21After this, David asked the LORD, “Shall I go and take control of one of the towns of Judah?”
“Yes,” the LORD answered.
“Which one?” David asked.
“Hebron,” the LORD said. 2
So David went to Hebron, taking with him his two wives: Ahinoam, who was from Jezreel, and Abigail, Nabal's widow, who was from Carmel. 3He also took his men and their families, and they settled in the towns round Hebron. 4
Then the men of Judah came to Hebron and anointed David as king of Judah.
When David heard that the people of Jabesh in Gilead had buried Saul, 5he sent some men there with the message: “May the LORD bless you for showing your loyalty to your king by burying him. 6And now may the LORD be kind and faithful to you. I too will treat you well because of what you have done. 7Be strong and brave! Saul your king is dead, and the people of Judah have anointed me as their king.”
8The commander of Saul's army, Abner son of Ner, had fled with Saul's son Ishbosheth across the Jordan to Mahanaim. 9There Abner made Ishbosheth king of the territories of Gilead, Asher,2.9 One ancient translation Asher; Hebrew Assyria. Jezreel, Ephraim, and Benjamin, and indeed over all Israel. 10He was forty years old when he was made king of Israel, and he ruled for two years.
But the tribe of Judah was loyal to David, 11and he ruled in Hebron over Judah for seven and a half years.
12Abner and the officials of Ishbosheth went from Mahanaim to the city of Gibeon. 13Joab, whose mother was Zeruiah, and David's other officials met them at the pool, where they all sat down, one group on one side of the pool and the other group on the opposite side. 14Abner said to Joab, “Let's get some of the young men from each side to fight an armed contest.”
“All right,” Joab answered.
15So twelve men, representing Ishbosheth and the tribe of Benjamin, fought twelve of David's men. 16Each man caught his opponent by the head and plunged his sword into his opponent's side, so that all 24 of them fell down dead together. And so that place in Gibeon is called “Field of Swords”.
17Then a furious battle broke out, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated by David's men. 18The three sons of Zeruiah were there: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Asahel, who could run as fast as a wild deer, 19started chasing Abner, running straight for him. 20Abner looked back and said, “Is that you, Asahel?”
“Yes,” he answered.
21“Stop chasing me!” Abner said. “Run after one of the soldiers and take what he has.” But Asahel kept on chasing him. 22Once more Abner said to him, “Stop chasing me! Why force me to kill you? How could I face your brother Joab?” 23But Asahel would not give up; so Abner, with a backward thrust2.23 Probable text with a backward thrust; Hebrew unclear. of his spear, struck him through the belly so that the spear came out at his back. Asahel dropped to the ground dead, and everyone who came to the place where he was lying stopped and stood there.
24But Joab and Abishai started out after Abner, and at sunset they came to the hill of Ammah, which is to the east of Giah on the road to the wilderness of Gibeon. 25The men from the tribe of Benjamin gathered round Abner again and took their stand on the top of a hill. 26Abner called out to Joab, “Do we have to go on fighting for ever? Can't you see that in the end there will be nothing but bitterness? We are your fellow-countrymen. How long will it be before you order your men to stop chasing us?”
27“I swear by the living God,” Joab answered, “that if you had not spoken, my men would have kept on chasing you until tomorrow morning.” 28Then Joab blew the trumpet as a signal for his men to stop pursuing the Israelites; and so the fighting stopped.
29Abner and his men marched through the Jordan Valley all that night; they crossed the River Jordan, and after marching all the next morning, they arrived back at Mahanaim.
30When Joab gave up the chase, he gathered all his men and found that nineteen of them were missing, in addition to Asahel. 31David's men had killed 360 of Abner's men from the tribe of Benjamin. 32Joab and his men took Asahel's body and buried it in the family tomb at Bethlehem. Then they marched all night and at dawn arrived back at Hebron.