“and made him king.” The political situation in Israel was very confusing and uncertain at this time. As the son of Saul, Ish-bosheth had a legitimate worldly claim to the throne of Israel, and Abner had installed him as king over the northern tribes of Israel. But Israel was God’s people and God had taken the kingship from Saul and given it to David. Of course, that was what the prophet Samuel had said, and it is likely that some people doubted Samuel while others were confused about it. Nevertheless, the people of the tribe of Judah recognized God’s choice and anointed David as their king.
There is a great lesson here. The kingdom of David was a shadow of the kingdom of the Messiah and so there are many parallels between the two kingdoms. Here at the start of David’s kingdom, we see that there was a rival kingdom, a worldly one, promoted by Abner, who was more interested in himself than in the truth (see commentary on 2 Sam. 2:8). The two kingdoms fought against each other, but eventually David’s kingdom won the war and covered all Israel and even more territory than that. Similarly, Jesus came as king but was not universally recognized. From his lifetime until now there has been a spiritual war going on between his followers and the followers of his rival, Satan. But just as David won and his kingdom covered Israel, Jesus Christ will win and his kingdom will cover the earth.
“Gilead and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin and over all Israel.” This list is an interesting blend of geographical areas and tribal areas, but it is meant to communicate “over all Israel” and perhaps even more up north.
Gilead was east of the Jordan and in this context meant the territory of the tribes of Reuben and Gad. The term “Ashurites” is disputed and could refer to the Geshurites, those living in a territory in north Transjordan. Jezreel is the area of the Jezreel Valley (although the Philistines certainly controlled it after Saul’s death), and Ephraim and Benjamin were the two tribes in Israel directly north of the tribe of Judah.