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Poole on 2 Samuel 4:1-8: The Murder of Ish-bosheth

Verse 1:[1]  And when Saul’s son heard that Abner was dead in Hebron, (Ezra 4:4; Isa. 13:7) his hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were (Matt. 2:3) troubled.

[His hands were loosed]  He began to be of a remiss spirit, and to despair of life (Vatablus).  For, with Abner killed, he was without counsel and protection (Menochius).

His hands were feeble; his spirit, and courage, and strength failed him. This phrase is used in the same sense Ezra 4:4; Nehemiah 6:9; Isaiah 13:7; 35:3.

[All Israel was troubled]  By the novelty of the situation, with the way of their counsels cut off, as it were (Malvenda).

The Israelites were troubled, because now they were unable to oppose David, and doubtful of obtaining his favour, now Abner their peace-maker was dead.


Verse 2:[2]  And Saul’s son had two men that were captains of bands:  the name of the one was Baanah, and the name of the other (Heb. second[3]) Rechab, the sons of Rimmon a Beerothite, of the children of Benjamin:  (for [Josh. 18:25] Beeroth also was reckoned to Benjamin…

[Two men, captains of plunderers (thus the Syriac), ‎שָׂרֵי־גְדוּדִים]  Captains (prefects [Strigelius, Munster]) of troops, or bands (Septuagint, Pagnine, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius, English), cohorts (Munster, Grotius).  Captains, heads of armies (Jonathan).  Commanders of soldiers (Castalio).  Of soldiers plundering and rushing upon the prey (Dutch).  Soldiers were of old called latrones/plunderers/brigands, laterones, as it were, from latendo, lying in wait (Mariana, similarly Sanchez, Lapide, Serarius).  Prætorian soldiers were especially so called, as Varro[4] testifies, because they surround the latera/flanks of princes (Tirinus).  These two were commanders of the Royal cohort (Menochius).

[They were to the son of Saul[5] (thus the Septuagint, Pagnine, Montanus, Junius and Tremellius)]  With the son (sons [Arabic]) of Saul (Jonathan, Syriac).  Saul’s son had two, etc. (Dutch, English).  It signifies that they were previously with him; then they fled from him:  now they returned in treachery (Mariana).

Of the children of Benjamin; of Ish-bosheth’s own tribe, whom therefore he trusted the more; and this gave them opportunity to execute their wicked design.

[Seeing that Beeroth also was reckoned to Benjamin]  As it is evident from Joshua 18:25; 9:17 (Menochius).  It was by right pertaining to the Benjamites, although it was held by force by the Philistines, 1 Samuel 31:7 (Grotius).

Beeroth also was reckoned to Benjamin:  this is added as the reason why he called them Beerothites, because though Beeroth was now in the hands and possession of the Philistines, 1 Samuel 31:7, yet of right it belonged to the Benjamites, Joshua 18:25.


Verse 3:[6]  And the Beerothites fled to (Neh. 11:33) Gittaim, and were sojourners there until this day.)

[And the Beerothites fledBut they fled, that is, upon the report of the death of Saul, out of fear of the Philistines (Vatablus, similarly Piscator, Menochius).  Rabbi Salomon and Cajetan understand it of all the citizens of Beeroth.  But what is that to the present history?  Therefore, Baanah and Rechab fled from the face of Ish-bosheth, on account of some crime committed (Lapide).

[To Gittaim]  Which was, of course, farther away from the Philistines (Vatablus).  Where it may have been, is not able to be known with certainty.  Some place it in Edom; others, in Arabia (Martyr).

And, or, yet, or but; for this comes in to anticipate an objection against what he had now said.  It is true, saith he, the Beerothites fled, as others did, upon the overthrow of Saul and his army, 1 Samuel 31:7, to a place called Gittaim, 2 Samuel 4:3; not that in Benjamin, Nehemiah 11:33, but some other place of that name more remote from the Philistines; and so they were Gittaimites by their present habitation, but Beerothites by their original, and place of their birth.

