II Samuel 4



vs. 1-12 - The facts are:


1. On the death of Abner, consternation seizes Ishbosheth and his friends.

2. The only other representative of the house of Saul was a mere boy,

whose age and bodily infirmity rendered his coming to the front out of the


3. Two of Ishbosheth’s officers, forming a secret design, visit Ishbosheth as

though on business connected with their duties, and slay him.

4. Stealing away by night, they carry the head of Ishbosheth to David at

Hebron, and think to satisfy thereby his love of revenge.

5. David, eagerly reminding himself that God had always delivered him

without his having recourse to bloodshed, reminds his visitors also of the

punishment he had inflicted on others in a similar case at Ziklag, and

denounces their deed as even more atrocious.

6. Thereupon David causes the murderers to be executed, and their limbs

to be exhibited in Hebron as a warning to the wicked, and meanwhile he

bestows funeral honors on the head of Ishbosheth.


1 “And when Saul’s son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, his

hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled.”

When Saul’s son heard that Abner was dead. The news of

Abner’s death must have had a doubly depressing effect upon Ishbosheth;

for he learned, not only that the mainstay of his kingdom was slain, but

that even he, in despair of a successful issue, had been engaged in

treasonable negotiations with his rival. All the Israelites were troubled.

Their trouble was caused rather by uncertainty than by fear. Abner’s plans

had fallen through, and the fact of his murder threw grave suspicions on

David. Had he now attacked Israel, the chiefs would most probably have

stood loyally by Saul’s house. But he did nothing, and his innocence slowly

but gradually was made clear. They were thus in a state of suspense, and

waiting till some brave man arose to lead them to a decision. Unfortunately,

a fresh crime threw everything back into hopeless confusion.


Of the varied types of character which these chapters furnish, that which

appears in Ishbosheth (Eshbaal, I Chronicles 8:33) is a most pitiable

one. The last surviving son of Saul, he bore little resemblance to his heroic

father.  He was raised to a position for which he was unfit.  “The Scripture presents

in him a living example of how the sacredly held right of legitimate

inheritance has no root when it is not ennobled by vigorous personality.

When the Divine calling is lacking, no legitimate pretensions help”

(Cassel). He was destitute of mental force, courage, and energy; ambitious

of royal honor and ease; not of royal service and beneficence. The highest

offices should be held by the best men. In an ideal state of society it cannot

be otherwise; but in its actual condition we often see “servants upon

horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth” (Ecclesiastes10:7).

He who seeks or consents to occupy a position of influence and

responsibility for which he is unfit, and those who seek or accept his

appointment to it, inflict a serious injury upon themselves and one another.

The rule of the “bramble” results in the destruction of all the trees of the

forest (Judges 9:15).  Ishbosheth was reduced to a condition of extreme weakness.

“His hands became feeble.” Nothing remained but unconditional submission or

ineffectual and hopeless resistance. He was prepared for neither, and surrendered

himself to despair; suffering the consequences of his own “foolishness”

(Proverbs 19:3).  This contributed to the distress of a whole people. “And all Israel

was troubled” — agitated, alarmed, confounded, desponding; having no

confidence in his ability, participating in his fears, and, like him,

experiencing the effects of former errors. “By Abner’s death the treaty with

David was broken off; or there was no one to manage it with such

authority and prudence as hehad done” (Patrick).


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.” And Saul’s son had two men. They

belonged to his own tribe, and, should have been Ishbosheth’s protectors. 

They served him in prosperity, when he could reward them; but turned against

him in adversity, when he could no longer serve their interests; and, although

they had suffered no wrong at his hands (v. 11), acted toward him unjustly and

with “treasonous malice,” craft,  and cruelty. That were captains of bands.

The bands mentioned were light-armed troops, used in forays, such as that

mentioned in v. 22 of the previous chapter. Their captains would be men of

importance with Ishbosheth, who is here described somewhat contemptuously,

not as king, nor by his own name, but as “Saul’s son.” Beeroth. This place,

literally the Wells, was one of the four towns reserved for the Gibeonites

(Joshua 9:17), though nominally belonging to Benjamin (Joshua 18:25). The

note, that it was reckoned to Benjamin, suggests that it had until quite

lately been occupied by the Canaanites, whose flight to Gittaim had no

doubt been caused by Saul’s cruel attack upon them referred to in ch. 21:1-2.

