In today’s post we are studying the Holy Bible, chapter 4 of 2 Samuel in an effort to learn how we can faithfully follow and serve the leader(s) above us based on what David modeled for us as a young man in Israel.
We pick up with the story of David just after Abner has been killed and buried. As a reminder, Abner was the commander of Saul’s army and Ishbosheth’s army. He was killed by Joab, the commander of David’s army. Abner has been buried and word spreads across Israel that he has died.
In this part of our story we see that when Ishbosheth, the king of Israel, hears about Abner’s death at Hebron, all of Israel becomes paralyzed with fear. Abner was the true leader of Israel with Ishbosheth being a somewhat “puppet” king who Abner controlled. Israel is now fearful of what might happen to them as a nation since their more fierce warrior and main leader, Abner, is dead. That’s when we read about two men who take matters into their own hands.
Two brothers named Baanah and Recab are captains of Ishbosheth’s raiding parities (meaning they went to neighboring enemies and captured money, goodies, and people). These two brothers decide to take matters into their own hands.
Baanah and Recab go to Ishbosheth’s house around noon one day. The text does not tell us if these two brothers go to the house with intent to kill the king or if they are going there for other reasons. (It was common in those days for captains such as Baanah and Recab to visit the king to accumulate wheat for their warriors.) What we do know is that these two brothers go into the king’s home and find Ishbosheth sleeping on his bed. The two brothers kill Ishbosheth and cut off his head. Then they run across the Jordan Valley through the night to see David in Hebron anticipating a warm welcome. However, they are surprised by David’s reaction to the head they have brought with them.
When Baanah and Recab arrive in Hebron and see David they exclaim,
“Look! . . . Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of your enemy Saul who tried to kill you. Today the LORD has given my lord the king revenge on Saul and his entire family!” 2 Samuel 4:8
Baanah and Recab receive a response from David that they definitely did not anticipate. In fact, the response they receive is very opposite of what they hoped for. Next we read David’s response to Baanah and Recab who have brought him the head of his alleged “enemy”. David responds to Baanah and Recab:
“The LORD, who saves me from all my enemies, is my witness. Someone once told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ thinking he was bringing me good news. But I seized him and killed him at Ziklag. That’s the reward I gave him for his news! How much more should I reward evil men who have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed? Shouldn’t I hold you responsible for his blood and rid the earth of you?” 2 Samuel 4:9-11
Next David orders his men to kill Baanah and Recab because they have killed an “innocent” man. Not only do David’s men kill Baanah and Recab, but they cut off Baanah and Recab’s hands and feet and hang their bodies near a pool in Hebron. Scholars believe this might have been a sign of rejection for what the men have done and is a sign to other people at that time that it is wrong to murder an innocent man.
Reading this story and David’s response to it reminds me that David is much more committed to God’s plans and promises than he is to advancing in his own kingdom and reign. The Israelites think David wants to kill the king (which is wrong to do) if he has the chance. They believe David sees King Saul and King Ishbosheth as his enemies since they hold the position of king that he has been anointed to receive.
Looking back on our studies of the life of David there are four times people thought David would want the king killed:
- When Saul enters the same cave David and his men are hiding in (1 Samuel 24)
- In the camp when David finds Saul sound asleep in his tent (1 Samuel 26)
- When the Amalekite man claims to have killed Saul (2 Samuel 1)
- When Baanah and Recab kill Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 4)
In each of these situations David responds differently than how others thought he would. Other people thought David would want to kill the current king so he could become king. But David is different because he wants to ascend righteously to the throne. David wants to do what is right more than he wants to be king (which is a good thing).
But, why did David not want to kill the king?
There are 4 reasons David did not want to kill the king:
- Even though David is making small progress towards becoming king he does not condone people killing the king unlawfully. This shows part of David’s commitment to Saul’s kingship and God’s choice of who should be or is king.
- “Wrong doers often presume upon God’s favor to justify political ambition. However, David would not reward treachery.”
- The message to the people in the text 1 and 2 Samuel is written to tell us that you cannot advance God’s plan by doing ungodly things. We get to read about David living faithfully to God by doing the little things right along the way.
- And, as my friend Michael Linn states so simply yet profoundly, “It was wrong to kill the king!”
Instead of killing the king to become king, David wanted to become king the right way according to God’s timeline. He wanted to have a clean slate when he became king.
The application for us as leaders is to ascend righteously in our work just like David did in his 15 year ascension to becomes king. Here are some ways we too can ascend righteously in our work:
- Faithfully follow and respect our leader
- Go against the grain to do the right thing
- Work hard at what we do and do the best job we can
- Know God’s plan for our lives and don’t take underhanded measures to get there
- Refuse to compromise our integrity as we wait for leadership
- Don’t allow our “circumstances” to speak to us
Question: How do you think a leader should ascend righteously?