The Fight For Unity in Gibeon

By Phillip G. Kayser · 2 Samuel 2:12-16 · 2012-7-15

Introduction

To this day the controversy continues as to who started the War Between the States. I remember the red-faced anger of one of my classmates at Covenant College who insisted that the war was a war of Southern Aggression, and that they started the war by firing on Fort Sumter. And he had some pretty interesting arguments. But I was kind of taken aback by the passion and anger. It was almost as if the war was yesterday. And a southerner quickly responded that South Carolina had seceded in 1860 two and a half months before Lincoln became president, so it was a separate nation. And when the Federals kept pouring more men into Fort Sumter, they were invading a foreign nation. "Does a sovereign nation not have the right to defend itself from invasion?" And the first guy said, "But that's the point. It wasn't a separate nation." And the southerner gave the rejoinder, "If it wasn't a separate nation, why did Congress not allow them back into the union right away? They certainly treated them as a separate conquered nation after the war." And it was a fascinating debate back and forth, back and forth, with neither side giving an inch even after a couple hours of arguing. And this guy was getting more and more red in the face, and more and more animated. This was my first exposure to the fact that there are people who are still fighting the War Between the States, and doing so with passion.

And a similar thing happened between Israel and Judah, beginning in this chapter. And when you read Kings and Chronicles, you realize that the animosity that started in this chapter continued for hundreds of years. Now, in this particular war between states the South was definitely right. It doesn't mean that all the people on both sides were bad. We've already seen that there were. Later chapters will tell us that there were a lot of godly men who were defenders of the northern kingdom of Ishbosheth and Abner. Of course they were wrong. They misunderstood the issues. We have already seen that God authorized the secession from Israel of both Judah and its ally city, Jabesh Gilead. So this truly was a war of northern aggression.

I. The sad historical facts ========================

A.  Abner seeking to force submission (vv. 12-13)
    ---------------------------------------------

    1.  ### This was clearly a war of northern aggression (v. 12)

But when Abner sought to force submission in verse 12, I'm sure he had already rehearsed his reasons for going to war. Verse 12 says,

2Samuel 2:12 "Now Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon."

In those days, Gibeon was right on the northern border of Judah and Israel. And this text indicates that it was Abner who was the aggressor. And we can only guess as to what arguments he might have given his men to justify this invasion of Judah and this attack on their brethren. We saw last week that in chapter 3, verses 9-10, Abner knew that God had sworn to give the whole land to David. So this is an issue of propaganda, not truth. But a good guess would be that he would have appealed to the fact that God established twelve tribes, not eleven. And (to take a phrase out of context) what God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Abner might have appealed to the fact that Saul was the anointed king, and his son should be the successor. Or he might have used pragmatic reasons - that without union they would not be able to successfully resist the powerful Philistines. "Look, Philistia has already captured most of Israel, and we've got to stick together or we will be annihilated. This is a matter of national security." And with the other hostile nations surrounding them - Ammon, Moab, Edom, Phoenicia, Arameans, and the Amalekites, he might have even issued an emergency powers act to deal with the current crisis. "This is not a long-term provision, but during a time of crisis, we cannot allow Israel to be divided." But however he did it, Abner managed to get good people to go down south to force Judah back into the union.

  1. Joab is defending the northern border of David's lawful kingdom (v. 13)

Joab must have had good spies in place, because he got wind of these armies coming down, and he quickly sent a force to repel an invasion. And it must have been fairly hurried, because David was absent. Verse 13:

2Samuel 2:13 "And Joab the son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out and met them by the pool of Gibeon. So they sat down, one on one side of the pool and the other on the other side of the pool."

So here are two armies at a standoff. Both think that they are in the right. Neither one has fired the first shot, but the tension is thick in the air. It is so thick that anything could spring this tension into a full-fledged battle. Abner is the first to break the silence.

A. Trial by ordeal, wrestling match gone awry, treachery, gladiator sports? (vv. 14-16) – whatever it was, it led to regrettable results. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

And now comes one of the oddest stories that we have in Scripture – twenty-four men who are chosen to grab each other and stab each other to death. Weird. Commentators point out that there is no historical precedent for this, and it isn't repeated anywhere else in Scripture. It was certainly a violation of Biblical law. And there is a lot of debate on why they engaged in this strange contest. It's sickening. It turns the stomach. And I believe God wants it to turn our stomachs because it represents the humanistic fight for unity and peace by man's power, not by God's grace. But let's read it, and then try to make a little sense out of it.

