CONTEXT: Hevron is the major settlement of Y’hudah and the tribal leaders readily anoint their tribesman to be king over them. Yavesh Gilad is well to the north, on the other side of the Yarden from M’nasheh and Ephrayim.
            As for the “game” that precedes battle, Google “single combat” offers a Wikipedia article and three million more hits.
            “So God do… and more” is a oath that must be accompanied by a hand gesture of slitting one’s throat, or the like. A similar oath for the English speaker would be: “I’ll be damned if…”
            GEOGRAPHY: Sha’ul had been of the Binyamin tribe (9:1) whose territory was in the mountains just north of Y’hudah. R’uven, Gad, and half of M’nasheh, according to Numbers 34:13, chose their territories east of the Yarden. Gil’ad is the north/south mountain range on either side of the Yabok, tributary to the Yarden. Gil’ad can refer to the entire transJordanian land claimed by Israel. Machanayim is located in the mountains, 40 miles or so east of the Yarden.
            Giv’on lies a few miles north of Y’rushalayim, in Binyamin territory.
            SIGNIFICANT NAME: Ishboshet means “man of shame.” 1 Ch 8:33 lists Sha’ul’s sons and names one EshBaal, “man (or fire) of ba’al,” where ba’al could be either the name of a Cana’ani deity or simply the common noun “lord/master,” where it could refer to any god, including Yahh. Ishboshet is the invention of the Deuteronomic historian who must have read it as the former.

            1Afterwards, David inquired of Yahh: “Shall I go up to one of the towns of Y’hudah?” 
            Yahh replied: “Go up.”
            “Where shall I go?”
            “To Hevron.”
            2So David went up, along with his two women, Achinoam the Yizra’elit and Avigayil, Naval’s woman. 3David brought his men, each with his family, and they settled in the towns of Hevron.
            4The men of Y’hudah came and anointed him there, to be king over the house of Y’hudah. And they told David that it was the men of Yavesh Gil’ad who had buried Sha’ul.
            5David sent messengers to the men of Yavesh Gil’ad: “Blessed be you of Yahh for doing this chesed with your lord Sha’ul, in burying him. 6Now may Yahh do for you chesed and truth. I too will do it for you for this good you have done, this thing. 7May your hands now be strong. Be good soldiers, for because your lord Sha’ul has died, the house of Y’hudah has anointed me king over them.

            8Avner benNer, general to Sha’ul, took Ishboshet benSha’ul over to Machanayim. 9There he anointed him for Gil’ad, Asher, Yizra’el, and over Efrayim, Binyamin, and all Yisrael while the house of Y’hudah went with David. 10Ishboshet benSha’ul being forty years old when he became king, he reigned two years. 11The days David was king in Hevron over Y’hudah were seven years and six months.

            12Avner benNer went out with servants of Ishboshet benSha’ul from Machanayim to Giv’on. 13Yoav benTs’ruYahh took David’s servants and went out to meet them by the Giv’on pool. One army camped on one side of the pool, the other army, on the other side of the pool.
            14Avner said to Yoav: “How about the lads get up and play a game for us.”
            Yoav said: “Let them at it.”
            15So twelve from Binyamin and Ishboshet rose against twelve of David’s servants. 16Each man seized his opposite’s head and put his sword into his opposite’s side. They dropped together. (The place in Giv’on was named “Field of Tsidim (“sides”).
            17That day battle hit very hard. Avner and the men of Yisrael were smashed before David’s servants.
18Three sons of Ts’ruYahh happened to be there: Yoav, Avishai, and Asahel.  Asahel was as fast on his feet as a gazelle of the field. 19He pursued Avner, turning neither right nor left after him.
            20Avner turned back and called: “Is that you, Asahel?’”
            Asahel responded: “It is I.”
            21Avner said: “Reach to your right or your left and grab one of the lads. Take his battle gear.” But Asahel did not want to turn away.
                  22Avner added: “Turn from pursuing me. Why should I have to strike you to the ground? How could I face your brother Yoav?”
23He refused to turn away so Avner struck him backhanded with his spear. It went in his belly and out his back. He fell and died on the spot. Everyone paused at the spot where Asahel fell. 
            24Yoav and Avishai pursued Avner. The sun was setting as they arrived at Amah hill, near Giach, by way of the Giv’on wilderness. 25B’neiBinyamin gathered around Avner, forming a single phalanx on a hilltop.
            26Avner called out to Yoav: “Will the sword forever devour? Didn’t you know it would come to a bitter end? How much longer won’t you tell the people to return from pursuing their brothers?”
            27Yoav replied: “By the god’s life, if you had not spoken, the people would have been after their brothers till morning.” 28Then he blew the shofar and all the people stopped pursuing Yisrael and ceased fighting.
            29Avner and his men walked in the plain all that night. They crossed the Yarden and walked the whole ravine, arriving at Machanayim.
30Yoav returned from Avner and gathered the people. Missing from David’s servants were nineteen men and Asahel. 31David’s men had struck three hundred, sixty of Binyamin and Avner’s men. 32They lifted Asahel’s body and buried it in his father’s tomb in BetLechem. 
            Yoav and his men walked all night. Daylight greeted them at Hevron. 


