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Escalating Tension

September 6, 2018

Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 2 Samuel 2:12

This is the sad story of a needless conflict that spiraled out of control. It is the story of a tragic day in a divided kingdom.

Abner moved his army from Mahanaim to Gibeon (2:12). Now remember that David is at Hebron in the south. Ish-bosheth is at Mahanaim further north. Abner marches his army south, so this is a direct threat to David in Hebron.

Joab, the commander of David’s army, would not allow Abner to march all the way to Hebron, so he marched the forces loyal to David north until the two armies met at Gibeon (2:13). So here you have a stand-off between the two armies. The tension is high. Abner is the aggressor. But Joab has drawn a line in the sand and will not allow Abner to move further south. Joab’s mission was to defend David, so the two armies sit on either side of the pool at Gibeon. Stalemate!

It’s Abner who takes the initiative. He said to Joab, “Let the young men arise and compete before us” (2:14). The idea was simple. Let’s have two teams compete—twelve-on-twelve. Joab agrees, and each side picks their twelve men. The two huddles break, and you have two lines of twelve men, each one eyeing his opponent as they walk forward: “And each caught his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side, so they fell down together” (2:16).

Twenty-four men died that day in a senseless outbreak of violence in which both sides shared equal blame. And, of course, that was just the beginning.

Is there a tension in your life that could easily escalate into a greater conflict?

The Author
Colin Smith

Colin Smith is the senior pastor of The Orchard Evangelical Free Church in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. He has authored a number of books, including Heaven, How I Got Here and Heaven, So Near - So Far. Colin is the president and teacher for Unlocking the Bible. Follow him on Twitter.

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