2Samuel 2:14 "Then Abner said to Joab, "Let the young men now arise and compete before us." And Joab said, "Let them arise."

2Samuel 2:15 "So they arose and went over by number, twelve from Benjamin, followers of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and twelve from the servants of David."

2Samuel 2:16 "And each one grasped his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent's side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called the Field of Sharp Swords, which is in Gibeon."

  1. The theories

Nobody knows for sure why they did this. Let me outline the theories. These are not in your outlines. First, was it a trial by ordeal to decide which side God favored? That's what some people think. A trial by ordeal was a pagan way of settling disputes. Instead of a lot of bloodshed, two men would fight on behalf of the armies, and whichever side won had the favor of the gods. Obviously, if they intended this to be a trial by ordeal, nothing conclusive could be discerned. And in fact, this would be a great argument against having trials by ordeal. Trials by ordeal are not Biblical. If there would be any place where a trial by ordeal should have worked, it would have been here. David was clearly in the right. God was on his side. But all twenty-four men died. So if it was trial by ordeal, God was certainly showing His disapproval of that method. It proved nothing. Trials by ordeal are useless.

But others say that it really doesn't bear the characteristics of a trial by ordeal, which should have had two people. They say that this was a wrestling match that got out of hand. And before you dismiss this theory as ridiculous, I should point out that there are a number of commentaries that hold this second view. It's not as obvious in the English, but it is possible in the Hebrew. They emphasize the fact that the word for "compete" is literally "to have fun," and can even be translated as "to have laughter" or "to have pleasure." They say, "That doesn't sound like a battle to the death." And the word for "opponent" literally means "companion" or "friend". So Young's Literal Translation renders it this way: "And they lay hold, each on the head of his companion, and his sword [is] in the side of his companion, and they fall together…" So those who hold to this theory insist that if you take the Hebrew seriously, it must have at least started as a friendly wrestling match that turned ugly. And once it turned ugly, they unsheathed their daggers and they killed each other. The problem with that view is that the stabbing seems to have happened right away. The text doesn't necessitate that, but it sure seems to imply it.

So yet another theory has been proposed by a number of scholars. This agrees with the second interpretation up to a point. They say that Joab must have thought that it would be a friendly wrestling match, but Abner had treachery up his sleeve, and had ordered his men to kill, not simply to wrestle. So they went into it to have a wrestling match, but when Joab's men saw the Benjamites pulling daggers out, they reciprocated to defend themselves. And the treachery is what made Abishai so angry that he pursued Abner to the death later in the chapter. The problem with that view is that if it really was treachery, why did both sides have daggers on them in the first place? It's obvious that both sides had daggers. They both seem to immediately draw their daggers. Well, both may have had treachery in mind. We simply don't know.

Still others say that none of those theories seems to fit all the evidence. They say that if you take all of the evidence that we have looked at so far into account, this was simply a callous enjoyment of watching people fight to the death under controlled circumstances. It's sort of like watching a vicious dog fight, or strapping blades to the feet of roosters and watching roosters kill each other. They say that the text indicates that it was fun or literally "pleasure" for these generals to watch gladiatorial type contests. If that theory is correct (and it does seem closest to the text – it's the view that I tentatively hold to), it shows that both Joab and Abner had become extremely calloused by war, and no longer had a healthy respect for life like David did. All my commentaries agree that David would not have approved of this kind of contest. However, all that we can know for sure is subpoints 2-5.

  1. Note that this unprecedented activity was suggested by Abner, not Joab (v. 14)

We know that it was Abner who suggested this, not Joab. But I would say that Joab was not off the hook in agreeing to it, unless theories two or three are true.

  1. The word "play" clearly suggests entertainment

We know second that Abner was treating this like entertainment. I think the literal Hebrew is quite clear on that. The Hebrew word for "compete" means that it was fun to see these men fight. And a generation that finds it entertaining to watch blood, carnage, and violence, is moving away from David and toward Abner on the scale of respect for life. At least Abner thought this would be entertaining. And I would caution you not to watch films or to play games that allow blood and carnage to become entertaining. It deadens the spirit and makes it callous to life. Personally, I would not allow my daughter to marry a young man who has Abner's attitude toward violence. Not all violence is wrong, but gratuitous violence that does not serve a purpose should be shunned and hated.

