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Abner is not mentioned in the final battle, (1 Sam. 31) that concluded with the death of Saul and all his sons.
Why wouldn't the commander of Saul's forces be leading and involved in that battle? It seems suspicious.

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Why wouldn't the commander of Saul's forces be leading and involved in that battle?

This does sound suspicious but let us look at the facts up to this point.

First Samuel 31:1 explains what leads up to the death of Saul and his sons:

Now the Phi·lisʹtines were fighting against Israel. And the men of Israel fled from before the Phi·lisʹtines, and many fell slain on Mount Gil·boʹa. [bold mine]

The fighting was so great that everyone was scattered, possibly including Abner.

What do we know about Abner's character? The last time we read about Abner is in chapter 26:

15 David said to Abʹner: “Are you not a man? And who is like you in Israel? So why did you not keep watch over your lord the king? For one of the soldiers came in to do away with your lord the king. 16 What you have done is not good. As surely as Jehovah is living, you deserve to die, because you have not kept watch over your lord, the anointed of Jehovah. Now look around! Where are the king’s spear and the water jug that were next to his head?”

David rebukes Abner for being negligent in his watching over Saul.

The Insight on the Scriptures entry for "Abner" also talks about his aspirations:

Abner supported Ish-bosheth’s declining regime but also strengthened his own position, perhaps with an eye on the kingship, since he was, after all, the brother of Saul’s father. When taken to task by Ish-bosheth for having relations with one of Saul’s concubines (an act allowable only to the dead king’s heir), Abner angrily announced the transfer of his support to David’s side. (2Sa 3:6-11)

Ultimately, we don't know for sure why Abner was not at Saul's side when he died.

[All scripture quotations from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures (Study Edition)]

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  • I know this is simply conjecture. But one further point on my question. Abner knew that David would be king. One example is 2 Samuel 3:17-18. Therefore, why fight in a battle with Saul knowing that his allegiance is really with David?
    – EDS
    Sep 7 '21 at 11:36
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Before Saul's final battle, he went a medium to bring up the spirit of Samuel who told him in 1 Samuel 28:

19The Lord will deliver both Israel and you into the hands of the Philistines, and tomorrow you and your sons will be with me. The Lord will also give the army of Israel into the hands of the Philistines.”

Abner most likely learned of this prediction and had planned to save himself the next day. How exactly? I do not know. Loyalty wasn't in his cards. There could be some kind of conspiracy if he didn't want to go down with Saul. You're right. It does seem a bit suspicious.

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