KINGDOM RESTORATION REQUIRES CAREFUL DIPLOMACY AMIDST QUARRELING FACTIONS
Kingdom restoration is at hand. The rebel forces have been defeated and Absalom has been killed. It is time for the various tribes of Israel to consider their response to receiving back into power the one who truly is their anointed king. Now is the time for David to demonstrate the effectiveness of his leadership. With many rival factions and thorny problems left over from the mess of civil war, David must make wise decisions to re-establish his authority and pull the kingdom back together.
I. (:1-8a) ADJUSTING PERSPECTIVE — DAVID REBUKED BY JOAB FOR PUTTING HIS PERSONAL LOSS ABOVE THE SACRIFICE OF HIS TROOPS
(cf. my phrase about someone who is constantly sour: “He needs an Attitude Adjustment!” Here we find that David needs a “Perspective Adjustment!”)
A. (:1-3) Sweet Victory Turned Sour
1. (:1) Personal Loss Consumes David’s Focus
“Then it was told Joab, ‘Behold, the king is weeping and mourns for Absalom.”
2. (:2) People Unable to Enjoy Their Victory
“And the victory that day was turned to mourning for all the people, for the people heard it said that day, ‘The king is grieved for his son.’”
3. (:3) Public Celebration Replaced by Private Humiliation
“So the people went by stealth into the city that day, as people who are humiliated steal away when they flee in battle.”
B. (:4) Self Pity of David
“And the king covered his face and cried out with a loud voice, ‘O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son’”
C. (:5-7) Scathing Rebuke by Joab
1. (:5) The Charge – Ignoring Your Loyal Troops
“Then Joab came into the house to the king and said, ‘Today you have covered with shame the faces of all your servants, who today have saved your life and the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines’”
This should have been a time for great celebration and reward for those who had risked so much on David’s behalf
2. (:6) The Callousness – Insensitivity to Your Loyal Troops
“by loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you. For you have shown today that princes and servants are nothing to you; for I know this day that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.”
Deffinbaugh: David is wrong to instruct his commanders not to harm Absalom. Absalom should have died several times over. He should have died for the premeditated murder of Amnon, against the law. He should have died for his rebellion against his father (prior to this text). And he should have died for high treason, in seeking to kill God’s anointed king and appoint himself as king. How can David expect his army to fight against Absalom’s army and not fight against Absalom? As David once used his authority to condemn a righteous man (Uriah) to death, he now seeks to use his authority as king to keep a revolutionary from the death penalty he deserves. David’s perspective is completely messed up. It takes Joab’s sharp rebuke to bring him out of his mental stupor.
3. (:7) The Crisis – Irreversible Damage if David Fails to Act
“Now therefore arise, go out and speak kindly to your servants, for I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out, surely not a man will pass the night with you, and this will be worse for you than all the evil that has come upon you from your youth until now.”
D. (:8a) Strategic Access to the King
“So the king arose and sat in the gate. When they told all the people, saying, ‘Behold, the king is sitting in the gate,’ then all the people came before the king.”
David pulls himself out of his pity party just in time to avert catastrophe. He grants the people access and re-establishes key relationships.
II. (:8b-15) APPEALING FOR ACCEPTANCE — DAVID LOBBIES JUDAH TO RECEIVE HIM BACK TO JERUSALEM
A. (:8b-10) Situation Ripe for David’s Return to Jerusalem
1. (:8b) Dispersion of Rebel Troops (who had followed Absalom)
“Now Israel had fled, each to his tent.”
2. (:9-10) Discontent Regarding Reticence to Receive David Back
“And all the people were quarreling throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, ‘The king delivered us from the hand of our enemies and saved us from the hand of the Philistines, but now he has fled out of the land from Absalom. However, Absalom, whom we anointed over us, has died in battle. Now then, why are you silent about bringing the king back?’”
B. (:11-15) Political Overtures by David Win Over the Men of Judah
1. (:11-12) Appeal to Religious and Political Leaders
“Then King David sent to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, saying, ‘Speak to the elders of Judah, saying, Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house, since the word of all Israel has come to the king, even to his house? You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’”
Ryrie: The elders of Judah were reticent to invite David to return, perhaps because of the part they had played in Absalom’s insurrection (cf. 15:10-11).
2. (:13) Appeal to Amasa to Replace Joab as New Military Leader
“And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? May God do so to me, and more also, if you will not be commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab.’”
Ryrie: David replaced his commander Joab with Amasa, the commander of Absalom’s army (17:25), to secure the allegiance of the rebel army and to discipline Joab for slaying Absalom.