            1Long war ensued between the House of Sha’ul and David. David grew strong.  The House of Sha’ul grew weak.
            (2Sons were borne to David in Hevron. His firstborn was Amnon, to Achinoam the Yizra’elit. 3His second, Kil’av, to Avigayil, woman of Naval the Karmeli. Third, Avshalom, son of Ma’achah batTalmai king of G’shur. 4Fourth, AdoniYahh, son of Chagit. Fifth, Sh’fatYahh, son of Avital. 5Sixth, Yitr’am, born to David’s woman Eglah.)
            6During the course of the war between the House of Sha’ul and the House of David, Avner strengthened his position in the House of Sha’ul. 7Sha’ul had had a concubine, Ritspah batAyah was her name.  Ishboshet said to Avner: “Why did you have sex with my father’s concubine?!”
            8These words infuriated Avner: “What am I, a dog head?! Of Y’hudah?! Till today I do a favor for the House of Sha’ul, your father, his brothers and associates, by not handing you over to David. And you accuse me of a crime with a woman? 9So God do to Avner and more: but what Yahh has promised David, such I will do him: 10pass the kingship from the House of Sha’ul. Raise the throne of David over Yisrael as well as Y’hudah, from Dan to B’er Sheva!”
            11Ishboshet was so afraid of him that he could no longer reply.
            12Avner sent messengers to David in Hevron: “Whose land is this land?!  Cut a covenant with me and my hand will be with you, to turn over all Yisrael to you.”
            13“Good,” said David.  “I’ll cut a covenant with you, but one thing I ask of you.  Do not appear before me unless you bring Michal batSha’ul when you come to meet me.
            14David sent messengers to Ishboshet benSha’ul: “Give me my woman, Michal batSha’ul, whom I betrothed for a hundred P’lishti foreskins.”
            15Ishboshet sent and took her from her man, Paltiel benLayish. 16Her man walked with her weeping all the way to Bachurim.  Avner told him to go back.  He went back.
            17Avner spoke with the elders of Yisrael: “For a long time now and repeatedly, you have asked for David to be king over you. 18Now do it! For Yahh has said of him, ‘By the hand of my servant David will I save My people Yisrael from the power of the P’lishtim. And all their enemies.” 19He spoke as well in the hearing of Binyamin. Then he went to speak to David in Hevron about how good it was in the eyes of Yisrael and Binyamin.
            20Avner, with twenty men, reached David at Hevron and  David made a party for them. 21Avner said: “I shall rise, go, and gather all Yisrael before my lord the king.  They will cut a covenant with you.  You shall reign over all you desire.”  David sent Avner off and he went in peace.
            22Just then David’s servants, with Yoav, were bringing in great booty from a raid.  23When Yoav and his whole army arrived they told him: “Avner benNer came to the king and he sent him on his way in peace.”
            24Yoav went to the king: “What have you done? Avner just came to you?  Why did you let him go?  He should walk off just like that? 25You know Avner benNer, that he came to trick you. To learn your goings and comings. To learn everything you do.”
            26Yoav left the presence of David and sent messengers after Avner and brought him back from the cistern of Sirah a short distance north of Hevron.  David knew nothing of it. 27Avner returned to Hevron. In the gate yard Yoav led him aside to speak to him quietly and there he stabbed him. In the belly for the blood of Asahel. 
            28Later, when David heard of it, he said: “I and my kingdom remain innocent before Yahh forever of the blood of Avner benNer. 29Let that blood circle the head of Yoav and his family.  Let there never cease from the house of Yoav one with a flow, a leper, a distaff holder, one who falls by the sword, and one who lacks bread.” (30Yoav and his brother Avishai killed  Avner for having killed their brother Asahel in the battle at Giv’on.) 31David said to Yoav and the people with him: “Tear your clothes and put on sackcloth in mourning for Avner. David the king walks behind the bier.” 32They buried Avner in Hevron. The king wept loudly before the grave and all the people joined.
            33The king lamented Avner, saying:
Was Avner to die like a churl?
  Your hands not bound,
  34Your feet not cuffed in bronze.
      You fell as one falls before the unjust.
            The whole people continued weeping. 35While it was yet day they came with bread to David. David swore: “So may God do me and more if I taste bread or anything before sunset.” 36The people recognized and it was good in their eyes. Just as everything the king did was good in the people’s eyes. 37That day the people and all Yisrael knew that the king had not intended to kill Avner benNer.
            38“Don’t you know,” said the king to his servants, “a commander, a great man fell today in Yisrael. 39While I am a tenderfoot, just anointed king, these men, these sons of Ts’ruYahh are tougher than I. Yahh will repay the evil doer according to his evil.”

