2 Samuel 2:1 – 4:12 – At last…but!


2 Samuel 2:1 – 4:12



For most of us – or rather all of us – life never quite lives up to the expectations that we have. I don’t know about you, but when I was a school I always had the idea that life would be easier and more enjoyable when I didn’t have homework to do, or teachers telling me what to do – I could earn my own money and enjoy being free. I went from school to the army – my dreams were shattered. and so we could go on….

Maybe we have been through years of struggle – financial, healthwise, – or maybe after years of loneliness we enter marriage, or maybe after years of study we at last embark on own career — we emerge from these difficulties and think “These are going to be the best years of my life!”

God is going to use these years – he is going to bless us and give a sense of fulfilment in following him. BUT ….

Let’s hold off on the ‘BUT’ for a while and see what is happening in David’s life and what we can learn.


  • When we began the story of David some time ago we saw how God chose David to be the future King of Israel. David was only about 17 years old.
  • He rises to national prominence when he kills Goliath the Philistine giant.
  • He becomes captain in the national army of King Saul and he is very successful as a soldier and leader of men. In fact, he is more successful than the King and the people know this and David becomes more popular than King Saul.
  • Saul becomes insanely jealous and tries to kill David who is then forced to flee for his life.
  • David makes some mistakes – he lies which results in the massacre at Nob – he takes refuge amongst the Philistines and has to feign madness to save himself from being killed.
  • Then he takes refuge in the wilderness and here God molds David to depend whole on Him. David learns that God is his refuge and strength – that he will protect and provide and fulfil his purposes for David as he waits on God.
  • During this time David builds up a significant band of followers.
  • In spite of his military strength and opportunities to kill his enemy King Saul – David saves Saul’s life as he is God’s anointed and David will not try to force God’s hand – he has learned to wait on God.


King Saul is now dead. Three of his sons, including Jonathan David’s dear friend are also dead. David has lamented these deaths. Not just of Jonathan his friend but also his enemy, Saul – but he laments nevertheless because Saul is God’s anointed king and David is a man after God heart.

But now Saul is dead. The way is open for David to become king. For a decade he had been on the run, hiding and living by his wits, relying on God to be his protection and refuge and provider.

Now that things look easier will there be any need for God?

If we are honest I guess we are all guilty of thinking we don’t need God so much when things are going well for us. When we are in a scrap, yes, we need him then but when things are going well for us then we don’t need God’s help – or so we delude ourselves! (Often unconsciously – we simply drift along)


Look at the situation – God has promised David he will be King. The people know that David will be king. Saul is dead. Surely the logical thing to do is take the throne. “David the door is open, what are you hesitating about? Get on with it!”

As Christians we are under the Lordship of Christ / under God’s rule. To live our lives for Him. To follow a lifestyle that is according to the principles Jesus taught.

YET often we can be guilty of jumping the gun // of rushing ahead with things because we see that the door is open. “What’s there to pray about? Surely it is obvious?” // “I am in love with this guy, he is a Christian – why ask God surely it is what he wants?” // I have been offered promotion surely it must be the right thing to do – why pray about it? It will be more money!”

Other Churches have used an evangelistic programme and it worked for them – we have the opportunity – let’s do it – it is obvious isn’t it why ask God?”

The door was wide open for David to become king BUT notice what David does…

  • He remains calm and unhurried. 2 Samuel 2:1

1 In the course of time, David enquired of the LORD. ……..              Haste is often a sign of self-will. When we are not sure that something is God’s will but we want to do it regardless, we are generally in a hurry. BUT when we are sure we are in God’s will we can wait for God’s timing. David was willing to wait on God – he had learned that in the wilderness. [We will see how he later forgets this lesson]

  • He prayerfully seeks God’s guidance.

2 Samuel 2:1

1 In the course of time, David enquired of the LORD. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked. The LORD said, “Go up.”

David asked, “Where shall I go?” “To Hebron,” the LORD answered. (NIV)

A new phase of life requires new guidance. He might have thought that he didn’t new God’s guidance / that ‘commonsense’ was enough to know that Hebron would be the best place for a capital. BUT David doesn’t take for granted that he knows God’s will.

The longer I am a Christian the more difficult I find knowing the will of God for my life. Oh I know God’s general principles revealed in scripture and those are difficult enough to obey / BUT I become uneasy when Christians glibly claim to knows God’s will / “God told me!”

