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Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament

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2 SAMUEL 4

ISBOSHETH WAS MURDERED;

HIS MURDERERS WERE EXECUTED;

ABNER'S DEATH WAS A DISASTER FOR ISHBOSHETH


 
Verses 1-3
And when [Ish-bosheth], Saul's son, heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his hands became feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled. And [Ish-bosheth], 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 the Beerothite, of the children of Benjamin (for Beeroth also is reckoned to Benjamin: and the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and have been sojourners there until this day).

Abner died at Hebron. (Ishbosheth's) courage failed ... all Israel was dismayed
(2 Samuel 4:1). This brings us very near to the end of the kingdom of Ishbosheth.

Baanah. Rechab, sons of Rimmon
(2 Samuel 4:2). These were not Israelites, but Amorites or Canaanites, whose father was from a Gibeonite city; they were mercenaries in Ishbosheth's army.F1 The story of the Gibeonites is found in Josh. 9. They deceived Israel into making a covenant with them by a clever device of pretending to be from a far distant country.

The Gibeonites were savagely persecuted by Saul (2 Sam. 21:1ff) who put many of them to death; and that could possibly account for the basic hatred of Saul's house which might have entered into the motivation for these two brothers to murder Ishbosheth. As a result of that persecution, the Gibeonites fled to Gittaim, and the town of Beeroth was reckoned to Saul's tribe, Benjamin.

The Beerothites fled to Gittaim
(2 Samuel 4:3). It is amazing that Adam Clarke identified this place with Gath' basing his opinion upon the form of the name itself.F2 The Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia (1975) gives the same identification, suggesting that, Some of the references to Gath are actually concerned with Gittaim.F3 Anson F. Rainey identified the location of Gittaim with a forty-acre site southeast of the present town of Ras Abu Amid, where there was once a well-fortified town, at the same time preferring that location for the Philistine city of Gath much farther north than its traditional location in the extreme south of Philistia.F4

The Beerothites have been sojourners there to this day
(2 Samuel 4:3). All this means is that the Gibeonites from Beeroth were still at Gittaim when some copyist later transcribed this page, or when the author of the Books of Samuel wrote this passage. There is no excuse whatever in this and similar passages for postulating the composition of these books centuries later than the events recorded. There is also the possibility that such passages are interpolations by later copyists.

A PARENTHESIS REGARDING MEPHIBOSHETH


 
Verse 4
Now 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.

Some have spoken of this verse as "being out of place"; and H. P. Smith called it "an interpolation,"F5 at the same time admitting that the purpose of its inclusion here might have been to show how "The house of Saul had been reduced; the heir to the throne was a cripple."F6 What he did not write, however, is the reason why it would have been any more logical that some interpolator would have so used this verse rather than the author of Second Samuel. We reject such arbitrary and unproved assertions that this or that verse is "an interpolation."

This verse is not an interpolation, "Although it interrupts the narrative, it is not irrelevant, since it brings into the picture the nearest of kin to Saul, apart from Ishbosheth, and lays a foundation for 2 Sam. 9."F7

His name was Mephibosheth…
Keil rejected the work of some later Jewish scholar in changing Biblical names, replacing Baal with [~bosheth]. This son of Jonathan was named Meribbaal, which according to Keil, means Baal-fighter,F8 there being no legitimate reason whatever for changing his name. Eshbaal and Jerubbaal (Gideon) are other examples of the same thing.

THE MURDER OF ISHBOSHETH


 
Verses 5, 6
And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ish-bosheth, as he took his rest at noon. And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him in the body: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.

These mercenary raiders were employees of Ishbosheth, whose services were probably utilized in raids against the Philistines. As such, they were subjects of Ishbosheth; and he was their king to whom they had sworn allegiance. This action in their murder of Ishbosheth was exceedingly criminal. As for their motivation, there might have been some residual hatred in their hearts due to Saul's persecution of their people; but there can be little doubt that their intention was exactly like that of the self-seeking Amalekite who pretended to have slain Saul. They supposed that such a deed would place in their hands the means of their ingratiating themselves with David; and they no doubt expected to be richly rewarded for their crime.

