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.
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(6) As though they would have fetched wheat.—Literally, fetching wheat. The English version gives the sense, since the fetching wheat (probably for their soldiers) was a pretext to cover their purpose. The LXX. has here a curious addition: “And, behold, the portress of the house was cleansing wheat, and she slumbered and slept, and the brothers slipt through.” On “the fifth rib”= abdomen, see Note on 2Samuel 2:23.

4:1-7 See how Ishbosheth was murdered! When those difficulties dispirit us, which should sharpen our endeavours, we betray both our heavenly crowns and our earthly lives. Love not sleep, lest thou come to poverty and ruin. The idle soul is an easy prey to the destroyer. We know not when and where death will meet us. When we lie down to sleep, we are not sure that we may not sleep the sleep of death before we awake; nor do we know from what hand the death-blow may come.As though they would have fetched wheat - This is a very obscure passage, and the double repetition in 2 Samuel 4:6-7 of the murder of the king and of the escape of the assassin, is hard to account for. Rechab and Baanah came into the house under the pretence of getting grain, probably for the band which they commanded out of the king's storehouse, and so contrived to get access into the king's chamber; or, they found the wheat-carriers (the persons whose business it was to carry in grain for the king's household) just going into the king's house, and by joining them got into the midst of the house unnoticed. If the latter be the sense, the literal translation of the words would be: "And behold (or, and there) there came into the midst of the house the carriers of wheat, and they (i. e. Rechab and Baanah) smote him, etc." 5, 6. Rechab and Baanah went and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ish-bosheth, &c.—It is still a custom in the East to allow their soldiers a certain quantity of corn, together with some pay; and these two captains very naturally went to the palace the day before to fetch wheat, in order to distribute it to the soldiers, that it might be sent to the mill at the accustomed hour in the morning. Into the midst of the house, or, into the house; for the midst is not always taken exactly, and mathematically, but for any part within, as Genesis 48:16 Exodus 8:22 Joshua 3:17.

As though they would have fetched wheat; which was laid up in public granaries in the king’s house, and was fetched thence by the captains and commanders of the army for the pay of their soldiers, who in those ancient times were not paid in money, but in corn, as is well known. Upon this pretence they were admitted into the house, and so went from room to room, to the place where the king lay.

Rechab and Baanah escaped; which was not difficult to do, when the king was left alone; either because he desired to compose himself to rest or sleep; or because his guards, if he had any, were very small and negligent, now, at least, in his declining and forlorn condition.

And they came thither into the midst of the house,.... They not only came unto it, but entered into it, and went into the inmost part of it; the guards being asleep also perhaps, or not on duty, so that there were none to obstruct them; or if there were, they deceived them, since they went in

as though they would have fetched wheat; out of the king's granaries, for the payment and support of the soldiers under them, who in those days were paid in corn, as were the Roman soldiers (y) in later times; and these granaries might not only be in the king's house, but near his bedchamber; for in those ancient ages of simplicity there was not such grandeur in the courts of princes as now; the Targum is,"as sellers of wheat,''

in the guise and habit of such persons, pretending they came to sell wheat to the king's purveyors, who were at the granaries; or, as others interpret it, they went in along with the wheat merchants as if they belonged to them, and so found their way to the king's bedchamber:

and smote him under the fifth rib; See Gill on 2 Samuel 2:23,

and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped; they got out of the palace after they had committed the murder undiscovered and unsuspected.

(y) Vid. Valtrinum de re militar. Roman. l. 3. c. 15. p. 236.

And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they {e} would have fetched wheat; and they {f} smote him under the fifth rib: and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.

(e) They disguised themselves as merchants, who came to buy wheat.

(f) There is nothing so vile and dangerous, which the wicked will not undertake in hope of money and favour.

6. And they came, &c.] An explanation how it was possible for Rechab and Baanah to enter Ish-bosheth’s house unsuspected. They came, as they may have been accustomed to do, to procure wheat for their men from the king’s granary.

The Heb. however may be otherwise rendered, “And hither [some MSS. read “and behold”] there came wheat-fetchers into the midst of the house:” men whose business it was to draw the rations of wheat from the granary. If this is the right rendering, the meaning is that the murderers obtained entrance to the house by going in their company.

2 Samuel 4:7 appears at first sight to be a somewhat awkward repetition of 2 Samuel 4:6. But it is a peculiar feature of Hebrew historical writing to give a general account of a fact first, and then to repeat it with additional details. The murderers’ entrance into the house, their deed, and their escape are first briefly related: then the fact of their entrance is repeated as an introduction to the fuller details of the scene and manner of the murder, and the route by which the assassins escaped. Compare the double mention of Joab’s return to Hebron in ch. 2 Samuel 3:22-23; and of the national assembly at Hebron in ch. 2 Samuel 5:1; 2 Samuel 5:3; and note on ch. 2 Samuel 13:38.

