When Abner was slain David was at a loss for a friend to perfect the
reduction of those tribes that were yet in Ish-bosheth's interest.
Which way to adopt for the accomplishment of it he could not tell; but
here Providence brings it about by the removal of Ish-bosheth.
I. Two of his own servants slew him, and brought his head to David,
2 Samuel 4:1-8.
II. David, instead of rewarding them, put them to death for what they
2 Samuel 4:9-12.
Ish-bosheth Slain by His Servants.
B. C. 1048.
1 And when Saul's son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his
hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.
2 And Saul's son had two men that were captains of bands: the
name of the one was Baanah, and the name of the other Rechab,
the sons of Rimmon a Beerothite, of the children of Benjamin:
(for Beeroth also was reckoned to Benjamin:
3 And the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and were sojourners
there until this day.)
4 And Jonathan, Saul's son, had a son that was lame of his
feet. He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and
Jonathan out of Jezreel, and his nurse took him up, and fled: and
it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and
became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.
5 And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah,
went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of
Ishbosheth, who lay on a bed at noon.
6 And they came thither into the midst of the house, as
though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him under
the fifth rib: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.
7 For when they came into the house, he lay on his bed in his
bedchamber, and they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him,
and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night.
8 And they brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron,
and said to the king, Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of
Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the LORD hath
avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.
I. The weakness of Saul's house. Still it grew weaker and weaker.
1. As for Ishbosheth, who was in possession of the throne, his hands
2 Samuel 4:1.
All the strength they ever had was from Abner's support, and now that
he was dead he had no spirit left in him. Though Abner had, in a
passion, deserted his interest, yet he hoped, by his means, to make
good terms with David; but now even this hope fails him, and he sees
himself forsaken by his friends and at the mercy of his enemies. All
the Israelites that adhered to him were troubled and at a loss what to
do, whether to proceed in their treaty with David or no.
2. As for Mephibosheth, who in the right of his father Jonathan had a
prior title, his feet were lame, and he was unfit for any service,
2 Samuel 4:4.
He was but five years old when his father and grandfather were killed.
His nurse, hearing of the Philistines' victory, was apprehensive that,
in pursuit of it, they would immediately send a party to Saul's house,
to cut off all that pertained to it, and would especially aim at her
young master, who was now next heir to the crown. Under the
apprehension of this, she fled with the child in her arms, to secure it
either in some secret place where he could not be found, or in some
strong place where he could not be got at; and, making more haste than
good speed, she fell with the child, and by the fall some bone was
broken or put out, and not well set, so that he was lame of it as long
as he lived, and unfit either for court or camp. See what sad accidents
children are liable to in their infancy, the effect of which may be
felt by them, to their great uneasiness, all their days. Even the
children of princes and great men, the children of good men, for such a
one Jonathan was, children that are well tended, and have nurses of
their own to take care of them, yet are not always safe. What reason
have we to be thankful to God for the preservation of our limbs and
senses to us, through the many perils of the weak and helpless state of
infancy, and to own his goodness in giving his angels a charge
concerning us, to bear us up in their arms, out of which there is no
danger of falling,
II. The murder of Saul's son. We are here told,
1. Who were the murderers: Baanah and Rechab,
2 Samuel 4:2,3.
They were own brothers, as Simeon and Levi, and partners in iniquity.
They were or had been Ish-bosheth's own servants, employed under him,
so much the more base and treacherous was it in them to do him a
mischief. They were Benjamites, of his own tribe. They were of the city
of Beeroth; for some reason which we cannot now account for care is
here taken to let us know (in a parenthesis) that that city belonged to
the lot of Benjamin, so we find
but that the inhabitants, upon some occasion or other, perhaps upon the
death of Saul, retired to Gittaim, another city which lay not far off
in the same tribe, and was better fortified by nature, being situate
(if we may depend upon Mr. Fuller's map) between the two rocks Bozez
and Seneh. There the Beerothites were when this was written, and
probably took root there, and never returned to Beeroth again, which
made Beeroth, that had been one of the cities of the Gibeonites
to be forgotten, and Gittaim to be famous long after, as we find,
2. How the murder was committed,
2 Samuel 4:5-7.
(1.) The slothfulness of Ish-bosheth. He lay upon his bed at noon. It
does not appear that the country was at any time of the year so hot as
to oblige the inhabitants to retire at noon, as we are told they do in
Spain in the heat of summer; but Ishbosheth was a sluggish man, loved
his ease and hated business: and when he should have been, at this
critical juncture, at the head of his forces in the field, or at the
head of his counsels in a treaty with David, he was lying upon his bed
and sleeping, for his hands were feeble
(2 Samuel 4:1),
and so were his head and heart. When those difficulties dispirit us
which should rather invigorate us and sharpen our endeavours we betray
both our crowns and lives. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty
and ruin. The idle soul is an easy prey to the destroyer.
(2.) The treachery of Baanah and Rechab. They came into the house,
under pretence of fetching wheat for the victualling of their
regiments; and such was the plainness of those times that the king's
corn-chamber and his bed-chamber lay near together, which gave them an
opportunity, when they were fetching wheat, to murder him as he lay on
the bed. We know not when and where death will meet us. When we lie
down to sleep we are not sure but that we may sleep the sleep of death
before we awake; nor do we know from what unsuspected hand a fatal
stroke may come. Ish-bosheth's own men, who should have protected his
life, took it away.
