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

Keith Bodner

Abstract


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.

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