2:8 Now Abner son of Ner, the general in command of Saul’s army, had taken Saul’s son Ish-bosheth 1 and had brought him to Mahanaim. 2:9 He appointed him king over Gilead, the Geshurites, 2 Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, and all Israel. 2:10 Ish-bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he began to rule over Israel. He ruled two years. However, the people 3 of Judah followed David. 2:11 David was king in Hebron over the people of Judah for seven and a half years. 4
2:12 Then Abner son of Ner and the servants of Ish-bosheth son of Saul went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon. 2:13 Joab son of Zeruiah and the servants of David also went out and confronted them at the pool of Gibeon. One group stationed themselves on one side of the pool, and the other group on the other side of the pool. 2:14 Abner said to Joab, “Let the soldiers get up and fight 5 before us.” Joab said, “So be it!” 6
2:15 So they got up and crossed over by number: twelve belonging to Benjamin and to Ish-bosheth son of Saul, and twelve from the servants of David. 2:16 As they grappled with one another, each one stabbed his opponent with his sword and they fell dead together. 7 So that place is called the Field of Flints; 8 it is in Gibeon.
2:17 Now the battle was very severe that day; Abner and the men of Israel were overcome by David’s soldiers. 9 2:18 The three sons of Zeruiah were there – Joab, Abishai, and Asahel. (Now Asahel was as quick on his feet as one of the gazelles in the field.) 2:19 Asahel chased Abner, without turning to the right or to the left as he followed Abner.
2:20 Then Abner turned and asked, “Is that you, Asahel?” He replied, “Yes it is!” 2:21 Abner said to him, “Turn aside to your right or to your left. Capture one of the soldiers 10 and take his equipment for yourself!” But Asahel was not willing to turn aside from following him. 2:22 So Abner spoke again to Asahel, “Turn aside from following me! I do not want to strike you to the ground. 11 How then could I show 12 my face in the presence of Joab your brother?” 2:23 But Asahel 13 refused to turn aside. So Abner struck him in the abdomen with the back end of his 14 spear. The spear came out his back; Asahel 15 collapsed on the spot and died there right before Abner. 16 Everyone who now comes to the place where Asahel fell dead pauses in respect. 17
2:24 So Joab and Abishai chased Abner. At sunset they came to the hill of Ammah near Giah on the way to the wilderness of Gibeon. 2:25 The Benjaminites formed their ranks 18 behind Abner and were like a single army, standing at the top of a certain hill.
2:26 Then Abner called out to Joab, “Must the sword devour forever? Don’t you realize that this will turn bitter in the end? When will you tell the people to turn aside from pursuing their brothers?” 2:27 Joab replied, “As surely as God lives, if you had not said this, it would have been morning before the people would have abandoned pursuit 19 of their brothers!” 2:28 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn and all the people stopped in their tracks. 20 They stopped chasing Israel and ceased fighting. 21 2:29 Abner and his men went through the Arabah all that night. They crossed the Jordan River 22 and went through the whole region of Bitron 23 and came to Mahanaim.
2:30 Now Joab returned from chasing Abner and assembled all the people. Nineteen of David’s soldiers were missing, in addition to Asahel. 2:31 But David’s soldiers had slaughtered the Benjaminites and Abner’s men – in all, 360 men had died! 2:32 They took Asahel’s body and buried him in his father’s tomb at Bethlehem. 24 Joab and his men then traveled all that night and reached Hebron by dawn. 3:1 However, the war was prolonged between the house of Saul and the house of David. David was becoming steadily stronger, while the house of Saul was becoming increasingly weaker.
1 sn The name Ish-bosheth means in Hebrew “man of shame.” It presupposes an earlier form such as Ish-baal (“man of the Lord”), with the word “baal” being used of Israel’s God. But because the Canaanite storm god was named “Baal,” that part of the name was later replaced with the word “shame.”
2 tc The MT here reads “the Ashurite,” but this is problematic if it is taken to mean “the Assyrian.” Ish-bosheth’s kingdom obviously was not of such proportions as to extend to Assyria. The Syriac Peshitta renders the word as “the Geshurite,” while the Targum has “of the house of Ashur.” We should probably emend the Hebrew text to read “the Geshurite.” The Geshurites lived in the northeastern part of the land of Palestine.
3 tn Heb “house.”
4 tn Heb “And the number of the days in which David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah was seven years and six months.”
5 tn Heb “play.” What is in view here is a gladiatorial contest in which representative groups of soldiers engage in mortal combat before the watching armies. Cf. NAB “perform for us”; NASB “hold (have NRSV) a contest before us”; NLT “put on an exhibition of hand-to-hand combat.”
6 tn Heb “let them arise.”
7 tn Heb “and they grabbed each one the head of his neighbor with his sword in the side of his neighbor and they fell together.”
8 tn The meaning of the name “Helkath Hazzurim” (so NIV; KJV, NASB, NRSV similar) is not clear. BHK relates the name to the Hebrew term for “side,” and this is reflected in NAB “the Field of the Sides”; the Greek OT revocalizes the Hebrew to mean something like “Field of Adversaries.” Cf. also TEV, NLT “Field of Swords”; CEV “Field of Daggers.”
9 tn Heb “servants.” So also elsewhere.
10 tn Heb “young men.” So also elsewhere.
11 tn Heb “Why should I strike you to the ground?”
12 tn Heb “lift.”
13 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Asahel) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
14 tn Heb “the.” The article functions here as a possessive pronoun.
15 tn Heb “he”; the referent (Asahel) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
16 tn Heb “him”; the referent (Abner) has been specified in the translation for clarity.
17 tn Heb “and they stand.”
18 tn Heb “were gathered together.”
19 tn The Hebrew verb נַעֲלָה (na’alah) used here is the Niphal perfect 3rd person masculine singular of עָלָה (’alah, “to go up”). In the Niphal this verb “is used idiomatically, of getting away from so as to abandon…especially of an army raising a siege…” (see S. R. Driver, Notes on the Hebrew Text and the Topography of the Books of Samuel, 244).
20 tn Heb “stood.”
21 tn Heb “they no longer chased after Israel and they no longer fought.”
22 tn The word “River” is not in the Hebrew text, but is supplied in the translation for clarity.
23 tn Heb “and they went, all the Bitron.” The meaning of the Hebrew word “Bitron,” which is used only here in the OT, is disputed. The translation above follows BDB 144 s.v. בִּתְרוֹן in taking the word to be a proper name of an area east of the Jordan. A different understanding was advocated by W. R. Arnold, who took the word to refer to the forenoon or morning; a number of modern scholars and translations have adopted this view (cf. NAB, NASB, NRSV, CEV, NLT). See W. R. Arnold, “The Meaning of בתרון,” AJSL 28 (1911-1912): 274-83. In this case one could translate “and they traveled all morning long.”