They had gone into the house while he was lying on the bed in his bedroom. After they stabbed and killed him, they cut off his head. Taking it with them, they traveled all night by way of the Arabah. They brought the head of Ish-Bosheth to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ish-Bosheth son of Saul, your enemy, who tried to kill you. This day the Lord has avenged my lord the king against Saul and his offspring.” David answered Rekab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As surely as the Lord lives, who has delivered me out of every trouble, when someone told me, ‘Saul is dead,’ and thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and put him to death in Ziklag. That was the reward I gave him for his news! How much more—when wicked men have killed an innocent man in his own house and on his own bed—should I not now demand his blood from your hand and rid the earth of you!” So David gave an order to his men, and they killed them. They cut off their hands and feet and hung the bodies by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ish-Bosheth and buried it in Abner’s tomb at Hebron. – 2 Samuel 4:7-12
The clan warfare and bloodlust continues….Rekab and his brother Baanah have killed Saul’s son and heir, Ish-Bosheth in his house and beheaded him. Apparently they did this to please David. He was not pleased. David had already made his peace with the house of Saul through Abner, who was killed by Joab in retribution for the killing of his brother Asahel. There is a lot of killing going on here.
The consequences of the decision by Rekab and Baanah to kill Saul’s son are somewhat horrific. They in turn are killed by David’s men, mutilated, and hung in a community spot by a pool, the pool of Hebron, where many women and children probably came to fetch water each day. This would be a little like someone hanging dismembered corpses in a shopping mall today. The punishment seems out of proportion to the crime. Why would David treat these men so harshly? They were apparently doing what they did in David’s name. Perhaps this is the reason David was so harsh. He had forgiven Saul and his descendants, but these men had shown no mercy and killed someone in his name.
The public display of the corpses could have been to dissuade anyone else from continuing this blood feud between the house of David and the house of Saul This sort of behavior sounds like a page out of the ISIS playbook rather than something in the bible. How does this violent, seemingly bloodthirsty behavior, mesh with the God who sees us and wants to carry us like a son or daughter? Maybe it doesn’t. Maybe these men, including David, have failed the “Meribah Test” and they are in the process of leading people away from God rather than toward Him.
They may believe that “God is on their side”, but perhaps a more pertinent question is – are they on God’s side? This is a question we could ask ourselves whenever we “go to battle” in God’s name. Are we on God’s side? It seems to me we have to know God really well before we can determine whether we are on His side or not. God, as revealed through Jesus, was not only not on the side of killing anyone, He equated being angry with your brother with killing him. Clearly this is a different standard than was being practiced at this time in Israel’s history.
Prayer: God, rather than argue about whose side You are on,show us what it looks like to be on Your side when we encounter conflict.