2 Samuel 2:10
Ishbosheth Saul's son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.
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2:8-17. The nation in general refused David. By this the Lord trained up his servant for future honour and usefulness; and the tendency of true godliness was shown in his behaviour while passing through various difficulties. David was herein a type of Christ, whom Israel would not submit to, though anointed of the Father to be a Prince and a Saviour to them. Abner meant, Let the young men fight before us, when he said, Let them play before us: fools thus make a mock at sin. But he is unworthy the name of a man, that can thus trifle with human blood.Forty ... two - The numerals are somewhat strange. First, as regards the 40 years. Even assuming that Ish-bosheth's reign did not commence until five and a half years after Saul's death, which must have been the case if the two years in the text gives the true length of his reign, it is startling to hear of Saul's younger son being 35 years old at his father's death, born consequently some three years before his father's accession, and five years older than David, the bosom friend of his older brother Jonathan. The age, too, of Jonathan's child, Mephibosheth, who was five years old at his father's death, would lead one to expect rather a less age for his uncle. Next, as regards the two years. Since David (compare 2 Samuel 2:11; and marginal references) reigned seven years in Hebron over Judah only, it follows, if the two years in the text are correct, either that an interval of five years elapsed between Ish-bosheth's death and David's being anointed "king over all Israel," or that a like interval elapsed between Saul's death and the commencement of Ish-bosheth's reign. Of the two the latter is the more probable, and has the advantage of diminishing Ish-bosheth's age by between five and six years. But the narrative in 2 Samuel 3; 2 Samuel 4:1-12 of the "long war," of the birth of David's six sons, and of Abner's conspiracy and death, seems to imply a longer time than two years, in which case both the numerals would have to be corrected. 9, 10. over Gilead—used in a loose sense for the land beyond Jordan.

Ashurites—the tribe of Asher in the extreme north.

Jezreel—the extensive valley bordering on the central tribes.

over all Israel … But Judah—David neither could nor would force matters. He was content to wait God's time and studiously avoided any collision with the rival king, till, at the lapse of two years, hostilities were threatened from that quarter.

Reigned two years, to wit, before the following war broke forth; compare 1 Samuel 13:1; for that he reigned longer, may appear both from the following verse and from 2 Samuel 3:1, and from the following history; though some think he reigned only two years, and that the rest of David’s seven years the Israelites by Abner’s instigation stuck to the house of Saul, but were in suspense whether they should confer the crown upon Mephibosheth the right heir, but a child; or upon Ish-bosheth, a grown man, whom with some difficulty, and after long debates amongst themselves, they preferred.

Ishbosheth, Saul's son, was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel,.... Being born the same year his father began to reign. See Gill on 1 Samuel 31:6,

and reigned two years; which some understand of these, and no more; and whereas David reigned seven years and a half over Judah, before he reigned over all Israel, it is thought by the Jewish chronologer (c) that there was a vacancy in the throne of Israel for the space of five years, and so says Kimchi; which vacancy was either before the reign of Ishbosheth, it being a matter in dispute whether he or Mephibosheth should be set up, or after his death; the tribes of Israel being so long before they acknowledged David their king; or Ishbosheth's reign of two years must be in the middle of David's reign over Judah; but there is no need to suppose either of these, for the text says not that Ishbosheth reigned only two years; but the meaning is, as Ben Gersom observes, that he had reigned two years when the following things happened, and a war began, and not by him but by Abner, and carried on by him; and he being an inactive prince, the rest of his reign was reckoned as no reign, whereas he lived and reigned the same length of time David did over Judah; see 2 Samuel 3:1,

but the house of Judah followed David; kept close to him as their king, yielding a cheerful obedience to him.

(c) Seder Olam Rabba, c. 13. p. 37.

Ishbosheth Saul's son was forty years old when he began to reign over Israel, and reigned two years. But the house of Judah followed David.
10. forty years old] This statement is surprising, even if we reduce Ish-bosheth’s age at Saul’s death to 34½, by supposing that his accession is dated 5½ years after that event; and it is possible that the numeral has been corrupted in transcription. As it stands, it involves a double difficulty. (a) About 32 years is the most that can be assigned to Saul’s reign (see note on 1 Samuel 13:1, and Introd. to 1 Sam. p. 23, so that it represents his youngest son as born before his accession, which is improbable. (b) Ish-bosheth’s eldest brother Jonathan seems to have been about the same age as David, and therefore not much more than thirty at the time of his death.

two years] The duration of Ish-bosheth’s reign is probably reckoned from the time when Abner succeeded in establishing his authority over all Israel. Five years and a half were occupied with the reconquest of the land from the Philistines, and these two years synchronize with the last two of David’s reign at Hebron. No great interval seems to have elapsed between the deaths of Abner and Ish-bosheth, and David’s recognition as king of Israel.

