The Holy Bible – Knox Translation
The Second Book of Kings
It was a long struggle between Saul’s line and David’s; but ever the fortunes and power of David grew, while the cause of Saul became daily weaker.
Six sons were born to David, there in Hebron; Amnon, his first-born, by Achinoam of Jezrahel,
then Cheleab, by Abigail, that had been Nabal’s wife at Carmel, then Absalom, by Maacha, daughter to Tholmai, king of Gessur.
The fourth was Adonias, son of Haggith, the fifth Saphathia, son of Abital,
the sixth Jethraam, that David’s wife Egla bore him; of all these Hebron was the birth-place.
As long as war lasted between the two dynasties, Abner the son of Ner was the head of Saul’s party.
But Saul had left a concubine, Respha the daughter of Aia; and of her Isboseth said to Abner,
What, wouldst thou mate with my father’s concubine? And he, greatly angered by Isboseth’s words, cried out, I have made all Juda shun me like a carrion-dog, by befriending the line of thy father Saul, his kindred and his court, instead of giving thee up to David; and am I to be called to account this day over a woman?
God punish Abner as he deserves and more than he deserves, if I do not fulfil the promise which the Lord made to David;
the kingship shall be taken away from Saul’s line, and David shall reign over Israel and Juda alike, from Dan to Bersabee!
Never a word did Isboseth say in answer, so greatly did he fear him.
Then Abner sent a message to David, claiming that the land lay in his own power; League thyself with me, the message ran, and I will help thee, and reduce all Israel to thy obedience.
And David answered, Well said; I am ready to make a league with thee, but one thing first. Thou canst not be admitted to my presence unless thou bringest Michol, Saul’s daughter, with thee; so only shalt thou find audience.
At the same time, he sent a message to Isboseth, that was heir to king Saul, Give me back my wife Michol, the bride I won with the foreskins of a hundred Philistines.
So Isboseth sent and had her taken away from her husband Phaltiel, son of Lais,
who followed her, weeping, all the way to Bahurim. But Abner bade him turn and go back, and go back he did.
Meanwhile, Abner sent the word round among the elders of Israel, It was but yesterday you were eager to have David for your king.
It is time now, to fulfil the promise the Lord made to David; by David’s hand I will rid my people Israel of the Philistines, and of all their enemies.
Even among the men of Benjamin Abner sent the word out. Then he went to tell David, at Hebron, of the resolve made by Israel, and by the tribe of Benjamin at large.
He came to Hebron with twenty men, and there David made a feast for him and his companions.
And now, said Abner, I will go and rally all Israel to thy cause, my lord king. By this league of ours, they shall be thy subjects, loyal to thy will. So David took leave of him, and he went on his way in peace.
Soon David’s men, with Joab at their head, came home from an attack on the freebooters, loaded with spoil. They did not find Abner in Hebron; David had but now sent him on his way in peace;
they came too late, Joab and his men. But Joab was told how Abner, son of Ner, had visited the king, and of their friendly parting;
so he went at once into the royal presence, and cried, What is this? Abner with thee, and thou hast let him slip through thy hands, gone, free as air!
Dost thou know Abner so little? He did but come here to play thee false, spying upon thy comings and goings, learning of all thou dost.
And Joab left the royal presence to send messengers after Abner, summoning him back, without David’s knowledge, from the Pool of Sira.
No sooner had Abner come back to Hebron than Joab took him aside, there in the gates, under pretence of speaking with him, and smote him in the groin, avenging by that death the death of his brother Asael.
It was all over when David heard of it, and he cried, Never shall I or my kingdom be held answerable for Abner’s death!
On Joab’s head let the guilt fall, and on all his line; let the line of Joab never want a man that has a running at the reins, or is a leper, or works at the distaff like a woman, or falls in battle, or begs his bread.✻
Thus Joab and his brother Abisai murdered Abner, who had slain their brother Asael in the fighting at Gabaon.
As for David, he bade Joab and his men tear their garments and put on sackcloth, and go mourning at Abner’s funeral; he himself followed the bier,
and wept aloud over Abner’s tomb at Hebron, where they buried him; all the people, too, were in tears.
And this was the dirge with which he lamented him: Died Abner as the ignoble die?✻
No bond tied thy hands, no gyves thy feet; thou didst fall as men fall when cruel wrong assails them. And all the people took up the refrain as they mourned.
Then, while it was still full day, they came together to eat, and would have David eat with them; but he took an oath, The Lord punish me as I deserve, and more than I deserve, if I taste bread or any other food before set of sun!
This all the folk heard, and more than ever they applauded the king’s doings;
among all that multitude, and in all Israel, there was not a man that blamed David for the slaying of Abner, son of Ner.
Past all doubt, said the king to his servants, Israel has lost, this day, the greatest of its chieftains.
Alas, they have anointed a weakling to be their king; not mine to curb these sons of Sarvia. May the Lord punish the wrong-doer for the wrong done!
The Holy Bible