2 Samuel 2:8
But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim;
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(8) But Abner the son of Ner.—According to 1Chronicles 9:36, Ner was the brother of Kish, Saul’s father. Abner was therefore the cousin-german of Saul, and had been made by him the commander in chief of his army (1Samuel 14:51). He was thus, both by kindred and office, strongly attached to the house of Saul. He had been with Saul in his pursuit of David, and may have resented David’s address to him on that occasion (1Samuel 26:14-16). There is no statement of the time that had elapsed after the death of Saul before Ish-bosheth was set up as king by Abner, but it was probably four or five years, for the following reasons: Ish-bosheth reigned only two years (2Samuel 2:10), but David appears to have been acknowledged as king over all Israel soon after his death, and had then reigned over Judah alone seven and a half years. Again, at the death of Saul all the northern part of the country was under the control of the Philistines, and some time must have elapsed before the Israelites would have been in condition to make themselves a new king; and, finally, Ish-bosheth was the youngest of Saul’s sons, born apparently some time after he came to the throne, and he was now forty years old (2Samuel 2:10), Saul himself having reigned about forty years (Acts 13:21).

Ish-bosheth.—Called in 1Chronicles 8:33; 1Chronicles 9:39, “Eshbaal” (the fire of Baal), just as his nephew, Mephibosheth (2Samuel 4:4), is called in the same places Meribaal, and Gideon’s surname Jerubbaal (Judges 6:32; Judges 8:35) is changed to Jerubbesheth (2Samuel 11:21). These names compounded with Baal may have been originally given, as certainly was the case with Jerubbaal, in consequence of the manful opposition to idolatry of those who bore them, and have been subsequently changed to a compound with “bosheth” (shame), in view of the sequel of their histories; or, on the other hand, in the case of Saul’s family the compound with Baal may have been a later name, given in view of their opposition to the divinely appointed king, and to mark God’s utter rejection of the house of Saul.

Mahanaim, famous in the story of Jacob (Genesis 32:2), was on the east of the Jordan, and not far from the brook Jabbok. A Levitical city (Joshua 21:38), in comparative safety from the Philistines, was well chosen by Abner for the coronation and residence of his new king. Mahanaim afterwards became the place of refuge for David in his flight from Absalom (2Samuel 17:24). The expression “brought him over” refers to the crossing of the Jordan.

2 Samuel 2:8. Abner took Ish-bosheth — Abner was not only Saul’s general, but his near kinsman also, and in this instance his interest and ambition, and perhaps also envy, strongly influenced him. He knew that Ish-bosheth, if advanced to the sovereignty, would only have the name of a king, while he himself had the power. It appears, however, sufficiently from the sequel of his history, that he was well acquainted with David’s divine designation to the throne; but should he now submit to it he must no more hope for the chief command of the army. Joab was in possession of that under David, and well deserved to be so; and it was not probable he would displace him, a tried friend and a near kinsman, (being the son of Zeruiah, David’s sister,) to make way for an inveterate enemy newly reconciled. Nor was this all; Ish-bosheth was Abner’s near kinsman; whom, if he did not support, the interest of his tribe and of his family must fall with his own. Add to all this, that Abner commanded under Saul in all the expeditions he made against David; and it appears sufficiently from the history that David was greatly an over-match for him in all military conduct. Thus envy, ambition, interest, and personal pique led him to espouse the cause of Ish- bosheth, whom he brought over Jordan with him to Mahanaim, a place in the tribe of Gad, (Joshua 13:26,) which he chose for his residence, the better to gain that part of the country to his interest, to be more out of the reach of David’s and the Philistines’ incursions, and to have the better opportunity of recruiting his army among a people not only brave and courageous, but well affected to the cause he had espoused. See Delaney.

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.Mahanaim - See Genesis 32:2. From 2 Samuel 2:12 it would seem to have been Ish-bosheth's capital. 2Sa 2:8-17. Abner Makes Ish-bosheth King over Israel.

8-17. Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host took Ish-bosheth—Here was the establishment of a rival kingdom, which, however, would probably have had no existence but for Abner.

Ish-bosheth—or "Esh-baal" (1Ch 8:33; 9:39). The Hebrews usually changed names ending with Baal into Bosheth ("shame") (compare Jud 9:53 with 2Sa 11:21). This prince was so called from his imbecility.

Abner—was first cousin of Saul, commander of the forces, and held in high respect throughout the country. Loyalty to the house of his late master was mixed up with opposition to David and views of personal ambition in his originating this factious movement. He, too, was alive to the importance of securing the eastern tribes; so, taking Ish-bosheth across the Jordan, he proclaimed him king at Mahanaim, a town on the north bank of the Jabbok, hallowed in patriarchal times by the divine presence (Ge 32:2). There he rallied the tribes around the standard of the unfortunate son of Saul.

Partly out of envy and malice against David; and partly out of his own ambition and desire of rule, because he knew that Ish-bosheth would have only the name of king, whilst he had the power.

Ish-bosheth, called also Esh-baal, 1 Chronicles 8:33 9:39; it being usual with the Hebrews, instead of Baal, the name of false gods, to put Bosheth, which signifies shame, or confusion, or a shameful thing; as appeareth by comparing Judges 9:53, with 2 Samuel 11:21; and 2 Samuel 4:4, with 1 Chronicles 8:31; and from Jeremiah 3:21 Hosea 9:10.

Mahanaim; a place beyond Jordan, whither he carried him; partly to secure those brave and valiant men of Jabesh-gilead to himself; and principally because this place was most remote from David, and from the Philistines too; and therefore here he might recruit his forces with less disturbance than in other places.

But Abner, the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host,.... This man's father, Ner, was Saul's uncle, 1 Samuel 14:50, and he was his own cousin, and being general of his army, a post he was willing to keep, might be the reasons for doing what he did, as follows:

took Ishbosheth the son of Saul; and who seems to be his only son left, except what he had by his concubine. This man's name is Eshbaal in 1 Chronicles 8:33. Baal is the name of a shameful idol, and which was therefore sometimes called Bosheth, "shame". See Hosea 9:10; wherefore such names of men, which had Baal in them, were changed for Besheth or Bosheth, as the names of Jerubbaal and Meribbaal, who were called Jerubbesheth and Mephibosheth. See Judges 8:35; compared with 2 Samuel 11:21, and 2 Samuel 4:4 with 1 Chronicles 8:34. The latter of these, a son of Jonathan, bid fairest for the crown by lineal succession, but he being but five years of age, and lame, this man Abner judged fittest for his purpose; and though he knew it was the will of God, and he had sworn that David should be king, yet so blind and obstinate was his ambition, that he set up another against him:

and brought him over to Mahanaim; a city on the other side Jordan, in the tribe of Gad, on the border of the half tribe of Manasseh; see Joshua 13:26; and hither Abner had Ishbosheth, partly to keep the men of Jabeshgilead in awe, to whom David had sent messengers, acquainting them with his being king of Judah, and prevent their joining with him; and partly that he might be at a proper distance both from the Philistines and from David, till he could form his measures, and gradually carry his point, as he did.

But Abner the son of Ner, captain of Saul's host, took Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and brought him over to Mahanaim;
8–11. Ish-bosheth set up by Abner as a rival to David

8. Abner] Both by his relationship of first cousin to Saul (1 Samuel 14:50, note), and by his office as commander of the army, Abner was marked out as the natural champion of Saul’s house.

took] Better, had taken. The historian goes back to relate events immediately succeeding the battle of Gilboa. Abner had escaped from the fatal field and carried Ish-bosheth with him across the Jordan, whither it would seem there was a general retreat, while the country west of the Jordan was abandoned to the Philistines (1 Samuel 31:7).

