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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 4

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal and HomileticalLange's Commentary

Verses 1-12

David becomes Sole Ruler over Israel

2 Samuel 4:1 to 2 Samuel 5:5

I. Murder of Ishbosheth. 2 Samuel 4:1-8

1And when [om. when] Saul’s Song of Song of Solomon 1:0 heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, [ins. and] his hands were [became] feeble, and all the Israelites [Israel] were troubled. 2And Saul’s son had two men that were captains of bands. The name of the one was Baanah and the name of the other Rachab, the sons of Rimmon a Beerothite, of the children of Benjamin; for2 Beeroth also was reckoned to Benjamin. 3And the Beerothites fled to Gittaim, and were [have been] sojourners there until this 4day. And3 Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son that was lame of his feet. He was five years old when the tidings came of Saul and Jonathan out of Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled; and it came to pass, as she made haste to flee, that he fell and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth. 5And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, who lay on a bed at noon [and he was taking his midday-rest].4 6And they came thither5 into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched [fetching] wheat; and they smote him under the fifth rib 7[in the abdomen]; and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.6 For when they [And they] came into the house, [ins. and] he lay on his bed in his bed-chamber, and they smote him and slew him and beheaded him, and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night. 8And they brought the head of Ishbosheth unto David to Hebron,7 and said to the king, Behold the head of Ishbosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, which [who] sought thy life; and the Lord [Jehovah] hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul and of his seed.

II. Punishment of Ishbosheth’s Murderers by David. 2 Samuel 4:9-12.

9And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said unto them, As the Lord [Jehovah] liveth, who hath redeemed 10my soul out of all adversity, When one [Hebrews 8:0 who] told me, saying, Behold Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings—I took hold of him and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given [in Ziklag, to give him9] a reward for his tidings; 11How much more when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed? shall I not therefore now [and now, shall I not] require his blood of your hand, and take you away [destroy you] from the earth?10 12And David commanded his [the] young men, and they slew them and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over [at]11 the pool in Hebron. But [And] they took the head of Ishbosheth and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.

III. David anointed King over Israel. 2 Samuel 5:1-5.

1Then came all the tribes of Israel [And all… came] to David unto Hebron, and spake,12 saying, Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. 2Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest [led]13 out and broughtest [brought] in Israel; and the Lord [Jehovah] said to thee, Thou shalt feed my 3people Israel, and thou shalt be a [om. a] captain over Israel. So [And] all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron, and king David made a league [covenant] with them in Hebron before the Lord [Jehovah], and they anointed David king over Israel. 4David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and14 he reigned forty years. 5In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah.


I. 2 Samuel 4:1-8. Murder of Ishbosheth

2 Samuel 4:1. In consequence of the news of Abner’s murder, Ishbosheth’s hands became “slack,” the opposite of the “strong” (חָזַק) comp. 2 Samuel 2:7; 2 Samuel 16:21—that is, he completely lost heart. And all Israel was troubled, because people knew Ishbosheth’s incapacity, and that Abner alone had been the prop of his kingdom (2 Samuel 3:6). [Things were generally in an unsettled state. Patrick: By Abner’s death the treaty with David was broken off, or there was nobody to manage it like Abner; Plato observes: “when any calamity is about to befall a city, God is wont to take away (the) excellent men out of that city.”—Tr.]

2 Samuel 4:2. The son of Saul had15 two band leaders, Baanah and Rechab, sons of Rimmon.—Noteworthy is the designation “son of Saul” for Ishbosheth, who is never called “the Anointed of the Lord.”—The two “band-leaders” in Ishbosheth’s service were no doubt bold, adventurous men. The part that they play, as well as Abner’s conduct, suggests the supposition that the firm military organization that Saul had called into being had relaxed, and a disintegration of the army into separate bodies under adventurers and partisans was imminent, if it had not already occurred. Of the sons of Benjamin; for Beeroth also was reckoned to16 Benjamin.Beeroth, according to Rob. II. 345 sq. [Am. Ed. i. 451–453, ii. 262] and Later Bibl. Researches 190 [Am. Ed. III. 289], the present village Bireh, seven miles north of Jerusalem in an unfruitful and stony region on a mountain, with old foundations, not far from Gibeon on the western border of Benjamin. Comp. Joshua 9:17; Joshua 18:25. As from its border-position, it might easily be reckoned to another tribe, it is here expressly mentioned as belonging to Benjamin, that there might be no doubt that these murderers were really Benjaminites, fellow-tribesmen of Saul’s son.