[And they were there unto that time]  Hebrew:  to that day.[7]  In which history this was written beforehand; for the individual members of the histories, through men of God, were recorded in Public Acts by public authority.  The sense:  they liked the place of their habitation so much, that they did not try to return to their own City, from which they had fled for fear of the Philistines after the death of Saul (Junius).


Verse 4:[8]  And (2 Sam. 9:3) 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 (1 Sam. 29:1, 11) 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 (or, Merib-baal, 1 Chron. 8:34; 9:40).

[And Jonathan had a son, crippled in his feet, ‎נְכֵ֣ה רַגְלָ֑יִם [9]Smitten (lame [Syriac, Pagnine, Tigurinus], impaired [Arabic, Junius and Tremellius], wounded [Munster], injured [Castalio], seized, or broken [Vatablus]) in his feet (Septuagint, Jonathan, Montanus, Piscator, Dieu), from the verb נָכָה, which in the Qal is indeed unusual among the Hebrews, but נכא among the Syrians, and נכי among the Ethiopians, is quite common, and signifies to injure (Dieu).  This whole verse is to be enclosed in parentheses (Piscator, Menochius).  The fact is not vainly referenced in this place (Grotius, similarly Sanchez, Junius, Malvenda):  Either, 1.  Because it made the assassins more audacious; for he, to whom the vengeance of Ish-bosheth’s blood had regard, was not in control of his own members (Grotius).  Or, 2.  So that it might be signified, that of the stock of Saul no male fit for the kingdom survived:  for Mephibosheth, who alone survived, was crippled, and not fit for making war (Lapide); while the Israelites were in need of a King that was able to be engaged in arms and to conduct business.  For they were surrounded on all sides by enemies.  There were, indeed, many sons of Saul, but of concubines, which sort were not able to advance to the kingdom (Martyr).  Wherefore, by the death of Saul the kingdom necessarily had to be transferred to David (Lapide, Sanchez).  Or, 3.  Because those had formerly fought under Jonathan (whom some understand by Saul’s son, verse 2 [certain interpreters in Malvenda]), they were therefore favoring Mephibosheth, whom they wanted to make king, and also conspired in the murder of Ish-bosheth; but Mephibosheth bestowed the matter on Ish-bosheth, for which reason they fled (Hebrews in Lapide).  4.  This is related in passing and by parenthesis on occasion of the flight of the Beerothites, concerning which in the preceding verse (Menochius).

And Jonathan…had a son, etc.:  This history is inserted as that which encouraged these men to this wicked murder, because Saul’s family was now reduced to a low ebb; and if Ish-bosheth was dispatched, there would be none left but a lame child, who was altogether unfit to manage the kingdom, especially in so troublesome a time as this was; and therefore the crown must necessarily come to David by their act and deed, for which they promised themselves no small recompence.  Jezreel; the place of that last and fatal fight, 1 Samuel 29:1.  Mephibosheth; called also Merib-baal, 1 Chronicles 8:34.  See the notes on 2 Samuel 2:8.


Verse 5:[10]  And the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, went, and came about the heat of the day to the house of Ish-bosheth, who lay on a bed at noon.

[They entered in the heat of the day]  Since all things were now solitary.  For, after the midday meal men apply themselves either to work, or to sleep; especially in those regions (Martyr).  Therefore, either the guards were sleeping, or, which is more probable, the others had been diverted elsewhere (Sanchez).

[Who was sleeping upon his coverlet at noon (thus Munster),וְה֣וּא שֹׁכֵ֔ב אֵ֖ת מִשְׁכַּ֥ב הַֽצָּהֳרָֽיִם׃]  And he was sleeping on his bed, or couch, at noon (Septuagint, Montanus), or at the meridian (Pagnine), that is, on which he was wont to sleep at the meridian time (Vatablus).  And he sleeping the sleep of kings (Jonathan), that is, at the time when Kings sleep (Vatabus); perhaps because with the rest sleeping at night there was good reason for them to keep watch; or rather, because a midday rest appears to have belonged to the soft and delicate (Serarius).  Many in Italy and other hot regions rest at midday, and take a light nap (Lapide).  [Sanchez indicates that Ish-bosheth was at that time full of sleep, food, and wine.]

