The Lord’s Day Evening
September 19, 2010
2 Samuel 2:12 – 3:39
“Resistance is Futile”
Dr. Derek W. H. Thomas
Now turn with me to 2 Samuel chapter 2.
We have a lengthy, marathon reading tonight.
We are hoping to get through not just the rest of this chapter 2 but also
three particular incidents in chapter 3.
You’ll remember from two weeks ago, Abner, who is Saul’s surviving
military commander, has set up Ish-bosheth, who is Saul’s fourth son and only
surviving son — Saul and three of his sons were killed on Mount Gilboa in a
battle with the Philistines — and now Ish-bosheth has been set up as a puppet
king in the north, in a place called Mahanaim.
And then in the south, David at Hebron,
has been established formally as king over the southern kingdom of Judah.
Now before we read from verse 12 let’s look to God in prayer.
Father, we ask now for Your
blessing as we read the Scriptures together.
Without the blessing of the Holy Spirit, we cannot in and of ourselves
understand or profit from the Scriptures in the way that we desire and in the
way that we ought. So come, O Lord,
come by Your Spirit. Help us to
read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest, and all for Jesus’ sake.
“Abner the son of Ner,
and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to
Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them at the
pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, the one on the one side of the
pool, and the other on the other side of the pool. And Abner said to Joab, ‘Let
the young men arise and compete before us.’ And Joab said, ‘Let them arise.’
Then they arose and passed
over by number, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve
of the servants of David. And
each caught 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 at Gibeon. And the battle was very fierce
that day. And Abner and the men of Israel were
beaten before the servants of David.
And the three sons of
Zeruiah were there, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Now
Asahel wasas swift of foot as a wild gazelle. And Asahel pursued Abner, and
as he went, he turned neither to the right hand nor to the left from following
Abner. Then Abner
looked behind him and said, ‘Is it you, Asahel?’ And he answered, ‘It is I.’
Abner said to him, ‘Turn aside to your right hand or to your left, and
seize one of the young men and take his spoil.’ But
Asahel would not turn aside from following him. And Abner said 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?’ But he refused to
turn aside. Therefore Abner struck him in the stomach with the butt of his
spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died where
he was. And all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood
But Joab and Abishai
pursued Abner. And as the sun was going
down they came to the hill of Ammah, which lies before Giah on the way to the
wilderness of Gibeon. And
the people of Benjamin gathered themselves together behind Abner and became one
group and took their stand on the top of a hill. Then Abner called to Joab,
‘Shall the sword devour forever? Do you
not know that the end will be bitter? How
long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their
brothers?’ And Joab said, ‘As God
lives, ifyou had not spoken, surely the men would not have given up
the pursuit of their brothers until the morning.’
So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the men stopped and pursued Israel no more,
nor did they fight anymore.
And Abner and his
men went all that night throughthe Arabah.
They crossed the Jordan, and marching the whole
morning, they came toMahanaim. Joab returned from the pursuit
of Abner. And when he had gathered all
the people together, there were missing from David’s servants nineteen men
besides Asahel. But the
servants of David had struck down of Benjamin 360 of Abner’s men. And they took up Asahel and
buried him in the tomb of his father, which was at Bethlehem. And
Joab and his men marched all night, and the day broke upon them at
There was a long war
between the house of Saul and the house of David.
And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became
weaker and weaker.
And sons were born to
David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon,
ofAhinoam of Jezreel; and his second, Chileab, ofAbigail
the widow of Nabal of Carmel; and the third, Absalom the son of Maacahthe daughter of Talmai king ofGeshur; and the fourth, Adonijah
the son of Haggith; and the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth,
Ithream, of Eglah, David’s wife. These
were born to David in Hebron.
While there was war
between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself
strong in the house of Saul. Now
Saul had a concubine whose name wasRizpah, the daughter of Aiah.
And Ish-bosheth said to Abner, ‘Why have
you gone in to my father’s concubine?’
Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, ‘Am Ia dog’s head of Judah?
To this day I keep showing steadfast love
to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers, and to his friends, and have
not given you into the hand of David. And
yet you charge me today with a fault concerning a woman. God do so to Abner and more
also, if I do not accomplish for Davidwhat the LORD has sworn to
him, to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and set up the throne of
David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beersheba.’ And Ish-bosheth could
not answer Abner another word, because he feared him.
And Abner sent
messengers to David on his behalf, saying, ‘To whom does the land belong?