2 Samuel 4:3. An explanatory statement about Beeroth with reference to the time of the narrator, when that Beeroth was no longer in existence. Not: “they had fled” (for at the time of Ishbosheth’s murder Beeroth no longer existed), but: “they fled to Gittaim.” They dwelt there as strangers (נָּרִים) not protégés (against Ewald, Then.). Neither the reason for their flight, nor the position of this place is known to us. In Nehemiah 11:33 a Gittaim is mentioned among the places inhabited by Benjaminites after the Exile. If that is the same with our Gittaim, we yet cannot certainly conclude that it belonged to Benjamin before the Exile; the contrary rather is probable. The word “strangers” points to the fact that the fugitive Beerothites dwelt there among non-Israelites. It was perhaps one of the places on the border of Benjamin belonging to the non-Israelitish Amoritic Gibeonites. [Patrick and Philippson suggest that Beeroth was abandoned by its inhabitants at the time of the Philistine invasion, 1 Samuel 31:7. Bib.-Com. (supposing the Beerothites to be Gibeonites) conjectures that the flight was occasioned by Saul’s attack, 2 Samuel 21:1-2, and that the act of Baanah and Rechab was one of vengeance.—But we know nothing certainly about it.—Gittaim has been supposed to be the Philistine Gath (Then. and others) or Gath-Rimmon, Joshua 19:45; Joshua 21:24 (Wellh.).—Tr.].

2 Samuel 4:4. A historical remark in respect to the then condition of Saul’s house. Its only representative besides Ishbosheth was Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, five years old at the time of the catastrophe at Jezreel, lame in both feet, helpless therefore, and neither a support to Ishbosheth nor fit to succeed him on the throne. In view of this the narrator here inserts this statement in order to make clear how, on the murder of Ishbosheth related below, the kingdom of Saul’s house was necessarily extinguished. For further notices of Mephibosheth see 9, 2 Samuel 16:1 sq.; 2 Samuel 19:25 sq. Instead of this name we find (parallel with Eshbaal for Ishbosheth—see on 2 Samuel 2:8) in 1 Chronicles 8:34; 1 Chronicles 9:40, Meribbaal = “opponent, conqueror of Baal,” and Mephibosheth17 also perhaps means “exterminator of Baal.” [This statement about Mephibosheth also prepares the way for the subsequent notices of him.—Tr.].

2 Samuel 4:5. “In the heat of the day” the murderers came to Mahanaim where Ishbosheth dwelt, see 2 Samuel 2:8. He lay on the midday-bed, that is, in a quiet, remote, cool spot of the house. They chose this time of midday-rest as favorable to their purpose.

2 Samuel 4:6. “And hither.”18 The phrase “fetching wheat” explains how they could penetrate “into the midst of the house,” where Ishbosheth was lying; they came as persons that wished or were directed to fetch wheat. The Particp. is sometimes put for the Impf. as our Fut., as Exodus 10:8, “who are they that are going?” (=that purpose going), and so in narration does the duty of the Pret., as Genesis 19:14, “marrying his daughter” (=who were to or wished to marry). Ewald, § 335 b. They came not as “purchasers of wheat” (Buns.), but as band-leaders, to get wheat for the support of their men, “corn [grain] to divide out to their soldiers, which was kept in the middle of Ishbosheth’s house” (Cler.). We need not suppose that this was merely a pretext; rather their entrance into the midst of the house is the more easily explained when we suppose that this was a usual practice in accordance with their military position, and that they had done it before. Thus without attracting attention they could slay Ishbosheth, and quickly make their escape.—The Sept., departing completely from the Masoretic text, here reads: “and behold, the portress of the house was cleansing wheat and had fallen asleep and slumbered; and Rechab and Baanah, the brothers, escaped (or, slipped by).” Thenius’ restoration of the original text after the Sept. is rejected by Böttcher as “frightfully far” from the masoretic text, while Thenius disapproves Böttcher’s reading (which Ewald with some modifications adopts) as more circumstantial than his own. If the original text accorded with these conjectures, it is not easy to see how the present masoretic text (which differs from it so much) came from it, while it is easy to suppose that the Sept. (according to its custom), tried by an interpretation to explain partly how the two murderers could get into the house unopposed, partly the strange repetition of the account in 2 Samuel 4:7. The Vulg. (which, through the Itala on which it is based, is dependent on the Sept.) has the corresponding insertion: “and the portress of the house cleansing wheat fell asleep,” while in the rest of the verse it follows the masoretic text against the Sept. All the other ancient versions follow the Heb. According to the latter there is certainly a tautology in 2 Samuel 4:6-7, the entrance into the house and the murder being twice mentioned. But in the first place, it is to be observed that in the attempted restorations of the original text the phrase “came into the house” remains in 2 Samuel 4:5 and 2 Samuel 4:7. But we must further bear in mind a peculiarity of Heb. narration (referred to by Königsfeld, Annot. ad post. libr. Sam., and Keil), by which a previously-mentioned fact is repeated in order to add something new. So in 2 Samuel 3:22-23 the coming of Joab, and in 2 Samuel 5:1; 2 Samuel 5:3 the coming of the Tribes is twice mentioned. Here the “coming” of 2 Samuel 4:5 is more fully described in 2 Samuel 4:6, and the “slaying” of 2 Samuel 4:6 is defined in 2 Samuel 4:7 as beheading, and this makes the transition to the account in 2 Samuel 4:8, that the murderers brought the head of Ishbosheth to David, having during the night traversed the Arabah or plain of the Jordan. Comp. 2 Samuel 2:29.

