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Bible Reading: 2 Samuel 2.12-32

2 Samuel 2.12-32
Now Abner the son of Ner, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon with the servants of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul. And Joab the son of Zeruiah and the servants of David went out and met them by the pool of Gibeon; and they sat down, one on the one side of the pool and the other on the other side of the pool. Then Abner said to Joab, “Now let the young men arise and hold a contest before us.” And Joab said, “Let them arise.” So they arose and went over by count, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. Each one of them seized his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together. Therefore that place was called Helkath-hazzurim, which is in Gibeon. That day the battle was very severe, and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David. Now the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab and Abishai and Asahel; and Asahel was as swift-footed as one of the gazelles which is in the field. Asahel pursued Abner and did not turn to the right or to the left from following Abner. Then Abner looked behind him and said, “Is that you, Asahel?” And he answered, “It is I.” So Abner said to him, “Turn to your right or to your left, and take hold of one of the young men for yourself, and take for yourself his spoil.” But Asahel was not willing to turn aside from following him. Abner repeated again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me. Why should I strike you to the ground? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?” However, he refused to turn aside; therefore Abner struck him in the belly with the butt end of the spear, so that the spear came out at his back. And he fell there and died on the spot. And it came about that all who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, stood still. But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and when the sun was going down, they came to the hill of Ammah, which is in front of Giah by the way of the wilderness of Gibeon. The sons of Benjamin gathered together behind Abner and became one band, and they stood on the top of a certain hill. Then Abner called to Joab and said, “Shall the sword devour forever? Do you not know that it will be bitter in the end? How long will you refrain from telling the people to turn back from following their brothers?” Joab said, “As God lives, if you had not spoken, surely then the people would have gone away in the morning, each from following his brother.” So Joab blew the trumpet; and all the people halted and pursued Israel no longer, nor did they continue to fight anymore. Abner and his men then went through the Arabah all that night; so they crossed the Jordan, walked all morning, and came to Mahanaim. Then Joab returned from following Abner; when he had gathered all the people together, nineteen of David’s servants besides Asahel were missing. But the servants of David had struck down many of Benjamin and Abner’s men, so that three hundred and sixty men died. And they took up Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb which was in Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men went all night until the day dawned at Hebron.

A little trivia for you today! Can you name the oldest person mentioned in the Bible? (Genesis 5:27). Perhaps you know the strongest. (Judges 16:3) But, I would be very impressed if you could name the fastest! It just might have been a man named Asahel, who is described in today’s passage as “swift footed as one of the gazelles which is in the field.” (v. 18)

King Saul is dead and his long time military commander has made Ishboheth (one of Saul’s lesser, perhaps illegitimate sons) king over Israel’s northern tribes as a power play against David. Abner goes out with a fighting force to face Joab, David’s chief military leader and his men at Hebron. Abner proposes a twelve versus twelve fighting contest between each side’s elite warriors, but it soon turns deadly and the fighting spills over to all the men.

His side fairing poorly in the escalating fight against Joab’s men, Abner makes a hasty retreat. Joab’s younger brother, the speedy Asahel, sees Abner running in the distance and takes off after him. It’s a risky move against a war-hardened opponent, but if Asahel can catch Abner and strike him down, he thinks he might make a name for himself.

Abner yells back to Asahel to peel off his dogged pursuit and strike a lesser target, but Asahel is single minded and closing in fast. Abner realizes one of them will die, and that if he kills Asahel, Joab will seek revenge for his brother’s death. Knowing he has no chance to outrun the speedy Asahel, Abner surprises him by coming to sudden stop, using Asahel’s great speed against him. In an instant Abner plants his spear in the ground and uses the butt end to impale Asahel. Asahel falls to the ground dead and everyone freezes in shock (v. 23).

Sometimes our greatest strength can also be our downfall. Do we use our talents and gifts to gain attention, recognition or money for just ourselves? Think about how the Lord has gifted you and commit to use that gift for his glory and not just your own.

Weekly Memory Verse: But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. James 1.5