Read – 2 Samuel 2
Focus on verse 8-11
Historically, transitions of power are almost always accompanied by conflict, and very often by bloodshed. The concept of governments changing hands in a peaceful and honorable fashion would seem to be a relatively recent development human history. Our most recent election in 2016 here in America was arguably not one of the smoothest transitions of power we have seen in recent years, but we can be thankful that it has not resulted in the nation descending into a state of anarchy, or being hi-jacked by a military dictator, or worse. At this point, despite the strong opinions among elected politicians, and the apparent corruption of some high ranking public officials, most of us can go to sleep at night with little fear of being murdered in our beds—our supermarkets shelves are amply supplied, and we can move about with relative freedom and safety.
In today’s reading we catch a glimpse of the struggle that resulted in the transition of power from the family and friends of Saul, to the family and friends of David.
Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”
Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. (v. 7-8)
Though Saul was dead, there were still quite a number of people in whose better interest it was for a relative of Saul to ascend to the throne. Not the least of these was Abner the son of Ner who had been the commander of Saul’s army. In order to protect his position, and possibly in honor of he loyalty to Saul, Abner sets up Ish-bosheth as king. It would seem from the text that this is in response to learning that David had been declared king over Judah in Hebron rather than in the absence of knowing David had been made king in Hebron.
This begins what turns out a lengthy skirmish for power, not so much between David and Ish-bosheth, but between Abner the commander of the army of Saul (or at least what was left of it) and Joab the commander of David’s army. In the readings yet to come we will discover that while David demonstrates great interest in winning Abner and his followers over to join him, Joab makes a decision without David’s approval that aborts that possibility.
What I find fascinating as this story unfolds is the family ties and vendettas that are interwoven into the plot—not unlike the family ties and vendettas that motivate many high level decisions in our federal and state politics. This is the real story. There is little effort on the part of the author of 2 Samuel to sanitize the story to try to make the hero’s look better or the villains look worse. When this same story is retold in Chronicles from a priestly perspective we begin to see some of those bias showing through – but we only see the difference because we also have this version of the story in 1 & 2 Samuel.
Perhaps a lesson we can take home from this is that God uses real people… even crooked politicians. He uses people who have weaknesses as well as strengths…people who make huge mistakes, but keep on trying…people much like you and I.