2 Samuel 4:8. To the king.—Notice that David is always here so termed, while in respect to Ishbosheth the title is avoided. Behold the head of thy enemy, who sought thy life.—The better to justify their deed, and to gain favor and reward from David, the risen star, they stigmatize Ishbosheth as one that sought after David’s life, thinking perhaps that the recollection of Saul’s persecution and Abner’s hostility would give the color of truth to their false assertion. [Others hold less well that Saul is the enemy here meant.—Tr.]. Nothing is said in the history of attempts on David’s life by Ishbosheth, and David’s designation of him as a “righteous man,” who was guilty of no evil deed stamps that assertion as a lie. They have the effrontery indeed to represent their crime as an act or judgment of God, the better to commend themselves to David, though they had committed the murder of their own accord without any commission at all.

II. 2 Samuel 4:9-12. Punishment of Ishbosheth’s murderers by David

2 Samuel 4:9. The words: Who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity—are therefore not a confirmation of the murderers’ assertion about Ishbosheth, but contain the thought “that David is not obliged to free himself by crime from his enemies” (Keil).

2 Samuel 4:10. He who told me… thinking himself a messenger of good—a recapitulation of the history of the Amalekite (2 Samuel 1:0), here put in the absolute construction, and the words and I seized him follow as principal assertion, instead of: “if I seized and slew him who told me” (2 Samuel 1:15). “In order to give him a reward for his tidings,” that is, to inflict on him the punishment he deserved.19 [See “Text. and Gram.” The last clause of this verse is of the nature of biting irony—David gave the man a reward, and it was death.—Tr.].

2 Samuel 4:11. “How much more!” (אַף כִּי) the apodosis to the protasis in 2 Samuel 4:10. The words: wicked men… on his bed are (as in 2 Samuel 4:10) proposed in absolute construction, instead of: “how much more shall I require his blood from your hand, ye wicked men!” The “wicked men” stands in sharp contrast with the “righteous man.” David characterizes Ishbosheth as a “righteous man,” that is, as one who had never done anything wicked (so Josephus). This judgment accords with the character given of Ishbosheth in chaps. 2, 3. (he was a “good man,” without falsehood and blameless), and is at the same time a decided refutation of the charge by which the murderers think to palliate their crime. “David declares that Ishbosheth was blameless, having done nothing to occasion this end” (Cassel). With the phrase “and now” David brings his speech to a close, pronouncing sentence of death, by the same royal authority as in 2 Samuel 1:14-15. The form of the thought is a progression from the less to the greater: If I executed in Ziklag him who avowed having killed at his own request on the battle-field my adversary Saul, under whose persecutions the Lord delivered me from all adversity, how much more must I demand at your hands the blood of this righteous man whom ye murderously slew in his house on his bed. On the phrase “require blood,” see Genesis 9:5, according to which God Himself is the avenger of blood, comp. Psalms 9:13. David recognizes himself as king in God’s service and His instrument, when he causes these criminals to be slain in expiation of intentional homicide. Comp. Numbers 35:31.—“Take away, destroy;” the verb (בִּעֵר) is used of extermination by death, for example, in Deuteronomy 13:6 (5); not “from the earth,” but “from the land” (אֶרֶץ), since according to the law (Numbers 35:33), the murderer lost his abode in the land of promise.

2 Samuel 4:12. The order for execution is given and carried out. It is specially severe in two points: the dismemberment of the corpses by cutting off hands and feet, the deepest indignity, and the hanging up of the mutilated corpses at the pool in Hebron, a place where many persons came and went; this was for a public testimony to David’s righteous severity against such evil-doers, as well as his innocence of the murder, and for a terrible example, comp. Deuteronomy 21:21-22. [Hands and feet were cut off because these were the offending members (Abarb. in Philippson). This sort of punishment has always been common in the East.—Tr.].—David had “Ishbosheth’s head” buried in “Abner’s sepulchre in Hebron” on account of the relation that had existed between the two men.

III. 2 Samuel 5:1-5. David anointed king over all Israel.

2 Samuel 5:1. These incidents (the murder of Abner and that of Ishbosheth), which made a deep impression on the whole people, taken in connection with the growing inclination to David in all Israel, necessarily favored and hastened the attainment of the end after which Abner had striven in his negotiations with the elders (2 Samuel 3:17-18). The tenor of the history leads us to hold with Ewald that the recognition of David as king over all Israel occurred immediately after Ishbosheth’s death, against Stähelin, who thinks that there was an interval of several years after his death, during which the tribes gradually came over to David. [Here the Book of Chronicles again falls in with our history (1 Chronicles 11:0), and runs parallel with it in general (though with many differences) to the end of David’s life. The differences will be noticed as they present themselves.—Tr.].—Thus, then, appear at Hebron “all the tribes of Israel,” that is, the elders (2 Samuel 5:3) of all the tribes except Judah. The elders give three reasons (arranged in order of importance) for raising David to the throne over the whole nation: 1) Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh.—This expression denotes blood-relationship in the family, Genesis 29:14; Judges 9:2; it here refers to their common descent from one ancestor: “we are thy kinsmen by blood,” in view of which the enmity between us must cease.

