Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 1-2

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

2 Samuel 1


The King is Dead (2 Samuel 2:1-10)

An Amalekite soldier brought the news of the outcome of the battle. He came to David with a fabricated claim that he had slain Saul in an act of mercy and spared the king the indignity of falling into the hands of the Philistines (2 Samuel 1:1-10). The truth was, as we read in 1 Samuel 31, Saul had taken his life by falling upon his sword (1 Samuel 31:4). Nevertheless, to support his claim, the Amalekite had in his possession Saul’s crown and a bracelet David recognized as the fallen king’s (2 Samuel 1:10).

David’s Sorrow (2 Samuel 1:11-16)

Although Saul had been David’s enemy for more than a decade, the news of his death and the death of Jonathan moved David to mourn, weep, and fast until that evening (2 Samuel 1:11-12). Rather than rejoice in the demise of his enemy, David mourned and ordered the man who claimed to have slain the king be put to death (2 Samuel 1:11-16).

David’s Elegy: The Song of the Bow (2 Samuel 1:17-27)

As a poet and musician, David turned to poetry and expressed in an elegy his profound sorrow for the loss of Saul and his son Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:17-27). To memorialize the household of Saul, David commanded that the words of his elegy be taught to “the children of Judah” (2 Samuel 1:18). 

The concluding verses of 2 Samuel 1 expressed David’s profound grief for Jonathan, his friend and confidant (2 Samuel 1:25-27).  Some have painted David’s lament for Jonathan as a twisted validation of sodomy, but it was not. We can be sure the man after God’s heart would not have glorified nor set to music that which the Lord forbids.  (After all, sodomy is condemned in the Old and New Testaments (Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Deuteronomy 23:17; Romans 1:26-27).

David’s love for Jonathan was one of mutual affection and trust. Sadly, such a friend is rare indeed!

2 Samuel 2


David’s Inquiry to the LORD (2 Samuel 2:1-4)

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 Samuel 2:1).

With the LORD’s blessing, David, his two wives (2 Samuel 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 Samuel 2:2-4). 

Two Kings and a Divided Nation (2 Samuel 2:5-11)

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

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

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

Those men came upon a pool of water at Gibeon (2 Samuel 2:12-13), and Joab and Abner determined to set their soldiers in battle against one another (2 Samuel 2:14-16). Abner, representing the household of Saul, was defeated and fled the conflict (2 Samuel 2:17). Joab and his brothers, Abishai and Asahel, pursued Abner (2 Samuel 2:18). Asahel, described as being “light of foot as a wild roe” (2 Samuel 2:18), followed hard after Abner and intended to kill him (2 Samuel 2:19-21).

Abner, however, desired to spare Asahel because of his respect for Joab, and he attempted to dissuade him from following. Asahel, however, “refused to turn aside” (2 Samuel 2:22-23). Thus, Abner stabbed Ashael with the blunt end of his spear, and he died (2 Samuel 2:23).

With Ashael dead and Joab pursuing, Abner fled to the territory of the “children of Benjamin,” whom he rallied to his side to face Joab (2 Samuel 2:25). Abner, however, intervened and persuaded Joab to turn back, lest he died (2 Samuel 2:26). Therefore, Joab sounded the trumpet, and in response, his men retired from the battle (2 Samuel 2:27).

Joab and David’s army returned to their encampment victorious, having lost only nineteen men (2 Samuel 2:30). In comparison, three hundred and sixty men of Benjamin had died (2 Samuel 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 sepulcher of his father, which was in Bethlehem” (2 Samuel 2:32a). As we will soon see, a vengeful spirit took hold of Joab, and overshadowed his relationship with David in the years ahead.

Closing observations:

David would wait years to reign over a united Israel; however, the LORD and time were on his side. Wisely, David sought the LORD for wisdom and direction (2 Samuel 2:1).

Lesson – When standing at a life crossroads, we would be wise to follow David’s example–Pray, and wait on the LORD.

Copyright © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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