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.
31The fighting between the forces supporting Saul's family and those supporting David went on for a long time. As David became stronger and stronger, his opponents became weaker and weaker.
2The following six sons, in the order of their birth, were born to David at Hebron: Amnon, whose mother was Ahinoam, from Jezreel; 3Chileab, whose mother was Abigail, Nabal's widow, from Carmel; Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of King Talmai of Geshur; 4Adonijah, whose mother was Haggith; Shephatiah, whose mother was Abital; 5Ithream, whose mother was Eglah. All of these sons were born in Hebron.
6As the fighting continued between David's forces and the forces loyal to Saul's family, Abner became more and more powerful among Saul's followers.
7One day Ishbosheth son of Saul accused Abner of sleeping with Saul's concubine Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. 8This made Abner furious. “Do you think that I would betray Saul? Do you really think I'm serving Judah?” he exclaimed. “From the very first I have been loyal to the cause of your father Saul, his brothers, and his friends, and I have saved you from being defeated by David; yet today you find fault with me about a woman! 9-10
The LORD promised David that he would take the kingdom away from Saul and his descendants and would make David king of both Israel and Judah, from one end of the country to the other. Now may God strike me dead if I don't make this come true!” 11Ishbosheth was so afraid of Abner that he could not say a word.
12Abner sent messengers to David, who at that time was at Hebron,3.12 One ancient translation at Hebron; Hebrew where he (Abner) was. to say, “Who is going to rule this land? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you win all Israel over to your side.”
13“Good!” David answered. “I will make an agreement with you on one condition: you must bring Saul's daughter Michal to me when you come to see me.” 14
And David also sent messengers to Ishbosheth to say, “Give me back my wife Michal. I paid a hundred Philistine foreskins in order to marry her.” 15So Ishbosheth took her away from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. 16Paltiel followed her all the way to the town of Bahurim, crying as he went. But when Abner said, “Go back home,” he did.
17Abner went to the leaders of Israel and said to them, “For a long time you have wanted David to be your king. 18Now here is your chance. Remember that the LORD has said, ‘I will use my servant David to rescue my people Israel from the Philistines and from all their other enemies.’ ” 19Abner spoke also to the people of the tribe of Benjamin and then went to Hebron to tell David what the people of Benjamin and of Israel had agreed to do.
20When Abner came to David at Hebron with twenty men, David gave a feast for them. 21Abner told David, “I will go now and win all Israel over to Your Majesty. They will accept you as king, and then you will get what you have wanted and will rule over the whole land.” David gave Abner a guarantee of safety and sent him on his way.
22Later on Joab and David's other officials returned from a raid, bringing a large amount of loot with them. Abner, however, was no longer there at Hebron with David, because David had sent him away with a guarantee of safety. 23When Joab and his men arrived, he was told that Abner had come to King David and had been sent away with a guarantee of safety. 24So Joab went to the king and said to him, “What have you done? Abner came to you — why did you let him go like that? 25He came here to deceive you and to find out everything you do and everywhere you go. Surely you know that!”
26After leaving David, Joab sent messengers to get Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah; but David knew nothing about it. 27When Abner arrived in Hebron, Joab took him aside at the gate, as though he wanted to speak privately with him, and there he stabbed him in the belly. And so Abner was murdered because he had killed Joab's brother Asahel. 28When David heard the news, he said, “The LORD knows that my subjects and I are completely innocent of the murder of Abner. 29May the punishment for it fall on Joab and all his family! In every generation may there be some man in his family who has gonorrhoea or a dreaded skin disease or is fit only to do a woman's work or is killed in battle or hasn't enough to eat!” 30So Joab and his brother Abishai took revenge on Abner for killing their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.
31Then David ordered Joab and his men to tear their clothes, wear sackcloth, and mourn for Abner. And at the funeral King David himself walked behind the coffin. 32Abner was buried at Hebron, and the king wept aloud at the grave, and so did all the people. 33David sang this lament for Abner:
“Why did Abner have to die like a fool?
34His hands were not tied,
And his feet were not bound;
He died like someone killed by criminals!”And the people wept for him again.
35All day long the people tried to get David to eat something, but he made a solemn promise, “May God strike me dead if I eat anything before the day is over!” 36They took note of this and were pleased. Indeed, everything the king did pleased the people. 37All David's people and all the people in Israel understood that the king had no part in the murder of Abner. 38The king said to his officials, “Don't you realize that this day a great leader in Israel has died? 39Even though I am the king chosen by God, I feel weak today. These sons of Zeruiah are too violent for me. May the LORD punish these criminals as they deserve!”
41When Saul's son Ishbosheth heard that Abner had been killed in Hebron, he was afraid, and all the people of Israel were alarmed. 2Ishbosheth had two officers who were leaders of raiding parties, Baanah and Rechab, sons of Rimmon, from Beeroth in the tribe of Benjamin. (Beeroth is counted as part of Benjamin. 3Its original inhabitants had fled to Gittaim, where they have lived ever since.)
Another descendant of Saul was Jonathan's son Mephibosheth, who was five years old when Saul and Jonathan were killed. When the news about their death came from the city of Jezreel, his nurse picked him up and fled; but she was in such a hurry that she dropped him, and he became crippled.
5Rechab and Baanah set out for Ishbosheth's house and arrived there about noon, while he was taking his midday rest. 6The woman at the door had become drowsy while she was sifting wheat and had fallen asleep, so Rechab and Baanah slipped in.4.6 Verse 6 follows one ancient translation; Hebrew They went on into the house carrying wheat, and struck him in the belly. Then Rechab and his brother Baanah escaped. 7Once inside, they went to Ishbosheth's bedroom, where he was sound asleep, and killed him. Then they cut off his head, took it with them, and walked all night through the Jordan Valley. 8They presented the head to King David at Hebron and said to him, “Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul, who tried to kill you. Today the LORD has allowed Your Majesty to take revenge on Saul and his descendants.”
9David answered them, “I make a vow by the living LORD, who has saved me from all dangers! 10
The messenger who came to me at Ziklag and told me of Saul's death thought he was bringing good news. I seized him and had him put to death. That was the reward I gave him for his good news! 11How much worse it will be for evil men who murder an innocent man asleep in his own house! I will now take revenge on you for murdering him and will wipe you off the face of the earth!” 12David gave the order, and his soldiers killed Rechab and Baanah and cut off their hands and feet, which they hung up near the pool in Hebron. They took Ishbosheth's head and buried it in Abner's tomb there at Hebron.