Make your covenant with me, and behold,
my hand shall be with you to bring over all Israel to you.’ And he said, ‘Good; I will make
a covenant with you. But one thing I
require of you; that is, you shall not see my face unless you first bringMichal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see my face.’ Then David sent messengers to
Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, saying, ‘Give me my wife Michal, for whom I paid the
bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.’ And Ish-bosheth sent and took
her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. But her husband went with her,
weeping after her all the way toBahurim.
Then Abner said to him, ‘Go, return.’ And
And Abner conferred
with the elders of Israel, saying,
‘For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you. Now then bring it about, for
the LORD has promised David, saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will
save my people Israel
from the hand of the Philistines, and from the hand of all their enemies.’’
Abner also spoke toBenjamin. And
then Abner went to tell David at Hebron all that Israel and the whole house of
Benjamin thought good to do.
When Abner came with
twenty men to David at Hebron,
David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. And Abner said to David, ‘I
will arise and go andwill gather all Israel to my lord the king, that
they may make a covenant with you, and that you mayreign over all
that your heart desires.’ So David sent
Abner away, and he went in peace.
Just then the
servants of David arrived with Joab from a raid, bringing much spoil with them.
But Abner was not with David at Hebron, for he had sent
him away, and he had gone in peace. When
Joab and all the army that was with him came, it was told Joab, ‘Abner the son
of Ner came to the king, and he has let him go, and he has gone in peace.’
Then Joab went to the king
and said, ‘What have you done? Behold,
Abner came to you. Why is it that you have sent him away, so that he is gone?
You know that Abner the
son of Ner came to deceive you and to knowyour going out and your
coming in, and to know all that you are doing.’
When Joab came out
from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back
from the cistern of Sirah. But David did
not know about it. And
when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him
aside into the midst of the gate to speak with him privately, and there he
struck himin the stomach, so that he died, for the blood of Asahel
his brother. Afterward,
when David heard of it, he said, ‘I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before
the LORD for the blood of Abner the son of Ner. May it fall upon the head of
Joab and upon all his father’s house, and may the house of Joab never be withoutone who has a discharge or who is leprous or who holds a spindle or who
falls by the sword or who lacks bread!’ So
Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, becausehe had put their
brother Asahel to death in the battle at Gibeon.
Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, ‘Tear your
clothes andput on sackcloth and mourn before Abner.’
And King David followed the bier.
They buried Abner at
Hebron. And the
king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people
wept. And the kinglamented for Abner, saying,
‘Should Abner dieas a fool
Your hands were not bound;
your feet were not fettered;
as one falls
before the wicked
you have fallen.’
And all the people
wept again over him. Then
all the people cameto persuade David to eat bread while it was yet
day. But David swore, saying, ‘God do so
to me and more also, if I taste bread or anything elsetill the sun
goes down!’ And all the
people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did
pleased all the people. So
all the people and all Israel
understood that day that it had not been the king’s will to put to death Abner
the son of Ner. And the
king said to his servants, ‘Do you not know that a prince and a great man has
fallen this day in Israel?
And I was gentle today, though anointed
king.These men, the sons of
Zeruiah, are more severe than I.The
LORD repay the evildoer according to his wickedness!’”
Well, amen. May God bless that long
Four things very
quickly tonight — four cameo sketches here.
I. Hostility between Israel
The first is that section at the end of chapter 2 from verse 13 all the way down
to verse 30. It’s a prolonged period
of hostility. In the final years of
Ish-bosheth’s reign in the north, while David is in Hebron, Ish-bosheth has been set up by Abner,
Saul’s military commander. In the
final years Abner goes south. He
goes south to Gibeon, twenty three miles or so from
not told why. It looks as though it
could be one of several reasons — to perhaps attack David’s stronghold in
Hebron; perhaps to get some of David’s men to come over to Saul’s
side; perhaps to establish a base, a stronghold, a military base near to Hebron.
Whatever the reason, David’s nephew, Joab, leads David’s men to confront
them. And they meet around a pool of
water, one on one side, one on the other.
It’s a standoff. And Abner,
perhaps in a moment filled with testosterone, suggests a battle, a contest —
twelve men from each side in a battle that would decide the victory.
And all twelve are dead. All
twenty-four are dead. Each one kills
It solved nothing, and the battle, in fact, gets worse.
And Ish-bosheth’s men do badly, very badly, so that Abner begins to go
home, pursued by these three brothers — Joab and Abishai and Asahel.
Asahel is a tri-athlete. He’s
swift. He’s like a gazelle.
