Politics is Deadly

Posted: December 11, 2009 in 2 Samuel

2 Samuel 3-4, “Politics Is Deadly”

It seems like every political season that comes around, people lament how nasty political campaigns have become. There’s mudslinging & negative campaigning – rumors – misrepresentation…just a whole ugly mess. As bad as it is, it’s nothing compared to what ancient cultures were like! In Israel (and elsewhere), if you backed the wrong politician, you wouldn’t merely end up with a king you didn’t like…you could end up dead! And that’s no different in the transition in Israel from Saul to David. Politics can be a bloody business, and what we’ll see in tonight’s Scripture is definitely that.

2 Samuel 3 (NKJV)
1 Now 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.

A. How long was the war? At least 2 years. All this time, David was growing stronger…how so? By the hand of the Lord! Remember it wasn’t David who was exalting himself in the land; he was waiting upon the Lord to act. And the Lord did exactly according to His word…this was His providence at work.

B. The Lord will always do exactly according to His word! He had promised that David would be king, and God was raising up David to be king according to His word.

2 Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; 3 his second, Chileab, by Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; the third, Absalom the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; 4 the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; 5 and the sixth, Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.

A. We won’t hear too much about many of these sons with the exception of Amnon, Absalom, & Adonijah. File their names away for later chapters…

B. David had a bunch of wives by this point, and more to come. Was polygamy becoming of a man who is supposedly after God’s own heart? No. David did a lot of things right; this wasn’t one of them… … His proclivity to many wives is ultimately going to get him into a lot of trouble. Family members are going to die – David is going to fall into sin – the kingdom will come within a hair’s breadth of being taken away from him by one of his own sons… …

6 Now it was so, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner was strengthening his hold on the house of Saul.

A. David was obviously king over Judah; who was in command of Israel? Abner; not Ishbosheth… Puppet government…

7 And Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. So Ishbosheth said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?” 8 Then Abner became very angry at the words of Ishbosheth, and said, “Am I a dog’s head that belongs to Judah? Today I show loyalty to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers, and to his friends, and have not delivered you into the hand of David; and you charge me today with a fault concerning this woman? 9 May God do so to Abner, and more also, if I do not do for David as the LORD has sworn to him— 10 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.” 11 And he could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him.

A. Accusation & insult… … Interesting that the Scripture never states whether or not the accusation was false. It was a common practice in the culture for a successor to a king to take on the previous king’s harem – so if Abner had gone in to Rizpah, it would have been a blatant show of Abner being the real power in Israel as opposed to Ishbosheth. Abner doesn’t really answer the accusation except to say, “Who do you think you are to question ME?” I.e., Abner isn’t going to be questioned by some kid that’s only on the throne because Abner himself put him there.
__a. Ishbosheth learned an important lesson in politics: don’t bite the hand that feeds you… … This is one reason we are supposed to fear God more than man! We obviously are to show respect & love to one another, but ultimately if we need to follow the Lord Jesus above any other ties we may have… Politicians ought to beware that they’re following the Lord Jesus & not special interest groups! …

B. Abner’s response is very interesting! Obviously he was now going to serve David rather than hold up Ishbosheth’s government, but notice the ultimate reasoning in verse 9: “May God do so to Abner, and more also, if I do not do for David as the LORD has sworn to him.” Abner knew EXACTLY what the Lord’s will was regarding the kingdom…and he had deliberately disobeyed it for years while war ensued in the land… …

12 Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to David, saying, “Whose is the land?” saying also, “Make your covenant with me, and indeed my hand shall be with you to bring all Israel to you.” 13 And David said, “Good, I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you: you shall not see my face unless you first bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see my face.”

A. Abner reiterates that he’s the power behind the throne in Israel – basically walks up to David & offers it all to him…

B. David’s requirement? Restore his wife, Michal. Why? Doesn’t David have enough wives? Yes…but there are several reasons here:
__a. Michal was David’s 1st wife…
__b. Michal was the daughter of Saul; David was rightfully the son-in-law to the former king. Having Michal in his family would only solidify David’s claim to the throne in they eyes of many in Israel.
__c. To demand Michal’s restoration to David would prove to be a significant test of loyalty for Abner. David had much reason to be carefully suspicious of Abner (they had been at war with each other for years). For Abner to go to King Ishbosheth & demand that the king’s sister be sent to the rival king in the south would be a dramatic move with no room for ambivalence…
__d. David is proving to be a wise king!

