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Abishai was the son of Zeruiah, the sister of King David (1 Chronicles 2:13-16). His brothers were Joab and Asahel (2 Samuel 2:18). Abishai was very impetuous and very courageous (a combination that often results in a short life), a powerful warrior and tactician, for some time a commander of a division David's army. He was always intensely loyal to his uncle David, remaining at the king's side through thick and thin, although not always in a manner to the king's liking.

King David leading The Ark During the time that David was on the run from Saul, Abishai accompanied David when he went entered Saul's camp under cover of darkness; Abishai wanted to kill Saul when they had the chance, but David refused:

"David and Abishai went to the army by night; and there lay Saul sleeping within the encampment, with his spear stuck in the ground at his head; and Abner and the army lay around him. Then said Abishai to David, "God has given your enemy into your hand this day; now therefore let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice." But David said to Abishai, "Do not destroy him; for who can put forth his hand against The Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?" And David said, "As The Lord lives, The Lord will smite him; or his day shall come to die; or he shall go down into battle and perish." (1 Samuel 26:7-10 RSV)

With King David remaining safely out of the conflict, Abishai commanded of one of the three divisions of David's army in the battle with Absalom (see also Absalom's Advisors), an engagement that not only turned into a rout of the rebel Absalom's army, but resulted in the death of Absalom himself:

"Then David mustered the men who were with him, and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. And David sent forth the army, one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite ... So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. And the men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword ... And Absalom chanced to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding upon his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on ... Joab said, "I will not waste time like this with you." And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak. And ten young men, Joab's armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him." (2 Samuel 18:1-2, 6-8, 9, 14-15 RSV)

In a later battle with the Philistines, that the aging King David did participate in, Abishai saved David's life:

"The Philistines had war again with Israel, and David went down together with his servants, and they fought against the Philistines; and David grew weary. And Ishbibenob, one of the descendants of the giants, whose spear weighed three hundred shekels of bronze, and who was girded with a new sword, thought to kill David. But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and attacked the Philistine and killed him" (2 Samuel 21:15-17 RSV)

Fact Finder: Why did Abishai get involved in his brother Joab's killing of Abner?
2 Samuel 3:27,30
See also Abner

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