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Israelite Monarchy - The Civil War
by Wayne Blank
"Thus saith The Lord God of Israel, I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and delivered you out of the hand of the Egyptians, and out of the hand of all kingdoms, and of them that oppressed you: And ye have this day rejected your God, who Himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto Him, Nay, but set a king over us." (1 Samuel 10:18-19 KJV).
King Saul was chosen as Israel's first human king, but he proved himself to be a far inferior king to The Lord (as The Lord warned would happen, and as they should have known without being told), so The Lord declared a replacement for Saul, a young shepherd from Bethlehem, David the son of Jesse:
"And The Lord said unto Samuel, How long wilt thou mourn for Saul, seeing I have rejected him from reigning over Israel? Fill thine horn with oil, and go, I will send thee to Jesse the Bethlehemite: for I have provided me a king among his sons." (1 Samuel 16:1 KJV)
King Saul still reigned when David was appointed as his successor. The house of Saul (of the tribe of Benjamin) had no intention of surrendering the throne, while David (of the tribe of Judah) had no intention of refusing The Lord's command to be king. Civil war was inevitable.
The Civil War
Originally named Esh-baal (1 Chronicles 8:33), in Hebrew meaning man of Baal, the youngest of the four sons of King Saul was later known as Ish-bosheth, from the Hebrew meaning man of shame. After Saul and his other three sons, including Jonathan, were killed by the Philistines at the battle of Gilboa (1 Samuel 31:1-13), Ish-bosheth was proclaimed king of the Israelites, except for the tribe of Judah who made David their king. An Israelite civil war between King David and Ish-bosheth that followed ended when Ish-bosheth was assassinated by two of his own troopers.
The coronation of Ishbosheth was brought about by Abner:
"But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim; And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel. Ishbosheth Saul's son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years.
The Israelite civil war between the house of David and the house of Saul was "a long war" in which David gradually prevailed.
"Now there was long war between the house of Saul and the house of David: but David waxed stronger and stronger, and the house of Saul waxed weaker and weaker." (2 Samuel 3:1 KJV)
Although, or despite, it was obvious that David was going to win, Ishbosheth was assassinated by two of his own troops:
"And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, who lay on a bed at noon. And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him under the fifth rib: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped. For when they came into the house, he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, and they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night.
The assassins believed that they would be rewarded, however David, despite all that he gained from the death of Ishbosheth, did not reward their treachery against their own leader. David lived with his own personal dangers from those closest to him, including his own son Absalom, so David had only loathing for king killers:
"And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As The Lord liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity, When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings: How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?
The civil war ended with all Israel accepting David as their king. The kingdom was united.
"Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and The Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel. So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before The Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel.
Fact Finder: Who succeeded David as king of the united kingdom of Israel?
Studies in this series: