King Ishbosheth - Biography

Chart of the Kings King Ishbosheth - Biography God's Judgment Regarding King Ishbosheth
Previous King: Saul   Next King: David

Ishbosheth was the most senior son of King Saul to survive the Philistine invasion in which Saul and three of his sons died. He was never trained to be king; Jonathan had always been the heir-apparent. And so when his family was killed in battle, he was unprepared to assume the throne.

However, Saul's uncle and right hand man, the very capable general Abner, decided Saul's son should be king, and held a national coronation ceremony for him. Even so, Ishbosheth failed to rise to the occasion, and was always a puppet king. The nation's affairs were run by Abner.

The tribe of Judah, however, rejected Ishbosheth, choosing David as their king, because he was of their tribe, because of his great record of success, and because the LORD had chosen him to be king. During Ishbosheth's two years as king, there was constant war between Israel and Judah, and all throughout, Judah grew stronger and Israel weaker.

Ishbosheth lost Abner's support and guaranteed his own downfall when he foolishly accused Abner of seducing a concubine of dead King Saul — a serious infraction, if it had happened. Abner, whose loyalty to Ishbosheth and Saul was obvious to everyone except Ishbosheth, was furious. He publicly stated his intention to transfer his support to David and make him king of both Judah and Israel. It is a mark of Ishbosheth's weakness as king that he could do nothing against Abner in spite of his openly treasonous intentions — indeed, he seems not even to have tried.

Abner immediately began a campaign to make David king of Israel. After winning the support of a network of local leaders, he entered into negotiations with David, who accepted his support. However, David's jealous general Joab assassinated Abner before he could complete his mission.

Abner's death threw Ishbosheth and Israel into panic and confusion. Two military leaders conspired together and assassinated Ishbosheth while he napped in his home. Upon this, Israel's local leaders agreed to recruit David, already king of Judah, to be king of Israel as well.

Where to read Ishbosheth's story: 2 Samuel 2 - 4

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