David anointed king over Judah
1In the course of time, David enquired of the Lord. ‘Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?’ he asked.
The Lord said, ‘Go up.’
David asked, ‘Where shall I go?’
‘To Hebron,’ the Lord answered.
2So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. 3David also took the men who were with him, each with his family, and they settled in Hebron and its towns. 4Then the men of Judah came to Hebron, and there they anointed David king over the tribe of Judah.
When David was told that it was the men from Jabesh Gilead who had buried Saul, 5he sent messengers to them to say to them, ‘The Lord bless you for showing this kindness to Saul your master by burying him. 6May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness, and I too will show you the same favour because you have done this. 7Now then, be strong and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the people of Judah have anointed me king over them.’
War between the houses of David and Saul
8Meanwhile, Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. 9He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.
10Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David. 11The length of time David was king in Hebron over Judah was seven years and six months.
12Abner son of Ner, together with the men of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon. 13Joab son of Zeruiah and David’s men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.
14Then Abner said to Joab, ‘Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.’
‘All right, let them do it,’ Joab said.
15So they stood up and were counted – twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. 16Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.#2:16 Helkath Hazzurim means field of daggers or field of hostilities.
17The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David’s men.
18The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai and Asahel. Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. 19He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. 20Abner looked behind him and asked, ‘Is that you, Asahel?’
‘It is,’ he answered.
21Then Abner said to him, ‘Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.’ But Asahel would not stop chasing him.
22Again Abner warned Asahel, ‘Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?’
23But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.
24But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. 25Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.
26Abner called out to Joab, ‘Must the sword devour for ever? Don’t you realise that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?’
27Joab answered, ‘As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued pursuing them until morning.’
28So Joab blew the trumpet, and all the troops came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.
29All that night Abner and his men marched through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, continued through the morning hours#2:29 See Septuagint; the meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain. and came to Mahanaim.
30Then Joab stopped pursuing Abner and assembled the whole army. Besides Asahel, nineteen of David’s men were found missing. 31But David’s men had killed 360 Benjaminites who were with Abner. 32They took Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb at Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.