2 Samuel 4:1
His hands were feeble.
Men without co-operation weak
The man spoken of was Saul’s son, and as the son of a king what reason had he to have enfeebled hands? The reason is that Abner was dead. But could not a king’s son do without Abner? Have not king’s sons abundant resources in themselves, without being dependent upon outsiders, however distinguished? All history replies in the negative. Men belong to one another. The king’s son was nothing without Abner, but much with him. The unit one is but a singular number, but the moment a cipher is added to it becomes ten, and another cipher turns the ten into a hundred.
The integer is little by itself, the cipher is nothing at all when it stands alone, but when they are brought together they begin to make themselves felt. It is precisely so in our social relations. What is the husband without the wife? What is the son without the father? What is the scholar without the teacher? What is the flock without the shepherd? It is of no account to reason that there is a variety of value in men, some being worth much, and others being worth little; the fact is that they must all be brought into cooperation. (J. Parker, D. D.)
2 Samuel 4:5-12
And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab, and Baanah.
The death of Ishbosheth
I. The motives that induced those two traitors to murder Ishbosheth were:
1. Abner’s death had disabled him for any royal duty.
2. All the tribes were in a confusion to hear their peacemaker was slain; hereupon they now doubted of obtaining David’s favour.
3. None of Saul’s house (beside concubine sons incapable of the crown) were alive to revenge Ishbosheth’s murder, save only Mephibosheth.
4. These two traitors, therefore, thought that by their removing useless Ishbosheth out of David’s way the Crown of the whole kingdom must needs come to him without any contradiction.
II. What reception these two traitors found with David when they presented Ishbosheth’s head to him.
1. David abhors the villany, and resolves with an oath to execute the villains.
2. Hereupon David justly commanded their execution, and cut off their hands that had done the deed, and their feet that carried them away with this present. (C. Ness.)
Assassination of Ishbosheth
The Septuagint has the following entirely different rendering, which is found also in some MSS. of the Vulgate, in addition to the rendering of the present Hebrews text, but apparently was not retained by Jerome himself. “And behold the portress of the house was cleaning wheat, and she slumbered and slept; and the brothers Rechab and Baanah came unobserved into the house. Now Ishbosheth was sleeping on the bed in his chamber: and they smote him,” etc. This also explains how the murderers entered unobserved. The female slave who watched the door (John 18:16, Acts 12:13) had fallen asleep over her task of sifting the wheat, and there was no one to give the alarm. (A. F. Kirkpatrick, M. A.)
The end of weakling
Here lies what was once a bar of iron, but the joint action of air and water has reduced it to a bar of rust. It has now no strength, and consequently no value. To how many varied and useful purposes it might have been put some years ago, and in its work have found its strength, beauty and preservation; but it is too late now; it will soon be blended with the earth upon which it passively lies, a striking emblem of the man who refuses to face the hammer and anvil of active life and honest work; who flies from the purifying fire of life’s adversities, and who will fight no battle for truth and the higher interests of his soul. Gifted only with powers which properly cultivated and employed would have blessed myriads, and opportunities for good which an angel might have envied, be allows the former to run waste and the latter to pass unheeded away, until corroded and worn down by his own inanition he sinks by degrees into that grave of mental and physical imbecility which has swallowed up its myriads, and which is too:frequently but the dark passage to a more terrible death.
2 Samuel 4:9-12
And David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother.
Nobleness and selfishness
We praise Caesar for slaying the man who brought intelligence of Pompey’s death; let us have some reverent regard for this passion in the heart of David--this loyalty and all but adoration for the man who was king of Israel.