Ish-bosheth] Saul’s fourth son, not previously mentioned, was a mere tool in the hands of Abner. His original name, as given in the genealogies in 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39, was Esh-baal (= man of Baal), but this has been changed to Ish-bosheth (= man of shame), to avoid the scandal of pronouncing the name of the false god Baal. Compare the substitution of Mephibosheth for Meribbaal (2 Samuel 4:4; 1 Chronicles 8:34), and Jerubbesheth for Jerubbaal (2 Samuel 11:21; Jdg 8:35), and see Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 11:13. There are indications that Esh-baal was the original reading here, and the change may have been made in books commonly read, while the original form was retained in the genealogy.

As regards the origin of the name, it is a question whether it was a relic of the old Baal worship, or whether baal (=lord) was at one time used as a title of Jehovah until discredited by idolatry (Hosea 2:16).

to Mahanaim] Mahanaim (= two hosts), “the spot consecrated by the presence of God in primeval times, where Jacob had divided his people into ‘two hosts,’ and had seen the ‘two hosts’ of the angelic vision” (Genesis 32:2; Genesis 32:10), was chosen by Abner as the capital of Ish-bosheth’s kingdom. Afterwards it became the retreat of David when he fled from Absalom (ch. 2 Samuel 17:24), and at that time was a fortified town with walls and gates (ch. 2 Samuel 18:24). It was situated on the frontier between Gad and Manasseh (Joshua 13:26; Joshua 13:30), but its exact position has not been identified with certainty. Canon Tristram places it at Mahneh, a few miles E. of Jabesh-Gilead (Land of Israel, p. 474).

Verse 8. - Abner. This hero had been present at the battle of Gilboa, and probably had rallied many of the defeated Israelites, and made as much resistance as was possible to the onward march of the Philistines. And as soon as he had effected his retreat into the region beyond the Jordan, his power would be supreme. There was no one there to oppose the commander-in-chief of what remained of Saul's army. Certainly all that remained of Saul's body guard of three thousand men would gather round Abner, and as the Philistines did not push their pursuit further than the Jordan, he was free to do as he chose. Nor would there be any opposition. Abner was bound to do his best for Saul's family, and the people would feel this, and approve of his conduct in standing up for the children of their king. Moreover, David by his conduct had made himself an object of suspicion to all the valiant men who had formed Saul's army, and these would be the more embittered against him by their defeat. Ishbosheth. This name signifies "man of shame," that is, "man of the shameful thing," the idol. Originally he was named Eshbaal (1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39), that is "man of Baal," the word esh being merely a dialectic variation for ish, equivalent to "man." At this early date Baal was not the specific name of any idol, but simply meant "lord," "master," "husband." In the earlier books of the Bible we find the word used of many local deities, who were lords of this or that, but had nothing in common with the Phoenician Baal, whose worship Ahab attempted to introduce into Israel. From that time Baal became a term of reproach, and Bosheth, "the shame," was substituted for it in the old names of which it had formed part. Thus Gideon is still called Jerubbaal in 1 Samuel 12:11, but the title is transformed into Jerubbesheth, or more correctly, Jerubbosheth, "let the shame plead," in 2 Samuel 11:21. Originally, therefore, the name Ishbaal had no discreditable meaning, but signified, "man of the Lord," or, as Ewald supposes, "lordly man." It was not till long afterwards, when Israel had been horrified by Jezebel's doings, that Baal, except in the sense of "husband," became an ill-omened word. Jonathan, whose own name, "Jehovah's gift," in Greek Theodore, is proof sufficient that Saul's family were worshippers of the true God, called his son's name Meribbaal, "the Lord's strife" (1 Chronicles 8:34). In some strange way this was altered into Mephibosheth, that is, "from the face of the shameful thing" (ch. 2 Samuel 4:4. etc.). Possibly it is a corruption of Meribbosheth, but it is remarkable that a son of Saul by his concubine Rizpah also bore the name (2 Samuel 21:8). Among the ancestors of Saul, the simple name Baal, "Lord," occurs (1 Chronicles 8:30). Mahanaim. Abner chose this town because it was on the eastern side of the Jordan, and so beyond the range of the Philistines, who never seem to have crossed the river. It was situated on the borders of the tribe of Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh, from both of which valiant warriors had joined David; but the people generally were not ill affected to the house of Saul. As having been assigned to the Levites (Joshua 21:38), it had a quasi-religious character, inherited from the vision of angels seen there by Jacob (Genesis 32:2). As a safe, out of the way place, David subsequently took refuge there (2 Samuel 17:24). (On its exact site, see Conder's 'Heth and Moab,' pp. 177-181.) 2 Samuel 2:8Promotion of Ishbosheth to be king over Israel. - The account of this is attached to the foregoing in the form of an antithesis: "But Abner, the chief captain of Saul (see at 1 Samuel 14:50), had taken Ishbosheth the son of Saul, and led him over to Mahanaim." Ishbosheth had probably been in the battle at Gilboa, and fled with Abner across the Jordan after the battle had been lost. Ishbosheth (i.e., man of shame) was the fourth son of Saul (according to 1 Chronicles 8:33; 1 Chronicles 9:39): his proper name was Esh-baal (i.e., fire of Baal, probably equivalent to destroyer of Baal). This name was afterwards changed into Ishbosheth, just as the name of the god Baal was also translated into Bosheth ("shame," Hosea 9:10; Jeremiah 3:24, etc.), and Jerubbaal changed into Jerubbosheth (see at Judges 8:35). Ewald's supposition, that bosheth was originally employed in a good sense as well, like αἰδως and פּחד (Genesis 31:53), cannot be sustained. Mahanaim was on the eastern side of the Jordan, not far from the ford of Jabbok, and was an important place for the execution of Abner's plans, partly from its historical associations (Genesis 32:2-3), and partly also from its situation. There he made Ishbosheth king "for Gilead," i.e., the whole of the land to the east of the Jordan (as in Numbers 32:29; Joshua 22:9, etc.). "For the Ashurites:" this reading is decidedly faulty, since we can no more suppose it to refer to Assyria (Asshur) than to the Arabian tribe of the Assurim (Genesis 25:3); but the true name cannot be discovered.