And he just won’t quit! Abner
says, “I don’t want to kill you, so go after one of the young men and kill him
and plunder him,” but Asahel continues.
And then with the blunt end of his spear, he prods Asahel, Abner prods
him in the stomach, perhaps in a self-defensive move designed perhaps simply to
wind him. But the blunt end of the
spear goes right through him and kills him and Asahel is dead.
And the two brothers, Joab and Abishai, now continue to pursue after
Abner and they meet at a certain point where the men of Benjamin have sided with
Saul’s side. And there’s a standoff.
And Abner convinces Joab that there’s nothing to be gained here, and in
the cover of night, both sides retreat — Abner back up to the north and Joab and
Abishai and his men back to Hebron.
360 Benjaminites of Saul’s side are dead.
Nineteen of Joab’s men are dead, including his brother Asahel.
It’s just one incident. We read in
verse 1 of chapter 3, “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the
house of David.” That’s just one
incident in that long war, that period of hostility between the north and the
II. Shifting allegiances.
Then there’s a second cameo portrait and it’s one of shifting allegiances.
Oh, there’s a little aside; actually, it’s a big aside.
David has six wives. All of a
sudden, we knew there were a couple, and now there are six, and six sons had
been born, not to mention Michal, the wife that he had, Saul’s daughter.
He’s not Jesus you understand.
He may be a type of Jesus every now and then, but the writer’s putting
something in here. He’s saying this
man, this man has feet of clay.
There’s some — well, let me be delicate here — there’s some nefarious incident
in Abner’s bedroom with a concubine of Saul by the name of Rizpah.
Whether it’s true or not, it sounds as if it’s true, Ish-bosheth, the
king, questions Abner. Abner says to
him, he doesn’t comment on what we might think he’d comment on – we think he
might comment on the ethics of what went on in the bedroom, but that’s not what
Abner says. Abner says, “I am loyal
to Saul. I am loyal to Saul’s
house.” And Abner, Abner is ticked
off. You understand, Ish-bosheth is
only king because Abner made him king.
He’s only king because Abner has fought for him.
And Abner says to him, “Look, I made you and now I’m going to break you.”
He is ticked off. He has a
moment of peak — now you understand, he’s just killed Joab’s brother, and he’s
now saying, he’s now saying to Ish-bosheth, “I’m going to deliver Israel, the
north, to David.”
Now, bells need to be going off in your head here, right, because that’s God’s
promise. God has promised to David
that he will be king and that he will reign.
And in a covenant that David will make with David, that reign will be
from Dan to Beersheba.
Right, God, I love your promise.
It’s a beautiful promise. Now
how are You going to fulfill Your promise?
Well, an angel all dressed in white is going to come down from the sky —
no. It’s Abner, who’s having an
affair with Saul’s concubine who’s now ticked off because Ish-bosheth has
challenged him and now he’s saying as a piece of revenge to Ish-bosheth, “I’m
going to deliver Israel to David.”
That’s how God is fulfilling His promise.
Ish-bosheth is a weak, vacillating, pathetic, foil for Abner’s ambitions.
He’s no Hamlet.
So Abner sends emissaries to David.
And David lays down terms — not before Michal, Michal is brought back to me.
Now Jewish commentators just spend pages and pages and pages arguing this
way and that way whether this was legal according to Torah.
Was Michal still his wife?
Technically, perhaps, she was. She
had been taken from David. You
remember Michal had helped David escape.
She told a lie to Saul’s men, remember, saying that David was ill.
She had led him down through the window.
She put teraphim in the bed pretending that David was sick in the bed,
you remember, and then Saul gave Michal to a man called — he has an Indian
sounding name, Paltiel, Paltiel. Was
it a legal marriage? I have no idea.
I’m not sure. Maybe it was,
maybe it wasn’t. Six wives weren’t
enough; he wants Michal. There’s a
seventh wife, and I know seven is the perfect number but it’s not perfect here!
I don’t think David is having a romantic moment.
You see, I don’t think he’s saying — and remember, maybe fifteen or
twenty years have passed. It’s
difficult to be precise but a long time has passed since he’s last seen Michal.
And Michal will not be the supportive
little wife at home when she comes back because she’ll be a little snooty with
David. I don’t think this is a
romantic moment. This is David
saying, “I want the transition to be a smooth one, and the best way to assure a
smooth transition is for Saul’s daughter, my wife, to be brought back to me.”
I think David’s first thought here is on the political exchange of power, that
David is not only the king of the southern kingdom in Hebron, but he’s now
becoming king of the southern and northern kingdom, and that Saul’s men will
fall into line when Saul’s daughter is in David’s house.
