David Anointed King of Judah
1After this, David asked the Lord, “Should I move back to one of the towns of Judah?”
“Yes,” the Lord replied.
Then David asked, “Which town should I go to?”
“To Hebron,” the Lord answered.
2David’s two wives were Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel. So David and his wives 3and his men and their families all moved to Judah, and they settled in the villages near Hebron. 4Then the men of Judah came to David and anointed him king over the people of Judah.
When David heard that the men of Jabesh-gilead had buried Saul, 5he sent them this message: “May the Lord bless you for being so loyal to your master Saul and giving him a decent burial. 6May the Lord be loyal to you in return and reward you with his unfailing love! And I, too, will reward you for what you have done. 7Now that Saul is dead, I ask you to be my strong and loyal subjects like the people of Judah, who have anointed me as their new king.”
Ishbosheth Proclaimed King of Israel
8But Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had already gone to Mahanaim with Saul’s son Ishbosheth.*2:8 Ishbosheth is another name for Esh-baal. 9There he proclaimed Ishbosheth king over Gilead, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, the land of the Ashurites, and all the rest of Israel.
10Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he became king, and he ruled from Mahanaim for two years. Meanwhile, the people of Judah remained loyal to David. 11David made Hebron his capital, and he ruled as king of Judah for seven and a half years.
War between Israel and Judah
12One day Abner led Ishbosheth’s troops from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 13About the same time, Joab son of Zeruiah led David’s troops out and met them at the pool of Gibeon. The two groups sat down there, facing each other from opposite sides of the pool.
14Then Abner suggested to Joab, “Let’s have a few of our warriors fight hand to hand here in front of us.”
“All right,” Joab agreed. 15So twelve men were chosen to fight from each side—twelve men of Benjamin representing Ishbosheth son of Saul, and twelve representing David. 16Each one grabbed his opponent by the hair and thrust his sword into the other’s side so that all of them died. So this place at Gibeon has been known ever since as the Field of Swords.*2:16 Hebrew Helkath-hazzurim.
17A fierce battle followed that day, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by the forces of David.
The Death of Asahel
18Joab, Abishai, and Asahel—the three sons of Zeruiah—were among David’s forces that day. Asahel could run like a gazelle, 19and he began chasing Abner. He pursued him relentlessly, not stopping for anything. 20When Abner looked back and saw him coming, he called out, “Is that you, Asahel?”
“Yes, it is,” he replied.
21“Go fight someone else!” Abner warned. “Take on one of the younger men, and strip him of his weapons.” But Asahel kept right on chasing Abner.
22Again Abner shouted to him, “Get away from here! I don’t want to kill you. How could I ever face your brother Joab again?”
23But Asahel refused to turn back, so Abner thrust the butt end of his spear through Asahel’s stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He stumbled to the ground and died there. And everyone who came by that spot stopped and stood still when they saw Asahel lying there.
24When Joab and Abishai found out what had happened, they set out after Abner. The sun was just going down as they arrived at the hill of Ammah near Giah, along the road to the wilderness of Gibeon. 25Abner’s troops from the tribe of Benjamin regrouped there at the top of the hill to take a stand.
26Abner shouted down to Joab, “Must we always be killing each other? Don’t you realize that bitterness is the only result? When will you call off your men from chasing their Israelite brothers?”
27Then Joab said, “God only knows what would have happened if you hadn’t spoken, for we would have chased you all night if necessary.” 28So Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men stopped chasing the troops of Israel.
29All that night Abner and his men retreated through the Jordan Valley.*2:29a Hebrew the Arabah. They crossed the Jordan River, traveling all through the morning,*2:29b Or continued on through the Bithron. The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain. and didn’t stop until they arrived at Mahanaim.
30Meanwhile, Joab and his men also returned home. When Joab counted his casualties, he discovered that only 19 men were missing in addition to Asahel. 31But 360 of Abner’s men had been killed, all from the tribe of Benjamin. 32Joab and his men took Asahel’s body to Bethlehem and buried him there in his father’s tomb. Then they traveled all night and reached Hebron at daybreak.