In the anointing of David (v.4) we see that he brings with him the women from the garden land (the Carmelite), and the land sown of God (the Jezreelite), to the seat of association (Hebron). It is intended, given David’s inclination for mercy (see chapter 3), for David to be associated with growth; with peace; brought to the mercy seat of God. In the midst of such immense respect for Saul’s house, followed with praise to the men of Jabesh-gilead who had properly buried Saul, we are brought to recognize Abner’s futile actions from v.8 onwards.
The real question is this: does Abner really want Saul’s kingdom to be established? Why was his absence so profound between 1 Samuel 26 to 2 Samuel 2? Surely he is Saul’s chief commander of the army, a particular title which he bears even in this chapter, v.8 (and in previous chapters (1 Samuel 14:50; 17:55; 20:25; 26:5)). Yet, it appears that the true stewardship of Saul’s protection falls upon David, Saul’s true armor-bearer (1 Samuel 16:21) despite Abner’s important role as confidante and leader (1 Samuel 26:15). What is Abner who buried Saul? Who praised Saul? Who mourned for Saul? Abner would have to admit negatively to these questions; and instead, he would rather unite the rest of Israel against David despite being very aware of the prophecy made for David, a subject possibly touched upon by Saul with Abner prior to his death. Not only that, but he would rather subject Israel to its physical lineage Ishbosheth rather than the spiritual lineage after the line of Melchizedek where David stands as the true anointed One (Psalm 110:4; Hebrews 5:6).
What we have here are two shadows in v.10 – the shadow of civil conflict within a nation and within a family stemming from the third chapter of Genesis with our removal from God’s heaven-earth presence in the Garden of Eden; the fourth chapter of Genesis with the death of Abel, the brother of Cain; the tension between Jacob and Esau (Genesis 27); the attempted murder of Joseph by eleven others (Genesis 37); the death of Israelites and Egyptians who failed to rely on the blood of the Passover Lamb in the final punishment of the Angel of the LORD (Exodus 12); and the list continues. Here, the conflict is materialized in Judah’s relation with the rest of Israel – Ish-bosheth commanded almost all the regions outside of Judah, whereas “the house of Judah followed David” (c.f. the beginning of the split in 1 Kings 12:27 after Solomon’s death).
The second shadow lies in the temporary kingship of David over Judah as representative of his true kingship over Canaan the Promised Land; though he had long been anointed to become the king of Israel, his persecution by Israel and eventual ostracism even by his enemies in Gath and his return to Israel are symbolic of Jesus Christ’s work in his life-time. This period of David’s is also the period of Jesus’ humiliation as he was man on earth though both figures drew in countless worthless men through their rejection from Israel. Yet, in the crowning of David in Hebron over the house of Judah for the temporary period of seven years and six months (v.11), we see the crowning of Christ in his resurrection and ascension as the true LORD and king of heaven and earth, the true heir of new creation and true Canaan (Hebrews 1:2; 11:7). It is after the period of seven years that we see a renewal of relations – the release of slaves and freedom flowing in from the throne (c.f. Deuteronomy 15:1, 31:10; Jeremiah 34:14).
In spite of this, Jesus has not yet physically penetrated and inherited the land, though by the Christians we are reclaiming souls for Him daily (2 Peter 3:9). So, in similarity, we see that David has commanded allegiance from the house of Judah, to penetrate into the rest of Israel until the total surrender of the nation before the feet of Christ. This is the second shadow, the period of the end-times, such that David is truly the king of Israel and not only the king of the church in Judah and especially not only the rejected carpenter’s son (Psalm 110:1). It is by the government of old Israel and the government of the twelve apostles (v.15) that we see the removal of the branches which do not bear fruit, and the implanting of branches into the tree trunk that is Jesus Christ (Romans 11).
It is at this point that we are introduced to the sons of Zeruiah after the defeat of Abner and the men of Israel which already spelled out the eventual defeat of the house of Israel in favour of the remnant church in Judah. It is important that we see these sons mentioned with the matronymic “son of Zeruiah”, as Zeruiah is not their father but their mother. Yet, these were zealous men for the LORD, interestingly named father of a gift (Abishai), God-made (Asahel), and Jehovah-fathered (Joab) – all pursuing the father of light (Abner). There is implication that these sons of Zeruiah are raised by Zeruiah alone, and that Yahweh is their true father. In this, we see a parallel between David as typological son of God, against the sons of Zeruiah (a shadow of Jesus who was also referred to by the matronymic “son of Mary”). Where David desired mercy (chapter 3), the sons of Zeruiah desired revenge and violence (chapter 3v.39).
The contrast is large; in the death of Asahel, there is no mourning; the pursuit of Abner led to his surrender (v.26) although Abner had already long been defeated in v.17. Although Abner had surrendered, he had not been commissioned to go in peace as by David in chapter 3; and instead, he returns to Mahanaim to place himself before the false king of Israel once more and no peace is made. These sons of Zeruiah seem to have followed in the vein of Saul that their swords shall “devour forever” (v.26) (1 Samuel 14:52). Despite this temporary reprieve set forth by Joab in v.28, we soon learn that Joab’s rage has not yet been tempered as shown in the next chapter.
Asahel’s burial is the final point of parallel between the son of Zeruiah and the son of Mary; where the former is buried in Bethlehem, the home town of David, it is there that David the man after God’s heart is born; it is there that the son of Mary is also brought out of. Where this son of Zeruiah’s ministry ended in Bethlehem, the son of Mary’s ministry began in Bethlehem (c.f. Genesis 35:19, 48:7; Ruth 2:4; 1 Samuel 17:12).