And it came to pass after this, that David enquired of the LORD, saying, Shall I go up into any of the cities of Judah? And the LORD said unto him, Go up. And David said, Whither shall I go up? And he said, Unto Hebron.
Enquired — By Urim. Thus David begins at the right end, and lays his foundation in God's counsel and assistance.
Shall I go — He asked not whether he should take the kingdom; for that was appointed before; and he would not offend God, nor dishonour his ordinance with unnecessary enquiries; but only where he should enter upon it; whether in Judah, as he supposed, because of his relation to that tribe, and his interest in it; or in some other tribe: for he doth not limit God, but resolves exactly to follow his counsels.
Hebron — Which was next to Jerusalem (part whereof the Jebusites now possessed) the chief city of that tribe, and a city of the priests, and in the very center of that tribe, to which the whole tribe might speedily resort, when need required. And the sepulchres of the patriarchs adjoining to Hebron, would remind him of the ancient promise.
 And his men that were with him did David bring up, every man with his household: and they dwelt in the cities of Hebron.
Dwelt in — That is, the cities or towns belonging to Hebron, which was the Metropolis. For in Hebron itself there was not space for them all, because it was filled with priests, and with David's court.
 And the men of Judah came, and there they anointed David king over the house of Judah. And they told David, saying, That the men of Jabeshgilead were they that buried Saul.
Anointed — This they did upon just grounds, because not only the kingdom was promised to that tribe, but David was designed and anointed by God, whose will both they and all Israel were obliged to obey. And they resolved not to neglect their duty, though they saw the other tribes would. Yet their modesty is observable, they make him king of Judah only, and not of all Israel. And therefore there was need of a third anointing to the kingdom over all Israel, which he had chap. 5:3, that first anointing; 1 Samuel 16:13, was only a designation of the person who should be king, but not an actual inauguration of him to the kingdom.
 And David sent messengers unto the men of Jabeshgilead, and said unto them, Blessed be ye of the LORD, that ye have shewed this kindness unto your lord, even unto Saul, and have buried him.
Kindness — This respect and affection. For as it is, an act of inhumanity to deny burial to the dead; so it is an act of mercy and kindness to bury them.
 And now the LORD shew kindness and truth unto you: and I also will requite you this kindness, because ye have done this thing.
Kindness and truth — That is, true and real kindness; not in words only, but also in actions, as you have done to your king.
I will requite — So far am I from being offended with you for this kindness to my late enemy.
 Therefore now let your hands be strengthened, and be ye valiant: for your master Saul is dead, and also the house of Judah have anointed me king over them.
Be valiant — Be not afraid lest the Philistines should punish you for this fact, but take good courage, I will defend you.
For, … — Or, though your master Saul be dead, and so your hearts may faint, as if you were now sheep without a shepherd.
 But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim;
Abner — Tho' ambition and desire of rule, because he knew that Ishbosheth would have only the name of king, whilst he had the power.
 And made him king over Gilead, and over the Ashurites, and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel.
Gilead — Largely so taken, for all the land of Israel beyond Jordan.
Ashurites — That is, the tribe of Asher, as the Chaldee paraphrast and others understand it.
Jezreel — A large and rich valley situate in the borders of the tribes of Zebulun, Issachar and Naphtali, and so put for them all.
All Israel — Except Judah.
 Ishbosheth Saul's son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.
Two years — Namely, before the following war broke out, which continued five years.
 And Abner the son of Ner, and the servants of Ishbosheth the son of Saul, went out from Mahanaim to Gibeon.
Went out — To fight with David's army, and to bring back the rest of the kingdom to Saul's house.
 And Joab the son of Zeruiah, and the servants of David, went out, and met together by the pool of Gibeon: and they sat down, the one on the one side of the pool, and the other on the other side of the pool.
Met — That is, met the opposite army, and put themselves in a posture for battle.
 And Abner said to Joab, Let the young men now arise, and play before us. And Joab said, Let them arise.
And play — That is, shew their prowess and dexterity in fighting together. He speaks like a vain-glorious and cruel man, and a soldier of fortune, that esteemed it a sport to see men wounding and killing one another. So this he designed, partly for their mutual recreation and trial of skill; and partly, that by this occasion they might be engaged in a battle. But he is unworthy the name of a man, who is thus prodigal of human blood.
 And they caught every one his fellow by the head, and thrust his sword in his fellow's side; so they fell down together: wherefore that place was called Helkathhazzurim, which is in Gibeon.
By the head — By the hair of the head, which after their manner was of a considerable length.
Helkath-kazzurim — Or, the field of rock; that is, of men who stood like rocks unmovable, each one dying upon the spot where he fought.
 And Abner said to him, Turn thee aside to thy right hand or to thy left, and lay thee hold on one of the young men, and take thee his armour. But Asahel would not turn aside from following of him.
And take, … — If thou art ambitious to get a trophy or mark of thy valour, desist from me who am an old and experienced captain, and go to some young and raw soldier; try thy skill upon him, and take away his arms from him.
 Howbeit he refused to turn aside: wherefore Abner with the hinder end of the spear smote him under the fifth rib, that the spear came out behind him; and he fell down there, and died in the same place: and it came to pass, that as many as came to the place where Asahel fell down and died stood still.
And died — So Asahel's swiftness, which he presumed on so much, only forwarded his fate! With it he ran upon his death, instead of running from it.
 Then Abner called to Joab, and said, Shall the sword devour for ever? knowest thou not that it will be bitterness in the latter end? how long shall it be then, ere thou bid the people return from following their brethren?
Bitterness — It will produce dreadful effects.
Brethren — By nation and religion: whom therefore they should not pursue with so fierce a rage, as if they were pursuing the Philistines.
 And Joab said, As God liveth, unless thou hadst spoken, surely then in the morning the people had gone up every one from following his brother.
Unless, … — Unless thou hadst made the motion that they should fight, verse 14. It was thou, not I, that gave the first occasion of this fight. Abner was the sole cause of this war; otherwise all things had been ended by an amicable agreement: which might have been made that very morning, if he had so pleased.
 And they took up Asahel, and buried him in the sepulchre of his father, which was in Bethlehem. And Joab and his men went all night, and they came to Hebron at break of day.
In Bethlehem — The rest they buried in the field of battle, but Asahel in the sepulchre of his father. Thus are distinctions made upon earth, even between the dust of some and of others! But in the resurrection no difference will be made but between good and bad; which will remain for ever.