The Price Of Revenge

Rechab and Baanah bring the head of Ish-Bosheth

When Saul’s son heard that Abner had died in Hebron, he lost heart, and all Israel was troubled. Now Saul’s son had two men who were captains of troops. The name of one was Baanah and the name of the other Rechab, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, of the children of Benjamin. (For Beeroth also was part of Benjamin, because the Beerothites fled to Gittaim and have been sojourners there until this day.) Jonathan, Saul’s son, had a son who was lame in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel, and his nurse took him up and fled. And it happened, as she made haste to flee, that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth. Then the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab, and Baanah, set out and came at about the heat of the day to the house of Ishbosheth, who was lying on his bed at noon. And they came there, all the way into the house, as though to get wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach. Then Rechab and Baanah his brother escaped. For when they came into the house, he was lying on his bed in his bedroom; then they struck him and killed him, beheaded him and took his head, and were all night escaping through the plain. And they brought the head of Ishbosheth to David at Hebron, and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbosheth, the son of Saul your enemy, who sought your life; and the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day of Saul and his descendants.” But David answered Rechab and Baanah his brother, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, and said to them, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life from all adversity, when someone told me, saying, ‘Look, Saul is dead,’ thinking to have brought good news, I arrested him and had him executed in Ziklag—the one who thought I would give him a reward for his news. How much more, when wicked men have killed a righteous person in his own house on his bed? Therefore, shall I not now require his blood at your hand and remove you from the earth?” So David commanded his young men, and they executed them, cut off their hands and feet, and hanged them by the pool in Hebron. But they took the head of Ishbosheth and buried it in the tomb of Abner in Hebron. (2 Samuel 4:1-12)

The Price Of Revenge

When David was anointed King of Judah, it was a fractured nation left by Saul with rebellions, treachery and deceit. Ishbosheth, son of Saul reigned over Israel while the house of Judah followed David. The family of Saul continued to battle for control of the young nation as apparent heirs to the throne against the house of David who had been anointed by Samuel the prophet. Men like Abner the son of Ner served the house of Saul before joining forces with David. The nephew of David, Joab, served as a military leader for David and was able to defeat a group of soldiers from the house of Saul killing 360 men. In the battle, the brother of Joab was killed by Abner as Asahel pursued Abner. Joab would murder Abner at the gate of the city to revenge his brother’s death. When the house of Saul heard that Abner had been killed, it disheartened the people. Ishbosheth had ruled over Israel for only two years when he is assassinated by two of his generals, Rechab and Baanah. After killing Ishbosheth, the assassins beheaded him and fled all night through the plain to Hebron where David was. Believing they would be rewarded with honor for killing a man they thought was an enemy of David, Rechab and Baanah extolled the name of God as their purpose for killing Ishbosheth. What they failed to tell David is they had murdered in cold blood a man lying on his bed at noon with no defense and the probable motive was revenge against the house of Saul for the slaughter of their kinsmen the Gibeonites. Presenting the head of the slain son of Saul, Rechab and Baanah felt rewarded to kill any of Saul’s house as a favor to David. What they failed to know was the man David and how he had already killed one man who bragged he had killed Saul. To make matters worse, the two men invoked the blessing of God as the cause of their killing Ishbosheth.

As David listened patiently, his anger grew steadily within him. Standing before him were two opportunists who believed they spoke in the name of the Lord to kill a righteous man in his own house on his own bed. No one had told them to kill Ishbosheth and David had not given orders for anyone to destroy the house of Saul. Although Saul spent much of his life chasing David through the wilderness as when one hunts a bird, the son of Jesse held no animosity or hatred for the king. On a number of occasions, David could have killed Saul but restrained his men from doing so because Saul was the anointed of God. When Saul died David mourned and wept and fasted for his king and his friend Jonathan, Saul’s son. In his Song of the Bow, David said of Saul and Jonathan the beauty of Israel was slain and the mighty had fallen. The heart of David was not set on revenge and Rechab and Baanah had served their own purpose in killing a righteous man that David would have spared. Rechab and Baanah were executed and the hands and feet were cut off and the bodies were hung by the pool in Hebron. The king acted quickly as a just reward against all that would dare speak in his name or to bring about acts of revenge against the house of Saul. David acted with judicial prudence in contrast to Rechab and Baanah who acted through a motive of revenge.

Baruch Spinoza said, “He who wishes to revenge injuries by reciprocated hatred will live in misery.” (Ethics, IV, 1677) In all cases of revenge, death takes place. David had many reasons to seek revenge against the house of Saul but he knew that God had delivered him by righteous means and purpose. What Rechab and Baanah had done was not for the righteousness of the Lord. The Christian serves a higher cause than the carnal whims of the wrath of men. Paul would exhort the first-century disciples to do everything in their power to live in peace with all men and never take revenge. All righteous judgment will be meted out by the righteous judgment of God and He will measure out in full what is required. The lesson learned from Rechab and Baanah is that revenge is not to be a battle cry to get back at others who harm us or defame us. If our enemy is hungry, the child of God does not seek revenge but offers bread and if they are thirsty to give them something to drink. The spirit of Christ lives in the hearts of those who do not seek revenge for personal gain or to gain a position as Rechab and Baanah sought. If anyone had a right to seek revenge on those who unjustly charged him and killed him it would be Jesus Christ. On the cross, writhing in pain, Jesus prayed for the Father to forgive those who mocked him and rejected him. Do not let evil, hatred, and prejudice conquer your heart but conquer the anger and hatred and prejudice by doing good in the name of Christ.

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