3

In the Book of Second Samuel we read of a curious competition between 12 young soldiers of both Abner and of Joab:

2 Samuel 2:14-16: "Then Abner said to Joab, 'Now let the young men arise and hold a contest before us.' And Joab said, 'Let them arise.' 15So they arose and went over by count, twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. 16Each one of them seized his opponent by the head and thrust his sword in his opponent’s side; so they fell down together."

What purpose could such a "competition" possibly serve, since the full battle appears to have commenced anyway?

2 Samuel 2:17: "That day the battle was very severe, and Abner and the men of Israel were beaten before the servants of David."

2
  • It demonstrates the degradation and brutalization effects of war and war culture when such becomes, "entertainment".
    – Dottard
    Oct 13 at 23:34
  • Not entertainment. It was meant to prevent an all out war, but failed because all the men died, and there was no victor.
    – Perry Webb
    Oct 14 at 0:08
4

The contest was meant to prevent an all out war, but failed because all the men died, and there was no victor.

To avoid a bloody civil war and perhaps also to escape personal conflict with his near friend (ver. 22) Joab, Abner proposes to Joab to decide the contest by a duel between individual warriors (“young men,” נְעָרִום, comp. ver. 21) put up on both sides. This word “play” (שִׁחֵק) is used of children in the street (Zech. 8:5), of beasts in the sea (Ps. 104:26), and so here of warlike play, = to wrestle, but not to denote a game of arms for entertainment (Ew.), but a serious battle-play to decide the matter for both armies (comp. 1 Sam. 17) as the result (ver. 16) shows.—Joab accepts the proposal immediately, a sign that it was agreeable to him. -- Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Erdmann, D., Toy, C. H., & Broadus, J. A. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Samuel (p. 376). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

And they fell together.—This result shows the embittered feeling of the young men, but also their military skill and training.—[Bp. Patrick understands that only the twelve Benjaminites were slain; but it was clearly a mutual slaughter, the twenty-four fell dead. -- Lange, J. P., Schaff, P., Erdmann, D., Toy, C. H., & Broadus, J. A. (2008). A commentary on the Holy Scriptures: 1 & 2 Samuel (p. 376). Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.