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II Samuel Chapter 4

Memory verses for this week: Psa 54:6 I will freely sacrifice unto thee: I will praise thy name, O LORD; for it is good. Psa 54:7 For he hath delivered me out of all trouble: and mine eye hath seen his desire upon mine enemies.

Overview of II Samuel 4: This next chapter of II Samuel presents further grisly account of the murder of Ishbosheth and Davidís swift and just reaction thereto.


I. The Murder of Ishbosheth

2 Sam 4:1 And when Saul's son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.

2 Sam 4:2 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.

2 Sam 4:3 And the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and were sojourners there until this day.)

The focus now shifts from Hebron and David to Ishbosheth. ďAnd when Saulís son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.Ē Ishbosheth had been propped up as king only by the political and military strength of Abner. Now that Abner was gone, Ishbosheth became paralyzed with fear and indecision. The weakness of his character and the ineffectiveness of his rule was apparent. The nation at large was troubled over the weak man who was their king. In verse 3, two officers of Ishboshethís army are noted. Both Baanah and Rechab were Benjamites and therefore presumably loyal to their Benjamite king. Their family had in fact defected to Judah, for Gittaim was a town in Judah. Their families lived there now. While it doesnít come out and say it, it is apparent that their loyalties were secretly with David.

II. Record of Jonathanís Son Mephibosheth

2 Sam 4:4 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.

Another detail of Saulís family is presented here. Jonathan, Saulís 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. When word of the death arrived of Saul and Jonathon at the battle of Mount Gilboa (which is adjacent to the valley of Jezreel), the household of Jonathan fled in panic. The record is here in verse 4 noting that Jonathan had a little boy who was five years old at the time. His name was Mephibosheth. In the confusion and panic after the defeat of Saul, the nurse of little Mephibosheth had fled and had dropped him in the process.

Evidently, bones in his feet were broken and never were properly reset. Therefore, the little boy became permanently crippled. No further mention will be made of Mephibosheth again until chapter 9. It may be that his crippled condition caused him to be excluded from consideration as king when his father was deposed.

J. Vernon McGee made some good points in his commentary on II Samuel.  

Troubled times for the nation Israel continue in this chapter. Internal strife and civil war followed the deaths of Saul and Jonathan. It was a time of great heartache and heartbreak for Godís people.

This section of the Word of God is usually passed over. I am confident, however, that it has been given to us for at least two reasons: (1) To show us the family of the Lord Jesus Christ and to give us His genealogy; and (2) to give us an example. Paul tells us, ďNow all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition ÖĒ (1 Cor. 10:11). It has been given to us that it might minister to us in a spiritual way. We have already seen that there had been a rebellion against David, who had been made king of the tribe of Judah. He had moved to Hebron, which was situated just at the edge of the kingdom in the south. Abner had led a rebellion by putting Ish-bosheth, Saulís son, on the throne. But because Ish-bosheth reprimanded and rebuked him for taking one of Saulís concubines into his own harem, Abner left the house of Saul and allied himself with David. This was a mistake, because Joab was waiting to kill Abner in revenge for the slaying of his brother Asahel. Now that Ish-bosheth has lost Abner, his military captain, his army is weak. He knows he cannot maintain his kingdom against David without an army. Abner has been murdered. What is he going to do? 2

2 Sam 4:5 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.

2 Sam 4:6 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.

2 Sam 4:7 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.

At noon of that fateful day, Rechab and Baanah slipped into the royal house of Ishbosheth under the pretense of obtaining wheat in payment for the troops under them. It was thought by the Hebrews that under the fifth rib were the vital organs and therefore was the target for mortal attack. Ishbosheth was apparently taking a midday nap. These two villains thus murdered him on his bed, cut his head off, took it with them, and escaped. They then fled down through the plain of Jordan and up into the Judean highlands to Hebron, traveling all night.

Matthew Henry said this about the murder of Ishbosheth.

Here is, I. The weakness of Saulís house. Still it grew weaker and weaker. 1. As for Ishbosheth, who was in possession of the throne, his hands were feeble, v. 1. All the strength they ever had was from Abnerís 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, v. 4. He was but five years old when his father and grandfather were killed. His nurse, hearing of the Philistinesí victory, was apprehensive that, in pursuit of it, they would immediately send a party to Saulís 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, Ps. 91:12. 1

Psa 91:12 They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.

2 Sam 4:8 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.

The men showed up at Hebron the next morning to present the head of Ishbosheth to David. It appears that these thugs obviously thought that they would be rewarded for their deed.

2 Sam 4:9 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,

2 Sam 4:10 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 his tidings:

2 Sam 4:11 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?

2 Sam 4:12 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 sepulcher of Abner in Hebron.

To the men's great surprise, David was outraged at their crime. He reminded these murderers what had happened to the Amalekite who had delivered the death blow to Saul. At least that man had acted at Saulís request. These fellows were nothing more than outright murderers. They had in a vile fashion taken the life of not only an innocent man, but he who was the sitting king of Israel as well.

David lost no time in sentencing these to death on the spot. Retribution was swift against these assassins. They were summarily executed and their bodies desecrated by cutting off their hands and feet. They then were subjected to the indignity of having their bodies hung out for public display. It may be that the mutilating of their bodies was more than just an insult. It may be that it was thought in hell they would thus be deprived of their hands and feet forever.

David therefore sought to work the ultimate of wrath against them. In contrast, the head of Ishbosheth was buried with all dignity as was the body of Abner. David therefore made clear his innocence and outrage for what these men had criminally done. These men had not only murdered an innocent man, they had attacked the king of Israel. David would have nothing to do with it.   

In the King James Study Bible, it said that David perceived Ishbosheth as a righteous man.

4:11. The slain Israelite king was termed righteous (or innocent) by David. He had done no crime by allowing himself to be placed on his fatherís throne. Because he was Saulís son, his murderer could expect no better fate than the lying Amalekite (cf. 1:14Ė16). Davidís severe justice (v. 12) is paralleled elsewhere in the ancient Near East. For public hanging as a punishment in a case involving a capital offense, see Deuteronomy 21:22, 23.

Deu 21:22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree:

Deu 21:23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is accursed of God;) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. 

1. Thomas Nelson, Inc., King James Version Study Bible [computer file], electronic ed., Logos Library System, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson) 1997, c1988 by Liberty University.


2. J Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible


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Prov 4:18 But the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day.


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Practice Random Acts of Kindness. Each act spreads, and many will be blessed.

1Henry, Matthew, Matthew Henryís Commentary on the Bible, (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers) 1997.