After the death of Saul, David did not immediately ascend to the throne of a united Israelite kingdom. First he was crowned king of Judah, which he ruled for seven-and-a-half years from the city of Hebron.
During much of that time the country was engaged in a civil war between the north and the south, between the heirs of Saul and David. One of Saul’s sons, Ishbosheth (or Esh-Baal, 1 Chronicles 8.33), pieced together a kingdom in the north, supported by Abner, one of Saul’s generals.
This tragic period in the nation’s history was a reflection of the people’s insistence on having a king in the first place. Had they waited for God to appoint a ruler in His own good time, the heartache of Saul’s reign might never have happened, and the years of bloody civil war following his death could have been avoided.