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2 Samuel 1-4 Common English Bible (CEB)

David learns of Saul’s death

After Saul’s death, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, he stayed in Ziklag two days. On the third day, a man showed up from Saul’s camp with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. When he reached David, he fell to the ground, bowing low out of respect.

“Where have you come from?” David asked him.

“I’ve escaped from the Israelite army!” he answered.

“What’s the report?” David asked him. “Tell me!”

The man answered, “The troops fled from the battle! Many of the soldiers have fallen and died. What’s more, Saul and his son Jonathan have also died!”

“How do you know,” David asked the young man who brought the news, “that Saul and his son Jonathan are dead?”

The young man who brought the news replied, “I just happened to be on Mount Gilboa and Saul was there, leaning on his spear, with chariots and horsemen closing in on him. He turned around and saw me, then he called to me. ‘Yes, sir,’ I answered. ‘Who are you?’ he asked, and I told him, ‘I’m an Amalekite.’ He said to me, ‘Please come over here and kill me, because convulsions have come over me but I’m still alive.’[a] 10 So I went over to him and killed him, because I knew he couldn’t survive after being wounded like that. I took the crown that was on his head and the bracelet that was on his arm, and I’ve brought them here to you, my master.”

11 Then David grabbed his clothes and ripped them—and all his soldiers did the same. 12 They mourned and cried and fasted until evening for Saul, his son Jonathan, the Lord’s army, and the whole house of Israel, because they had died by the sword.

13 “Where are you from?” David asked the young man who brought him the news.

“I’m the son of an immigrant,” he answered. “An Amalekite.”

14 Then David said to him, “How is it that you weren’t afraid to raise your hand and destroy the Lord’s anointed?” 15 Then David called for one of the young servants. “Come here!” he said. “Strike him down!” So the servant struck the Amalekite down, and he died.

16 “Your blood is on your own head,” David said to the Amalekite, “because your own mouth testified against you when you admitted, ‘I killed the Lord’s anointed.’”

David mourns Saul and Jonathan

17 Then David sang this funeral song[b] for Saul and his son Jonathan. 18 David ordered everyone in Judah to learn the Song of the Bow.[c] (In fact, it is written in the scroll from Jashar.)

19 Oh, no, Israel! Your prince[d] lies dead on your heights.[e]
    Look how the mighty warriors have fallen!
20 Don’t talk about it in Gath;
        don’t bring news of it to Ashkelon’s streets,
    or else the Philistines’ daughters will rejoice;
    the daughters of the uncircumcised will celebrate.
21 You hills of Gilboa!
    Let there be no dew or rain on you,
    and no fields yielding grain offerings.[f]
Because it was there that the mighty warrior’s[g] shield was defiled—
    the shield of Saul!—never again anointed with oil.
22 Jonathan’s bow never wavered from the blood of the slain,
    from the gore of the warriors.
        Never did Saul’s sword return empty.
23 Saul and Jonathan! So well loved, so dearly cherished!
    In their lives and in their deaths they were never separated.
They were faster than eagles,
    stronger than lions!
24 Daughters of Israel, weep over Saul!
    He dressed you in crimson with jewels;
    he decorated your clothes with gold jewelry.
25 Look how the mighty warriors have fallen in the midst of battle!
    Jonathan lies dead on your heights.
26 I grieve for you, my brother Jonathan!
    You were so dear to me!
    Your love was more amazing to me[h] than the love of women.
27 Look how the mighty warriors have fallen!
    Look how the weapons of war have been destroyed!

David made king in Hebron

Some time later, David questioned the Lord, “Should I go to one of the towns in Judah?”

“Yes, go,” the Lord told him.

“Which one should I go to?” David asked.

“To Hebron,” the Lord replied.

So David went there, along with his two wives: Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, Nabal’s widow, from Carmel. David also took the soldiers who were with him, each with his family, and they lived in the towns around Hebron. Then the people of Judah came to Hebron and anointed David king over the house of Judah.

