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Deeper Commentary

2Sa 4:1 When Saul’s son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his hands became feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled-
I suggest on :7 that this fear was because they assumed David had killed Abner, and now would be coming to kill Ishbosheth and all his household. They totally failed to perceive David's huge grace towards the house of Saul, even though they surely knew about it. Their fears of possible human judgment were stronger than their faith in grace, and that is the theme of this chapter; and it is such a typically human failure.

2Sa 4:2 Saul’s son had two men who 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-
The point is being made that although these men may not have been ethnic Benjamites, they were counted as Benjamites, and thus there arose the shame of Ishbosheth being slain by men of his own tribe.

2Sa 4:3 and the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and have lived as foreigners there until this day)-
Beeroth was one of the Gibeonite cities which made peace with Joshua (Josh. 9:17) and was then included within Benjamin (Josh. 18:25). But they had been persecuted by Saul (2 Sam. 21:1,2). The murderers of Ishbosheth were therefore counted as Benjamites, but they would have had an abiding bitterness toward Saul. Their murder of Ishbosheth was therefore from mixed motives, one of which may have simply been revenge. And this would fit the context of 2 Sam. 3, where Abner was murdered by Joab from the same wrong motive. The impression is given of the destruction caused when men refuse to reign in their desire for revenge. 

Gittaim is the plural of Gath, and reflects Philistine influence in that area (1 Sam. 31:7). Again we see internal corroboration within the records, so detailed and constant that the entire history simply cannot be a forgery of men, but the inspired word of God.

2Sa 4:4 Now Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son who was lame of his feet. He was five years old when the news came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jezreel; and his nurse took him up, and fled: and it happened, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame-
We wonder why this is mentioned at this point, as the narrative is about the murder of Ishbosheth. Perhaps the idea is that now that Ishbosheth is to be killed, the only other potential king in Saul's line was a 12 year old boy who was a cripple, who had suffered that fate as an indirect result of the defeat of Saul due to his apostasy. In the hand of providence, all credible alternatives to David as king had now been removed, although not by his hand.

His name was Mephibosheth-
Merib-baal (1 Chron. 8:34; 9:40). It could mean 'the shame of Baal', but there is evidence that Saul's daughter Michal had an idol and it is likely that even Jonathan was not free of idolatry. Idolatry has always been a besetting weakness amongst even the best of God's people.

2Sa 4:5 The sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, as he took his rest at noon-
This might imply that he was physically weak, perhaps handicapped as was Mephibosheth (:4). As noted on :4, the impression is given that there were now no credible alternatives to David as king, although this was not by his hand.

2Sa 4:6 They came there into the middle of the house, as if they would have fetched wheat; and they struck him in the body: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped-
This striking in the body connects with what Abner did to Asahel, and what Joab did to Abner (2 Sam. 2:23; 3:27). We see the connection too with how Joab killed Abner in the middle of the gates of Hebron, between the outer and inner gates (2 Sam. 3:27). Although all these actions were the freewill choices of men, there was clearly a higher hand working through them all, in the same style. The apparent repetition of :5 is avoided by the LXX, which blames their entrance on a sleeping servant woman, as if Ishbosheth's power was so weak that his only guard was a sleeping woman: "And behold the portress of the house was cleaning wheat, and she slumbered and slept; and the brothers Rechab and Baanah came unobserved into the house. Now Ish-bosheth was sleeping on the bed in his chamber: and they smote him".

2Sa 4:7 Now when they came into the house, as he lay on his bed in his bedroom, they struck him, and killed him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and went by the way of the Arabah all night-
They did this presumably because they didn't believe or understand the huge grace which David was eager to show towards the house of Saul. They assumed Abner had been slain by David, and that he was now going to slay Ishbosheth. And so they thought they could protect their own heads by doing this for David, thinking they would ingratiate themselves to him. And this is the reason for so many murders and acts of unkindness; a mistaken belief in the likely actions of others. 

