Crime Scene Investigation: A Text-Critical Mystery and the Strange Death of Ishbosheth

  • Keith Bodner


The troublesome reign of Ishbosheth comes to a graphic conclusion when he is assassinated – audaciously, at midday while reclining on a couch in his own house – by two of his own captains, the brothers Rechab and Baanah. That Ishbosheth is assassinated (while sleeping in his house at high noon) there is no doubt: the guilty confess, are charged, and duly executed. But the puzzle is how exactly the murder takes place – and this is subject of my analysis – as there are significant discrepancies between the Hebrew and Greek texts. This article surveys a number of “solutions” posited by scholars and evaluate various attempts that have been made to resolve this text-critical mystery. I then move toward a conclusion by summarizing the key differences between the MT and LXX in this passage and discussing some of the literary implications that emerge when these textual trajectories are compared. As a witness to the murder, the LXX provides an exciting and compelling testimony, but the MT account features several important details that cannot be ignored in light of the larger storyline.