2 Samuel 3 tells us there is a long war going on between Saul’s people and David’s people. It is the feud that just won’t end. But “David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker”. The power is shifting and David is gaining strength. But with power comes all sorts of bad behavior. David is busy having sons with his wives during this time, and has a number of sons at Hebron, all with different wives. But he still longs for Michal, Saul’s daughter who was his first love.
Back in Saul’s people’s camp, there is a power struggle because Saul’s son and Abner, the head of the military. Seems Abner decided to help himself to one of Saul’s women and gets called out on it. But Abner is indignant and believes it is at his discretion to enjoy those fruits. So he threatens to allow the people of Israel to join Judah in following David as king. He asks David for a meeting and they get together to talk about the possibility and what is necessary for that to happen.
David has one main objective – to get Michal his wife back. They come to agreement and Abner heads off to put the plan into motion. Meanwhile Joab and his buddies return from ravaging some of the neighboring enemies and finds out that Abner has not only been with David but there is an agreement in place. This looks bad for him from a power position, so he asks David to call him back so they can find out if it is a setup or what deception is behind it. When he returns, Joab and Abishai kill Abner in revenge for their brothers death .
David is not happy. In fact, he “lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept”. David knew this was a mistaken action. He fasts and mourns until the sun goes down. “And all the people took notice of it, and it pleased them, as everything that the king did pleased all the people”. Leadership means taking responsibility for the actions of your people. David didn’t condone what Joab did, in fact he had no idea that was their plan, but the outcome was his and he made it clear “it had not been the king’s will to put to death Abner”. David was gentle and made all aware that a great man had fallen.
2 Samuel 2 has David asking the Lord what to do and he is told to head to Hebron where “they anointed David king over the house of Judah”. Out with the dead king and in with the live one. At least for the tribe of Judah. David finds out “it was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul….David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them….May you be blessed by the Lord, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord and buried him”. David is pleased with their actions.
Meanwhile, back at the other tribes, “ Abner….commander of Saul’s army, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim, and he made him king over Gilead and the Ashurites and Jezreel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all Israel”. There was no way Abner was giving up the power he was used to under Saul’s reign. So he decides to put his own king in place so he can remain the big man in town. But “the house of Judah followed David” and now we have two kings and split kingdoms.
This isn’t sitting well with some of David’s men, so they decide to meet up with Abner and his goons and have a discussion. They have some fighting competition – a sort of cage fighting with death being the final outcome – and “Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David”. Abner takes off and flees and Ashahel takes after him. Abner warns Ashahel to stop pursuing but he refuses so Abner kills him by driving his spear into and through his stomach. Then the other brothers pursue.
Abner finally reaches the safety of his people “and the people of Benjamin gathered themselves together behind Abner and became one group and took their stand on the top of a hill”. He then challenges Joab, who is leading the pursuit, to call off his men saying “shall the sword devour forever”. It was time to stop the fighting and get on with life and facing their real enemies. So Joab blows his horn and calls off the troops. That day 20 of David’s men died while 360 died on Abner’s side. But they stopped the fighting and all went home.
2 Samuel 1 has David returning from striking down the Amalekites. A man from Saul’s camp came and fell before David with a report to share. “I have escaped from the camp of Israel”. David hasn’t heard what has happened yet. So this man is asked to fill in the blanks – to tell David what occurred. Of course his message is that Saul and Jonathan are both dead. That is news to David but he probes to find out more details. How does this young man know for sure?
He was there and is actually the one who finished Saul off. Saul had fallen on his own sword, but hadn’t died yet. And he desperately wanted to be dead before the Philistines got to him. So he begged this young guy to kill him, which he did. “So I stood beside him and killed him, because I was sure that he could not live after he had fallen”. He must have known that David would wonder, so he took the crown from Saul’s head and the armet from his arm and brought them to David.
That pretty well sealed the deal in David’s mind. Saul and Jonathan are dead. “David took hold of his clothes and tore them, and so did all the men who were with him. And they mourned and wept and fasted until evening”. It was a time of mourning. David is irritated that this young Amalekite had killed Saul. He asks what gave this guy the right to kill Saul. The answer was not satisfactory, even if it was supposedly at Saul’s request. David has the guy killed.
David wants to keep things quiet. He doesn’t want the enemy celebrating their victory and Saul’s death. He continues his respect and mourning for Saul and Jonathan. In spite of the mistreatment he experienced at the hand of Saul, David honors him and calls out his goodness and glory. But most of all he mourns his friend Jonathan – a kindred heart that was like a brother. This is a distressing time for David. He has lost a father in law and a brother that is closer than anyone else.
1 Samuel 31 has the Philistines fighting Israel again. And they were whipping up on them to the point that the Israelites fled but were caught and slain. Saul’s sons were struck down and Saul himself was “badly wounded by the archers”. He knows his time is short so he asks his armor-bearer to kill him. But the armor-bearer was afraid and wouldn’t do it. So Saul took his own sword and fell on it. Saul dies that day along with his servant to also killed himself.
It was a bad day for Saul and his family. He died, along with his sons. “Saul died, and his three sons, and his armor-bearer, and all his men, on the same day together”. This was a complete victory for the Philistines and they made a big deal out of it. The Philistines came back the next day and cut off Saul’s head and stripped his body of the armor he was wearing and they took it to their temple of Ashtaroth and displayed it there, “fastened his body to the wall”. It is a big deal.
