David, king of Judah
1Later, David asked the LORD, “Should I go back to one of the towns of Judah?”
The LORD answered, “Yes.”
David asked, “Which town should I go to?”
“Go to Hebron,” the LORD replied.
2David went to Hebron with his two wives, Ahinoam and Abigail. Ahinoam was from Jezreel, and Abigail was the widow of Nabal from Carmel.#1 S 25.42,43. 3David also took his men and their families to live in the villages near Hebron.
4The people of Judah met with David at Hebron and poured olive oil on his head to show that he was their new king. Then they told David, “The people from Jabesh in Gilead buried Saul.”#1 S 31.11-13.
5David sent messengers to tell them:
The LORD bless you! You were kind enough to bury Saul your ruler, 6and I pray that the LORD will be kind and faithful to you. I will be your friend because of what you have done. 7Saul is dead, but the tribe of Judah has made me their king. So be strong and have courage.
Ishbosheth becomes king of Israel
8Abner the son of Ner#2.8 son of Ner: Abner was Saul's cousin (see 1 Samuel 14.50). had been the general of Saul's army. He took Saul's son Ishbosheth#2.8 Ishbosheth: One ancient translation has “Ishbaal” (see also 1 Chronicles 8.33). In Hebrew “baal” means “lord” and was used as the name of a Canaanite god. The people of Israel often changed “baal” to “bosheth” (which means “shame”) in personal names. Ishbosheth was probably called Ishvi or Ishyo in 1 Samuel 14.49. across the River Jordan to Mahanaim 9and made him king of Israel,#2.9 Israel: Sometimes “Israel” means the northern tribes and does not include the tribes of Judah and Simeon. That is how it is used in this verse. including the areas of Gilead, Asher,#2.9 Asher: The Hebrew text has “Ashur”, which is the Hebrew name for the Assyrians. It may be another spelling for Asher (one of the tribes of Israel) or it may refer to Geshur (a small area between Gilead and Jezreel, east of Lake Galilee). Jezreel, Ephraim, and Benjamin. 10Ishbosheth was forty years old at the time, and he ruled for two years. But the tribe of Judah made David their king, 11and he ruled from Hebron for seven and a half years.
The war between David and Ishbosheth
12One day, Abner and the soldiers of Ishbosheth#2.12 Ishbosheth: See the note at 2.8. left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon. 13Meanwhile, Joab the son of Zeruiah#2.13 the son of Zeruiah: Zeruiah was David's elder sister, so Joab was David's nephew (see 1 Chronicles 2.12-17 and the note at 2 Samuel 17.25). was leading David's soldiers, and the two groups met at the pool in Gibeon.#2.13 pool in Gibeon: This pool was just inside the city wall and was used for storing water. It was in the shape of a circle and was about 11 metres wide and about 11 metres deep. Abner and his men sat down on one side of the pool, while Joab and his men sat on the other side. 14Abner yelled to Joab, “Let's get some of our best soldiers to stand up and fight each other!”
Joab agreed, 15and twelve of Ishbosheth's men from the tribe of Benjamin got up to fight twelve of David's men. 16They grabbed each other by the hair and stabbed each other in the side with their daggers. They all died there! That's why the place in Gibeon is called “Field of Daggers”.#2.16 Field of Daggers: Or “Field of Opponents” or “Battlefield”. 17Then everyone started fighting. Both sides fought very hard, but David's soldiers defeated Abner and the soldiers of Israel.
18Zeruiah's three sons were there: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Asahel could run as fast as a deer in an open field, 19and he ran straight after Abner, without looking to the right or to the left.
20When Abner turned and saw him, he said, “Is that you, Asahel?”
Asahel answered, “Yes it is.”
21Abner said, “There are soldiers all around. Stop chasing me and fight one of them! Kill him and take his clothes and weapons for yourself.”
But Asahel refused to stop.
22Abner said, “If you don't turn back, I'll have to kill you! Then I could never face your brother Joab again.”
23But Asahel would not turn back, so Abner struck him in the stomach with the back end of his spear. The spear went all the way through and came out of his back. Asahel fell down and died. Everyone who saw Asahel lying dead just stopped and stood still. 24But Joab and Abishai went after Abner. Finally, about sunset, they came to the hill of Ammah, not far from Giah on the road to Gibeon Desert. 25Abner brought the men of Benjamin together in one group on top of a hill, and they got ready to fight.
26Abner shouted to Joab, “Aren't we ever going to stop killing each other? Don't you know that the longer we keep on doing this, the worse it's going to be when it's all over? When are you going to order your men to stop chasing their own relatives?”
27Joab shouted back, “I swear by the living God, if you hadn't spoken, my men would have chased their relatives all night!” 28Joab took his trumpet and blew the signal for his soldiers to stop chasing the soldiers of Israel. Straight away, the fighting stopped.
29Abner and his troops marched through the Jordan valley all that night. Then they crossed the river and marched all morning#2.29 all morning: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text. until they arrived back at Mahanaim.
30As soon as Joab stopped chasing Abner, he got David's troops together and counted them. There were nineteen missing besides Asahel. 31But David's soldiers had killed 360 of Abner's men from the tribe of Benjamin. 32Joab and his troops carried Asahel's body to Bethlehem and buried him in the family burial place. Then they marched all night and reached Hebron before sunrise.