2 Samuel 2:19
(19) Asahel pursued after Abner.--Asahel, the youngest of the three nephews of David, took part in the battle with his elder brothers, and well knowing how completely the cause of Ish-bosheth depended upon Abner, pertinaciously sought him out in the pursuit. His great fleetness enabled him to overtake Abner and, coming behind him, endanger his life. Abner was unwilling to injure him, and only after remonstrating with him, and urging him to seek the spoil of some warrior more nearly his equal (2Samuel 2:20-22), did he unwillingly slay him "with the hinder end of his spear." The spears were sharpened at the "hinder end" for the purpose of sticking them into the ground (1Samuel 26:7). Abner's reluctance to kill Asahel may have been partly on account of his extreme youth, but was chiefly through dread of the vengeance of Joab (2Samuel 2:22). "The fifth rib" here, and wherever else it occurs (2Samuel 3:27; 2Samuel 4:6; 2Samuel 20:10), should be translated abdomen.

Verse 19. - Asahel pursued after Abner. This episode is fully narrated, both because of Asahel's rank as David's nephew, and also because of its tragical consequences to Abner himself. Asahel was a son of Zeruiah, David's sister, and, while his own brothers were of little use to him, his nephews, Joab, Abishai, and Asahel, were the mainstays of David's throne. As their father's name is never mentioned, but only the mother's, Zeruiah was probably a woman of great ability, and her sons inherited it from her. Possibly she had married beneath her station, or her husband had died early; but certainly her sons, thinking more of her than of their father, had soon thrown in their lot with David her brother (but see note on ver. 32). The youngest of the three, Asahel, was remarkable for his personal accomplishments, and especially for swiftness of foot, for which he was compared to the Zebi, the camp name of Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:19). It now caused his death. For conscious that Abner was the sole support of Ishbosheth's party, and indignant at his challenge to useless slaughter, he pursued after him, allowing nothing to divert him from his object, and hoping to end the war by slaying the veteran commander. But though he had the fleetness of an Achilles, he had not his robust strength, and Abner, knowing that the combat was unequal, remonstrated with him, and bade him turn aside, and be content with winning the spoils of some meaner warrior. It is evident from this that Abner saw in this defeat in a battle of his own choosing, the certainty of the near downfall of the house of Saul, and, as he would then be in Joab's power, he was unwilling to have a blood feud with a man of such determined character. "How," he asks, "should I hold up my face to Joab thy brother?" It would be his duty, as the avenger of blood, to slay me. Apparently, during this conference, he was standing with the butt end of his lance held towards Asahel, to ward off his blows, but, as the spearhead was turned the other way, Asahel forgot that even so it might be used for offence. For it was pointed, that it might be stuck in the ground at night (1 Samuel 26:7), and possibly shod with iron, though it is more likely that it was only hardened by being thrust into the fire. So when he saw that his words had no avail, and that Asahel was not on his guard, he suddenly struck him with it so violent a blow that it pierced his body right through, and Asahel fell down dead. It is probable, from the merciless force used, that there was a sudden outburst of anger on Abner's part.

2:18-24 Death often comes by ways we least suspect. We are often betrayed by the accomplishments we are proud of! Asahel's swiftness, which he presumed so much upon, did him no service, but hastened his end.And Asahel pursued after Abner,.... Ambitious of the glory of taking or slaying the general of the army of Israel; trusting to his swiftness, not considering that the race is not always to the swift, and that he had to do with a veteran soldier, and he a raw young man, though valiant:

and in going he turned not to the right hand nor to the left in following Abner; he kept his eye upon him, and pursued him closely, disregarding persons on the right or left he could have made prisoners; but those he neglected, being bent on taking Abner if possible.

2 Samuel 2:18
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