Israelites killing Israelites. It comes down to a matter of alliance. Are you a follower and supporter of the late king Saul, or does your allegiance rest in David’s camp? We are witnessing the clash between these two sides in our reading today.
Sadly, Asahel and others had to lose their lives in a battle that should never have been. It’s imperative that David rise up and show his strength, but not at the expense of his Israelite brothers. I was glad that Abner had the sense to say what he did. “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?”
David realizes that since Saul is now dead, there is no further threat to his life. Rather than just assume, he asks for God’s direction. With God’s instruction, David moves his family, along with his men and their families, to Hebron, just as God had instructed. David now becomes king over Judah.
We also see that Saul’s army commander, Abner, takes it upon himself to appoint Saul’s son, Ishbosheth over the rest of Israel. What I don’t see here is the hand of God. I see a power hungry, Abner, doing what he feels is his duty.
David is a very talented musician. We might forget that piece of his character with all the fighting and displays of his military might. David was quite an individual. We all have different ways of mourning our losses, and in this case, David turns to song.
David was progressing through the stages of grief identified by the Kübler-Ross model. The five stages of grief are: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Other models would add guilt. People move through these emotions in different ways. I think David used this song as he worked through these stages.
As we open up Samuel’s second book, we are now entering the time after Saul. Saul’s death was a turning point in God’s story. It is the time we have been waiting for. God has already anointed David to be the next king, now it’s time for the transition to begin.
It was interesting that the messenger who found David was an Amalekite. David and his men had just decimated the Amalekites to retrieve their wives, families, and possessions. This messenger was also claiming to be Saul’s killer. Did he have no decency?
The text doesn’t start with “Meanwhile,” but that’s the feeling I get. A couple readings ago we learned of Samuel’s prophecy from the grave to Saul predicting these events. We also know that David was dismissed by the Philistine king from duty to participate in this battle. That’s why David left to fight his own battle to regain his loved ones and belongings.
As I see it, while David was fighting that battle, the Israelites were falling to defeat. Saul and his sons lost their lives in this battle. This puts closure on Saul’s reign and gives us a bit of relief. We knew this day was coming. It was just a matter of time.