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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 19

Grant's Commentary on the BibleGrant's Commentary

Verses 1-43

Joab hears of David's mourning for Absalom, and the people take this as an indication that perhaps it was wrong to win the battle. At least it subdued their pride of winning. We all need to take to heart the exhortation of Proverbs 24:7, "Do not rejoice when your enemy falls." While we may be rightly thankful that the Lord Jesus will subdue all His enemies, yet we ought to feel the sorrow of their having to be judged. In some measure this was no doubt good for the people, but David carried it too far.

Joab, hard, callous warrior as he was, had no sorrow whatever for Absalom; he was glad he was dead, and had no sympathy for David nor for his mourning. He came to the king with sharply reproving words (vs.5-6), telling him that he had disgraced his servants who had saved his life and the lives of his entire household. In fact, he goes further, declaring that it is evident to Joab that David loved his enemies and hated his friends. Of course it was true that Absalom was David's enemy, but Joab did not consider at all the fact that Absalom was also David's son. He tells him that if all David's men had died and Absalom had lived, David would have been pleased But if this had happened, David too would soon have been killed.

He strongly urged David to cease his mourning and go to the gate to speak encouraging words to his servants. He added the strong warning that otherwise David would lose the allegiance of all his people that very night. Joab swore by the Lord in declaring this (v.7), though he was exaggerating, in which case we should never dare to use the Lord's name Still, David was shaken enough to do as Joab demanded, and went to sit in the gate. This drew the people back from their tents to come to listen to what the king might have to say, but his words are not recorded. Of course David was still in some town east of the Jordan River. Apparently scripture does not consider the name of the town important enough to mention it.

The victory over Absalom's rebellion being accomplished, there was still the necessity of some work in the hearts of the people who had sided with Absalom before David would be welcomed back as king. There was disputing, but God moved in such a way as to exercise them to realize they had no other leader (now that Absalom was dead) except the king who had before saved them from their enemies. Many were asking why David was not therefore brought back to Jerusalem.

David, hearing of this movement among the people, sent to Zadok and Abiathar, asking them to speak to the elders of Judah, to ask them as to why they were so slow in bringing the king back when the common people were urging it. He presses the fact too that Judah was David's own tribe, virtually his bone and his flesh. Why when the delay? He also uses a further influencing tool, by declaring that Amasa should be appointed commander of his army in place of Joab. This was rather a bold step on David's part, for Amasa had sided with Absalom in his conspiracy, and it might be a serious question as to whether he could he trusted as commander of David's army. But David wanted to show a conciliatory spirit toward those who had joined Absalom, and he also considered that Joab had proven himself too hard a man to rightly represent the king as commander of his army. He had spoken of Joab's hardness before (2 Samuel 3:28-29; 38-39); and at this time his thoughts were no doubt further aggravated by his knowledge that Joab had killed Absalom in spite of David's charge to him.

The hearts of the people were swayed by this message, and though previously ready to reject David, they send word to him to return to Jerusalem with his servants (v.14). The message to him is followed by a gesture of good will by the men of Judah in coming to meet him, even crossing the Jordan in order to escort him back.

As to individuals, Shimei is first mentioned as coming to meet the king, but with him 1000 men of Benjamin, all accompanying the men of Judah. Then Ziba is spoken of, with his sons and servants. He had before come to the king when he fled, now apparently went over Jordan before David. The king's household was brought across the Jordan by ferryboat.

Shimei, who had cursed David when he was in deep distress, comes to meet him with a totally different attitude. Of course, he was afraid that he might suffer some just consequences of his wickedness now that David had regained his throne. He falls down before the king and confesses his wrong in the way he had insulted him, asking him not to impute this iniquity to him or remember against him the wrong he had done. He says he knows that he had sinned, therefore he is the first of all the house of Joseph to come down to meet the king. We are told in Chapter 16:5 that Shimei was of the house of Saul, which is of course from Benjamin, and verse 16 says he was a Benjamite. It seems strange therefore that he would speak of himself as being of the house of Joseph.

Abishai, as zealous and harsh as his brother Joab, urges David that Shimei should be put to death because he cursed the Lord's anointed. But David decisively reproves Abishai for his attitude, for he has no intention of putting anyone to death now that God has in grace restored him to the throne. If he thought that it was his own ability or prowess that had recovered his authority, he might be likely to take advantage of his authority, but he knew it was God who had made him king, and on this occasion at least he wanted to rightly represent God. He tells Shimei he will not die. David would not, for his own sake, take revenge, though later, when nearing death, he charged Solomon to see that Shimei suffered for his wickedness (1 Kings 2:8-9). This was simple righteousness, for after David's death, there would be no question of David's merely seeking revenge. Similarly, God may allow evil men to live today, but future eternal judgment awaits them.

