David asks the Lord where to go and is sent to Hebron in Judah. He is anointed as king over Judah. He deals graciously with those from the tribe of Benjamin who treated Saul with respect. David promises favor and asks the Lord’s blessing on them as well to repay them for their kindness to Saul and his house. He acts wisely in doing this.
At the same time, the commander of Saul’s army, Abner, has anointed one of Saul’s sons as king over the rest of Israel.
The commander of David’s army is Joab. He’s got two brothers that are top warriors for David.
Joab and Abner face off.
What enticed them to go down and face each other? We’re not told, except that there is this disconnect. They are following two different kings. Instead of seeking a truce and peace agreement, the two commanders try to show off or something.
They have this foolish idea that their soldiers should compete with each other. It makes it sound like it’s to be some kind of sport, just for fun, but really there’s an underlying desire to show themselves to be approved.
David’s men have been on the run from Saul and his men for years. They didn’t all share in David’s heart toward them. There was antagonism.
The men take the opportunity to kill each other. Twenty-four “compete” and they all die. That uncorked whatever had been bottled up. A battle begins.
Abner, of Saul’s army, kills Joab’s brother. Then he wisely asks Joab to call off the battle so the Israeli brothers would stop killing each other. Joab listens to the wisdom and withdraws.
David lost 20 men. Abner and Saul’s army lost 360.
What can we learn from this story about acting wisely versus foolishly? It’s wise to repay kindness with kindness and blessing. It’s foolish to blame people for someone else’s evil.
Saul’s army had done righteously in obeying their king. They technically had done nothing wrong.
David’s men were the ones in rebellion; though, they too were following their leader who they knew as the new anointed king.
We’re to forgive anyone anything. We’re not to look around for someone to blame when things are bad. We can look at our own heart and ask the Lord to conform it to His heart of love.