Abner’s Tough Decision
Did we pay him more mind, the Bible’s portrayal of Abner would surely appear as a case study in psychology and moral analysis. As Abner’s persona is partly eclipsed, however, by his proximity to David, Saul, and other more obviously “complicated” figures, we may easily fail to notice the interesting moral complexity of his life and career.
A kinsman of Saul (1 Samuel 14:50), Abner was a military leader, part of the royal court, and a sharer at the king’s private table. In one of the accounts, he is credited with originally bringing David to Saul’s attention (17:55–57).
With David’s rapid rise, however, the popular prestige of Abner was doubtless diminished as much as Saul’s, nor is it unwarranted to guess at his reaction when David’s superior military ability likewise earned him a place in the royal family and at the royal table. If the popular mind made David something of a rival to Saul, he was surely as much to Abner. Later, indeed, David’s open jeering of Abner in the presence of the army strikes one as the taunt of a personal contender (26:5,13–16).
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Patrick Henry Reardon is pastor emeritus of All Saints Antiochian Orthodox Church in Chicago, Illinois, and the author of numerous books, including, most recently, Out of Step with God: Orthodox Christian Reflections on the Book of Numbers (Ancient Faith Publishing, 2019).
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