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David Is Made King over Judah

After this, David asked the Lord, “Should I go up to one of the cities of Judah?” And the Lord said to him, “Go up.” So David said, “Where should I go?” And He said, “To Hebron.” So David went up there with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel, and Abigail who had been the wife of Nabal of Carmel. David brought up his men who were with him, each one with those of his family. They lived in the cities of Hebron. Then the men of Judah came and there they chose David to be king over the family of Judah.

They told David, “It was the men of Jabesh-gilead who buried Saul.” So David sent men with news to the men of Jabesh-gilead, saying, “May the Lord bring good to you. Because you have shown kindness to your king Saul, and have buried him. Now may the Lord show loving-kindness and truth to you. And I will do good to you, because you have done this. So now let your hands be strong. Have strength of heart. For your king Saul is dead. And those of the family of Judah have chosen me to be their king.”

Ish-bosheth Is Made King over Israel

But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul’s army, had taken Saul’s son Ish-bosheth to Mahanaim. He made him king of Gilead, the Ashurites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and all Israel. 10 Saul’s son Ish-bosheth was forty years old when he became king of Israel. He was king for two years. But the family of Judah followed David. 11 David was king in Hebron over the family of Judah for seven years and six months.

War between Israel and Judah

12 Now Abner the son of Ner went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon with the servants of Saul’s son Ish-bosheth. 13 And Zeruiah’s son Joab and the servants of David went out and met them by the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool, and the other group on the other side. 14 Then Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men get up and have a test of strength in front of us.” And Joab said, “Let them get up.” 15 So they stood up and went over by number. There were twelve for Benjamin and Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David. 16 Each one of them took hold of the head of the one fighting against him, and put his sword into the other’s side. So they fell down together. That is why that place was called field of swords, which is in Gibeon. 17 The battle was very bad that day. Abner and the men of Israel were beaten by the servants of David. 18 Now the three sons of Zeruiah were there, Joab and Abishai and Asahel. Asahel was as fast as a wild deer. 19 And Asahel ran after Abner. He did not turn to the right or the left from following him. 20 Then Abner looked behind him and said, “Is that you, Asahel?” And he answered, “It is I.” 21 So Abner said to him, “Turn aside to your right or left. Take hold of one of the young men, and take for yourself what belongs to him.” But Asahel was not willing to turn aside from following him. 22 Abner said again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me. Why should I make you fall? How then could I lift up my face to your brother Joab?” 23 But he would not turn aside. So Abner hit him in the stomach with the end of his spear, so that the spear came out at his back. He fell there and died where he fell. And all who came to the place where Asahel fell and died, stood still.

24 But Joab and Abishai went after Abner. When the sun was going down, they came to the hill of Ammah, which is before Giah by the way of the desert of Gibeon. 25 The sons of Benjamin gathered together behind Abner and became one army. They stood on the top of a hill. 26 Abner called to Joab and said, “Should the sword destroy forever? Do you not know that it will be bad in the end? How long will you keep from telling the people to stop following their brothers?” 27 Joab said, “As God lives, if you had not spoken, for sure the people would have stopped going after their brothers in the morning.” 28 So Joab sounded the horn, and all the people stopped and went after Israel no longer. And they did not fight any more. 29 Abner and his men went all night through the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan, walked all morning, and came to Mahanaim.

30 Joab returned from following Abner, and gathered all the people together. Added to Asahel, nineteen of David’s servants were missing. 31 But the servants of David had killed many of Benjamin and Abner’s men, so that 360 men died. 32 They picked up Asahel and buried him in his father’s grave in Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men walked all night and came to Hebron early the next morning.

David Anointed King Over Judah

In the course of time, David inquired(A) of the Lord. “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Judah?” he asked.

The Lord said, “Go up.”

David asked, “Where shall I go?”

“To Hebron,”(B) the Lord answered.

So David went up there with his two wives,(C) Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail,(D) the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David also took the men who were with him,(E) each with his family, and they settled in Hebron(F) and its towns. Then the men of Judah came to Hebron,(G) and there they anointed(H) David king over the tribe of Judah.

When David was told that it was the men from Jabesh Gilead(I) who had buried Saul, he sent messengers to them to say to them, “The Lord bless(J) you for showing this kindness to Saul your master by burying him. May the Lord now show you kindness and faithfulness,(K) and I too will show you the same favor because you have done this. Now then, be strong(L) and brave, for Saul your master is dead, and the people of Judah have anointed me king over them.”

War Between the Houses of David and Saul(M)

Meanwhile, Abner(N) son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth(O) son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim.(P) He made him king over Gilead,(Q) Ashuri(R) and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel.(S)

10 Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David. 11 The length of time David was king in Hebron over Judah was seven years and six months.(T)

12 Abner son of Ner, together with the men of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, left Mahanaim and went to Gibeon.(U) 13 Joab(V) son of Zeruiah and David’s men went out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat down on one side of the pool and one group on the other side.

14 Then Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have some of the young men get up and fight hand to hand in front of us.”

“All right, let them do it,” Joab said.

15 So they stood up and were counted off—twelve men for Benjamin and Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve for David. 16 Then each man grabbed his opponent by the head and thrust his dagger(W) into his opponent’s side, and they fell down together. So that place in Gibeon was called Helkath Hazzurim.[a]

17 The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the Israelites were defeated(X) by David’s men.(Y)

18 The three sons of Zeruiah(Z) were there: Joab,(AA) Abishai(AB) and Asahel.(AC) Now Asahel was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle.(AD) 19 He chased Abner, turning neither to the right nor to the left as he pursued him. 20 Abner looked behind him and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?”

“It is,” he answered.

21 Then Abner said to him, “Turn aside to the right or to the left; take on one of the young men and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel would not stop chasing him.

22 Again Abner warned Asahel, “Stop chasing me! Why should I strike you down? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?”(AE)

23 But Asahel refused to give up the pursuit; so Abner thrust the butt of his spear into Asahel’s stomach,(AF) and the spear came out through his back. He fell there and died on the spot. And every man stopped when he came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died.(AG)

24 But Joab and Abishai pursued Abner, and as the sun was setting, they came to the hill of Ammah, near Giah on the way to the wasteland of Gibeon. 25 Then the men of Benjamin rallied behind Abner. They formed themselves into a group and took their stand on top of a hill.

26 Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour(AH) forever? Don’t you realize that this will end in bitterness? How long before you order your men to stop pursuing their fellow Israelites?”

27 Joab answered, “As surely as God lives, if you had not spoken, the men would have continued pursuing them until morning.”

28 So Joab(AI) blew the trumpet,(AJ) and all the troops came to a halt; they no longer pursued Israel, nor did they fight anymore.

29 All that night Abner and his men marched through the Arabah.(AK) They crossed the Jordan, continued through the morning hours[b] and came to Mahanaim.(AL)

30 Then Joab stopped pursuing Abner and assembled the whole army. Besides Asahel, nineteen of David’s men were found missing. 31 But David’s men had killed three hundred and sixty Benjamites who were with Abner. 32 They took Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb(AM) at Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night and arrived at Hebron by daybreak.


  1. 2 Samuel 2:16 Helkath Hazzurim means field of daggers or field of hostilities.
  2. 2 Samuel 2:29 See Septuagint; the meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.

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