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That was the beginning of a long war between the followers of Saul and of David. David’s position now became stronger and stronger, while Saul’s dynasty became weaker and weaker.

Several sons were born to David while he was at Hebron. The oldest was Amnon, born to his wife Ahinoam. His second son, Chileab, was born to Abigail, the widow of Nabal of Carmel. The third was Absalom, born to Maacah, the daughter of King Talmai of Geshur. The fourth was Adonijah, who was born to Haggith. Then Shephatiah was born to Abital, and Ithream was born to Eglah.

As the war went on, Abner became a very powerful political leader among the followers of Saul. He took advantage of his position by sleeping with one of Saul’s concubines, a girl named Rizpah. But when Ish-bosheth accused Abner of this, Abner was furious.

“Am I a Judean dog to be kicked around like this?” he shouted. “After all I have done for you and for your father by not betraying you to David, is this my reward—to find fault with me about some woman? 9-10 May God curse me if I don’t do everything I can to take away the entire kingdom from you, all the way from Dan to Beersheba, and give it to David, just as the Lord predicted.”

11 Ish-bosheth made no reply, for he was afraid of Abner.

12 Then Abner sent messengers to David to discuss a deal—to surrender the kingdom of Israel to him in exchange for becoming commander-in-chief of the combined armies of Israel and Judah.

13 “All right,” David replied, “but I will not negotiate with you unless you bring me my wife Michal, Saul’s daughter.” 14 David then sent this message to Ish-bosheth: “Give me back my wife Michal, for I bought her with the lives of one hundred Philistines.”

15 So Ish-bosheth took her away from her husband Palti.[a] 16 He followed along behind her as far as Behurim, weeping as he went. Then Abner told him, “Go on home now.” So he returned.

17 Meanwhile, Abner consulted with the leaders of Israel and reminded them that for a long time they had wanted David as their king.

18 “Now is the time!” he told them. “For the Lord has said, ‘It is David by whom I will save my people from the Philistines and from all their other enemies.’”

19 Abner also talked to the leaders of the tribe of Benjamin; then he went to Hebron and reported to David his progress with the people of Israel and Benjamin. 20 Twenty men accompanied him, and David entertained them with a feast.

21 As Abner left, he promised David, “When I get back I will call a convention of all the people of Israel, and they will elect you as their king, as you’ve so long desired.” So David let Abner return in safety.

22 But just after Abner left, Joab and some of David’s troops returned from a raid, bringing much loot with them. 23 When Joab was told that Abner had just been there visiting the king and had been sent away in peace, 24-25 he rushed to the king, demanding, “What have you done? What do you mean by letting him get away? You know perfectly well that he came to spy on us and that he plans to return and attack us!”

26 Then Joab sent messengers to catch up with Abner and tell him to come back. They found him at the well of Sirah and he returned with them; but David knew nothing about it. 27 When Abner arrived at Hebron, Joab took him aside at the city gate as if to speak with him privately; but then he pulled out a dagger and killed him in revenge for the death of his brother Asahel.

28 When David heard about it he declared, “I vow by the Lord that I and my people are innocent of this crime against Abner. 29 Joab and his family are the guilty ones. May each of his children be victims of cancer, or be lepers, or be sterile, or die of starvation, or be killed by the sword!”

30 So Joab and his brother, Abishai, killed Abner because of the death of their brother, Asahel, at the battle of Gibeon.

31 Then David said to Joab and to all those who were with him, “Go into deep mourning for Abner.” And King David accompanied the bier to the cemetery. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron. And the king and all the people wept at the graveside.

33-34 “Should Abner have died like a fool?” the king lamented.

“Your hands were not bound,

Your feet were not tied—

You were murdered—

The victim of a wicked plot.”

And all the people wept again for him. 35-36 David had refused to eat anything the day of the funeral, and now everyone begged him to take a bite of supper. But David vowed that he would eat nothing until sundown. This pleased his people, just as everything else he did pleased them! 37 Thus the whole nation, both Judah and Israel, understood from David’s actions that he was in no way responsible for Abner’s death.

38 And David said to his people, “A great leader and a great man has fallen today in Israel; 39 and even though I am God’s chosen king, I can do nothing with these two sons of Zeruiah. May the Lord repay wicked men for their wicked deeds.”


  1. 2 Samuel 3:15 Palti, see 1 Samuel 25:44.

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