Verses 10, 11. - Ishbosheth...two years ... David... seven years and six months. Where are we to place the five years and a half of difference? The usual assumption is that David was made King of Israel immediately upon Ishbosheth's murder; but this is wrong. We cannot believe that Abner would allow so long a period as five years to elapse before asserting the claims of Saul's family, especially as David was already made King of Judah at Hebron. Still, as the war with the Philistines was the first object of his care, and as some form of popular ratification was necessary, some months may have passed before Ishbosheth was publicly installed as king, though Abner must have acted in his name from the first. The main interval of five years before David's accession must have been after Ishbosheth's death. That murder, and still more so the murder of Abner, must have made David an object of great suspicion to all Israel. Shimei, when he called him "a bloody man" (2 Samuel 16:8), was but uttering a slander commonly current among the people. Gradually most of them would become convinced of his innocence; and all, as they contrasted the anarchy which prevailed in their country with the peace and security won by David for Judah, would regard his election as the best course under the circumstances. As the Philistines immediately resented their action, and endeavoured to crush the king before he could concentrate his power, it is probable that during these five years they had again obtained practical command of the more fertile districts of Palestine. Ishbosheth... was forty years old. In the previous narrative Jonathan always appears as the most important of Saul's sons, and naturally it is assumed that he was the firstborn; yet his child was but five years old at his father's death, while Ishbosheth, his uncle, a younger brother of Jonathan, is described as a man of forty. Some think that Ishbosheth was the eldest son, but in 1 Chronicles 8:33 he is placed last, and, though a weak man, was not so feeble as to have been set aside from the succession. But confessedly the chronology of Saul's reign is so full of difficulties, that it is impossible altogether to explain it (see note on 1 Samuel 13:1). 2 Samuel 2:10Length of the reigns of Ishbosheth over Israel, and David at Hebron. The age of Ishbosheth is given, as is generally the case at the commencement of a reign. He was forty years old when he began to reign, and reigned two years; whereas David was king at Hebron over the house of Judah seven years and a half. We are struck with this difference in the length of the two reigns; and it cannot be explained, as Seb. Schmidt, Clericus, and others suppose, on the simple assumption that David reigned two years at Hebron over Judah, namely up to the time of the murder of Ishbosheth, and then five years and a half over Israel, namely up to the time of the conquest of Jerusalem: for this is at variance with the plain statement in the text, that "David was king in Hebron over the house of Judah seven years and a half." The opinion that the two years of Ishbosheth's reign are to be reckoned up to the time of the war with David, because Abner played the principal part during the other five years and a half that David continued to reign at Hebron, is equally untenable. We may see very clearly from 2 Samuel 3-5 not only that Ishbosheth was king to the time of his death, which took place after that of Abner, but also that after both these events David was anointed king over Israel in Hebron by all the tribes, and that he then went directly to attack Jerusalem, and after conquering the citadel of Zion, chose that city as his own capital. The short duration of Ishbosheth's reign can only be explained, therefore, on the supposition that he was not made king, as David was, immediately after the death of Saul, but after the recovery by Abner of the land which the Philistines had taken on this side the Jordan, which may have occupied five years.

(Note: From the fact that in 2 Samuel 2:10, 2 Samuel 2:11, Ishbosheth's ascending the throne is mentioned before that of David, and is also accompanied with a statement of his age, whereas the age of David is not given till 2 Samuel 5:4-5, when he became king over all Israel, Ewald draws the erroneous conclusion that the earlier (?) historian regarded Ishbosheth as the true king, and David as a pretender. But the very opposite of this is stated as distinctly as possible in 2 Samuel 2:4. (compared with 2 Samuel 2:8). The fact that Ishbosheth is mentioned before David in 2 Samuel 2:10 may be explained simply enough from the custom so constantly observed in the book of Genesis, of mentioning subordinate lines or subordinate persons first, and stating whatever seemed worth recording with regard to them, in order that the ground might be perfectly clear for relating the history of the principal characters without any interruption.)

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