Just after Saul’s death, the people of Judah, David’s family tribe, immediately recognized him as king. But the rest of Israel didn’t take to David right away. The other eleven tribes supported Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth. So for seven years, Israel actually had two kings.
Both kings had their own 5-star generals. Ish-Bosheth’s army was led by Abner. David’s military was led by Joab, his relative. The two sides had skirmishes year after year. In 2 Samuel 1 we see a time when the two groups ran into each other and Abner started picking a fight with Joab’s men. Abner was all too eager to pit his best men against Joab’s best men and soon the entire cohort got involved.
Joab had a younger brother named Asahel who was a speedy warrior. He was more like a wide receiver while the generals Joab and Abner were more like football linemen. When the battle started going poorly for Ish-Bosheth’s army, Abner tried to sneak away but the fleet-footed Asahel ran him down. It’s at this point in the story that we see Abner doing everything he can to avoid the fight. “Leave me alone and get away from me,” Abner would say to his adversaries brother. “I don’t want to fight you.”
But like many younger brothers, Asahel wanted to show big brother Joab that he was a fighter too. Although he was quick, Asahel was not nearly as strong as Abner and once Abner saw that he could not avoid the fight, he quickly killed Asahel. Asahel should have walked away when he had the chance.
When word got back to Joab that Abner had killed his younger brother, he went to take revenge. Abner told him he didn’t want to fight him either but Joab said, “You were the one who started this!” Eventually, Joab caught up with Abner and avenged his brother’s blood.
The moral of the story is Abner should have never picked the fight in the first place. And even though he was big and bad enough to kill Asahel, Joab was bigger and badder than Abner. There’s always someone bigger and stronger. As a martial arts champion once told me, “Steve, the best fight is the one you’re not in.” One fight always leads to another. Unless we have to, we’re better off not to fight at all.