had come, and I, by solemn rite, was consecrated to his office as God’s vicegerent.
The scepter was placed in my hands. The covenant of my righteous sovereignty was written, and the people gave their pledges of loyalty. The diadem was placed upon my brow, and the coronation ceremony was over.
Israel had a king by divine appointment. He who had waited patiently for the Lord, beheld the promise of God fulfilled. “And David went on, and grew great, and the Lord God of hosts was with him.” 2 Samuel 5:10.
THE MOVE TO JERUSALEM
As soon as I was established on the throne of Israel I to seek a more appropriate location for the capital of my realm. Just more than thirty kilometres from Hebron a place was selected as the future metropolis of the kingdom.
Before Joshua had led the armies of Israel over Jordan it had been called Salem. Near this place Abraham had proved his loyalty to God. Eight hundred years before my coronation it had been the home of Melchizedek, the priest of the most high God.
It held a central and elevated position in the country and was protected by an environment of hills. Being on the border between Benjamin and Judah, it was near Ephraim and was easy of access to the other tribes.
In order to secure this location, the Hebrews must dispossess a remnant of the Canaanites, who held a fortified position on the mountains of Zion and Moriah. This stronghold was called Jebus, and its inhabitants were known as Jebusites.
For centuries Jebus had been looked upon as impregnable; but it was besieged and taken by the Hebrews under the command of Joab, who, as the reward of his valour, was made commander-in-chief of the armies of Israel. Jebus now became the national capital, and its heathen name was changed to Jerusalem.
The reign of David in his new capital, called Jerusalem.