1 - 3 Two Servants of Saul
1 Now when Ish-bosheth, Saul’s son, heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost courage, and all Israel was disturbed. 2 Saul’s son [had] two men who were commanders of bands: the name of the one was Baanah and the name of the other Rechab, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, of the sons of Benjamin (for Beeroth is also considered [part] of Benjamin, 3 and the Beerothites fled to Gittaim and have been aliens there until this day).
Without Abner, Ish-bosheth is without power. If Abner is murdered, the leader is gone on whom Ish-bosheth and the people trusted. If a support point falls away, fear arises. Now that Ish-bosheth is powerless and the people are confused, two men see that as the ideal opportunity to kill Ish-bosheth. Because of them David is tempted for the third time not to take the kingdom out of the hands of the LORD, but out of the hands of men.
4 Now Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the report of Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened that in her hurry to flee, he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth.
Before the cowardly murder is described by both men, the Holy Spirit interrupts history to focus on Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son. In this one verse much is told about him. We read about his disability, how old he was when his father died, that he was cared for by a nurse and the cause of his disability. His nurse had fled, possibly for fear of David. As a result, the boy entrusted to her care can no longer walk.
For pastoral care there are several applications to be derived from this. You may have been entrusted to someone for whom parenting is a profession. A love bond like the one with a mother doesn't exist with that person. What are you missing then already a lot. You will then lose your father at the age of five. And if, immediately after that, because your educator makes a stupid move, you also lose your health, the drama seems complete.
None of these things you can do anything about. They happen to you. There's nothing you can do about your education being outsourced. The loss of your father is also a matter that goes beyond you. The same goes for the loss of your health. In addition, you belong to a family that has been put aside because of infidelity to God. You are stuck on all sides. Then you don’t have a future anymore, do you? All that remains for you is grace. That is what Mephibosheth later gets from David and that is what anyone in such circumstances can get from the Lord Jesus.
Mephibosheth has never been a danger to David with regard to his reign. Neither he nor his nurse had anything to fear. The run is the result of not knowing the heart of David. Otherwise she would not have fled and would have counted on his grace and mercy. So many see today the Lord Jesus. Many hold Him for a hard and severe Man. He will surely be so for those who remain His enemies, when they stand before the great white throne. However, whoever appeals to His grace will experience that He is merciful. Mephibosheth will experience that David takes care of him.
5 - 8 Ish-bosheth Is Murdered
5 So the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, departed and came to the house of Ish-bosheth in the heat of the day while he was taking his midday rest. 6 They came to the middle of the house as if to get wheat, and they struck him in the belly; and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped. 7 Now when they came into the house, as he was lying on his bed in his bedroom, they struck him and killed him and beheaded him. And they took his head and traveled by way of the Arabah all night. 8 Then they brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Behold, the head of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; thus the LORD has given my lord the king vengeance this day on Saul and his descendants.”
While Ish-bosheth rests, Rechab and his brother Baanah enter the palace under a pretense. They pretend to come to get wheat (verse 6) and appeal to the mercy of Ish-bosheth. That gives them access to him. They cut off his head and take it with them to David. They sacrifice their night’s rest to bring David the tidings that his competitor is dead. They make it seem as if they are the executors of the will of the LORD to help him in this way to become king (verse 8b).
By the use of the word “thus” they indicate that, by killing Ish-bosheth, they have carried out the will of the LORD. They boast that they exercised the LORD’s revenge on Saul and his descendants. After the Amalekiet and Abner, these two murderers now come to offer David the kingdom.
9 - 12 David’s Answer
9 David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, 10 when one told me, saying, ‘Behold, Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him in Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for [his] news. 11 How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood from your hand and destroy you from the earth?” 12 Then David commanded the young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hung them up beside the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the grave of Abner in Hebron.
Fleeing from David, not submitting to his authority, has paralysis as a consequence. Going to David with false motives leads to death. The latter is experienced by the murderers of Ish-bosheth. They're grossly mistaken about David because they don’t know him. David does not fall into this new trap. He learned the lesson of the previous chapter, where he was about to make a covenant with Abner (2Sam 3:12-13). He also refers to a previous event that someone thought he was sending him a good message (verse 10; 2Sam 1:11-16).
Now he says that the LORD has redeemed him from all distress (verse 9). He brings the matter into its true perspective. Only the LORD has helped him against Saul, and not these two murderers. He expresses his confidence that the LORD will arrange it for him further. He does not have to take anything in his own hand or accept from others.
We may learn from David’s attitude to the murderers of Ish-bosheth that we can leave everything to the Lord. We need not take anything into our own hands or be dependent on others when it comes to what the Lord asks of us and wants us to do. He has helped so many times in the past. He will accomplish it for us (Psa 138:8; 57:2; cf. Rth 3:18).
David calls Ish-bosheth righteous in comparison with these two murderers. Ish-bosheth has never been a murderer. The Amalekite has been killed, Abner has been killed, and both these men are also killed. The hands with which they committed the murder and the feet with which they went a violent and corrupt way are cut off.