III. A surprise attack.
And then there’s a third cameo. And
it’s a surprise attack. Things have
gone well. Abner is dismissed in
peace. Joab comes back from a raid.
He’s petulant, he’s rude, cheeky; says to David — David is king — and he
says to David, “Why did you let him go?”
He sends a message to Abner to come back, to come back to the gate of the
city of Hebron.
Now Hebron, Hebron was a city of
refuge. You understand what that
means? It’s a city of refuge.
If you had been caught in some kind of crime and you were innocent, you
could run from the avenger of blood into the city of refuge and no one could
touch you. You could not kill
someone, an avenger of blood. And
Joab is not an avenger of blood here.
Asahel had probably died — it wasn’t murder with intent.
It doesn’t look as if it was murder with intent, so Joab is technically
not an avenger of blood. He could
not possibly do what he did at the gate of the city.
The gate is where you got justice, the gate is where the elders met, and
there at the gate of Hebron — a city of refuge — Joab kills Abner in the
stomach, just as Abner killed, though probably accidentally, Asahel.
David had received him and negotiated with him.
Joab, David’s nephew, has killed him.
And you think you’ve got problems in your family?
I mean, you think you have first dibs on dysfunctionality?
IV. Sackcloth and ashes.
And then there’s a fourth cameo — sackcloth and ashes.
It’s not the first time. 2
Samuel began with sackcloth and ashes – David lamenting for the death of Saul.
Now we’re only in chapter 3 and he’s lamenting for Abner, Saul’s military
general. A mighty warrior has fallen
in Israel, a war hero, a soldier, a
decorated soldier has fallen — killed, murdered, in the city of refuge.
David says in his lament, “One who falls before the wicked” — before the
wicked! This is his nephew, Joab.
David will rue the day that he dealt so leniently with Joab. Joab will
turn around to bite David again.
Just as Ish-bosheth found it difficult to deal with Abner, David finds it
difficult to deal with Joab.
Okay, what have we seen here? Sex,
nefarious goings-on, murder, an accidental killing, intrigue, war games, greed,
dysfunctionality, power plays. It’s
like daytime TV.
But this is the Bible. Folks, this
is the Bible. This is the story of
David. This is the story of how God
is going to fulfill His promise to send a Savior, Jesus.
Jesus comes from this story.
Everything that happens to David has something to do with Jesus, the Promised
Seed of the woman, our Savior, our Redeemer, our Prophet, Priest, and King.
This mess, this unholy mess — you think your office is bad?
This is an unholy mess — but folks, I only have one point.
I only have one point.
The story of redemption isn’t the
story of enchanted woods and beautiful handsome princes and princesses and magic.
The story of redemption — you know this is like reality, isn’t it?
This is reality. This is the
world we live in. Just pick up — no don’t — if you were to pick up a newspaper,
a tabloid newspaper tomorrow, what are you going to read in it?
This stuff? Yes?
Glance through the headlines of a national newspaper in America, in Britain.
What are you going to find?
This sort of stuff? Yes, exactly.
God — you know, did you catch it?
When Abner says to Ish-bosheth, “I’m going to deliver the kingdom to David as
God had promised,” — now Abner’s not a knight and shining armor.
Abner’s no saint here.
God in His sovereign providence uses people like that.
Out of messes like that, out of appalling messes like that, God fulfills
If you ever wanted confidence that God’s purposes are inviolable, if you want
proof that God is on His throne, I mean you wouldn’t write this story.
If you were trying to write the story of redemption, it would be a
fantasy tale. It would be about
knights and shining armor and enchanted woods, and not about a story in which
there’s all this lurid, horrible mess.
Read this story and see the astonished hand of a sovereign God, and then don’t
find yourself saying, “Where is God in our world today?”
I mean, don’t say that, because the world is in a mess.
Where is God’s promise? It
was right here. God using even the
wicked to fulfill His purposes.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we stand amazed in the
presence of what You accomplished in the pages of history, that in the middle of
a Roman Empire with murder and killing, even the killing of little babies in
Bethlehem, You brought a Savior, You brought the Lord Jesus, You brought our
Prophet, Priest, and King. You are
in complete control. Even when
things seem to us to be breaking apart at the seams, You rule and reign and
every single promise of Yours will be fulfilled.
Help us to stand under the umbrella of Your providence and trust it, for
Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Please stand and receive the Lord’s benediction.
Grace, mercy, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ be with
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