David has mourned Saul, and avenged him to a degree. Now, he needs to think about his next steps. God tells him to leave his exile and go to Hebron. “And David went up there, and also his two wives, Ahinoam the Jezreelitess and Abigail the wife of Nabal the Carmelite (Samuel II 2:2).” By bringing his wives, it indicates to me that David intends to set up shop in Hebron for the foreseeable future. He brings his men with him too, leaving Ziklag behind. We don’t hear about a goodbye to his benefactors from this period, but they might still be occupied with the war against the Israelites.
So David gets to Hebron, and makes a dramatic entrance. “And the men of Judah came and there anointed David as king over the house of Judah, and they told David, saying, that the men of Jabesh-Gilead buried Saul (Samuel II 2:4).” David is pleased to hear this, and sends messengers to these men.
At the same time, Abner, who was Saul’s general, takes Saul’s remaining son, Ishbosheth, and makes him king. “And he made him king over Gilead and over the Ashurites and over Jezreel, and over Ephraim, and over Benjamin, and over all Israel (Samuel II 2:9).” I sympathize with Abner’s position. As the commander of the last king, he probably won’t prosper under the new administration. Therefore, he engineers a prime role for himself by choosing an alternative successor to David and positioning himself as his benefactor. However, this divides the people, with David as king in Judah and Ishbosheth in Israel. Both men have good claims to the throne: David was chosen by God and ordained by Samuel, but Ishbosheth is the son of the last king.
We are told that Ishbosheth reigned over Israel for two years, and that David remained in Hebron as king of Judah for seven and a half years. During this time, there’s a meeting between Abner and his men and Joab, one of David’s servants. “And Abner said to Joab, ‘Let the boys get up now and play before us,’ and Joab said, ‘Let them get up (Samuel II 2:14).'” This seems like a weird thing to say in general, and also a strange exchange between these two men. It turns into an awkward, almost anti-climactic battle, with all of the men killing each other. David’s side, for some reason that I’m not clear on, is declared victorious.
Abner is the pursued by one of David’s men, Ashael, who is Joab’s brother. Abner tries to rebuff him, but Ashael doesn’t stop, and Abner ends up killing him. This leads Joab and his other brother, Abishai, to take up the pursuit of Abner. “And Abner called Joab and said, ‘Will the sword forever consume? Did you not know that it would be bitter in the end? Until when will you not say to the people to return from after their brothers (Samuel II 2:26)?'” This speech gets through to Joab, and for now, the internal war ends. The people are still divided though, and the dual monarchy continues.