and these men, the sons of Zeruiah, be too hard for me; his sister's sons, Joab and Abishai, they were a check upon him; he could not do what he would, their influence was so great, both in the court and in the camp; the one was general of the army, and the other a considerable officer in it, and both variant men, and very respectable among the people, for their achievements in war, and the success they had; so that they were very much out of the reach of David to bring them to justice, without shaking his kingdom; and therefore in point of prudence he thought it best to connive at this fact until he was more established in the kingdom. Whatever may be said for this conduct, it is certain he was too dilatory, and which did not sit easy upon his mind, and therefore gave it in charge to Solomon before his death not to suffer Joab to go to his grave in peace, 1 Kings 2:5. Some take these words, "weak" and "hard", in a different sense, that David was weak or "tender" (x), as it may be rendered, tenderhearted, of a merciful disposition, and therefore spared Abner when he was in his hands, though he had done him so much harm, who was the Lord's anointed; but these men, his sister's sons, were of cruel tempers, more unmerciful than he, and therefore slew him; but the first sense seems best:
the Lord shall reward the doer of evil according to his wickedness; which may be considered either as an imprecation of evil on Joab, or a prediction, that sooner or later righteous judgment would be rendered to him by the Lord; with whom he leaves it to take vengeance on him, satisfying himself with this for the present, that though it was not in his power to do it, the Lord would in his own time and way: but after all that can be said in favour of David, he seems to have been too much in fear of men, and too distrustful of the power and promise of God to establish him in his kingdom, and was too negligent of public justice; which had it been exercised, might have prevented other sins, as the murder of Ishbosheth, to which the authors of it might be encouraged by this lenity.
(x) "tener", Pagninus, Montanus.
INTRODUCTION TO SECOND SAMUEL 4
This chapter relates the concern the death of Abner gave to Ishbosheth, and the men of Israel, 2 Samuel 4:1; the murder of Ishbosheth by two of his captains, who cut off his head, and brought it to David, 2 Samuel 4:2; by whom they were rewarded according to their deserts, he putting them to death, and exposing their bodies to shame and ignominy, 2 Samuel 4:9.
his hands were feeble: not only in a natural sense, being quite dispirited at hearing such news; but in a civil sense, having lost his main support and strength, he being president of his council, and commander of his forces, and in whom he placed all his confidence: and if he knew nothing of his being at Hebron, it must surprise him to hear of his dying there; from whence he might conclude, that since he was there without his knowledge, it could not be in his favour, some plot was forming, and schemes laying with his rival to dethrone him; or if he knew of it, and understood it in this light, that he was endeavouring to make peace between him and David, and upon advantageous terms to him, of which now he might entertain no hopes; he was dispirited, and might conclude that Joab was against any terms at peace, and therefore had dispatched him:
and all the Israelites were troubled; at the loss of so great a man in their kingdom, and of whose designs to unite them to Judah, and put them under the government David, they were not ignorant; but now were in the utmost confusion, not knowing what step to take, and whom to send to carry on the treaty, in which Abner was concerned; and whether it would be safe for any to go upon it, since he who had the management of it was murdered, and no justice done on the murderer, and therefore might question David's sincerity and uprightness in this affair; these things greatly distressed and embarrassed them for the present, but Providence opened a way for their future establishment and prosperity.
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; so that these men were brethren in nature, as well as in iniquity; they had the same father, who is described by his name and city, and their names are expressly mentioned and recorded to their infamy; and they were not only the servants of Ishbosheth, who had commissions under him, but were of the same tribe with him; all which is observed as an aggravation of their crime:
for Beeroth also was reckoned to Benjamin; the place from whom Rimmon their father is denominated, and where he dwelt, as well as Gittaim, where they had sojourned, as in 2 Samuel 4:3. This place, Beeroth, originally belonged to the Gibeonites, and fell to the lot of Benjamin at the division of the land, see Joshua 9:17.
