Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 4:12

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.
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Assassination;   Government;   Hanging;   Hebron;   Homicide;   Ish-Bosheth;   Rechab;   Zeal, Religious;   Thompson Chain Reference - Beauty-Disfigurement;   Body;   Ish-Bosheth;   Mutilation;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Feet, the;   Hands, the;   Kings;   Pools and Ponds;   Punishments;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Baanah and Rechab;   Hebron;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - David;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Kill, Killing;   Murder;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Captive;   Fish-Pools;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Hebron;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Court Systems;   Crimes and Punishments;   Hanging;   Rechab;   Samuel, Books of;   Water;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Baanah;   Crucifixion;   Pool, Pond;   Rechab, Rechabites;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Tree ;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Baanah ;   Ishbosheth ;   Rechab ;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Punishments;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Punishments of the Hebrews;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Hebrew Monarchy, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Cistern;   Crime;   Hebron (1);   Ish-Bosheth;   Pool;   Rechab;   Samuel, Books of;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

And they slew them - None ever more richly deserved death; and by this act of justice, David showed to all Israel that he was a decided enemy to the destruction of Saul's family; and that none could lift up their hands against any of them without meeting with condign punishment. In all these cases I know not that it was possible for David to show more sincerity, or a stricter regard for justice.

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Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/2-samuel-4.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

Cut off their hands … - After they were dead. Their hands and feet were hung up in a place of public resort, both to deter others and also to let all Israel know that David was not privy to the murder of Ish-bosheth.

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Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/2-samuel-4.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

ISHBOSHETH'S MURDERERS EXECUTED

"And David commanded his young men, and they killed them, and cut off their hands and feet, and hanged them beside the pool at Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner at Hebron."

It was not merely in obedience to the Divine will that David executed these murderers, it was also politically necessary as well. "To have left them unpunished would have left the impression with the people that David had been involved in a conspiracy to bring about the murder."[14]

A number of able scholars have pointed out the danger of a society's permitting murder to go unpunished. "When murderers are allowed to live without punishment, the moral fabric of a nation is endangered."[15] "Nations of the world would do well to learn this lesson regarding the punishment of murderers."[16]

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/2-samuel-4.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

And David commanded his young men, and they slew them,.... He ordered some of his guards about him to fall on them, and put them to death; and they accordingly did:

and cut off their hands and their feet; their hands, which had smote Ishbosheth, and cut off his head; and their feet, which had been swift to shed his blood, and made haste to bring his head so many miles to David; this was what the Jews call measure for measure:

and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron; not their hands and their feet, but the trunks of their bodies, thus mutilated; so Theodoret; though others think their hands and their feet were hung up, and not their bodies, because dead bodies were not to hang upon the tree more than a day; they were hung up over the fish pool in Hebron, because a public place, and where they were the more exposed to their shame, and the terror of others:

but they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron; by order of David no doubt, who it seems had made, or ordered to be made, a sepulchre, for Abner, see 2 Samuel 3:38; all which David did to show his regard to the family of Saul, his abhorrence of such execrable murders, and to remove all suspicion of his being concerned in them, and to conciliate the minds of the Israelites to him.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/2-samuel-4.html. 1999.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet — as the instruments in perpetrating their crime. The exposure of the mutilated remains was intended as not only a punishment of their crime, but also the attestation of David‘s abhorrence.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/2-samuel-4.html. 1871-8.

Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary

David then commanded his servant to slay the murderers, and also to make the punishment more severe than usual. “They cut off their hands and feet,” - the hands with which they had committed the murder, and the feet which had run for the reward, - “and hanged the bodies by the pool at Hebron” for a spectacle and warning, that others might be deterred from committing similar crimes (cf. Deuteronomy 21:22; J. H. Michaelis). In illustration of the fact itself, we may compare the similar course pursued by Alexander towards the murderer of king Darius, as described in Justin's history (2 Samuel 12:6) and Curtius (2 Samuel 7:5). They buried Ishbosheth's head in Abner's grave at Hebron. Thus David acted with strict justice in this case also, not only to prove to the people that he had neither commanded nor approved of the murder, but from heartfelt abhorrence of such crimes, and to keep his conscience void of offence towards God and towards man.

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The Keil & Delitzsch Old Testament Commentary is a derivative of a public domain electronic edition.
Bibliographical Information
Keil, Carl Friedrich & Delitzsch, Franz. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/kdo/2-samuel-4.html. 1854-1889.

Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary

(12) And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.

Doth not David's just decision and judgment on those murderers, serve to remind us of the awful sentence which Jesus, we are assured, shall one day pass on the wicked, when they shall be driven from his presence with everlasting destruction. It is an awful thought, but ought to be kept alive in the remembrance, that the very gracious name of God as Jehovah Alehim; that is, Jehovah in Covenant with his people by Christ, is as solemnly engaged as the denouncer of wrath, as in the covenant promises of redemption. Jehovah at the right hand of Adonai (the believer's Lord and stay) shall strike through kings in the day of his wrath. Psalms 110:5.

REFLECTIONS

THE sudden and unexpected death of Saul's son, while dreaming of an earthly kingdom, may serve to furnish out, both to the Reader and Writer, an important reflection on the sure, but uncertain, coming of our latter end. There is but one security against the evil of that day; and that is, an interest in his blood and righteousness, who by his death hath overcome death, and by his resurrection hath secured the resurrection of his people. That precious, precious scripture, is a motto to be worn in the bosom of the faithful, and to be fixed in the largest characters over the couches of believers; Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time, without sin, unto salvation. Thus to be found in Christ, is to be found in peace before him. And in this case, sudden death is sudden glory.

Reader! if Jesus be your hope, your trust, your confidence, your rock, you can never be moved. For how can the soul be naked which hath Christ himself for his covering? I know (says Paul) whom I have believed; and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. What day that might be Paul knew not; but every day he was looking out for it. I protest (says he) by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. Blessed Paul! what a happy reckoning did he make of it. And what assurance was founded in it. Reader! let you and I keep Jesus always in view; let us set this precious Redeemer always before us; and depend upon it, living upon him, and trusting wholly in him, for his atoning blood and justifying righteousness, our departure will be in peace, though the signal be given for our removal without a moment's warning. It is but to close the eyes of the body to this world, and the soul will open them in glory. Blessed (says Jesus) is that servant, whom his Lord, when he cometh, shall find so doing.

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Bibliographical Information
Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/pmc/2-samuel-4.html. 1828.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.

David commanded. etc.But what a disappointment to Baanah and Rechab, was the sentence which David passed upon them! And such they will meet with, who think to serve the Son of David, by cruelty or injustice: who under colour of religion, outrage or murder of their brethren, think they do God service. However men may now canonize such methods of serving the church and the catholic cause, Christ will let them know another day, that Christianity was not designed to destroy humanity. And they who thus think to merit heaven, shall not escape the damnation of hell.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/2-samuel-4.html. 1765.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary

THE BLOODY PATH TO A THRONE

‘The head of Ish-bosheth.’

2 Samuel 4:12

Abner had, against his better conviction, maintained his partisan position against David and continued his hostile efforts against him, and it was only after the overthrow of his hitherto unlimited power and the violence done to his self-esteem and ambition, that he came to the conclusion to abandon his position as David’s opponent; and certainly ambitious plans and views for his position in the new kingdom were not wanting in his transition to David and his energetic efforts for David.

I. But all this could give David no ground to reject Abner’s offer; rather he was under obligation to employ this unsought change in Abner’s mind and position (which entered into his life as a factor permitted by the Lord) for the end (fixed not by himself, but by the Lord) of his kingdom over all Israel, the kingdom of Saul falling to pieces of itself, when the Dictator, who had furnished its outward support, left it. Abner’s defection from Ish-bosheth and effort to gain from the whole people the recognition of David’s authority was an important preliminary step thereto. But further, by a wonderful providence of God, Abner’s shameful murder by the envious, ambitious Joab was to lead to this result, namely, that, after the Elders of the people had already shown themselves willing to recognise his authority over all Israel, the whole people gave him their love and confidence; ‘all that he did pleased them’ (v. 36).

II. The realisation of the plans and aims of the wisdom of God in the development of David up to his ascension of the royal throne in Israel is secured by the co-operation of human efforts and acts (like Abner’s and Joab’s), which have their ground not in zeal for the cause of the Kingdom of God, but in selfish ends and motives of the self-seeking, sinful heart. Human sin must subserve the purposes of God’s government and kingdom. The absolute freedom of control in the things of His kingdom takes the activity of human freedom into its dispensations, and weaves them into the fast-closed web of Divine arrangements and acts, in which they fulfil the plans of Divine wisdom.

III. Ish-bosheth, in setting up a claim to the throne in opposition to the Divine call of David, not only lost the distinction he coveted, but also his life.—One day, when lying in his bed at noon, he was despatched by two of his servants. The two men that murdered him seem to have been among those whom Saul enriched with the spoil of the Gibeonites. They were brothers, men of Beeroth, which was formerly one of the cities of the Gibeonites, but was now reckoned to Benjamin. Mistaking the character of David as much as it had been mistaken by the Amalekite who pretended that he had slain Saul, they hastened to Hebron, bearing with them the head of their victim, a ghastly evidence of the reality of the deed. This revolting trophy they carried all the way from Mahanaim to Hebron, a distance of some fifty miles.

IV. If David had put the Amalekite to death for merely saying that he had slain Saul, even at his own command, how much more would he take signal vengeance of their united treachery and murder?—The Amalekite might have some ground of vengeance against Saul, in respect of the destruction he had wrought upon his nation; but what had they—the trusted servants of Ish-bosheth, the appointed guardians of his life—what had they to allege against their master? Nothing! David’s behaviour in this treatment of the murderers of Ish-bosheth was not only an act of justice in itself, but it publicly declared that he would never be served by treachery and murder, nor ever forgive such crimes, however the pretence for committing them might be for his own interest and service.

Illustrations

(1) ‘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 standpoint 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, 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.’

(2) ‘Note the gradual advance of David’s kingship. No messengers were sent through the land when Saul was slain. Slowly, but surely, the way was opened up. Firstly, he was leader of an outlawed band; then he was enthroned by his own tribe; and only when other seven years had sped was he exalted to be king in Zion. In such ways true kingship ever comes. It was so with that Kingdom that was like a mustard seed. Not suddenly, nor by one wild endeavour, but through the trust and the toiling of the years are we made ready, by the grace of God, for the worthy wearing of the crown.’

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/cpc/2-samuel-4.html. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

2 Samuel 4:12 And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged [them] up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried [it] in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.

Ver. 12. And they slew them.] Not without exquisite torments, saith Josephus; he crucified them, saith Theodoret.

And cut off their hands and their feet.] Those weapons of wickedness. God taketh notice of the offending members.

And hanged them up.] For a perpetual monument and punishment of their wickedness: and to declare David’s innocence.

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Bibliographical Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/2-samuel-4.html. 1865-1868.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

His young men; those of his guard, who used to execute justice upon malefactors at the king’s command.

Their hands and their feet; which had been most instrumental in this villany; their hands to cut off his head, and their feet to carry them away, and his head with them.

Hanged them up over the pool in Hebron; as monuments of their villany, and of David’s abhorrency of it.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/2-samuel-4.html. 1685.

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

12.Cut off their hands and their feet — The hands that wrought the bloody deed, and the feet that brought the horrid tidings. This punishment was executed in the spirit, but not in the letter, of the Mosaic law of retaliation — hand for hand, foot for foot. Exodus 21:24.

The pool — Probably one of the large reservoirs still seen at Hebron.

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Bibliographical Information
Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/2-samuel-4.html. 1874-1909.

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments

2 Samuel 4:12. David commanded, and they slew them — But what a disappointment to Baanah and Rechab was the sentence which David passed upon them! And such they will meet with who think to serve the Son of David by cruelty or injustice: who, under colour of religion, outrage or murder their brethren, and think they do God service. However men may now canonize such methods of serving the church and the catholic cause, Christ will let them know another day that Christianity was not designed to destroy humanity, And they who thus think to merit heaven, shall not escape the damnation of hell.

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Bibliographical Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/2-samuel-4.html. 1857.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

Feet, while they were alive, (Theodoret; Menochius) almost as Adonibezec had treated many; (Judges i. 6,) or they were first put to death, and the parts cut off were fastened to a cross; as the head and right hand of Cyrus were by his brother Artaxerxes. (Xenophon, Anab. iii.) (Calmet) --- Josephus seems to be of the former opinion, saying, "he ordered them to be executed in the most excruciating torments," "while the head of Jebosthe (Isboseth) was buried with all honour." (Antiquities vii. 2.) --- Thus David convinced the people that he would punish crimes, when it was in his power, and that he would give no encouragement to the treason or perfidy of any one. (Haydock)

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/2-samuel-4.html. 1859.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

sepulchre. Compare 2 Samuel 3:32.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/2-samuel-4.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.

Slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet. The cutting off the hands and feet of criminals convicted of treason was an ancient custom in the East, and is still continued.

And hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. Outside the town of Hebron is a pool of good water, which, being below the level of the adjoining ground, is accessible by flights of steps at each corner; and there is another reservoir at a little distance, both of which are very ancient. One or other of these must certainly be the pool referred to. The exposure of the mutilated relics of the two assassins at the pool was owing to its being a place of public resort. The exposure of the mutilated remains were intended as not only a punishment of their crime, but also the attestation of David's abhorrence.

Took the head of Ish-bosheth, and buried it in the grave of Abner in Hebron. This sepulchre is stall shown at a spot a few yards from the mosque (see the notes at 2 Samuel 3:39).

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Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/2-samuel-4.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(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.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/2-samuel-4.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

And David commanded his young men, and they slew them, and cut off their hands and their feet, and hanged them up over the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth, and buried it in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.
slew them
1:15; Psalms 55:23; Matthew 7:2
hanged
21:9; Deuteronomy 21:22,23
in the sepulchre
3:32 Reciprocal: 2 Samuel 21:14 - buried;  1 Kings 2:25 - he fell;  1 Chronicles 8:33 - Eshbaal;  Lamentations 1:6 - all

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 4:12". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/2-samuel-4.html.