2 Samuel 19


In this chapter, and the next chapter, we see that David’s troubles and the trouble for his household are continued to be lived out as Nathan the prophet told him earlier, 2 Samuel 12:10.

After hearing the devastating news about his son, Absalom’s death, David is struggling to come to terms with his death. Sadly in doing so, he was neglecting his men who should have been celebrating after winning the war against Absalom and his men, 2 Samuel 18:16-18, but were becoming discouraged.

‘Joab was told, ‘The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.’ And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning because on that day the troops heard it said, ‘The king is grieving for his son.’ The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. The king covered his face and cried aloud, ‘O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!’ Then Joab went into the house to the king and said, ‘Today you have humiliated all your men, who have just saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters and the lives of your wives and concubines. You love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that the commanders and their men mean nothing to you. I see that you would be pleased if Absalom were alive today and all of us were dead. Now go out and encourage your men. I swear by the LORD that if you don’t go out, not a man will be left with you by nightfall. This will be worse for you than all the calamities that have come on you from your youth till now.’ So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway. When the men were told, ‘The king is sitting in the gateway,’ they all came before him. Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes.’ 2 Samuel 19:1-8

When Joab was informed that David was still crying and mourning over the death of his son, Absalom, 2 Samuel 18:32-33, he was aware that David’s men were becoming very discouraged.

A day which should have been filled with celebrations turned into a day of mourning. These brave men who risked their lives for their king should have been shown some kind of appreciation by David, but when they arrived back from the war, they found David crying.

This led David’s men to believe that he wasn’t very happy with them and as a result, they entered the city feeling ashamed of themselves. However, they shouldn’t have felt ashamed of themselves, they should have been ashamed of their king.

It’s clear that David’s grief over Absalom was sinful because God had warned Samuel earlier that he shouldn’t grieve over Saul for too long because God rejected Saul as king, 1 Samuel 16:1. We also remember when the sons of Aaron the High Priest were killed by God because of their disobedience, Moses tells Aaron not to mourn their loss, Leviticus 10:6.

Joab was absolutely right when he told David he was bringing shame on his men. He was basically telling David, that if his son’s death is more important than the victory they’ve just one, this would only cause another rebellion. If Joab didn’t kill Absalom, 2 Samuel 18:14-15, and he was allowed to live, Joab knew he would go on to cause another rebellion.

David Returns To Jerusalem

‘Throughout the tribes of Israel, all the people were arguing among themselves, saying, ‘The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies; he is the one who rescued us from the hand of the Philistines. But now he has fled the country to escape from Absalom; and Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, has died in battle. So why do you say nothing about bringing the king back?’ King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests: ‘Ask the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his palace, since what is being said throughout Israel has reached the king at his quarters? You are my relatives, my own flesh and blood. So why should you be the last to bring back the king?’ And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my own flesh and blood? May God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if you are not the commander of my army for life in place of Joab.’ He won over the hearts of the men of Judah so that they were all of one mind. They sent word to the king, ‘Return, you and all your men.’ Then the king returned and went as far as the Jordan. Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal to go out and meet the king and bring him across the Jordan.’ 2 Samuel 19:9-15

Because of David’s lack of leadership, there was confusion, it’s possible they were blaming one another for all the trouble which had started in Israel, which should have never had started in the first place. Because of all the confusion, David sends word to Zadok and Abiathar that they should bring him back to Jerusalem in a triumphant fashion.

It’s clear that David was still upset with Joab after he rebuked him, and so David decides, to remove Joab as supreme commander of the army, and as one of the incentives offered to Judah for their re-joining David’s cause, he promised that the incompetent traitor-general Amasa would be appointed supreme commander in Joab’s place.

This was a crazy move by David because Joab, even though he had his faults were clearly loyal to David, whereas Amasa was David’s enemy. It may also have been a political move by David so that he could bring all those who had earlier given their allegiance to Absalom, back to David because he had forgiven them all for the sake of Israel as a whole.

Whatever the reason was David wanted to provide an incentive to Judah, he wanted to punish Joab for killing Absalom and he wanted to punish Joab for his stern rebuke.

