Acting With Integrity
Sunday School Lesson for June 9, 2002
Background Passage: 2 Samuel 2:8-4:12
Section One: A Brief Synopsis of the Events in 2:8-3:39
Strife Between the Houses of David and Saul (2:8-3:5)
Abner’s Alliance with David (3:6-21)
· During the course of the war between the two houses, David expanded his kingdom and power by marrying six additional women, each of whom bore him a son (3:1-5).
Joab’s Murder of Abner (3:22-28)
· Joab, seeking revenge for the death of his brother Asahel, lured Abner into a private meeting and stabbed him to death (3:26-28).
David’s Reaction to Abner’s Murder (3:28-39)
Ish-Bosheth’s Murder and David’s Response (4:1-12)
In chapter four the integrity and God-ward devotion of King David is revealed through yet another tragic episode in the life of Israel. The incident begins with the statement in verse 1 that Ish-Bosheth’s kingdom began to crumble as he “lost courage” in the face of Abner’s death. The demise of Abner, therefore, proved to be a significant moment in the reign of Ish-Bosheth since there was little he could do to “stop ruthless men [from] taking advantage of the power vacuum, and asserting their own self-assigned authority” (Baldwin, 192).
Here we meet two individuals who served as “leaders” of Saul’s “raiding bands”—“Baanah” and “Recab” (v. 2). These two men, realizing that Ish-Bosheth’s ability to maintain his kingdom intact was lost, apparently determined to do something to win the favor and approval of King David. Ultimately, they plotted the cold-blooded assassination of Ish-Bosheth himself as the means to achieve their goal. In verse 5 we are told that the two men paid a visit to the King’s official residence during the time of his “noonday rest.” Acting as if they were there to acquire a supply of wheat, they “stabbed him in the stomach” (v. 6). In verse 7 additional details of the murder are provided. Here we learn that they attacked the King while he was “lying on the bed in his bedroom.” Following his death, the men “cut off his head” and made their way to Hebron via the “Arabah.”
Two points are worthy of consideration here. First, it is truly remarkable how easily the two opportunistic guerrillas gained entry in the King’s private bedchamber. Baldwin observes that “even an ordinary household could be expected to be more security- conscious, especially during the afternoon rest hour” (193). This seems to indicate the obvious weakness of Ish-Bosheth’s administration.
Secondly, both Baanah and Recab are deliberately juxtaposed to the helpless son of Jonathan, “Mephibosheth” (v. 4). This serves to expose the cowardly nature of their deed. Like the crippled child, Ish-Bosheth himself was weak and powerless. To assassinate him in he manner described “will hardly be [regarded as] heroic but in the class of a junior-high ruffian who beats up five year olds” (Davis, 43).
In order to impress David, the two men arrived at Hebron with the head of Ish-Bosheth. It is clear from their words—“Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to take your life”—that they believed David would surely be impressed by their actions in eliminating the rival King (v. 8). Even more remarkable is their claim that God had approved of their cowardly actions—“this day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.” These words demonstrate that they were “presuming on God’s approval of their deed, as though they had acted on the Lord’s express orders” (Baldwin, 193). Dale Davis explains their apparent motive:
Certainly Rechab and Baanah are not claiming to be Yahweh; they are only saying that by their deed they have decisively eliminated the whole threat against David from Saul’s house. They dare not claim too much; but they want to place a certain spin on their treachery to suggest that David is indebted to them for this finishing touch that makes his person and kingdom secure . . . . Are they not, however subtly, pretending to be David’s redeemers to whom he owes something for the coming kingdom? (47).
In verse 9 David replies to the men in terms most unexpected. He begins his speech by appealing to Yahweh, his true Redeemer, as a Witness to his words. He then briefly recounts his meeting with the Amalekite man who had claimed responsibility for Saul’s death—specifically how he “seized him and put him to death in Ziklag.” Then he announced his kingly intentions to them in light of his earlier actions—“should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!” (v. 11). It is significant that David considered Ish-Bosheth to be an “innocent,” or righteous man. This would indicate that David believed he was “not personally involved in his father’s guilt, and had done nothing to deserve death” (Baldwin, 194).
Tragically, the two warriors met the same fate as the Amalekite. David ordered their immediate execution followed by the dismemberment and public display of their bodies “by the pool in Hebron” (v. 12). The chapter concludes with the record of the respectful burial of Ish-Bosheth’s head in “Abner’s tomb.”
One: Why was there a division in the land of Israel at this time? What factors apparently contributed to the civil war between the forces of David and those of Saul?
Two: What do the actions of Abner, Joab, Recab, and Baanah have in common? What one thing were they each apparently seeking? How does the record of their actions relate to men and women in the twenty-first century?
Three: In what specific ways did David display his integrity? How did his commitment to God’s Word guide his decisions? Other than his integrity, what one virtue is prominent in David’s life throughout this passage?