In 2 Samuel 4:1–8, we discover that the news about Abner’s death did not encourage Ish-Bosheth to reassert his own authority over Israel. On the contrary, it only increased his instability and brought a sense of panic to the nation. Sensing that Ish-Bosheth was powerless, two Benjamite assassins—Baanah and Recab ( 2 Samuel 4:2–3)—gained access to Ish-Bosheth’s house at Mahanaim at midday and slew him in his bed and carried his head to David at Hebron ( 2 Samuel 4:8).
Within the narrative is a reference ( 2 Samuel 4:4) to Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth (otherwise and originally Merib-Baal,1 Chron. 8:34). The name change is similar to that of Esh-Baal to Ish-Bosheth, but here the change was from “Baal contends” to “from the mouth of shamefulness.” His lameness occurred when his nurse, who was carrying the young five-year-old lad out of danger after Jonathan’s death, dropped him and injured him. Mephibosheth reappears later in the story as one in special need of protection (2 Sam. 9).
In 2 Samuel 4:9–12. David’s response to this deed, which was done obviously to gain his favor, was identical to his reaction when he learned of Saul’s death. He ordered the two to be executed, their hands and feet to be cut off, and their corpses to be hanged publicly at the pool of Hebron ( 2 Samuel 4:12). David regarded their act as an unjustified assault on a defenseless man ( 2 Samuel 4:11). No doubt David’s stern measures of retribution also reflected his genuine love for Saul and his family, even though they had opposed him.