If David, who was anointed to be king by the prophet Samuel had to come to God for guidance, how much more do I?

2 Samuel 2:2-4

2 So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3 David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. 4 Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah.

David is only King over Judah / just the southern part of the country. It will be another 7½ years before he is King over the whole of Israel.

David was going to have to overcome his enemies and rivals AND he was going to have to unite a divided people. These are the problems that face the leaders of God’s people in every generation. Jesus faced these problems and through his church still faces these problems today. Some within his professing church are more his enemies than his friends.

It is his purpose to unite the Church. Ephesians 4:13 13 … unity in the faith …

This was his prayer in John 17:21 21 that all of them may be one, ………

David’s task was not going to be easy – he had people around him who claimed to be on his side // who even believed they were on his side but would make his life difficult. They were doing their best to help but the problem was they were not interested in God’s interests. They believe that God is God – well sort of! BUT following God is not a way of life. They will do things, even ‘serve’ God, their own way.


A brief sketch of these chapters is necessary …    [MAP]


  • David becomes king in Hebron – over the southern tribe of Judah.
  • Ishbosheth becomes king in Mahanaim – over the northern tribes. His name means “son of shame”. He was 41 – he was Saul’s only surviving son and heir. He was not a strong leader – in fact he was really a puppet king.


  • Two armies – led by Abner in the North and Joab in the South.
  • The two armies meet at the pool of Gibeon – Abner and Joab each put forward 12 men to engage in a contest of arms. {like Goliath and David – this time 12 on each side}. Things get out of hand – what started as a contest turned into a riot and ended in a massacre. At the end of the day the body count was Israel 360 – Judah 20! David’s men, under Joab, won the day – although there are seldom winners in a civil war!
  • Asahel is killed – He is Joab’s brother – Asahel is ambitious he goes after Abner and catches up with him but Abner warns him to go back – he doesn’t listen and Abner being the older and more cunning soldier kills Asahel.
  • Joab wins the day but the death of his brother leaves a deep scar of resentment.
  • Through this time David continues to grow stronger. (3:1-5)


  • Ishbosheth is weak – Abner is the King maker – things don’t go well. Ishbosheth and Abner have a fall out over a woman – (What’s new!!) In his anger Abner promises to hand the North over to David. (He acknowledges that this is God’s will anyway)
  • Abner wastes no time and goes to negotiate with David – and they come to an agreement.
  • When Joab hears of it he is furious and goes after Abner and murders him – Revenge for his brother, Asahel.
  • The second murder is that of Ishbosheth – With the death of Abner there is no real leader in the North – Two brothers, the Sons of Rimmon, murder Ishbosheth in his bed and take his head to David thinking that they will be rewarded – David is not impressed with their treachery and has them executed.
  • The way is now open for David to become king over all Israel!

It is a messy, unsettled 7 years from the Death of Saul until David finally becomes King over all Israel.

The main players in this section are Joab and Abner. Both would have claimed to be for David. Joab from the beginning and Abner became a supporter later on.

ABNER is an opportunist. He is really the leader of the North – he is the King-maker – Ishbosheth is a puppet king! Abner is astute enough to realise that the future is with David and he works out diplomatic ways to hand the North over to Israel so he, Abner, can have a leading role in the new government.

He bullies Ishbosheth with God-talk. 2 Samuel 3:9-10 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.” (NIV)

He woos the elders and leaders of Israel with God-talk .. 2 Samuel 3:18 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.’ ” (NIV)

Abner is a smooth operator – he knows how to use the name of God when it serves his purposes.

We all have that potential – to use God as a front to get what we want – it is so easy to say “God told me …” or if we come from a different theological stable to say “I sense God is leading me to ….” or “I have really prayed about this and I am sure God wants me to …”

We need to be on our guard so that we wait on the Lord like David and don’t use the Lord’s name like Abner!

JOAB – David’s commander-in-chief – he is David’s nephew, the son of his sister Zeruiah – he is the typical strong man. He acts first and thinks later. He is loyal – he serves the idea that he believes to be right – in this case David as God’s anointed. If you get in the way of his ideal or are a threat to it he will remove you by fair means or foul!

He is a combination of hot-headedness, dogmatism and muscle.