2 Samuel 5:2. 2 Samuel 5:2) Before, when Saul reigned over us, it was thou that leddest Israel out and in—the same thing is said of Joshua in Numbers 27:17. The expression “lead out and in” does not refer to the affairs of Israel (Keil), but the people itself (“Israel”), and “the whole people” indeed. This is expressly affirmed in 1 Samuel 18:16 in the words: “And all Israel and Judah loved David, because he went out and in before them,” and that this “going out and in” is to be understood of military leadership is clear from 2 Samuel 5:5, 2 Samuel 5:13, and from the whole connection. The bond of fellowship and love, which had bound him to them (even under Saul) as leader in their military undertakings, is the second ground of their proposal.—3) Their last and strongest ground is the immediate call by the word of the Lord to be shepherd and prince over Israel. And the Lord said to thee; on the word “feed” (רָעָה) see Psalms 78:70-72, and on “prince” [captain] see 1 Samuel 25:30. No such word of the Lord, spoken immediately to David, is ever mentioned. The declaration of the elders is to be explained as Abigail’s in 1 Samuel 25:30, and Abner’s in 2 Samuel 3:9; 2 Samuel 3:18 [that is, as belonging to the circle of prophetic thought.—Tr.]. It is perhaps based on the word of the Lord to Samuel, 1 Samuel 16:1-2, by which David was chosen to be king over Israel, comp. with 1 Samuel 15:28.—The first and third grounds answer exactly to the precept in Deuteronomy 17:15 : “Thou shalt make him king over thee whom the Lord thy God shall choose; out of the midst of thy brethren shalt thou make a king over thee.” [Patrick: 2 Samuel 5:1. They were not overcome by the arms, but by the piety and justice of David, to acknowledge him their king.

2 Samuel 5:2. This is the first time we find a governor described in Scripture as pastor of the people; afterwards the name is much used by the prophets, particularly Ezekiel 34:23 and many other places. Whence our Lord Christ is called “the good Shepherd” and “the great Shepherd.”—Evil rulers are called “roaring lions, hungry bears, and devouring wolves,” etc., Ezekiel 19:2.—Comp. the Homeric epithet ποιμένες λαω̄ν, and the emblematic animals in Dante’s Inferno. Bk. I.—Tr.].

2 Samuel 5:3. And the elders… came to Hebron—resumption of the words of 2 Samuel 5:1 with exacter definition of the expression “tribes” by the mention of their representatives “the elders,” for the purpose of further detailing the solemn covenanting of David with the people and his anointing as king of Israel. And king David made a covenant with them before the Lord.—Comp. 2 Samuel 3:21, “that they may make a covenant with thee.” In this word of Abner is given one side of the covenant, namely, the obligating of the people to obey him as the king given them by the Lord; here the other side is given, namely, David promises in this covenant, in accordance with his divine choice and call to the throne, to rule the people according to the will of the Lord. Notice the expression of the Heb. “made to them a covenant” (כָּרַת לְ), which does not permit us to regard this as a mere bargain, wherein both parties have equal rights and authority” (Œhler, Herz. viii. 11). The relation of both parties to the Lord is indicated by the expression “before.” The view that an agreement was here entered into of the nature of a modern constitution [There was probably gradually established between king and people some recognition of mutual rights and duties—an unwritten, or possibly in part a written law. This would not be out of harmony with the theocratic conception of the government. Philippson points out some apparent indications (as 1 Kings 12:0.) of such a law.—Tr.]

(Then.), does not accord with the relation that the theocratic principle of the Davidic kingdom established between king and people in their common obligation to the Lord, the true king of His people. And they anointed David king over Israel—to which the Chronicler adds (1 Chronicles 11:3): “according to the word of the Lord by Samuel,” an explanatory addition referring to the Lord’s command to Samuel to anoint David king over Israel, 1Sa 16:1; 1 Samuel 16:12. David’s anointing by Samuel (1 Samuel 16:0) is now confirmed by the anointing of the people, they having expressly and solemnly recognized his divine call to be king of Israel (1 Samuel 15:28), made by Samuel and witnessed by Samuel’s anointing. The Chronicler, deriving his information from precise accounts, declares that there was a large attendance of military men from the whole nation at this royal festival (1 Chronicles 12:23-40).

2 Samuel 5:4-5. The statement in 2 Samuel 2:11 is here resumed, and we have stated, 1) David’s age (30 years) at his accession to the throne; 2) the whole time of his reign (40 years), and 3) the time of his reign over Israel (33 years). See on 2 Samuel 2:11. These statements of time are given in 1 Chronicles 29:27 at the close of David’s reign. [Bib. Com.: The age of David (30 years) shows that the events narrated from 1 Samuel 13:0 to the end of the book did not occupy above 10 years—four years in Saul’s service, four years of wandering, one year and four months among the Philistines, and a few months after Saul’s death.—Tr.]