Who lay on a bed at noon:  Either from discontent of mind, as Ahab did, 1 Kings 21:4; or from sloth and sensuality, as David seems to have done, 2 Samuel 11:2.

[And the female doorkeeper of the house, who cleans the wheat, fell asleep[11]]  Already threshed, by removing the small stones, chaff, etc., and by picking out the individual grains, as it were, so that they might be completely pure for delicacies (Lapide); for hulled and crushed grain, which was abundant among them, and in delicacies.  This work was unsuitable neither for the Royal household, nor for an honest and delicate woman (Sanchez).  Now, these words were not in the Hebrew, but taken from the Septuagint, upon which that saying of Petronius[12] brings light, Satyricon 73, In the entrance of the door was standing a doorkeeper…and on the silver plate he was cleaning peas (Malvenda).


Verse 6:[13]  And they came thither into the midst of the house, as though they would have fetched wheat; and they smote him (2 Sam. 2:23) under the fifth rib:  and Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped.

[They entered the house privily, etc., ‎בָּ֜אוּ עַד־תּ֤וֹךְ הַבַּ֙יִת֙ לֹקְחֵ֣י חִטִּ֔ים]  They entered, or they came unto the midst (that is, the more inner part [Vatablus]) of the house of those taking grain (Montanus), or as buyers of grain (Pagnine, similarly Jonathan), that is, in the habit and appearance of merchants of wheat (Vatablus, Tirinus, Estius, Menochius).  But I find no vestige of that custom (Sanchez).  Others:  with the merchants of wheat (certain interpreters in Vatablus, Martyr); as if they were going receive wheat (Munster, Tigurinus, similarly Castalio, Strigelius, Osiander).  With the stewards that were transporting rations to the army (Martyr).  [It is not strange that wheat was stored in the Royal house.  They are too delicate, and ignorant of the ancient simplicity, who evaluate primitive courts of Kings by the contemporary elegance of courts.]  Those bearing wheat (Junius and Tremellius), that is, in the appearance of stewards conveying wheat (Junius, Willet out of Pagnine).  לָקַח signifies both to import, and to export (Willet).  Either as if they were bringing ears of wheat, that is, being about to present gifts and firstfruits to the king (Serarius, similarly Lyra, Lapide).  Or they delivered green ears to the female doorkeeper, so that she might clean them, etc., and thus make meal (Lapide).

Into the midst of the house, or, into the house; for the midst is not always taken exactly, and mathematically, but for any part within, as Genesis 48:16; Exodus 8:22; Joshua 3:17.  As though they would have fetched wheat; which was laid up in public granaries in the king’s house, and was fetched thence by the captains and commanders of the army for the pay of their soldiers, who in those ancient times were not paid in money, but in corn, as is well known.  Upon this pretence they were admitted into the house, and so went from room to room, to the place where the king lay.

[And they smote]  In a few words he here describes the death of Ish-bosheth by way of anticipation; in the following verse, at greater length (Grotius).

Rechab and Baanah escaped; which was not difficult to do, when the king was left alone; either because he desired to compose himself to rest or sleep; or because his guards, if he had any, were very small and negligent, now, at least, in his declining and forlorn condition.


Verse 7:[14]  For when they came into the house, he lay on his bed in his bedchamber, and they smote him, and slew him, and beheaded him, and took his head, and gat them away through the plain all night.

[Now, when they had entered, etc. (thus most interpreters), ‎וַיָּבֹאוּ]  They entered, I say, etc. (Pagnine).

[Upon his bed in the chamber, ‎בַּחֲדַ֣ר מִשְׁכָּב֔וֹ]  In the chamber of his bed (couch [Munster]) (Montanus, similarly Pagnine, Tigurinus).  In his chamber for sleeping (Syriac, Arabic).

[They killed]  Such things frequently happen in civil wars, in the hope of favor and rewards (Grotius).

Through the plain, that is, in the way from Mahanaim to Hebron; which for the most part was a plain country.