It was thus remarkable that the destruction of Saul’s dynasty was the work

of the Gibeonites of Beeroth. As we find another of these Beerothites,

Naharai, holding the office of armour bearer to Joab (I Chronicles 11:39),

it seems probable that many of them saved themselves from expulsion by

becoming soldiers. But among David’s worthies a large number were

strangers, and some even men of foreign extraction. Beeroth, however,

was probably seized in Saul’s reign by the Benjamites, by force, and occupied

by them, as its citizens returned in large numbers from the exile (Ezra 2:25),

and are counted as genuine Israelites. Moreover, by thus dispossessing the

natives, Saul was able to give his tribesmen “fields and vineyards”

(I Samuel 22:7), which otherwise would have been in violation of the

Mosaic Law.


3 “And the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and were sojourners there

until this day.)  Gittaim. This word is a dual, and means “the two Gaths;” the

one being, probably, the acropolis, or upper town, at the foot of which

nestled a new Gath, protected by the ancient stronghold. It is mentioned as

belonging to Benjamin in Nehemiah 11:33; but could not have been an

Israelite town at this time, as the Beerothites are described as sojourners,

that is, dwellers in a foreign country. When expelled from Beeroth, they

probably seized Gittaim by force, and, on the reconciliation effected by the

execution of Saul’s sons, returned to their allegiance to Israel.


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.”    Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son. This is

mentioned to show that Saul’s lineage virtually became extinct on

Ishbosheth’s death. Mephibosheth, the heir, was a cripple, and physically

incapable of reigning. Saul had, indeed, sons by a concubine, and

grandchildren by his daughter Merab (ch. 21:8). But throughout the history

there is no hint that any of these were regarded as the representatives of

Saul’s house. (For the name Mephibosheth, see note on ch. 2:8.)



A Lifelong Affliction (v. 4)


Wars inflict innumerable evils which find no place in the history of them.

This verse affords an illustration. When news reached the household of

Saul that he and his sons had been slain in battle, a grandson, a boy of five

years, was hurriedly borne away by his nurse, and, failing, was lamed in

both feet. His lameness continued throughout life, and involved him in

serious disadvantages and troubles. There are many who, like

Mephibosheth, are weak and suffering from childhood to death. Either

inheriting weakness of constitution, or deriving it from some early attack of

disease, or injured through accident or the carelessness of those in charge

of them when children, they are permanently disabled more or less. With

reference to such troubles, notice:




Ø      Sometimes constant bodily suffering.

Ø      Always many privations. Incapacity for active employments and their

emoluments. Yet it is wonderful how far this may be conquered. The

writer knew a lady who was one of many pupils who learned drawing

from a teacher born without arms or legs, but who, by indomitable

perseverance, became proficient in the art. Such affliction also involves

inability to share in many enjoyments.

Ø      Much dependence on others. And hence liability to be neglected, ill

treated, imposed upon, robbed, etc. Ziba’s conduct to Mephibosheth

is an instance (ch. 16:3-4; 19:24-27).

Ø      Various temptations. To despondency, spiritlessness, indolence; to

discontent, murmuring, fretfulness; to resentment against those who may

have occasioned the affliction; to envy of such as are free from similar





Ø      Trustful resignation and patience. However they may have arisen, they

are the appointment of the infinitely wise and good Father, who thereby

calls for and exercises faith and submission. If active service of God be

impossible, the service of patient endurance is not, and may be equally

acceptable and useful.

Ø      Thankfulness. For the blessings which remain, and those of which the

affliction is a channel; and for the affliction itself, as a sign of God’s

fatherly love and care.

Ø      Watchfulness against the peculiar temptations of such a condition.

Ø      Endeavors after the good which is attainable notwithstanding, or by

means of, the affliction.





Ø      Larger enjoyment of spiritual blessings. (I think of Joni Eareckson

Tada – CY – 2018)  If the earthly is a good deal closed by such a trouble,

the heavenly is all the more open and accessible.  The needs of the soul

may be the more constantly felt, and their supply the more habitually

sought. Reading, reflection, and prayer may be more practiced. The

grace of God may be more abundantly enjoyed. Constant affliction

brings the Christian into fuller communion with the sufferings of

Christ, and larger participation of His Spirit and realization of His

love and salvation. (“That I may know Him, and the power of His

resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being made

conformable unto His death.”  Philippians 3:10)  The consolation

received may outweigh the suffering.


