We’ve all heard the saying, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword.” This saying comes from the Bible, from Jesus’ own mouth. In the garden of Gethsemane when Peter pulls a sword to defend Jesus, Jesus tells him to put it away and that “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52). Of course, this proverb has its roots deep in history.
David is taking a diplomatic tact as he returns from exile to public life in Israel. However, David’s hot-blooded kin, namely Abishai, Joab, and Asahel, would rather use the sword to get things accomplished. There is a good bit of blood spilled in this chapter. Abner is able to put it to a stop by saying “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their brothers?” (One wishes Abner had thought like this before he had suggested mortal combat in verse 14).
Sadly, by the time Abner says this, it is already too late. The day has already ended in the bitter death of Asahel as well as several hundred Benjamites (the tribe Saul belonged to). The battle ended that day, but bitterness had already set in. The main characters walked away, but they didn’t forget. David had demonstrated how to leave vengeance to the Lord, but this is a lesson most don’t want to learn. Even today.
Jesus said that if you hate your brother, it is just as bad as murdering him. Jesus then went on to emphasize reconciliation. God is a God who takes the initiative in reconciliation. As his children, so should we.