  1. Guaranteed death (v. 16) – twelve of the twenty men of Judah who died that day died because of this stupid contest

We know third, that this needlessly guaranteed the death of twenty-four men. Verse 30 says that twenty of Joab's men died that day. Of the twenty who died in Judah, more than half of them died as a direct result of this stupid contest. Many times in war, decisions are made that trivialize life. Men are sent out as canon fodder. They are just statistics. And this story certainly shows that these men died needlessly. In the War Between the States, General Robert E. Lee very much respected General McClellan from the North because he valued the lives of his soldiers. He was not interested in needless bloodshed. The same cannot be said of General Grant.

  1. This in turn led to bitterness of a feud (see rest of chapter and book)

But the saddest part of this contest was that it led to a bitter feud that did not die down until after the exile. Feuds are horrible outgrowths of anger and bitterness that have not been resolved. If you allow resentment, bitterness, or anger against other people to go unresolved, you have all the ingredients necessary to start a feud. And even if bloodshed is totally out of the equation, it still destroys your spirit. All you have to do is look at Shimei cursing David and throwing rocks and dirt at David in chapter 16 and you will see how irrational bitterness can be. Shimei was still bitter against David for allowing this blood event more than twenty years later – and David hadn't even authorized it himself. But a feud had erupted between the relatives of these men who were killed just like the feud between the Hatfields and McCoys in West Virginia and Kentucky. And by the way, the antagonism between the Hatfields and the McCoys started because a McCoy fought for the Union side in the civil war. Later in this chapter, the anger of Abishai would make him pursue Abner recklessly. Abner would then kill Abishai in self-defense. This in turn would make Joab hate Abner so much that he would plan revenge and seven years later engage in treachery and murder. And he did it during the peace process. That in turn would spiral out of control. This chapter is the beginning of a horrible, horrible feud.

A. The beginning of a civil war (v. 17) ------------------------------------

And where did it start? It started with a stupid decision to allow this competition between twenty-four men. When all twenty-four men fell down dead, whether it was treachery or not, the armies of both sides were extremely angry, and a War Between the States erupted that would not end for seven years. And actually, it continued long after that. The tensions and bitterness on both sides would never end – at least prior to the exile. Just as Southerners in America will amazingly still not let the War Between the States die, there were people on both sides of this war that would not let their bitterness die. It got passed from generation to generation. That's why they split apart so quickly after Solomon. This is an incredibly important passage for understanding the rest of Israel's history.

Verse 17 shows the fierceness of the battle that erupted that day:

2Samuel 2:17 "So there was a very fierce battle that day, and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David."

We'll pick up with that verse next week, Lord willing. But the War Between Judah and Israel was so costly, that the country never did recover. If Joab could have guessed the outcome of this competition of twenty-four men, do you think he would have agreed to it? I doubt it. If Abner had known that the results of this day would guarantee his death, would he have asked the men to compete? I doubt it. Hindsight is always better than foresight, and numerous people have said, "If I had only known, I would not have done it." This past week I read a very moving, "If I had only known" kind of speech in Congress.[1] I won't take the time to read it. But commentator, Jonah Goldberg said much the same thing in fewer words. He said, "The Iraq war was a mistake by the most obvious criteria: If we had known then what we know now, we would never have gone to war with Iraq in 2003." But one bad action piles on top of another bad action until finally, there is a seven and a half year war between Judah and Israel. So that's the historical background with a few applications thrown in.

I. The significance of the way it is told ======================================

A.  Note the ten points of symmetry and balance
    -------------------------------------------

But there is more to this story than immediately meets the eye. I have already said that this is a critical passage for understanding Israel's later history. But it is a passage that also has the seeds of later redemptive history. And God crafted this little section with such minute symmetry and balance, that readers are left to wonder why the author went to such pains in the way he wrote it. The author is trying to get our attention. He was not merely pointing to a stupid incidence that began a stupid war. He was trying to get our attention to study this a little bit deeper and to realize that something symbolic was happening. And all of the historical issues that later Scripture says are symbolic are highlighted in some way in the historical narrative itself. Just as David was absent in this story, the story is pointing to a greater David, the Lord Jesus Christ, who would deal with the horrors of sin and death, not by shedding other people's blood, but by shedding his own. And let me try to show how God presents this forward view.

