7 LESSONS ON HOW NOT TO LIVE: THE STORY OF ABNER (I)
There are many characters in the Bible whose life stories are meant to serve as cautionary tales for us. We can spare ourselves from suffering the disastrous consequences of bad behaviour by taking note of their misdeeds and avoiding them. This teaching focuses on one such person: Abner, who headed the Israeli army under the kingship of Saul and his son, Ish-bosheth.
The teaching is in two parts. We have deduced seven lessons on how not to live for this part while the second part will present five such lessons. Read and be blessed!
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7 LESSONS ON HOW NOT TO LIVE: THE STORY OF ABNER (I)
“I’m such a big man,” Abner must have thought. “I can do pretty much what I like.” This notion could have rolled around his mind not just once, but over and over till it became his philosophy. Some of the building blocks of this warped life construct were, “Hold nothing sacred” and “Look out for number one.”
Abner was a privileged adult Israeli, an experienced army officer and cousin to the king, Saul son of Kish, when he was introduced in 1 Samuel 14:50. Saul had made him commander of the army. That appointment may be considered well deserved or another instance of nepotism, which has been rife in politics through the ages, depending on how you choose to see it. Saul must have picked Abner to ensure loyalty. Having a close relative in such a sensitive and high position would ensure his personal safety and prevent anxiety about possible insurrection.
Abner was in a position to advise Saul on his military strategies and campaigns. For over a decade, Saul was hunting David down to kill him and obviate the possibility of the young man succeeding him. David was a distinguished Israeli army officer. He had killed Goliath, the Philistine giant who had been poised to humiliate Israel. He also led successful military campaigns against the nation’s enemies, thus endearing himself to the citizens. In addition, he was Saul’s son-in-law. (1 Samuel chapter 17; 18:6-16)
The king’s obsession with exterminating David was unjust and unwarranted but Abner was never reported to have attempted to dissuade him. Rather, he accompanied Saul on his ill-advised expeditions against the young man who was widely known to have been anointed by God to replace him. It was Jonathan, the first son of Saul, whom the king hoped would be his successor, who spoke up to defend David. Furthermore, David’s wife, Saul’s second daughter, Michal, helped him escape when Saul sent men to kill him at home. (1 Samuel chapters 24 & 26; 20:30-34)
Lesson 1: Do not join anyone to do evil.
Lesson 2: Never ignore or oppose the express will of God.
Lesson 3: Do not keep quiet in the face of injustice.
Lesson 4: Do not fail to give godly advice and be a positive influence to people around you whenever possible.
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Unfortunately, Saul continued his murderous pursuit of David and had a whole city of priests slaughtered because he claimed David had risen up against him and Ahimelech “had helped him escape”. This charge resulted when David fled to the tent of God and Ahimelech consulted God for him, then furnished him with a weapon and provisions because he claimed he was on a mission for the king. (1 Samuel 21:1-9; 22:6-19) The priest’s response to Saul’s charge before he was executed was profound:
“14. Then Ahimelech answered the king, “And who among all your servants is so faithful as David, who is the king’s son-in-law, and captain over your bodyguard, and honored in your house?
15. Is today the first time that I have inquired of God for him? No! Let not the king impute anything to his servant or to all the house of my father, for your servant has known nothing of all this, much or little.” – (1 Samuel 22:14-15 – ESV)
In spite of all this, Abner was not troubled enough to disagree with Saul on the matter.
Perhaps, Abner was concerned about the security of his own position which he may have felt at the time could not be guaranteed if David became king.
In another instance, Saul committed genocide against the Gibeonites whom the elders of Israel had vowed to spare during the time of Joshua. Again, Abner’s stand against this carnage which later brought God’s judgment on Israel was not recorded. (Joshua 9:3-19; 2 Samuel 21:1-2)
It is good to obey our bosses but we need to draw the line when they pursue an evil agenda.
Fast forward to the battle with the Philistines on the Mount of Gilboa. The army of Israel is soundly defeated, Saul and his three sons – Jonathan, Abinadab and Malkishua – killed in the process. Abner has an opportunity to redeem himself by aligning with David right away and helping to bring about the promise of God to make him the shepherd of his people, Israel.
But he chooses the opposite course by making Saul’s survivng son, Ish-bosheth, king and “strengthening his own position in the house of Saul” (2 Samuel 2:8-9, 2 Samuel 3:6 – NIV).
Lesson 5: Do not feel obligated to obey ungodly commands from your superiors.
Lesson 6: Do not allow your personal agenda or interest to prevent you from doing right.
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The course Abner chose meant that Saul’s and David’s armies were pitched against each other and the resulting skirmishes led to the loss of many lives. A particularly reprehensible instance of mindless violence instigated by Abner during this time is recorded in 2 Samuel 2:12-17.
12. And Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ish–bosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon.
13. And Joab the son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out, and met together by the pool of Gibeon: and they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool.
14. And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise, and play before us. And Joab said, Let them arise.
15. Then there arose and went over by number twelve of Benjamin, which pertained to Ish–bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David.
16. And they caught every one his fellow by the head, and thrust his sword in his fellow’s side; so they fell down together: wherefore that place was called Helkath–hazzurim, which is in Gibeon.
17. And there was a very sore battle that day; and Abner was beaten, and the men of Israel, before the servants of David.
These were soldiers under Abner’s command. They were young men who had enlisted to serve their country, who had parents, wives and children waiting for them at home. Abner placed no value on their lives but sought macabre entertainment by calling for a duel in which they were meant to kill each other.
Lesson 7: Do not toy with human lives. Always remember that life is sacred and do not shed blood lightly.
From that point, negative events that ultimately led to Abner’s murder were set in motion. These will be discussed in Part II of this teaching which, by God’s grace, will present more lessons for us from Abner’s life.
The scriptures in this post are from the King James Version of the Holy Bible except where otherwise stated.
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