14 So David sent messengers to Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” 15 And Ishbosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish. 16 Then her husband went along with her to Bahurim, weeping behind her. So Abner said to him, “Go, return!” And he returned.

A. The whole situation here is sad… 1st, Michal is ripped away (by her father) from her 1st husband David & forced to marry another (1 Sam 25:44). 2nd, Paltiel obviously had developed a true love for Michal & now she’s being ripped away from him. It’s a restoration – but 2 wrongs don’t make a right.

B. Divorce is always a terrible thing. Even when there is Biblical justification for the divorce to take place, it’s always something that grieves the heart of God because the intent of marriage is to be a picture of the love Christ has for the Church – and that lasts an eternity! God clearly hates divorce (Mal 2:16); so should we. Even when it may seem unavoidable, our hearts should never rejoice over that which the Lord hates. …

17 Now Abner had communicated with the elders of Israel, saying, “In time past you were seeking for David to be king over you. 18 Now then, do it! For the LORD has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David, I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and the hand of all their enemies.’ ”

A. Note that not only did Abner already understand the will of God concerning David’s right to rule Israel; the people did as well…

B. The problem wasn’t in knowing what God wanted; it was in actually DOING what God wanted them to do! “Now then, do it!” … Sometimes we need that push to actually get out there & do what we know God has already told us to do. There are many people that need to stop ignoring the gospel of Jesus Christ that they’ve heard for years & actually repent from their sins & personally receive Christ as their Lord & Savior… There are others who know they ought to be sharing the gospel; they just need to do it! Or others who know that they’ve put off baptism – or put off forgiving family members – or put off whatever else they know that God has already clearly commanded us to do from Scripture. Just DO it!
__a. What happens when we do it? For instance – if we step out in faith & actually share the gospel with our neighbors, should we expect that 100’s will come knocking on our door to receive Christ? Probably not (but maybe!) – maybe no visible earth-shattering events take place. If not, what’s the benefit? Even if nothing else happens, we can guarantee one thing from the Scripture: you’ll have a closer walk with your Lord. John 14:21 He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.” [] People often wonder, “Why don’t I have the close relationship with Christ that I’ve always wanted?” Maybe it’s because we’re ignoring the very things He’s told us to do! How would you expect your relationship with your spouse to be if you gave a bunch of requests every day but ignored every request your spouse asked of you? How much MORE ought we to pay attention to what our Lord Jesus asks of us! That’s not legalism; that’s love!

C. Wonderful promise here from God regarding David – we don’t know when God told this to Abner (or whomever), but apparently God had made it perfectly clear that David was God’s chosen deliverer for Israel. Not only would it be fulfilled at the time, it would also have a future fulfillment through his sons (Solomon)…AND, it also has an even further future fulfillment in Christ Jesus! The Lord Jesus will deliver us from the last enemy (death – 1 Cor 15:26), and the Lord Jesus will come back to reign over Israel in righteousness for 1000 years in which He personally will save them from their enemies (Rev 20:3).

19 And Abner also spoke in the hearing of Benjamin. Then Abner also went to speak in the hearing of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel and the whole house of Benjamin. 20 So Abner and twenty men with him came to David at Hebron. And David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. 21 Then Abner said to David, “I will arise and go, and gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.

A. They seal the deal…

22 At that moment the servants of David and Joab came from a raid and brought much spoil with them. But Abner was not with David in Hebron, for he had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the troops that were with him had come, they told Joab, saying, “Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he sent him away, and he has gone in peace.” 24 Then Joab came to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you; why is it that you sent him away, and he has already gone? 25 Surely you realize that Abner the son of Ner came to deceive you, to know your going out and your coming in, and to know all that you are doing.”

A. Remember that Joab had bad blood with Abner…Abner had killed Joab’s brother Asahel in battle (2 Sam 2:23). Abner hadn’t intended to do it, but Asahel had left him with no other choice… Regardless of why it happened, Joab wanted revenge!

B. Was Joab intentionally trying to deceive David? Probably not – but due to Joab’s bitterness & lust for revenge, he was likely blinded to what was really going on with Abner. He couldn’t see the good things God was doing through him…

26 And when Joab had gone from David’s presence, he sent messengers after Abner, who brought him back from the well of Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner had returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gate to speak with him privately, and there stabbed him in the stomach, so that he died for the blood of Asahel his brother.

