So last week we talked about how Saul’s reign over Israel came to an end. If you’ll remember Saul hit a really low point. The Philistines were coming after him, he couldn’t reach God and in a desperate act he turned to a medium—which was strictly forbidden by God. He basically dialed a beyond the grave phone call to Samuel to see what was going to happen—because he felt like God wasn’t answering him. Samuel then told him the truth—that Saul was doomed. And lo and behold, in the battle against the Philistines, the Philistines killed Saul’s sons—including Jonathan—and basically defeated the Israelite army. So Saul takes his own life rather than let himself get captured by the Philistines.
David meanwhile wasn’t in this battle, because if you’ll remember during this time he was actually living with the Philistines. But the Philistines didn’t trust him to fight beside them. So when the Philistines went to war, David and his men went back to the Philistine town where they had been living. David comes back to discover his town has been ransacked, so while the Israelites and Philistines are battling, David mounted a successful rescue of the people in his village who had been kidnapped. And that’s where we pick up.
Can someone please read 2 Samuel 1:1-4.
1 After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag. 2 On the third day, a man came from Saul’s camp, with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. When he came to David, he fell to the ground and did obeisance. 3 David said to him, “Where have you come from?” He said to him, “I have escaped from the camp of Israel.” 4 David said to him, “How did things go? Tell me!” He answered, “The army fled from the battle, but also many of the army fell and died; and Saul and his son Jonathan also died.”
Saul is dead and David is still hanging out in Ziklag, the Philistine town where he and his men live. Then basically a man shows up—really dirty and basically desperate looking. David asks him from where he has come, and it turns out the man has just come from the Israelite camp. Remember David wasn’t at this battle, so he has no idea what has happened—who has won or who has lived. So he demands the man give him the news. Which he does. Israel has been defeated. Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.
Remember the news of Jonathan being dead is a double whammy. Because Jonathan was Saul’s oldest son and therefore his heir, but Jonathan was also David’s best friend. This is not something David would be happy to hear.
At first David doesn’t believe it, and basically interrogates the man as to how he could possibly know these things. But then the man tells the story of how Saul died and provides proof—he has the crown of Saul, something Saul would never let go, especially not to a random dude. So finally David believes him and he is filled with grief. And the rest of this chapter is basically David expressing that grief. David is sad not only because his friend Jonathan is dead, but also for Saul. Because remember at one point David did work for Saul and thought very highly of him. And yes this all might mean David is king now, but it seems to come at a very terrible price. Not only are Jonathan and Saul dead, but Israel has basically been defeated by the Philistines. This is not good news.
Can someone read 2 Samuel 2:1-7?
2 After this David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?” The Lord said to him, “Go up.” David said, “To which shall I go up?” He said, “To Hebron.” 2 So David went up there, along with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 David brought up the men who were with him, every one with his household; and they settled in the towns of Hebron. 4 Then the people of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.
When they told David, “It was the people of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul,” 5 David sent messengers to the people of Jabesh-gilead, and said to them, “May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord, and buried him! 6 Now may the Lord show steadfast love and faithfulness to you! And I too will reward you because you have done this thing. 7 Therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant; for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”
So David prays to God asking what he should do. Right now he’s still in Ziklag, but he wants to know if he should go back to Israel—specifically the cities of Judah. If you’ll remember, Judah is the tribe that David belongs to. So Judah would be the tribe most likely to welcome him back. And yes God tells him he should go back, specifically to the town of Hebron. So David packs up all his men and their families and they travel to Judah.
When they get there the people anoint him as king over the house of Judah.
Judah which is only one tribe of Israel. That means right now David is just the king of one tribe and not all of Israel.
The people also give David news about where Saul is buried. And David basically thanks them and says God will reward them for their hard work and loyalty.
But why is David only the king of Judah and not all of Israel? Well remember they don’t have fast communication back then so people in other parts of Israel wouldn’t know David is back. But also Saul and Jonathan may be dead, but Saul had more than one son.
