What does it say?
The story continues (2Sam 1). Saul is dead and nothing holds David back from the throne. An Amalekite informs David of the death of Saul and Jonathan, but his story is different from the one we saw in 1Sam 31. Apparently this Amalekite tries to ingratiate himself to David by inserting himself into the story to take credit for Saul’s death. The ploy backfires and results in his own death, not reward. David’s ode to Saul and Jonathan is particularly eloquent.
At this point only Judah and possibly Simeon recognize David as king. Saul’s military leader Abner leads the other tribes to pledge allegiance to Saul’s son Ishbosheth and two years of civil war follow (2Sam 2). Abner’s counterpart with David is Joab, and Abner kills his brother Asahel. That Abner struck Asahel with the butt of his spear would indicate his was only trying to stop him, not kill him (2:23). However, even the blunt end of the spear was sharp enough to penetrate and kill him.
Abner is the real power leading the other tribes and could have led them to unite with David, except that Joab and his other brother Abishai avenge Asahel’s death by killing Abner (2Sam 3). With Abner dead, Saul’s son Ishbosheth has no power base and he, too, is assassinated (2Sam 4).
What does it mean?
David demonstrates an amazing ability to respect God’s working even in the lives of his enemies. He twice spares Saul’s life when given opportunity to kill him. Even in death he continues to respect and honor Saul, Jonathan, Abner and Ishboseth and disciplines his people who have treated them with disrespect. Few passages in the Bible reveal David’s heart more than his eulogy to Saul and Jonathan.
The book of Jashar (1:18) is a lost book never considered part of scripture, one of several extra-biblical books mentioned in the Bible as historical references. Culturally, the fact that Abner takes Saul’s concubine, not Ishbosheth, indicates that Abner is staking a claim to the throne and that Ishbosheth is a mere figurehead.
How will I respond?
I find the way that David treats his enemies with respect and dignity to be very convicting and humbling, even when they are attempting to kill him. Many of us can’t even do a decent job of treating other believers with dignity and respect if we happen to disagree on some minor detail. What does this say about the maturity level of our faith? What step could I take to be more sensitive in my treatment of all human beings with the dignity and respect that is due?