3. The murderers triumphed in what they had done. As if they had
performed some very glorious action, and the doing of it for David's
advantage was enough not only to justify it, but to sanctify it, they
made a present of Ish-bosheth's head to David
(2 Samuel 4:8):
Behold the head of thy enemy, than which they thought nothing
could be more acceptable to him; yea, and they made themselves
instruments of God's justice, ministers to bear his sword, though they
had no commission: The Lord hath avenged thee this day of Saul and
of his seed. Not that they had any regard either to God or to
David's honour; they aimed at nothing but to make their own fortunes
(as we say) and to get preferment in David's court; but, to ingratiate
themselves with him, they pretended a concern for his life, a
conviction of his title, and a zealous desire to see him in full
possession of the throne. Jehu pretended zeal for the Lord of
hosts when an ambition to set up himself and his own family was the
spring of his actions.
Ish-bosheth's Murderers Punished.
B. C. 1048.
9 And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of
Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the LORD liveth,
who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity,
10 When one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to
have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in
Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for
11 How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person
in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now require
his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?
12 And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and
cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the
pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried
it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.
We have here justice done upon the murderers of Ish-bosheth.
I. Sentence passed upon them. There needed no evidence, their own
tongues witnessed against them; they were so far from denying the fact
that they gloried in it. David therefore shows them the heinousness of
the crime, and that blood called for blood from his hand, who was now
the chief magistrate, and was by office the avenger of blood. And,
perhaps, he was the more vigorous in the prosecution because for
reasons of state he had spared Joab: "Shall I not require the blood
of the slain at the hand of the slayers, and, since they cannot
make restitution, take theirs instead of it?" Observe,
1. How he aggravates the crime,
2 Samuel 4:11.
Ish-bosheth was a righteous person, he had done them no wrong, nor
designed them any. As to himself, David was satisfied that what
opposition he gave him was not from malice, but mistake, from an idea
he had of his own title to the crown, and the influence of others upon
him, who urged him to put in for it. Note, Charity teaches us to make
the best, not only of our friends, but of our enemies, and to think
those may be righteous persons who yet, in some instances, do us wrong.
I must not presently judge a man a bad man because I think him so to
me. David owns Ish-bosheth an honest man, though he had created him a
great deal of trouble unjustly. The manner of it much aggravated the
crime. To slay him in his own house, which should have been his castle,
and upon his bed, when he was in no capacity of making any opposition,
this is treacherous and barbarous, and all that is base, and that which
the heart of every man who is not perfectly lost to all honour and
humanity will rise with indignation at the thought of. Assassinating is
confessedly the most odious and villainous way of murdering. Cursed
is he that smiteth his neighbour secretly.
2. He quotes a precedent
(2 Samuel 4:10):
he had put him to death who had brought him the tidings of the death of
Saul, because he thought it would be good tidings to David. Nothing is
here said of that Amalekite's helping Saul to kill himself, only of his
bringing the tidings of his death, by which it should seem that the
story he told was upon enquiry found to be false, and that he lied
against his own head. "Now" (says David) "did I treat him as a
criminal, and not a favourite" (as he expected), "who brought me Saul's
crown, and shall those be held guiltless that bring me Ish-bosheth's
3. He ratifies the sentence with an oath
(2 Samuel 4:9):
As the Lord liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all
adversity. He expresses himself thus resolutely, to prevent the
making of any intercession for the criminals by those about him, and
thus piously to intimate that his dependence was upon God for the
putting of him in possession of the promised throne, and that he would
not be beholden to any man to help him to it by any indirect or
unlawful practices. God had redeemed him from all adversity hitherto,
helped him over many a difficulty and through many a danger, and
therefore he would depend upon him to crown and complete his own work.
He speaks of his redemption from all adversity as a thing done, though
he had many a storm yet before him, because he knew that he who had
delivered would deliver.
4. Hereupon he signs a warrant for the execution of these men,
2 Samuel 4:12.
This may seem severe, when they intended him a kindness in what they
(1.) He would thus show his detestation of the villany. When he heard
that the Lord smote Nabal, he gave thanks
(1 Samuel 25:38,39),
for he is the God to whom vengeance belongeth; but, if wicked
men smite Ish-bosheth, they deserve to die for taking God's work out of
(2.) He would thus show his resentment of the great affront they put
upon him in expecting that he should patronize and reward it; they
could scarcely have done him a greater injury than thus to think him
altogether such a one as themselves, one that cared not what blood he
waded through to the crown.
II. Execution done. The murderers were put to death according to law,
and their hands and feet were hung up; not their whole bodies, the law
forbade that; but only their hands and feet, in terrorem--to frighten
others, to be monuments of David's justice, and to make that to be
taken notice of which would recommend him to the esteem of the people,
as a man fit to rule, and that aimed not at his own preferment, nor had
any enmity to the house of Saul, but only and sincerely designed the
public welfare. But what a confusion was this to the two murderers!
What a horrid disappointment! And such those will meet with who think
to serve the interests of the Son of David by any immoral practices, by
war and persecution, fraud and rapine, who, under colour of religion,
murder princes, break solemn contracts, lay countries waste, hate
their brethren, and cast them out, and say, Let the Lord be glorified,
kill them, and think they do God good service. However men may
canonize such methods of serving the church and the catholic cause,
Christ will let them know, another day, that Christianity was not
intended to destroy humanity; and those who thus think to merit heaven
shall not escape the damnation of hell.
Matthew Henry "Verse by Verse Commentary for '2 Samuel' Matthew Henry Bible Commentary".