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Today's Little Lift

    by Jim Bullington

Mourn for Abner (2 Samuel 3.31)
Date Posted: November 16, 2021

Even if you don't know Abner, you probably know the man who ordered others to mourn for him. Our study today will focus on the man who spoke the words, Mourn for Abner. Our study will involve the relationships that surrounded these men and the events which precipitated the order, Mourn for Abner.

“So Joab and Abishai his brother killed Abner, because he had killed their brother Asahel at Gibeon in the battle. Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, 'Tear your clothes, gird yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn for Abner.' And King David followed the coffin. So they buried Abner in Hebron; and the king lifted up his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. And the king sang a lament over Abner and said: 'Should Abner die as a fool dies? Your hands were not bound Nor your feet put into fetters; As a man falls before wicked men, so you fell.'” (2 Samuel 3.30-34).

One of the unusual things about this event is the fact that Abner was an opponent of David while the man who killed him, Joab, was David's nephew and friend. To be more specific, Joab was the captain of David's army as well as somewhat of a statesman throughout David's reign. Ordinarily one might think that the death of an opponent might be a time of rejoicing, but not so with David. The cruel and lawless manner in which Joab took Abner's life was beyond the pale of decency which David could countenance. For that reason David commanded Joab and all the people with him to “...Tear your clothes, gird yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn for Abner. ” Rather than allow Abner time to revel in the revenge he had obtained, David ordered him to mourn!

A lesser man (maybe a politician by some standards) might have seized the moment and rewarded Joab for his deed, but David did just the opposite. Not only did he order Joab to mourn and tear his garments, David personally took part in the funeral proceedings by following the coffin and singing words eulogizing the fallen man. In his lament, David praised the murdered man, and laid blame at the feet of the murderer. In so doing, David publicly denounced his own kin and separated himself from the ungodly deeds that led to Abner's death.

David was, as every Bible student knows, not without his own flaws. His duty as King should have been not only to chastise Joab, but to see that justice was done in the matter. However, rather than to take charge of the matter and bring Joab up on charges, he was content to merely say, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? And I am weak today, though anointed king; and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too harsh for me. The LORD shall repay the evildoer according to his wickedness.” (2 Samuel 3.38-39). In essence, David turned the matter over to God and charged Him with the responsibility of sorting it all out! He was honest in his statement (I am weak today and The sons of Zeruiah are too harsh for me), but he was wrong in neglecting his duty as Israel's rightful ruler.

There are many great moral lessons in this story, some of which we will mention as we close. One lesson is that revenge never evens a score; it just marks up another one! Another lesson is that two wrongs never make a right; even if Abner's deeds were evil against Joab's brother, he had no right to seek personal revenge against him. A third and final point is this: Men of greatness such as David are not typically great in every respect; we all have chinks in our armor and must be on constant guard against the temptations that come our way. Mourning for Abner means mourning for our own weaknesses!


1. Why did David order Joab to mourn? Why didn't he let him enjoy the sweet revenge that he had just obtained?

2. What impact would David's actions have had on the people had he praised Joab for his cowardly deed?

3. Why did David not take the matter to the courts so that Joab could be tried and punished?

4. What character traits of David can you detect from these events? Which are positive and which are negative?

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Biography Information:
Jim Bullington - A Christian writer whose insight into the scriptures is reflected in practical application lessons in every article. The reader will find that the Bible speaks directly to him/her through these articles. God is always exalted and His word is treated with the utmost respect in this column.
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