Bible Commentaries

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

2 Samuel 4

Verses 1-12

2. David"s punishment of Ish-bosheth"s murderers ch4

"Saul the king is dead, Jonathan the heir apparent is dead, Abinadab and Malki-Shua (two of Jonathan"s brothers) are dead ( 1 Samuel 31:2), Abner the commander of the army is dead-and no other viable claimants or pretenders continue to block David"s accession to the throne except Saul"s son Ish-Bosheth and Jonathan"s son Mephibosheth. Chapter4removes them from the scene, one explicitly and the other implicitly." [Note: Youngblood, p843.]

Beeroth ( 2 Samuel 4:2) was a town near the border of Benjamin, possibly two miles south of Gibeon. Gittaim ( 2 Samuel 4:3) stood near the Israelite-Philistine border west of the central Benjamin plateau.

The writer introduced the information in 2 Samuel 4:4 parenthetically here to prepare for what he would write about Mephibosheth in chapter9. Mephibosheth was unfit to rule for two reasons: he was too young, and his physical condition made it impossible for him to provide military leadership. Evidently his condition emboldened his assassins to attempt their cowardly and ambitious plot. [Note: Symon Patrick, A Commentary Upon the Two Books of Samuel, p364.] The repetition of the telling of Rechab and Baanah"s heinous act in 2 Samuel 4:6-7 stresses its atrocious, opportunistic nature.

"The gift of Ish-Bosheth"s head [to David, 2 Samuel 4:8] is at the same time the gift of the kingdom." [Note: David M. Gunn, "David and the Gift of the Kingdom," Semeia3 (1975):17.]

David"s designation of Ish-bosheth as "a righteous man" ( 2 Samuel 4:11) implicitly denied him the title of king. Even though Ish-bosheth was Saul"s son and so had a claim to the throne, he had not been anointed as king. David"s treatment of the corpses of the two murderers and Ish-bosheth ( 2 Samuel 4:12) also showed the people that Ish-bosheth"s murder was not an act that he ordered or approved (cf. Matthew 26:52). [Note: See Mabee, pp98-107.] One writer argued that David both desired and planned the murder of Abner. [Note: Vanderkam, pp521-39.] Ironically the long struggle between Ish-bosheth"s men and David"s men began and ended by a pool (cf. 2 Samuel 2:13).

"With the death of Ish-Bosheth, no other viable candidate for king remains for the elders of the northern tribes. Meanwhile David sits in regal isolation, above the fray as always, innocent of the deaths of Saul, Jonathan, Abner, and now Ish-Bosheth. The way is open for his march to the throne of Israel." [Note: Youngblood, p847.]

One cannot help but note the similar career of Jesus Christ, who now sits in regal isolation above the fray below, awaiting His universal acknowledgement as king.

"In2Samuel2-4, 9-20, and1Kings1-2we have a coherent story of accession, rebellion, and succession. The theme of giving and grasping is central, providing a key to David"s fortunes." [Note: Gunn, p14.]

Note David"s inconsistency in his dealings with Ish-bosheth"s murderers and Abner"s murderer, David"s nephew Joab. David succeeded at work, but he failed at home. He did not deal with the members of his own family as he should have, but he was more careful to manage the affairs of his government properly. The home, not one"s work, is the proving ground for church leadership. This is because the church Isaiah, or should be, more like a family than a business (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-13; 1 Timothy 5:1-2).

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Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.