While there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner was making himself strong in the house of Saul. Now Saul had a concubine whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. And Ish-bosheth said to Abner, “Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?” Then Abner was very angry over the words of Ish-bosheth and said, “Am I a dog’s head of Judah? To this day I keep showing steadfast love to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers, and to his friends, and have not given you into the hand of David. And yet you charge me today with a fault concerning a woman. God do so to Abner and more also, if I do not accomplish for David what the Lord has sworn to him, to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan to Beersheba.” And Ish-bosheth could not answer Abner another word, because he feared him.
And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, “To whom does the land belong? Make your covenant with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring over all Israel to you.” And he said, “Good; I will make a covenant with you. But one thing I require of you; that is, you shall not see my face unless you first bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see my face.” Then David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, saying, “Give me my wife Michal, for whom I paid the bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” And Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband Paltiel the son of Laish. But her husband went with her, weeping after her all the way to Bahurim. Then Abner said to him, “Go, return.” And he returned.
And Abner conferred with the elders of Israel, saying, “For some time past you have been seeking David as king over you. Now then bring it about, for the Lord has promised David, saying, ‘By the hand of my servant David I will save my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines, and from the hand of all their enemies.’” Abner also spoke to Benjamin. And then Abner went to tell David at Hebron all that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin thought good to do.
When Abner came with twenty men to David at Hebron, David made a feast for Abner and the men who were with him. And Abner said to David, “I will arise and go and will gather all Israel to my lord the king, that they may make a covenant with you, and that you may reign over all that your heart desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace. – 2 Samuel 3:6-21 ESV
Living in disobedience to God’s commands can cloud our thinking. It renders us incapable of making wise decisions because we end up making them in the flesh. As long as we harbor unconfessed sin in our hearts, we will find our minds suffering from cloudy thinking. That seems to have been David’s problem As we saw in the opening verses of this chapter, David had a problem with women – he was addicted to them. So much so, that he ended up with as many as eight wives, in direct violation of God’s law. Now, when Abner proposes to hand over to David the other tribes and solidify his kingship, David readily agrees, but on one condition. He demands that Michal, the daughter of Saul and his first wife be returned to him. And this is in spite of the fact that Michal had already remarried. We are not given David’s motives. Perhaps he was simply trying to solidify his right to be king over all the tribes and assumed that having Michal as his queen would win over the Benjaminites. But the likely reason behind David’s demand for Michal’s return was tied to his love affair with women. He wanted her back. And he emphasized to Ish-bosheth that he had every right to have her back because, he said, “I paid the bridal price of a hundred foreskins of the Philistines” (2 Samuel 3:14 ESV).
But, once again, David was making decisions with a mind clouded by sin. He wasn’t processing clearly the ramifications of his actions. First of all, Michal had remarried, and God had made it clear in His law that it was unacceptable for anyone to remarry his wife after she had married again (Deuteronomy 24:1-4). And when David demanded that she be returned to him, she was removed from her home by force, leaving her husband in tears. This decision would come back to haunt David. His relationship with Michal would never be the same. Later on in the book of 2 Samuel, there is the story recorded of when David brought the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. David had arranged for a royal procession, complete with music and much celebration. He led the parade, dancing with joy before the cart carrying the Ark of the Covenant. But we read what Michal thought about David’s exhibition.
As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal the daughter of Saul looked out of the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. – 2 Samuel 6:16 ESV
But demanding the return of Michal was not the only poor decision David made. His negotiations with Abner would prove problematic. This man had been the one to convince Ish-bosheth, the sole remaining son of Saul, to declare himself king of all of Israel. Abner is the one who led the armies of Ish-bosheth against David. And he is the one who killed Asahel, the brother of Joab. Abner was a self-seeking opportunist who would do anything to feather his own nest. He had no love affair for Ish-bosheth. He was simply using him. And when Ish-bosheth confronts Abner about sleeping with one of his concubines, Abner becomes furious and threatens to switch sides – which he does. He had just been defeated by David’s forces in battle and he knew that Ish-bosheth was not fit to be king. So he makes a deal with David, completely motivated by self-preservation. And David, his mind clouded by sin, unwisely accepts his offer.
Had David been thinking clearly, he would have seen through Abner’s overtures. He would have recognized that Abner had no allegiance to him or his kingdom. He was in it for himself. And David didn’t even seem to consider how his decision would impact Joab, his friend and commander-in-chief. In fact, when David made this decision, Joab was just returning from a successful raid, where he and David’s men had captured a great deal of plunder. David never seems to consider how Joab would take the news of his willing acceptance of Abner’s offer. And as a result, David’s decision would bring about further, unnecessary bloodshed.
It had been one thing for David to refuse to kill king Saul, the Lord’s anointed, when he had the chance. But to knowingly overlook the unfaithfulness of Abner, and welcome him back with open arms, was another thing. Over his lifetime, David would show a propensity for avoiding doing the right thing. Years later, when his own son Absalom would have his half-brother Amnon murdered for raping his sister, Tamar, David would take no action. He simply allowed Absalom to run away. There is no punishment meted out. Absalom was not forced to pay for his sin. And when Joab tricked David into allowing Absalom to return, he once again avoided the inevitable, refusing to meet with his son. And his lack of action would result in Absalom’s growing resentment and eventual overthrow of David’s rule.
Sin clouds our thinking. It makes it impossible to clearly hear from God. It blinds us to reality and casts a mist over the circumstances of life. We are unable to see things as they truly are. Our discernment becomes impaired. Our spiritual vision becomes blurry and our capacity to make wise choices becomes weakened. David was still a man after God’s own heart, but he was still a man who had to deal with the reality of indwelling sin.
Paul gives us a remedy for when we find our thinking clouded by sin:
And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. – Romans 12:1-2 NLT
English Standard Version (ESV)
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
New Living Translation (NLT)
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.