With the death of Saul and David being crowned king in Judah, Abner acts to keep the kingdom of Israel in Saul’s family. He crowns Saul’s remaining son king over Israel.
I was trying to find where Ish-bosheth came in with Saul’s history. In 1 Samuel 14:49 we are given a list of Saul’s children, both male and female, by his wife Ahinoam. Ish-bosheth is not listed among them. This confused me, especially when Ish-bosheth is listed in references as “Saul’s fourth son.” So I kept searching.
Then I came upon a passage listing “seven sons of Saul” who were turned over to the Gibeonites to be killed in payment for Saul’s acts of murder against them. In this passage there are two more sons of Saul that were not listed in his original lineage listing. But these were born to him by his concubine Rizpah. The other five of “Saul’s seven sons” were actually his grandsons. Apparently Saul had run out of sons by this point so his grandsons took their place. This leaves me thinking that Ish-bosheth was probably the eldest of Rizpah’s sons she bore to Saul. Abner is accused of sleeping with Rizpah by Ish-bosheth at one point and this tears Abner’s loyalty away from Saul’s house.
We know nothing of Ish-bosheth before Abner makes him king in his father’s place. And we know very little of his deeds as king. We will hear of his death and of his accusation of Abner; later on. We know that he was 40 when he was made king and he reigned for two years. (I wondered why his reign was so short until I read that he was murdered. That explained it for me.)
Abner knew Israel could not be without a king. He had also spent YEARS at Saul’s side where Saul determined to do everything in his power to prevent David from deposing him and becoming king. Saul wanted HIS sons to be his successor. So Abner determined to make this happen.
ALL of Saul’s sons by his wife died with him in battle. Samuel had told him this would be so when Saul called him back from the dead. Saul had no heir from his wife to take his place. Abner did the next best thing. He chose one of Saul’s sons by his concubine.
Looking at the timeline in 2 Samuel 5:5-6 we see that David reigned as king in Hebron for seven and a half years. We will also see in 2 Samuel 3 that Abner turns against Ish-bosheth for his unjust accusation. Abner decides to turn the kingdom of Israel over to David at this point. Abner is killed before he can accomplish his task and two of Ish-bosheth’s servants kill him.
All these events lead us to the unmistakable conclusion that Abner waited at least FIVE years after Saul’s death to crown Ish-bosheth king over Israel. I’m curious why the delay. I would assume that Abner was leading the people in the meantime.
Or is it possible that Abner appointed Ish-bosheth right away and Israel waited FIVE years after Ish-bosheth and Abner’s deaths to ask David to be their king? We are not told what happened in this five year span nor where it fell. One thing we know for certain is that there is a gap in leadership for Israel.
Abner was the power behind the throne in Israel. Abner was the one who made Ish-bosheth king. Abner is the one who will tell Ish-bosheth that he would give the kingdom to David. Abner is the one who will meet with David and promise to give him the kingdom of Israel. And David’s reaction to Abner’s death will win the hearts of Israel. I think it is fair to say that Abner was Saul’s true successor while God finished working out His plan.
Abner was loyal to Saul. He stood beside him through thick and thin. He protected him more like a son than an uncle. He was the one who would bring the difficult news to Saul. He is the one who suggested help for Saul when he was first troubled by an evil spirit. He captained Saul’s army and guarded him with his life. It surprises me that he was not on the mountain with Saul at the time of his death. Maybe he felt Saul was safe because his sons were with him.
I have NO DOUBT that Abner knew of the words of God through Samuel to Saul regarding removing the kingdom from his hands. But Abner was determined to follow Saul’s wishes even after his death. That’s some kind of loyalty. Abner was the force that held Israel together until time to transfer it into David’s hands. I wonder why God didn’t have him do so at the beginning. It would have saved a LOT of lives. Maybe the people weren’t ready yet. He makes all things happen in HIS time.
Father God, today’s story leaves me with SO MANY questions. But NO DOUBTS. I trust Your word, even when I don’t have all the answers. I know that You worked ALL this out in Your will. I don’t know if it was Your ‘perfect will’ or Your ‘permissible will.’ Actually Your ‘perfect will’ was for Adam and Eve NOT to sin. You have been shifting us subtly throughout history to bring us where we NEED to be to be able to be in relationship with You. Thank You for NEVER giving up on us, no matter how hard we resisted. That goes double for me personally!