He does so first of all by what almost everybody notices as an obvious symmetry and balance in verses 12-16. I won't give all ten of the most obvious points of thematic symmetry that we can see in the English.[2] But let me just mention a few key things: Gibeon, the royal city of deception and redemption begins and ends the passage. So it forms bookends that make the reader ask what the significance of Gibeon was. Why were they providentially in that city? I have a liberal commentary that says they couldn't have been by the pool of Gibeon because that would mean that they were in the city of Gibeon. Gibeon wouldn't have allowed those men in the city, would they? But the text says that's exactly where they were. Why?

If you remember in the book of Joshua, the Gibeonites were Canaanites, doomed to destruction. And Gibeon was a huge royal city. The Gibeonites deceived Joshua into entering into covenant with them. But despite the deception, God honored the covenant, redeemed these Canaanites, and by this time they are not only incorporated into the people of God, but they also proved themselves to be more faithful to God than Israel did. I won't get into the whole story of why Saul's sons are later hung for having killed Gibeonites, but God makes a big deal, both morally and symbolically of this city of Gibeon – a city that escapes judgment, finds redemption, and that God enters into an everlasting covenant with. That city is a symbol of us – once outside the covenant and without God's favor, and aliens from the commonwealth of Israel. Yet Ephesians says that we are now fellow citizens with the saints and heirs together of the grace of life. But the Gentile city of Gibeon becomes reconciled to David before Israel does. That is significant in terms of the history of redemption. So we have the twin bookends of Gibeon.

Second, both kings are mentioned as absent – a rather remarkable coincidence. Kings were almost always present with their armies, but not here. This too is symbolic. I'll pick up on this a little later, because David is constantly presented in Scripture as the image of Jesus, the greater David. Ishbosheth is the impotent attempt to rule in the name of his rejected father, just as mankind continues to try to take dominion in the name of our rejected father, Adam. And just as the rule of Ishbosheth was an illusion, and it was really Abner who controlled everything behind the scenes, the sons of Adam are weak and impotent and are manipulated by Satan. But even apart from the symbolism, there is the symmetry of the mention of two absent kings.

And I'll just quickly mention some others. The third parallel is that the names of both generals are mentioned in the same way, and their father's names are mentioned. There are two sets of servants devoted to a cause of unity and peace. There are two armies that are sitting opposite each other, no doubt seeing mirror images reflected in the huge pool of Gibeon. Symmetry and balance. There is an agreement to a contest by both sides, but the contest proves nothing, and there are wasted lives. Each side picks twelve soldiers to compete. And those twelve soldiers represent the unity of Israel that both sides want, but are unable to achieve. But it is twelve and twelve. There is symmetry in how they kill each other, and they all fall down together. And if this was a trial by ordeal, there was a hope that through their contest, the two sides could achieve peace. And so this is a deliberate presentation of balance and symmetry on many levels.

A. The only points of asymmetry are no mention of David's father and Abner's men are only "from Benjamin." --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The only points of asymmetry are that there is no mention of David's father, but there is of Ishbosheth's, and secondly, the twelve that represent Abner are only from the tribe of Benjamin – he can't find any other tribal representatives, and the twelve that represent Joab are said to be servants of David. And I will allude to that in a moment.

A. Brethren (v. 16 Hebrew with vv. 26-27) divided in civil war -----------------------------------------------------------

But I want to revisit the fact that the Hebrew of verse 16 emphasizes that it is friends or companions who are killing each other. The New King James wrongly translates it as "opponents," but all the commentators acknowledge that the literal Hebrew is "companions." And this theme of companions fighting is picked up in the panicked speech of Abner and the response of Joab in verses 26-27:

2Samuel 2:26 "Then Abner called to Joab and said, "Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that it will be bitter in the latter end? How long will it be then until you tell the people to return from pursuing their brethren?"

2Samuel 2:27 "And Joab said, "As God lives, unless you had spoken, surely then by morning all the people would have given up pursuing their brethren."

They both acknowledge that it was brethren fighting brethren. And in verse 16 the literal Hebrew says that it was companions fighting companions. This is indicative of Saul and the kingdom of man, not the kingdom of God. And Israel and Judah were divided through most of their history. Under the rulership of David and Solomon (both symbols of Jesus) there is unity, and it is during this time that a temple is built. That is significant as well. But even David will not be able to build the temple according to God, because he was a man of war and his hands were drenched with blood. So there are a number of threads that begin to flow out of this chapter. God would later have David's son, Solomon, a man of peace, build the temple, as a symbol pointing to a greater Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. And then even later in 2 Samuel 27, God would make this symbolism that I am alluding to here quite clear.