A FAVOR?  2 Samuel 4
            CONTEXT: The description of Rechav and Ba’anah entering undetected to kill Ishboshet comes from verse 6 of the Septuagint.  Verse 6 in the Masoretic Text is totally different.  Not only is the Hebrew unclear but what can be read anticipates the dramatic action in the following verse.  The Greek seems to reflect an earlier Hebrew version, which might have been a marginal gloss inserted into the text. The Times font indicates that part of the line is not what appears in the Hebrew (there they arrived at the middle of the house, takers of wheat, and struck him in the belly).
            1BenSha’ul heard that Avner had died in Hevron and his hands went weak.  All Yisra’el was in shock. 2He had two men, raiding troop commanders, one named Ba’anah, the other Rechav, sons of Rimon of B’erot, of the sons of Binyamin.  (For B’erot, a Cana’ani town north of Giv’on, was counted with Binyamin. 3The B’erotim had fled to Gitayim, near Ramle, and have remained there to this day.) 
            4Y’honatan benSha’ul had had a son who was lame of foot. Five years old when the news had come from Yizra’el about Sha’ul and Y’honatan. His nurse had picked him up and fled and in her hurry to flee, he had fallen and limped. His name was M’fiboshet, a.k.a. M’fiba’al.
            5The sons of Rimon of B’erot, Rechav and Ba’anah, went and, at the heat of day, arrived at the home of Ishboshet. He was lying down, taking a noon nap. 6The gate keeper had fallen asleep while cleaning wheat and Rechav and his brother Ba’anah escaped notice. 7When they entered the house he was lying on the couch in his bedroom. They struck him and he died. They removed his head and, taking it, they walked all night by way of the Aravah. 8They brought the head to David at Hevron, saying to the king: “Behold the head of Ishboshet benSha’ul, your enemy who sought your life.  May Yahh this day grant milord the king vengeance from Sha’ul and from his seed.”
            9David replied to Rechav and his brother Ba’anah, sons of Rimon the B’erot: “By the life of Yahh who has redeemed my life from every trouble; 10the one who told me ‘See, Sha’ul died – and he in his own eyes was the bearer of good news – I seized and killed him at Tsiklag in payment for the good news. 11How much the more so when evil men have killed a just man in his house, in his bed.  Shouldn’t I demand his blood from your hands and blot you out of the land?”
            12David commanded the lads and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hung them at the well at Hevron. The head of Ishboshet they took and buried in the tomb of Avner in Hevron.
©Rabbi David L. Kline

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