1. In the section 2 Samuel 4:1 to 2 Samuel 5:5 we have the completed fulfilment of the statement made in 2 Samuel 3:1 concerning the theocratically contrasted fortunes of Saul’s house and David, up to the culmination of the latter’s rise and the uttermost point of the former’s depression. The spiritual weakness, moral slackness and personal insignificance of Saul’s heir on the throne, the unfaithfulness, ambition, selfishness, rude violence and dissolution of all discipline and order about the royal court, the increasing favor of the people to David and the entire absence of prospect for the physical maintenance of the kingdom in Saul’s house, whose last scion was a cripple—all this co-operated to bring about the fall of this kingdom before the eyes of the people and the fulfilment of the divine judgment on Saul’s house, without David’s doing the slightest thing to produce the catastrophe or staining his hands with Ishbosheth’s blood, holding, as he did, to what he had sworn to Saul, 1 Samuel 24:22. Amid the affecting events that introduce the final fall of Saul’s house, and the severe temptations with which he is beset to make a compact with sin, or at least to come in contact with crime in order to gain his end, David holds, as from the beginning, firm and unshaken to his stand-point of humble obedience to and complete dependence on the will and leading of the Lord, knowing himself to be in person and life and in his destination for the throne of Israel solely in the hand of God. The anger with which he repels self-commending crime [2 Samuel 4:8-11], appealing to the guidance of his God who had brought him through all adversity, is at the same time a positive witness to his determination to take all further steps also up to the attainment of his promised dominion only at the hand of his God, and to guard against all tainting of his divine mission by sin and crime. “His way to the throne had hitherto been always the way of obedience to God’s will; it was ever the way of the fear of God and of conscientious fulfilment of duty, and with such crimes he had never had anything to do. How could he now defile himself with them! The execution of these two murderers was a testimony to all the people, what ways David went and wished further to go, and that whoever would avail anything with this king, must tread solely the path of godly fear and duty” (Schlier).

2. Ishbosheth’s violent end is not to be regarded as a natural step in the fall of Saul’s house, or as a necessary consequence thereof, but as a revelation of the divine justice against his guilt in permitting himself (by his good-nature and moral weakness) to be misused by his ambitious and high-aiming general Abner, to be made a rival king and seduced into hostile undertakings against David (2 Samuel 2:12). Such an end must Ishbosheth’s kingdom according to the divine justice have had, since it was founded on opposition to God’s will.

3. And so, in respect to God’s judgments on men’s sins, the God-fearing man, like David, with all his holy anger against evil, which is a reflection of God’s holy anger, and with all his obligatory energy of punitive justice, must yet exhibit recognition of the good that exists in his neighbor who is smitten by the judgment of God, and especially cherish gentleness and forbearance where personal wrong has been done him.
4. The covenant, which David made with the people on his accession to the throne, is not to be thought of as a contract between two parties, who by negotiations and mutual concessions produce a constitutional relation, in which their mutual rights and duties are to be considered and carried out.—This would be directly contradictive of the fundamental idea of Israel’s constitution, namely, that the God of the fathers, who had chosen the people, separated them to be His people, redeemed them from the bondage of Egypt, and made a law-covenant with them at Sinai, was their king, and that they owed Him obedience as their ruler according to the demands of His law. People and God-given king had to obey the Lord as their proper, true king; there is no contrasting of king and people, but both have to render unconditional obedience to the invisible God as their Lord and Ruler. See 1 Samuel 12:20-25. The conviction that David was called immediately by the Lord to be king of Israel had spread from Samuel and the prophets throughout the nation, and announced itself expressly in the formal and solemn recognition of David as king in accordance with the demand in Deuteronomy 17:15 : “Thou shalt set as king over thee him whom the Lord thy God shall choose.” This recognition of the divine call precedes the covenanting and the anointing. On the basis, now, of this recognized fact, the covenanting could include nothing but what followed necessarily from the principle of the theocratic kingdom, to govern the people in the name of the Lord, and according to the law that the invisible King of the people had given. David promised, in accordance with Deuteronomy 17:19-20, faithfully to perform the law given by the Lord for him as well as for the people, and not merely a constitutional law agreed on between him and the people; and the people promised to obey the Lord their God in His royal government, and to be subject to David as God-appointed instrument of the theocracy. [While this statement of the joint subordination of king and people to the divine law is perfectly just, so that there could not be in Israel a political constitution, political progress, or free institutions according to modern conceptions, we may still suppose that in carrying out the details of the government there came to be recognized certain principles (subordinate to the central principle) which controlled the customary action of sovereign and people, and were of the nature of Common Law or a Constitution.—Tr.].

5. The establishment of David on the throne of Israel as an act of God (completed by the people, in the knowledge and recognition of God’s will, by the anointment as an act of choice and homage) restored externally and internally on the old deep theocratic basis, the unity of the people introduced by Samuel, which was gradually weakened under Saul’s government, and after his death destroyed by the division of the nation into two parts and the establishment of two kingdoms, so that a recurrence of the disintegration of the Period of the Judges was imminent. The perfect unity of all the tribes shows itself at David’s anointment in Hebron, 1) in the avowal of the blood-relationship of the whole people with David through their common descent from one ancestor —in contrast with the nations that were corporally foreign to them (comp. Deuteronomy 17:15); 2) in the recognition of David’s services to the whole nation even in Saul’s time as military leader against foreign nations, and of the bond of love and confidence that consequently bound the whole people to him; 3) in the declaration that David was called by the Lord Himself to be king over all Israel (comp. Deuteronomy 17:15), and 4) in the covenant that the two, king and people, make with one another before the Lord as their King, on the basis of the law-covenant that God had made with His people (comp. Deuteronomy 17:19-20, with 1 Samuel 12:20 sq., and Exodus 19:20.)


