1The war between Saul’s house and David’s house was long and drawn out. David kept getting stronger, while Saul’s house kept getting weaker.
2David’s sons were born in Hebron. His oldest son was Amnon, by Ahinoam from Jezreel; 3the second was Chileab, by Abigail, Nabal’s widow from Carmel; the third was Absalom, by Maacah,#Or son of; also twice in 3:4 who was the daughter of Geshur’s King Talmai; 4the fourth was Adonijah, by Haggith; the fifth was Shephatiah, by Abital; 5and the sixth was Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These are David’s sons that were born in Hebron.
Joab kills Abner
6Throughout the war between Saul’s house and David’s house, Abner was gaining power in Saul’s house. 7Now Saul had a secondary wife named Rizpah, Aiah’s daughter. Ishbosheth#Or he, supplied from 3:8; see note at 2:8 on Ishbosheth. said to Abner, "Why have you had sex with my father’s secondary wife?"
8Abner got very angry over what Ishbosheth had said.
"Am I some sort of dog’s head?"#LXX; MT adds that belongs to Judah. Abner asked. "I’ve been nothing but loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his brothers and his friends. I haven’t handed you over to David, but today you accuse me of doing something wrong with this woman. 9May God deal harshly with me, Abner, and worse still if I don’t do for David exactly what the LORD swore to him—10removing the kingdom from Saul’s house and securing David’s throne over Israel and over Judah, from Dan all the way to Beer-sheba!"
11Ishbosheth couldn’t say a single word in reply to Abner because he was afraid of him.
12Abner sent messengers to represent him to David and to say, "Who will own the land?#Heb uncertain; LXX lacks Who will own the land? Make a covenant with me, then I’ll help bring all Israel over to your side."
13"Good!" David replied. "I will make a covenant with you, but on one condition: don’t show yourself in my presence unless you bring Saul’s daughter Michal when you come to see me."
14Then David sent messengers to Saul’s son Ishbosheth. "Give me my wife Michal," he demanded. "I became engaged to her at the cost of one hundred Philistine foreskins."
15Ishbosheth then sent for Michal and took her from her husband Paltiel, Laish’s son. 16Her husband went with her all the way to Bahurim, crying as he followed her.
"Go home!" Abner told him. So he went home.
17Abner then sent word to Israel’s elders. "You’ve wanted David to be your king for some time now," he said. 18"It’s time to act because the LORD has said about David: I will rescue my people Israel from the power of the Philistines and all their enemies through my servant David."
19Abner also spoke directly to the Benjaminites. He then went to inform David in person at Hebron regarding everything that all Israel and the house of Benjamin were willing to do.
20When Abner, along with twenty others, reached David at Hebron, David threw a celebration for Abner and his men. 21Then Abner said to David, "Please let me get going so I can assemble all Israel for my master the king. Then they can make a covenant with you, and you will rule over everything your heart#Or soul desires." At that, David sent Abner off in peace.
22Right then, David’s soldiers and Joab returned from a raid, bringing a great deal of loot with them. Abner was no longer with David in Hebron because David had sent him off in peace. 23When Joab and all the troops with him returned, Joab was told that Abner, Ner’s son, had come to the king and that David had sent him off in peace.
24Joab went to the king and asked, "What have you done? Abner came to you here! Why did you send him off? Now he’s gotten away! 25Don’t you know the evil ways of Abner, Ner’s son?#LXX; MT You know Abner, Ner’s son. He came to trick you, to find out where you come and go, and to learn everything you do!"
26Joab left David and sent messengers after Abner. They brought him back from the well at Sirah, but David didn’t know anything of this. 27When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside next to#LXX; MT to the middle of the gate to speak with him in private. But instead Joab stabbed Abner in the stomach, and he died for shedding the blood of Asahel, Joab’s brother.
28When David heard about this later, he said, "I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the LORD concerning the shedding of the blood of Abner, Ner’s son. 29May it fall upon the head of Joab and his entire family tree! May Joab’s family never be without someone with a discharge or a skin disease,#Traditionally leprosy, a term used for several different skin diseases someone who uses a crutch,#Or who holds a spindle someone who dies by the sword, or someone who is hungry!"
30So that is how Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner, because he killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.
31Then David ordered Joab and all the troops who were with him, "Tear your clothes and put on funeral clothes! Mourn for Abner!" King David himself walked behind the body. 32They buried Abner in Hebron. The king wept loudly at Abner’s grave. All the troops cried too. 33Then the king sang this funeral song#Or lament for Abner:
"Should Abner have died like a fool dies?
34Your hands weren’t bound,
your feet weren’t chained,
but you have fallen
like someone falls before the wicked."
Then the troops cried over Abner again.
35Then all the soldiers came to urge David to eat something while it was still day, but David swore, "May God deal harshly with me and worse still if I eat bread or anything else before the sun goes down." 36All the troops took notice of this and were pleased by it. Indeed, everything that the king did pleased them. 37So on that day all the troops and all Israel knew that it wasn’t the king’s idea to kill Abner, Ner’s son.
38The king told his soldiers, "Don’t you know that a prince and a great man in Israel has fallen today? 39And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak. These men, Zeruiah’s sons, are too strong for me.#Or more ruthless than me; DSS (4QSama) lacks this clause. May the LORD repay the one who does evil according to the evil they did!"