("father of light".) Son of Ner, who was the brother of Kish, the father of Saul (1 Chronicles 9:36). Made commander in chief by his cousin Saul. Introduced David to Saul, after Goliath's death (1 Samuel 14:51; 1 Samuel 17:55; 1 Samuel 17:57). With Saul at Hachilah (1 Samuel 26:8-14). At Saul's death he upheld the dynasty in Ishbosheth's person, mainly owing to the paramount influence of the tribe Ephraim, which was jealous of Judah. While David reigned over Judah as God's anointed, at Hebron, Ishbosheth professedly, but Abner really, reigned in Mahanaim beyond Jordan. In 2 Samuel 2:10 Ishbosheth is said to have reigned for two years, but David for seven. Probably for the first five years after the fatal battle of Gilboa David alone reigned in the old capital of Judah, Hebron; but the rest of the country was in the Philistines' hands. During these five years Israel gradually regained their country, and at length Abner proclaimed Ishbosheth at Mahanaim beyond Jordan, for security against the Philistines: 2 Samuel 2:5-7 confirms this.
David's thanks to the men of Jabesh Gilead for the burial of Saul and his sons imply that no prince of Saul's line as yet had claimed the throne. His exhortation, "Be valiant," refers to the struggle with the Philistines, who alone stood in the way of his reign over all Israel. Ishbosbeth's known weakness, which accounts for his absence from the battle of Gilboa, suited well Abner's ambition. At Gibeon Abner's army was beaten by Joab's; and in fleeing Abner, having tried to deter Asahel, Joab's brother, from following him (since Abner shrank from a blood feud with Joab), but in vain, was at last constrained in self defense to slay him (2 Samuel 2). Abner, presuming on his position as the only remaining stay of Ishbosbeth, was tempted to take the late king Saul's concubine wife, Rizpah. This act, involving in oriental idea the suspicion of usurping the succession to the throne (so in the case of Absalom: 2 Samuel 16:21; 2 Samuel 20:3; 1 Kings 2:13-25; (See ABIATHAR, (See ADONIJAH, and (See ABISHAG), called forth a rebuke from even so feeble a person as the nominal king, Ishbosheth.
Henceforth, in consequence of the rebuke, Abner set about bringing the northern ten tribes to David's sway. Received favorably and feasted by David, after his wife Michal was taken from Phaltiel and restored to him, Abner went forth from Hebron in peace. But Joab, by a message, brought him back from the well of Sirah, and, taking him aside to speak peaceably, murdered him, Abishai also being an accomplice, for the blood of Asahel (Numbers 35:19; 2 Samuel 3:30; 2 Samuel 3:39), and on Joab's part also, as appears likely from Amasa's case, from fear of Abner's becoming a rival in the chief command (2 Samuel 20:4-10). David felt the sons of Zeruiah too strong for him to punish their crime; but, leaving their punishment to the Lord, he showed every honor to Abner's memory by following the bier, and composing this dirge:
"Ought Abner to die as a villain dies?
Thy hands not bound,
Thy feet not brought into fetters,
As one falls before the sons of wickedness, so fellest thou!"
The second and third lines are connected with the last, describing the state in which he was when slain. In form, the subject in such propositions comes first, the verb generally becoming a participle. Indignation preponderates over sorrow; the point of the dirge is the mode of Abner's death. If Abner had been really slain in revenge for blood, as Joab asserted, he ought to have been delivered up "bound hand and foot." But Joab, instead of waiting for his being delivered up with the legal formalities to the authorized penalty (if he were really guilty, which he was not), as an assassin, stabbed him as a worthless fellow (1 Kings 2:5). David added that he felt himself, though a king, weakened by his loss, and that "a prince and great man had fallen."
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