When David was informed that it was the people of Jabesh-gilead who had buried Saul, he sent messengers to the people of Jabesh-gilead. “The Lord bless you,” he said to them, “for doing this loyal deed for your master Saul by burying him. May the Lord now show you loyal love and faithfulness. I myself will also reward you because you did this. So now take courage and be brave—yes, your master Saul is dead, but the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”

Israel’s King Ishbosheth

Meanwhile, Abner, Ner’s son, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ishbosheth,[i] Saul’s son, and brought him over to Mahanaim. There he made him king over Gilead, the Geshurites,[j] Jezreel, Ephraim, and Benjamin—over all Israel. 10 Saul’s son Ishbosheth was 40 years old when he became king over Israel, and he ruled for two years. The house of Judah, however, followed David. 11 The amount of time David ruled in Hebron over the house of Judah totaled seven and a half years.

Conflict between Judah and Israel

12 Abner, Ner’s son, along with the soldiers of Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, left Mahanaim to go to Gibeon. 13 Joab, Zeruiah’s son, and David’s soldiers also came out and confronted them at the pool of Gibeon. One group sat on one side of the pool; the other sat on the opposite side of the pool. 14 Abner said to Joab, “Let’s have the young men fight in a contest[k] before us.”

“All right,” Joab said, “let’s do it.” 15 So the men came forward and were counted as they passed by: twelve for Benjamin and Ishbosheth, Saul’s son; and twelve of David’s soldiers. 16 Each man grabbed his opponent by the head and stuck[l] his sword into his opponent’s side so that they both fell dead together. That’s why that place is called The Field of Daggers,[m] which is located in Gibeon. 17 A fierce battle took place that day, and Abner and the Israelite troops were defeated by David’s soldiers.

18 Now Zeruiah’s three sons were present at the battle: Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. Asahel was as fast as a gazelle in an open field. 19 Asahel went after Abner, staying completely focused in his pursuit of Abner.

20 Abner looked behind him and said, “Is that you, Asahel?”

“Yes, it’s me,” Asahel answered.

21 “Break off your pursuit!” Abner told him. “Fight one of the young warriors and take his gear for yourself!” But Asahel wouldn’t stop chasing him.

22 So Abner repeated himself to Asahel: “Stop chasing me. Why should I kill you? How could I look your brother Joab in the face?” 23 But Asahel wouldn’t turn back, so Abner hit him in the stomach with the back end of his spear. But the spear went through Asahel’s back. He fell down and died right there.

Everyone who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died just stood there, 24 but Joab and Abishai went after Abner. The sun was setting when they came to the hill of Ammah, which faces Giah on the road to the Gibeon wilderness. 25 The Benjaminites rallied behind Abner, forming a single unit. Then they took their positions on the top of a hill. 26 Abner yelled down to Joab, “Must the sword keep killing forever? Don’t you realize that this will end bitterly? How long before you order the troops to stop chasing their brothers?”

27 “As surely as God lives,” Joab replied, “if you hadn’t just said that, the soldiers would have continued after their brothers until morning.” 28 Joab blew the trumpet,[n] and all the soldiers stopped. They didn’t pursue Israel anymore, nor did they continue to fight.

29 Abner and his men then marched all night through the wilderness, crossing the Jordan River and marching all morning[o] until they got to Mahanaim. 30 Joab, meanwhile, returned from pursuing Abner and assembled the troops. Nineteen of David’s soldiers were counted missing in addition to Asahel. 31 But David’s soldiers had defeated the Benjaminites, killing three hundred sixty of Abner’s soldiers. 32 They took Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb in Bethlehem. Then Joab and his men marched all night. When daylight came, they were in Hebron.

The war between Saul’s house and David’s house was long and drawn out. David kept getting stronger, while Saul’s house kept getting weaker.

David’s family

David’s sons were born in Hebron. His oldest son was Amnon, by Ahinoam from Jezreel; the second was Chileab, by Abigail, Nabal’s widow from Carmel; the third was Absalom, by Maacah,[p] who was the daughter of Geshur’s King Talmai; the fourth was Adonijah, by Haggith; the fifth was Shephatiah, by Abital; and the sixth was Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These are David’s sons that were born in Hebron.

Joab kills Abner

Throughout the war between Saul’s house and David’s house, Abner was gaining power in Saul’s house. Now Saul had a secondary wife named Rizpah, Aiah’s daughter. Ishbosheth[q] said to Abner, “Why have you had sex with my father’s secondary wife?”

Abner got very angry over what Ishbosheth had said.

“Am I some sort of dog’s head?”[r] Abner asked. “I’ve been nothing but loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his brothers and his friends. I haven’t handed you over to David, but today you accuse me of doing something wrong with this woman. May God deal harshly with me, Abner, and worse still if I don’t do for David exactly what the Lord swore to him— 10 removing the kingdom from Saul’s house and securing David’s throne over Israel and over Judah, from Dan all the way to Beer-sheba!”

11 Ishbosheth couldn’t say a single word in reply to Abner because he was afraid of him.

12 Abner sent messengers to represent him to David and to say, “Who will own the land?[s] Make a covenant with me, then I’ll help bring all Israel over to your side.”

13 “Good!” David replied. “I will make a covenant with you, but on one condition: don’t show yourself in my presence unless you bring Saul’s daughter Michal when you come to see me.”

14 Then David sent messengers to Saul’s son Ishbosheth. “Give me my wife Michal,” he demanded. “I became engaged to her at the cost of one hundred Philistine foreskins.”

15 Ishbosheth then sent for Michal and took her from her husband Paltiel, Laish’s son. 16 Her husband went with her all the way to Bahurim, crying as he followed her.

“Go home!” Abner told him. So he went home.

17 Abner then sent word to Israel’s elders. “You’ve wanted David to be your king for some time now,” he said. 18 “It’s time to act because the Lord has said about David: I will rescue my people Israel from the power of the Philistines and all their enemies through my servant David.”

19 Abner also spoke directly to the Benjaminites. He then went to inform David in person at Hebron regarding everything that all Israel and the house of Benjamin were willing to do.

20 When Abner, along with twenty others, reached David at Hebron, David threw a celebration for Abner and his men. 21 Then Abner said to David, “Please let me get going so I can assemble all Israel for my master the king. Then they can make a covenant with you, and you will rule over everything your heart[t] desires.” At that, David sent Abner off in peace.

22 Right then, David’s soldiers and Joab returned from a raid, bringing a great deal of loot with them. Abner was no longer with David in Hebron because David had sent him off in peace. 23 When Joab and all the troops with him returned, Joab was told that Abner, Ner’s son, had come to the king and that David had sent him off in peace.

24 Joab went to the king and asked, “What have you done? Abner came to you here! Why did you send him off? Now he’s gotten away! 25 Don’t you know the evil ways of Abner, Ner’s son?[u] He came to trick you, to find out where you come and go, and to learn everything you do!”

26 Joab left David and sent messengers after Abner. They brought him back from the well at Sirah, but David didn’t know anything of this. 27 When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside next to[v] the gate to speak with him in private. But instead Joab stabbed Abner in the stomach, and he died for shedding the blood of Asahel, Joab’s brother.

28 When David heard about this later, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord concerning the shedding of the blood of Abner, Ner’s son. 29 May it fall upon the head of Joab and his entire family tree! May Joab’s family never be without someone with a discharge or a skin disease,[w] someone who uses a crutch,[x] someone who dies by the sword, or someone who is hungry!”

30 So that is how Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner, because he killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.

31 Then David ordered Joab and all the troops who were with him, “Tear your clothes and put on funeral clothes! Mourn for Abner!” King David himself walked behind the body. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron. The king wept loudly at Abner’s grave. All the troops cried too. 33 Then the king sang this funeral song[y] for Abner:

“Should Abner have died like a fool dies?
34 Your hands weren’t bound,
    your feet weren’t chained,
    but you have fallen
    like someone falls before the wicked.”
Then the troops cried over Abner again.

35 Then all the soldiers came to urge David to eat something while it was still day, but David swore, “May God deal harshly with me and worse still if I eat bread or anything else before the sun goes down.” 36 All the troops took notice of this and were pleased by it. Indeed, everything that the king did pleased them. 37 So on that day all the troops and all Israel knew that it wasn’t the king’s idea to kill Abner, Ner’s son.

38 The king told his soldiers, “Don’t you know that a prince and a great man in Israel has fallen today? 39 And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak. These men, Zeruiah’s sons, are too strong for me.[z] May the Lord repay the one who does evil according to the evil they did!”

Ishbosheth murdered

When Ishbosheth,[aa] Saul’s son, heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost his courage,[ab] and all Israel was alarmed. Saul’s son had two men who led the raiding parties—one was named Baanah and the other Rechab. Both were sons of Rimmon, a Benjaminite from Beeroth. (Beeroth was considered part of Benjamin. The people of Beeroth had fled to Gittaim and even now live there as immigrants.)

Now Saul’s son Jonathan had a boy whose feet were crippled. He was only 5 years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and so his nurse snatched him up and fled. But as she hurried to get away, he fell and was injured. His name was Mephibosheth.[ac]

Rechab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon from Beeroth, set out and reached Ishbosheth’s house at the heat of the day, right when he was lying down, taking an afternoon rest. They went straight into his house, as if getting wheat,[ad] and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rechab and his brother Baanah escaped. They had entered the house while Ishbosheth was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed him and killed him, they cut off his head, took it, and traveled all night through the wilderness.

They brought Ishbosheth’s head to David at Hebron. “Here is the head of Ishbosheth,” they told the king, “the son of Saul your enemy, who wanted you dead. Today the Lord has avenged our master[ae] the king on Saul and his descendants.”

David answered Rechab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon from Beeroth, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has rescued me[af] from all kinds of trouble,” he told them, 10 “when someone told me Saul was dead back in Ziklag, thinking he was bringing good news, I grabbed him and killed him. That was the reward I gave him for his news! 11 What do you think I’ll do when evil people kill a righteous person in his own house on his own bed? Why shouldn’t I demand his blood from your hands and rid the earth of you both?”

12 So David gave the order to his servants, and they killed Rechab and Baanah, cutting off their hands and feet and hanging them up by the pool at Hebron. But they took Ishbosheth’s head and buried it in the grave of Abner at Hebron.


  1. 2 Samuel 1:9 Syr, Tg; Heb uncertain
  2. 2 Samuel 1:17 Or lament
  3. 2 Samuel 1:18 Heb lacks Song.
  4. 2 Samuel 1:19 Or gazelle or splendor or splendid one
  5. 2 Samuel 1:19 Correction
  6. 2 Samuel 1:21 Heb uncertain, perhaps bountiful fields; alternatively, with LXXL, fields of death, or with correction and no springs from the deep
  7. 2 Samuel 1:21 Or warriors’ (plural)
  8. 2 Samuel 1:26 Or your love (or care; cf 1 Sam 18:1, 3; 20:17) for me was more amazing
  9. 2 Samuel 2:8 Ishbosheth means man of shame; shame (Heb bosheth) may be a deliberate alteration from Baal (cf Esh-baal, man of Baal in 1 Chron 8:33; 9:39; see also 2 Sam 4:4); one manuscript of LXXL reads Ishbaal.
  10. 2 Samuel 2:9 Syr, Vulg; MT Ashurites or Assyrians; cf Tg, LXXL, Judg 1:32 Asherites
  11. 2 Samuel 2:14 Or come forward and play or compete
  12. 2 Samuel 2:16 Heb lacks stuck.
  13. 2 Samuel 2:16 Heb Helkath-hazzurim
  14. 2 Samuel 2:28 Heb shofar
  15. 2 Samuel 2:29 Heb uncertain
  16. 2 Samuel 3:3 Or son of; also twice in 3:4
  17. 2 Samuel 3:7 Or he, supplied from 3:8; see note at 2:8 on Ishbosheth.
  18. 2 Samuel 3:8 LXX; MT adds that belongs to Judah.
  19. 2 Samuel 3:12 Heb uncertain; LXX lacks Who will own the land?
  20. 2 Samuel 3:21 Or soul
  21. 2 Samuel 3:25 LXX; MT You know Abner, Ner’s son.
  22. 2 Samuel 3:27 LXX; MT to the middle of
  23. 2 Samuel 3:29 Traditionally leprosy, a term used for several different skin diseases
  24. 2 Samuel 3:29 Or who holds a spindle
  25. 2 Samuel 3:33 Or lament
  26. 2 Samuel 3:39 Or more ruthless than me; DSS (4QSama) lacks this clause.
  27. 2 Samuel 4:1 Heb lacks Ishbosheth; LXX, DSS (4QSama) Mephibosheth; cf 4:4 and the note at 2 Sam 2:8.
  28. 2 Samuel 4:1 Or his hands grew weak
  29. 2 Samuel 4:4 Called Merib-baal in 1 Chron 8:34; 9:40. See the note at 2 Sam 2:8.
  30. 2 Samuel 4:6 Heb uncertain
  31. 2 Samuel 4:8 Or my master
  32. 2 Samuel 4:9 Or my life or my soul
Common English Bible (CEB)

Copyright © 2011 by Common English Bible

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