Someone please read 2 Samuel 2:8-11.
8 But Abner son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ishbaal[a]son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim. 9 He made him king over Gilead, the Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and over all Israel. 10 Ishbaal,[b] Saul’s son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David. 11 The time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.
So Abner, the commander of Saul’s army finds Ishbaal, who I believe is Saul’s fourth son—as Jonathan and his next two oldest sons all died in the battle with the Philistine. And Abner basically sets Ishbaal in place as king over Israel—which it says he reigns as for two years while the house of Judah follows David.
Right here we have a split Israel. We have Judah vs. the rest of Israel proper. Judah is led by David, while the rest of Israel is led by a son of Saul. This is the first time we have a split kingdom of Israel, with two kings, but it will not be the last.
Now it also says in this section that David is king over Judah for seven years but Ishbaal was only king for two years. The implication here is that David came back to Judah right after Saul’s death and established his kingdom there, while the rest of Israel was still in disarray from the Philistine’s defeat. So for several years it seems the Philistines were in charge and not allowed an Israelite king, and then after five years or so, the Israelites finally managed a king. Now it’s also possible because so many years passed they would know David is king over Judah, but these people wanted a son of Saul—wanted a continuation of their original dynasty that would remind them of Israel’s peaceful days under the young Saul.
But we know God intends David to be king over all Israel so this split kingdom cannot last. Let’s see what happens. Someone please read 2 Samuel 3:1-6.
3 There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker.
2 Sons were born to David at Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, of Ahinoam of Jezreel; 3 his second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom son of Maacah, daughter of King Talmai of Geshur; 4 the fourth, Adonijah son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah son of Abital; 5 and the sixth, Ithream, of David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.
6 While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul.
The whole purpose of this little section is to show how David is growing strong and set up a contrast for what is happening with the house of Saul—that is Ishbaal. So while in Judah David is doing well. He’s having multiple sons and who knows how many daughters. That’s not just to show how many kids David has, but back then would be a sign of David’s awesomeness, that God is blessing him with so many strong male heirs. The house of Saul doesn’t seem to be getting along so well.
Ishbaal, Saul’s son, was made king basically only because he had Abner’s loyalty—Abner being Saul’s old buddy and commander. Without Abner’s support Ishbaal would not have been able to get the throne. And it is Abner—now Ishbaal—who is making the house of Saul strong, even though it is Ishbaal who is technically king.
Now we have no support for the idea that Abner was doing this for his own glory. I think Abner was honestly a good friend and loyal follower of Saul, and he was just doing what he thought was best for his old friend. But it seems Ishbaal did not feel so kindly towards Abner and maybe felt as if Abner was a threat to him. Because as soon as he gets a chance, Ishbaal accuses Abner of basically sleeping with one of Saul’s wives. And this makes Abner furious. Because sleeping with one of his dead friend’s wives is just wrong and he didn’t do it. He feels like he’s being betrayed by the very man he helped set up as king. And he’s not entirely wrong. And this is probably the most critical error of Ishbaal’s kingship. Because Abner was the only person keeping him on the throne. And Ishbaal just made him very angry.
Angry enough to start talking to David.
Someone please read 2 Samuel 3:12-16.
12 Abner sent messengers to David at Hebron, saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and I will give you my support to bring all Israel over to you.” 13 He said, “Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you: you shall never appear in my presence unless you bring Saul’s daughter Michal when you come to see me.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Saul’s son Ishbaal, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, to whom I became engaged at the price of one hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” 15 Ishbaal sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. 16 But her husband went with her, weeping as he walked behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.
Abner sends messages to David and is basically like “I’m read to throw my support in with you, and make you king over all of Israel.” And David is like “Awesome, but…there is one small thing I require. Remember back in the day how Saul gave his daughter Michael to me as a wife? And then when Saul got angry at me he just gave her to someone else? Well I want her back, and you will never step foot in my presence without her.”
