New Defender's Study Bible Notes
2:1 Hebron. Centrally located some twenty miles south of Jerusalem, the ancient city of Hebron (note Genesis 13:18) was on a mountain in Judah, and therefore defensible. It was one of the cities of refuge, and had been given to Caleb by Joshua.
2:4 anointed David king. It is noteworthy that David was actually anointed king on three different occasions. His divine anointing came through Samuel (I Samuel 16:13), but then this was supplemented on the human level—first by David’s own tribe of Judah, and eventually by the other tribes (II Samuel 2:4; 5:3).
2:5 sent messengers. The men of Jabesh-Gilead had risked their lives to provide a proper burial for Saul and his sons in Jabesh (I Samuel 31:11-13). Despite David’s message of appreciation, with the suggestion that they join with Judah in acknowledging him as king, they remained loyal to Saul and his son Ishbosheth.
2:10 reigned two years. Ishbosheth reigned “over all Israel” (II Samuel 2:9) for only two years. The implication is that it took him five and a half years to consolidate all the tribes under his rule after Saul’s death. David in the meantime served as king over Judah for seven and a half years (II Samuel 2:11).
2:13 pool of Gibeon. Excavations at Gibeon have confirmed the existence of this pool, eighty-two feet deep and thirty-seven feet in diameter. Gibeon was near Jerusalem, essentially just over Judah’s border into Benjamin, and thus an obvious meeting place for a conference between Abner and Joab, and their respective armies.
2:14 play before us. This challenge to have a dozen young men from each side “play” (a euphemism for engaging in mortal combat) was an occasional means of determining the winner in an imminent battle, similar to the contest between David and Goliath. In this case, however, all the initial combatants killed each other, and the battle spread with deadly intensity between the two factions of the children of Israel.
2:18 three sons of Zeruiah. Zeruiah was David’s sister (I Chronicles 2:13-16), so that Joab, Abishai and Asahel were all David’s nephews.
2:21 take thee his armour. Asahel apparently was not wearing armor, and so would soon catch up with Abner. The latter knew that he could easily slay Asahel, especially without any armor, and earnestly desired not to start a blood feud with Joab and Abishai.