A. Sets up a contrast with the greater son of David who brings unity with His own blood (chapter 27 with Ezek. 37) ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

But I want to end with a quick look at Ezekiel 37, where God ties together the symbolism that He establishes in 2 Samuel 27, and ties it to the peace and unity that could not be achieved in this passage. And before I read this, I just want to point out that the New Testament clearly ties this to the New Covenant. Let's begin reading at verse 15. Ezekiel 37, verse 15.

Ezekiel 37:15 "Again the word of the LORD came to me, saying,"

Ezekiel 37:16 "As for you, son of man," [That title, "son of man" is a very key phrase that elsewhere refers only to Jesus. In the Gospels alone Jesus is referred to as "the son of man" eighty-four times. And in this book ninety- three times Ezekiel is called "son of man" and stands as a symbol of Jesus. So the text says, "As for you, son of man,"] "take a stick for yourself and write on it: "For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.' [Notice the southern kingdom and a note about the northern citizens being companions. They are divided companions, but they are companions. It goes on…] "Then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel, his companions.' [The same mention of all the tribes of Israel being companions, but the second stick representing the northern kingdom. They are companions, but they are divided. Verse 17:]

Ezekiel 37:17 "Then join them one to another for yourself into one stick, and they will become one in your hand." [So there is the desired unity and peace that seemed so impossible to achieve. But it is in the son of man's hands that it is achieved. As a symbol of Jesus he brings the desired unity for himself. Verse 18:]

Ezekiel 37:18 "And when the children of your people speak to you, saying, ‘Will you not show us what you mean by these?'"

Ezekiel 37:19 "say to them, "Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel, his companions; and I will join them with it, with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they will be one in My hand."

Ezekiel 37:20 "And the sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes." [So what man cannot achieve through his own efforts, God's grace will achieve – Jesus will achieve. That is what He is saying. God will do the impossible. He can break down even the feuds that exist between brethren. Verse 21:]

Ezekiel 37:21 "Then say to them, "Thus says the Lord GOD: ‘Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land;"

Ezekiel 37:22 "and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again."

Ezekiel 37:23 "They shall not defile themselves anymore with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will deliver them from all their dwelling places in which they have sinned, and will cleanse them. Then they shall be My people, and I will be their God."

Ezekiel 37:24 "David My servant shall be king over them, [Now, David is long-dead, so why does he speak of David being the King? Because over and over, Jesus is referred to as the greater David. Jesus would accomplish what David could only do outwardly and symbolically. Verse 24 continues:] and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them."

Ezekiel 37:25 "Then they shall dwell in the land that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt; and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their children's children, forever; and My servant David shall be their prince forever."

Ezekiel 37:26 "Moreover I will make a covenant of peace with them, and it shall be an everlasting covenant with them; I will establish them and multiply them, and I will set My sanctuary in their midst forevermore."

Ezekiel 37:27 "My tabernacle also shall be with them" [Acts 15 interprets this as God's presence in His church. John 1 does the same. He goes on…]; "indeed I will be their God, and they shall be My people."

Ezekiel 37:28 "The nations also will know that I, the LORD, sanctify Israel, when My sanctuary is in their midst forevermore."

Now, this began to be achieved after the exile, but its fullest fulfillment is in the New Testament. What Joab and Abner were unable to do with the blood of others that they so willingly sacrificed, Jesus will do with his own blood, that He so willingly sacrificed. And Jesus not only united Judah and Ephraim in the first chapters of Acts, He broke down the middle wall of separation between Jew and Gentile, by having Gibeon (or Gentiles) in the midst of His people Israel. The Gentiles are grafted into Israel. Hallelujah! This is awesome symbolism! Ephesians words it this way:

Ephesians 2:11 "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—"

Ephesians 2:12 "that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world."

Ephesians 2:13 "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."

Ephesians 2:14 "For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation,"

Ephesians 2:15 "having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,"

Ephesians 2:16 "and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity."

Ephesians 2:17 "And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near."

Ephesians 2:18 "For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father."

Ephesians 2:19 "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,"

Ephesians 2:20 "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,"

Ephesians 2:21 "in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord,"

Ephesians 2:22 "in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit."

