Then Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.” “All right, let them do it,” Joab said.

2 Samuel 2:14 (NIV)

Shortly after David was made king of Judah, we have this incident in 2 Samuel 2, where Abner, the head of Israel’s army, and Joab, the head of David’s army, encourage 24 of the best fighters from each side to fight one another. Depending on your Bible translation, you might see a decidedly different image. For example, here’s the King James translation of 2 Samuel 2:14.

And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise, and play before us. And Joab said, Let them arise.

2 Samuel 2:14 (KJV)

After reading many different versions of this verse, the general gist is that this was a competition between Abner’s and Joab’s men. However, to what end? Many commentators say this was a means of settling the differences between David and Saul’s household. Perhaps to avoid further bloodshed between brothers in Israel. However, the Pulpit Commentary suggests that the goal of this contest was just the opposite. Instead of trying to settle the matter in a minor battle, Abner and Joab had in mind to inspire bloodshed between men who didn’t want to fight.  

If the purpose of the fight was to settle a dispute and keep the casualties down, then we should have seen something different happen after 2 Samuel 2:17.

The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men.

2 Samuel 2:17 (NIV)

However, instead of seeing an end to the fighting, we see something entirely different. Joab’s brother Asahel chases Abner, who ends up killing him. Furthermore, David lost 20 men that day while Abner lost 360. Therefore, it’s unlikely that Abner and Joab initially set out to reduce bloodshed by only having 24 men fight. 

As I consider the possibility that Abner and Joab did, indeed, want there to be less bloodshed, I can’t help but think of something Paul wrote in Ephesians. 

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold” (emphasis added).

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)

There was a lot of anger between David and Saul’s houses, and it didn’t help that Abner and Joab tried to settle the matter through violence if they sought to reduce the bloodshed. 

As Christians, we must remember that there is no such thing as “a little sin.” Indeed, sin, like violence, begets sin, and although it might seem like sinning “a little bit” to avoid more significant sin is the better way, we are sorely mistaken if we believe that lie, which reminds me of a proverb.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Proverbs 14:12 (ESV)

Do you know God? God knows you, and he loves you. He sees you as significant because you are. No one is insignificant to Him. He’s with you today, and he wants you to know him. Jesus died for your sins and mine so we could be free of guilt, freed from death, and live eternally with him. Eternal salvation is just a prayer away.

Pray this prayer with me to accept the gift of salvation:

Lord Jesus, forgive me for all my sins. I repent from my ways. Wash me in your blood and cleanse me from all unrighteousness. I believe you died on the cross and were buried, and God the Father raised you from the dead on the third day. Right now, Lord Jesus, I open the door to my heart and receive you into my heart as my Lord and personal Savior. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, then congratulations! You are on the first step of a brand new life. Allow me to be the first to welcome you to my family, the family of God. There are abundant resources available online for new Christians. You can visit here for more information on what to do next. You can also leave me a comment, and I’ll do my best to help you on the next step of this incredible journey.