Conflict Resolution

David’s conflict with King Saul began when he was a youth and struck down the giant Goliath with a sling and a small stone. David’s amazing feat initially gained him stature with the king of Israel (1 Samuel 17:55-18:5), but Saul’s jealousy of David quickly became evident (1 Samuel 18:6-9) and caused the king to distance himself from the man who had won the hearts of the people of Israel. After Saul tried to kill him multiple times, David fled into the wilderness and lived like a nomad until he became the king of Judah at the age of thirty (2 Samuel 5:4). The death of Saul didn’t bring an end to the conflict between the two leaders as some might have thought or expected, but instead broadened the dispute to include all the people who were loyal to Saul and those who were loyal to David. A key loyalist of Saul’s reign was Abner, the commander of Israel’s army. After David was anointed King of Judah, 2 Samuel 2:8 tells us, “But Abner the son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim, and he made him king over Gilead and the Ashurites and Jezreel and Ephraim and Benjamin and all Israel.” Abner’s action instigated a seven-and-a-half year civil war between the nation of Israel and the house of Judah. Starting with the battle of Gibeon, “There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David. And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker” (2 Samuel 3:1).

The conflict between David and Saul finally reached a point of resolution when Abner was killed by Joab and his brother Abishai as revenge for him killing their brother Asahel (2 Samuel 2:22-23). “The Lord instructed His people not to seek revenge against each other, for to do so was unworthy of them (Leviticus 19:18)” (H5358). It says in 2 Samuel 3:37-39:

So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the king’s will to put to death Abner the son of Ner. And the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? And I was gentle today, though anointed king. These men, the sons of Zeruiah, are more severe than I. The Lord repay the evildoer according to his wickedness!”

David described himself as being gentle or weak because of the impact of Joab and Abishai’s act of vengeance. David may have hoped for a peaceful conclusion to the conflict between he and his predecessor, King Saul, but in the end, by default, the nation of Israel was forced to accept David’s authority over them; and as a result, the nation of Israel as a whole was only able to experience peace temporarily during the reigns of David and his son King Solomon and then, it became permanently fractured (1 Kings 12:19).

2 thoughts on “Conflict Resolution

  1. Great post! I found it interesting how the conflict between David and Saul continued even after the latter’s death and ultimately led to a civil war. My question is, how do you think the long-lasting effects of this conflict can be seen in the history and politics of Israel even today?


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