2 SAMUEL 4:1-12
1When Saul’s son Ishbaal heard that Abner had died at Hebron, his courage failed, and all Israel was dismayed. 2Saul’s son had two captains of raiding bands; the name of one was Baanah, and the name of the other Rechab. They were sons of Rimmon, a Benjaminite from Beeroth — for Beeroth is considered to belong to Benjamin. 3(Now the people of Beeroth had fled to Gittaim and are there as resident aliens to this day).
4Saul’s son Jonathan had a son who was crippled in his feet. He was five years old when the news about Saul and Jonathan came from Jezreel. His nurse picked him up and fled; and, in her haste to flee, it happened that he fell and became lame. His name was Mephibosheth.
5Now the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, Rechab and Baanah, set out, and about the heat of the day they came to the house of Ishbaal, while he was taking his noonday rest. 6They came inside the house as though to take wheat, and they struck him in the stomach; then Rechab and his brother Baanah escaped. 7Now they had come into the house while he was lying on his couch in his bedchamber; they attacked him, killed him, and beheaded him. Then they took his head and traveled by way of the Arabah all night long. 8They brought the head of Ishbaal to David at Hebron and said to the king, “Here is the head of Ishbaal, son of Saul your enemy who sought your life; the LORD has avenged my lord the king this day on Saul and on his offspring.”
9David answered Rechab and his brother Baanah, the sons of Rimmon the Beerothite, “As the LORD lives, who has redeemed my life out of every adversity, 10when the one who told me, ‘See, Saul is dead,’ thought he was bringing good news, I seized him and killed him at Ziklag — this was the reward I gave him for his news.11How much more then, when wicked men have killed a righteous man on his bed in his own house! And now shall I not require his blood at your hand, and destroy you from the earth?” 12So David commanded the young men, and they killed them; they cut off their hands and feet, and hung their bodies beside the pool at Hebron. But the head of Ishbaal they took and buried in the tomb of Abner at Hebron.
David had numerous opportunities to kill Saul. No one would have faulted David for killing Saul since Saul was clearly trying to kill David. Yet David resisted. Not because he was afraid of Saul or of Saul's men. David was afraid to kill Saul because David recognized that Saul was King, placed there by YHWH. David's fear of YHWH kept his sword sheathed. Even when David heard the news of Saul's death, David did not take the news as good news. (Unfortunately, the man who pronounced Saul's death as good news to David found out with his life that David did not share his perspective.)
This "code of honor" of David's extended to Saul's remaining son, Ishbaal. Although Ishbaal was vying for the allegiance of Israel in competition with David, David regarded him with a kind of formal respect. For David, there was a proper way and an improper way of engaging his enemies. The way the brothers Rechab and Baanah killed Ishbaal was improper, deceptively coming into Ishbaal's house while Ishbaal was lying on his couch and stabbing him. They killed a defenseless man.
It's clear that for David, the ends do not justify the means. Just because you wish to rid yourself of your enemies does not mean that you can take up whatever means. Enemies deserve better. Enemies are still human beings.
In a bloody and violent culture that David inhabited where beheadings, stabbings, and betrayal were common, there was nevertheless a way of conducting oneself that honored God and honored one's adversaries. For David, these were not mere niceties. At the risk of his own life, David chose for himself to follow a code of honor that acknowledged God, God's calling on people, and God's image bearers even if these image bearers were his enemies. Even in times of war, it was not a time of "anything goes" but a time of living before God and others with due honor and respect. Now the way David handled people who broke with this code of honor was another thing. I guess David had his version of "honor killing."
Let's pray: O Lord, we come before you realizing that we live in a world where almost anything goes. We live in a world of fierce competition and looking out for number one is a given. Help us to honor you in all situations, help us to honor people in proper ways, and help us to live with a code of ethics that respect people as your image bearers. We confess that you are sovereign over all situations and that even as we trust you in these situations you will watch out for us. Grant us discernment and wisdom in a complex world so that we can maneuver in this world with peace, honor, favor, hope, and power. In Jesus' name, amen.