When Saul, the first king of Israel, established his administration, he appointed his cousin Abner as commander-in-chief of his army (1 Sam 14:50-51). Abner first met David on the occasion of Goliath’s defeat (1 Sam 17:55-57). David served under Abner as a loyal officer (1 Sam 18:5), but later Abner led Saul’s troops in trying to capture the fleeing, yet innocent, David (1 Sam 26:5,14-15). After Saul’s death, Abner appointed Saul’s son Ishbosheth as king in opposition to David (2 Sam 2:8). Although Abner was a strong leader, his troops were not as good as David’s and they steadily lost ground over the next two years (2 Sam 3:1,6). Meanwhile Ishbosheth became increasingly jealous of Abner, who was the real power supporting him. When Ishbosheth accused Abner of wanting the throne for himself, Abner deserted Ishbosheth and joined David (2 Sam 3:7-11).

Abner then set to work to win allegiance to David from all the previous supporters of Ishbosheth (2 Sam 3:17-21). But he was treacherously murdered by David’s commander Joab, in retaliation for Abner’s earlier killing of Joab’s brother in battle (2 Sam 3:24-30; cf. 2:12-23). Without the leadership of Abner, Ishbosheth’s ‘kingdom’ quickly collapsed (2 Sam 4:1-5:1).

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