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Rival Kings

September 5, 2018

Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Ish-bosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim, and he made him king over Gilead… and all Israel. 2 Samuel 2:8-9

Abner was Saul’s cousin (1 Sam. 14:50) and the commander of his army (2 Sam. 2:8). He led the hunt for David during Saul’s lifetime, so this man was deeply antagonistic to God’s anointed king.

Abner’s first move was to bring Ish-bosheth, one of Saul’s sons, to a place called Mahanaim, well to the north of Hebron where David had been crowned, and to crown him as king over “all Israel” (2:9). So now there are two kings—one who had been anointed by God, and one who had been anointed by Abner.

Abner knew God had anointed David king (2 Sam. 3:9-10), so what he did in anointing Ish-bosheth was an act of defiance. Abner opposed God’s king. He wanted his own king, a king he could control, so he crowned Ish-bosheth.

The will of God did not matter to Abner. He was only ever about one thing: “What’s in it for me? What’s best for Abner?” And at this point in the story, Abner reckons the best thing is to keep the line of Saul going.

The name Ish-bosheth means, “man of shame.” He was a hapless figurehead. He was Abner’s puppet, and he only lasted for as long as he had Abner’s support.

So here you have two kings: God’s anointed king in Hebron, and man’s alternative in Mahanaim. And the people are divided.

Where do you most identify with Abner today?

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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