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Bible Encyclopedias

Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature


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Ish´-Bosheth (man of shame), a son of King Saul, and the only one who survived him. In , and , this name is given as Eshbaal. Baal was the name of an idol, accounted abominable by the Hebrews, and which scrupulous persons avoided pronouncing, using the word bosheth, 'shame' or 'vanity,' instead. This explains why the name Eshbaal is substituted for Ish-bosheth, Jerubbaal for Jerub-besheth (comp. with ), and Merib-baal for Mephibosheth (comp. with and ). Ish-bosheth was not present in the disastrous battle at Gilboa, in which his father and brothers perished; and, too feeble of himself to seize the scepter which had fallen from the hands of Saul, he owed the crown entirely to his uncle Abner, who conducted him to Mahanaim, beyond the Jordan, where he was recognized as king by ten of the twelve tribes. He reigned seven, or, as some will have it, two years—if a power so uncertain as his can be called a reign. Even the semblance of authority which he possessed he owed to the will and influence of Abner, who himself kept the real substance in his own hands. A sharp quarrel between them led at last to the ruin of Ish-bosheth. Although accustomed to tremble before Abner, even his meek temper was roused to resentment by the discovery that Abner had invaded the harem of his late father Saul, which was in a peculiar manner sacred under his care as a son and a king. By this act Abner exposed the king to public contempt; if it did not indeed leave himself open to the suspicion of intending to advance a claim to the crown on his own behalf. Abner highly resented the rebuke of Ish-bosheth, and from that time contemplated uniting all the tribes under the scepter of David. Ish-bosheth, however, reverted to his ordinary timidity of character. At the first demand of David, he restored to him his sister Michal, who had been given in marriage to the son of Jesse by Saul, and had afterwards been taken from him and bestowed upon another. It is, perhaps, right to attribute this act to his weakness; although, as David allows that he was a righteous man, it may have been owing to his sense of justice. On the death of Abner Ish-bosheth lost all heart and hope, and perished miserably, being murdered in his own palace, while he took his mid-day sleep, by two of his officers, Baanah and Rechab. They sped with his head to David, expecting a great reward for their deed; but the monarch—as both right feeling and good policy required—testified the utmost horror and concern. He slew the murderers, and placed the head of Ish-bosheth with due respect in the sepulcher of Abner, B.C. 1048 (;; 2 Samuel 4).





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Kitto, John, ed. Entry for 'Ish-Bosheth'. "Kitto's Popular Cyclopedia of Biblial Literature".

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