2Sa 4:8 They brought the head of Ishbosheth to David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold, the head of Ishbosheth, the son of Saul, your enemy-
The Philistines in 1 Sam. 29:4 recalled how David had carried the head of Goliath to Saul (1 Sam. 17:57). To carry the heads of a king's enemies was a way to get the king's favour, as in Jud. 7:25; 2 Sam. 4:8; 16:9; 20:21; 2 Kings 10:6-8. Again we see the inspired, historical record has consistency. It would have required a clever editor to insert this theme of beheading to curry a leader's favour throughout the entire Biblical record. But the histories were clearly written at different times; a later hand would not have thought of all these realistic touches to sprinkle so consistently throughout it. The internal harmony of the Bible is to me the greatest indication that it is what it claims to be, the Divinely inspired word of God, evidencing His editing throughout. 

Who sought your life!-
Saul "sought" David, implying a great level of mental effort (1 Sam. 19:10; 23:14,15,25; 24:2; 25:26,29; 26:2,20; 27:1,4; 2 Sam. 4:8). In the type of Christ, the Jews sought to kill the Lord (Mt. 21:46; Mk. 11:18; 12:12; 14:1,11,55; Lk. 19:47; 20:19; 22:2,6; Jn.5:16,18; 7:1,11,25,30; 8:37,40; 10:39; 11:8,56; 18:4,7,8). In the Psalms, David frequently imprecates judgment upon those who sought his life (s.w. Ps. 35:4; 38:12; 40:14; 54:3; 63:9; 70:2; 71:13; 86:14). He loved Saul, the life of Saul was precious in David's sight, indeed the historical records seem to emphasize David's patient love of Saul; and yet in the Psalms he gives vent before God to his anger with Saul and desire to see Saul punished and judged by God. This is absolutely true to human experience; we may act with great patience and apparent love toward those who abuse us, and yet within we fume about it. The lesson of David is that we are to pour out those feelings to God in prayer, leaving Him to judge.

Yahweh has avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed-
They wrongly assumed that they could do Yahweh's work of vengeance, whereas the whole theme of David's thinking was that it is not for man to avenge. 

2Sa 4:9 David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, As Yahweh lives, who has redeemed my soul out of all adversity-
Compare Gen. 48:16 with 2 Sam. 4:9. What Jacob only learnt at the end of his life, David learnt and applied during his life. And we should likewise not be experiential learners, but learn instead from Jacob. David stresses that Yahweh had redeemed him, and he had not needed to take vengeance himself. He repeats this in 1 Kings 1:29; he was deeply aware of Yahweh's redemption of him by grace right to his last days.

2Sa 4:10 when someone told me, ‘Behold, Saul is dead’, thinking to have brought good news, I took hold of him, and killed him in Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news-
Surely the murderers knew of David's great grace toward Saul. The point is that their fears of possible judgment for them were greater than their belief in the abundant evidence of David's grace. And this remains a tragic feature of many people to this day.

2Sa 4:11 How much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house on his bed-

Saul and his family were hardly righteous, except Jonathan. But David imputes righteousness to them, by grace; and this was later to be his experience from God after his seen concerning Bathsheba.

Shall I not now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?-
David alludes to himself as the avenger of blood, as if he was the close relative of Ishbosheth, so closely did he feel towards Saul's family (Num. 35:33; Dt. 19:13,19). Again we marvel at his love and grace.

2Sa 4:12 David commanded his young men, and they killed them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up beside the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the grave of Abner in Hebron
It seems to me that David's killing of the Amalekite in 2 Sam. 1:15 was an over the top reaction, and yet again betrays a lack of value and meaning attached to the human person. There was no attempt to convert the frightened young man to grace, to the God of Israel. The summary slaying of Rechab and Baanah has some similarities. We get the impression this was another example of his wrong attitude to the shedding of blood (1 Chron. 22:8).

The way he buries Ishbosheth where he was then living is proof enough of his further desire to publically identify with the house of Saul. It was not mere theatricism, nor politically savvy behaviour; but a reflection of his genuine grace and love for them.