Both of these men know that David will be king – both are jockeying for position, maneuvering and manipulating to claim positions of political and military prominence.

Why are they here in the story – we want to here about David a man after God’s heart. Why do we have to have these selfish, self-ambitious, hard-headed men in the story. We get wars and murders and political scandals in our newspapers and on our TVs everyday – why in the Bible? Why are people like Abner and Joab allowed to take up so much space? Why does David’s story get so messed up with these people?


They are in the story because whether we like it or not this is the context in which God chooses to work out his story!

We find wonderful companions along the way of faith – those who encourage and help – men and women of grace and beauty, loyalty and prayer: – Jonathans and Abigails, Samuels and Ahimelechs. BUT we also find ourselves in the company of Abners and Joabs.

They are not fundamentally enemies – Joab and Abner would have claimed to be on David’s side; interested in God’s work in David. BUT really they are only interested in how David can further their work. Religion is a front to their self-interest.

David found these to be a constant thorn in his side — and these men the sons of Zeruiah be too hard for me: [2 Samuel 3:39]

Zeruiah, David’s sister, had three sons, Joab, Asahel and Abishai: Although Joab was no blood relative he was like them in character.

Abner Killed Asahel and then Joab killed Abner in revenge – the two remaining sons Joab and Abishai would continue to be a thorn in David’s side for the rest of his life.

These men are fiercely loyal to David’s political interests but they comprehend nothing of David’s spirit; they don’t have David’s heart for God.

David is attempting to lead God’s people but amongst them are these sons of Zeruiah who are making life difficult. Pursuing their own agendas while they jockey for position.


Some people don’t like to read the Bible, esp. the OT because they say there is too much fighting and brutality. BUT we must read it – because it is very similar to the kind of world we wake up to every morning – a world of shabby morality, opportunists, religious propaganda, …. and on and on … the many, many sons of Zeruiah that are too hard for us!

The kind of stories that we have looked at this morning point to the nature of sin – self-absorbed and no room for the Lord and both his righteousness and his blessings.


They also come as a warning to all of us – to our need of self-knowledge and humility before the measure of the Word of God.

There is something of the nature of Abner and the Sons of Zeruiah in all of us – we all have the potential, while pretending to put God first, to actually be using God and his people for our own selfish ends. And so we need to examine our own hearts before the Lord.


In the midst of all this turmoil David is waiting on God and seeking God’s direction. We observe that David is acting honestly, peacefully and graciously; even towards his enemies…….

I said at the beginning that sometimes we enter a new phase of life thinking these are going to be the best years of my life. And Yes, some years may seem better that others.

BUT we must accept that this life in never without its problems and troubles – and if we are waiting for a better day, an easier time to serve God – it won’t come! There will always be circumstances and people to complicate life and make it messy. Life is never neatly packaged with no loose ends!

The challenge for David was to live for God surrounded by messy circumstances.

We live in the same world – and God calls us to live for him in this world!

Titus 2:11-14        11 For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope — the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good. (NIV)



2 Samuel 2:1 – 4:12.


1. The story so far


  • – David anointed to be future king
  • – David becomes a national hero when he kills Goliath
  • – He becomes a successful soldier –  more popular than King Saul
  • – Jealous Saul tries to kill  David who flees for his life
  • – For 10 years David lives as a refugee


2. A new era –

     “The king is dead, long live the king!”

  • – Saul and Jonathan die in battle
  • – David laments
  • – David is freed from living as a refugee


3. The door is open –

     “What’s there to pray about?”


  •  David remains calm and unhurried
  •  David prayerfully seeks God’s guidance




4. With friends like that who needs enemies?


      Two Kings:

            – David in the South

            – Ishbosheth in the North

      Two sides:

            – Northern army led by Abner

            – Southern army led by Joab

      Two murders:

            – Abner murdered by Joab

            – Ishbosheth murdered by the sons of



Both are:

      – ambitious

      – jockeying for position

      – working to their own agendas

      ABNER     – opportunist

                        – king-maker

                        – shrewd


      JOAB        – strong man

                        – loyal

                        – hot-headed

                        – dogmatic


5. A slice of life

  •  Be aware that there will always be ‘Abners’ and       ‘sons of Zeruiah’
  •  Beware that we are not like the ‘Abners’ and ‘sons of Zeruiah’
  •  But there is also David – ‘A man after God’s own       heart’

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