2 Samuel 4:1 sq. Cursed is the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, 1) Because of the frailty of all flesh and of all human supports, with which fall the hopes based on them. 2) Because of the faithlessness of men, in whom blind confidence is placed instead of putting all confidence in the faithfulness of the Lord. 3) Because of the danger of ruin of body and soul, to which one thereby exposes himself.

2 Samuel 4:8. How evil seeks deceitfully to clothe itself with the appearance of good, 1) by falsehood, in alleging something evil in others as a pretext to make itself appear right and good; 2) by hypocrisy, in representing itself as in harmony with God’s Word and will; 3) by the pretence of having promoted the interest of another.

2 Samuel 4:8-12. How the children of God should guard against the power of evil which presses upon them. 1) By repulsing every service of evil that is to their advantage, and pointing to the Lord who alone is their help. 2) By avoiding all participation in others’ guilt. 3) By energetically testifying, in word and deed, against evil.

2 Samuel 5:3. What kingdom is in truth a kingdom by the grace of God? That which, 1) is based on the solid ground of the word and will of God; 2) conducts its government only in the name and service of-the living God, fulfilling its office of shepherd and leader, and 3) strives after the welfare of the people only in the covenant of love and obedience towards the holy and gracious God.

2 Samuel 4:1. Starke: Let no one trust in men, Jeremiah 17:5; for they are nothing, Psalms 62:10 [9], and when they fall, all hope falls, too, Psalms 146:3-4.—S. Schmid: At last the will of God does come to pass, and His promises go on to their fulfilment, Romans 4:21; Hebrews 2:3.

[2 Samuel 4:2. Scott: Wretched indeed are they who are engaged in undertakings in which none can serve them without opposing the known will of God ! The more exalted their station, the greater is their danger; for the very men in whom they repose their chief confidence are destitute of principle, serve them only for gain, and will betray or murder them when their mercenary schemes require it.—Tr.].

2 Samuel 4:2-3. Berl. B.: A true king is nothing else than the shepherd of the people, 2 Samuel 7:7; Psalms 78:71-72. Accordingly God made David a shepherd of men, as Peter a fisher of men.

2 Samuel 4:3. Starke: God causes His own people, whom He wishes to exalt, first to come under the cross awhile, Proverbs 13:12.—S. Schmid: Kings and princes must know that they stand under God, according to whose will and direction they have to judge themselves.—Wuert. B.: Although God does not cause that which He has promised the pious, to come to them immediately, yet He does at least give it to them, and indeed the longer He delays the more glorious it becomes. So let men patiently wait for the right time.

2 Samuel 4:4. Osiander: What often seems most hurtful to us, must often be most helpful to us.—Wuert. B.: When God with His grace turns away from a man or a whole race, there is then no more prosperity, but all gradually goes down.

2 Samuel 4:8. Cramer: Ungodly men boast of their trickery and villainy, and imagine they will thereby gain praise, and glory in their sin.—Berl. B.: They wish, as it were, to spread the name of God and His Providence as a mantle over their knavery, as bad boys are wont to do.—[Wordsworth: It has been often so in the history of the world and of the Church, where zeal for God is sometimes a color for worldly ambition, and an occasion for deeds of cruelty and treachery.—Tr.].—Schlier: Where is there a human heart that knows nothing of selfishness? O do let us recognize such an enemy in ourselves, and humble ourselves therefor, do let us all our days fight against the enemy with real earnestness! Either thou slayest selfishness or it slays thee, and plunges thee into sin and shame, and thereby into ruin and damnation. It was selfishness that made these two Benjaminites become murderers of their king.—[2 Samuel 4:8. Scott: Many are conscious that they should be pleased with villainy, provided it conduced greatly to their profit: thus they are led confidently to conclude that others will be so too; and as numbers are rewarded for villainous actions, they expect the same.—Tr.]

2 Samuel 4:9-11. To hate and avoid sin is to be prudent, to keep out of sneaking ways is to build one’s fortune, and to put away from us even enticing offers that are not in accordance with duty and the fear of God is to be sensible for time and eternity.

2 Samuel 4:9. Cramer: True Christians should commit and commend all their affairs to God, who judges righteously; He can and will make all well, 1 Peter 2:23; Psalms 37:5

2 Samuel 4:10. Cramer: God-fearing rulers should not bring territory and people to them through treachery, assassination, unfaithfulness, apostasy from known truth, hypocrisy and such like villainous tricks; for to be pious and true will alone protect the king, and his throne is established by righteousness, Proverbs 20:28.