THE HEAD OF ISHBOSHETH WAS PRESENTED TO DAVID


 
Verses 7, 8
Now when they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and went by the way of the Arabah all night. And they brought the head of Ish-bosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold, the head of Ish-bosheth, the son of Saul, thine enemy, who sought thy life; and Jehovah hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.

How disgusting it is that these rascals, in their address to David, "Spread the holy name of God and his providence as a cloak and covering for their villainy."F9 These evil men, "Had no regard either for God or for David's honor; they aimed at nothing but to make their own fortunes and to get preferment at David's court."F10 This is a deceit often practiced by evil men pretending to be obeying God's Word when actually they are God's enemies. Caird noted that these men, "True to Oriental style made the Lord a party to their crime."F11

DAVID EXPLAINS HOW HE VIEWS THEIR MURDER


 
Verses 9-11
And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As Jehovah liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity, 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, which was the reward I gave him for his tidings. How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed, shall I not now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?

David had every right to be outraged and disgusted with this treacherous murder of Ishbosheth by two of his retainers who were supposed to be serving and protecting their master. David makes three points in this response. "First, he referred to his own experience of the ways of the Lord, thus giving the lie to their claim of having been the Lord's tools in that brutal murder; and in the second instance, he pointed out the precedent which he himself had already established in the killing of the Amalekite."F12 His third point was that Ishbosheth was a "righteous man," contrasting with Saul who was wicked. By the time David got this far into his response, those two evil brothers must have anticipated what would come next.

Shall I not now require his blood at your hand?
(2 Samuel 4:11). `To require blood' means to hold the murderer guilty and to execute him (Gen. 9:51; 42:22; Ps. 9:12).F13 It is the commandment of God that murderers should be executed (Genesis 9:6); and that is not an option; it is a Divine Order. God have mercy upon the United States for their rebellion against God in this very particular. Unless the crime of our society in allowing murderers to go unpunished is corrected, the ultimate downfall of our nation is certain.

And destroy you from the earth
(2 Samuel 4:11). Unavenged blood cries from the earth to God Himself (Genesis 4:10). And we may be sure that the swelling chorus of such cries to God from the blood-soaked streets of America today shall not forever go uncorrected by the Eternal One.

ISHBOSHETH'S MURDERERS EXECUTED


 
Verse 12
And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up beside the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth, and buried it in the grave of Abner in Hebron.

It was not merely in obedience to the Divine will that David executed these murderers, it was also politically necessary as well. "To have left them unpunished would have left the impression with the people that David had been involved in a conspiracy to bring about the murder."F14

A number of able scholars have pointed out the danger of a society's permitting murder to go unpunished. "When murderers are allowed to live without punishment, the moral fabric of a nation is endangered."F15 "Nations of the world would do well to learn this lesson regarding the punishment of murderers."F16


Footnotes for 2 Samuel 4
1: John T. Willis, p. 306.
2: Adam Clarke, Vol. 2, p. 317.
3: Wycliffe Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 1, p. 686.
4: Ibid.
5: International Critical Commentary, Samuel, p. 283.
6: Ibid.
7: The New Bible Commentary, Revised, p. 304.
8: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, Vol. 2b, p. 309.
9: C. F. Keil, Keil and Delitzsch's Old Testament Commentaries, op. cit., p. 311.
10: Matthew Henry's Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 465.
11: The Interpreter's Bible, Vol. 2, p. 2067.
12: The Interpreter's Bible, op. cit., p. 1067.
13: John T. Willis, p. 308.
14: Interpreter's Bible, op. cit., p. 1068.
15: George DeHoff's Commentary, Vol. 2, p. 190.
16: The Teachers' Bible Commentary, p. 181.

Copyright Statement
James Burton Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.

Bibliography Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New Testament". <http://classic.studylight.org/com/bcc/view.cgi?book=2sa&chapter=004>. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.  

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