2 Samuel 4
Pulpit Commentary
And when Saul's son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.
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:
Verse 2. - Saul's son had two men captains of bands. The bands mentioned were light-armed troops, used in forays, such as that mentioned in 2 Samuel 3:22. Their captains would be men of importance with Ishbosheth, who is here described somewhat contemptuously, not as king, nor by his own name, but as "Saul's son." Beeroth. This place, literally the Wells, was one of the four towns reserved for the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:17), though nominally belonging to Benjamin (Joshua 18:25). The note, that it was reckoned to Benjamin, suggests that it had until quite lately been occupied by the Canaanites, whose flight to Gittaim had no doubt been caused by Saul's cruel attack upon them referred to in 2 Samuel 21:1, 2. It was thus remarkable that the destruction of Saul's dynasty was the work of the Gibeonites of Beeroth. As we find another of these Beerothites, Naharai, holding the office of armour bearer to Joab (1 Chronicles 11:39), it seems probable that many of them saved themselves from expulsion by becoming soldiers. But among David's worthies a large number were strangers, and some even men of foreign extraction. Beeroth, however, was probably seized in Saul's reign by the Benjamites, by force, and occupied by them, as its citizens returned in large numbers from the exile (Ezra 2:25), and are counted as genuine Israelites. Moreover, by thus dispossessing the natives, Saul was able to give his tribesmen "fields and vineyards" (1 Samuel 22:7), which otherwise would have been in violation of the Mosaic Law.
And the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and were sojourners there until this day.)
Verse 3. - Gittaim. This word is a dual, and means "the two Gaths;" the one being, probably, the acropolis, or upper town, at the foot of which nestled a new Gath, protected by the ancient stronghold. It is mentioned as belonging to Benjamin in Nehemiah 11:33; but could not have been an Israelite town at this time, as the Beerothites are described as sojourners, that is, dwellers in a foreign country. When expelled from Beeroth, they probably seized Gittaim by force, and, on the reconciliation effected by the execution of Saul's sons, returned to their allegiance to Israel.
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.
Verse 4. - Jonathan, Saul's son, had a son. This is mentioned to show that Saul's lineage virtually became extinct on Ishbosheth's death. Mephibosheth, the heir, was a cripple, and physically incapable of reigning. Saul had, indeed, sons by a concubine, and grandchildren by his daughter Merab (2 Samuel 21:8). But throughout the history there is no hint that any of these were regarded as the representatives of Saul's house. (For the name Mephibosheth, see note on 2 Samuel 2:8.)
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.
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.
Verses 6, 7. - As though they would have fetched wheat. Not only is the narrative confused, but the versions offer extraordinary varieties of reading. The murder of Ishbosheth is fully described in ver. 7, and is there in its place, while it is out of place in ver. 6. And that the captains would themselves fetch wheat, instead of having it carried from the granary by their men; and that they would go through the king's chamber to obtain it; are both improbable. The very act of going to get wheat at midday, when everybody was having his siesta, would itself be suspicious. The Syriac says nothing about wheat, but that these "wicked men took and smote him." The Vulgate and LXX. lay the blame on the woman who kept the door, the narrative of the latter being as follows: "They entered into the house of Ishbosheth in the heat of the day, and he was asleep in his midday chamber And behold, the woman that kept the door of the house had been winnowing wheat, and she slumbered and slept. And the brothers Rechab and Baanah entered the house without being noticed, and Ishbosheth was asleep on his bed in his chamber, and they smote him," etc. There is, confessedly, considerable confusion in the text, but the versions do not altogether clear it up; and until we have better materials for forming a judgment, we must be content to wait. In ver. 5, instead of "who lay on a bed at noon," the Hebrew has "as he was taking his noonday rest." In ver. 7 the bed is the divan, or raised bank, which in an Oriental house runs along the wall, and is supplied with pieces of carpet, or cushions, on which to sit cross legged or recline. For sleep, the corners were the favourite places. Even the public rooms had these divans. But Ishbosheth had probably retired for his siesta into a private chamber, where the captains knew that he would be alone. The plain through which they fled was the Arabah, or Jordan valley, as in 2 Samuel 2:29.
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.
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.
Verse 8. - Which sought thy life. Saul had sought David's life, but Ishbosheth was innocent of any such attempts. Still, had he been victorious, David, as his rival, would certainly have been put to death. Jehovah hath avenged my lord the king. The ordinary language of the East is so religious that these words imply nothing more than that these wicked men saw in their base act a step towards the carrying out of a Divine purpose. But in thus referring to the common belief that David's kingdom was assured to him by Jehovah, they evidently intended to commend their deed to the really devout mind of the king.
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,
Verses 9, 10. - And David answered. David's answer is worthy of him. His appeal to Jehovah, as One that had saved him in all time of adversity, was a declaration that he had no need of criminals. And throughout he had carefully abstained from taking any steps to bring about the accomplishment of God's will, and had been upright and forbearing alike to Ishbosheth and Saul. How noble his conduct was we see by the contrast with Macbeth, whose better nature was poisoned and spoiled by the hope that he should be king hereafter. At the end of the verse the force is weakened in the Authorized Version by the insertion of irrelevant words. What David said is, "I slew him in Ziklag, and that was the reward I gave him for his tidings."
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?
Verse 11. - A righteous person. Ishbosheth was probably a weak rather than a wicked man; but David is not speaking of him generally, and, as regards Rechab and Baanah, he was quite guiltless, and their crime was not in revenge for any wrong done 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.
Verse 12. - They out off their hands and their feet. This was not intended for the purpose of mutilation, but to carry out an Eastern idea of retaliation. The hands were cut off because they had committed the murder; the feet, because they had brought the head to Hebron. Still, David was violating the spirit of the Mosaic Law. It ordered that the body of a man who had been put to death should be buried the same day (Deuteronomy 21:23). In the face of this humane enactment, it is wonderful that the laws of Christian countries should have allowed the mutilation of the bodies of traitors, and the hanging on gibbets of criminals convicted of smaller crimes. Remembering, therefore, the customs of our fathers, we must not blame David much for suspending the bands and feet of these murderers at the pool of Hebron, that all, when coming for water, might know of their punishment. The head of Ishbosheth was honourably buried in Abner's grave (see 2 Samuel 3:32).

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