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ing before him of swaying a rightful sceptre over all Israel, was the cause of great joy to David and his people. He immediately made a feast for Abner and his men, as a mark of friendship and of public respect, entertaining them bountifully, and with that gladsome festivity which became the occasion.
Abner was gratified with this cordial reception, and, on taking his leave, renewed his assurances of attachment to David. "I will arise and go,” said he," 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.” David bade him depart in peace, little thinking how soon his bright visions of ambition would be shrouded in utter darkness.
Joab, David's general, who had been abroad on some military excursion, now returned with his troops to Hebron. He was immediately informed of what had taken place, and especially of the manner in which Abner had been received and treated by the king. He could not restrain his indignation. Should Abner remain true to his promises, he saw in him a powerful and dangerous rival, who might soon supplant him in the affections of David. But he might prove a traitor, (and he would fain regard him as such,) coming insidiously to spy out their condition, and to return to Ish-bosheth with new and more successful plans of carrying on the
war against the house of Judah. Pride, jealousy, and a deep feeling of revenge against the indi: vidual who had killed his brother Asahel, rankled in the breast of Joab. He could not endure it, that one whom he so much both dreaded and hated should have already thus ingratiated him self into the good opinion of the king, and re ceived from him such distinguished marks of attention. He sought an interview with David, and, artfully addressing his fears, expostulated with him on the folly of placing any confidence in Abner.
"What hast thou done ?" said he," behold, Abner came unto thee; why is it that thou hast sent him away, and he is quite gone? Thou knowest Abner the son of Ner, that he came to deceive thee, and to know thy going out and thy coming in, and to know all that thou doest.”
We are not told that David made any reply. Perhaps, seeing as he did the deep and resentful feelings of Joab, he thought it the wisest course to be silent and watch the progress of events. He, too, had no forebodings of the fate that awaited one from whom he was now expecting such efficient aid as would soon place him on the throne of the whole united kingdom.
By this time Abner had advanced but a short distance on his way home, when he was overtaken by some messengers whom Joab sent after him, and who invited him to return. It
is not improbable that they did this in the name of the king, although David knew nothing of the matter. Be this as it
may, the request was made in so earnest a manner, and such important reasons assigned for his complying with it, that Abner came back immediately to Hebron. He was met, at the gate of the city, by Joab and his brother Abishai; while the former taking him aside, as if to speak with him in a peaceable and friendly manner, despatched him on the spot. It was a daring deed, preconcerted by the two, and executed by the hand of one of them, in the spirit of deep revenge for the death of their brother Asahel. We have reason to think, also, that jealousy of Abner was a kindred passion in the breast of Joab, which had its full share in bringing about this bloody catastrophe.
Such is man, when swayed by his selfish, vindictive, and ambitious feelings. Let them gain the ascendency over him, and he sets at defiance the laws both of God and his fellow-men. He rushes on to the commission of the most atro. cious crimes. He hesitates not, with deceit and treachery, and in cold blood, to take the life of one whom, as his enemy or his rival, he wishes to put out of the way. What an evil sin must be, when, in its very nature, it leads to such terrible results!
David orders a general mourning for Abner. He causes
the murderers of Ish-bosheth to be put to death.
The news of Abner's death, spreading through the city, soon reached the ears of David. It was an unexpected blow to him. He was surprised and shocked at it. He abhorred the cruel and wicked deed which Joab had perpetrated. He would not endure, for a moment, to labor under the most remote suspicion of having ordered it, or of having even connived at it. In a burst of impassioned feeling, followed by a prophetic denunciation, he exclaimed; "I and my kingdom are guiltless before the Lord for ever from the blood of Abner the son of Ner : Let it rest on the head of Joab, and on all his father's house; and let there not fail from the house of Joab one that hath an issue, or that is a leper, or that leaneth on a staff, or that falleth on the sword, or that lacketh bread."
But the king did not stop here. He more public demonstration of his grief, and of his detestation of the deed which was the cause of it. In doing this, he imposed a duty upon Joab that was adapted to overwhelm him with shame and mortification. He ordered him particularly, and, at the same time, the whole body of the people, to rend their garments, to put on sackcloth, and to mourn for Abner, with the usual ceremonies, at the funeral which was soon to take place. And as they carried him to the grave, we are told that king David himself fol. lowed the bier. And they buried Abner in Hebron: and the king lifted up his voice, and wept at the grave of Abner; and all the people wept.”
David composed, too, a short pathetic lamentation, which was recited, or sung, at the funeral; at the hearing of which the assembled mul. titude wept again over Abner.
e Died Abner as a fool dieth ?
The sentiments of which seem to be, that Abner did not die the foolish and shameful death of a villain who is taken and bound, and cut off by the sword of justice; but that he fell in an untimely and cruel manner, as those do who fall by the treachery of the assassin, or the stroke of the murderer.
This, let it be observed, must have been regarded by all who heard it as a most severe reproof, on the part of the king, of Joab and Abishai, and which they had to endure thus publicly, in the presence of all the people. It shows, also,