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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature

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[many Abish' ai] (Heb. Abishay', אֲבַישִׁי , father [i.e. desirous] of a gift; Sept. Ἀβισαϊ v, but Ἀβεσσά in 1 Samuel 26:6-9; 1 Chronicles 19:11; 1 Chronicles 19:15; Ἀβισσά in 1 Chronicles 2:16; Ἀβεσσαί in 1 Chronicles 11:20; Ἀβισά in 1 Chronicles 18:12; and Ἀμεσά in 2 Samuel 20:6; also contracted Abshay',אִבשִֻׁי , in the text of 2 Samuel 10:10; 1 Chronicles 2:16; 1 Chronicles 11:20; 1 Chronicles 18:12; 1 Chronicles 19:11; 1 Chronicles 19:15; Josephus Ἀβισαῖος), a nephew of David (by an unknown father, perhaps a foreigner) through his sister Zeruiah, and brother of Joab and Asahel (2 Samuel 2:18; 1 Chronicles 2:16). The three brothers devoted themselves zealously to the interests of their uncle during his wanderings. Though David had more reliance upon the talents of Joab, he appears to have given more of his private confidence to Abishai, who seems to have attached himself in a peculiar manner to his person, as we ever find him near, and ready for council or action, on critical occasions (2 Samuel 2:24; 1 Chronicles 19:11). Abishai, indeed, was rather a man of action than of council; and, although David must have been gratified by his devoted and uncompromising attachment, he had more generally occasion to check the impulses of his ardent temperament than to follow his advice (2 Samuel 3:30). Abishai was one of the two persons whom David asked to accompany him to the camp of Saul, and he alone accepted the perilous distinction (1 Samuel 26:5-9), B.C. 1055. The desire he then expressed to smite the sleeping king identifies him as the man who afterward burned to rush upon Shimei and slay him for his abuse of David (2 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 16:11; 2 Samuel 19:21). When the king fled beyond the Jordan from Absalom, Abishai was by his side; and he was intrusted with the command of one of the three divisions of the army which crushed that rebellion (2 Samuel 18:2-12), B.C. cir. 1023. When the insurrection of Sheba occurred David sent him, in connection with Joab, to quicken the tardy preparations of Amasa in gathering troops against the rebel (2 Samuel 20:6-10), B.C. cir. 1022. During the last war with the Philistines David was in imminent peril of his life from a giant named Ishbi-benob, but was rescued by Abishai, who slew the giant (2 Samuel 21:15-17), B.C. cir. 1018. He was also the chief of the second rank (2 Samuel 23:19; 1 Chronicles 11:20) of the three "mighties," who, probably in some earlier war, performed the chivalrous exploit of breaking through the host of the Philistines to procure David a draught of water from the well of his native Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23:14-17). Among the exploits of this hero it is mentioned (2 Samuel 23:18) that he withstood 300 men, and slew them with his spear; but the occasion of this adventure, and the time and manner of his death, are equally unknown. In 2 Samuel 8:13, the victory over the Edomites in the Valley of Salt (B.C. cir. 1037) is ascribed to David, but in 1 Chronicles 18:12, to Abishai. It is hence probable that the victory was actually gained by Abishai, in connection with Joab (1 Kings 11:16), but is ascribed to David as king and commander-in-chief (comp. 2 Samuel 10:10; 2 Samuel 10:14). (See DAVID).

Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Abishai'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. https://www.studylight.org/​encyclopedias/​eng/​tce/​a/abishai.html. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.
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