Ø      Hence a higher Christian life and more beautiful Christian character

are often attained by those who are so afflicted. They become more fully

“partakers of God’s holiness.”  (II Peter 1:4)


Ø      Human sympathy and kindness are usually enjoyed in greater measure

and continuance. A source both of pleasure and profit.


Ø      Even the power for good over others is often increased. The increased

Christian intelligence and force and beauty of character, the patience,

cheerfulness, and thankfulness displayed, move the hearts of others

towards him who is their source. (I know that my paternal grandmother,

was an invalid for sixteen years and had this effect on those that came

to see her.  Also, God used her to make a great impression on me!  CY –

2018)    The habitual sufferer might often adopt Paul’s words in

2019)    II Corinthians 4:10-12; 12:9-10. His weakness may be made

2020)    the occasion of the more powerful manifestation of the living

energy of Christ through him for the spiritual profit of relatives and






Ø      With pity and sympathy.

Ø      With practical assistance.


The weak and suffering are especially commended by our Lord to the care

and kindness of the strong. His example enforces His words. To minister

consolation, and, where necessary and practicable, material assistance,

blesses him that gives as well as him that receives. The lifelong affliction of

one may thus become a lifelong discipline and blessing to his benefactors.

But to treat the feeble with hardness or contempt, or to take advantage of

their weakness for our own selfish purposes, is peculiarly base, and will not

be forgotten by him who will condemn, in the day of judgment, even the

neglect of the poor and suffering (Matthew 25:41-46).





Ø      If we enjoy freedom from lifelong afflictions, or at least serious ones

(for few, perhaps, are quite free from them), thankfulness should impel

us to care the more for those who are burdened with them; and if we

suffer from them, our sympathies should be the keener with fellow

sufferers, and such help as we can render be all the more cheerfully



Ø      Let those who suffer much and long in this life make sure that their life

hereafter shall be free from suffering, and that their afflictions shall

work out for them an eternal greater glory (II Corinthians 4:17). These

unspeakable blessings are the portion of those who:


o       have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,

o       receive His teaching, and

o       follow His directions.



An Unfortunate Prince: a Sermon to Children

(II Samuel 4:4)


Mephibosheth was the only son of Jonathan, the friend of David and eldest

son of King Saul. When he was five years old the country was invaded by

the Philistines (I Samuel 29:1), his father went forth with the king from

Gibeah to fight against them in Jezreel, and he was left at home in the care

of a nurse (his mother probably being dead). They waited anxiously for

news of the conflict; and at length there came a messenger saying that the

battle was lost, the king and Jonathan were dead, and the terrible

Philistines were coming to plunder and burn the place. The nurse caught up

the child, and carried him away on her shoulder; but in her flight across the

hills she stumbled, and the little prince fell, was hurt in both his feet, and

became a helpless cripple for the rest of his days.


  • CHILDHOOD IS BESET BY MANY PERILS. No other creature on

earth is weaker, more helpless or dependent at the commencement of life,

than a child. He is peculiarly liable to accident and susceptible to disease;

incapable of defending himself from harm or preserving his own life; and is

cast entirely upon the care of others. A little neglect on their part may

prove FATAL.  More than a fourth of all the children that are born die before

they are five years old. (this written a couple of centuries ago, but it would

be tragically interesting to know the  percentage of abortions in ratio to those

born!  - I recommend http://www.adultbibleclass.com/Abortion%20Rationale%202012.htm 

and http://www.adultbibleclass.com/ABORTION%20STATISTICS%20AS%20OF%202004.htm

CY – 2019)  There is the still greater danger to your souls of

being allowed to grow up in ignorance and led into “the way of

transgressors,” stumbling and perishing therein (Matthew 18:6). Be

thankful to your parents, nurses, and teachers for their care over you; still

more to your heavenly Father who has taught them such care, appointed

His holy angels to be your guardians, sent His Son to bless you, and

Himself loves, preserves, watches over you, and seeks your salvation

(Matthew 18:10-14).



sometimes wish that you belonged to a royal or wealthy family, lived in a

palace, and had numerous servants to wait upon you; supposing that you

would be happier than you are. Well, here is a prince; yet motherless,

fatherless, homeless, helpless, and hopeless. How much better is your

condition than that of this poor little orphan cripple! No condition of life is

above the reach of trouble; none beneath the possession of enjoyment.

