Before Abner and the northern tribes of Israel submitted to the LORD’s decision to make David king, there was a war between the north and the south. Israel was the name given to the northern tribes. Judah was the name of the southern tribes. The war between north and south was real and bloody. Brother was pit against brother.
A fierce battle followed that day, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by the forces of David. Joab, Abishai, and Asahel--the three sons of Zeruiah--were among David's forces that day. Asahel could run like a gazelle, and he began chasing Abner. He pursued him relentlessly, not stopping for anything. When Abner looked back and saw him coming, he called out, "Is that you, Asahel?" "Yes, it is," he replied. "Go fight someone else!" Abner warned. "Take on one of the younger men, and strip him of his weapons." But Asahel kept right on chasing Abner. Again Abner shouted to him, "Get away from here! I don't want to kill you. How could I ever face your brother Joab again?" But Asahel refused to turn back, so Abner thrust the butt end of his spear through Asahel's stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He stumbled to the ground and died there. And everyone who came by that spot stopped and stood still when they saw Asahel lying there. (2 Samuel 2:17-23 NLT)
Asahel’s death was a shock to everyone. Abner didn’t want to kill him. He tried every way possible to avoid killing Asahel. The death was an accidental casualty of war that is best described as self-defense. No court would have convicted Abner for this death. Joab, Asahel’s brother, didn’t care. He swore vengeance against his brother’s killer.
When Joab and Abishai found out what had happened, they set out after Abner. The sun was just going down as they arrived at the hill of Ammah near Giah, along the road to the wilderness of Gibeon. Abner's troops from the tribe of Benjamin regrouped there at the top of the hill to take a stand. Abner shouted down to Joab, "Must we always be killing each other? Don't you realize that bitterness is the only result? When will you call off your men from chasing their Israelite brothers?" Then Joab said, "God only knows what would have happened if you hadn't spoken, for we would have chased you all night if necessary." (2 Samuel 2:24-27 NLT)
Joab backed down for the time being, but the anger and bitterness never went away. He still wanted revenge on Abner for killing his brother. This created a problem, then, when Abner was trying to broker a peace deal between the northern and southern tribes. Abner, you may recall from yesterday’s post, met with David and offered to bring the elders of Israel (the northern tribes) to meet with David and acknowledge him as their king. Once David agreed to the plan, Abner went back home to gather the elders together.
When Joab arrived, he was told that Abner had just been there visiting the king and had been sent away in safety. Joab rushed to the king and demanded, "What have you done? What do you mean by letting Abner get away? You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you're doing!" (2 Samuel 3:23-25 NLT)
Joab would not listen to reason and he certainly did not care about justice. He cared about vengeance. He wanted revenge. Following through on this anger would only separate himself from his king.
When Abner arrived back at Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gateway as if to speak with him privately. But then he stabbed Abner in the stomach and killed him in revenge for killing his brother Asahel. When David heard about it, he declared, "I vow by the LORD that I and my kingdom are forever innocent of this crime against Abner son of Ner. Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May the family of Joab be cursed in every generation with a man who has open sores or leprosy or who walks on crutches or dies by the sword or begs for food!" (2 Samuel 3:27-29 NLT)
When do do things that separate us from our King, we can thank God that there is a way to return to The King. Jesus is that way. The question is simple: Will we admit that we were wrong and return to The King?
How about you? Do you allow anger, bitterness, or other negative emotions to drive you to rebel against our King? When you rebel, do you admit you were wrong? Do you ask our King to forgive you? Do you return to The King?