Joab was leading David’s troops and Abner led Ish-bosheth’s. They laid out a contest for one another that turned MORE than deadly.
I’m wondering if this encounter was at the beginning of Ish-bosheth’s reign or near its end. It set the scene for Abner’s death which would herald in the anointing of David as king over Israel. Whenever it happened, Abner and Joab were on fair terms with one another; at first.
They appeared to respect one another. They were not young men anymore. But neither were they too old for battle. They had no more personal lust for battle; at first.
I’m wondering why the ‘competition’ didn’t end with the original 12 from each side. Did both sides eliminate the other in that first clash? Were none left standing at that point? Did the armies take up the battle cry or did their leaders call for more bloodshed?
In the melee that followed David’s forces lost a total of 20 men. I’m assuming the original 12 were their major losses, in numbers at least. The loss that cut the deepest was that of Joab’s brother, Asahel. Joab was ready to commit ALL David’s forces to running down Abner for Asahel’s death. And David’s forces were right by Joab’s side.
We are told later on in our reading that “there was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker” (1 Samuel 3:1). I would lay this fact squarely at God’s feet. I’m not saying that I blame Him for the ‘war’ but that I see His hand in the strengthening of David. I wish that He would have intervened MUCH earlier so there wouldn’t have been so much bloodshed. But then maybe the bloodshed is what it took to get the people to the place they were willing to accept David as their king.
During war people do things they never would do in regular life. History is FILLED with such stories. The Holocaust and how even the ‘ordinary citizens’ behaved is a prime example of this. People who, under peaceful circumstances, would have helped their neighbors instead of betraying. Soldiers do the unthinkable and blame it on ‘orders’ from above.
But Abner was not a man blinded by war. He did everything in his power to spare Asahel’s life, short of giving up his own. He called out to Asahel and asked him to choose another target. Asahel refused. He was intent on taking Abner’s life. He may have been thinking that if he killed Abner that the fighting would come to an end. It may have with Abner’s death as it did later on but we will never truly know regarding this specific day and battle.
What we do know is that Abner cared enough for Joab that he was unwilling to turn and fight Asahel right away. He only did so as a last resort to save his own life. I wish Joab could have seen/heard how hard Abner tried to prevent this event.
All Joab saw was his own pain and anger. I have a feeling that when Joab came upon Asahel’s body Abner’s spear was still embedded within him. Not the point but the butt of it. Even when Abner struck Asahel his blow was to stop him, not kill him. Why didn’t Joab see this?
Was this too part of God’s plan? Did Israel have to lose Abner before they would truly back David? Abner backed David just before his own death. But Joab’s bloodlust from this battle would rob David, Abner and Israel the chance of uniting the houses with the two leading men as brothers; allies.
Why does hatred have to run so deep? Is there no forgiveness in man’s hearts anymore? There wasn’t in Joab’s. Not for this at least, even when he agreed to the battle in the first place. I believe Joab should have realized he bore some of the responsibility for Asahel’s death on his own shoulders.
Can you tell that I’m angry with Joab? I can’t understand his hatred for Abner for something he had no control over. Sure, Abner could have simply stopped and let Asahel kill him but that is not in the nature of man. More than that, I’m angry at the loss of life of all who participated in this divide.
I see people deeply divided in my own country. I wonder how many lives have to be lost before it ends.
And I see the GREATEST divide. That of those who choose to receive God’s free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ and those who reject Him. This is a Life & Death choice for each and every person. How many will fall because of pursuing the wrong target? How many will fall because of holding onto hurts inflicted by others? How many lives will be lost because they refuse to see the truth and to recognize who the true enemy is?
Father God, I HATE the fighting! I wish there were another way. I recognize these are the words Jesus prayed the night before He surrendered His life for mine. I know it has to get even worse before His return. PLEASE hold my heart in all of this.
I weep for the ‘Joab’s’ who see the only way through their pain is to inflict it on others. For those who refuse to acknowledge their own part in their pain. I cry out for those who felt ‘they had no choice’ but had put themselves into the situation of their own despair. I also mourn for those who stand on the sidelines and simply shake their heads at the destruction before them. They too have a part to play in this conflict. I feel that place is to care for the wounded, stand for the truth, call for peace, and PRAY.
In Your time You make ALL things beautiful! Hold me while the clock ticks. Help me share Your love and Your hope any way I can. Don’t let me be a Joab or an Abner.