Envy not the lot of others, nor fret and be dissatisfied with your own. Hear

a fable of three little fishes that dwelt in a beautiful stream. On being asked

what they wished for, one said, “Wings,” and when these grew he flew

away so high and so far that he could not get back, sank exhausted, and

breathed his last; another said, “Knowledge,” and when he obtained it,

became anxious and fearful, and durst not touch a fly or a worm or eat any

food, lest it should contain a fatal bait, pined away and died; the third said,

“I wish for nothing, but am contented with my lot,” and this little fish had a

long and happy life. Have you not heard of the apostle who was a prisoner

for Jesus’ sake, and said, “I have learned in whatsoever state [am therewith

to be content (Philippians 4:11)?


“There is a cross in every lot,

And an earnest need for prayer;

But a lowly heart that leans on thee

Is happy anywhere.”


When a little blind girl was asked the reason of her affliction, she replied,

“Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.”



FRIEND. And “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” What became of

Mephibosheth? He was carried beyond the river Jordan, out of the reach of

the Philistines; found a home “in the house of Machir, the son of Ammiel,

in Lo-debar” (II Samuel 9:4; 17:27), in the neighborhood of

Mahanaim, among the mountains of Gilead; was treated with kindness; and

dwelt in a place of safety until he became a man. Only a few persons knew

where he lived, or whether he were alive; and when King David heard of

him, he invited him to Jerusalem, that he might show him kindness “for

Jonathan’s sake.” Affliction appeals to our pity, and tends to call forth our

sympathy and help. We should never despise the unfortunate nor mock at

their misfortune; but always try to do them good. Above all, in our trouble

we should trust in God, in whom “the fatherless findeth mercy” (Hosea

14:3). “When my father and mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me

up(Psalm 27:10).



BLESSING. If Mephibosheth had not been made lame by the accident of

his childhood, he would have been tempted to aim at the crown, and might

have rushed into ambitious and godless enterprises as others did, and

perished in like manner. As it was, he spent his days in quietness and peace.

His affliction was the means of making him humble, thankful, patient, and

devout. His father’s property was restored to him by his father’s friend;

and he had an honorable place assigned to him at the royal table

(II Samuel 9:13). How often is an orphan taught by the loss of his father to

seek his father’s God! The hand of God overrules evil for good. And all

earthly trouble, when endured in a right spirit, is a preparation for



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.  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.  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.”  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 v. 7, and is there

in its place, while it is out of place in v. 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 Septuagint 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 v. 5, instead of “who lay on a

bed at noon,” the Hebrew has “as he was taking his noonday rest.” In v. 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 favorite

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 ch. 2:29.


Ishbosheth was smitten at a season of apparent security. “At noon, in his own

house, upon his bed;” where he sought a brief repose, and slept to wake no more.

He was left unguarded, and perished “unawares” (Luke 21:34). His

head was buried “in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron;” and the opposition

to “the house of David” was at an end. None survived of “the house of

Saul” save an afflicted son of Jonathan (v. 4), who could not be supposed to

have any claim to the crown.


Ishbosheth was emoved as the last obstacle to the accession of a worthier man.

And herein the overruling providence of God again appears in bringing to pass

“the word of the Lord by Samuel” (I Samuel 15:28). “It is significant

that the destruction of Saul’s house and kingdom should have issued from

Beeroth, the Gibeonite city (ch. 21:1-2)” (‘Speaker’s Commentary’)..


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.” Which sought thy life.

Saul had sought David’s life, but Ishbosheth was innocent of any such attempts.

Still, had he been victorious, David, as his rival, would certainly have been

put to death.  Jehovah hath avenged my lord the king. The ordinary language

of the East is so religious that these words imply nothing more than that these

wicked men saw in their base act a step towards the carrying out of a

Divine purpose. But in thus referring to the common belief that David’s

kingdom was assured to him by Jehovah, they evidently intended to

commend their deed to the really devout mind of the king.


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,

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:”

And David answered. David’s answer is worthy of him.

His appeal to Jehovah, as One that had saved him in all time of adversity,

was a declaration that he had no need of criminals. And throughout he had

carefully abstained from taking any steps to bring about the accomplishment

of God’s will, and had been upright and forbearing alike to Ishbosheth and

Saul. How noble his conduct was we see by the contrast with Macbeth,

whose better nature was poisoned and spoiled by the hope that he should

be king hereafter. At the end of the verse the force is weakened in the

Authorized Version by the insertion of irrelevant words. What David

said is, “I slew him in Ziklag, and that was the reward I gave him for

his tidings.”