Conclusion

In the New Jerusalem that is described in Revelation 21 there are two sets of twelve – the twelve gates that have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve foundations that have the names of the twelve apostles – 24 men. But unlike the first twenty-four men who brought death, the twenty-four men in Revelation 21 bring life. Unlike the twenty-four who were divided in 2 Samuel, the twenty-four in Revelation 21 are united and indivisible. They are knit together by the blood of Christ. Unlike the twenty-four men in 2 Samuel who brought a centuries-long feud, the twenty-four men in Revelation bring peace, joy, satisfaction, and harmony.

And so God leaves this chapter of companion killing companion in the Scriptures to warn us not to get sucked into the world's way of thinking, like Joab did. Instead, we are to seek peace and unity with each other in Christ's way, in His power, and according to His Word. The greater David wins hearts and woos hearts rather than forcing submission as Abner sought to do. The greater David values every life dearly rather than valuing a cause more than a life. The greater David is in the midst of His people, not absent from His people. The field of swords is memorialized, not so that we will imitate it, but so we will avoid it through Jesus. And I charge you to seek peace with each other through the grace of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I charge you to lay aside the sharp swords of our mouths and to be part of the New Jerusalem by the blood of the Lamb. Amen.

Brothers and sisters, I charge you to not use the sword of your tongues against your companions, or in any way to hold bitterness in your hearts, but instead to follow the strategies of Ephesians 4 for "endeavoring to keep the unity of Spirit in the bond of peace." Amen.

![](./2Samuel 2_12-16/media/image1.png)he Fight For Unity in Gibeon

2 Samuel 2:12-16

By Phillip G. Kayser at DCC on 7-15-2012

Introduction

I. The sad historical facts

A. Abner seeking to force submission (vv. 12-13)

1. This was clearly a war of northern aggression (v. 12)

2. Joab is defending the northern border of David's lawful kingdom (v.

B. Trial by ordeal, wrestling match gone awry, treachery, gladiator sports? (vv. 14-16) – whatever it was, it led to regrettable results.

1. The theories

2. Note that this unprecedented activity was suggested by Abner, not Joab (v. 14)

3. The word "play" clearly suggests entertainment

4. Guaranteed death (v. 16) – twelve of the twenty men of Judah who died that day died because of this stupid contest

5. This in turn led to bitterness of a feud (see rest of chapter and book)

C. The beginning of a civil war (v. 17)

II. The significance of the way it is told

A. Note the ten points of symmetry and balance

B. The only points of asymmetry are no mention of David's father and Abner's men are only "from Benjamin."

C. Brethren (v. 16 Hebrew with vv. 26-27) divided in civil war

D. Sets up a contrast with the greater son of David who brings unity with His own blood (chapter 27 with Ezek. 37)

Conclusion


  1. On July 25, 2006, Congressman Woolsey said, "Mr. Speaker, on October 10, 2002, despite the objections of 133 Members, myself included, this body, the House of Representatives, voted to give the President of the United States the authority to launch a preemptive strike against Iraq. If we had the information on that day that we have now, I wonder how many votes the war resolution would have garnered. If we had known that Saddam Hussein had no weapons of mass destruction; if we had known that the President was hell bent on going to war no matter what, regardless of the intelligence, with or without the U.N.'s blessing; if we had known that we would have still been occupying Iraq nearly 4 years later; if we had known that our occupation would give rise to a violent insurgency, sectarian strife, and all-out civil war; if we had known that the cost of this war would approach $.5 trillion; if we had known that more than 2,550 brave Americans would never come home and thousands upon thousands of Iraqi civilians would be killed for the sake of their so-called liberation; if we had known of the atrocities and constitutional desecrations that would be committed in the name of war, from Abu Ghraib to domestic spying to Guantanamo Bay."

  2. 1. Kings are absent. 2. Gibeon begins and ends the narrative. 3. Generals names. 4. Names of the fathers. 5. Who they were "servants of"

    1. Mirror images at the pool. 7. Agreement to the contest. 8. Twelve and twelve. 9. Symmetry in killing. 10. They fall down together.

Support Kayser Commentary - donate to Biblical Blueprints today! It allows us to publish more books, blog posts, and cool works like the Revelation Project.

Sign up for the Biblical Blueprints email list to learn about new resources as we release them.