“And there were three sons of Zeruiah there, Joab, and Abishai, and Asahel: and Asahel was as light of foot as a wild roe. And Asahel pursued after Abner; and in going he turned not to the right hand nor to the left from following Abner.” (II Samuel 2:18-19)
Three of David’s cousins on his mother’s side, all brothers and experienced warriors, were there. The youngest, Asahel, was listed as one of David’s top soldiers in II Samuel 23. He was a very fast runner, and when he saw the enemy general, Abner running away, he determined to catch and kill him. He refused to let anything stop him.
“Then Abner looked behind him, and said, Art thou Asahel?
And he answered, I am.
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 Abner said again to Asahel, Turn thee aside from following me: wherefore should I smite thee to the ground? how then should I hold up my face to Joab thy brother?” (II Samuel 2:20-22)
Apparently, Asahel had discarded his weapons and armor so he could run faster. It enabled him to catch up to Abner, and he recognized him. Abner advised him to take some weapons from one of the less experienced warriors before he fought him. Thinking he was afraid or thought he could get away, Asahel refused. Abner pointed out that he would be embarrassed to fight and kill Asahel when he was unarmed.
“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.” (II Samuel 2:23)
Even with Abner’s warning, Asahel refused to stop‘ so Abner stopped and pushed back with the back of his spear, apparently intending to just bruise him up since it had a wooden paddle on it as Deuteronomy 23:13 commanded, “And thou shalt have a paddle upon thy weapon; and it shall be, when thou wilt ease thyself abroad, thou shalt dig therewith, and shalt turn back and cover that which cometh from thee:” Asahel was running so fast he drove the entire paddle through his body, killing himself. The battle was effectively over and everyone who saw his body stopped to see what had happened.
“Joab also and Abishai pursued after Abner: and the sun went down when they were come to the hill of Ammah, that lieth before Giah by the way of the wilderness of Gibeon. And the children of Benjamin gathered themselves together after Abner, and became one troop, and stood on the top of an hill.” (II Samuel 2:24-25)
Asahel’s brothers were determined to avenge his death and pursued him and his men almost all the way to the wilderness of Gibeon. The men of Benjamin regrouped around Abner at the top of the hill of Ammah, ready to fight again.
“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?” (II Samuel 2:26)
Abner called Joab, asking how long he would continue the fight since they were countrymen and relatives? All that it would produce was bitterness and hatred if it was allowed to go on, and the destruction of both sides.
“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.
So Joab blew a trumpet, and all the people stood still, and pursued after Israel no more, neither fought they any more. And Abner and his men walked all that night through the plain, and passed over Jordan, and went through all Bithron, and they came to Mahanaim.” (II Samuel 2:27-29)
Joab acknowledged the truth of Abner’s comments and said that even if nothing had been said, exhaustion would have ended the pursuit by morning, but he sounded a trumpet to end it then. Abner and his men traveled all night, crossing the Jordan and on to Mahanaim.
“ And Joab returned from following Abner: and when he had gathered all the people together, there lacked of David's servants nineteen men and Asahel. But the servants of David had smitten of Benjamin, and of Abner's men, so that three hundred and threescore men died.” (II Samuel 2:30-31)
When they counted the dead, they learned that David had lost seven men in the battle besides the twelve on the original team. Asahel had been killed after the battle, when the other side was fleeing, simply because of his own pride and overconfidence. There was no reason for his death. Abner had lost three hundred sixty men of the tribe of Benjamin. In most sports, a score of 360 to 20 would be considered decisive.
“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.” (II Samuel 2:32)
Asahel’s body was carried to Bethlehem and buried in the family sepulchre. Joab and the army then traveled all night to Hebron to meet David just at sunrise.