“As the Lord liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity.” An

expansion of the form of oath common with the Hebrews, “As the Lord

liveth.” By adding the words, “who hath redeemed,” etc., David reminded

himself of the goodness of God to him, and kept alive and expressed his

gratitude. The same form of oath as used by him occurs in I Kings 1:29

(where the words of the original are precisely the same). Occurring thus at

the beginning and the end of his reign, we may reasonably conclude that it

was employed in the intervening years, reminding him, in the height of his

prosperity and power, of the days of adversity which had preceded them,

and of Him who had rescued and exalted him. This representation of God

would probably be more helpful to the piety of David than grander but

more general conceptions of Him. So shall we find it well to include in our

thought of God what He has been to us and done for us individually (compare

Genesis 48:15-16). As to the words: “redeemed” is not to be taken

here in the signification suggested by its etymology, “bought back,”

“ransomed,” but simply “delivered:” The use of the words, “my soul,” must

not lead us to suppose that David is thinking of the “redemption of the

soul” in the spiritual sense. He refers to his deliverance from the perils,

hardships, and anxieties of his previous life, through the enmity of Saul and

his attempts to destroy him. The phrase is substantially equivalent to “me,”

though it may suggest that the seat of all the “distress” that attends

adversity is the soul.


What a blessed thing it will be to look back on all the evils of this present

state, including death itself, as actually past! and to look forward to AN

ETERNITY of complete freedom from evil, of full enjoyment of good!

No sin, no want, no sickness, no pain, no sorrow, no peril; but perfect peace,

perfect service of God, perfect communion with Him, “fullness of joy” and

“pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11; Revelation 7:14-17; 21:4). And evermore

will the “redeemed from the earth” be mindful of their Deliverer, and unite in

praise of God and the Lamb.


Hence will spring humility, continuance and increase of thankfulness, and

also confidence and hope in respect to future adversities (see II Corinthians 1:10;

II Timothy 4:17-18).


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?”

A righteous person. Ishbosheth was probably a weak rather

than a wicked man; but David is not speaking of him generally, and, as

regards Rechab and Baanah, he was quite guiltless, and their crime was not

in revenge for any wrong done them.


12 “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.” They cut off their hands and their feet.

This was not intended for the purpose of mutilation, but to carry out an

Eastern idea of retaliation. The hands were cut off because they had committed

the murder; the feet, because they had brought the head to Hebron. Still, David

was violating the spirit of the Mosaic Law. It ordered that the body of a

man who had been put to death should be buried the same day

(Deuteronomy 21:23). In the face of this humane enactment, it is

wonderful that the laws of Christian countries should have allowed the

mutilation of the bodies of traitors, and the hanging on gibbets of criminals

convicted of smaller crimes. Remembering, therefore, the customs of our

fathers, we must not blame David much for suspending the hands and feet

of these murderers at the pool of Hebron, that all, when coming for water,

might know of their punishment. The head of Ishbosheth was honorably

buried in Abner’s grave (see v.32 of previous chapter).




Worldly Blindness the Parent of Sorrow and Wrong (vs. 1-12)


The whole of the events of this chapter proceed from the inability of men

to read the high principles that governed the conduct of David. The general

truth may be developed as follows.



LIVES OF SOME MEN. When it is said that Ishbosheth and his people

were paralyzed and troubled by the news of the death of Abner, the

question comes — Why? Was it because now the healing policy of Abner

and David (ch.  3:17-21) would yield to the more fierce policy of

Joab? Did the young king and his followers imagine that now it was simply

a question of best terms, and that submission was inevitable? Or were they

apprehensive that, although David made terms with Abner for the sake of

securing his aid, now, when that aid was no longer available for the

consolidation of his power, he would take revenge on all who had

supported the cause of Ishbosheth? In any case, their fears were not

warranted by the governing facts of the situation. Their safety and welfare

rested with David, and had they known him, had they read his principles

aright, they might have been quite at ease in allowing events to take their

course in his supremacy. Their forebodings of trouble sprang from

ignorance of the man they had to deal with. They formed their estimate of

his possible future conduct on the standards familiar amongst themselves.