[2 Samuel 4:11. Henry: Charity teaches us to make the best, not only of our friends but of our enemies, and to think those may be righteous persons who yet in some instances do us wrong.—2 Samuel 5:1. Wordsworth: And thus God overruled evil for good, and brought good out of evil. He made the crimes of Abner, Joab, and of the two Beerothites to be subservient to the exaltation of David, and the establishment of his kingdom over all Israel. Thus God will make all the sins of evil men to be one day ministerial to the extension and final settlement of the universal dominion of Christ.—Tr.]

[2 Samuel 4:1. When the sudden death of one man completely disheartens a whole people, it shows that he was a great man, but also that the people were already in an evil condition. And this man who seemed the prop of everything, may have long been in fact delaying some grand Providential destiny.—Tr.]

[2 Samuel 4:4. Sunday-school address, The little lame prince. His lameness was produced under very sad circumstances, was itself a sad calamity, and Seemed to cut him off from a great career. Yet it afterwards preserved his life, and brought him wealth and honor (2 Samuel 9:0.). Let us not conclude that the afflicted or unfortunate have no future. Let us remember how often Providence turns calamity into blessing.—Tr.]

[2 Samuel 4:5-12. Sunday-school address, The assassins. Describe them walking rapidly all night along the plain of the Jordan, bearing the slain king’s head. 1) Their foul deed, 2 Samuel 4:6-7; 2 Samuel 11:2) Their false pretences, 2 Samuel 4:8. 2 Samuel 4:3) Their deserved and terrible fate, 2 Samuel 4:12. Reflections: The sacredness of human life—trickery often fails—it is a shame to claim God’s sanction for wickedness—men becoming immortal by their crimes alone.—Tr.]

[2 Samuel 4:9. Memory of past deliverances by the Lord. 1) Inspiring gratitude. 2) Restraining from sin. 3) Cheering with hope. (Each may be richly illustrated by David’s circumstances when he uttered the text).—Tr.]

[2 Samuel 5:4. How has David reached the throne? 1) By aspiring to it only because divinely appointed. 2) By deserving it a) in what he did; b) in what he refused to do. 3) By waiting for it, a) continuing patient through a long course of trials; b) using all lawful means in his power to gain it (e. g., 2.5; 2 Samuel 3:20; 2 Samuel 3:36); c) preparing for it, consciously and unconsciously, learning how to rule men, and to overcome difficulties.—Tr.]


[1][2 Samuel 4:1. Sept. (Jebosthe) and Syr. (Ashboshul) prefix the name “Ishbosheth,” and Sept. also in the beginning of 2 Samuel 4:2. Wellhausen thinks the omission due to the same feeling that led to the change of Eshbaal (or Ishbaal) to Ishbosheth, namely, repulsion to a bad (idolatrous) name. But the omission may naturally be explained as a breviloquence or ***, the context clearly fixing the reference to Ishbosheth; similarly the Sept. inserts in this verse after Abner the words “son of Ner.” Comp. 1 Samuel 22:7-9; 1 Samuel 22:12-13.—Tr.]

[2][2 Samuel 4:2. The brackets of Eng. A. V. may just as well be omitted, since the Heb. regards this statement as part of the narrative, and 2 Samuel 4:4 is as much a parenthesis as 2 Samuel 4:3.—Aq. improperly makes these men εὔζωνοι = שׂרי ג׳.—The notice 2 Samuel 4:2-3, is an archæological or historical remark of the editor, not necessarily a “marginal remark” (Wellh.) that has gotten into the text.—Tr.]

[3][2 Samuel 4:4. This verse is an explanatory historical remark; see the Exposition. It is “too peculiar for a gloss” (Wellh.).—“Made haste” is not strong enough for חָפַו, which contains the notion of “terror,” Sym. θορυβεῖσθαι Erdmann: sie sich in der angst beeilte, Chald., Syr., Cahen, Philippson as Eng. A. V.—The name Mephibosheth is written by Sept. Memphibosthe, by other Greek VSS. Memphibaal. For the first part of the name no satisfactory etymology has been found, and it is not improbably a corruption of Merib in Meribbaal, 1 Chronicles 9:40.—Tr.]

[4][2 Samuel 4:5. Lit.: “sleeping the sleep of noon” (example of cognate Ace.).—Instead of “about” we may render “at (or, in) the heat of the day.”—Tr.]

[5][2 Samuel 4:6. הֵנָּה, “hither,” which Norzius (cited by De Rossi) declares to be the true reading. Some MSS. and printed Edd., together with Sept., Syr., Chald., read הִנֵּה, “behold.” (So the Chald. text of P. de Lagarde; but others have the masc. pron. הֵמָּה, “they.”)—Instead of עַר תּוֹךְ, some MSS. and EDD. have אֶל־תוֹךְ.—Tr.]

