Then came all the tribes of Israel to David unto Hebron, and spake, saying, Behold, we aye thy bone and thy flesh.
Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the Lord said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and thou shalt be a captain over Israel.
So all the elders of Israel came to the king to Hebron; and king David made a league with them in Hebron before the Lord: and they anointed David king over Israel.
For many it was simply impossible to understand the motivation that was underlying the life of one such as David. In spite of the fact that he had punished the Amalekite who claimed for himself the slaying of King Saul with immediate death, and although he had publicly castigated Joab for his slaying of Abner, there were still those who could not imagine that he was motivated by anything other than a carnal lust for power and accordingly that he would not be pleased with anyone who assisted him in gaining that end. So was it also with Baanah and Rechab, two of the servants of Ishbosheth.
The fact was that after the death of Abner the kingdom of Ishbosheth began to crumble inescapably. Ishbosheth had never really been any more than a figurehead through whom Abner had tried to rule in the place of Saul. It had never proved to be a very practical set-up, for Ishbosheth, while emotionally and intellectually completely dependent upon Abner, had tried to act as if sufficient in himself. And besides, of course, this arrangement had not the blessing of Israel’s God, and without that any ruler in Israel was completely helpless. Thus it was that, as soon as Abner was reported slain, Ishbosheth collapsed mentally and in effect physically too. He retired to his bed and remained there troubled and afraid while his kingdom merely drifted without leadership.
For those in positions of authority under Isbbosheth the whole matter was becoming very critical. Going as they were, things could only lead to a final take over by David and his forces with the result that they would lose their positions. It is not surprising, therefore, that at that point there should be some who would try to manipulate things in such a way that they might appear to be the responsible parties for the advancement of David, so earning for themselves his gratitude and perhaps even better positions in David’s kingdom than they had had with Ishbosheth. In this instance the two men were brothers, Raanah and Rechab. Not men of the greatest importance by any means, captains of two army bands, they were nonetheless high enough that they could obtain ready access into the presence of their king. Their plan was that of two unprincipled and cowardly men. They simply went in one noon and murdered their king in his own bed. But even that was not enough. So that there might be left no-bit of doubt but that they were the ones who had performed this deed, they cut off the head of Ishbosheth and carried it away with them.
No sooner was the deed done than the two brothers set out immediately for the palace of David at Hebron carrying their grisly trophy with them. All through the night they traveled, anxious to be the first ones to come to David with the news of Ishosheth’s death and thinking, perhaps, that by being present at the moment when David heard of this new turn of events, they would be most likely to benefit from a spontaneous outflow of his gratitude. Little indeed did those men understand the nature of David.
It was some time the next day that these two men came into Hebron and, insisting that they had something that they could reveal to no one but King David himself, they were brought into the presence of the king. So completely confident were these men of a favorable reaction that they put into their presentation every dramatic flourish that their perverted minds could imagine. Without saying a word, they merely reached into their sack and brought forth the ghastly head of Ishbosheth, now coated with dried blood and badly battered from the miles of hasty travel upon the way. Only then did they speak and with exaggerated subservience said, “Behold the head of Ishboseth the son of Saul thine enemy, which sought thy life; and the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul, and of his seed.”
To be sure, it was not the first time that David had seen a sight as ghastly as this. He was a man of war who had often walked across fields scattered with the remains of mutilated bodies. In fact, he had himself ended his first great battle with the decapitation of Seliath. But that had been different, it had been upon the field of battle where violence and death were honestly met. This, however, was an outright act of treachery, cowardice and cold-blooded murder. That these men should now bring the grisly testimony of their crime into the very court of the king and with a boastful flourish display it for all to see was bad enough; but when they on top of this added an appeal to the justice of God as though all were done in His fear and with His approval, it was more than the righteous heart of David could endure. There was a note of suppressed rage in his voice as he echoed back, “As the LORD liveth, who hath redeemed my soul out of all adversity, when one told me, saying, Behold, Saul is dead, thinking to have brought good tidings, I took hold of him, and slew him in Ziklag, who thought that I would have given him a reward for his tidings: how much more, when wicked men have slain a righteous person in his own house upon his bed shall I not therefore now require his blood of your hand, and take you away from the earth?”
