II Samuel 4

The Word Made Fresh

1When Saul’s son heard that Abner had died at Hebron, he was afraid, and all Israel was worried. 2He had two men who led special bands of raiders, Baanah and Rechab. Both of them were sons of Rimmon, a Benjaminite from Beeroth, which is considered to be part of Benjamin, 3because the residents of Beeroth had fled to Gittaim, and have lived there as resident aliens to this day.

4By the way, Saul’s son Jonathan had a son who was crippled. He was only five years old when word came from Jezreel about Saul and Jonathan being killed, and his nurse grabbed him and fled, and in her haste, he fell and was made lame. His name was Mephibosheth.

5These two sons of Rimmon, Rechab and Baanah, came to Ishbaal’s house in the heat of the day while he was napping. 6They entered the house, ostensibly looking for some wheat, and stabbed him in the stomach and fled. 7They had entered the house deliberately while he slept, and when they had killed him, they beheaded him and took his head with them. They fled along the Arabah all night, 8and brought Ishbaal’s head to David at Hebron. They said, “Here is the head of Ishbaal, son of Saul, your enemy who tried to kill you. The LORD has given vengeance to my lord the king today over Saul and his sons.”

9David said to them, “As the LORD lives, who has rescued me out of every trial, 10when a man came to me and told me Saul was dead, he thought he was bringing good news, but I had him arrested and executed at Ziklag. That was his reward for such news. 11That is the ‘reward’ violent men should receive who have killed an innocent man on his bed in his own house! Now I will require your blood for his and put an end to your life on earth!” 12Then David gave his young men the order, and they killed Rechab and Baanah, cut off their hands and feet and hung their bodies beside the pool at Hebron. They took Ishbaal’s head and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron.


1-3: Ishbaal is dismayed at the news of Abner’s death. Note that verse 1 literally reads, “When Saul’s son heard that …” His name, Ishbaal, is not given in the text. We are introduced to two guerilla leaders, Baanah and Rechab, and are told that they belong to Benjamin, Saul’s tribe (and Ishbaal’s).

4: An aside: We are introduced to Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, David’s best friend. In the panic following the news of Saul’s and Jonathan’s death, the child had been injured and crippled for life. We will hear more about him later.

5-8: We return to Baanah and Rechab. They enter Ishbaal’s house and murder him, behead him, and carry his head to Hebron and present it ceremoniously to David.

9-12: David cannot afford any suspicion that he has any part of the assassination, and he reacts just as he had when the Amalekite messenger claimed to have finished off Saul — he has “the young men” kill them. David’s brutality is not given much attention in our Sunday school literature, but is certainly again evident here: he has the assassins’ hands and feet cut off, and their mutilated bodies hung in a public place. Ishbaal’s head receives an honorable burial. That’s David — always calculating!


We grow tired of the bloodletting. Remember Genesis 6, where God says of the human race that they are violent and wicked — that “every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts was only evil continually (Genesis 6:5 — NRSV).  Note that David gives Saul, Jonathan, Abner, and Ishbaal — Saul, his uncle, and two of his sons — decent burial and grieves their loss, at least publicly. How could you not appreciate the man?