Out of Sorrows, A New Beginning (2 Samuel 1-2)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 1-2

Our study of 1 Samuel concluded with the deaths of King Saul, his sons, and a humiliating defeat for Israel when that nation’s soldiers fled the battlefield in disarray (1 Samuel 31:7). Three days later, news of Israel’s defeat, and the deaths of Saul and his sons reached David in Ziklag (2 Samuel 1:1).

2 Samuel 1 – The King is Dead: An Elegy

The news bearer was an Amalekite soldier. He had come to David with a fabricated claim that he had slain Saul in an act of mercy, sparing the king the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines (1:1-10). The truth was, as we read in 1 Samuel 31, Saul had fallen upon his own sword (1 Samuel 31:4). Nevertheless, to support his claim, the Amalekite had in his possession Saul’s crown, and a bracelet David would have recognized as the fallen king’s (1:10).

Saul had been an enemy of David for more than a decade, nevertheless the news of his death, and the death of Jonathan moved David to mourn, weep, and fast until that evening (1:11-12). Rather than rejoice in the death of his enemy, David mourned, and ordered the man who claimed to have slain the king to be put to death (1:11-16).

The Song of the Bow (1:17-27)

As the poet and musician, he was, David turned to poetry and expressed in an elegy his profound sorrow for the deaths of Saul and his son Jonathan (1:17-27). To memorialize the household of Saul, David commanded the words of the elegy be taught to “the children of Judah” (1:18).

The concluding verses of 2 Samuel 1 expressed David’s grief at the loss of Jonathan, his friend and confidant (1:25-27).  There have been some who try to paint David’s lament as a twisted validation of sodomy, but it is not. Sodomy is condemned in the Old Testament (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27), and we can be certain such a sin would not have been a subject put to music for children to sing.  David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual affection and trust, and such a friend is rare indeed!

2 Samuel 2 – Two Kings and a Divided Nation

With the deaths of the king and his sons, David recalled he had been anointed by the prophet Samuel to succeed Saul as king of Israel (1 Samuel 16). Being the spiritual man he was, David turned to the LORD for wisdom, and asked two questions: “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the Lord said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron” (2:1) With the LORD’s blessing, David, his two wives (2:2), and his men and their families moved to Hebron where he was crowned king by the men of the tribe of Judah (2:2-4).

David immediately faced opposition from Abner, Saul’s nephew (2:8) who moved to make Ishbosheth, Saul’s surviving son, king (2:9-10).  Abner’s opposition to David, coupled with Ishbosheth’s weak character, plunged the nation into a civil war that lasted over seven years (2:10-11).

Civil War (2:12-32; 3:1)

There were constant skirmishes between the men of Judah who served David as king, and those who served Ishbosheth, the son of Saul. Two strong generals incensed the conflict on both sides (2:12-17). Joab, David’s nephew by his sister Zeruiah (1 Chronicles 2:16), and Abner, the captain of Ishbosheth’s army, had become bitter enemies.

Coming upon a pool of water at Gibeon (2:12-13), Joab and Abner determined to set their soldiers in battle against one another (2:14-16). Abner was defeated, and fled the battle (2:17), with Joab, and his brothers, Abishai, and Asahel pursuing (2:18). Asahel, described as “light of foot as a wild roe” (2:18) pursued hard upon Abner intending to kill him (2:19-21).

Abner, desiring to spare Asahel for the respect he held for Joab, attempted to dissuade him, but “he refused to turn aside” (2:22-23). Abner then stabbed Ashael with the blunt end of his spear, and he died (2:23).

With Ashael dead, and Joab in pursuit, Abner fled to the “children of Benjamin,” who rallied to his side to face Joab (2:25). Abner persuaded Joab to turn back, lest he too die (2:26). Joab sounded the trumpet, and his men retired from the battle (2:27).

Joab and David’s men returned to their encampment victorious, having lost only nineteen men (2:30), while three hundred and sixty men of Benjamin had died (2:31). The victory, however, was a bitter one for Joab, who “took up [the body of his brother] Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, which was in Bethlehem” (2:32a). As we will soon see, a vengeful spirit took hold of Joab, and would overshadow his relationship with David in the years ahead.

Closing observations: Though he would wait years to reign over a united Israel, the LORD, and time was on David’s side. He wisely sought the LORD for wisdom, and direction (2:1).

You and I would be wise to do the same…pray, and wait on the LORD.

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith