David Is Anointed King. 1After this, David inquired of the LORD, “Shall I go up into one of the cities of Judah?” The LORD replied to him: Go up. Then David asked, “Where shall I go?” He replied: To Hebron. 2So David went up there, with his two wives, Ahinoam of Jezreel and Abigail, the wife of Nabal of Carmel.a 3David also brought up his men with their families, and they dwelt in the towns of Hebron. 4Then the men of Judah came there and anointed David king over the house of Judah.
A report reached David that the people of Jabesh-gilead had buried Saul.b 5So David sent messengers to the people of Jabesh-gilead and said to them: “May you be blessed by the LORD for having done this kindness to your lord Saul in burying him. 6And now may the LORD show you kindness and fidelity. For my part, I will show generosity to you for having done this. 7So take courage and prove yourselves valiant, for though your lord Saul is dead, the house of Judah has anointed me king over them.”
IV. THE REIGN OF DAVID
Ishbaal King of Israel. 8Abner, son of Ner, captain of Saul’s army, took Ishbaal,* son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim,c 9where he made him king over Gilead, the Asherites, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and the rest of Israel. 10Ishbaal, son of Saul, was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years; but the house of Judah followed David. 11In all, David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah seven years and six months.d
Combat near Gibeon. 12Now Abner, son of Ner, and the servants of Ishbaal, Saul’s son, set out from Mahanaim for Gibeon. 13Joab, son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David also set out and encountered them at the pool of Gibeon. And they sat down, one group on one side of the pool and the other on the opposite side. 14Then Abner said to Joab, “Let the young men rise and perform for us.”* Joab replied, “All right.” 15So they rose and were counted off: twelve of the Benjaminites of Ishbaal, son of Saul, and twelve of David’s servants. 16Then each one grasped his opponent’s head and thrust his sword into his opponent’s side, and they all fell down together.* And so that place was named the Field of the Sides; it is in Gibeon.
Death of Asahel. 17The battle that day was very fierce, and Abner and the men of Israel were defeated by David’s servants. 18The three sons of Zeruiah were there—Joab, Abishai, and Asahel.e Asahel, who was as fleet of foot as a gazelle in the open field, 19set out after Abner, turning neither right nor left in his pursuit. 20Abner turned around and said, “Is that you, Asahel?” He replied, “Yes.” 21Abner said to him, “Turn right or left; seize one of the young men and take what you can strip from him.” But Asahel would not stop pursuing him. 22Once more Abner said to Asahel: “Stop pursuing me! Why must I strike you to the ground? How could I show my face to your brother Joab?”f 23Still he refused to stop. So Abner struck him in the abdomen with the heel of his spear, and the weapon protruded from his back. He fell there and died on the spot. All who came to the place where Asahel had fallen and died, halted. 24But Joab and Abishai continued the pursuit of Abner. The sun had gone down when they came to the hill of Ammah which lies east of the valley toward the wilderness near Geba.
Truce Between Joab and Abner. 25Here the Benjaminites rallied around Abner, forming a single group, and made a stand on a hilltop. 26Then Abner called to Joab and said: “Must the sword devour forever? Do you not know that afterward there will be bitterness? How long before you tell the people to stop pursuing their brothers?” 27Joab replied, “As God lives, if you had not spoken, it would be morning before the people would be stopped from pursuing their brothers.” 28Joab then sounded the horn, and all the people came to a halt, pursuing Israel no farther and fighting no more. 29Abner and his men marched all night long through the Arabah, crossed the Jordan, marched all through the morning, and came to Mahanaim. 30Joab, coming from the pursuit of Abner, assembled all the men. Nineteen other servants of David were missing, besides Asahel. 31But David’s servants had struck down and killed three hundred and sixty men of Benjamin, followers of Abner. 32They took up Asahel and buried him in his father’s tomb in Bethlehem. Joab and his men made an all-night march, and dawn found them in Hebron.
* [2:8] Ishbaal: here and elsewhere in the Hebrew text, his name appears as “Ishbosheth”; the second part of Ishbaal, -baal, refers to the Canaanite god Baal, and is therefore suppressed, replaced by bosheth, “shame.”
* [2:14] Perform: lit., “play.”
* [2:16] The nature of this gruesome game is not clear, and the place name is variously given in the older texts.