His life was too lofty in tone and aspiration for them to understand. How

much of human life is spoiled, is charged with sorrows and fears, which

would have no place were our vision clearer and our estimate of others

more just and true! Men too often judge of the thoughts and ways of God

by their own standard (“These things thou hast done and I kept silence;

thou thoughest I was altogether such an one as thyself:  but I will

reprove thee, and set them in order before thine eyes.” – Psalm 50:21),

and so apprehend what never need have troubled them. Our ignorance

of coming events exercises a larger influence over our feelings

than is proper; for though we do not know exactly what will occur,

we ought to know that all things are in the wisest and kindest of hands. In

human relationships men make troubles by supposing their fellow men,

often, to be otherwise affected than they actually are. Even the disciples

were troubled in consequence of their blameworthy ignorance of the

wisdom and power of their Master, and they were challenged to get rid of

the sorrows bred of ignorance by reposing in Him a trust as absolute as

they, pious Hebrews, were wont to repose in the Eternal (John 14:1-2).




of the sons of Rimmon and others to the cause of Ishbosheth was based on

anything but enlightened views of the theocracy, or a clear interpretation of

the events of the life of Saul and David, which must have been well known.

Indeed, as in the days of “David’s greater Son” the mark of distinction

among men lay in the spiritual recognition of Him as Divine amidst His

sorrows and trials, so in David’s time only true unworldly men, whose eyes

were open to see the spiritual element in his life, formed political

attachments on superior knowledge. That which is earthly partakes of the

instability of earth, and, however outwardly zealous the supporters of

Ishbosheth may have been and even sincere according to their light, they

were open to the influences to change which are sure to arise in times of

trouble, but which could never move a mind that saw the higher principles

involved in David’s claim. The historian seems to imply this in his reference

to the age and infirmity of Mephibosheth, as much as to say there was no

one else of the house of Saul around whom men might rally in case

Ishbosheth’s cause should fail. No resort was left but to abandon the young

king in his troubles, and form new and more promising attachments.

Imagine a Jonathan slackening his attachment to David in his time of

stress! or a Paul losing interest in Christ when persecutions arose! On the

other hand, there are many instances in which the weakened attachment of

the sons of Rimmon, proceeding as that attachment did from low and mere

conventional views, finds a counterpart in human life. Companionships

based on community of sensual enjoyments are held by bonds which perish

in adversity. Friendships are perishable in so far as they are pervaded by a

worldly element. Whatever ties are formed on any feelings, interests, or

considerations than those which make us all one in Christ, cannot but

vanish as we pass from the earthly scene into the world where alone the

spiritual bond endures. And in the Church militant the adherence of

numbers lacks a permanence to be counted on in proportion as it is based

on custom, convenience, fashion, superstition, defective knowledge of

Scripture, and dimness of spiritual apprehension. Plato was not far from the

truth in saying that knowledge and reality were one. Scripture everywhere

gives prominence to the unifying, ennobling power of spiritual perception.

The distinction of children of light and of darkness proceeds thereon. The

“spiritual man judgeth all things.” The rejection of Christ was connected

with blindness to the higher and more spiritual qualities of His life

(I Corinthians 2:8-16).





NATURE. These sons of Rimmon, like others, began to consider what

course would be most advantageous to themselves, now that the cause of

Ishbosheth seemed to be on the wane. Looking on the position of the two

kings as simply the consequence of purely worldly forces coming into

competition, and caring most of all to be on the winning side, they asked

themselves what conduct on their part would be sure to win the favor of

David, the stronger of the two. Had they at that juncture in the process of

thought conceived of David as a man of God, of high spiritual aims,

destined to work out a Divine purpose on principles of righteousness, and

ambitious to translate the purest principles of private life into the affairs of

his kingdom, they would only have thought of doing some deed of justice

and mercy, such as a man of that character would delight in. But being

destitute of these spiritual perceptions, regarding all things on the low base

level of a worldly expediency, and judging David to be much such a man as

themselves, there arose in their process of thought fair opportunity for the

cruelest and basest propensities of their nature, to put forth their strength

and suggest the murder of the unfortunate king as an act of present

wisdom. It takes many impulses and thoughts of advantage and

disadvantage to bring about a great crime, and it is difficult, in analyzing

the mental antecedents of the crime, to assign to each its exact influence;