The Sept. however has the following entirely different reading, which is found also in some MSS. of the Vulgate in addition to the rendering of the present Heb. text, but apparently was not retained by Jerome himself. “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,” &c. This also explains how the murderers entered unobserved. The female slave who watched the door (ἡ θυρωρός, cp. John 18:16, Acts 12:13) had fallen asleep over her task of sifting[98] or picking the wheat, and there was no one to give the alarm. This reading gives a clear straightforward narrative, and certainly seems preferable to the repetitions of the present Hebrew text.

[98] Cp. Amos 9:9. An illustration of a Bethlehem woman sifting wheat is given in Neil’s Palestine Explored, p. 246. He says that it is a process constantly going on and forming a marked feature of Palestine life.

under the fifth rib] In the belly. See note on ch. 2 Samuel 2:23.

Verses 6, 7. - As though they would have fetched wheat. Not only is the narrative confused, but the versions offer extraordinary varieties of reading. The murder of Ishbosheth is fully described in ver. 7, and is there in its place, while it is out of place in ver. 6. And that the captains would themselves fetch wheat, instead of having it carried from the granary by their men; and that they would go through the king's chamber to obtain it; are both improbable. The very act of going to get wheat at midday, when everybody was having his siesta, would itself be suspicious. The Syriac says nothing about wheat, but that these "wicked men took and smote him." The Vulgate and LXX. lay the blame on the woman who kept the door, the narrative of the latter being as follows: "They entered into the house of Ishbosheth in the heat of the day, and he was asleep in his midday chamber And behold, the woman that kept the door of the house had been winnowing wheat, and she slumbered and slept. And the brothers Rechab and Baanah entered the house without being noticed, and Ishbosheth was asleep on his bed in his chamber, and they smote him," etc. There is, confessedly, considerable confusion in the text, but the versions do not altogether clear it up; and until we have better materials for forming a judgment, we must be content to wait. In ver. 5, instead of "who lay on a bed at noon," the Hebrew has "as he was taking his noonday rest." In ver. 7 the bed is the divan, or raised bank, which in an Oriental house runs along the wall, and is supplied with pieces of carpet, or cushions, on which to sit cross legged or recline. For sleep, the corners were the favourite places. Even the public rooms had these divans. But Ishbosheth had probably retired for his siesta into a private chamber, where the captains knew that he would be alone. The plain through which they fled was the Arabah, or Jordan valley, as in 2 Samuel 2:29. 2 Samuel 4:6"And here they had come into the midst of the house, fetching wheat (i.e., under the pretext of fetching wheat, probably for the soldiers in their companies), and smote him in the abdomen; and Rechab and his brother escaped." The first clause in this verse is a circumstantial clause, which furnishes the explanation of the way in which it was possible for the murderers to find their way to the king. The second clause continues the narrative, and ויּכּהוּ is attached to ויּבאוּ (2 Samuel 4:5).

(Note: The lxx thought it desirable to explain the possibility of Rechab and Baanah getting into the king's house, and therefore paraphrased the sixth verse as follows: καὶ ἰδου ἡ θυρωρὸς τοῦ οἴκου ἐκάθαιρε πυροὺς καὶ ἐνύσταξε καὶ ἐκάθευδε, καὶ Ῥηχὰβ καὶ Βαανὰ οἱ ἄδελφοι διέλαθον ("and behold the doorkeeper of the house was cleaning wheat, and nodded and slept. And Rahab and Baana the brothers escaped, or went in secretly"). The first part of this paraphrase has been retained in the Vulgate, in the interpolation between 2 Samuel 4:5 and 2 Samuel 4:6 : et ostiaria domus purgans triticum obdormivit; whether it was copied by Jerome from the Itala, or was afterwards introduced as a gloss into his translation. It is very evident that this clause in the Vulgate is only a gloss, from the fact that, in all the rest of 2 Samuel 4:6, Jerome has closely followed the Masoretic text, and that none of the other ancient translators found anything about a doorkeeper in his text. When Thenius, therefore, attempts to prove the "evident corruption of the Masoretic text," by appealing to the "nonsense (Unsinn) of relating the murder of Ishbosheth and the flight of the murderers twice over, and in two successive verses (see 2 Samuel 4:7)," he is altogether wrong in speaking of the repetition as "nonsense" whereas it is simply tautology, and has measured the peculiarities of Hebrew historians by the standard adopted by our own. J. P. F. Knigsfeldt has given the true explanation when he says: "The Hebrews often repeat in this way, for the purpose of adding something fresh, as for example, in this instance, their carrying off the head." Comp. with this 2 Samuel 3:22-23, where the arrival of Joab is mentioned twice, viz., in two successive verses; or 2 Samuel 5:1-3, where the assembling of the tribes of Israel at Hebron is also referred to a second time, - a repetition at which Thenius himself has taken no offence, - and many other passages of the same kind.)

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