(Continued from page 563)
The political and military structure in the North and South Kingdoms (1009 B.C.)
Chapter 4 once again focuses in on the northern kingdom. Abner was dead, but the monarchy did not come to an immediate end even though Ish-bosheth lost all his courage when he heard the news. However, since he was not qualified for leadership, all Israel, without an effective central government was troubled.
About that time, two officers of Ish-bosheth's army conspired to ingratiate themselves with King David by committing an act of treachery. They arranged, through deceit, to get into Ish-bosheth's bedroom during his daily siesta time. They murdered him, cut off his head, and travelled all night with the gruesome evidence to present to King David. Ancient monarchs considered the severed heads of their enemies to be a great prize. After being chopped off, the head would be soaked in wax or honey, then wrapped up and preserved until it could be presented to the king in exchange for a reward.4 We know that even later in Babylonian times, heads, dangling from cords in the amphitheater, were included among the decorations for Belshazzar's feast. The two assassins of Ish-bosheth, Rechab and Baanah, approached David with their prize, saying, "Behold the head of . . . thine enemy, which sought thy life" (v85). They do not understand God's anointed king at all. They do not understand David's submission to God and his refusal to raise his hand against God's anointed (or even one who has in some less noble way been made king). They do not understand David's love for Saul, or his commitment to protect the lives of his offspring and the honour of his name (1 Samuel 24:16-22). They do not learn from David's previous actions that he is not so eager to gain the throne that he will wink at the wickedness of those who seek to kill God's anointed (2 Samuel 4:9-122):
9 David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, "As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all distress, 10 when one told me, saying, 'Behold, Saul is dead,' and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him in Ziklag, which was the reward I gave him for his news. 11 "How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous man in his own house on his bed, shall I not now require his blood from your hand and destroy you from the earth?" 12 Then David commanded the young men, and they killed them and cut off their hands and feet and hung them up beside the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-bosheth and buried it in the grave of Abner in Hebron.
David's reply was to tell them the story about the Amalekite who had brought him an account of Saul's death, two years ago, expecting a reward, and what he had done to that man. Once again, David shows that he is no opportunist who will stoop to any means to gain the throne God has promised him. Neither will David look the other way when others do evil to facilitate his ascent to the throne. David is a man who understands what being God's king is all about:
A divine decision is in the lips of the king; His mouth should not err in judgment (Proverbs 16:10).
A king who sits on the throne of justice disperses all evil with his eyes (Proverbs 20:8).
A wise king winnows the wicked, and drives the threshing wheel over them (Proverbs 20:26).
Take away the wicked before the king, and his throne will be established in righteousness (Proverbs 25:5).
He ordered the two murderers to be slain, their bodies mutilated, then to be hung in public view. Then, in kindness, he buried the head of Ish-bosheth in the grave with Abner. Remembering that we read, in 2 Samuel 2:10, that Ish-bosheth was king for only two years, then we know that his assassination took place in 1008 B.C., because Saul's death and David's coronation in Hebron occurred in 1010 B.C. As a result, there is a five and one half year gap between 2 Samuel 4:12 and 5:1. Chapter 5 informs us that all the tribes of Israel came to David and, in verse 3, "they anointed David king over Israel". David had waited twenty-two years for this occasion. Verses 4 and 52 summarize his reign: David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months: and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty and three years over all Israel and Judah. It has been a long wait, but David was at last king over all of the tribes and an object lesson to believers in all generations to wait for the Lord God Almighty to bring things about in His time.
(Continued on page 565)