3. (:14) Political Popularity Restored
“Thus he turned the hearts of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, saying, ‘Return, you and all your servants.’”
4. (:15) Meeting at the Jordan
“The king then returned and came as far as the Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal in order to go to meet the king, to bring the king across the Jordan.”
III. (:16-39) ADJUDICATING RIGHTEOUSNESS — DAVID DEMONSTRATES GODLY LEADERSHIP UPON HIS RETURN TO POWER – TYING UP LOOSE ENDS WITH 3 KEY PEOPLE
A. (:16-23) David Shows Mercy and Restraint in Sparing the Life of Shimei
1. (:16-20) Shimei Pleads for His Life
a. (:16-17) Rush to Make Amends
“Then Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjamite who was from Bahurim, hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet King David. And there were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, with Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him; and they rushed to the Jordan before the king.”
b. (:18a) Desperate Attempt to Serve the King’s Household
“Then they kept crossing the ford to bring over the king’s household, and to do what was good in his sight.”
c. (:18b-20) Desperate Confession and Plea for Mercy
“And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king as he was about to cross the Jordan. So he said to the king, ‘Let not my lord consider me guilty, nor remember what your servant did wrong on the day when my lord the king came out from Jerusalem, so that the king should take it to heart. For your servant knows that I have sinned; therefore behold, I have come today, the first of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.’”
Ryrie: house of Joseph = A reference to the tribe of Ephraim (the offspring of Joseph’s son), a large tribe and representative of the ten northern tribes.
2. (:21) Abishai Lobbies for Execution
“But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said, ‘Should not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?’”
3. (:22-23) David Chooses the Path of Temporary Mercy and Restraint –
Swearing a Blessing in Response to the Swearing of Curses “David then said, ‘What have I to do with you, O sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be an adversary to me? Should any man be put to death in Israel today? For do I not know that I am king over Israel today?’ And the king said to Shimei, ‘You shall not die.’ Thus the kingswore to him.”
David understood his position of supreme authority and did not need to show off that power by executing vengeance on this day of celebration. Instead he chose the path of mercy and restraint. By later instructing Solomon to set conditions for his existence, David made Shimei the cause of his own execution.
Zondervan Pict. Encycl: Shimei’s fate was determined by his own response to Solomon’s restrictions. Before his death David instructed Solomon to see to it that Shimei received the punishment befitting his deeds. Solomon brought Shimei to Jerusalem and warned him that he would be put to death if he ever left the city. Things went well for Shimei for three years, but when his slaves ran away he left the city to retrieve them. Upon his return, Solomon carried out the threatened penalty; Shimei was slain (1 Kings 2:42-46).
B. (:24-30) David Shows Wisdom and Skepticism in Responding to the Tale Told by Mephibosheth
Apparently David could not tell for sure whether Ziba or Mephibosheth was giving him the straight scoop, so he split the difference and moved on. Perhaps this was a rash decision on his part … difficult to know whether he had the means to check out he veracity of Mephibosheth’s story.
1. (:24) Physical Evidence
“Then Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king; and he had neither cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came home in peace.”
2. (:25) Probing Question
“And it was when he came from Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, ‘Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?’”
3. (:26-28) Persuasive Response
a. (:26) Good Intentions
“So he answered, ‘O my lord, the king, my servant deceived me; for your servant said, I will saddle a donkey for myself that I may ride on it and go with the king, because your servant is lame.’”
b. (:27) Submissive Spirit
“Moreover, he has slandered your servant to my lord the king; but my lord the king is like the angel of God, therefore do what is good in your sight.”
c. (:28) Appreciative Heart
“For all my father’s household was nothing but dead men before my lord the king; yet you set your servant among those who ate at your own table. What right do I have yet that I should complain anymore to the king?”
4. (:29) Perplexing Compromise
“So the king said to him, ‘Why do you still speak of your affairs? I have decided, You and Ziba shall divide the land.’”
One would have thought that the king would have weighed the evidence and found either in favor of Ziba or Mephibosheth. Maybe he was bound by some extent to his earlier poor judgment (16:4) to believe the unsubstantiated report of Ziba and he could not completely renege on that commitment. Or maybe he was uncertain whom to believe in light of contradicting testimony.
Ryrie: David either:
(1) made a bad judgment
(2) was trying to keep from alienating Ziba, or
(3) did not believe Mephibosheth to be totally innocent
5. (:30) Professing Loyalty
“And Mephibosheth said to the king, ‘Let him even take it all, since my lord the king has come safely to his own house.’”