[All night]  From Mahanaim [where Ish-bosheth was killed] to Hebron is the space of thirty hours (Menochius out of Adrichomius[15]).


Verse 8:[16]  And they brought the head of Ish-bosheth unto David to Hebron, and said to the king, Behold the head of Ish-bosheth the son of Saul thine enemy, (1 Sam. 19:2, 10, 11; 23:15; 25:29) which sought thy life; and the LORD hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.

[The son of Saul thine enemy]  A cunning manner of speech, for he attempts to kindle hatred of him from the person of his father (Menochius).

[Which sought thy life]  That is, to take it away; that is, he was lying in wait for thy life.  A Synecdoche of genus (Piscator).

Which sought thy life, that is, to destroy it, or take it away; as this phrase is used, 1 Samuel 20:1; 23:15, and elsewhere.  They thought their action not only blameless, but meritorious; because they had but executed justice upon Saul’s house, and David’s enemies, and made way for David’s obtaining of his rights.  It may seem strange they were not discouraged by David’s punishing of the Amalekite for killing Saul, 2 Samuel 1, and by his sharp reproof of Joab for murdering Abner; but they thought the first case much differing from theirs, because Saul was anointed king by God; whereas Ish-bosheth was not, but was a mere usurper:  and for the latter, they thought that David’s sharp words proceeded rather from art and policy, than from any real dislike of the thing; which they judged, because David contented himself with words, and Joab did not only go unpunished, but continued in his former place and power.

[1] Hebrew:  ‎וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע בֶּן־שָׁא֗וּל כִּ֣י מֵ֤ת אַבְנֵר֙ בְּחֶבְר֔וֹן וַיִּרְפּ֖וּ יָדָ֑יו וְכָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל נִבְהָֽלוּ׃

[2] Hebrew: וּשְׁנֵ֣י אֲנָשִׁ֣ים שָׂרֵֽי־גְדוּדִ֣ים הָי֪וּ בֶן־שָׁא֟וּל שֵׁם֩ הָאֶחָ֙ד בַּֽעֲנָ֜ה וְשֵׁ֧ם הַשֵּׁנִ֣י רֵכָ֗ב בְּנֵ֛י רִמּ֥וֹן הַבְּאֶֽרֹתִ֖י מִבְּנֵ֣י בִנְיָמִ֑ן כִּ֚י גַּם־בְּאֵר֔וֹת תֵּחָשֵׁ֖ב עַל־בִּנְיָמִֽן׃

[3] Hebrew:  ‎הַשֵּׁנִי.

[4] Marcus Terentius Varro, or Varro Reatinus (116-27 BC), was a Roman statesman and scholar, called “the most learned of the Romans.”  He wrote prolifically; his De Lingua Latina and Rerum Rusticarum survive.

[5] Hebrew:  ‎הָי֪וּ בֶן־שָׁא֟וּל.

[6] Hebrew:  ‎וַיִּבְרְח֥וּ הַבְּאֵרֹתִ֖ים גִּתָּ֑יְמָה וַֽיִּהְיוּ־שָׁ֣ם גָּרִ֔ים עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃ ס

[7] Hebrew:  ‎עַ֖ד הַיּ֥וֹם הַזֶּֽה׃.

[8] Hebrew: וְלִיהֽוֹנָתָן֙ בֶּן־שָׁא֔וּל בֵּ֖ן נְכֵ֣ה רַגְלָ֑יִם בֶּן־חָמֵ֣שׁ שָׁנִ֣ים הָיָ֡ה בְּבֹ֣א שְׁמֻעַת֩ שָׁא֙וּל וִיהֽוֹנָתָ֜ן מִֽיִּזְרְעֶ֗אל וַתִּשָּׂאֵ֤הוּ אֹֽמַנְתּוֹ֙ וַתָּנֹ֔ס וַיְהִ֞י בְּחָפְזָ֥הּ לָנ֛וּס וַיִּפֹּ֥ל וַיִּפָּסֵ֖חַ וּשְׁמ֥וֹ מְפִיבֹֽשֶׁת׃

[9] נָכָה signifies to smite.

