David and Ish-bosheth

2 Samuel 2-4

Soon after Saul was killed in battle against the Philistines, David and his family moved to Hebron. There the people of Judah, David’s tribe, anointed him king over Judah. It seems that David then made an indirect offer to Jabesh-gilead to come under his rule as well, but Abner, the son of Saul’s commander, had already set up Saul’s son Ish-bosheth as king over all the other tribes. (The name Ish-bosheth, meaning “man of shame,” may have originally been Esh-baal, as in 1 Chronicles 8:33; 9:39, and was modified by later copyists of Scripture, perhaps to denigrate any association with the name Baal.) A long war ensued between David and Ish-bosheth. During this time, some of Ish-bosheth’s men traveled to Gibeon under the command of Abner, and they faced off at a pool against some of David’s men under the command of Joab, one of David’s nephews (1 Chronicles 2:15-16). Abner suggested that they have a contest between their respective champions, and twelve men were selected from each side to fight. David’s men killed all twelve of Abner’s men, and this led to a fierce battle between all the soldiers. Joab’s brother Asahel was killed in the fighting. Eventually Abner called for Joab to end the fighting between the two armies, and he agreed. Abner’s men then marched all night, making their way through the Jordan Valley (“the Arabah”) and continuing the next morning until they reached Mahanaim. Joab’s men traveled to Bethlehem and buried Asahel in his father’s tomb in Bethlehem, and then they continued to Hebron. Over time David became stronger and stronger, while Ish-bosheth became weaker and weaker.

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