[2-Samuel 4:1] AND WHEN SAUL'S SON HEARD THAT ABNER WAS DEAD IN HEBRON, HIS HANDS WERE FEEBLE, AND ALL THE ISRAELITES WERE TROUBLED.
Ishboshet is referred to here as "Saul's son" to emphasize the fact that he reigned solely by virtue of his father and not by royal qualities of his own (Yehudah Kiel).
In this chapter we have a unit that begins (as explained by ben-Ephrat) by telling us the hands of the Son of Saul (Ish-Boshet) became feeble and ends by telling us that David cut off the hands and feet of the two assassins of Ish-Boshet. In other words an emphasis is placed on hands and a discussion of hands forms a kind of framework for the story. This is a common pattern in Scripture but if it is not pointed out one can easily miss it.
Ish-Boshet felt helpless without Abner and this feeling of helplessness spread to everybody in his kingdom. This is what brought about his death. He was superfluous in his own kingdom and an impediment. He was to be killed by two Army officers from his own tribe who apparently imagined they were doing a public service.
[2-Samuel 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.
This is a bit difficult to understand but the Commentators say that Beerot was originally settled by non-Israelite Hivities related to the Gibeonites. They fled to Gittaim and their place was taken by settlers from Benjamin.
[2-Samuel 4:3] AND THE BEEROTHITES FLED TO GITTAIM, AND WERE SOJOURNERS THERE UNTIL THIS DAY.
[2-Samuel 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.
Mephiboshet is not to be confused with Ishboshet. Scripture is here explaining how Ishboshet became king. Apparently the rulership should first have gone to Mephiboshet but since he was lame he was unqualified to rule according to the concepts of that time. Just as a priest could not serve in the Temple if he had any physical impairments (Leviticus 21:17-23) so too could the heir to the throne be disqualified. Saul had other sons but their mother was a concubine and so of lower status?
[2-Samuel 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.
He was enjoying his "siesta". This is a widespread custom especially in Mediterranean lands. Winston Churchill also practiced it whenever he could even at the height of WW11 since it gave him energy to work into the early hours of the morning. I saw in a recent newspaper article that doctors now say that it may not be healthy since it slightly increases the risk of a heart attack upon awakening. In Jewish tradition one authority speaks against it but many Rabbinical students practise it since they find it enables them to renew their learning concentration with increased vigor in the late afternoon and evening.
[2-Samuel 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.
<<AS THOUGH THEY WOULD HAVE FETCHED WHEAT>>: Hebrew "lokachei chitim", i.e. "Takers of Wheat". It says above (4:2) that they were captains in the army of Ish-Boshet and therefore they entered as if they needed supplies for the men under their charge.
[2-Samuel 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.
[2-Samuel 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.
[2-Samuel 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-Samuel 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-Samuel 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?
They should have learnt from what happened to the Amalekite who claimed to have killed Saul and so was executed by David. David was a leader. He refused to have an unwelcome mode of behavior forced upon him by others even though at a superficial level it might appear to be to his own benefit.
[2-Samuel 4:1 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.
By cutting off the head of Ish Boshet they had treated the corpse with disrespect. This was not to be tolerated. David therefore made a public example by cutting off parts of their own corpses even though such a practice regarding the dead bodies of fellow Israelites was usually not acceptable even when the bodies were those of executed criminals.
Ish-Boshet was buried in the sepulchre of Abner. There is something of a posthumous rebuke in this in so far as it was the desertion of Ish-Boshet by Abner that led to the death of Ish-Boshet. You could say that in this way David prepared his rulership by lowering the prestige of his former rivals. Ish-Boshet had not been a strong king but rather a weak one entirely dependent on Abner who in effect betrayed him. Neither Ish-Boshet nor Abner should therefore have ever been considered fitting alternatives to David.
BACK TO SAMUEL INDEX