Beginning of the End


David Crowned King at Last

This chapter is based on 2 Samuel 2 to 5:5.

The death of Saul removed the dangers that had made David an exile. The way was now open for him to return to his own land. “David inquired of the Lord, saying, ‘Shall I go up to any of the cities of Judah?’ And the Lord said to him, ‘Go up.’ David said, ‘Where shall I go up?’ And He said, ‘To Hebron.’” BOE 352.1

David and his followers immediately prepared to obey. As the caravan entered the city, the men of Judah were waiting to welcome David as the future king of Israel. Arrangements were made at once for his coronation. “And there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.” No effort was made to establish his authority over the other tribes. BOE 352.2

When David heard of the brave deed of the men of Jabesh Gilead in rescuing the bodies of Saul and Jonathan and giving them honorable burial, he sent the message, “You are blessed of the Lord, for you have shown this kindness to your lord, to Saul, and have buried him. And now may the Lord show kindness and truth to you. I also will repay you this kindness.” BOE 352.3

The Philistines were not upset by Judah’s action in making David a king. They hoped that because they had been kind to David, the increase of his power would work to their advantage. But David’s reign was not to be free from trouble. BOE 352.4

God had chosen David to be king of Israel, yet hardly had the people of Judah accepted his authority when Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, was made king on a rival throne in Israel. Ishbosheth was a weak, incompetent representative of the house of Saul, in contrast to David who was supremely qualified. Abner, the chief agent in raising Ishbosheth to kingly power, was the most distinguished man in Israel. He knew that the Lord had appointed David to the throne, but he was not willing for the son of Jesse to come into possession of the kingdom. BOE 352.5

Abner was ambitious and unethical. Saul had influenced him to detest the man whom God had chosen to reign over Israel. His hatred had been increased by the cutting rebuke that David had given him when the king’s jug of water and spear had been taken from the side of Saul as he slept. BOE 352.6

Determined to create division in Israel by which he himself might be exalted, he used Ishbosheth, the representative of the previous king, to push forward his own selfish ambitions. He knew that the army had not forgotten Saul’s first successful campaigns. With determination, this rebellious leader went forward to carry out his plans. BOE 353.1

First, he chose Mahanaim, on the farther side of Jordan, as the royal residence. Ishbosheth’s coronation took place there. His reign extended over all Israel except Judah. For two years this son of Saul enjoyed his honors in his secluded capital. But Abner, intent on extending his power over all Israel, prepared for aggressive warfare. And “there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. But David grew stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.” BOE 353.2

At last Abner, becoming angry with the incompetent Ishbosheth, deserted to David, offering to bring over to him all the tribes of Israel. David accepted his proposals, but David’s favorable reception of such a famous warrior as Abner stirred up the jealousy of Joab, commander-in-chief of David’s army. There was a blood feud between the two men, Abner having killed Asahel, Joab’s brother, during the war between Israel and Judah. Now Joab dishonorably ambushed and murdered Abner. BOE 353.3

When David heard of this treacherous assault, he exclaimed, “My kingdom and I are guiltless before the Lord forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. Let it rest on the head of Joab.” In view of the unsettled state of the kingdom and the power of the murderers, David could not punish the crime properly, but he publicly showed his shock and disapproval. The king followed Abner’s coffin as chief mourner, and at the grave he pronounced an elegy that was a cutting rebuke of the murderers. BOE 353.4

Should Abner die as a fool dies? ...
As a man falls before wicked men, so you fell.
BOE 353.5

David’s tribute to one who had been his bitter enemy won the admiration of all Israel. “For all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king’s intent to kill Abner the son of Ner.” In the private circle of his trusted counselors and attendants, the king recognized his own inability to punish the murderers as he desired. He left them to the justice of God. “The Lord shall repay the evildoer according to his wickedness.” BOE 353.6

When Ishbosheth “heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost heart, and all Israel was troubled.” Soon another act of treachery completed the downfall of the weakened, rival power. Ishbosheth was murdered by two of his captains who, cutting off his head, rushed with it to the king of Judah, hoping by this to gain his favor. BOE 353.7