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ABNER. In the Old Testament, Saul's cousin and com mander-in-chief, comes into prominence only after the crushing defeat of Israel at Mt. Gilboa. This battle placed the Philistines in control of the whole of central Palestine, and the weakness of Israel was enhanced by the division into two parties, that of the south, which followed David, and that of Transjordania, which remained faithful to Ishbaal, the son who succeeded Saul. The king himself, however, was a weak character, and the whole strength of the party was concentrated in Abner. The struggle between the two parties was continuous, and in the battle of Gib eon Abner killed Asahel, brother of Joab, thus exposing himself to the blood-vengeance of the dead man's whole family. It seems that Abner aspired to become the sole leader of his party, and, as a step in the achievement of his aim, married Rizpah, one of the concubines of Saul. For this he was reproved by Ishbaal, and thereupon deserted to the opposite party. An agreement was made between David and Abner, by which David had restored to him Michal, daughter of Saul, thus establishing a claim on Saul's throne, and Abner was received into favour. Joab, how ever, in obedience to the binding law of blood-revenge, took an opportunity of putting Abner to death, and his disappearance practically brought to an end the resistance of the eastern party. David, of course, was not implicated in Abner's death, though he had no right to punish the assassin, and his short dirge over the body, like that over Saul and Jonathan, is an exquisite specimen of the early poetry of Israel. (See II. Sam. ii. 8; iii. 39.)

party and saul