David is Anointed King
1 Afterward David inquired of the Lord, “Should I go up to one of the cities of Judah?” The Lord told him, “Go up.” David asked, “Where should I go?” The Lord replied,tn Heb “he said.” The referent (the Lord) has been specified in the translation for clarity and for stylistic reasons. “To Hebron.”
2 So David went up, along with his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelite and Abigail, formerly the wife of Nabal the Carmelite.
3 David also brought along the men who were with him, each with his family. They settled in the citiestc The expression “the cities of Hebron” is odd; we would expect the noun to be in the singular, if used at all. Although the Syriac Peshitta has the expected reading “in Hebron,” the MT is clearly the more difficult reading and should probably be retained here. of Hebron.
4 The men of Judah came and there they anointed David as king over the peopletn Heb “house.” of Judah.
David was told,tn Heb “and they told David.” The subject appears to be indefinite, allowing one to translate the verb as passive with David as subject. “The peopletn Heb “men.” of Jabesh Gilead are the ones who buried Saul.”
5 So David sent messengers to the people of Jabesh Gilead and told them, “May you be blessed by the Lord because you have shown this kindnesstn Or “loyalty.” to your lord Saul by burying him.
6 Now may the Lord show you true kindness!tn Or “loyalty and devotion.” I also will reward you,tn Heb “will do with you this good.” because you have done this deed.
7 Now be courageoustn Heb “let your hands be strong.” and prove to be valiant warriors, for your lord Saul is dead. The people of Judah have anointed me as king over them.”
David’s Army Clashes with the Army of Saul
8 Now Abner son of Ner, the general in command of Saul’s army, had taken Saul’s son Ish-boshethsn The name Ish-bosheth means in Hebrew “man of shame.” It presupposes an earlier form such as Ish-baal (“man of the Lord”), with the word “baal” being used of Israel’s God. But because the Canaanite storm god was named “Baal,” that part of the name was later replaced with the word “shame.” and had brought him to Mahanaim.
9 He appointed him king over Gilead, the Geshurites,tc The MT here reads “the Ashurite,” but this is problematic if it is taken to mean “the Assyrian.” Ish-bosheth’s kingdom obviously was not of such proportions as to extend to Assyria. The Syriac Peshitta renders the word as “the Geshurite,” while the Targum has “of the house of Ashur.” We should probably emend the Hebrew text to read “the Geshurite.” The Geshurites lived in the northeastern part of the land of Palestine. Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and all Israel.
10 Ish-bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he began to rule over Israel. He ruled two years. However, the peopletn Heb “house.” of Judah followed David.
11 David was king in Hebron over the people of Judah for seven and a half years.tn Heb “And the number of the days in which David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.”
12 Then Abner son of Ner and the servants of Ish-bosheth son of Saul went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon.
13 Joab son of Zeruiah and the servants of David also went out and confronted them at the pool of Gibeon. One group stationed themselves on one side of the pool, and the other group on the other side of the pool.
14 Abner said to Joab, “Let the soldiers get up and fighttn Heb “play.” What is in view here is a gladiatorial contest in which representative groups of soldiers engage in mortal combat before the watching armies. Cf. NAB “perform for us”; NASB “hold (have NRSV) a contest before us”; NLT “put on an exhibition of hand-to-hand combat.” before us.” Joab said, “So be it!”tn Heb “let them arise.”
15 So they got up and crossed over by number: twelve belonging to Benjamin and to Ish-bosheth son of Saul, and twelve from the servants of David.
16 As they grappled with one another, each one stabbed his opponent with his sword and they fell dead together.tn Heb “and they grabbed each one the head of his neighbor with his sword in the side of his neighbor and they fell together.” So that place is called the Field of Flints;tn The meaning of the name “Helkath Hazzurim” (so NIV; KJV, NASB, NRSV similar) is not clear. BHK relates the name to the Hebrew term for “side,” and this is reflected in NAB “the Field of the Sides”; the Greek OT revocalizes the Hebrew to mean something like “Field of Adversaries.” Cf. also TEV, NLT “Field of Swords”; CEV “Field of Daggers.” it is in Gibeon.
17 Now the battle was very severe that day; Abner and the men of Israel were overcome by David’s soldiers.tn Heb “servants.” So also elsewhere.
18 The three sons of Zeruiah were there – Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. (Now Asahel was as quick on his feet as one of the gazelles in the field.)
19 Asahel chased Abner, without turning to the right or to the left as he followed Abner.
20 Then Abner turned and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?” He replied, “Yes it is!”
21 Abner said to him, “Turn aside to your right or to your left. Capture one of the soldierstn Heb “young men.” So also elsewhere. and take his equipment for yourself!” But Asahel was not willing to turn aside from following him.
22 So Abner spoke again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me! I do not want to strike you to the ground.tn Heb “Why should I strike you to the ground?” How then could I showtn Heb “lift.” my face in the presence of Joab your brother?”
23 But Asaheltn Heb “he”; the referent (Asahel) has been specified in the translation for clarity. refused to turn aside. So Abner struck him in the abdomen with the back end of histn Heb “the.” The article functions here as a possessive pronoun. spear. The spear came out his back; Asaheltn Heb “he”; the referent (Asahel) has been specified in the translation for clarity. collapsed on the spot and died there right before Abner.tn Heb “him”; the referent (Abner) has been specified in the translation for clarity. Everyone who now comes to the place where Asahel fell dead pauses in respect.tn Heb “and they stand.”
24 So Joab and Abishai chased Abner. At sunset they came to the hill of Ammah near Giah on the way to the wilderness of Gibeon.
25 The Benjaminites formed their rankstn Heb “were gathered together.” behind Abner and were like a single army, standing at the top of a certain hill.
26 Then Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will turn bitter in the end? When will you tell the people to turn aside from pursuing their brothers?”
27 Joab replied, “As surely as God lives, if you had not said this, it would have been morning before the people would have abandoned pursuittn The Hebrew verb נַעֲלָה (na’alah) used here is the Niphal perfect 3rd person masculine singular of עָלָה (’alah, “to go up”). In the Niphal this verb “is used idiomatically, of getting away from so as to abandon…especially of an army raising a siege…” (see S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 244). of their brothers!”
28 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn and all the people stopped in their tracks.tn Heb “stood.” They stopped chasing Israel and ceased fighting.tn Heb “they no longer chased after Israel and they no longer fought.”
29 Abner and his men went through the Arabah all that night. They crossed the Jordan Rivertn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity. and went through the whole region of Bitrontn Heb “and they went, all the Bitron.” The meaning of the Hebrew word “Bitron,” which is used only here in the OT, is disputed. The translation above follows BDB 144 s.v. בִּתְרוֹן in taking the word to be a proper name of an area east of the Jordan. A different understanding was advocated by W. R. Arnold, who took the word to refer to the forenoon or morning; a number of modern scholars and translations have adopted this view (cf. NAB, NASB, NRSV, CEV, NLT). See W. R. Arnold, “The Meaning of בתרון,” AJSL 28 (1911-1912): 274-83. In this case one could translate “and they traveled all morning long.” and came to Mahanaim.
30 Now Joab returned from chasing Abner and assembled all the people. Nineteen of David’s soldiers were missing, in addition to Asahel.
31 But David’s soldiers had slaughtered the Benjaminites and Abner’s men – in all, 360 men had died!
32 They took Asahel’s body and buried him in his father’s tomb at Bethlehem.map For location see Map5-B1; Map7-E2; Map8-E2; Map10-B4. Joab and his men then traveled all that night and reached Hebron by dawn.