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2 Samuel 2:12 . Mahanaim. See Genesis 32:2.
2 Samuel 2:14 . Abner said to Joab, &c. He did this in confidence that his twelve men would conquer, and make Joab’s army flee. Why had he not challenged Joab to single combat?
2 Samuel 2:16 . Helkath-hazzurim. Ager robustorum, the field of the strong or the brave. The LXX, the field of the sword.
Having traced the steps of David through seven years of painful exile, we now come to view him seven years as king of Judah. Herein the Lord made him the more strikingly a figure of Jesus Christ. So St. Paul has noticed when he says, Howbeit, we see not yet all things put under him.
David, before he dared to remove from the ashes of Ziklag, consulted the Lord; and he who stands in the divine counsel, stands on the rock of ages. He may then laugh at the storm, and smile to see the tempests exhaust their feeble rage. Let every man therefore learn, before he takes any step in life, carefully to consult the Lord by fervent and humble prayer.
When David removed to the most ancient and noble city of Hebron, he removed with all his friends, the faithful companions of all his exiles and afflictions. So they who have followed the Son of man in the regeneration and borne the cross, shall sit on thrones and wear the crown. God is not unrighteous to forget their work of faith and labour of love.
But while we admire David’s prudence, we have to reproach Abner’s folly; a folly which in the issue cost him his life. This man through a principle of family pride, anointed Ishbosheth in Mahanaim, wishful no doubt to be himself the real king, while his nephew had the name. They who oppose the Lord’s work and counsel may do much harm, and God for a time may suffer them to succeed, that he may accomplish his work in their correction, and in the punishment of the wicked. Abner’s crime was here great against the Lord and against David.
We are next led to view the great coolness and confidence of David. He precipitated not his country into a civil war. He was confident that the God of his anointing, who had brought him from the desert to the throne of Judah, would give him the hearts of all the tribes; he therefore sought to make his own people happy and secure. But though he was peaceful, he was not supine. Hearing after two years, that Abner had crossed the Jordan, and was come to Gibeon, he sent Joab to meet him, intending no doubt to follow after raising the army. Abner, finding himself opposed, and being too confident in himself and in his men, proposed to decide the dispute by a single combat of twelve picked men on each side. Here the strength, the skill and courage of each were so equal, that the whole twenty four fell together in the peaceful arms of death. What a wanton waste of the best men in Israel! How faulty was Abner to propose, and Joab to accept the challenge. On the subject of duelling, it was observed, that we had few instances of this horrid practice for several years after the hanging of Major ; and if a contemptible hangman, standing with a halter in his hand, can frighten our high-spirited duelists into peace, we have now proof sufficient that all their boasted courage was nothing but a frantic sense of honour, and utterly unconnected with the coolness and wisdom ever characteristic of a heroic soul.
The fall of Asahel, brother of Joab, should teach all young people modesty, and not to presume too much on the liberal endowments of nature. This youth, rising by David to be a prince, gloried no doubt in being the swiftest man in Israel; and it would have been happy had he been equally aware, that he was not the most valiant man in Israel. How fairly did Abner caution him, and even condescended to repeat that caution. Asahel therefore fell in lawful war: his blood was on his own head, because of his presumption. Many who are too proud of their personal accomplishments, have met with death by presuming too much on their own abilities.
Abner having gained a height, procured a cessation of hostilities, and repassed the Jordan: and happy if he had never crossed it to molest David. Those who meddle with the Lord’s anointed are sure soon or late to receive the reward of their folly. Abner retired in chagrin and shame. Joab justly reproached him with all the blood shed on that occasion. ‘If thou hadst not said what thou didst say in the morning, let the young men rise up and play before us; surely the people had gone away every man from his brother. My sole wish was to oblige thee to return.’ Abner that day shed much innocent blood, and God expiated it by the blood of Abner.
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Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 2". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25