Do the Israelites really know what they want? It seems like the land is in a bit of an upheaval after the events of recent days. A family feud gets way out of control where it affects an entire nation. That’s a powerful family.
It began as a conflict between brothers over Tamar, a sister to one and half-sister to the other. This is already a bit of a different scene than we would see today. Bloodshed was also punished in a different way than we are used to. Then anger ensues from son to father due to difference of opinion in how a situation should have been handled. It was David’s own daughter, after all. Shouldn’t the king have done something?
It’s been a while in the story since we’ve heard anything about the ark of the covenant. It has been sitting idle too long, David must have thought. He knew enough to honor God with elite troops. If he asked for God’s permission, that didn’t make it into the story as an important detail.
Everything seemed to be going well with the joyful procession accompanying the ark. “David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord, singing songs.” And then it happened. Uzzah aroused God’s anger by reaching out, trying to protect the ark. He was struck down dead!
Joab had no way of knowing what David and Abner had just agreed to. Even if he had, would that have kept him from seeking to avenge his own brother’s death? Joab was blinded by his own anger, hurt, and grief.
Joab was sure Abner’s intentions were not good. He exclaimed to David, “You know perfectly well that he came to spy on you and find out everything you’re doing!” We will never know if Joab’s belief had any merit. Abner is dead.
David’s succession as the next king was not smooth or uneventful. In today’s reading, the saga continues. Abner’s change of heart seems to be the most remarkable. All this time, Abner had been fighting to preserve Saul’s dignity and memory. Now Abner was called out by Saul’s son for taking his father’s concubine. Concubines would have been objects of power, and apparently Ishbosheth had not pursued that power but was upset that Abner had.
Ishbosheth’s handling of the matter set off Abner. Where was the gratitude and respect for all Abner had done? It was like a light bulb went on for Abner realizing that David was indeed the true king. Abner said, “May God strike me and even kill me if I don’t do everything I can to help David get what the Lord has promised him!” And with that Abner set out to make amends with David and vowed to bring all of Israel back into alignment with David.
Saul has it right, but for all the wrong reasons. What keen irony that Saul would think David is after this place on the throne. It is actually God’s plan, and Saul has not be privy to this information. David is certainly making a name for himself and becoming quite popular with the people.
We have not seen David ever try to manipulate Saul or take the limelight. But God is with David, and everything David touches is successful. Wouldn’t it be healthier for Saul to see that David is a loyal warrior? Every victory of David only makes Saul, the king, look that much better for having chosen so wisely!