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Abner was the son of Ner and the uncle of Saul, Israel's first king. He was commander-in-chief of Saul's army[1] and later played a crucial role in the events leading to David's accession to the throne.


Abner was the son of Ner, who was the son of Abiel. His nephew Saul was also the grandson of Abiel, through his father Kish.

Commander of Saul's army[]

In his role as commander of the army, Abner dedicated some spoils won in battle to the LORD. Later, King David placed thse gifts, along with those dedicated by Samuel and Saul, under the care of Shelomoth.[2]

Abner first introduced David to the court of Saul after David's victory over Goliath.[3]

At royal feasts, Abner would sit next to Saul.[4]

When Saul sought to kill David, and David became a fugitive from Saul, Abner came out with Saul and the army in the pursuit to capture David. One night in the wilderness of Ziph, David found Saul's camp, and saw Saul, Abner, and the whole army sleeping. David's soldier Abishai wanted to kill Saul, but David refused to harm he who God had anointed to be king. However, David stole Saul's spear and climbed a nearby hill, and then called out and taunted Abner for failing in his duty to protect the king, as David could have easily killed Saul.[5]

Civil war[]

After the death of Saul and most of his sons, David was made king over Judah, and reigned in Hebron. However, Abner took Saul's surviving son Ish-bosheth, and proclaimed him king over Israel.[6] Ish-bosheth reigned for two years. A state of war existed between Ish-bosheth and David. Abner remained as the commander of Ish-bosheth's army.

At the Battle of Gibeon, Abner led Ish-bosheth's forces into battle against David's forces, led by Joab the son of Zeruiah. The battle was very fierce, and Abner and his men were beaten by David's men.[7] During the battle, Joab's brother Asahel, who was one of David's Mighty Men and renowned for his running speed, pursued Abner to kill him. Abner recognized Asahel and urged him to stop the pursuit, warning if he did not, he would kill him. However, Asahel continued the chase. Abner then stopped suddenly and struck Asahel with his spear, killing him.[8] Seeing that Abner killed Asahel, Joab and his other brother Abishai chased Abner to kill him in revenge. The people of Benjamin came to aid Abner and took their stand against the men of Judah. Faced with a standoff and the prospect of another bloody battle, Abner called to Joab, "Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that the end will be bitter? How long will it be before you tell your people to turn from the pursuit of their brothers?"[9] This speech led Joab to call off his troops.

As the civil war waged on, the House of David became stronger, while the House of Saul became weaker. Eventually, Ish-bosheth accused Abner of sleeping with Rizpah, who had been Saul's concubine. This accusation enraged Abner, who then promised Ish-bosheth that he would change his allegiance to David, recognizing that God had established David as the rightful king of Israel.[10] Abner then sent messengers to David, requesting to make a covenant with him and promising to deliver the rest of the kingdom over to him. David accepted, but first asked Abner to give him back his wife, Saul's daughter Michal, who had since been given to another man, Paltiel the son of Laish. Abner then used his influence to get Ish-bosheth to send Michal back to David.[11] Abner then went and met with the elders of Israel, and convinced them to acknowledge David as king instead of Ish-bosheth.

Death and funeral[]

Following this, Abner came to Hebron and met David, and David received him with a feast. Abner then went on a mission to assemble the people of Israel to come together and make a covenant proclaiming David king.[12] Shortly after Abner left Hebron, Joab, who was not at the feast, returned and heard the news. He disagreed with David's decision to ally with Abner, and accused Abner of being a spy for Ish-bosheth. Without David's knowledge, Joab sent messengers after Abner to bring him back to Hebron. When Abner returned to meet him, Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner, because Abner had killed Asahel.[13]

When David heard of the murder, he publicly renounced Joab's actions and placed a curse on him, though did not punish him at that time. David organized a funeral for Abner and publicly lamented his death and gave him a proper burial. He called Abner "a prince and a great man. " He even commanded Joab to participate in the mourning. In doing so, David made it very clear to the people of Israel that he was not involved in Abner's death.[14]

After his death[]

After the death of Abner, when David was king, David appointed Abner's son Jaasiel as chief officer of the tribe of Benjamin.[15]

When David was in his old age, and giving instruction to his son Solomon before he succeeded him as king, he commanded him to put Joab to death because of the murder of Abner, saying that Joab was "avenging in time of peace for blood that had been shed in war".[16]


  1. 1 Sam. 14:50; 17 (Link)
  2. 1 Chron. 26:28 (Link)
  3. 1 Sam. 17:57 (Link)
  4. 1 Sam. 20:25 (Link)
  5. 2 Sam. 26:14 (Link)
  6. 2 Sam. 2:8 (Link)
  7. 2 Sam. 2:17 (Link)
  8. 2 Sam. 2:23 (Link)
  9. 2 Sam. 2:26 (Link)
  10. 2 Sam. 3:10 (Link)
  11. 2 Sam. 3:16 (Link)
  12. 2 Sam. 3:20 (Link)
  13. 2 Sam. 3:30 (Link)
  14. 2 Sam. 3:39 (Link)
  15. 1 Chron. 27:21 (Link)
  16. 1 Kings 2:5 (Link)