‘Shimei son of Gera, the Benjamite from Bahurim, hurried down with the men of Judah to meet King David. With him were a thousand Benjamites, along with Ziba, the steward of Saul’s household, and his fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed to the Jordan, where the king was. They crossed at the ford to take the king’s household over and to do whatever he wished. When Shimei son of Gera crossed the Jordan, he fell prostrate before the king and said to him, ‘May my lord not hold me guilty. Do not remember how your servant did wrong on the day my lord the king left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. For I your servant know that I have sinned, but today I have come here as the first from the tribes of Joseph to come down and meet my lord the king.’ Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, ‘Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this? He cursed the LORD’s anointed.’ David replied, ‘What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? What right do you have to interfere? Should anyone be put to death in Israel today? Don’t I know that today I am king over Israel?’ So the king said to Shimei, ‘You shall not die.’ And the king promised him on oath. Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, also went down to meet the king. He had not taken care of his feet or trimmed his moustache or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safely. When he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, the king asked him, ‘Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?’ He said, ‘My lord the king, since I your servant am lame, I said, ‘I will have my donkey saddled and will ride on it, so I can go with the king.’ But Ziba my servant betrayed me. And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king. My lord the king is like an angel of God; so do whatever you wish. All my grandfather’s descendants deserved nothing but death from my lord the king, but you gave your servant a place among those who eat at your table. So what right do I have to make any more appeals to the king?’ The king said to him, ‘Why say more? I order you and Ziba to divide the land.’ Mephibosheth said to the king, ‘Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has returned home safely.’ Barzillai the Gileadite also came down from Rogelim to cross the Jordan with the king and to send him on his way from there. Now Barzillai was very old, eighty years of age. He had provided for the king during his stay in Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man. The king said to Barzillai, ‘Cross over with me and stay with me in Jerusalem, and I will provide for you.’ But Barzillai answered the king, ‘How many more years will I live, that I should go up to Jerusalem with the king? I am now eighty years old. Can I tell the difference between what is enjoyable and what is not? Can your servant taste what he eats and drinks? Can I still hear the voices of male and female singers? Why should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king? Your servant will cross over the Jordan with the king for a short distance, but why should the king reward me in this way? Let your servant return, that I may die in my own town near the tomb of my father and mother. But here is your servant Kimham. Let him cross over with my lord the king. Do for him whatever you wish.’ The king said, ‘Kimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him whatever you wish. And anything you desire from me I will do for you.’ So all the people crossed the Jordan, and then the king crossed over. The king kissed Barzillai and bid him farewell, and Barzillai returned to his home.’ 2 Samuel 19:16-39

Shimei is clearly in a hurry to see David and when he meets him, he tells David, he has come first of all to ‘the house of Joseph’, which is a reference to the ten northern tribes of Israel, Amos 5:6.

Coffman says, ‘the hatred and jealousy between Judah and northern Israel existed long before the formal division of the Chosen People in the times following the death of Solomon into the separate kingdoms of Judah and Israel. In fact, the rebellion of Absalom was probably fuelled by their fierce jealousy of Judah over the influence of the northern tribes with David’.

Shimei begs for forgiveness because of the way he cursed David earlier, 2 Samuel 16:5-8, a crime punishable by death, 1 Samuel 24:6 / 1 Samuel 24:10 / 1 Samuel 26:9. As he is begging for forgiveness, Abishai wanted to kill him because of the way he treated David.

David asks him, ‘what does this have to do with him?’ This was David’s way of saying, ‘get behind me Satan’, Matthew 16:23. David once again shows mercy to Shimei and allowed him to live because he knows he would have more support from Shimei.

It should be noted that as long as David was alive he stuck to his word and never put Shimei to death. However later, before he died, he told his son Solomon to take vengeance on Shimei, 1 Kings 2:8-9 / 1 Kings 2:36-46.

When David came back to Jerusalem he was informed that Ziba had earlier lied concerning Mephibosheth’s loyalty, 2 Samuel 16:1-4. After being questioned by David, Mephibosheth who is the son of Jonathan and the grandson of Saul showed his humbleness and loyalty to David.

Barzillai, who was eighty-year-old man also showed his loyalty to David because he made sure David got across the Jordan to Mahanaim safely. He was offered a place to live in David’s court but because of his age, he declined the offer and asked if his son, Kimham, could go instead. David accepts his offer and takes his son with him, then they departed the company.

‘When the king crossed over to Gilgal, Kimham crossed with him. All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel had taken the king over. Soon all the men of Israel were coming to the king and saying to him, ‘Why did our brothers, the men of Judah, steal the king away and bring him and his household across the Jordan, together with all his men?’ All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, ‘We did this because the king is closely related to us. Why are you angry about it? Have we eaten any of the king’s provisions? Have we taken anything for ourselves?’ Then the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, ‘We have ten shares in the king; so we have a greater claim on David than you have. Why then do you treat us with contempt? Weren’t we the first to speak of bringing back our king?’ But the men of Judah pressed their claims even more forcefully than the men of Israel.’ 2 Samuel 19:40-43

When David returned to Jerusalem it should have been a time of rejoicing, but it ended up being a time of confusion and division as Northern and Southern Israel, Judges 8:1-3 / Judges 12:1-6, become arguing about who had the biggest stake with David as their king.

The division between Judah and Israel had started and would eventually play out throughout the rest of David’s life and his grandson’s lives.

The northern tribes of Israel complained that the tribe of Judah had stolen away from the king, we can understand their argument because David decided to make his capital city in the land of Judah, 2 Samuel 5:7-9.

It appears in David’s efforts to produce unity, all he managed to achieve was more division, which eventually will lead to the division of the tribes.

Here again, we’re reminded as to why God never wanted an earthly king to rule Israel as a nation, this is a lesson we must all learn from, 1 Corinthians 10:11 / Romans 15:4.

Go To 2 Samuel 20


"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience."