Question: "What is the story of David and Ish-bosheth?"
Answer: Ish-bosheth was a son of King Saul. His story is discussed in 2 Samuel chapters 2 through 4. David was king in the city of Hebron and over the tribe of Judah. Ish-bosheth was made king over the rest of Israel: “Abner son of Ner, the commander of Saul’s army, had taken Ish-Bosheth son of Saul and brought him over to Mahanaim. He made him king over Gilead, Ashuri and Jezreel, and also over Ephraim, Benjamin and all Israel. Ish-Bosheth son of Saul was forty years old when he became king over Israel, and he reigned two years. The tribe of Judah, however, remained loyal to David” (2 Samuel 2:8–10).
Following a battle at Gibeon between Judah and Israel, Abner chose to join David. Abner was a military leader to Ish-bosheth, who accused Abner of sleeping with his concubine. In his anger over the false charge, Abner vowed to turn the rest of Israel over to David (2 Samuel 3:7–11).
During this time, “Rekab and Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, set out for the house of Ish-Bosheth, and they arrived there in the heat of the day while he was taking his noonday rest. They went into the inner part of the house as if to get some wheat, and they stabbed him in the stomach” (2 Samuel 4:5–6). The assassins brought the head of Ish-bosheth to David, expecting to receive a reward. Yet David was displeased at their merciless action and had these men killed, their feet and hands cut off, and their bodies hanged beside a pool in Hebron. In contrast, the head of Ish-bosheth was buried in Hebron (2 Samuel 4:12). These events took place after David had ruled at Hebron for about seven and a half years.
The end of Ish-bosheth’s life, though violent, opened the door for David’s rule to expand from Judah to all of Israel. The prophecy of long ago finally came true: David was the king of all Israel (2 Samuel 5:2). “When all the elders of Israel had come to King David at Hebron, the king made a covenant with them at Hebron before the Lord, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he became king, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years” (2 Samuel 5:3–5).
Despite the many violent acts that took place between the people of David’s kingdom and the kingdom of Ish-bosheth, God was at work, preparing the way for His promise to be fulfilled. David ultimately reigned over Israel from Jerusalem. He served as an ancestor to Jesus Christ, the One who will ultimately reign forever.