We can only imagine the utter astonishment of Baanah and Rechab at these words of David. They were not the kind that could understand anything in life that was not rooted in self-service and self-advancement. Even what resemblance of religion they maintained, and outwardly they may well have been normal Israelites in their religious observances, was somehow made to fit into this same pattern. But they did not have long to contemplate the nature of their error. Immediately David commanded that the two be slain; and even beyond that, he commanded that their hands and feet be cut off and their bodies be hanged over the pool at Hebron. It was a testimony to the nature of the crime they had committed and to the curse that they deserved for that crime, for all knew what Moses had said, “He that is hanged is accursed of God.”
The reaction of David in connection with three different incidents, the slaying of Saul, Abner, and now of Ishbosheth, had been based upon his own strong feelings of moral indignation: but at the same time they proved to be moves of immense practical importance. Gradually as one by one these incidents took place the people began to understand that here was indeed a man who was motivated by much more than personal ambitions or the desire for vengeance. In fact, it was truly quite amazing. Never before had there been seen a king who acted like this. He was much more strongly dedicated to the principles of righteousness and justice, and especially to the will of God than he was to his own personal fortune or advancement. He could grieve bitterly over a personal enemy who had been slain and punish one of his closest friends most severely for having committed an injustice. To him unjust and wicked men, even though they worked to give him; his greatest personal opportunity, he was ready to render accursed for all of the people to see. It did something to the people just to see this kind of thinking in one so high and elevated in position with so much power at his disposal. Just to see David the King living as one who was subject and accountable to a much higher power made them aware of the reality of their God as they had not been for many years.
It had begun first, of course, in the tribe of Judah soon after David was first established as their king in the city of Hebron. From David there radiated out an awareness of God and the blessedness which was to be found in obedience to Him. In a most surprising way it brought a new strength and unity to the people that filled their small nation with a vitality of new life. Neither did it stop at the borders of Judah, On the one hand, it spread out into the lands of the heathen, only here with an opposite effect. The heathen nations had long felt a strange awareness of the supernatural power that overshadowed the works of David, and now this power was there throughout his tribe and the small, independent nation it formed. But even more effectively, it spread up into the rest of the tribes of Israel. Already before the death of Ishbosheth and even of Abner, the other tribes had begun to observe the new surge of strength that was permeating the life of Judah. The result was that these people too were beginning to re-examine the laws of their God and their relationship to Him. It was, as a result, almost with a sense of relief that these tribes heard in quick succession that both Abner and Ishbosheth were dead.
The response was quick and very much spontaneous. From each of the tribes there came representatives and they together went immediately down to Hebron. The proposition which they laid before David was this, “Behold, we are thy bone and thy flesh. Also in time past, when Saul was king over us, thou wast he that leddest out and broughtest in Israel: and the LORD said to thee, Thou shalt feed my people Israel, and r thou shalt be a captain over Israel.” Here at last was that point which God had intended for Israel from the days of Moses on. Already in the wilderness He had made plain that He had intended to make of Israel a great typical theocracy with a king ruling according to His law and in His name. For its coming the people were to wait; but wait they would not. Thus it was that in their impatience, they had turned to Samuel and demanded a king, not the king that God was preparing them, but a king that would be like those of the heathen. And, as God so often does to those who come to Him in folly, He gave to them exactly what they wanted, a king like those of the heathen. It had been a bitter lesson as for thirty and more years they had struggled under exactly that kind of a rule. But now they had glimpsed something different, and their hearts had come to seek after it with a much higher and purer motive. It had not come easy. It had taken long years of struggle, not just with the carnal element in the nation, but with the carnal nature within each one of them. Nevertheless, here at last was a simplicity and directness of statement which reflected that at last the men of Israel had begun to grasp some of the purpose of God. In one short statement they gave acknowledgment to their common descent from Abraham, to the manifestation of the power of God which had been with David from the first of his efforts in behalf of Israel, and, above all, that the purpose of a king in Israel was not merely to make them equal with the heathen but rather to be as a shepherd to them leading them in the way of the Lord.
For a second time now, David was anointed king in Israel. The first time over the tribe of Judah, but now over the whole nation. It was the beginning of the great Old Testament typical form of the kingdom of God which would come into its final fulfillment only when the Son of David would be exalted to the throne of God in heaven.