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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Ab´ner (father of light), the cousin of Saul (being the son of his uncle Ner), and the commander-in-chief of his army. After the death of Saul (B.C. 1056), Abner's experience and character for ability and decision enabled him to uphold the interests of his family for seven years; and while David reigned in Hebron over Judah, Ishbosheth, a surviving son of Saul, was, by Abner's influence, made king over the ten tribes, and reigned in Mahanaim, beyond Jordan. A sort of desultory warfare arose between the rival monarchs, in which the advantage appears to have been always on the side of David. In an engagement fought at Gibeon, the forces of Ishbosheth were beaten. Abner, their general, fled for his life, but was closely pursued by Asahel, the brother of Joab and Abishai. Abner, dreading a blood-feud with Joab, entreated Asahel, but in vain, to desist from the pursuit; and finding that his life was in danger, he at length ran his pursuer through the body (2 Samuel 2:18-32). This, according to the law of honor which still prevails in the East, put a strife of blood between Joab and Abner [BLOOD-REVENGE].

As time went on, Abner, probably rendered arrogant and presumptuous by the conviction that he was the only remaining prop of the house of Saul, took to his own harem a woman who had been a concubine-wife of Saul. This act, from the ideas connected with the harem of a deceased king, was not only a great impropriety, but was open to the suspicion of a political design, which Abner may very possibly have entertained. A mild rebuke from Ishbosheth, however, enraged him so much, that he immediately declared his intention henceforth to abandon his cause and to devote himself to the interests of David. Accordingly after explaining his views to the elders of the tribes which still adhered to the house of Saul, he repaired to Hebron with authority to make certain overtures to David on their behalf. He was received with great attention and respect; and David even thought it prudent to promise that he should still have the chief command of the armies, when the desired union of the two kingdoms took place. Joab, David's general, happened to be absent at the time, but he returned to Hebron just as Abner had left it. He speedily understood what had passed; and his dread of the superior influence which such a man as Abner might establish with David, quickened his remembrance of the vengeance which his brother's blood required. Unknown to the king, but apparently in his name, he sent a message after Abner to call him back; and as he returned, Joab met him at the gate, and, leading him aside, as if to confer privately with him, suddenly thrust his sword into his body (B.C. 1048). The lamentations of David, the public mourning which he ordered, and the funeral honors which were paid to the remains of Abner, the king himself following the bier as chief mourner, exonerated him in public opinion from having been privy to this assassination. As for Joab, his privilege as a blood-avenger must to a great extent have justified his treacherous act in the opinion of the people; and that, together with his influence with the army, screened him from punishment (2 Samuel 3:6-39),





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Bibliography Information
Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Abner'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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