The House of David Strengthened
1There was a long war between the house of Saul and the house of David; but David grew steadily stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker [to the point of being powerless].
2 Sons were born to David in Hebron: his firstborn was Amnon, by Ahinoam of Jezreel; 3 his second, Chileab, by Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of [his wife] Maacah, daughter of Talmai the king of Geshur; 4 the fourth, Adonijah the son of [his wife] Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of [his wife] Abital; 5 and the sixth, Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These [sons] were born to David in Hebron.
Abner Joins David
6 Now while war continued between the houses of Saul and David, Abner was proving himself strong in the house of Saul. 7 Now Saul had a [a]concubine whose name was Rizpah the daughter of Aiah; and Ish-bosheth said to Abner, [b]“Why have you gone in to my father’s concubine?” 8 Then Abner was very angry at the words of Ish-bosheth, and he said, “Am I a dog’s head [a despicable traitor] that belongs to Judah? [c]Today I show loyalty and kindness to the house of Saul your father, to his brothers and his friends, by not having you handed over to David; and yet you charge me today with guilt concerning this woman. 9 May God do so to Abner, and more also, if I do not do for David just as the Lord has sworn to him, 10 to transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul, and establish the throne of David over Israel and Judah from Dan [in the north] to Beersheba [in the south].” 11 And Ish-bosheth could not say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.
12 Then Abner sent messengers to David [who was] in his place [at Hebron], saying, “Whose is the land? Make your covenant (treaty) with me, and behold, my hand shall be with you to bring all Israel over to you.” 13 David said, “Good! I will make a covenant (treaty) with you, but I require one thing of you: you shall not see my face unless you first bring Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to see [d]me.” 14 So David sent messengers to Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, saying, “[e]Give me my wife Michal, to whom I was [f]betrothed for [the price of] a hundred foreskins of the Philistines.” 15 So Ish-bosheth sent and took her from her husband, from Paltiel the son of Laish [to whom Saul had given her]. 16 But her husband went with her, weeping continually behind her as far as Bahurim. Then Abner told him, “Go, return.” And he did so.
17 Abner talked with the elders (tribal leaders) of Israel, saying, “In times past you were seeking for David to be king over you. 18 Now then, do it [and make him king]! For the Lord has spoken of David, saying, ‘By the hand of My servant David I will save My people Israel from the hand of the Philistines and the hand of all their enemies.’” 19 Abner also spoke [g]to [the men of] Benjamin. Then he also went to [h]tell David at Hebron everything that seemed good [i]to Israel and to the entire house of Benjamin.
20 So Abner came to David at Hebron, and [brought] twenty men along with him. And David prepared a feast for Abner and the men with him. 21 Abner said to David, “Let me stand up and go, and gather all Israel to my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant (treaty) with you, and that you may reign over all that your soul desires.” So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.
22 Then the servants of David came with Joab from a raid and brought a great quantity of spoil with them; but Abner was not with David at Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace. 23 When Joab and all the army that was with him arrived, they told Joab, “Abner the son of Ner came to the king, and he has sent him away, and he has gone in peace.” 24 Then Joab came to the king and said, “What have you done? Behold, Abner came to you; why did you send him away, so that he is already gone? 25 You know Abner the son of Ner, that he [only] came to deceive you [with flattering words] and to learn of your going out and coming in, and to find out what you are doing.”
Joab Murders Abner
26 When Joab left David, he sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the well of Sirah; but David knew nothing [about Joab’s action]. 27 So when Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside to the middle of the gate to speak to him privately, and there he struck Abner in the abdomen so that he died, [j]to avenge the blood of Asahel, Joab’s brother. 28 Afterward, when David heard of it, he said, “I and my kingdom are forever innocent before the Lord of the blood of Abner the son of Ner. 29 Let [k]the guilt fall on the head of Joab and on all his father’s house (family); and may there never disappear from the house of Joab one who suffers with a discharge or one who is a leper or one who walks with a crutch [being unfit for war], or one who falls by the sword, or one who lacks food.” 30 So Joab and Abishai his brother murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.
David Mourns Abner
31 Then David said to Joab and to all the people with him, “Tear your clothes, put on sackcloth, and mourn before Abner.” And King David walked behind the bier. 32 They buried Abner in Hebron; and the king raised his voice and wept at the grave of Abner, and all the people wept. 33 And the king sang a dirge (funeral song) over Abner and said,
“Should Abner [the great warrior] die as a fool dies?
“Your hands were not bound, nor your feet put in fetters;
As a man falls before the wicked, so you have fallen.”
And all the people wept again over him. 35 All the people came to urge David to eat food while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, “May God do so to me, and more also, if I taste bread or anything else before the sun sets.” 36 And all the people took notice of it and it [l]pleased them, just as everything that the king did pleased all the people. 37 So all the people and all Israel understood that day that it had not been the will of the king to put Abner the son of Ner to death. 38 Then the king said to his servants, “Do you not know that a prince and a great man has fallen this day in Israel? 39 Today I am weak, though anointed king; these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too difficult for me. May the Lord repay the evildoer [Joab] in accordance with his wickedness!”