David asks god if he should move into the territory of Judah. Ah. I know at the beginning I thought the concept of a personal god arose with Protestantism, but clearly not. You are, in fact, supposed to ask god for advice about every little thing. Anyway, god's answer: move to Hebron. He takes his wives and posse along with him. The people there make him their king.
Not everyone agrees, and Abner crowns one of Saul's sons, Ishbosheth, king over the rest of Israel. No, never mind that Saul's entire family is supposed to have died just a few chapters ago, this one was, I don't know, out of town or something. Ishbosheth's reign lasts 2 years, David's 7.5.
One day, Abner and his men meet some of David's servants by a pool in Gibeon. Abner suggests a 'game.' 12 members of Benjamin's tribe get up and face off against 12 of David's men. Each one grabs an opponent by the hair and stabs him in the side, so all 24 die. Eventually, however, David's men prevail. Abner escapes, but is pursued by a man named Asahel. Abner warns him to stop following him, but he doesn't. Finally, Abner stabs him with a spear and he dies. Asahel's two brothers, Joab and Abishai, pursue Abner into the wilderness, but he gets to his men before them. Then he turns and calls out to them 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? (v. 26). Somehow this diffuses the tension, because Joab replies that he would have chased him all night. Then he blows a trumpet and the chase is called off. Abner scurries off to Jordan and Joab and Abishai return to David. Final score: 19 dead for David, 360 for Abner.
A war breaks out between David's followers and Saul's. David's house, of course, wins. We also find out that David has been prolific on the home front as well, producing a son by each of 6 wives.
Meantime, Abner comes back. One day, Ishbosheth confronts him for sleeping with his father's concubine. You know, Jerry Falwell and the tit who replies to the Skeptics' Annotated Bible bend themselves backwards in this chapter to tell us that polygamy was practiced but not condoned but seriously, nearly every single powerful man practices it pretty openly: Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Saul, David, just to name a few. Anyway, Abner gets angry at him and reminds him how loyal he's been and tells him to mind his own business and let god deal with it. I see where this is going.
Next, Abner sues David for peace. David agrees on the condition he get his first wife, Michal back. Remember, Saul gave her to someone else back on 1 Samuel. Ishbosheth agrees and sends her back, her poor second husband weeping behind her (v. 16). Abner, who is clearly the Dick Cheney of this reign, sends a message to the tribal elders to accept David as king. He goes to David's castle and they feast, and then he says he's going to gather the people of Israel to crown him.
At this point, Joab comes back and is informed that Abner was there and what transpired. Joab asks David what the hell he was thinking, and warns him Abner was deceiving him. He sends his messengers after Abner, who comes back to Hebron, where Joab stabs him in revenge for his brother's death. David puts the blame on Joab and curses the men of his house to leprosy and women's work.
David himself mourns Abner and declares a day of fasting in his honour.