ABISHAI (a-bĭsh'ā-ī, Heb. ’ăvîshay, meaning is doubtful). Son of David’s sister Zeruiah, and brother of Joab and Asahel. He was impetuous and courageous, cruel and hard to his foes, but always intensely loyal to David. He counseled David to kill the sleeping Saul (
ABISHAI ə bī’ shī (אֲבִישַׁ֔י, in 1 Chronicles אַבְשַׁ֛י. Meaning uncertain. The suggestions my father is Jesse, he is my father, or my father exists are all unlikely). The oldest son of Zeruiah, a sister of David, and the brother of Joab and Asahel (
Abishai first appeared with David in the wilderness of Ziph when pursued by Saul. Abishai volunteered to go with David into the center of Saul’s sleeping army. Standing by the somnolent Saul, he offered to kill him with one thrust of his sword, but David restrained him (
In the warfare between Judah and Israel after the death of Saul, Abner killed Asahel. Sometime later Abner decided to assist David in acquiring the throne over Israel. Nevertheless, Abishai assisted Joab in murdering Abner in revenge for the killing of Asahel. David declared himself and his kingdom guiltless of the murderous act of Joab and Abishai (
During Absalom’s rebellion, Abishai remained loyal to David. When David left Jerusalem surrounded by his mighty men, Shimei of the family of Saul cursed David and threw stones at him from a nearby hillside. Aroused to anger, Abishai said: “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head” (
In David’s old age Abishai rescued him from death when he was pressed by a Philistine giant in a battle with the Philistines. The giant Ishbibenob was slain by Abishai. As David returned to Jerusalem after the death of Absalom, though Shimei welcomed David and confessed his sin, Abihsai said: “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?” (
Abishai prob. died before the struggle between Adonijah and Solomon because he is not mentioned on either side of that conflict.
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)
ab’-i-shi, a-bi’-shi (’abhishai, in Ch ’abhshai; meaning is doubtful, probably "my father is Jesse," BDB): Son of Zeruiah, David’s sister, and one of the three famous brothers, of whom Joab and Asahel were the other two (
He first appears with David, who was in the Wilderness of Ziph, to escape Saul. When David called for a volunteer to go down into Saul’s camp by night, Abishai responded, and counseled the killing of Saul when they came upon the sleeping king (
In David’s campaign against the allied Ammonites and Syrians, Abishai led the attack upon the Ammonites, while Joab met the Syrians; the battle was a great victory for Israel (
In the battle with Absalom’s army at Mahanaim Abishai led one division of David’s army, Joab and Ittai commanding the other two (
He was an impetuous, courageous man, but less cunning than his more famous brother Joab, although just as cruel and relentless toward rival or foe. David understood and feared their hardness and cruelty. Abishai’s best trait was his unswerving loyalty to his kinsman, David.