2 Samuel 4: Ish-Bosheth Murdered
At this point in the story David is still king of the tribe of Judah in Hebron, while Ish-Bosheth (son of Saul) is king of the rest of the Israelites. Remember, however, that in 3:6–21 the commander of Ish-Bosheth’s army, Abner, got angry with Ish-Bosheth, and decided to follow David instead. But then, in 3:22-39, Abner was murdered by Joab.
Read the entire passage to get all of the details, because many of them will be elided in this summary.
This passage starts with Ish-Bosheth hearing about Abner’s murder and losing courage. We are then told about two men who are part of “raiding bands” from the house of Saul who sneak into Ish-Bosheth’s house, kill him in his sleep, and cut off his head. They travel to see David in Hebron, bringing Ish-Bosheth’s head, assuming that they’re bringing good news.
David, however, doesn’t consider the murder of the king of Israel to be a small thing:
David answered [them], “As surely as the LORD lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!”
So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron.
(verses 9–12, slightly edited),
The other thing to mention from this passage is that it makes a side note of a son of Jonathan, a boy named Mephibosheth. It is mentioned that the boy was five years old when news arrived of the deaths of Saul and Jonathan, and Mephibosheth’s nurse picked the boy up to flee but then accidentally dropped him, causing him to become disabled in both feet. We’ll hear more about Mephibosheth later, but by the end of this passage he’s Saul’s only remaining descendent.
The main thing that stands out to me about this passage is Ish-Bosheth’s reaction to Abner’s murder. Yes, the king has just lost a strong military commander, but… did he, though? Abner had already told Ish-Bosheth outright that he [Abner] was going to throw his support behind David instead of Ish-Bosheth. If anything, the removal of Abner might have been considered a good thing for Ish-Bosheth.
Perhaps Ish-Bosheth was hoping against hope that Abner would come back to his side, or perhaps he simply didn’t understand the political situation well enough to understand the nuances. Or perhaps I’m missing something of the political nuances, which is even more likely.