“And Abner had communication with the elders of Israel, saying, Ye sought for David in times past to be king over you: Now then do it: for the LORD hath spoken of David, saying, By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and out of the hand of all their enemies. And Abner also spake in the ears of Benjamin: and Abner went also to speak in the ears of David in Hebron all that seemed good to Israel, and that seemed good to the whole house of Benjamin. So Abner came to David to Hebron, and twenty men with him. And David made Abner and the men that were with him a feast. And Abner said unto David, I will arise and go, and will gather all Israel unto my lord the king, that they may make a league with thee, and that thou mayest reign over all that thine heart desireth. And David sent Abner away; and he went in peace” (2 Samuel 3:17-21).
Was David accepting peace at any cost? Was he compromising with someone he knew could not be trusted? We cannot say for sure, but certainly this peace treaty would not sit well with some in David’s camp.
The political tactic
Abner, just like the majority of politicians, was looking out for himself first. He coerced the elders of Israel into reconsidering David’s right to reign over the nation. He was cunning enough to play the religious card to add sway to his policy. Ever the hypocrite, Abner shamelessly quoted God’s word to suggest that if they did not accept David as king, then he would be going against the will of the Lord. He elevated David before the people, describing him as the brave hero of Israel. His pious speech quickly overcame any objections and secured the throne for David.
We must remember that Abner was only speaking well of David because he was angry with Ishbosheth for reproving him for taking Saul’s concubine. Therefore while feigning loyalty to David, he was being disloyal to the House of Saul. He was an irreligious man, so whatever zeal he displayed for the fulfilment of God’s word was shallow at best. For Abner, the end justified the means, and he meant to secure himself a high-ranking place in whatever kingdom was successful. The apostle Paul felt the sting of those who preached God’s word for selfish and unholy reasons too. “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds” (Philippians 1:15-16).
The peace treaty
The peace treaty was agreed between Judah and Israel. David must have assumed that the other tribes of Israel would follow suit and summit to him once Abner spread the news throughout the land. Abner was feasted by David, which must have delighted him with his inflated ego. For some reason David did not invite Joab to the banquet. Did he not realise that Joab would feel slighted and grieved once he returned from his mission? Was he not aware that there would be repercussions for honouring Abner in this way? The feasting of Abner is not one of David’s wisest actions, and it is one he would soon regret. Abner must have noticed Joab’s absence at the feast and possibly thought that David was honouring him over Joab.
Abner was thrilled with being honoured by David in this way, so he announced that he would secure all Israel for him. We can almost hear the cheers and applause coming from the banquet table as Abner finished his speech. Politicians are eager to offer grand promises after they have been wined, dined and treated like royalty, Abner was no different. Every trick in the book is used to win the vote of the gullible.
Once again, though God would use the situation, David did not pray about this remarkable event. It seemed that he was being offered the throne on a plate, and maybe he thought that the Lord’s will was being done. With hindsight we know that confirming a peace treaty with a nation’s representative would amount to very little in the long run. David must have agreed to give Abner a prominent place in his government otherwise he would not have promised so much. Abner’s future was secure, or so he thought. For David, he had made an agreement with someone he knew had no faith in or love for God. “Shouldest thou help the ungodly, and love them that hate the LORD?” (2 Chronicles 19:2).