And Abner is like “Cool I’ve got that.” But basically has David send a message saying that he wants Michael back to Ishbaal. For whatever reason Ishbaal agrees to give Michael to David—possibly because Abner tells him to as part of his deal with David and possibly because Ishbaal is trying to buy peace between the two kingdoms.
But remember Saul gave Michal to another man, and her new husband is a bit upset about all of this and tries to follow her. But Abner tells him to go back home and Abner is powerful enough and intimidating enough that the man listens.
Someone please read 2 Samuel 3:17-21.
17 Abner sent word to the elders of Israel, saying, “For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you. 18 Now then bring it about; for the Lord has promised David: Through my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from all their enemies.” 19 Abner also spoke directly to the Benjaminites; then Abner went to tell David at Hebron all that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin were ready to do.
20 When Abner came with twenty men to David at Hebron, David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. 21 Abner said to David, “Let me go and rally all Israel to my lord the king, in order that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David dismissed Abner, and he went away in peace.
Abner, having provided Michal back to David as they previously agreed upon, then goes in full on pro-David campaign mode. He sends letters to all the elders of Israel basically telling them that he has put his support behind David, that David not Ishbaal is the king God has promised them. He also goes directly to the Benjamites to talk to them. Why would he talk to them personally and not the other clans? Well remember Benjamin was Saul’s tribe. So if any clan was going to hold out against David in support of Ishbaal, it would be the tribe that Isbhaal belongs to. But Abner is so persuasive that basically all of Israel plus Benjamin is ready to say David is their king and forsake Ishbaal.
So Abner goes to David and David throws him a party. And Abner is like “My work isn’t yet done. I’m going to keep rallying people for you, is that cool?” And David is like “Definitely!” So Abner leaves the feast to continue bringing people over to David’s side.
Abner has basically 100% defected at this point and is taking all of Israel with him.
But not everyone—even on David’s side—is happy to see this former enemy come into the fold. Someone please read 2 Samuel 3:22-25.
22 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 David[a] had dismissed him, and he had gone away in peace. 23 When Joab and all the army that was with him came, it was told Joab, “Abner son of Ner came to the king, and he has dismissed him, and he has gone away in peace.” 24 Then Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Abner came to you; why did you dismiss him, so that he got away? 25 You know that Abner son of Ner came to deceive you, and to learn your comings and goings and to learn all that you are doing.”
Just after Abner leaves a follower of David named Joab shows up, having returned from a battle. And when he hears that David allowed Abner to come to Hebron in peace and then didn’t kill him but instead let him also go in peace, he is furious. Abner is their enemy! Or at least was until very recently. Abner was literally Saul’s right hand man, who has been leading troops against David for years. And Joab just can’t let go of that. He thinks Abner has come to deceive David, that he couldn’t possibly have actually turned his back on the house of Saul, and that it will be David’s downfall to trust Abner.
Now we know that is not the case, because we know Abner is not happy with Ishbaal and has defected. But Joab would only have the second hand word of David that Abner has defected, and if he thinks David has been bamboozled, it makes sense he might try to take matters into his own hands.
Someone please read 2 Samuel 3:26-30.
26 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. 27 When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside in the gateway to speak with him privately, and there he stabbed him in the stomach. So he died for shedding the blood of Asahel, Joab’s brother. 28 Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever guiltless before the Lord for the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May the guilt fall on the head of Joab, and on all his father’s house; and may the house of Joab never be without one who has a discharge, or who is leprous, or who holds a spindle, or who falls by the sword, or who lacks food!” 30 So Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.
So Joab leaves David with a plan. He sends messengers after Abner, and maybe the message seems peaceful like he just wants to meet up to talk. We don’t know. All we know is that David didn’t know about it and for whatever reason Abner agrees to meet with Joab. Joab greets Abner as soon as he appears and then is like “come over here where we can talk privately.” And then instead of talking he just stabs him in the stomach, which is a slow and awful way to die but pretty much a death sentence back then.
We also learn here that part of the reason why Joab is so mad is he holds Abner responsible for the death of his brother. So Joab is not just doing what he thinks is necessary to protect the king. This is an act of revenge.