Blaikie: The temper of the Benjamites was very irritable; they had never been very cordial to David, and Ziba was an important man among them. There he was, with his fifteen sons and twenty servants, a man not to be hastily set aside. For once the king appeared to prefer the rule of expediency to that of justice. To make some amends for his wrong to Mephibosheth, and at the same time not to turn Ziba into a foe, he resorted to this rough-and-ready method of dividing the land between them. But surely it was an unworthy arrangement. Mephibosheth had been loyal, and should never have lost his land. He had been slandered by Ziba, and therefore deserved some solace for his wrong.
Deffinbaugh: Once again, it is a day of rejoicing and reunion. David will give both men the benefit of the doubt and make a judgment which benefits both and might facilitate their reconciliation.
C. (:31-39) David Shows Appreciation and Generosity in Rewarding the Loyalty of Barzillai
1. (:31-32) Long-Term Loyalty Demonstrated by Barzillai
a. (:31) Present Loyalty – Escorting David over the Jordan
“Now Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim; and he went on to the Jordan with the king to escort him over the Jordan.”
b. (:32) Past Loyalty – Sustaining David while in Exile
“Now Barzillai was very old, being eighty years old; and he had sustained the king while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very great man.”
2. (:33-38) Generous Reward Promised by David
a. (:33) Generous Offer
“And the king said to Barzillai, ‘You cross over with me and I will sustain you in Jerusalem with me.””
b. (:34-35) Realistic Rejection – doesn’t make sense at this stage of life
“But Barzillai said to the king, ‘How long have I yet to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? I am now eighty years old. Can I distinguish between good and bad? Or can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Or can I hear anymore the voice of singing men and women? Why then should your servant be an added burden to my lord the king?’”
c. (:36-37) Reasonable Counter Proposal
“Your servant would merely cross over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king compensate me with this reward? Please let your servant return, that I may die in my own city near the grave of my father and my mother. However, here is your servant Chimham, let him cross over with my lord the king, and do for him what is good in your sight.”
d. (:38) Generous Commitment
“And the king answered, ‘Chimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him what is good in your sight; and whatever you require of me, I will do for you.’”
3. (:39) David and Barzillai Pursue Their Separate Destinies
“All the people crossed over the Jordan and the king crossed too. The king then kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his place.”
Deffinbaugh: David wishes to show his gratitude to this old fellow and invites Barzillai to accompany him to Jerusalem, where the king promises to abundantly provide for him. Barzillai graciously declines David’s offer. He is too old, he admits, to appreciate the difference between filet mignon and mush, or between the concert soprano voice of one of David’s musicians and his own singing in the shower. David’s delicacies would be wasted on him, and besides, he does not have all that much time left. He prefers to stay in his own home, near the place where his parents are buried, and where he, before long, will be buried as well.
Barzillai does not wish to personally benefit from the generous offer David makes him, but he does propose an alternative. Barzillai commends a young man, Chimham, to the king, asking David if he will confer his blessings on this lad, as if upon him. From what we are told in 1 Kings 2:7, we know David intends not only to keep his promise to Barzillai in his lifetime but to continue it after his own death. David instructs Solomon to continue to be kind to Barzillai’s sons (note the plural). I take it then that Chimham is a son of Barzillai, and that either at this time or later he is joined by another son or more. David generously provides for these men as Barzillai has cared for him.
IV. (:40-43) ALARMING DISSENSION — JEALOUS FACTIONS LOBBY FOR POSITIONS OF POWER IN THE RECONSTITUTED REGIME
A. (:40) Picture of Unity
“Now the king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him; and all the people of Judah and also half the people of Israel accompanied the king.”
B. (:41-43) Insight Into Discord
1. (:41) Complaint by Tribes of Israel – Why Did You Ignore Us?
“And behold, all the men of Israel came to the king and said to the king, ‘Why had our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away, and brought the king and his household and all David’s men with him over the Jordan?’”
2. (:42) Retort by Men of Judah – What’s the Big Deal?
“Then all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, ‘Because the king is a close relative to us. Why then are you angry about this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s expense, or has anything been takenfor us?’”
3. (:43) Continued Bickering – Who is Closer to David?
“But the men of Israel answered the men of Judah and said, ‘We have ten parts in the king, therefore we also have more claim on David than you. Why then did you treat us with contempt? Was it not our advice first to bring back our king?’ Yet the words of the men of Judah were harsher than the words of the men of Israel.”
Laney: Quarreling soon broke out between the northern tribes of Israel and the people of Judah. The men of Israel were annoyed by the fact that David’s supporters in Judah made it to the Jordan and helped the king cross over without sharing the privilege with them (19:41-43). The harsh words that were exchanged between the men of Israel and Judah were an evidence of the discontent that gave rise to Sheba’s rebellion.