Fausset's Bible Dictionary


("man of shame"); substituted for his original name Esh-baal (1Ch 8:33; 1Ch 9:39) in contempt of Baal, from some connection of the family with whom he had been named; so Jerub-baal, Jerub-besheth (Jdg 8:35; Hos 9:10). (See ABNER; DAVID.) Youngest of Saul's four sons, and his successor according to eastern usage, though Mephibosheth (whose name was similarly changed from Meribbaal), son of his oldest brother Jonathan, was alive. At Mahanaim, the ancient sanctuary E. of Jordan, beyond the reach of the Philistine conquerors, he was raised to the throne by Abner his valiant kinsman (2Sa 2:8). This was after a five years' interregnum during which the Philistines and David had the country divided between them; for David had reigned according to 2Sa 2:10-11 "seven years and six months" over Judah in the old capital Hebron, while Ishbosheth reigned only "two years."

Even northern and eastern Israel, but for Abner, was inclined to have accepted David (2Sa 2:7; 2Sa 3:17). Ishbosheth was 35 at the battle of Gilboa, and 40 when, by Abner's influence, after a five years' effort he ascended the throne "over all Israel" except Judah. His charge against Abner of connection with his father Saul's concubine Rizpah was, in eastern usage, tantamount to a charge of treasonously aspiring to the throne (2Sa 3:7; compare 1Ki 2:13-22). Abner in a passion vowed to transfer the kingdom to David. Ishbosheth did not dare to answer; and when David, sending the message to Ishbosheth direct, required him to restore his former wife Michal, Ishbosheth, constrained by Abner, forced his sister to leave her weeping husband Phaltiel and accompany Abner to David (2Sa 3:13-16), for her restoration was demanded by David as the first preliminary in treating with Abner.

Abner's death deprived Ishbosheth of the last prop of his throne; "his hands were feeble, and all the Israelites were troubled" (2Sa 4:1). Two sons of Rimmon of Beeroth, formerly a Canaanite city leagued with Gibeon (Jos 9:17), Baana and Rechab, captains of marauding "bands" which used to make raids on Judah (2Sa 3:22; 2Sa 4:2), took this opportunity of revenging Saul's slaughter of their kinsmen the Gibeonites (2 Samuel 21) on Ishbosheth. Pretending to fetch wheat from the inner court for their men, in the still noon when Ishbosheth was taking his midday sleep on his bed, they smote and took away his head, making their escape all that night through the valley of the Jordan.

Presenting it to David, as though it would be a welcome gift because Saul the father had been David's "enemy who sought his life," and suppressing mention of their own murderous treachery, they with hypocritical profanation of God's name said: "Behold ... the Lord hath avenged my lord the king this day of Saul and his seed." But David reproached them with their wicked murder of "a righteous person in his own house upon his bed," and commanded his young men to slay them, and to hang up over the pool in Hebron their severed hands and feet. The head of Ishbosheth was duly buried in the sepulchre of Abner in Hebron.


Taken from: Fausset's Bible Dictionary by Andrew Robert Fausset (1821-1910)