Bible: What Does 2 Samuel 1-3 Teach Us About Politics in David's Kingdom?
"The Song of the Bow"
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The Lone Amalekite
THE BOOK OF II SAMUEL
Three days after his victory over Amalek, David encounters a lone Amalekite who had escaped from Israel's camp and was returning from the Battle of Mt. Gilboa in apparent mourning (see v. 8 and cf. 1 Sam. 30:13; vv. 1-3).
When he tells the king that Saul and Jonathan have died, David asks him to verify this report (vv. 4-5).
The warrior gives his account of Saul’s death—a story accurate, but only up to a point (vv. 6-10); this is where he made his fatal mistake.
Thinking that David would reward him for killing his rival and bringing Saul's crown and bracelet to him, the soldier claims credit for the deed (v. 10).
Satisfied with this eyewitness report of Israel's defeat and Saul's demise, David and his men rend their clothes, mourn, weep, and fast (vv. 11-12).
When night falls, however, the king summons the Amalekite (who probably thought David would now recompense him), and rebukes him for destroying the LORD's anointed (vv. 13-14).
Then on the king's order, a young Israelite warrior executes the one-time survivor whose greedy opportunism suddenly turned upon his own head (vv. 15-16).
In "The Song of the Bow"—a lamentation inscribed also in the Book of Jasher—David eulogizes both Saul and Jonathan (vv. 17-27).
To prevent the enemy from boasting, he admonishes the children of Judah not to proclaim the "fall of the mighty" among the Philistines (vv. 19-20).
Because many died on Gilboa, including Saul and Jonathan, the king asks God not to send rain upon that mountain (vv. 21-22).
Examining the song, we see that David spoke, first, about both men together, emphasizing their pleasant personalities, their close relationship, and their strength (v. 23).
Next, he addresses the daughters of Israel whom Saul had enriched, and exhorts them to weep over their fallen king (v. 24).
Finally, the king laments the death of his covenant brother, Jonathan, whose love was very special to him (vv. 25-26; cf. 1 Sam. 18:1, 3).
David repeats the famous refrain ("How the mighty have fallen!") to conclude the song (v. 27).
II Samuel 2
Having completed this tribute both to his rival and to his friend, David seeks God's direction for the next step (v. 1a).
From Ziklag he travels with his wives and men to Hebron, a city of Judah, and they dwell in its towns (vv. 1b-3).
There Judah anoints David their king who, in his first executive decision, announces the LORD’s blessing upon the men of Jabesh Gilead.
He also personally rewards them for giving Saul an honorable burial (vv. 4-6).
Afterwards, David encourages them to remember Saul, but follow him (v. 7).
Meanwhile, Abner crowns Ishbosheth, his forty-year old son, king over the rest of Israel at Mahanaim (vv. 8-10a).
(He reigned for only two years, but David spent seven and one-half years on his throne in Hebron alone) [vv. 10b-11].
Rivalry between the two camps in Israel comes to tragic violence, as their generals—Abner and Joab—meet by a pool at Gibeon (vv. 12-13).
After agreeing to allow their servants to "compete,'' they handpick young men, twelve from Benjamin and twelve from Judah (vv. 14-15).
Somehow, the competition intensifies from what appeared to be a type of wrestling match into a nasty battle in which many die. Abner's servants suffer far more casualties than do Joab's (vv. 16-17).
As the skirmishing continues, the outcome of one particular bout causes a major rift between Joab and Abner.
Fleet-footed Asahel, Joab's youngest brother, doggedly chases Abner "over hill and dale," as it were (vv. 18-19).
When the young man refuses to heed the general's admonition to turn aside, the latter kills him with the blunt end of his spear (vv. 20-23).
Joab and Abishai, Asahel's other brother, therefore take up the pursuit of Abner until they see a great contingent guarding their quarry (vv. 24-25).
Abner and Joab finally decide to call a truce, and each man returns to his own people (vv. 26-29).
Afterwards, the generals learn that the death toll in their camps is very heavy and grievous: Joab lost nineteen men and Asahel (v. 30), while Abner counted three hundred sixty casualties (v. 31).
At the last, the men of Judah bury Joab's young brother in Bethlehem, and return to Hebron, traveling all night (v. 32).
Abner and Michal
2 Samuel 3
Through continual war, David's house gains supremacy over Saul's (v. 1).
The king also fathers more children upon more wives (vv. 2-5)!
[With political alliances, concubines, and a widow—David dare not remain content with one consort!].
Meanwhile, Abner solidifies his position in Saul's house (v. 6).
Taking advantage of this power, he cohabits with Saul's concubine Rizpah, drawing the rebuke of Ishbosheth, Saul’s son (v. 7).
The general, greatly incensed by the "king's" ungratefulness, rationalizes that he had earned this "perk" through his loyal service; he, therefore, threatens to deliver over the entire kingdom to David (vv. 8-10).
Thoroughly cowed, Ishbosheth holds his tongue (v. 11).
Communiqués now pass among Abner, David, and Ishbosheth (vv. 12-16).
The first message contains Abner’s oath to support David if he will have him (v. 12).
The king gladly agrees to covenant with him, but orders the general to bring Michal to him first (v. 13).
To expedite this transaction, David sends word to Ishbosheth regarding his betrothed, Michal (v. 14).
Taken from her "husband" by governmental decree, Michal travels with Abner and her heartbroken spouse to Bahurim; there Abner tells Ishbosheth, in effect, "Forget her" (vv. 15-16).
Now the general moves to gather full support for David from among the elders, citing Samuel's prophecy regarding the king (vv. 17-18).
He also speaks in Benjamin and before David in Hebron (v. 19).
At a feast the king prepares for Abner and his men, the general announces his intention of bringing all Israel under David's sway (vv. 20-21).
Shortly thereafter, Joab returns from a successful raid and hears about David's kindly treatment of Abner (vv. 22-23).
Believing that Abner's motives are deceitful, Joab speaks to the king as if the latter were a naïve fool (vv. 24-25).
Without acquiring David's permission, Joab recalls Abner to a well in Hebron where he and Abishai avenge Asahel's death (vv. 26-27, 30).
When the king learns about this misdeed, he announces first his own innocence in the matter and then delivers a curse upon Joab (vv. 28-29).
David orders the avenger to show outward mourning for his victim (v. 31).
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