II Sam. 2:1-3:39
Unless an army commander rebelled and overthrew a king, the general rule of succession was for the oldest surviving son to follow his father as king. Since Saul had been the first king of Israel, there had been no precedent for his succession.
David inquired of God if he should move from Ziklag into Judah. With God’s guidance, David, his family and his men with their families settled in Hebron where he was anointed as king of Judah—not Israel.
God had taken the kingdom from Saul and his family. Abner, the commander of Saul’s army, however, made Saul’s son, Ishbosheth to be king of the remaining tribes of Israel.
Bitter fighting between the two kingdoms of the Israelites followed. Abner continued to lead the army of Israel while Joab, David’s nephew led the army of Judah. During the conflict, Abner killed Asahel, one of the brothers of Joab.
War continued to rage between the house of David and the house of Saul. During that time, Abner continued to increase his power over Saul’s house and Ishbosheth’s power was becoming more unstable.
In the culture of David’s day, concubines were taken into the household as sexual partners, but with lower status than a wife. A man could usurp another man’s authority by taking his concubine. Abner was angered at Ishbosheth’s inquiry into his taking of Saul’s concubine.
With the break in relations between himself and Ishbosheth, Abner sent messengers to David proposing a covenant to deliver Israel to him. That pleased David, but there was one condition. Several years earlier, Saul had taken his daughter, Michal, David’s wife and had given her to another man. In order for a meeting between David and Abner to occur, Abner must give her back to him. One may speculate whether it was his undying love for Michal or a move to strengthen his political position with the remaining portion of Saul’s house.
The covenant between David and Abner was agreeable to all concerned. However, Joab, David’s commander was not present at the meeting. He viewed the covenant as a deception by Abner. In seeking vengeance for his brother’s death at the hand of Abner, Joab sent messengers to bring him back. At that time, he stabbed Abner to death. In that act, he was also eliminating a possible rival for his position of army commander.
David was highly displeased with Joab for the murder of Abner and pronounced a curse against him and his father’s house. He led the people as they mourned for Abner. As for Joab, David said, “The Lord shall repay the evildoer according to his wickedness.”