David is furious when he hears of this, and he basically is so mad at Joab that he basically wishes Joab and his entire family would die horrible deaths for the actions of Joab.
David then leads his people in morning for Abner, and they bury him in the city of Hebron. And David is so desolate over Abner’s death that he doesn’t eat. He also tells everyone that a great champion of Israel has died—showing he thinks of Abner as a hero for all of his service to Israel and not as an enemy for following Saul’s orders. All of this convinces the people that Joab didn’t kill Abner on some secret order of David’s, but also words to show people that David is not going to hold against them if they were loyal to Saul. In the new kingdom there will be a place for everyone, and service to Israel will be credited as service to Israel no matter which king it was for.
Meanwhile David is still not king over all Israel yet, because Ishbaal still exists. Why doesn’t David just kill him? Anyone remember? [Let them answer.]
Right David had promised both Jonathan and Saul that he wouldn’t kill any of Saul’s descendants. And David is not going to back down on his word, because he made a covenant with them, that lasts as long as David lives.
So let’s see what happens. Someone please read 2 Samuel 4:5-8.
5 Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ishbaal, while he was taking his noonday rest. 6 They came inside the house as though to take wheat, and they struck him in the stomach; then Rechab and his brother Baanah escaped. 7 Now they had come into the house while he was lying on his couch in his bedchamber; they attacked him, killed him, and beheaded him. Then they took his head and traveled by way of the Arabah all night long. 8 They brought the head of Ishbaal to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbaal, son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; the Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.”
So two random dudes Rechab and Baanah—brothers—basically kill Isbhaal. They find him while he’s resting from the heat—taking a nice mid-afternoon nap—and kill him. They also take off his head. Then they escape with his head and take to David like “Haha! Look what we’ve done! We have killed your enemy! Aren’t you so happy with us and going to reward us?”
Do you guys think David is going to be happy with them?
Someone read 2 Samuel 4:9-12.
9 David answered Rechab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, 10 when the one who told me, ‘See, Saul is dead,’ thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag—this was the reward I gave him for his news. 11 How much more then, when wicked men have killed a righteous man on his bed in his own house! And now shall I not require his blood at your hand, and destroy you from the earth?” 12 So David commanded the young men, and they killed them; they cut off their hands and feet, and hung their bodies beside the pool at Hebron. But the head of Ishbaal they took and buried in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.
As we predicted, David is angry. He tells them that when the man came to tell him that Saul was dead he also thought he would get rewarded. And instead David killed him. Do they really think David is going to be happy that they killed a man while he was sleeping? So David has the two men put to death and basically hangs them as if they are traitors—because in a way they are. They killed the king of Israel.
You’ll notice if you study history that once people get it in their heads its okay to kill a king, they start thinking they can depose any king, which is definitely not what David wants. But also David didn’t want Saul’s family killed. He had nothing against Ishbaal. And I’m sure David thought he could work something out with Ishbaal eventually. But instead these two guys killed him.
David buries the head of Ishbaal in the same tom bas Abner.
So now the king of Israel is dead and David is the only king remaining.
Someone please read 2 Samuel 5: 1-5.
5 Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said, “Look, we are your bone and flesh. 2 For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The Lord said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.” 3 So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. 4 David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. 5 At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.
Without any other king the people come to David—all the tribes—and are like “you will be our king.” And they do. David is made king over all of Israel. And instead of remaining in Hebron—where it might seem like he is favoring Judah—he sets up his capital in Jerusalem.
And thus after everything, David is finally king of all of Israel, just as God had declared all those years ago when he was just a youngest son who wasn’t even important enough for his father to bring him to meet the prophet Samuel. It’s been a long road, and he’s now king.
But this is not the end of David’s story. It doesn’t end right here with a happily ever after. Things are never going to go smoothly for David, and the drama is not going to end. Because for all that David is a man often called a man after God’s own heart, he is still a man. He is imperfect. And his reign will also be imperfect. So the story of David is, as they say, to be continued.