A character in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. Abner, son of Ner, was Saul's cousin and commander of his armies. After Saul's death Abner took Ishbaal* or Ish-bosheth and made him king over Israel. There was a war between the supporters of Ishbaal and David. During that struggle Abner killed Asahel one of the sons of Zeruiah which led to a blood feud betweed him and Joab. Ishbaal accused Abner of sleeping with one of the royal concubines Rizpah which caused a split between them. After that Abner deflected to David's side. Abner helps David to get his wife Michal back, and worked to get all of Israel to support his claim to kingship. Joab, with help from his brother Abishai, plots and kills Abner, both out of revenge for his brother Asahel, and to get rid of possible rivals to his posisition as head of David's armies. David ordered an official day of mourning for Abner after his murder.

*Ishbaal: Heb Ish-bosheth, Ishbaal means "man of the lord", while Ish-bosheth "man of shame" . The element "baal" would have suggested the Canaanite god Baal who the writers of the Deuteronomistic History particually disliked.

ABNER
(ab' nuhr) HEBREW: AVNER
"my father is the light bearer"
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The cousin of King Saul, Abner served as commander in chief of Israel's armies and was one of the king's closest advisers. His father, Ner, and Saul's father, Kish, were brothers, leaders of a wealthy clan of Benjaminites that Abner hoped would found a permanent dynasty in Israel. It is ironic, therefore, that Abner's first action described in the biblical narrative is to introduce the youthful David, who had just slain the giant Goliath, to Saul.

The relationship between David and Saul was profoundly to affect the remainder of Abner's life. Though David was from the rival tribe of Judah, his heroic exploits as a warrior caused Saul to promote him in rank until he was a senior commander under Abner and more celebrated by the people than any other soldier - even the king himself. Then, as Saul's murderous jealousy drove David from court, Abner remained "by Saul's side" (1 Sam. 20:25), more faithful to the monarch even than Saul's own son Jonathan, who aided David.

With Abner as his commander and personal bodyguard, the king pursued David through the wilderness. Once David successfully stole into Saul's camp by night and could have killed the king; he later mockingly chided Abner from a distance for not keeping better watch over Saul's safety.

After Saul died at the battle of Gilboa (c. 1004 B.C.), Abner used his military power to support Saul's son Ish-bosheth as king, even as David was establishing a breakaway kingdom to the south in Judah. Ish-bosheth, however, was a weak leader, dominated by Abner, who moved him from Gibeah, Saul's capital, across the Jordan and safely out of David's reach.

Civil war flared. At Gibeon, Abner's forces confronted David's men, led by the brothers Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. When the fierce battle went against him, Abner found himself fleeing from the combat pursued by the swift Asahel. As Asahel was about to catch the older warrior, Abner rammed the butt of his spear through the belly of his pursuer and killed him. From that moment on Abner was marked for death by Joab and Abishai. For the moment, however, Abner and his remaining men were able to retreat across the Jordan.

As the months passed, Abner could not hide his growing contempt for the weak Ish-bosheth. When Ish-bosheth accused Abner of taking Rizpah, one of Saul's concubines, for himself, Abner exploded and renounced his allegiance to Ish-bosheth. Abner opened negotiations with David and eventually met with him in Hebron, while Joab and Abishai were away, and agreed to help unite the kingdom again under David. Shortly after Abner left Hebron, however, the brothers returned and learned what had happened. Secretly, Joab sent messengers to recall Abner for a supposedly friendly meeting. As soon as Abner got back to Hebron, Joab "took him aside... to speak with him privately" (2 Sam. 3:27) at the city gate, then murdered him with a blow to the belly that mimicked his brother's death wound.

David was so angry with Joab for killing this powerful man who had just sworn his allegiance that he forced Joab and his men to mourn for Abner in sackcloth while David himself lef the funeral lament.

{E2 Dictionary of Biblical People}

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