The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time.1 David grew stronger and stronger,2 while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker.3
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Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon4 the son of Ahinoam5 of Jezreel;
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his second, Kileab the son of Abigail6 the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom7 the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;8
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the fourth, Adonijah9 the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;
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and the sixth, Ithream the son of David's wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.
During the war between the house of Saul and the house of David, Abner10 had been strengthening his own position in the house of Saul.
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Now Saul had had a concubine11 named Rizpah12 daughter of Aiah. And Ish-Bosheth said to Abner, "Why did you sleep with my father's concubine?"
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Abner was very angry because of what Ish-Bosheth said. So he answered, "Am I a dog's head13--on Judah's side? This very day I am loyal to the house of your father Saul and to his family and friends. I haven't handed you over to David. Yet now you accuse me of an offense involving this woman!
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May God deal with Abner, be it ever so severely, if I do not do for David what the LORD promised14 him on oath
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and transfer the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish David's throne over Israel and Judah from Dan to Beersheba."15
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Ish-Bosheth did not dare to say another word to Abner, because he was afraid of him.
Then Abner sent messengers on his behalf to say to David, "Whose land is it? Make an agreement with me, and I will help you bring all Israel over to you."
"Good," said David. "I will make an agreement with you. But I demand one thing of you: Do not come into my presence unless you bring Michal daughter of Saul when you come to see me."16
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Then David sent messengers to Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, demanding, "Give me my wife Michal,17 whom I betrothed to myself for the price of a hundred Philistine foreskins."
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So Ish-Bosheth gave orders and had her taken away from her husband18 Paltiel19 son of Laish.
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Her husband, however, went with her, weeping behind her all the way to Bahurim.20 Then Abner said to him, "Go back home!" So he went back.
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Abner conferred with the elders21 of Israel and said, "For some time you have wanted to make David your king.
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Now do it! For the LORD promised David, 'By my servant David I will rescue my people Israel from the hand of the Philistines22 and from the hand of all their enemies.23' "
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Abner also spoke to the Benjamites in person. Then he went to Hebron to tell David everything that Israel and the whole house of Benjamin24 wanted to do.
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When Abner, who had twenty men with him, came to David at Hebron, David prepared a feast25 for him and his men.
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Then Abner said to David, "Let me go at once and assemble all Israel for my lord the king, so that they may make a covenant26 with you, and that you may rule over all that your heart desires."27 So David sent Abner away, and he went in peace.
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Just then David's men and Joab returned from a raid and brought with them a great deal of plunder. But Abner was no longer with David in Hebron, because David had sent him away, and he had gone in peace.
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When Joab and all the soldiers with him arrived, he was told that Abner son of Ner had come to the king and that the king had sent him away and that he had gone in peace.
So Joab went to the king and said, "What have you done? Look, Abner came to you. Why did you let him go? Now he is gone!
You know Abner son of Ner; he came to deceive you and observe your movements and find out everything you are doing."
Joab then left David and sent messengers after Abner, and they brought him back from the cistern at Sirah. But David did not know it.
Now when Abner28 returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside into an inner chamber, as if to speak with him privately. And there, to avenge the blood of his brother Asahel, Joab stabbed him29 in the stomach, and he died.30
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Later, when David heard about this, he said, "I and my kingdom are forever innocent31 before the LORD concerning the blood of Abner son of Ner.
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May his blood32 fall on the head of Joab and on his whole family!33 May Joab's family never be without someone who has a running sore34 or leprosy or who leans on a crutch or who falls by the sword or who lacks food."
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(Joab and his brother Abishai murdered Abner because he had killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Gibeon.)
Then David said to Joab and all of Joab's men, "Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth35 and walk in mourning36 in front of Abner." King David himself walked behind the bier.
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They buried Abner in Hebron, and the king wept37 aloud at Abner's tomb. All of Joab's men wept also.
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The king sang this lament38 for Abner: "Should Abner have died as the lawless die?
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Your hands were not bound, your feet were not fettered.39 You fell as one falls before the wicked." And all of Joab's men wept over him again.
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Then they all came and urged David to eat something while it was still day; but David took an oath, saying, "May God deal with me, be it ever so severely,40 if I taste bread41 or anything else before the sun sets!"
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All of Joab's men took note and were pleased; indeed, everything the king did pleased them.
So on that day all of Joab's men and all Israel knew that the king had no part42 in the murder of Abner son of Ner.
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Then the king said to his men, "Don't you realize that a great commander has fallen43 in Israel this day?
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And today, though I am the anointed king, I am weak, and these sons of Zeruiah44 are too strong45 for me.46 May the LORD repay47 the evildoer according to his evil deeds!"
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