2 Samuel 4:1-3. - (MAHANAIM.)1 Chronicles 8:33) is a most pitiable one. The last surviving son of Saul, he bore little resemblance to his heroic father; owed his life to his incapacity for military enterprise; was the legitimate successor of Saul according to the law of Oriental succession; after the brief suspense in which the elders of Israel seemed disposed to accept David as king (2 Samuel 2:7; 2 Samuel 3:17), was taken under the patronage of Abner; at the end of five years was fully recognized, being forty years old; and reigned two years (2 Samuel 2:10). It is uncertain how far he was aware of David's Divine designation to the throne, and consciously opposed its fulfilment; and, since the latter was not chosen by the elders, he was not guilty of usurpation. Although David could not speak of him as king, he called him "a righteous person" (ver. 11) - "a man who had done no one any harm" (Josephus) - in the same magnanimous spirit as he always exhibited toward the house of Saul. He was:
1. Raised to a position for which he was unfit. "The Scripture presents in him a living example of how the sacredly held right of legitimate inheritance has no root when it is not ennobled by vigorous personality. When the Divine calling is lacking, no legitimate pretensions help" (Cassel). He was destitute of mental force, courage, and energy; ambitious of royal honour and ease; not of royal service and beneficence. The highest offices should be held by the best men. In an ideal state of society it cannot be otherwise; but in its actual condition we often see "servants upon horses, and princes walking as servants upon the earth" (Ecclesiastes 10:7). He who seeks or consents to occupy a position of influence and responsibility for which he is unfit, and those who seek or accept his appointment to it, inflict a serious injury upon themselves and one another. The rule of the "bramble" results in the destruction of all the trees of the forest (Judges 10:15).
2. Deprived of the support on which he relied. "Abner was dead;" by whom he had been exalted and sustained, and to whom, rather than to God, he looked for counsel and help. Although he had alienated him by imprudent remonstrance (2 Samuel 3:7), yet "he may have hoped to obtain an honourable satisfaction by his mediation" (Hengstenberg). This hope was now cut off. "Cursed be the man that trusteth in man," etc. (Jeremiah 17:5; Psalm 143:3, 4).
3. Reduced to a condition of extreme weakness. "His hands became feeble." Nothing remained but unconditional submission or ineffectual and hopeless resistance. He was prepared for neither, and surrendered himself to despair; suffering the consequences of his own "foolishness" (Proverbs 19:3).
4. Contributory to the distress of a whole people. "And all Israel was troubled" - agitated, alarmed, confounded, desponding; having no confidence in his ability, participating in his fears, and, like him, experiencing the effects of former errors. "By his death the treaty with David was broken off; or there was no one to manage it with such authority and prudence as Abner had done" (Patrick).
5. Exposed to the villainy of unfaithful servants. "And Saul's son had two men," etc. They belonged to his own tribe, and, should have been his protectors; served him in prosperity, when he could reward them; but turned against him in adversity, when he could no longer serve their interests; and, although they had suffered no wrong at his hands (ver. 11), acted toward him unjustly and with "treasonous malice," craft, and cruelty.
6. Smitten at a season of apparent security. "At noon, in his own house, upon his bed;" where he sought a brief repose, and slept to wake no more. He was left unguarded, and perished "unawares" (Luke 21:34). His head was buried "in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron;" and the opposition to "the house of David" was at an end. None survived of "the house of Saul" save an afflicted son of Jonathan (ver. 4), who could be supposed to have any claim to the crown.
7. Removed as the last obstacle to the accession of a worthier man. And herein the overruling providence of God again appears in bringing to pass "the word of the Lord by Samuel" (2 Samuel 1:1, 2). "It is significant that the destruction of Saul's house and kingdom should have issued from Beeroth, the Gibeonite city (2 Samuel 21:1, 2)" ('Speaker's Commentary'). - D.
His hands were feeble.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
PeopleAbner, Baanah, Beerothites, Benjamin, David, Ishbosheth, Israelites, Jezreel, Jonathan, Mephibosheth, Rechab, Saul
PlacesArabah, Beeroth, Gittaim, Hebron, Jezreel, Ziklag
TopicsAliens, Beeroth, Beerothites, Be-er'othites, Fled, Flee, Flight, Foreigners, Gittaim, Gitta'im, Sojourners
Outline1. The Israelites being troubled at the death of Abner
2. Baanah and Rechab slay Ish-Bosheth, and bring his head to Hebron
9. David causes them to be slain, and Ish-Bosheth's head to be buried.
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 4:1-8
Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate, …
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament
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