Division Between David And Ishbosheth

Cathy Mullikins bird is cooked, and her calendar is toast. Mullikin had her Thanksgiving turkey dinner already cooked on Thursday, “and my friends and family are coming on the 28th and they’re going to think I’m a kook,” she said. She should never have believed that fre … More


Now that Saul was dead there was a powerful vacuum in the land, particularly in Judah. Saul and three of his sons by his wife Ahinoam were gone. (Saul had two other sons by his concubine Rizpah, 2 Sam. 21:8, 11). David and most people including Israel’s enemies knew that David would now be king.  Having sought the mind of the Lord David was told to got to Hebron where he was formally installed as king over Judah (vv. 1-2) (Anointed by Samuel 15 years earlier (I Sam. 16:13). This was a decisive and important move for it immediately alienated him from the Philistines with whom he had taken refuge and made an alliance; and it asserted David’s reign as being in rivalry with that of Saul’s son, Ishbosheth, who succeeded his father in the North.

We should recognize the fact that both Saul and Jonathan had sons, and one of them would have been the normal one to come to the throne had not God intervened. Abner who had been captain of Saul’s hosts, moved immediately to make Ishboseth king. Abner, Saul’s general gave his support to Ishboseth, perhaps fearful that he would be killed if David became king (vv. 3-11). Ten tribes followed Ishboseth, and two tribes (Judah and Simeon) followed David. Ishboseth was a very weak leader and had a brief tenure of only two years. He was intimidated by Abner who was the leader of the army and maintained a considerable amount of political powers as well. David quickly began to show his diplomatic skills. The men of Jabesh-Gilead had cremated and buried Saul so David sends a thank you to them for their kindness. He also asks them to join him and the people of Judah in order to present a united front before the common enemies of Israel (v. 5-7).


Although David knew he would become king and although the time seemed right for him to take over when Saul died, David still asked God if he should assume the leadership. This points to the fact that before moving ahead with what seems obvious I need to bring the matter to the Lord who alone knows the best timing in every circumstance.

II Samuel 2:1-11 (English Standard Version)

After this David inquired of the LORD, "Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah?" And the LORD said to him, "Go up." David said, "To which shall I go up?" And he said, "To Hebron." So David went up there, and his two wives also, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. And David brought up his men who were with him, everyone with his household, and they lived in the towns of Hebron. And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. When they told David, "It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul," David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh-gilead and said to them, "May you be blessed by the LORD, because you showed this loyalty to Saul your lord and buried him. Now may the LORD show steadfast love and faithfulness to you. And I will do good to you because you have done this thing. Now therefore let your hands be strong, and be valiant, for Saul your lord is dead, and the house of Judah has anointed me king over them." But 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 the Ashurites and Jezreel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all Israel. Ish-bosheth, Saul's son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David. And the time that David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.

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