A. Cold blooded murder… Some scholars point out that Hebron was supposed to be a city of refuge – a place where people could go if accused of murder & find sanctuary away from family members seeking blood. If that’s the case, then Joab was especially sneaky here in getting Abner to meet him at the gate. He would have just gotten Abner inches “outside” of the city & stabbed him in the belly.

B. Vengeance is not ours; it belongs to the Lord! It never falls to us as individuals to take the law into our own hands & attempt to execute judgment after the fact…that’s always sin on our part.
__a. What should Joab have done? He should have brought the matter to his king, David. David knew of the background with Asahel, and Joab probably would have found a receptive audience with David concerning justice, if Joab had merely asked. The government has the God-given responsibility to bear the sword against evil (Rom 13:3-4) – this is God’s provision with how to temporarily deal with justice on earth. In eternity, the picture is going to be very different! Sin & injustice is eternally dealt with either at the Cross or in Hell…

28 Afterward, when David heard it, he said, “My kingdom and I are guiltless before the LORD forever of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29 Let it rest on the head of Joab and on all his father’s house; and let there never fail to be in the house of Joab one who has a discharge or is a leper, who leans on a staff or falls by the sword, or who lacks bread.” 30 So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had killed their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle.

A. David understands the political ramifications here. The people of Israel were going to support David’s kingdom because Abner had told them to do so; if they thought David had betrayed Abner, they wouldn’t dare follow him as king… Thus he proclaimed his innocence & Joab’s guilt…

B. David actually curses Joab & his family… Did the curse carry any actual power? Not really. It just served to underscore how opposed David was to the murder.

31 Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Tear your clothes, gird yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn for Abner.” And King David followed the coffin. 32 So they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. 33 And the king sang a lament over Abner and said: “Should Abner die as a fool dies? 34 Your hands were not bound Nor your feet put into fetters; As a man falls before wicked men, so you fell.” Then all the people wept over him again. 35 And when all the people came to persuade David to eat food while it was still day, David took an oath, saying, “God do so to me, and more also, if I taste bread or anything else till the sun goes down!”

A. David gives Abner a state burial & public mourning…

B. Laments the lack of justice done to him – Abner had a reason to have his hands bound, etc., but instead of having a righteous judgment carried out on him, he died no different than a guy in a drunken brawl who got stabbed in a fight…

36 Now all the people took note of it, and it pleased them, since whatever the king did pleased all the people. 37 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.

A. So was David’s public mourning effective? Yes…he was already a shrewd politician.

B. Question: was the king supposed to do whatever pleased all the people? Not necessarily…there were times it would have been appropriate & times it would not be appropriate. The proper way to lead is not to stick one’s finger in the air to see which way the polls are blowing, but rather to seek the wisdom of God & follow Christ. This just happened to be one of the times when the people agreed with what the wise thing to do was.

38 Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39 And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me. The LORD shall repay the evildoer according to his wickedness.”

A. Emphasizes the problem to his servants – Joab had caused problems for David to properly rule the people. One man’s selfishness caused a load of problems for someone else…

B. Unlike Joab, David is going to let the Lord resolve the issue. Abner had certainly sinned, but now so had Joab…and God would show forth His justice in His own time. Joab will continue to serve David throughout his reign, but will be executed after he interferes with Solomon being made king. Interestingly enough, his execution isn’t necessarily based on his crime against Solomon, but the murder of Abner (and one other man to follow) is specifically mentioned (1 Kings 2:32).
__a. We may not know when God will show forth His justice, but we do know that God will show forth His justice! It may be days or years…it may even be at the judgment seat – but every single injustice WILL be answered by our righteous God!

2 Samuel 4 (NKJV)
1 When Saul’s son heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost heart, and all Israel was troubled. 2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were captains of troops. The name of one was Baanah and the name of the other Rechab, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, of the children of Benjamin. (For Beeroth also was part of Benjamin, 3 because the Beerothites fled to Gittaim and have been sojourners there until this day.) 4 Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son who was lame in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel; and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened, as she made haste to flee, that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth.

