2 Samuel 4 (NRSV)
Psalm 146:3 (New International Version)
Do not put your trust in princes,
in mortal men, who cannot save.
When Saul’s son Ishbaal heard that Abner had died at Hebron, his courage failed, and all Israel was dismayed. 2Saul’s son had two captains of raiding bands; the name of the one was Baanah, and the name of the other Rechab. They were sons of Rimmon a Benjaminite from Beeroth—for Beeroth is considered to belong to Benjamin. 3(Now the people of Beeroth had fled to Gittaim and are there as resident aliens to this day).
4Saul’s son Jonathan had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled; and, in her haste to flee, it happened that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth.
Mephibosheth with the crippled legs: the last of Saul’s line who could legitimately claim the throne.
5Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ishbaal, while he was taking his noonday rest. 6They came inside the house as though to take wheat, and they struck him in the stomach; then Rechab and his brother Baanah escaped.
So Saul’s son is murdered by men of his own tribe, the Benjamanites. The ongoing story has made it clear that David had no hand in the deaths of any of Saul’s family.
7Now they had come into the house while he was lying on his couch in his bedchamber; they attacked him, killed him, and beheaded him. Then they took his head and traveled by way of the Arabah all night long. 8They brought the head of Ishbaal to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbaal, son of Saul, your enemy, who sought your life; the Lord has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.”
9David answered Rechab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As the Lord lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, 10when the one who told me, ‘See, Saul is dead,’ thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag—this was the reward I gave him for his news. 11How much more then, when wicked men have killed a righteous man on his bed in his own house! And now shall I not require his blood at your hand, and destroy you from the earth?”
Remember that twice David had made a promise (to Jonathan, and to Saul) to be kind to their families. Here David keeps that promise. He will not condone the evil deed of the murder of Saul’s son, even though he benefits from it.
12So David commanded the young men, and they killed them; they cut off their hands and feet, and hung their bodies beside the pool at Hebron. But the head of Ishbaal they took and buried in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.
David orders respect to be shown to Ishbaal, but cutting off the hands and feet of the murderers was considered extremely humiliating.
David says in verse 11 how immoral it is, that “wicked men have killed a righteous man.” And in the mind’s eye, the guillotine changes into a cross, the beheading becomes a crucifixion, and we see Jesus killed for our sins.
HERE is “Beneath the Cross of Jesus” sung by the Hastings College (Nebraska) choir.
The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.