How the Kingdom of God grows
A note to leaders: This section covers two chapters. This would take too long to cover in detail in one study. A decision is needed to look at the whole two chapters superficially or one of three sections (scenes) in a little more detail. Each scene looks at the reaction of King David to three types of offerings to the King and how exactly does the House of David grow stronger and stronger (2 Sam 2:1). We see, in the first scene, a man who crosses over to the kingdom of David and peace is made between him and the king. In the second scene we see a loyal member of the king’s court who is damned because he does not understand the nature of the kingdom. And the third scene similarly sees judgment paid on those who think that good can come out of wicked means.
So, will you draw out those three lessons broadly and look at the whole two chapters? Or will you choose one of the three scenes and cover that as a group?
It is better to do right and not to have than to do evil and have it all.
Once king Saul had been killed in battle, David inquired of the LORD and was directed to go up to Horeb. He went up as the LORD had directed him and was anointed king over Judah. Saul’s cousin, Abner, placed a son of Saul (Ish-Bosheth) as king over “all Israel”. He initiated a division in the nation that went against the wishes of God. The battle between the house of David and the house of Saul lasted a long time but David’s house grew stronger. We enter Chapter 3 with the message that David’s kingdom will flourish but what will become of Abner and the kingdom under Ish-Bosheth?
Read 2 Samuel 3:6-4:12
6 During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul. 7 Now Saul had had a concubine named Rizpah daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, “Why did you sleep with my father’s concubine?”
8 Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, “Am I a dog’s head—on Judah’s side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven’t handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman! 9 May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the Lord promised him on oath 10 and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David’s throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba.” 11 Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.
12 Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, “Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you.”
13 “Good,” said David. “I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me.” 14 Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”
15 So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. 16 Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go back home!” So he went back.
17 Abner conferred with the elders of Israel and said, “For some time you have wanted to make David your king. 18 Now do it! For the Lord promised David, ‘By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and from the hand of all their enemies.’ ”
19 Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person. Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole tribe of Benjamin wanted to do. 20 When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast for him and his men. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.
22 Just then David’s men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace.
24 So Joab went to the king and said, “What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone! 25 You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing.”
26 Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it. 27 Now when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him in the stomach, and he died.
28 Later, when David heard about this, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner. 29 May his blood fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family! May Joab’s family never be without someone who has a running sore or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food.”
30 (Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)
31 Then David said to Joab and all the people with him, “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth and walk in mourning in front of Abner.” King David himself walked behind the bier. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept aloud at Abner’s tomb. All the people wept also.
33 The king sang this lament for Abner:
“Should Abner have died as the lawless die?
34 Your hands were not bound,
your feet were not fettered.
You fell as one falls before the wicked.”
And all the people wept over him again.
35 Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets!”
36 All the people took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them. 37 So on that day all the people there and all Israel knew that the king had no part in the murder of Abner son of Ner.
38 Then the king said to his men, “Do you not realize that a commander and a great man has fallen in Israel this day? 39 And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are too strong for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer according to his evil deeds!”
4 When Ish-Bosheth son of Saul heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost courage, and all Israel became alarmed. 2 Now Saul’s son had two men who were leaders of raiding bands. One was named Baanah and the other Rekab; they were sons of Rimmon the Beerothite from the tribe of Benjamin—Beeroth is considered part of Benjamin, 3 because the people of Beeroth fled to Gittaim and have resided there as foreigners to this day.
4 (Jonathan son of Saul had a son who was lame in both feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled, but as she hurried to leave, he fell and became disabled. His name was Mephibosheth.)
5 Now Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. 6 They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rekab and his brother Baanah slipped away.
7 They had gone into the house while he was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed and killed him, they cut off his head. Taking it with them, they traveled all night by way of the Arabah. 8 They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to kill you. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.”
9 David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, 10 when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
12 So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron.
What did you see? (Observation)
Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)
- Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)
- Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)
- Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)
- Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)
- End: David and Abner at peace (21)
Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39
- Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)
- Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)
- Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)
- Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)
- End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)
Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)
- Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)
- Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)
- Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)
- Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)
- End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)
Scene 1: Crossing over to the kingdom of David (3:6-21)
Beginning: Abner is all about Abner (6)
Notice how Ish-Bosheth isn’t even mentioned in this description. Abner is a political warrior aiming to position himself well in the land. He may not be king, but we’ll see that he regarded himself as good-as.
Problem: The line drawn between Abner and Ish-Bosheth (7-11)
In Abner’s position, he took one of Saul’s concubines. Saul was not longer alive of course. Ish-Bosheth’s question in Verse 7 seems reasonable except that it was a step too far for Abner. He had served Saul and had created this kingdom for Ish-Bosheth, who had done nothing. Why should Abner be denied this small thing? How dare Ish-Bosheth!
Abner decides to remove the kingdom from Ish-Bosheth and hand it to David. He even admits that David was promised the Kingdom by God (V9). He is likely to have been present with Saul when Saul declared such a thing (see 1 Samuel 24:20). In that same passage he would have noticed the kindness of David compared to the little he has gained from Ish-Bosheth.
Quest: Abner comes to David (12-16)
Abner came to David with the offer to bring Israel over to David (see how Abner feels he has the nation under his spell?). David accepts but quickly takes the lead in the agreement: “I will make an agreement with you.” He asks for his wife Michal to be returned to him but then doesn’t wait for Abner to organise it, but sends a message to Ish-Bosheth directly on the matter. Michal and David had loved one another and their marriage is a tragedy – all because of the wickedness of Saul.
