1 After this, David asked the LORD, "Should I move back to Judah?" And the LORD replied, "Yes." Then David asked, "Which town should I go to?" And the LORD replied, "Hebron."
2 David's wives were Ahinoam from Jezreel and Abigail, the widow of Nabal from Carmel. So David and his wives
3 and his men and their families all moved to Judah, and they settled near the town of Hebron.
4 Then Judah's leaders came to David and crowned him king over the tribe of Judah. When David heard that the men of Jabesh-gilead had buried Saul,
5 he sent them this message: "May the LORD bless you for being so loyal to your king and giving him a decent burial.
6 May the LORD be loyal to you in return and reward you with his unfailing love! And I, too, will reward you for what you have done.
7 And now that Saul is dead, I ask you to be my strong and loyal subjects like the people of Judah, who have anointed me as their new king."
8 But Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul's army, had already gone to Mahanaim with Saul's son Ishbosheth.*1
9 There he proclaimed Ishbosheth king over Gilead, Jezreel, Ephraim, Benjamin, the land of the Ashurites, and all the rest of Israel.
10 Ishbosheth was forty years old when he became king, and he ruled from Mahanaim for two years. Meanwhile, the tribe of Judah remained loyal to David.
11 David made Hebron his capital, and he ruled as king of Judah for seven and a half years.
12 One day Abner led some of Ishbosheth's troops from Mahanaim to Gibeon.
13 About the same time, Joab son of Zeruiah led David's troops from Hebron, and they met Abner at the pool of Gibeon. The two groups sat down there, facing each other from opposite sides of the pool.
14 Then Abner suggested to Joab, "Let's have a few of our warriors put on an exhibition of hand-to-hand combat." "All right," Joab agreed.
15 So twelve men were chosen from each side to fight against each other.
16 Each one grabbed his opponent by the hair and thrust his sword into the other's side so that all of them died. The place has been known ever since as the Field of Swords.*2
17 The two armies then began to fight each other, and by the end of the day Abner and the men of Israel had been defeated by the forces of David.
18 Joab, Abishai, and Asahel, the three sons of Zeruiah, were among David's forces that day. Asahel could run like a deer,
19 and he began chasing Abner. He was relentless and single-minded in his pursuit.
20 When Abner looked back and saw him coming, he called out, "Is that you, Asahel?" "Yes, it is," he replied.
21 "Go fight someone else!" Abner warned. "Take on one of the younger men and strip him of his weapons." But Asahel refused and kept right on chasing Abner.
22 Again Abner shouted to him, "Get away from here! I will never be able to face your brother Joab if I have to kill you!"
23 But Asahel would not give up, so Abner thrust the butt end of his spear through Asahel's stomach, and the spear came out through his back. He stumbled to the ground and died there. And everyone who came by that spot stopped and stood still when they saw Asahel lying there.
24 When Joab and Abishai found out what had happened, they set out after Abner. The sun was just going down as they arrived at the hill of Ammah near Giah, along the road to the wilderness of Gibeon.
25 Abner's troops from the tribe of Benjamin regrouped there at the top of the hill to take a stand.
26 Abner shouted down to Joab, "Must we always solve our differences with swords? Don't you realize the only thing we will gain is bitterness toward each other? When will you call off your men from chasing their Israelite brothers?"
27 Then Joab said, "God only knows what would have happened if you hadn't spoken, for we would have chased you all night if necessary."
28 So Joab blew his trumpet, and his men stopped chasing the troops of Israel.
29 All that night Abner and his men retreated through the Jordan Valley.* They crossed the Jordan River, traveling all through the morning,* and they did not stop until they arrived at Mahanaim.3