Ish-bosheth

ISH-BOSHETH (îsh'-bōshĕth, Heb. ’îsh-bōsheth, man of shame). The fourth son of Saul (2Sam.2.8), originally called Eshbaal, “man of Baal,” but for some reason his name was subsequently changed. After the death of Saul and his three elder sons at the battle of Gilboa, where the Philistines won an overwhelming victory, he was proclaimed king over Israel by Abner, the captain of Saul’s army, at Mahanaim (2Sam.2.8ff.), while Judah proclaimed David its king. Ish-Bosheth was then about forty years old and reigned two years (2Sam.2.8-2Sam.2.10). He was not successful in the war he waged with David to rule over all twelve tribes, but the war did not come to a close until Abner transferred his allegiance to David because of a serious charge made against him by Ish-Bosheth (2Sam.3.6ff.). Abner fulfilled David’s condition to return to him Michal, his wife, before peace could be made. It was not, however, until Abner was murdered at Hebron that Ish-Bosheth lost heart and gave up hope of retaining his power (2Sam.4.1-2Sam.4.12). Soon after, Ish-Bosheth was murdered by his own captains, but David had the assassins put to death and buried Ish-Bosheth in the grave of Abner at Hebron. Ish-Bosheth’s death ended the dynasty of Saul.


ISH-BOSHETH ĭsh bō’ shĕth (אִ֥ישׁ בֹּ֨שֶׁת, man of shame). The youngest son of Saul, who was made king over Israel by Abner in repudiation of David’s claim to the throne (2 Sam 2:8). He is also called Eshbaal (Baal exists, 1 Chron 8:33; 9:39). The difference in the names is attributed by some to an intentional alteration of the name of Baal because of intense hatred for that pagan deity. In the later books of Chronicles, the alteration does not occur. It is also possible that the name was given him as a result of his shameful demise.

The appointment of Ish-bosheth brought forth the question of the means of royal succession. David’s right was charismatic, Ishbosheth’s was hereditary, and the former prevailed.

Ish-bosheth was forty years of age when he was enthroned at Mahanaim and reigned for only two years (2 Sam 2:10).

Abner’s loyalty was transferred to David as a result of an accusation by Ish-bosheth. Abner was murdered shortly thereafter. Ish-bosheth, lacking support, was finally assassinated.

International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (1915)

Called ’eshba`al, "man of Baal" (1Ch 8:33), and yishwi, "man of Yahweh" (?), perhaps for ’isheyo (1Sa 14:49). Compare ESHBAAL and ISHVI (the King James Version "Ishui"). We probably have the right meaning of the name in Eshbaal and Ishvi, the words Baal and Yahweh being frequently interchanged. The change to Ish-bosheth, "man of shame," in 2 Samuel, where the story of his shameful murder is related, may be better explained as reference to this (see Mephibosheth, whose name was also changed from Merib-baal for similar reasons), than to find here a suggestion of Baal-worship, but see HPN, 121, where the change is explained as a correction of the scribes, in consequence of prophetic protests.


Arthur L. Breslich