1. Those who did not understand David, or took narrow and partial views of his character, imagined that they could always please him by relating some misfortune that had befallen the house of Saul. King Saul had a son who was of weak mind and of weak body, inanimate, dependent largely upon others for all that he was and did, especially dependent upon his uncle Abner. This man was accustomed to take a mid-day sleep. He went up into his room one mid-day to slumber, and there went in upon him two young men, Baanah and Rechab by name, and they made as though they would have fetched wheat from the royal residence, and when they found Ishbosheth asleep they smote him under the fifth rib and beheaded him, and ran through the plain all night until they reached Hebron, and when they found David they said, “The Lord hath avenged His servant; here is the head of the son of king Saul.” David seems to have taken the large and true view of these men who brought him tidings which they thought would have pleased him. He said, “They are essentially mean men; their meanness in this case counts for me, but I will none of them--hang them, drown them, burn them--they only want an opportunity to thrust the dagger under my fifth rib that they have drawn from the life of Ishbosheth.” We would teach this lesson especially to the young, and make it very clear to them, and write it upon their hearts and upon their minds, that they who would do a mean trick for us would not hesitate to do a mean trick against us.
2. It is not enough to be clever in life--we must always be right. There is nothing more contemptible than cleverness when it is dissociated from integrity. Always endeavour to avoid a merely clever person. Cleverness is a two-edged instrument, cleverness is a word you may apply to a thimble-rigger. Keep the word “cleverness” for very small occasions and for very small persons. Associate it with moral sensibility, associate it with the moral virtues, and it becomes proportionately dignified. The first thing you have to make out in all life is, what is right. “That ye may be sincere.” What does that word sincere mean? It is two Latin words in one, and it means without wax, a term employed in describing the quality of honey, without wax. Or it is a Greek word, which refers to porcelain, and the meaning of it is that if the china be held up between the eye and the sun, it is sincere, without speck or flaw or breach. What should we look like if Christ were to take us up and look at us as we look critically at porcelain? That is the only true view to take of ourselves. Judging ourselves by ourselves we become fools; by social standards we are all respectable and good and fair and decent and honourable, but the grand test is the law of Divine rectitude, the standard and the balance of the sanctuary of heaven.
3. The real test of success is at the end. We never know what an action is, as to its real value, until we reach the end. Things may look tolerably well in the process--there is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is death. What talk Baanah and Rechab had that night as they hurried across the plain, what pictures they drew how David would receive them, how he would house them in the royal palace, how he would show them to the military and to the populace, and call for loud huzzas, how they would be the brothers whom the king would delight to honour, riding upon his noblest steeds, and for the time being sit at the front of his ranks and crowned with glory and honour. They went to Hebron, and never left it. The men were to be promoted--were promoted to the gallows. The clever men died as the fool dieth, and the earth was not allowed to have their bones. Let us be instructed by the narrative, for it may be even so with some of our own purposes and schemes. A thing is only everlasting, in its consolations and honours in proportion as it is genuinely right. Is our trade, is our purpose, is our programme, is our policy, is our set in life right. If so, we have succeeded even before we have begun.
4. Behold the contrast between nobleness and selfishness, as seen in David and in those who brought him tidings concerning the fate of Saul, and the ill-luck of his child. There are moments when a man is almost God; and it was so with David in this case. He had his moments of fretfulness about Saul, and his moments of supreme fear, but in his heart he loved the grand old king of Israel; and where there is a supreme love it rises above everything, and sacrifices everything that would oppose its sovereign sway. Have we any supreme love? Is our heart ever washed by a great tide of loving emotion about any man, woman, or little child? Then blessed are we; that river rises sometimes and submerges the whole life, and bears away all the ill-thinking and ill-behaviour of many days. Let us not allow our emotions to be talked down, nor allow the fountain of our tears to be sealed up so that it cannot be broken on any occasion. Sometimes it is good for the heart to sink under its own tears; it comes up out of that baptism sweeter and fresher than ever.
5. Beware of taking narrow views of life, then. The young Amalekite and Baanah and Rechab were men who saw only little points in a case. They were wanting in mental apprehensiveness and in moral expansion. There are many such Men in the world, keen as a hawk in seeing little points, blind as a mole in beholding the measure of a circumference. Let us pray for that enlargement of mind which sees every aspect of a question. (J. Parker, D. D.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "2 Samuel 4". The Biblical Illustrator. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany