Useful Bible Studies > 2 Samuel Commentary > chapter 2

The death of Asahel, Joab’s brother

2 Samuel 2:17-23

This was an awful battle because, in it, Israel’s most brave and loyal soldiers were fighting each other. They were fighting on opposite sides simply as their commanders directed them. Two men, David and Ish-Bosheth, had become kings of different parts of Israel. However, it seems that neither David nor Ish-Bosheth had any part in this battle. The decision to fight was a decision of the leaders of their two armies, Joab and Abner.

Joab and his two brothers were close relatives of David (1 Chronicles 2:13-16). All three brothers were strong and brave soldiers. They would have learned to fight in Israel’s army, perhaps under the direction of Abner. Now they fought against him. Abner knew them all well; he knew their names, and also the manner by which they fought.

One of the brothers, Asahel, saw Abner during the battle. Asahel decided to chase after Abner. Asahel was younger and much faster – but Abner had great experience. Abner knew how to kill an enemy in such circumstances – but he did not want to kill Asahel. There could never be peace between Abner and Joab if Abner killed Asahel, Joab’s brother.

So Abner tried to persuade Asahel to turn away. However, Asahel continued to chase him. Then Abner realised that he had to act – otherwise, his own life was in danger. A spear was a knife with a long handle. Abner had made the end of the handle sharp, it seems. When Asahel came behind him, Abner struck him with the back end of the spear. That was how Asahel died.

Next part: Abner's men suffer defeat (2 Samuel 2:24-32)


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