ISHBOSHETH THE FIGUREHEAD
Ishbosheth, the sole surviving son of Saul, was named the second king of Israel.
If you read the first of this new series, then you notice the title is a bit different. You are right because I want to check your historical and Biblical knowledge. Answer this simple question: who was the second king of Israel? I know you just answered in your mind, then looked at the title and thought something like this - "Well, I'm not gonna waste my time here. This author is a way off base because there is no way that David was just a figurehead." I would encourage you to read on because all is not as it seems. A definitive lesson or two can be clearly seen from the second king as he faced challenges stemming from Saul - the Initiator.
If you answered "David" to the question above regarding the second king of Israel, then you are WRONG. For full disclosure, I had completely forgotten about this second king; so, let's learn a little bit about him. Ishbosheth, the sole surviving son of Saul, was named the second king of Israel. Why he was not killed in battles like his father and brothers is not clear, and I am not going to draw any conclusions from the lack of information. What we do know is from 2 Samuel 2, 3, and 4 - upon Saul's death, Abner, who was Saul's military commander, placed him on the throne as the king.
He reigned for two years and, truthfully, was merely a figurehead. Abner was the true source of power and, according to 2 Samuel 3:6, had made himself strong in the house of Saul. He was Ishbosheth's general who led Israel in a state of constant civil war as David had been installed as king of Judah. If you continue to read the historical record, you will see that Abner is perturbed at an accusation levied against him by the king and reacted in a way that produced fear in Ishbosheth. He promised that he would ensure that David became king of a united Israel and then took steps to make it happen. Had Saul's son possessed strength, he would have immediately put an end to this insurrection; however, this example clearly demonstrates the weakness of a figurehead leader.
Abner does exactly as he said, but David's general, in what I believe was a fit of jealousy, has Abner killed. When word gets back to Ishbosheth, 2 Samuel 4:1 records that "his courage failed him" - he, literally, lost heart because his life of royalty and ease was coming to an end. Two scoundrels slipped into Ishbosheth's chambers while he slept and murdered him. Barely escaping with their lives, they went to David and told him what they did (thinking this would ingratiate them to him). David, in anger, punishes them as wicked men for killing a righteous man in his own home.
While this is a great story, filled with intrigue, that could be made into a movie, there are tremendous lessons here that we would do well to follow. Simply put, never become a figurehead leader!
Leadership determines trajectory - 2 Samuel 3:1 talks about the war between David and Ishbosheth but closes with this statement: "And David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul became weaker and weaker." What was the difference? leadership. David was battle-hardened and purpose-filled while Ishbosheth was untested and uninspiring. If you want to improve your organization, get or grow better leaders. If you want to improve yourself, spend time around better leaders. Leadership makes a difference!
If you want to "live like a king," then you better "lead like one" - Obviously, we are not really going to get to live as a king, but bear with me on this statement. Ishbosheth wanted the perks of being a king - wealth, command, ease - but he did not act like a king. The day that he was murdered, he was napping in the middle of the day. Does that sound like a strong leader who has been mired in a civil war for two years and his greatest general has just been killed by the "enemy"? Of course not! He was in the position for what he could gain not what he could give. Unfortunately, many people have the perception that leaders have it easy; and that belief reveals a fatal misunderstanding of leadership. When you attain that position, you also get the headaches and responsibility and accountability and uncertainty and criticism that come with it.
Figurehead leaders do not believe that leadership matters because they are there just for the benefits. If you want to make a difference for others, then you cannot be a mere figurehead. How can you tell? There's an old adage that you would need to test yourself against -- "if your absence doesn't affect them, then your presence never mattered." Israel, immediately upon the death of Ishbosheth, went to David and acknowledge his great leadership in the past and present. In other words, Ishbosheth, as a leader, did not really matter.
Resist the figurehead fallacy and lead like you want your legacy to be...
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