[6][2 Samuel 4:6. Two points are to be noted in the criticism of the difficult text of 2 Samuel 4:6; 2 Samuel 7:1) the seeming repetition of the masoretic text, double account of the murder; 2) the divergence of the Sept. in 2 Samuel 4:6 especially from the Heb. The Vulg. agrees with Sept. in 2 Samuel 4:6 a; the Chald. and Syr. substantiate (with slight variations) the masoretic text.—The view taken of the text will depend largely on the decision of the first point.—Some hold the repetition in the Heb. of 2 Samuel 4:6 and 2 Samuel 4:7 to be unmeaning, and therefore adopt the Sept., out of which they endeavor to explain the MSS. text as a corruption (Ew., Böttch., Then., Wellh., who all differ somewhat in their restorations of the original text). Others regard the repetition as a characteristic of Heb. historical narration, and take the Sept. in 2 Samuel 4:6 as a corruption or an explanatory paraphrase (Keil [who cites Königsfeld], Philipps., Erdmann, Bib.-Com.). A middle view seems preferable: the repetition seems unnecessary; but the corruption of the Sept. text into the masoretic is improbable. It is therefore more natural to suppose that the Heb. contains two different accounts of the same fact put together by the editor, and that the Sept. either represents a different text or is a corruption of the masoretic.—The following are some of the restorations attempted. Thenius: וְהִנֵּה פְקִידַת דֶּלֶת הַבַּית לֹקֶטֶת חִטִּים וַתָּנָם וַתִּישַן וְדֵכָב וּבַעַנָה אָחִיו נִמְלָטוּ “and behold the female overseer of the door of the house was gathering wheat, and nodded [slumbered] and slept. And Rechab and Baanah his brother (came) unperceived (into the house).” But the Greek has “cleansing,” not “gathering” wheat, and it is not easy to construct the masoretic text out of this. Böttcher: לִקְחחַֹ חִטִּים וְנָמָה הִוא ונְרְדָּמָה וְרֵכָב ונו׳ וְהִנֵּה הַשׁוֹעֶרֶת תּוֹךְ הַבַּיִת, and behold, the portress (was) within the house to cleanse wheat, and she had slumbered and slept; and Rechab and Baanah had slipped through.” He introduces a verb קחח, “to purify,” from the Arabic, and does not account for the Heb.: “smote him in the underbody.”—Ewald adopts Thenius’ reading except that he puts אֲשֶׁר עַל for the Heb.בָאוּ עַד, and instead of לקט writes םקל. Wellhausen: וְהְנֵּה שׁוֹעֶרֶת הַבַּיְת םֹקְלָה ח׳, “and behold, the portress of the house was stoning wheat,” where the סקל makes a difficulty.—If the suggestion made above be adopted, we may take the masoretic text as the original (though a blending of two contemporary accounts), and then with the help of these emendations explain the emergence of the Sept. text from it—Tr.]

[7][2 Samuel 4:8. Acc. of limit. Three MSS. prefix the prep. בְּ, “in.”—Tr.]

[8][2 Samuel 4:10. Partcp. as preposed absolute Nominative.—Tr.]

[9][2 Samuel 4:10. Lit.: “who (or, which) for my giving to him [the reward of] tidings.” Hence three renderings: 1) “which (namely, the slaying him) was to give him;” 2) “to whom I should have given;” 3) “who thought that I would have given him.” The first is simplest and strongest (so Bottch., Cahen, Philipps., Keil, Erdmann). The second is that of the Sept. and Vulg. The third is adopted by Chald. and Eng. A. V. The Syr. has (in the simplifying style it so often adopts): “instead of giving him.”—בְּשׂרָה, “good tidings,” here stands for “reward of good tidings.”—Tr.]

[10][2 Samuel 4:11. Or: “from the land” (Böttcher, Erdmann), a more distinctively Israelitish conception.—Tr.]

[11][2 Samuel 4:12. עַל in the sense of “on, at” (ἐπί with Dat.).—Tr.]

[12][2 Samuel 5:1. Lit.: “said, saying,” at which repetition offence has been taken, but improperly, since it is genuine Heb. (though rare), comp. Exo 15:1; 2 Samuel 20:18.—The first word is omitted in 1 Chronicles 11:1 and in the Vulg.; the second by two MSS., Sept., Syr., Ar. After וַיֹּאמְרוּ some MSS., Sept., Syr., Ar., insert לוֹ, “to him.”—Tr.]

[13][2 Samuel 5:2. Eng. A. V. is here ungrammatical. The sentence would now more naturally read: “it was thou that leddest.”—Remove the final ה from הָיְתָה, and prefix it (as Art.) to the following word, as the masoretic note suggests. Comp. 1 Chronicles 11:2—Tr.]

[14][2 Samuel 5:4. The “and” is found in several MSS. and VSS., a natural interpolation.—Tr.]

[15]It is necessary to supply לְ (but not לְאִישׁ־בּשֶׁת) before בֶּן־שָׁאוּר.

[16] על = “on to,” “to.”

[17] בּשֶׁת for בַּעַל and מְפִי from פָאָה “scatter” (only Hiph., Deuteronomy 32:26, Sept. διασπερῶ αὐτούς, and so Ar., Chald.)

[18]It is unnecessary (with Ges. § 121, 6, Rem. 1) to take הֵנָּה as Pron. fem. for masc.; we may render “hither” (Maur.), or point הִנֵּה “behold.”

[19]The initial כִּי introduces the discourse. The אְשֶׁר in the last clause=ὄτι (Ew. § 338 b) introducing the following words.

Bibliographical Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lcc/2-samuel-4.html. 1857-84.
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