but it is obvious in this case that worldliness of view, lack of spiritual

apprehension, undue estimate of a lofty character, rendered the crime

possible, and even cleared away the barriers of reason against its

accomplishment. They judged David to be as themselves, and they acted

accordingly. The belief that he would be glad inspired the concoction of the

plot, and gave tone of exultation in their approach to him with the head of

the murdered man. Their darkness was dense, and in this sense theirs was a

deed of darkness. It is often that men fall into the snare of the devil in

consequence of their lack of spiritual perception. The false is glossed, the

true is veiled. Even disciples, not clearly perceiving the purely spiritual

character of their Lord’s mission, desired fire from heaven to destroy the

unbelieving. During the “dark ages” men perpetrated dreadful deeds to

please Christ, not rising to a true appreciation of His character and

methods. Low conceptions of the nature of the kingdom of Christ as it is in

the world, now induce men professing an interest in it to render service in

forms that would never be entertained were His kingdom regarded as He

regards it — one of purity, of love, and of righteousness. And as this

worldly mindedness was a sore cause of sorrow and trouble to David, and

hindered the establishment of his authority, so the same evil militates much

against the final triumph of our Lord. Hence the need of teaching and the

power of the Holy Spirit to open the eyes of the blind, that they may

appreciate and regulate their actions by the high principles embodied in the

character and kingdom of Christ.




Ø      Destitution of the power of spiritual apprehension and appreciation

is a radical evil of human nature, and can never be removed by any

other means than those which God has provided in His truth and the

grace of the Holy Spirit.


Ø      If we would have men knit in imperishable bonds of affection and

common interest, we must seek to get them to see Christ as He is,

and enter into relationships on the basis of His kingdom.


Ø      In all our dealings with men we should be careful not to put forward

our own feelings and aims as a standard by which to judge them.




The Reward of the Wicked (v. 12)


This book contains an account of many sudden and violent deaths (in

addition to those that took place in battle) by assassination, suicide (ch.17:23),

the direct judgment of God (ch. 6:7), the judicial sentence of man. Capital

punishment for murder was of old deemed right and necessary and divinely

sanctioned (see ch. 1:13-16). In this execution, we see that:


1. The agents by whom the purposes of God are effected (v. 8) without

His commission and from selfish motives are not entitled to the reward of

faithful service, although they sometimes expect to obtain it, being turned

aside by “a deceived heart.”


2. The reward which wicked men obtain for their wickedness is the

opposite of that which they expect (v. 10). Even if they gain their

immediate object, they fail to find therein the happiness they anticipated,

and sooner or later suffer loss and woe.


3. The guilt of the crime which such men commit against a fellow man is

aggravated by his innocence and the circumstances under which the crime

is committed. “A righteous person in his own house upon his bed.”


4. The authority to which they vainly appeal in justification of their

conduct surely requires their condemnation. “He will by no means clear the

guilty” (Exodus 34:7). What they did as private persons to Ishbosheth

without Divine commission, David, as king and “minister of God,” was

commissioned to do to them, and “take them away from the land” which

the Lord had given, but which they had polluted and were unworthy to

enjoy. “Gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men”

(Psalm 26:9).


5. The example afforded by a severe and signal punishment is sometimes

necessary to maintain public justice; to manifest the evil of sin and the

certainty of retribution; to deter others from wrong doing. The hands that

did the deed and the feet that “ran eagerly for reward” were cut off, and

their bodies exposed to open shame.


“He that’s merciful

Unto the bad is cruel to the good.”


6. The termination of strife in a land is usually attended with melancholy

circumstances. “And they took the head of Ishbosheth,” etc.


7. The saddest events are often succeeded by a season of gladness

(I Chronicles 12:40) and prosperity, and even directly conducive to it. With

the death of Ishbosheth “the whole resistance to David’s power collapses;”

and “thus at last, not by his own act, but through circumstances over which

he had no control — allowed by him who gives liberty to each man, though

he overrules the darkest deeds of the wicked for the evolving of good —

David was left undisputed claimant to the throne of Israel. Faith, patience,

and integrity were vindicated; the Divine promise to David had come true

in the course of natural events; and all this was better far than even if Saul

had voluntarily resigned his place or Abner succeeded in his plans”

(Edersheim). “Thus God will make all the sins of evil men to be one day

ministerial to the extension and final settlement of the universal dominion

of Christ” (Wordsworth).



"Excerpted text Copyright AGES Library, LLC. All rights reserved.

Materials are reproduced by permission."


This material can be found at:



If this exposition is helpful, please share with others.