2 Samuel 2:18-23
And there were three sons of Zeruiah there, Joab, and Abishai, and Asahel: and Asahel was as light of foot as a wild roe.…
Asahel was the youngest of three brothers; the others being Joab and Abishai. They were the sons of Zeruiah (half-sister of David) and a Bethlehemite (ver. 32) whose name has not been recorded; and they had much in common. When Asahel fled to David at the cave of Adullam (some ten or twelve years before the events here mentioned) he was probably a mere lad; he shared his uncle's hardships and participated in his exaltation. He was one of the famous thirty (2 Samuel 23:24), "valiant men of the armies" (1 Chronicles 11:26); accompanied Joab and Abishai in their march to Gibeon, and took part in the battle with Abner and "the servants [soldiers] of Ishbosheth." He was: I. Possessed of eminent gifts. "Asahel was as light of foot as a gazelle" (ver. 18); like "swift-footed Achilles," and like Harold I. (son of Canute), surnamed Hare-foot, "because he was light and swift of foot (Rapin). He was also distinguished by enterprise, courage, perseverance, and other admirable qualities. Mental endowments are incomparably superior to physical; but both are gifts of God, and should be recognized as such; they enable those who possess them to render valuable service to his people; and they should be employed in humble obedience to his will. Yet not unfrequently they become an occasion of vain glory, and are perverted from their proper exercise and end.
2. Actuated by an unwise ambition. "And Asahel pursued after Abner," etc. (ver. 19). He sought to take him prisoner or put him to death, and so end the conflict; and doubtless, also, to display his own superior speed and strength, and obtain the glory of the achievement. He was on the right side, and, considering the circumstances of the case, there was something laudable in his attempt. But it is possible, even in connection with the kingdom of God, to entertain an improper desire of worldly honour and power (Matthew 20:20-23). Those who do so generally set an inordinate value upon the object at which they aim, exhibit an undue confidence in their own abilities, depreciate the difficulties of its attainment, and expose themselves to great risk and peril (Titus 2:6; 1 Timothy 6:9).
"Ah! who can tell how hard it is to climb
The steep where Fame's proud temple shines afar?"
3. Heedless of salutary warning. "And Abner looked behind him, and said" etc. (vers. 20-23). "Turn thee aside," etc. "Slay one of the common soldiers and take his accoutrements as booty, if thou art seeking for that kind of fame" (Keil). He eared little about the safety of his men, and was chiefly concerned about his own; but his advice was considerate, wise, and once and again repeated. Asahel, though swifter of foot, was not his equal in experience and skill; and (like many other young men) he despised the warning of the old warrior, was headstrong and over confident of success, and rushed rashly and blindly upon his fate. "Heat of zeal sometimes, in the indiscreet pursuit of a just adversary, proves mortal to the agent, prejudicial to the service" (Hall).
4. Struck down in youthful prime. "And Abner with the hinder end of the spear smote him," etc.; suddenly, unexpectedly, and when he seemed on the point of accomplishing his purpose. With one blow his life was cut short, his hope disappointed, his promise of a brilliant future extinguished. "Often do men fancy themselves about to seize upon happiness, when death stops their career and lays them in the dust. And if they will rush forward in the road to destruction, though plainly warned of their danger, they can blame none but themselves" (Scott).
"Fame is the spur that the clear spirit cloth raise (That last infirmity of noble mind)
To scorn delights, and live laborious days;
But the fair guerdon when we hope to find,
And think to burst out into sudden blaze,
Comes the blind Fury with the abhorred shears,
And slits the thin-spun life."
5. Regarded with mournful pity. "As many as came to the place where Asahel fell down and died stood still" (see 2 Samuel 20:12), overcome with surprise, compassion, and grief; "and they took up Asahel, and buried him," etc. (ver. 32).
6. Remembered with mischievous resentment. (2 Samuel 3:30.) He left behind him a legacy, not of peace and good will, but of wrath and revenge. Pause at his tomb in Bethlehem, and lay to heart the lessons taught by his untimely, fate (Jeremiah 9:23). Let your ambition be different from his; to overcome carnal and selfish ambition in your own heart, to save life rather than to destroy it, to follow in the steps of him who was servant of all (Matthew 20:28). Here is scope for your noblest aspirations and most strenuous efforts. And your hope wilt not be destroyed, but crowned by death.
"Fool not; for all may have,
If they dare try, a glorious life, or grave."
Parallel VersesKJV: And there were three sons of Zeruiah there, Joab, and Abishai, and Asahel: and Asahel was as light of foot as a wild roe.