A Kingdom Divided

II Samuel 2-4

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
July 2021

We began a study of the book of II Samuel.  It is not a doctrinal book.  It is a historical book.  It describes the reign of King David, Israel’s greatest king.  Today, we are going to look at three chapters.  Most Christians do not know these obscure chapters in II Samuel very well.

In, these three chapters, there is a lot of drama.  There’s a lot of politics.  Politics is usually dirty.  It is dirty today and it was dirty three thousand years ago.  Even church politics is sometimes dirty.

In these chapters, there is a lot of fighting, a lot of hand-to-hand combat and a lot of warfare.  There is civil war.  It is violent.  It is bloody.  A lot of people die in these chapters.  Jews kill fellow Jews.

There is murder.  There are three successive murders in this section.  There is one in II Samuel 2 (the murder of a brother, Joab’s brother).  There is one in II Samuel 3 (the murder of a military leader, General Abner) and one in II Samuel 4 (the murder of a political leader, King Ishbosheth).

This is probably not anyone’s favorite chapters in the Bible.  You will never hear them preached from the pulpit.  They are too violent.  They are too gory and gruesome.  People usually do not come to church to hear a good sermon on decapitation and amputation.

Saul’s son gets his head cut off.  Other people get their hands and feet cut off.  Abner stabs a man in the stomach with a sword and it comes out on the other side (II Samuel 2:23).

That’s not very nice.  That is not very positive.  It is not very encouraging.  It is not a feel-good topic.  Why is this in the Bible?  It is in the Bible because it actually happened.  It is true.

The inspired authors don’t try to rewrite history.  People try to do that today.  If they don’t like history, they just rewrite it (1619 Project).  The Bible doesn’t do that.  It tells us what actually happened when David became king.  The Bible is true.

It is also realistic.  The Bible is a real book about real life.  We live in a violent world.  It was violent in Noah’s day.  It was violent in David’s day and is violent today.  Terrible things happen in our world every day.  The Bible relates to the world in which we live.  It can speak to our world.

A Bloody Transition

What happens in these chapters?  Let’s summarize these chapters.  After King Saul died, the nation was divided.  Our nation is very divided today politically, perhaps more divided than it has been in a long time.  Israel after the death of King Saul was divided even more.

David became king in the South.  Ishbothseth became king in the North.  There were two rival kings in the country.  They had two kings and two kingdoms.  One kingdom had eleven tribes (Israel) and the other had only one (Judah).

The two kingdoms went to war.  It is the first civil war in Jewish history.  David does not start it.  Saul’s general Abner starts it.  David only fought when he had to. The first battle of the war was fought at the Pool of Gibeon.  It is right between the north and the south of the country.  It is close to Judah.  Archeologists have found the pool where this battle took place.  It has been discovered.

Abner suggested a group of them start fighting.  Twelve young men from Saul’s side fought twelve men from David’s side and everyone was killed.  The rest of them continued fighting and David’s side was winning.  He lost twenty but one of the twenty was Joab’s brother.  Saul’s side lost three hundred and sixty (II Samuel 2:31).  No one won, so the battle continued.

Saul’s general Abner had two problems.  He was accused of a sexual crime.  He is accused of sleeping with one of Saul’s concubines.  If he did it, it would not be just a sexual act; it would be a political act.

To claim a king’s concubine is to claim the throne.  We do not know if it was true.  Abner denied it but it bothered him that he was accused of this.  His other problem was that his side was losing.

The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. (II Samuel 3:1 NIV)

Abner’s side was losing, so he decided to defect and join David’s side.  His side was losing.  If you can’t fight them, join them. He wanted a position in David’s government. David agreed with the plan on one condition.  He wanted his wife back first.  He had to leave her and go on the run because her dad was trying to kill him.  David has not seen her for about fifteen years.

Michal was David’s first wife.  After David Goliath, she had a big crush on him, like a lot of women at the time.  She married him.  I Samuel 18:20 says that she loved David.

It is the only time in the Bible where we are told that a woman loved a man.  It is the only time in the whole Bible.  He had to go on the run and leave her and now he wanted her back after her dad was dead.

The only problem is that she had already remarried.  David got his wife back, although her second husband was not very happy.  You feel a little sorry for him.  He was in tears. Abner gave David what he wanted but he never made it in David’s government, because his general Joab killed him.  He killed in at Hebron.

He killed him because Abner killed his brother in the previous chapter. Abner is a complete failure.  He tried to fight David. That did not work.  He decided to join him.  That didn’t work either, because Joab killed him.  Abner killed his brother in battle reluctantly.  Joab killed Abner in cold blood.  He pretended to shake his hand and stabbed him to death.