A. Panic ensued in Ishbosheth’s house – understandably so! We might get the idea that it was then that the child Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son) was injured; apparently it actually took place when Jonathan & Saul died. The reason why Mephibosheth is mentioned is simply to show that the only other member of Saul’s house who could have possibly have claimed the throne was unable to do so. … File Mephibosheth away for later – we’re going to see him used in a wonderful example of the grace of God that’s bestowed on us through faith alone in Jesus Christ. …

5 Then the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out and came at about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, who was lying on his bed at noon. 6 And they came there, all the way into the house, as though to get wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped. 7 For when they came into the house, he was lying on his bed in his bedroom; then they struck him and killed him, beheaded him and took his head, and were all night escaping through the plain. 8 And they brought the head of Ishbosheth to David at Hebron, and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of Saul your enemy, who sought your life; and the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day of Saul and his descendants.”

A. How bad was the panic over Abner? So bad that Ishbosheth’s own army commanders (from Saul’s own country!) assassinated their king & took his head to David in order to prove their new-found loyalty…
__a. Things are going from bad to worse in regards to bloodshed…

B. Question: had the Lord truly avenged David of Saul through the murders? Not likely! God obviously allowed the murders to take place, but God NEVER condones sin, and without question these murders were sin! God could easily have dealt with Ishbosheth & Abner through their own mistakes as they would have eventually fallen due to their lack of Godly character… God definitely didn’t need any ‘help’ from assassins attempting to curry favor with King David. God often uses the sins of others to accomplish His perfect will (i.e. the betrayal & crucifixion of Christ Jesus), but God never causes anyone to sin, nor does He condone anyone’s sin.
__a. Did Ishbosheth deserve his end? Probably. But there is a right way & a wrong way to go about the issue of justice. Rimmon, Rechab, & Baanah did things the WRONG way (in their flesh)… God cares not only about what we do, but also how we go about doing it. God does not murder because God gives life. God does not lie because Jesus is the truth. Our actions AND our motives matter to God because we have been called & bought by God: 1 Peter 1:15-16 (15) but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, (16) because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” []

9 But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all adversity, 10 when someone told me, saying, ‘Look, Saul is dead,’ thinking to have brought good news, I arrested him and had him executed in Ziklag—the one who thought I would give him a reward for his news. 11 How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous person in his own house on his bed? Therefore, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and remove you from the earth?”

A. As with the Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul, these assassins find out the hard way that David isn’t at all pleased with murder…

B. Was Ishbosheth “righteous”? Hardly – he usurped the throne to Israel away from its rightful king (David), and allowed unnecessary war to go on for years. How many people died because of his sinful selfish egotistical desire to be king? Besides – there is none righteous, no not one outside of Christ Jesus (Rom 3:10). No – David could call Ishbosheth “righteous” only in the fact that he wasn’t doing any harm to anyone when he was murdered. He was just taking a nap & some cowards came & killed him. Thus David is going to execute judgment on the murderers.

12 So David commanded his young men, and they executed them, cut off their hands and feet, and hanged them by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner in Hebron.

A. Yikes! Not only did David have them executed, he had them humiliated. The assassins may have cut off Ishbosheth’s head, but David cut off their hands & feet… Gave Ishbosheth a proper burial…

So both Abner & Ishbosheth are dead, the people of Israel support David, and the stage is set for David to be crowned king. If that were all to the story, we could rejoice – but yet it seems that David is going to take the crown with a heavy heart because of how everything took place. Politics were indeed very bloody in Israel – just like it is in much of the world.

That may be the way things ARE, but is that what God intends for us? No. God is sovereign & not a single event that took place in Israel surprised Him in the slightest – but it’s obvious that certain people in both Judah & Israel sinned greatly here. They sought vengeance when God desired mercy. But the wonderful thing is that God can take what is meant for evil & turn it around for good! Abner meant a power-play…Joab intended revenge…Rechab tried to manipulate his way into power…each of them experienced consequences for their sin. But what did God do? God turned each of these situations around & used them for His glory by exalting David in the eyes of the people & furthering the promise of the coming Messiah!

That doesn’t excuse anyone’s actions – they had a responsibility to do things in a way that glorified God. But it does give us a reason to praise God for Jesus Christ! When we fall woefully short – even in our walk as believers – our God is still in control. Jesus still offers His forgiveness, and nothing is outside of His ability to turn around for His glory.


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