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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 4

Ellicott's Commentary for English ReadersEllicott's Commentary

Verse 1


(1) All the Israelites were troubled.—The death of Abner affected both Ish-bosheth and his people. For the former, “his hands were feeble,” the whole support and strength of his throne being gone; the latter were “troubled” because they had been carrying on negotiations with David through Abner, and these were now thrown into confusion, and it became uncertain how they might result.

Verse 2

(2) A Beerothite.—Beeroth was one of the four cities of the Gibeonites (Joshua 9:17), and was allotted with the others to the tribe of Benjamin (Joshua 18:25). It is identified with the modern El-Bireh, nine miles north of Jerusalem. It is mentioned here, in the past tense, that Beeroth “was reckoned to Benjamin,” because in the time of the writer it was no longer inhabited. The fact that the murderers of Ish-bosheth were of his own tribe is made prominent.

Verse 3

(3) Fled to Gittaim.—Neither the cause of their flight, nor the place to which they fled, can be certainly determined. The Beerothites here appear as of the tribe of Benjamin, and it is probable that they fled from the incursions of the Philistines, and that Gittaim is the place mentioned in Nehemiah 11:35 as occupied by the Benjamites returning from Babylon. The expression “until this day” makes it likely that the time of the writer was not very far removed from the events which he relates.

Verse 4

(4) A son that was lame.—The reason for the introduction here of this account of Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, is to show that, he being physically in capacitated for the throne, the house of Saul became practically extinct with the death of Ish-bosheth. There were other descendants, but either illegitimate or of the female line (2 Samuel 21:8-9), and hence there was none other of his house to claim the throne.

Verse 5

(5) Who lay on a bed at noon—according to the custom in hot countries of taking a siesta at midday. Ish-bosheth’s bed was, of course, in the coolest and most retired part of the house.

Verse 6

(6) As though they would have fetched wheat.—Literally, fetching wheat. The English version gives the sense, since the fetching wheat (probably for their soldiers) was a pretext to cover their purpose. The LXX. has here a curious addition: “And, behold, the portress of the house was cleansing wheat, and she slumbered and slept, and the brothers slipt through.” On “the fifth rib”= abdomen, see Note on 2 Samuel 2:23.

Verse 7

(7) Took his head.—There is no difficulty with the repetition in 2 Samuel 4:7 of what has been already mentioned inverse 6, for it is common in the Scripture narratives to repeat statements when any additional fact (as here, the carrying off of the head) is to be mentioned. (See, e.g., 2 Samuel 3:22-23, where Joab’s arrival is twice mentioned, and 2 Samuel 5:1-3, where the mention of the assembly at Hebron is repeated.)

Through the plain.—As in 2 Samuel 2:29, the Arabah, or valley of the Jordan, the natural way from Mahanaim to Hebron.

Verse 8

(8) The Lord hath avenged.—It is not to be supposed that the murderers pretended a Divine commission for their wicked deed; they only meant to say that, in the providence of God, David was thus avenged on the seed of his cruel persecutor. Yet they state the fact in the way they thought best calculated to awaken the gratitude of David towards themselves.

Verse 9

(9) Who hath redeemed.—David’s answer shows that he could trust in God to avenge him, and did not encourage or need the crimes of men to help him.

Verse 10

(10) Who thought that I would have given him.—The words thought that I would are not in the original, and the literal translation of the margin is better: “which was the reward I gave him.” This shows very plainly David’s view of the motive which prompted the Amalekite to his lie recorded in 2 Samuel 1:10.

Verse 11

(11) A righteous person—i.e., righteous, not at fault, so far as the matter in hand and his relation to the assassins is concerned.

Take you away from the earth.—“Rather, put you away out of the land. The word is one specially used of removing evil or the guilt of evil from the land (Deuteronomy 19:13; Deuteronomy 19:19, &c.). The guilt of murder defiled the land, until expiated by the execution of the murderer. (Numbers 35:33.)”—Kirkpatrick.

Verse 12

(12) Over the pool in Hebron.—The mutilation of the bodies of the criminals was itself a disgrace, and the hanging them up near the pool, to which all the people resorted, made this as public as possible and a terrible warning against the commission of such crimes by others. On the other hand, the head of Ish-bosheth was honourably buried in the sepulchre of his chief friend and supporter, Abner.

Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ebc/2-samuel-4.html. 1905.
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