Ish-bosheth appears to have been a man who was easily manipulated by others.
As David was rising to power throughout Israel, King Saul and several of his sons died in battle on Mt. Gilboa. Abner, Saul’s army commander, apparently believed he had a better chance of holding on to his position under one of Saul’s sons than he did under David – who already had a general of his own, Joab. So, Abner took Ish-bosheth (also called Ish-baal) and made him king over the northern tribes of Israel, while David became king only over the southern tribe of Judah.
Ish-bosheth probably never intended to be king. His older brother, Jonathan, was the obvious choice to replace their father, King Saul. But, in a single day, Saul, Jonathan, and 2 other brothers were killed in battle. We might infer that Ish-bosheth’s absence from the battlefield indicated a lack of courage… or desire to fight or lead.
Ish-bosheth was evidently a fearful type. He was afraid of Abner’s power. When Ish-bosheth had accused Abner of being disloyal, Abner threatened to hand Ish-bosheth’s kingdom over to David… and Ish-bosheth was too afraid even to rebuke him. Soon after this, David demanded Ish-bosheth return Michal, David’s former wife, to him. (Earlier, Saul had given her to another man, Paltiel, when she helped David escape from Saul). Ish-bosheth appears to have followed David’s every word, despite her new husband’s desperate tears (2Sam. 3).
Finally, when David’s commander, Joab, killed Abner, Ish-bosheth realized the weakness of his own position (2Sam. 4:1). Eventually, Ish-bosheth himself was assassinated by 2 of his own men.
Ish-bosheth confused opportunity with responsibility. He was willing, but unable.
Like him, we sometimes feel compelled to fill a need… regardless of whether or not we fit that need, or whether or not God has called us to that need.
Abner offered the throne to Ish-bosheth, but he could have declined. And he certainly did not ask for God’s guidance or counsel.
Even when a door appears to be wide open, we are wise to pray before we go in.
You can read the story of Ish-bosheth in 2Samuel 2:8—4:13.