Another individual of a different character (though also of Saul's house) now comes to David. Mephibosheth had been evidently able to find help to enable him to come down to the Jordan to meet David. He had not cared for his lame feet nor trimmed his moustache nor washed his clothes during all the time that David had been away. This itself was fullest proof before David's eyes that Ziba's report of Mephibosheth had been false. Mephibosheth had no aspirations whatever to be king. When David questions him as to why he did not go with David (v.25), his answer is quite simple. He had told his servant Ziba that he wanted a donkey to ride to follow David, but Ziba deceived him, so that he was given no means of coming to David at that time. What he says as to Ziba's slandering him is plainly true, and he declares his deep appreciation of David himself, as though he were an angel of God, remembering that David had shown him unusual grace at a time when Saul's house was in danger of extermination (v.28). He tells David therefore that he has no right to expect anything of him.

David's answer to Mephibosheth was sadly lacking in grace and truth. Evidently David was irritated because he did not like to admit his blunder in accepting Ziba's slander of Mephibosheth. He ought to have apologized to Mephibosheth for this, and to have faced Ziba with the seriousness of his falsehood, but he dismissed Mephibosheth with no real courtesy, and told him he had decided that he and Ziba should divide the property that actually belonged to Mephibosheth, but which David had assigned to Ziba when he brought his false report. Though David is a type of Christ, yet in this case he badly misrepresented the righteousness of the Lord Jesus in the administering of his kingdom.

How much better than this was Mephibosheth's response to David in this matter. He was not interested in the property, but in David himself. Let Ziba take all the land, he says, since David had come back in peace to his own house. Mephibosheth had not asked for his land back, though he was certainly entitled to all of it. He does not even suggest that Ziba should be punished for his falsehood and for his greed, but is willing to let him take everything. This is a refreshing picture of true Christian character today, for Christ Himself should certainly be "everything" to us. One would think that when David heard this he would be deeply ashamed of the irritable way in which he had spoken to Mephibosheth.

David was much more king in his treatment of Barzillai, whose devotedness brought him to show his thankfulness for David's return, and accompany him over the Jordan (v.31). His riches had enabled him to furnish David with supplies during his exile from Jerusalem, and now David wants to return his kindness by providing for Barzillai at Jerusalem. But Barzillai wisely declines this. At his advanced age of 80 years there was no good reason for his leaving his accustomed home to seek to enjoy the pleasures of royal living. He would go across the Jordan in order to enjoy the king's company for this brief time, but desired to return to his own home (vs.36-37). However, he asks that his servant Chimham should be given the favor of the king's kindness in this way. The younger man would no doubt have opportunity of advancement when brought to the king's court. Barzillai requests that David do for him as David saw fit. But David answers that he would do for Chimham whatever Barzillai desired, and anything more that he might request. Leaving David after crossing the Jordan, he would of course have to return back over the Jordan to his home in Gilead (v.39).

Traveling south the king follows the river to Gilgal, being escorted by the men of Judah and "half the people of Israel." Ironically, it is at Gilgal that the fleshly quarrel breaks out between the Israelites and the men of Judah (vs.41-43). Gilgal was the place of judgment of the flesh -- its cutting off by circumcision, -- and yet there the selfishness of the flesh on both sides is seen in its most repulsive character. Israel accuses Judah of stealing away the king because Judah had come to escort him to Jerusalem.

But the men of Judah had no regard for the truth that "a soft answer turneth away wrath," and they respond that they have a right to precedence over the men of Israel because David was from Judah The men of Israel answer this by claiming that they have ten shares in the king, since they were ten tribes while Judah and Benjamin were only two, and also insist that they were the first to advise the return of David. All of this is merely childish arguing over a matter of no consequence, but similar folly has too often caused sad ruptures in families, among friends, and even in the assembly of God. Why did David not pour oil on the troubled waters? Could he not have called the leaders on either side to sit down with him and to iron this matter out in a spirit of true concern for the welfare of all? But the men of Judah became more fierce in their words than the men of Israel.

Bibliographical Information
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 19". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lmg/2-samuel-19.html. 1897-1910.
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