And when Saul's son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.2 Samuel 4:1. His hands were feeble — He was greatly dismayed, as well he might be; for he was in effect disarmed; he had lost both his sword and his shield in Abner. And all the Israelites were troubled — That is, all those who were united to the interest of Ish-bosheth, and probably many others also; for they had lost their great and powerful agent with David; the man in whom both he and they confided; the man who, from his authority and credit, both with the army and the people, was best able to conduct and confirm the league then agreed to on both sides. They feared that, through his death, this treaty would be broken off, or that it would not be managed with so much prudence as Abner would have used; that the fall of this great man would produce some important change, and they were apprehensive it might be of a disastrous kind.
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:2 Samuel 4:2. Captains of bands — Whether of regular forces, or some flying parties, whose business was spoil and prey, is not certain. Perhaps they were captains of two companies of guards about the king.
And the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and were sojourners there until this day.)2 Samuel 4:3. The Beerothites fled to Gittaim — When Saul was slain, several Israelites left their cities and fled, and the Philistines took possession of them. Among these, it seems, this city was forsaken of its inhabitants; and were sojourners there until this day — When this book was written they were not returned to their own country, being commodiously settled at Gittaim.
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.2 Samuel 4:4. Jonathan had a son — This history is inserted as that which encouraged these men to this wicked murder, because Saul’s family was now reduced to a low ebb; and if Ish-bosheth were despatched, there would be none left but a lame child, who was altogether unfit to manage the kingdom, and therefore the crown must necessarily come to David by their act and deed; for which they promised themselves no small recompense. When the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan — That is, the tidings of their death, mentioned 1 Samuel 31.; out of Jezreel — The place of that last and fatal fight.
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.2 Samuel 4:5-6. Who lay on a bed at noon — As the manner was, and still continues to be, in hot countries. As though they would have fetched wheat — Which was laid up in public granaries in the king’s house, and was fetched thence by the captains and commanders of the army for the pay of their soldiers, who, in those ancient times, were not paid in money, but in corn. Upon this pretence they were admitted into the house, and so went from room to room to the place where the king lay.
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.
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.2 Samuel 4:7-8. They smote him, and slew him, &c. — The privacy of the place gave them opportunity to do all this, without discovery. And gat them away through the plain, from Mahanaim to Hebron — It being for the most part a flat country, till they came to ascend the mountain, on the side of which Hebron stood. Hath avenged the king of Saul and of his seed — For they were all now extinguished except his grandson Mephibosheth, who was of no account because of his lameness.
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.
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,2 Samuel 4:9. David answered Rechab and Baanah, &c. — Together with this thankful acknowledgment of God’s care of him in all his straits and adversities, he suggests to them that he needed not the help of such men as they were, nor of the commission of wicked acts for his future preservation and advancement. “It was from God only that he sought for deliverance from his troubles and enemies; and he that doth so needeth not the aid of treachery. Even they that need it are often observed to punish it; they that need it not, always will. And surely vindictive justice is then seen in its greatest glory when it is exerted in the chastisement of guilt committed against an enemy; for then no mist either of partiality or prejudice can misguide or obscure it.” — Delaney.
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 his tidings:
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?2 Samuel 4:11. How much more, &c. — If he put the Amalekite to death for barely saying that he slew Saul, even at Saul’s own command, and when his life was despaired of, how much more would he take signal vengeance on their united and aggravated treachery and murder? When wicked men have slain a righteous person — For such Ish-bosheth was in respect of them. Saul might have some guilt in the Amalekite’s eye from his former destruction of the Amalekites; but Ish-bosheth could have none with regard to these his murderers, to whom he had done no wrong, but had preferred them to places of trust and honour. In respect of David, however, Ish- bosheth was not righteous, because he opposed him whom he knew God had appointed to the throne. In his own house, upon his bed — This aggravated their crime, and made it very different from that of the Amalekite who slew Saul. Shall I not, therefore, require his blood at your hands? — As persons unworthy to live. There is no one villany which the human mind so naturally, so instinctively abhors as treachery; because it is, perhaps, the only villany from which no man living is secure; and for this reason every man must take pleasure in the punishing it. This conduct of David toward these murderers of Ish-bosheth is well worth our attention; it is a proof of his integrity and piety, and of his detestation of treachery and cruelty. And we may learn from hence, that we ought not only to do no hurt to our enemies, but that we ought not even to rejoice at the hurt which may happen to them without our contributing any thing to it, nor to countenance injustice and vice in any degree, how great advantage soever we may reap from them.
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.2 Samuel 4:12. David commanded, and they slew them — But what a disappointment to Baanah and Rechab was the sentence which David passed upon them! And such they will meet with who think to serve the Son of David by cruelty or injustice: who, under colour of religion, outrage or murder their brethren, and think they do God service. However men may now canonize such methods of serving the church and the catholic cause, Christ will let them know another day that Christianity was not designed to destroy humanity, And they who thus think to merit heaven, shall not escape the damnation of hell.