David did not approval of what Joab did.  He wasn’t happy about it, but he did not punish him right away.  Joab was family.  He does not kill him at the time, but when David is on his deathbed and about to die, he does have him executed (I Kings 2:4-6).

David then has a national mourning for Abner.  He has a public mourning for his enemy and fought against him.  He makes Joab walk in the funeral procession.  David had a lamentation for Saul and now he has one for Abner.

Abner was the one who installed Ishbosheth as king.  He was the power behind the throne.  He was the only one keeping him in power.  Once he was gone, two brothers, two men who were captain in Saul’s army (Rekab and Baanah), decide to get rid of Ishbosheth.

They not only assassinate him in his own house; they assassinate him in his own bed.  Then, they cut his head off.  They brought the head of Ishbosheth to David, expecting a reward.

Apparently, they were not very smart.  David just executed the man who claimed to kill Saul and expected a reward.  That was current events.  Now they kill Ishbosheth and expect a reward from David.  Instead, he punishes the two men.  He executes them and then their hands and feet are cut off and they are hung.

Application for Today

What is the application of these chapters for us today?  What is the lesson?  Don’t stab people in the stomach?  Don’t cut off people’s heads. Don’t cut off people’s heads, hands or feet?  Don’t try to kill someone in their bed?  Don’t try to assassinate your leaders?  There are some other things these chapters say.  These chapters are guaranteed to speak to you in some way.

Every US president has a philosophy.  We often call it a doctrine.  There is THE BUSH DOCTRINE.  The Bush Doctrine said that the way to fight the War on Terror is not to go on the defensive but to go on offensive and not wait to be attacked.  It is the doctrine of preemption.

There is THE OBAMA DOCTRINE.  That is the doctrine of political correctness.  He refused to even say the words “radical Islam.”  He refused to even identify the enemy, because that might offend some people.  He would call it “workplace violence.”  It is also the doctrine of appeasement (Iran deal).

There is THE TRUMP DOCTRINE.  The Trump Doctrine was a doctrine of America first and American strength (“Make America great).  He talked tough but never want to war.

The David Doctrine

What if we took the same concept and applied it to David?  What would David’s Doctrine be based on these chapters? David is God’s king.  He is the anointed king.  How does he rule?  There are six things that David does in these chapters that we should today.  The David doctrine from these verses are six things.

1) Respect Your Predecessor

That is the first thing that David did when he came into office.  He actually did it before He came into office.  He respected Saul as King, as God’s King.  When David became king, he did not trash Saul.  That is what we do in our political system.

The new party comes into power and they often trash the previous administration.  David did not do that.  He came into power.  The old king was dead, and he gave a lamentation for him.  We saw that in II Samuel 1.

David’s first act as king was to praise the men of Jabesh Gilead who went and got the body of his enemy Saul and buried him after the Philistines completely desecrated his dead body (II Samuel 2:4-6)

He wrote a lamentation for Saul, and he was not even a good king.  He started out good but turned out bad.  How do you respect authority?  Many do not like authority.  How do you treat your predecessors?  Be careful what you say about them.

2) Expect problems in life

Many preachers act like if you follow Jesus, you will not have any problems.  You will be healthy.  You will be wealthy.  You will be prosperous.  That is a lie.

Jesus said to His disciples, “In this world, you will have trouble” (John 16:33 NIV).  You won’t hear this too much in church, but Jesus said, “In this life, you will have trouble.”

You will have problems: financial problems, marriage problems, car problems, health problems, family problems, problems with your kids.  The Bible does not say that we won’t have problems.  It says that God will be with us in our problems.

David experienced this.  He was anointed to be king.  God promised that he would be king.  He was God’s man and then he was persecuted.  He had to go on the run.  People were trying to kill him every day and then Saul died. God took the evil, psychotic, demon-possessed king out.

You would think after Saul died that David’s problems would be over.  No more sleeping in a cave.  No more going on the run.  No more being a fugitive.  David is no longer a wanted man.  He is no longer marked for death.  He can get his wife back.

You would expect a smooth transition to power.  You would expect the road to kingship to be easy, but it wasn’t.  A civil war ensued, and David did not get full kingship for seven and a half years.

David was anointed but he was opposed by people.  Some actually took up arms against the Lord’s Anointed King.  The same thing happened to Jesus, the Son of David.  It happens to us as well.

3) Seek God’s will for your life

David began to reign as king at the age of thirty.  What was the first thing he did?  He prayed.  He asked for God’s guidance.