Resolution: Abner in the Kingdom of David (17-20)
Abner goes around all of Israel speaking to the elders and calling them to make David their king. He is like an evangelist telling others of the goodness of coming to David. When he arrived back in Hebron, David sits him down for a feast that David had prepared. The once enemy of David was now being treated at his table.
End: David and Abner at peace (21)
Abner proposes to assemble all of the elders at once so they can set David as their king and David sends him away in peace. The future of David as the one king of Israel looks to be here. The strength of David’s house had been growing and it was about to be complete. The path? Through peace made between enemies.
Scene 2: A wolf in sheep’s clothing (3:22-39
Beginning: A servant of David returns from battle (22)
Joab returned to Hebron having fought in the fight for the House of David but he had missed the agreement and discussions make between David and Abner. If he had been there he would have had something else to say.
Problem: Joab rejects the new peace agreement (23-27)
Joab spoke his mind to David but we get no response from David. Later, David makes it clear to all of Israel that he did not betray Abner. Joab accuses Abner of being a lier and conspiring but it is Joab who kills Abner in a deceptive manner. Rather than accept the peace made, Joab strikes down Abner, both for the kingdom but also from revenge for his brother. Joab may be serving in the House of David but he does not have the same motives of David. What will David do when he hears what happened?
Quest: David rebukes Joab for his revenge (28-30)
David prays a curse on the family of Joab. They reflect all of the curses that God promises to those who do not obey his commands. David’s hope is that his kingdom would not be connected to Abner’s death in any way. David totally disapproves of what Joab did.
Resolution: David teaches all the people to mourn (31-35)
Notice the repetition in these verses of ‘all the people’. David directs the people and even Joab to mourn for the loss of Abner. The King leads the way in the mourning, it is not a show and the people followed his directions. The King’s lament asks if Abner really deserved to die like the wicked. The people try to ease the King out of mourning but he insists on grieving Abner completely.
End: Everything the King did pleased the people (36-39)
‘All the people’ are convinced that David is a good king. Everything he did pleased them. Abner did not bring all Israel over to David in his life but ‘all the people’ present grew deeper in their loyalty to David. He proved again to be a good and righteous king.
In Verse 39, David gives us a snapshot of his kingdom. He has people in his kingdom who are too strong for him. If the kingdom is to be given entirely to David, he will not be able to restrain the likes of Joab, Abashai and Asahel. He calls on the LORD to protect and grow the kingdom.
Scene 3: Using wicked means for a righteous kingdom (4:1-12)
Beginning: The news of Abner’s death reaches Ish-Bosheth (1)
The scene changes from Hebron to the kingdom of Ish-Bosheth which, to this point, is ‘all Israel’ apparently. Abner had been killed before he was able to bring all of Israel to serve David as King. The son of Saul hears the bad news that Abner died in Hebron. Perhaps he did not hear of all the details and is left to wonder and worry about the future.
Problem: The anxious king over and anxious nation (1)
We are told that he lost courage and all Israel became alarmed. What do people do when anxiety and fear overtakes them? They fight or flee. It seems that Ish-Bosheth lost his courage and became weak. What will be the response of ‘all Israel’?
Quest: Opportunists kill Ish-Bosheth and report to David (2-8)
Rekab and Baanah are introduced in Verses 2-4 with a great deal of backstory and gap-filling. Mephibosheth is introduced here and we shall hear more about him later in the book.
As we read of what Rekab and Baanah do, two stories come to mind. The first is the most recent of Joab killing Abner and being cursed by the king for his treachery. The second is of the messenger at the beginning of the book who came to report the death of Saul (lying that he himself killed him) and was killed for his evil treatment of the LORD’s annointed. So, as readers, we must surely expect David to not like what they have done. And yet we still wonder if he will still be a righteous king.
Resolution: The King who trusts in the Lord to deliver (9-11)
David begins his response to these two men with the declaration that he has come to know that the living God is the one who delivers. He does not trust in the craftiness of men to do his bidding but in the deliverance of the LORD. He is a righteous King and a just judge.
End: Ish-Bosheth is buried with Abner (12)
The evil men were made a spectacle of. David making it clear once again that his kingdom is not growing through evil ways but growing by the providence of God. It is, after all, the LORD’s kingdom. David buries Ish-Bosheth with Abner – an show of kindness to the son of Saul.
What did we learn? (Meaning)
The Kingdom of God welcomes those who turn to the King. It is a Kingdom of forgiveness and peace and will not grow through unrighteous means. The LORD will welcome enemies but reject those who do not understand what the Kingdom is about.
Now what? (Application)
Topic A: Rejoice that we rebels are welcomed to feast with The Lord Jesus in peace. The image of Abner eating a feast prepared for him by David, his once rival and then sent out to gather in the rest of the tribes of Israel is a glimpse of the church of Christ who are forgiven and sent out to tell all that Jesus is King and Saviour. Have you understood this grace offered to you?
Topic B: Unable to forgive. If forgiveness were easy then everybody would be doing it. Abner had been welcomed in and made peace with the Kingdom of David but Joab was unable to accept this change of heart. Joab was cursed by David for his failure to forgive and was later taught how to mourn for the death of his enemy. Forgiveness is hard, yes. It was not an easy thing for Christ to forgive you and me either. But it is the nature of the Kingdom of God and the King whom we serve.
Topic C: Accomplishing good through unrighteous means. Rekab and Baanah expected to receive blessings for bringing down the King’s enemy but they did it by unrighteous means. We are not driven to stab anyone in the name of Jesus but are there other ways that Christians can be tempted to expand the Kingdom through evil ways? Lying? Stealing? Measuring the church by number of people on seats rather than souls saved?