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Avner, or Abner, was the son of Ner, and uncle of King Saul. He served as the commander of Saul's army (1 Samuel 14:50). It was Abner who introduced the young Shepherd David to Saul after his victory over Goliath (1 Sam. 17:55-57). It was a rather gruesome first meeting - David brought Goliath's head to show to the king (1 Samuel 17:57).

Zion Later, after King Saul and his son Jonathan died in battle (1 Samuel 31:1-6), David became king over the tribe of Judah and reigned in Hebron. The other Tribes Of Israel did not accept David as their king however. Abner, at the head of Ephraim (see Jacob's Children), still supported the house of Saul, and had Saul's surviving son, Ish-bosheth, proclaimed king (2 Samuel 2:8-11). Israel entered a state of civil war that would not soon end (2 Samuel 3:1).

Abner became the leader of Ish-boseth's army. At Gibeon, a battle fought with David's forces under the command of Joab would later prove fateful for Abner. After a fierce fight in which his forces were defeated (2 Samuel 2:17), Abner, while attempting to escape, was overtaken by Asahel, the brother of Joab and Abishai. After pleading with Asahel to stop chasing him, the more experienced Abner reluctantly killed the unrelenting pursuer with a backward thrust of his spear (2 Samuel 2:18-32).

It may by then have become obvious to the opportunistic Abner that David would ultimately win the war. When Ish-bosheth rebuked Abner for becoming involved with Rizpah, one of King Saul's concubines, he found the excuse that he needed to transfer his loyalty to King David. Abner then proclaimed that David was the one anointed by the Lord to reign over all of the tribes of Israel.

David accepted Abner, and promised him a command of the army. It was not to be, however. When Joab, the brother of Asahel, who was killed by Abner in battle, learned of it, he murdered Abner with a sword at the gate of the city (2 Samuel 3:27).

Despite their earlier opposition, David publicly mourned Abner's death. Whether it was the result of a genuine respect for the man, or a shrewd move in what was then still a very uncertain political situation in the struggle for the kingship (2 Samuel 3:36-37), David eulogized Abner with the words, "Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel?" (2 Samuel 3:38 RSV).

Abner was buried in Hebron. (2 Samuel 3:32).

Fact Finder: How long did David reign over the tribe of Judah from Hebron?
2 Samuel 2:11

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