(Note: In the Septuagint we find Θασιρὶ or Θασούρ, an equally mistaken form. The Chaldee has "over the tribe of Asher," which is also unsuitable, unless we include the whole of the northern portion of Canaan, including the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali. But there is no proof that the name Asher was ever extended to the territory of the three northern tribes. We should be rather disposed to agree with Bachienne, who supposes it to refer to the city of Asher (Joshua 17:7) and its territory, as this city was in the south-east of Jezreel, and Abner may possibly have conquered this district for Ishbosheth with Gilead as a base, before he ventured to dispute the government of Israel with the Philistines, if only we could discover any reason why the inhabitants ("the Ashurites") should be mentioned instead of the city Asher, or if it were at all likely that one city should be introduced in the midst of a number of large districts. The Syriac and Vulgate have Geshuri, and therefore seem to have read or conjectured הגּשׁוּרי; and Thenius decides in favour of this, understanding the name Geshur to refer to the most northerly portion of the land on both sides of the Jordan, from Mount Hermon to the Lake of Gennesareth (as in Deuteronomy 3:14; Joshua 12:5; Joshua 13:13; 1 Chronicles 2:23). But no such usage of speech can be deduced from any of these passages, as Geshuri is used there to denote the land of the Geshurites, on the north-east of Bashan, which had a king of its own in the time of David (see at 2 Samuel 3:3), and which Abner would certainly never have thought of conquering.)

"And for Jezreel," i.e., not merely the city of that name, but the plain that was named after it (as in 1 Samuel 29:1). "And for Ephraim, and Benjamin, and all (the rest of) Israel," of course not including Judah, where David had already been acknowledged as king.

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