This short chapter contains descriptions of a murder and an execution. The reign of Saul’s son Ish-Bosheth ends quickly when two of his raiding party leaders murder him in his house. They appear to be motivated by the possibility of gaining a prominent position in the new regime of King David. After murdering Ish-Bosheth they cut off his head and carry it to David to confirm the death of the king of Israel.
When these men present the head of Ish-Bosheth to King David they are quickly confronted with a very different reaction from the one they expected. David is not an ordinary king, and he does not act in the same way as all the other kings in the region. Rather than rewarding the men, he has them executed and hung up for public display.
What about us?
We would like to think that we have progressed as people and that we are much more civilized than the nations of King David’s time. Unfortunately, the news everyday confirms that as people we have made little progress in our treatment of other people. It seems that we all at one time or another struggle to establish or increase our power in the communities in which we function. Far too often battles for power involve violence and the destruction of human life.
As we progress through 2 Samuel there will be many times when David’s attitudes and actions should not be followed. In this situation I think David’s attitude reflects God’s attitude toward us when we choose to harm others in order to increase our power or position. We make jokes about office politics, but it is common to see people waiting for peers to fail so they can expose them. As the person who exposes them, we may hope to move ahead of them for advancement. God does not execute us and neither does our boss, and we should be grateful for that progress. However, a good God and a good boss will not look on us with favor when we attempt to win their favor at the expense of others.
Jesus’ instruction in the Sermon on the Mount is clear:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.Matthew 5:43-45 NIV