In the course of time, David inquired of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked. The Lord said, “Go up.” David asked, “Where shall I go?” “To Hebron,” the Lord answered. (II Samuel 2:1 NIV).

David asked two questions.  Should I go up?  Where should I go?  He asked specific questions and got specific answers.  David did this repeatedly.

17 When the Philistines heard that David had been anointed king over Israel, they went up in full force to search for him, but David heard about it and went down to the stronghold. 18 Now the Philistines had come and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim; 19 so David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?” The Lord answered him, “Go, for I will surely deliver the Philistines into your hands.” (II Samuel 5:17-19 NIV).

When they attacked a second time, David inquired of the Lord a second time and the Lord answered him (II Samuel 5:22-25).  We need to do the same thing.  We need to seek God’s guidance for our life.  Should I move to this city?  Should I take this job?  Should I marry this person?  Is this the right thing to do?  Don’t necessarily do the obvious.  Consult with God.

What would happen if we sought God’s will for EVERY decision of our life?  In ALL of our ways, we are to acknowledge Him, and he will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:6).  David didn’t trust his own instincts.  He asked God.  God says if we lack wisdom to ask Him and He will answer us (James 1:5)

4) Wait patiently for God to work

This is hard.  When we want God to do something, to do something big, we want him to do it now.  We don’t like to wait for things.  That is usually not the way God works.

David was first anointed king when he was a teenager.  He was around fifteen years old when God told him that he would be king.  How old was he when he was king over the whole country?  Thirty-seven (II Samuel 5:4-5).  He had to wait over twenty years for the promise to be fulfilled.

The same thing happened to Abraham.  He was seventy-five when God appeared to him and told him that his wife would have a son (Genesis 12:4).  He had no children.  He had two wait twenty-five years before that promise was fulfilled.  It was fulfilled when he was one hundred (Genesis 21:5).

David is the anointed king.  He was promised the throne.  He was promised the throne by God Himself, but he wasn’t king for a long time.  He had the right to be king.  He had the divine right to be king, but he did not force himself to be king, like a dictator.

He did not try to take over the country by force.  He did not force people to bow down to him as king.  He had the right to the throne but did not insist it to happen or try to force it to happen.  He didn’t step on people to get power.

Even though the old king died, David still does NOT take over the whole country right away.  He only takes over one tribe.  He takes over Judah.  Eleven out of the twelve tribes rejected him as king, but he waited on the Lord.  He waited for his timing.  He waited until God gave it to him.

How patient are we?  How patient are we to get things done that need to be done?  Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).

5) Submit to God’s will for your life

Not everyone did that.  Abner knew that David was supposed to be king.  Abner knew the prophecies about David. We know that from II Samuel 3:9. Even though he knew that David was supposed to be king, he installed Ishbosheth as king after Saul died.  He knew who the chosen king was, but he did not want that king, so he set up a rival one.

Abner’s act was an act of rebellion.  People still do that.  They rebel against God today.  They rebel against the Word of God.  They rebel against the program of God.  They rebel against the will of God.  They know what the will of God, but they do not submit to it.  In fact, they oppose it.  They will fight it.

They also try to come up with something better than God’s plan and God’s will.  God’s plan for marriage is between a man and a woman.  People in society think they have a better plan.  They open up marriage to two men or two women.  God created people male or female.  He created two genders.

Society says there are transgender people who have a different gender on the inside than what the outside of their body looks like.  It says there are other people who are intersex.  They have characteristics of both male and female.  This is simply rebellion to the plan of God for human sexuality and gender revealed in Scripture.

Every time you oppose the will of God, you suffer.  Ishbosheth suffered and so did Abner.  David did not completely submit to God’s will when it came to marriage.  He was a polygamist.  He began II Samuel with two wives, got one more in II Samuel 3.  Two chapters later, we are told that David took up more concubines and wives (II Samuel 5:13-16).

6) Don’t hold grudges

This is a big one.  Do we hold grudges against anyone?  Remember Esau held a grudge against his brother Jacob and planned to kill him once they were done mourning his father’s death (Genesis 27:41).  The Bible says, “‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” (NIV)

David had a lot of enemies.  He had a lot of people he could have held grudges against, but he didn’t.  He didn’t hold a grudge against King Saul who tries to kill him repeatedly.  He did not hold a grudge against Abner who set up a rival king to David.  He honored him when he died.

He didn’t even hold a grudge against the rival king Ishbosheth.  He executed his assassins.  We are to be just like David and not hold grudges.  We are to forgive people, as Jesus forgave us (Ephesians 4:32).

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