“When the men of Israel who were on the other side of the valley and those beyond the Jordan saw that the men of Israel had fled and that Saul and his sons were dead, they abandoned their cities and fled”. This was a huge loss for the Israelites and they recognized that their lives were at risk, so they ran. But when they heard what had happened to Saul’s body, and how the Philistines had made a mockery of it, a few men took exception.
“The valiant men arose and went all night and took the body of Saul and the bodies of his sons from the wall of Beth-shan, and they came to Jabesh and burned them there”. In spite of their fear, they took the action of retrieving Saul and his son’s bodies so they could no longer be made a mockery. And to assure it didn’t happen again, they burned them after retrieving the bodies. Then they buried the bones and fasted in mourning. The kingdom is changing as the leader is now gone.
1 Samuel 30 has David and his men returning to Ziklag only to find that the Amalekites had made a raid and burned it with fire and taken captive the women and all who were in it. He came back to a burned out city with all the women and possessions gone, including David’s own two wives. Not a happy time. Everyone is mourning and the people are frustrated and ready to stone David for leaving everyone behind and allowing them to be captured while they were away. David is also distressed as he has lost everything too.
So what does the coming king do when the chips are down? “David strengthened himself in the Lord his God”. He goes to God for strength. He was at the end of himself, so he turns to God. So often we wait for that distressing time before we get around to going to God. But God is always there. Then David calls for the priests to bring the ephod so he can seek God’s direction on whether to chase after the Amalekites or not, and God says yes, so he takes off with his 600 men.
Two hundred men stayed behind as they were too exhausted to join the chase. Along the route, they ran into a servant who had been abandoned by his master. He had been there for the raid and was able to lead David and his men to the place the Amalekites and their captives were staying. They were celebrating their victory when David attacked. “David struck them down from twilight until the evening of the next day, and not a man of them escaped, except four hundred young men, who mounted camels and fled”. He finished the job completely.
“David recovered all that the Amalekites had taken, and David rescued his two wives”. His mission was a success and he brings everyone and everything back safely. Some of the knuckleheads among his men don’t want to share any of the spoils with the 200 who had stayed behind. But David makes it clear. “They shall share alike”. And he made it a rule for Israel that there would be equality among his people whether they were in the battle or staying behind to stay by the baggage. He gives some of the spoils to those places who have allowed him and his men to live the last years.
1 Samuel 29 has the Philistines lining up for battle with the Israelites. The lords of the Philistines were getting organized and it comes to their attention that David is in the rear with Achish. There is concern that David and his men were there amongst the army. Achish assures them that David is loyal because he “has been with me now for days and years, and since he deserted to me I have found no fault in him to this day”. David has been a good servant to Achish and he doesn’t want David sent away.
But the Philistine’s are not so sure. In fact, they say “Send the man back, that he may return to the place to which you have assigned him. He shall not go down with us to battle, lest in the battle he become an adversary to us”. They know he is a mighty warrior with a huge reputation for doing damage in battle. Their fear is that in the heart of the battle David will flip sides and destroy them, like he has before. So they have a discussion with Achish and tell him David has to go.
So David gets called in and told he and his men have to leave. They can’t be part of the battle, even as Achish tells him he really wants him to come with him. David again is pushed aside. He doesn’t like it. “But what have I done? What have you found in your servant from the day I entered your service until now, that I may not go and fight against the enemies of my lord the king”? He’s asked this question many times before of Saul, and now he is asking the same question of Achish.
Achish doesn’t have a good reason for David’s dismissal, but he tells him to pack up and “depart as soon as you have light”. David respects his wishes and he sets out with his guys early to head back to the land of the Philistines where he has been living. It isn’t a happy time, but David moves on. And the Philistines continue on their way to Jezreel. Without David, they are not nearly as intimidating. Time will tell how their dismissal impacts them in the days ahead.
1 Samuel 28 has the army of the Philistines gathering to make war with Saul and the Israelites. Achish, king of Gath, tells David “I will make you my bodyguard for life”. He has earned much trust with the king. Samuel comes up here and although he has been dead for a while, the fact that he is mentioned again emphasizes the spiritual vacuum left by Samuel’s departure. “When Saul saw the army of the Philistines, he was afraid, and his heart trembled greatly”.
Saul began to lose his courage when the Holy Spirit withdrew from him and now, after the death of Samuel (the only man to have much spiritual influence on Saul) his courage seems almost completely gone. Saul doesn’t know what to do. “When Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him”. King Saul has rejected and is currently rejecting God’s previously revealed will. Since Saul doesn’t care to obey God in what he already knows, God will not give him more to know.
So Saul asks his servants to find him a woman who is a medium. Instead of dissuading him from this wicked and destructive practice, which his servants should and would have done, if they had either loved God or their king, they further him in it. He disguises himself and goes. Saul asks here to bring up Samuel who tells him it isn’t going to be a good outcome. “The Lord has done to you as he spoke by me, for the Lord has torn the kingdom out of your hand and given it to your neighbor, David”.
But it gets worse. “Because you did not obey the voice of the Lord and did not carry out his fierce wrath against Amalek, therefore the Lord has done this thing to you this day…. the Lord will give Israel also with you into the hand of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons shall be with me”. Not only is Saul going to lose the kingdom because of his previous disobedience, he also will be dying in battle along with his sons. He makes a run at falling before God on his face, but it is way too little far too late for his future. There is a price to pay for sin. And Saul is paying it now.