There followed a long war between the house of Saul and that of David, in which David grew stronger, but the house of Saul weaker.
Sons were born to David in Hebron: his first-born, Amnon, of Ahinoam from Jezreel;
the second, Chileab, of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom, son of Maacah the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur;
the fourth, Adonijah, son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah, son of Abital;
and the sixth, Ithream, of David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.
During the war between the house of Saul and that of David, Abner was gaining power in the house of Saul.
Now Saul had had a concubine, Rizpah, the daughter of Aiah. And Ishbaal, son of Saul, said to Abner, “Why have you been intimate with my father’s concubine?”
Enraged at the words of Ishbaal, Abner said, “Am I a dog’s head in Judah? At present I am doing a kindness to the house of your father Saul, to his brothers and his friends, by keeping you out of David’s clutches; yet this day you charge me with a crime involving a woman!
May God do thus and so to Abner if I do not carry out for David what the LORD swore to him –
that is, take away the kingdom from the house of Saul and establish the throne of David over Israel and over Judah from Dan to Beersheba.”
In his fear of Abner, Ishbaal was no longer able to say a word to him.
Then Abner sent messengers to David in Telam, where he was at the moment, to say, “Make an agreement with me, and I will aid you by bringing all Israel over to you.”
He replied, “Very well, I will make an agreement with you. But one thing I require of you. You must not appear before me unless you bring back Michal, Saul’s daughter, when you come to present yourself to me.”
At the same time David sent messengers to Ishbaal, son of Saul, to say, “Give me my wife Michal, whom I espoused by paying a hundred Philistine foreskins.”
Ishbaal sent for her and took her away from her husband Paltiel, son of Laish,
who followed her weeping as far as Bahurim. But Abner said to him, “Go back!” And he turned back.
Abner then said in discussion with the elders of Israel: “For a long time you have been seeking David as your king.
Now take action, for the LORD has said of David, ‘By my servant David I will save my people Israel from the grasp of the Philistines and from the grasp of all their enemies.'”
Abner also spoke personally to Benjamin, and then went to make his own report to David in Hebron concerning all that would be agreeable to Israel and to the whole house of Benjamin.
When Abner, accompanied by twenty men, came to David in Hebron, David prepared a feast for Abner and for the men who were with him.
Then Abner said to David, “I will now go to assemble all Israel for my lord the king, that they may make an agreement with you; you will then be king over all whom you wish to rule.” So David bade Abner farewell, and he went away in peace.
Just then David’s servants and Joab were coming in from an expedition, bringing much plunder with them. Abner, having been dismissed by David, was no longer with him in Hebron but had gone his way in peace.
When Joab and the whole force he had with him arrived, he was informed, “Abner, son of Ner, came to David; he has been sent on his way in peace.”
So Joab went to the king and said: “What have you done? Abner came to you. Why did you let him go peacefully on his way?
Are you not aware that Abner came to deceive you and to learn the ins and outs of all that you are doing?”
Joab then left David, and without David’s knowledge sent messengers after Abner, who brought him back from the cistern of Sirah.
When Abner returned to Hebron, Joab took him aside within the city gate as though to speak with him privately. There he stabbed him in the abdomen, and he died in revenge for the killing of Joab’s brother Asahel.
Later David heard of it and said: “Before the LORD; I and my kingdom are forever innocent.
May the full responsibility for the death of Abner, son of Ner, be laid to Joab and to all his family. May the men of Joab’s family never be without one suffering from a discharge, or a leper, or one unmanly, one falling by the sword, or one in need of bread!”
(Joab and his brother Abishai had lain in wait for Abner because he killed their brother Asahel in battle at Gibeon.)
Then David said to Joab and to all the people who were with him, “Rend your garments, gird yourselves with sackcloth, and mourn over Abner.” King David himself followed the bier.
When they had buried Abner in Hebron, the king wept aloud at the grave of Abner, and the people also wept.
And the king sang this elegy over Abner: “Would Abner have died like a fool?
Your hands were not bound with chains, nor your feet placed in fetters; As men fall before the wicked, you fell.” And all the people continued to weep for him.
Then they went to console David with food while it was still day. But David swore, “May God do thus and so to me if I eat bread or anything else before sunset.”
All the people noted this with approval, just as they were pleased with everything that the king did.
So on that day all the people and all Israel came to know that the king had no part in the killing of Abner, son of Ner.
The king then said to his servants: “You must recognize that a great general has fallen today in Israel.
Although I am the anointed king, I am weak this day, and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, are too ruthless for me. May the LORD requite the evildoer in accordance with his evil deed.”