had a son that was lame of his feet; of both feet, which were broken or bruised by a fall, as later related: and
he was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jezreel: that is, when the tidings of their death came from Jezreel, the place where the battle was fought in which they died, to Gibeah, and the royal palace there; so that he was now twelve years of age:
and his nurse took him up and fled; fearing the Philistines would come thither and destroy the family of Saul; and this child being the son of Jonathan, the eldest son of Saul, was by birth heir to the crown, his father and grandfather being both dead, and which might make the nurse the more solicitous to save his life by flight:
and it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame; in her hurry and fright he dropped out of her arms, and had some bone broken or dislocated, which was never rightly replaced, or had some contusion, of which he was never cured:
and his name was Mephibosheth, called Meribbaal, 1 Chronicles 8:34; of the change of such names See Gill on 2 Samuel 2:8. This story of Mephibosheth, and of his nurse's flight with him, and what happened upon it, is here inserted on occasion of the flight of the Beerothites, 2 Samuel 4:3; but chiefly to observe in what condition Saul's family now was, and what encouraged the murderers of Ishbosheth to be guilty of the crime they were, since when he was taken off, there was none but this lame child of that family; and as the removal of Ishbosheth would be of so much service to David, they doubted not but it would be very acceptable to him, and they should be greatly rewarded and honoured; and which they might do with the greatest safety, since the nearest kinsman and avenger of blood was so young, and lame of both his feet: or rather this is mentioned to show that Ishbosheth had no right to the throne, his eldest brother's son being living; so that those murderers might think they did the right thing, to take away the life of an usurper.
went,.... From Gittaim, where they were sojourners, 2 Samuel 4:3; or from the army, where they had commissions, wherever it was:
and came, about the heat of the day; the middle of the day, at noon, as follows:
to the house of Ishbosheth; which was at Mahanaim:
who lay on a bed at noon; as was usual in hot countries, especially for great personages, as kings; so the Targum,"and he was sleeping the sleep of kings;''or at a time when king's usually slept; though this is remarked by some as an instance and proof of the sluggishness and inactivity of this prince, who left the management of all affairs to Abner his general, and gave himself to sloth and sensuality; which, when indulged, bring ruin on princes and their kingdoms.
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 smote him, and slew him; so that it was out of all doubt with them that he was dead:
and beheaded him; to make sure work of it:
and took his head; along with them, perhaps in one of the sacks they had to fetch wheat in, and so passed undiscovered, to carry to David, to curry favour with him:
and gat them away through the plain all night; through the plain of Jordan; all the way from Mahanaim to Hebron being for the most part a plain country till they came to Hebron, which was mountainous; the way from Mahanaim to Hebron was a space of sixty eight miles, according to Bunting (z).
(z) Travels, p. 145, 148.
and said to the king, behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; all which, his relation to Saul, his enmity to David, and his designs upon his life, are artfully put together to raise the indignation of David against him, and make their present of his head to him the more agreeable:
and the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul and of his seed; for all the evils and injuries they had done him; this being the last of the sons of Saul by a lawful wife, the two remaining were by a concubine; and these men impiously ascribe to the Lord what they with wicked hands had done.
and said unto them, as the Lord liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity; spiritual and temporal, especially the latter is meant, and particularly what he had been brought into by the persecution of Saul, while living, and by those that adhered to his house since his death; which he ascribes to the Lord, and doubted not that he would still deliver him, and complete what he had designed for him, and that he needed not the assistance of such wicked hands as theirs; the words contain the form of an oath made to testify the truth of the following narrative, concerning the man that brought the tidings of Saul's death to him, or for the certainty of what he would do those persons for the murder of Ishbosheth.
thinking to have brought good tidings; which would have been very acceptable to David, that he would have rejoiced and exulted at it as he did; but he was mistaken; instead of that,
I took hold of him, and slew him at Ziklag; that is, ordered one of his young men to lay hold on him, and slay him, as he did, 2 Samuel 1:15,
who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings; a handsome present, as the Targum here, a gift, or raised him to some post of honour and profit.
in his own palace, upon his bed? in cold blood, and not in the field of battle, not being engaged in war with him; in his own palace, where he might justly think himself in safety; on his bed asleep, and so at an unawares, when insensible of danger, and not in a posture of defence; and now David argues from the lesser to the greater, that if the man that brought him the tidings of Saul's death had no reward given him for bringing what he thought would be reckoned good tidings, then much less would any be given them who had actually slain their master, and that in such a base and barbarous way; and if the above person, who only was a bringer of tidings, was taken and slain, then how much more did they deserve to die, who had been guilty of such a cruel and barbarous murder?
shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hands, and take you away from the earth? avenge his blood on them, by putting them to death, out of the world, and from the land of the living, as men that deserved to live no longer on it.