[10] Hebrew: וַיֵּ֙לְכ֜וּ בְּנֵֽי־רִמּ֤וֹן הַבְּאֵֽרֹתִי֙ רֵכָ֣ב וּבַעֲנָ֔ה וַיָּבֹ֙אוּ֙ כְּחֹ֣ם הַיּ֔וֹם אֶל־בֵּ֖ית אִ֣ישׁ בֹּ֑שֶׁת וְה֣וּא שֹׁכֵ֔ב אֵ֖ת מִשְׁכַּ֥ב הַֽצָּהֳרָֽיִם׃

[11] Thus the Vulgate.

[12] Petronius (c. 27-66) was a Roman satirist.  Only his Satyricon survives.

[13] Hebrew:  ‎וְ֠הֵנָּה בָּ֜אוּ עַד־תּ֤וֹךְ הַבַּ֙יִת֙ לֹקְחֵ֣י חִטִּ֔ים וַיַּכֻּ֖הוּ אֶל־הַחֹ֑מֶשׁ וְרֵכָ֛ב וּבַעֲנָ֥ה אָחִ֖יו נִמְלָֽטוּ׃

[14] Hebrew:  וַיָּבֹ֣אוּ הַבַּ֗יִת וְהֽוּא־שֹׁכֵ֤ב עַל־מִטָּתוֹ֙ בַּחֲדַ֣ר מִשְׁכָּב֔וֹ וַיַּכֻּ֙הוּ֙ וַיְמִתֻ֔הוּ וַיָּסִ֖ירוּ אֶת־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ וַיִּקְחוּ֙ אֶת־רֹאשׁ֔וֹ וַיֵּֽלְכ֛וּ דֶּ֥רֶךְ הָעֲרָבָ֖ה כָּל־הַלָּֽיְלָה׃

[15] Christian Adrichomius (1533-1585), a Roman priest, wrote an important geography of Palestine (Theatrum Terræ Sanctæ et Biblicarum Historiarum).

[16] Hebrew: וַ֠יָּבִאוּ אֶת־רֹ֙אשׁ אִֽישׁ־בֹּ֥שֶׁת אֶל־דָּוִד֘ חֶבְרוֹן֒ וַיֹּֽאמְרוּ֙ אֶל־הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ הִנֵּֽה־רֹ֣אשׁ אִֽישׁ־בֹּ֗שֶׁת בֶּן־שָׁאוּל֙ אֹֽיִבְךָ֔ אֲשֶׁ֥ר בִּקֵּ֖שׁ אֶת־נַפְשֶׁ֑ךָ וַיִּתֵּ֣ן יְ֠הוָה לַֽאדֹנִ֙י הַמֶּ֤לֶךְ נְקָמוֹת֙ הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה מִשָּׁא֖וּל וּמִזַּרְעֽוֹ׃ ס

[17] Hebrew:  ‎וַיַּ֙עַן דָּוִ֜ד אֶת־רֵכָ֣ב׀ וְאֶת־בַּעֲנָ֣ה אָחִ֗יו בְּנֵ֛י רִמּ֥וֹן הַבְּאֵֽרֹתִ֖י וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לָהֶ֑ם חַי־יְהוָ֕ה אֲשֶׁר־פָּדָ֥ה אֶת־נַפְשִׁ֖י מִכָּל־צָרָֽה׃

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Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
5월 25일

Matthew Henry: 'Here is, I. The weakness of Saul's house. Still it grew weaker and weaker. 1. As for Ishbosheth, who was in possession of the throne, his hands were feeble, 2 Samuel 4:1. All the strength they ever had was from Abner's support, and now that he was dead he had no spirit left in him. Though Abner had, in a passion, deserted his interest, yet he hoped, by his means, to make good terms with David; but now even this hope fails him, and he sees himself forsaken by his friends and at the mercy of his enemies. All the Israelites that adhered to him were troubled and at a loss what to do, whether to proceed i…


Dr. Dilday
Dr. Dilday
5월 25일

Study 2 Samuel with the Illustrious Matthew Poole! 

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