2 Samuel 1-3
1 1-2 Shortly after Saul died, David returned to Ziklag from his rout of the Amalekites. Three days later a man showed up unannounced from Saul’s army camp.
2-3 Disheveled and obviously in mourning, he fell to his knees in respect before David. David asked, “What brings you here?”
He answered, “I’ve just escaped from the camp of Israel.”
4 “So what happened?” said David. “What’s the news?”
He said, “The Israelites have fled the battlefield, leaving a lot of their dead comrades behind. And Saul and his son Jonathan are dead.”
5 David pressed the young soldier for details: “How do you know for sure that Saul and Jonathan are dead?”
6-8 “I just happened by Mount Gilboa and came on Saul, badly wounded and leaning on his spear, with enemy chariots and horsemen bearing down hard on him. He looked behind him, saw me, and called me to him. ‘Yes sir,’ I said, ‘at your service.’ He asked me who I was, and I told him, ‘I’m an Amalekite.’”
9 “Come here,” he said, “and put me out of my misery. I’m nearly dead already, but my life hangs on.”
10 “So I did what he asked—I killed him. I knew he wouldn’t last much longer anyway. I removed his royal headband and bracelet, and have brought them to my master. Here they are.”
11-12 In lament, David ripped his clothes to ribbons. All the men with him did the same. They wept and fasted the rest of the day, grieving the death of Saul and his son Jonathan, and also the army of God and the nation Israel, victims in a failed battle.
13 Then David spoke to the young soldier who had brought the report: “Who are you, anyway?”
“I’m from an immigrant family—an Amalekite.”
14-15 “Do you mean to say,” said David, “that you weren’t afraid to up and kill God’s anointed king?” Right then he ordered one of his soldiers, “Strike him dead!” The soldier struck him, and he died.
16 “You asked for it,” David told him. “You sealed your death sentence when you said you killed God’s anointed king.”
17-18 Then David sang this lament over Saul and his son Jonathan, and gave orders that everyone in Judah learn it by heart. Yes, it’s even inscribed in The Book of Jashar.
19-21 Oh, oh, Gazelles of Israel, struck down on your hills,
the mighty warriors—fallen, fallen!
Don’t announce it in the city of Gath,
don’t post the news in the streets of Ashkelon.
Don’t give those coarse Philistine girls
one more excuse for a drunken party!
No more dew or rain for you, hills of Gilboa,
and not a drop from springs and wells,
For there the warriors’ shields were dragged through the mud,
Saul’s shield left there to rot.
22 Jonathan’s bow was bold—
the bigger they were the harder they fell.
Saul’s sword was fearless—
once out of the scabbard, nothing could stop it.
23 Saul and Jonathan—beloved, beautiful!
Together in life, together in death.
Swifter than plummeting eagles,
stronger than proud lions.
24-25 Women of Israel, weep for Saul.
He dressed you in finest cottons and silks,
spared no expense in making you elegant.
The mighty warriors—fallen, fallen
in the middle of the fight!
Jonathan—struck down on your hills!
26 O my dear brother Jonathan,
I’m crushed by your death.
Your friendship was a miracle-wonder,
love far exceeding anything I’ve known—
or ever hope to know.
27 The mighty warriors—fallen, fallen.
And the arms of war broken to bits.
2 After all this, David prayed. He asked God, “Shall I move to one of the cities of Judah?”
God said, “Yes, move.”
“And to which city?”
2-3 So David moved to Hebron, along with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel. David’s men, along with their families, also went with him and made their home in and around Hebron.
4-7 The citizens of Judah came to Hebron, and then and there made David king over the clans of Judah.
A report was brought to David that the men of Jabesh Gilead had given Saul a decent burial. David sent messengers to the men of Jabesh Gilead: “God bless you for this—for honoring your master, Saul, with a funeral. God honor you and be true to you—and I’ll do the same, matching your generous act of goodness. Strengthen your resolve and do what must be done. Your master, Saul, is dead. The citizens of Judah have made me their king.”
* * *
8-11 In the meantime, Abner son of Ner, commander of Saul’s army, had taken Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth to Mahanaim and made him king over Gilead, over Asher, over Jezreel, over Ephraim, over Benjamin—king, as it turns out, over all Israel. Ish-Bosheth, Saul’s son, was forty years old when he was made king over Israel. He lasted only two years. But the people of Judah stuck with David. David ruled the people of Judah from Hebron for seven and a half years.
12-13 One day Abner son of Ner set out from Mahanaim with the soldiers of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, headed for Gibeon. Joab son of Zeruiah, with David’s soldiers, also set out. They met at the Pool of Gibeon, Abner’s group on one side, Joab’s on the other.
14 Abner challenged Joab, “Put up your best fighters. Let’s see them do their stuff.”
Joab said, “Good! Let them go at it!”
15-16 So they lined up for the fight, twelve Benjaminites from the side of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, and twelve soldiers from David’s side. The men from each side grabbed their opponents’ heads and stabbed them with their daggers. They all fell dead—the whole bunch together. So, they called the place Slaughter Park. It’s right there at Gibeon.
17-19 The fighting went from bad to worse throughout the day. Abner and the men of Israel were beaten to a pulp by David’s men. The three sons of Zeruiah were present: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Asahel, as fast as a wild antelope on the open plain, chased Abner, staying hard on his heels.
20 Abner turned and said, “Is that you, Asahel?”
“It surely is,” he said.
21 Abner said, “Let up on me. Pick on someone you have a chance of beating and be content with those spoils!” But Asahel wouldn’t let up.
22 Abner tried again, “Turn back. Don’t force me to kill you. How would I face your brother Joab?”
23-25 When he refused to quit, Abner struck him in the belly with the blunt end of his spear so hard that it came out his back. Asahel fell to the ground and died at once. Everyone who arrived at the spot where Asahel fell and died stood and gaped—Asahel dead! But Joab and Abishai kept up the chase after Abner. As the sun began to set, they came to the hill of Ammah that faced Giah on the road to the backcountry of Gibeon. The Benjaminites had taken their stand with Abner there, deployed strategically on a hill.
26 Abner called out to Joab, “Are we going to keep killing each other till doomsday? Don’t you know that nothing but bitterness will come from this? How long before you call off your men from chasing their brothers?”
27-28 “As God lives,” said Joab, “if you hadn’t spoken up, we’d have kept up the chase until morning!” Then he blew the ram’s horn trumpet and the whole army of Judah stopped in its tracks. They quit chasing Israel and called off the fighting.
29 Abner and his soldiers marched all that night up the Arabah Valley. They crossed the Jordan and, after a long morning’s march, arrived at Mahanaim.
30-32 After Joab returned from chasing Abner, he took a head count of the army. Nineteen of David’s men (besides Asahel) were missing. David’s men had cut down 360 of Abner’s men, all Benjaminites—all dead. They brought Asahel and buried him in the family tomb in Bethlehem. Joab and his men then marched all night, arriving in Hebron as the dawn broke.
3 The war between the house of Saul and the house of David dragged on and on. The longer it went on the stronger David became, with the house of Saul getting weaker.
* * *
2-5 During the Hebron years, sons were born to David:
Amnon, born of Ahinoam of Jezreel—the firstborn;
Kileab, born of Abigail of Carmel, Nabal’s widow—his second;
Absalom, born of Maacah, daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur—the third;
Adonijah, born of Haggith—the fourth;
Shephatiah, born of Abital—the fifth;
Ithream, born of Eglah—the sixth.
These six sons of David were born in Hebron.
* * *
6-7 Abner took advantage of the continuing war between the house of Saul and the house of David to gain power for himself. Saul had had a concubine, Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. One day Ish-Bosheth confronted Abner: “What business do you have sleeping with my father’s concubine?”
8-10 Abner lost his temper with Ish-Bosheth, “Treat me like a dog, will you! Is this the thanks I get for sticking by the house of your father, Saul, and all his family and friends? I personally saved you from certain capture by David, and you make an issue out of my going to bed with a woman! What God promised David, I’ll help accomplish—transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and make David ruler over the whole country, both Israel and Judah, from Dan to Beersheba. If not, may God do his worst to me.”
11 Ish-Bosheth, cowed by Abner’s outburst, couldn’t say another word.
12 Abner went ahead and sent personal messengers to David: “Make a deal with me and I’ll help bring the whole country of Israel over to you.”
13 “Great,” said David. “It’s a deal. But only on one condition: You’re not welcome here unless you bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, with you when you come to meet me.”
14 David then sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul: “Give me back Michal, whom I won as my wife at the cost of a hundred Philistine foreskins.”
15-16 Ish-Bosheth ordered that she be taken from her husband Paltiel son of Laish. But Paltiel followed her, weeping all the way, to Bahurim. There Abner told him, “Go home.” And he went home.
17-18 Abner got the elders of Israel together and said, “Only yesterday, it seems, you were looking for a way to make David your king. So do it—now! For God has given the go-ahead on David: ‘By my servant David’s hand, I’ll save my people Israel from the oppression of the Philistines and all their other enemies.’”
19 Abner took the Benjaminites aside and spoke to them. Then he went to Hebron for a private talk with David, telling him everything that Israel in general and Benjamin in particular were planning to do.
20 When Abner and the twenty men who were with him met with David in Hebron, David laid out a feast for them.
21 Abner then said, “I’m ready. Let me go now to rally everyone in Israel for my master, the king. They’ll make a treaty with you, authorizing you to rule them however you see fit.” Abner was sent off with David’s blessing.
22-23 Soon after that, David’s men, led by Joab, came back from a field assignment. Abner was no longer in Hebron with David, having just been dismissed with David’s blessing. As Joab and his raiding party arrived, they were told that Abner the son of Ner had been there with David and had been sent off with David’s blessing.
24-25 Joab went straight to the king: “What’s this you’ve done? Abner shows up, and you let him walk away scot-free? You know Abner son of Ner better than that. This was no friendly visit. He was here to spy on you, figure out your comings and goings, find out what you’re up to.”
26-27 Joab left David and went into action. He sent messengers after Abner; they caught up with him at the well at Sirah and brought him back. David knew nothing of all this. When Abner got back to Hebron, Joab steered him aside at the gate for a personal word with him. There he stabbed him in the belly, killed him in cold blood for the murder of his brother Asahel.
28-30 Later on, when David heard what happened, he said, “Before God I and my kingdom are totally innocent of this murder of Abner son of Ner. Joab and his entire family will always be under the curse of this bloodguilt. May they forever be victims of crippling diseases, violence, and famine.” (Joab and his brother, Abishai, murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel at the battle of Gibeon.)
31-32 David ordered Joab and all the men under him, “Rip your cloaks into rags! Wear mourning clothes! Lead Abner’s funeral procession with loud lament!” King David followed the coffin. They buried Abner in Hebron. The king’s voice was loud in lament as he wept at the side of Abner’s grave. All the people wept, too.
33-34 Then the king sang this tribute to Abner:
Can this be? Abner dead like a nameless bum?
You were a free man, free to go and do as you wished—
Yet you fell as a victim in a street brawl.
And all the people wept—a crescendo of crying!
35-37 They all came then to David, trying to get him to eat something before dark. But David solemnly swore, “I’ll not so much as taste a piece of bread, or anything else for that matter, before sunset, so help me God!” Everyone at the funeral took notice—and liked what they saw. In fact everything the king did was applauded by the people. It was clear to everyone that day, including all Israel, that the king had nothing to do with the death of Abner son of Ner.
38-39 The king spoke to his servants: “You realize, don’t you, that today a prince and hero fell victim of foul play in Israel? And I, though anointed king, was helpless to do anything about it. These sons of Zeruiah are too much for me. God, requite the criminal for his crime!”