Sunday, February 8, 2015

Abner switches sides to David’s camp and some thoughts on loyalty


6 ¶And it came to pass, while there was war between the house of Saul and the house of David, that Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul.
7 And Saul had a concubine, whose name was Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah: and Ish-bosheth said to Abner, Wherefore hast thou gone in unto my father’s concubine?
8 Then was Abner very wroth for the words of Ish-bosheth, and said, Am I a dog’s head, which against Judah do shew kindness this day unto the house of Saul thy father, to his brethren, and to his friends, and have not delivered thee into the hand of David, that thou chargest me to day with a fault concerning this woman?
9 So do God to Abner, and more also, except, as the Lord hath sworn to David, even so I do to him;
10 To translate the kingdom from the house of Saul, and to set up the throne of David over Israel and over Judah, from Dan even to Beer-sheba.
11 And he could not answer Abner a word again, because he feared him.
12 ¶And Abner sent messengers to David on his behalf, saying, Whose is the land? saying also, Make thy league with me, and, behold, my hand shall be with thee, to bring about all Israel unto thee.  (2 Samuel 3: 6-12)

This block of verses describes the cause of Abner’s defection from Ishbosheth (Saul’s son) to David.  (If you remember Abner was another of Saul’s relatives and was in charge of the army during Saul’s reign.)

While there was war between the house of Saul and David, Abner made himself strong for the house of Saul.  I think this is an indication that there was some self-aggrandizement going on.  The final straw for Ishbosheth was that Abner took Saul’s concubine Rizpah and had sex with her, which was a traditional way for a usurper to declare they had taken a king’s place—by taking their wives.  Ishbosheth confronted Abner about it, and Abner hit the ceiling.

Abner then accused Ishbosheth of ingratitude because Ishbosheth had charged him with fault about Rizpah, after all Abner had done for him in maintaining his throne and fighting his enemies.  Abner was so angry, he said he was going to switch sides and support David instead and use all his influence to set David up as king.

Now, one interesting thing about this block of verses is that you never really know if Abner actually did take Rizpah, or not.  We just know that Ishbosheth accused him of it.  The jury is still out and all we have is Abner’s side of the story because no doubt he told it to David to explain why he switched sides, and no doubt he would tell it in such a way as to make Abner look good and Ishbosheth look bad.

Another thing is that Abner gets mad just because he’s been accused of a fault, and he immediately makes a counter-accusation of ingratitude. Now, I don’t know about you, but this seems to indicate that Abner has some kind of entitlement problem.  It is the attitude of “I’ve done all this for you, so that precludes you from every opposing me or denying me what I want, even if it is out of line or criminal.”  I have sometimes seen this in a few military people online, who, when they (or the military) are accused of fault, pull the I-defended-your-freedom-how-dare-you-treat-me-this-way card.   It is as if these individuals believe one good work should excuse other sins.  With a true idea of justice, we know that’s not the case.  Moreover, accusation, as painful as it is, does not a conviction make.  (I’m really glad this is a small minority of military, by the way.)

Back to Abner. 

What is more worrisome is that Abner’s anger and entitlement over this accusation causes him to change sides, and that gives us a clue that entitlement leads to disloyalty, even while it wraps itself in patriotism and raves about ingratitude. (We get a number of examples of this in the Book of Mormon from the stories of Amalickiah and king men and Zoramites, and other dissenters.)

If Abner changes to David’s side just because he is accused of fault (and it is a pretty big fault), how long will it be before he commits a fault with David and is accused of something?  (Assuming he did what he was accused of..)  Can he be counted on to stay true?   It’s a legitimate question.

When I apply this story to myself, I can remember a particular time a number of years ago when I tried to aggrandize myself, and it brought me to overstep my bounds, which naturally brought chastisement down on me.  Then I got offended just because I was charged with fault, and it made me want to take revenge in some way.  Thankfully, humbling myself helped me recognize my sin and I repented and stayed true to the church and to God.

May we serve faithfully and not be too big to be corrected is my prayer for myself and all of us.