1After all this, David prayed. He asked God, “Shall I move to one of the cities of Judah?”
God said, “Yes, move.”
“And to which city?”
2-3So David moved to Hebron, along with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David’s men, along with their families, also went with him and made their home in and around Hebron.
4-7The citizens of Judah came to Hebron, and then and there made David king over the clans of Judah.
A report was brought to David that the men of Jabesh Gilead had given Saul a decent burial. David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead: “God bless you for this—for honoring your master, Saul, with a funeral. God honor you and be true to you—and I’ll do the same, matching your generous act of goodness. Strengthen your resolve and do what must be done. Your master, Saul, is dead. The citizens of Judah have made me their king.”
8-11In the meantime, Abner son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, had taken Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth to Mahanaim and made him king over Gilead, over Asher, over Jezreel, over Ephraim, over Benjamin—king, as it turns out, over all Israel. Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he was made king over Israel. He lasted only two years. But the people of Judah stuck with David. David ruled the people of Judah from Hebron for seven and a half years.
12-13One day Abner son of Ner set out from Mahanaim with the soldiers of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, headed for Gibeon. Joab son of Zeruiah, with David’s soldiers, also set out. They met at the Pool of Gibeon, Abner’s group on one side, Joab’s on the other.
14Abner challenged Joab, “Put up your best fighters. Let’s see them do their stuff.”
Joab said, “Good! Let them go at it!”
15-16So they lined up for the fight, twelve Benjaminites from the side of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve soldiers from David’s side. The men from each side grabbed their opponents’ heads and stabbed them with their daggers. They all fell dead—the whole bunch together. So, they called the place Slaughter Park. It’s right there at Gibeon.
17-19The fighting went from bad to worse throughout the day. Abner and the men of Israel were beaten to a pulp by David’s men. The three sons of Zeruiah were present: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Asahel, as fast as a wild antelope on the open plain, chased Abner, staying hard on his heels.
20Abner turned and said, “Is that you, Asahel?”
“It surely is,” he said.
21Abner said, “Let up on me. Pick on someone you have a chance of beating and be content with those spoils!” But Asahel wouldn’t let up.
22Abner tried again, “Turn back. Don’t force me to kill you. How would I face your brother Joab?”
23-25When he refused to quit, Abner struck him in the belly with the blunt end of his spear so hard that it came out his back. Asahel fell to the ground and died at once. Everyone who arrived at the spot where Asahel fell and died stood and gaped—Asahel dead! But Joab and Abishai kept up the chase after Abner. As the sun began to set, they came to the hill of Ammah that faced Giah on the road to the backcountry of Gibeon. The Benjaminites had taken their stand with Abner there, deployed strategically on a hill.
26Abner called out to Joab, “Are we going to keep killing each other till doomsday? Don’t you know that nothing but bitterness will come from this? How long before you call off your men from chasing their brothers?”
27-28“As God lives,” said Joab, “if you hadn’t spoken up, we’d have kept up the chase until morning!” Then he blew the ram’s horn trumpet and the whole army of Judah stopped in its tracks. They quit chasing Israel and called off the fighting.
29Abner and his soldiers marched all that night up the Arabah Valley. They crossed the Jordan and, after a long morning’s march, arrived at Mahanaim.
30-32After Joab returned from chasing Abner, he took a head count of the army. Nineteen of David’s men (besides Asahel) were missing. David’s men had cut down 360 of Abner’s men, all Benjaminites—all dead. They brought Asahel and buried him in the family tomb in Bethlehem. Joab and his men then marched all night, arriving in Hebron as the dawn broke.