2 Kings ii.
Notes & Commentary:
Ver. 1. Juda. David thought it was his duty to co-operate with the designs of Providence. He consults the Lord (Calmet) by means of Abiathar, (Abulensis) or by a prophet. (Josephus) — Hebron, ennobled by the patriarchs. (Menochius) — It was also in the centre of Juda, and the strongest place belonging to that tribe. (Calmet) — Part of Jerusalem was still in the hands of the Jebusites. (Haydock)
Ver. 3. Towns, villages, and dependencies of Hebron.
Ver. 4. Juda, without the concurrence of the other tribes, (Calmet) which would be an evil precedent in a commonwealth, unless God had authorized them by the declaration of his will. (Grotius) — Samuel had before anointed David, and given him a right to the crown, (Worthington) jus ad regnum. But this anointing gives him a right to govern, jus in regno; (Calmet) or rather it proves, that the tribe submitted voluntarily to his dominion, which he had already (Haydock) lawfully begun to exercise, when he put the Amalecite to death. (Abulensis) (Tirinus) — Told, perhaps by some ill-designing men, who wished to irritate David against those who had shewn an attachment to Saul, unless the king had made enquiry, thinking it his duty to bury the deceased. (Calmet)
Ver. 6. And truth, or a real kindness. God will reward you for the sincere piety which you have shewn towards the dead. (Calmet) — Will. I do, by these messengers, thank you. (Louis de Dieu)
Ver. 7. King. He invites them to concur with the men of Juda, hoping that all Israel would be influenced by their example. But his hopes proved abortive, as Abner caused Isboseth to be proclaimed king in the vicinity at Mahanaim.
Ver. 8. Camp. Hebrew Machanayim, which many take for a proper name (Calmet) of the town, on the river Jabok, where Jacob had encamped, Genesis xxxii. 2. (Haydock) — Abner was aware that he should not retain his authority under David, and therefore conducted Isboseth to the camps in various places, (Menochius) but chiefly on the east side of the Jordan, (Haydock; ver. 29.) where the people were particularly attached to Saul’s family. Isboseth seems to have been a fit tool for his purpose.
Ver. 9. Gessuri. There was one south of Juda: but this country was probably near Hermon, and might be tributary to Israel. David perhaps married this king’s daughter, in order to detach him from the party of Isboseth, chap. iii. 3. Hebrew reads, “Assuri;” and St. Jerome observes, that many explained it of the tribe of Aser, (Trad. Heb.[Hebrew tradition?]) with the Chaldee, (Du Hamel; Menochius) or of the Assurians, Genesis xxv. 3. — Israel, by degrees. In the mean time the Philistines occupied many cities, which might prevent Isboseth from attempting to fix his residence on the west side of the Jordan, ver. 19.
Ver. 10. He reigned two years, viz., before he began visibly to decline: but in all he reigned seven years and six months: for so long David reigned in Hebron. (Challoner) (Worthington) — The Jews admit of an interregnum in Israel of above five years, which is by no means probable. Two years elapsed before the two houses came to an open war; (Salien) soon after which, the power of Isboseth was greatly weakened by the defeat, and afterwards by the defection, of Abner. (Haydock) — Hence the sacred historian refers to the commencement of hostilities, and not to the end of Isboseth’s dominion. (Estius; Tirinus; Calmet)
Ver. 12. Servants; guards, army. (Menochius) — Camp; or from Machanayim to Gabaon, in the tribe of Benjamin, about six miles from Jerusalem. (Calmet) — Septuagint leave the former word untranslated, “Manaeim.” (Haydock)
Ver. 14. Play, like the gladiators with drawn swords, which formed one of the principal diversions at Rome, (Calmet) while it was pagan. This might be considered as a prelude to the ensuing engagement; or like a detachment of twelve on each side, fighting to shew the prowess of their respective armies; as the three Horatii and Curiatii did afterwards, to spare the effusion of blood. But there is no mention that Abner and Joab had authority to agree that these champions should decide the fate of the two kingdoms, (Haydock) whence they are generally accused of ostentation; though the soldiers, not being acquainted with their motives, were obliged to obey. (Tirinus; Menochius)
Ver. 16. Together. Some understand this only of Abner’s soldiers, as the original may be explained: “And they (David’s men) caught every on one his,” &c. But it is more generally believed that all fell. (Calmet) — Rufin has erroneously translated Josephus in the former sense, and has lead Comestor, Lyranus, &c., into this opinion. (Tirinus) — Valiant. Hebrew, “the portion of the smooth stones, (hatsurim, 1 Kings xvii. 40. or) of the brave.” (Calmet)
Ver. 18. Woods. Swiftness was one great qualification of a warrior, chap. i. 23. Homer generally styles Achilles, “the swift-footed.”
Ver. 21. Spoils. Attack one who may be a more equal match for thee. (Haydock)
Ver. 22. Brother. It seems they were great friends, though they had espoused different parties. (Calmet)
Ver. 23. Stroke, (aversa.) Hebrew, “with the hinder end of the spear, under the fifth rib.” Septuagint, “in the loin.”
Ver. 24. Wilderness, or land which was not ploughed, though fruitful.
Ver. 26. Destruction. Septuagint, “till thou hast gained a complete victory?” Chaldean, “to separation?” Must we come to an eternal rupture? — Despair? Hebrew, “that it will be bitterness in the end?” Abner insinuates that they had commenced in a sort of play, but the consequences had already proved too serious; and if Joab continued to pursue, his men would be rendered desperate. (Calmet) — Despair makes people perform wonders, to revenge themselves. (Menochius)
Ver. 27. Sooner. Hebrew, “If thou hadst not spoken,” (Du Hamel) by challenging, ver. 14. (Josephus, &c.) (Calmet)
Ver. 28. Trumpet. It was not dishonourable for a general to do this himself, chap. xviii. 16. But among the Hebrews, the priests generally performed this office. (Calmet)
Ver. 29. Beth-horon. Septuagint, “the extended plain.” Hebrew Bithrun, (Haydock) or the country towards the Jordan. (Calmet) — Thus the battle ended in his disgrace; (Haydock) and many from all Israel began to flock to the standard of David, 1 Paralipomenon xii. 22. (Tirinus)
Ver. 32. Day, after a march of ten hours. (Adrichomius) (Menochius)
Bible Text & Cross-references:
David is received and anointed king of Juda. Isboseth, the son of Saul, reigneth over the rest of Israel. A battle between Abner and Joab.
1 And *after these things David consulted the Lord, saying: Shall I go up into one of the cities of Juda? And the Lord said to him: Go up. And David said: Whither shall I go up? And he answered him: Into Hebron.
2 So David went up, and his two wives, Achinoam, the Jezrahelitess, and Abigail, the wife of Nabal of Carmel:
3 And the men also that were with him, David brought up, every man with his household: and they abode in the towns of Hebron.
4 *And the men of Juda came, and anointed David there, to be king over the house of Juda. And it was told David, that the men of Jabes Galaad had buried Saul.
5 David therefore sent messengers to the men of Jabes Galaad, and said to them: Blessed be you to the Lord, who have shewed this mercy to your master, Saul, and have buried him.
6 And now the Lord surely will render you mercy and truth, and I also will requite you for this good turn, because you have done this thing.
7 Let your hands be strengthened, and be ye men of valour: for although your master, Saul, be dead, yet the house of Juda hath anointed me to be their king.
8 But Abner, the son of Ner, general of Saul’s army, took Isboseth, the son of Saul, and led him about through the camp.
9 And made him king over Galaad, and over Gessuri, and over Jesrahel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel.
10 Isboseth, the son of Saul, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and he reigned two years; and only the house of Juda followed David.
11 And the number of the days that David abode, reigning in Hebron over the house of Juda, was seven years and six months.
12 And Abner, the son of Ner, and the servants of Isboseth, the son of Saul, went out from the camp to Gabaon.
13 And Joab, the son of Sarvia, and the servants of David went out, and met them by the pool of Gabaon. And when they were come together, they sat down over-against one another: the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side.
14 And Abner said to Joab: Let the young men rise, and play before us. And Joab answered: Let them rise.
15 Then there arose and went over twelve in number of Benjamin, of the part of Isboseth, the son of Saul, and twelve of the servants of David.
16 And every one catching his fellow, by the head, thrust his sword into the side of his adversary, and they fell down together: and the name of the place was called: The field of the valiant, in Gabaon.
17 And there was a very fierce battle that day: And Abner was put to flight, with the men of Israel, by the servants of David.
18 And there were the three sons of Sarvia there, Joab, and Abisai, and Asael: now Asael was a most swift runner, like one of the roes, that abide in the woods.
19 And Asael pursued after Abner, and turned not to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner.
20 And Abner looked behind him, and said: Art thou Asael? And he answered: I am.
21 And Abner said to him: Go to the right hand, or to the left, and lay hold on one of the young men, and take thee his spoils. But Asael would not leave off following him close.
22 And again Abner said to Asael: Go off, and do not follow me, lest I be obliged to stab thee to the ground, and I shall not be able to hold up my face to Joab, thy brother.
23 But he refused to hearken to him, and would not turn aside: wherefore Abner struck him with his spear, with a back stroke in the groin, and thrust him through, and he died upon the spot: and all that came to the place where Asael fell down and died, stood still.
24 Now while Joab and Abisai pursued after Abner, the sun went down: and they came as far as the hill of the aqueduct, that lieth over-against the valley, by the way of the wilderness in Gabaon.
25 And the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together to Abner: and being joined in one body, they stood on the top of a hill.
26 And Abner cried out to Joab, and said: Shall thy sword rage unto utter destruction? knowest thou not that it is dangerous to drive people to despair? how long dost thou defer to bid the people cease from pursuing after their brethren?
27 And Joab said: As the Lord liveth, if thou hadst spoke sooner, even in the morning the people should have retired from pursuing after their brethren.
28 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and all the army stood still, and did not pursue after Israel any farther, nor fight any more.
29 And Abner and his men walked all that night through the plains: and they passed the Jordan, and having gone through all Beth-horon, came to the camp.
30 And Joab returning, after he had left Abner, assembled all the people: and there were wanting of David’s servants nineteen men, beside Asael.
31 But the servants of David had killed of Benjamin, and of the men that were with Abner, three hundred and sixty, who all died.
32 And they took Asael, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, in Bethlehem: and Joab, and the men that were with him, marched all the night, and they came to Hebron at break of day.
1: Year of the World 2949.
4: 1 Machabees ii. 57.; 2 Kings v. 3.