Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And when Saul's son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.IV.
(1) All the Israelites were troubled.—The death of Abner affected both Ish-bosheth and his people. For the former, “his hands were feeble,” the whole support and strength of his throne being gone; the latter were “troubled” because they had been carrying on negotiations with David through Abner, and these were now thrown into confusion, and it became uncertain how they might result.
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:(2) A Beerothite.—Beeroth was one of the four cities of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:17), and was allotted with the others to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:25). It is identified with the modern El-Bireh, nine miles north of Jerusalem. It is mentioned here, in the past tense, that Beeroth “was reckoned to Benjamin,” because in the time of the writer it was no longer inhabited. The fact that the murderers of Ish-bosheth were of his own tribe is made prominent.
And the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and were sojourners there until this day.)(3) Fled to Gittaim.—Neither the cause of their flight, nor the place to which they fled, can be certainly determined. The Beerothites here appear as of the tribe of Benjamin, and it is probable that they fled from the incursions of the Philistines, and that Gittaim is the place mentioned in Nehemiah 11:35 as occupied by the Benjamites returning from Babylon. The expression “until this day” makes it likely that the time of the writer was not very far removed from the events which he relates.
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.(4) A son that was lame.—The reason for the introduction here of this account of Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, is to show that, he being physically in capacitated for the throne, the house of Saul became practically extinct with the death of Ish-bosheth. There were other descendants, but either illegitimate or of the female line (2Samuel 21:8-9), and hence there was none other of his house to claim the throne.
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.(5) Who lay on a bed at noon—according to the custom in hot countries of taking a siesta at midday. Ish-bosheth’s bed was, of course, in the coolest and most retired part of the house.
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.(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.
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.(7) Took his head.—There is no difficulty with the repetition in 2Samuel 4:7 of what has been already mentioned inverse 6, for it is common in the Scripture narratives to repeat statements when any additional fact (as here, the carrying off of the head) is to be mentioned. (See, e.g., 2Samuel 3:22-23, where Joab’s arrival is twice mentioned, and 2Samuel 5:1-3, where the mention of the assembly at Hebron is repeated.)
Through the plain.—As in 2Samuel 2:29, the Arabah, or valley of the Jordan, the natural way from Mahanaim to Hebron.
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.(8) The Lord hath avenged.—It is not to be supposed that the murderers pretended a Divine commission for their wicked deed; they only meant to say that, in the providence of God, David was thus avenged on the seed of his cruel persecutor. Yet they state the fact in the way they thought best calculated to awaken the gratitude of David towards themselves.
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,(9) Who hath redeemed.—David’s answer shows that he could trust in God to avenge him, and did not encourage or need the crimes of men to help him.
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:(10) Who thought that I would have given him.—The words thought that I would are not in the original, and the literal translation of the margin is better: “which was the reward I gave him.” This shows very plainly David’s view of the motive which prompted the Amalekite to his lie recorded in 2Samuel 1:10.
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?(11) A righteous person—i.e., righteous, not at fault, so far as the matter in hand and his relation to the assassins is concerned.
Take you away from the earth.—“Rather, put you away out of the land. The word is one specially used of removing evil or the guilt of evil from the land (Deuteronomy 19:13; Deuteronomy 19:19, &c.). The guilt of murder defiled the land, until expiated by the execution of the murderer. (Numbers 35:33.)”—Kirkpatrick.
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.(12) Over the pool in Hebron.—The mutilation of the bodies of the criminals was itself a disgrace, and the hanging them up near the pool, to which all the people resorted, made this as public as possible and a terrible warning against the commission of such crimes by others. On the other hand, the head of Ish-bosheth was honourably buried in the sepulchre of his chief friend and supporter, Abner.