Journey Through The Scriptures

David, Part II

Lesson 2: Civil War in Israel

(Scripture to Read: 2 Samuel 2:1–4:12)

David was thrust into a brewing civil war following the death of Saul. With the throne of Israel empty, David was anointed king of Judah at God’s direction—David’s second anointing (1 Samuel 16:13), but the first one in public. Saul’s followers still held power in the north, referred to here as Israel (a foreshadowing of the later division of the nation into two kingdoms under Solomon). The brewing war between the houses of David and Saul reached a boiling point when a battle broke out between Saul’s and David’s armies.

The key to this battle was the conflict between Abner and Joab, the commanders of their respective armies. Abner killed Joab’s brother Asahel in the fight, and Joab vowed revenge. In the meantime, Abner turned against Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son and the puppet king of the northern tribes, and defected to David’s camp. Joab saw this not only as a threat to his own position as David’s army commander, but as his chance to kill Abner, which he did. The intrigue continued as two Benjamite assassins murdered Ish-Bosheth, hoping to please David and win a reward! But he ordered their execution and used the occasion to teach the people a lesson.

Study Questions

  1. Why did the armies of Israel and Judah clash, even though they were brothers?
  2. Why did Abner kill Asahel, even though he did not want to?
  3. What motivated Abner to visit David?
  4. Why did David curse Joab for killing Abner and affirm his own innocence in this treachery?
  5. Why did David have Ish-Bosheth’s killers put to death?

Something to Think About

Despite all the turmoil and unfaithfulness of others that David had to deal with, he remained faithful to God; was compassionate and forgiving to his enemies; and dealt fairly with everyone. These are the same qualities God wants us to display in our lives today, regardless of the actions of others around us.