1 - 8 Joab Reprimands David
1 Then it was told Joab, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourns for Absalom.” 2 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 So the people went by stealth into the city that day, as people who are humiliated steal away when they flee in battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried out with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 5 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, 6 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. 7 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.” 8 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. Now Israel had fled, each to his tent.
Joab seems to be the leader of the people here and not David. The people come to him with the news that David is overwhelmed with grief over the loss of his son Absalom. David is so down and broken, that the people dare not show any trace of joy. The attitude and behavior of David affect the whole people. Instead of celebrating victory, they behave like losers. That is how great can be the influence of a beloved leader who is overwhelmed by immense personal grief. David loses himself in his sorrow and therefore loses sight of the interest of the people.
David is a father with a special love for a son who was a rebel. That love goes so far, that his grief because of the loss of Absalom is at the expense of the feelings of others. While David continuously expresses his deep feelings of mourning, Joab comes to him. He powerfully deals with David, although he himself is the cause of David’s grief. He, who should be the last one to speak this truth, speaks what is right. He is the only one who could say this to the king. Sometimes situations can be so complicated.
Joab seems to be a man without feeling. Without any compassion, almost cool businesslike, he breaks into the feelings of David. It must now be over and out with his grief. David’s attitude and grief over the death of his son has the message in it that everything his men have done for him means nothing. His men saved his life and that of all his relatives.
Instead of being thankful for that and thanking his men, he pretends that his men had done him harm. David turns things around, Joab says. He loves Absalom, who hated his father, and he hates his men, who worked for him out of love. Joab concludes that David would have liked it if his entire army had been killed, as long as Absalom was alive.
Joab summons (!) David to rise up and speak to the men. He warns him that he doesn’t have to count on someone staying with him if he doesn’t. David then changes his attitude. He listens to Joab and does what he says. When David has taken his place in the gate, it is made known to the people. Then all the people come to him.
From David’s attitude towards Absalom and the admonition by Joab we can learn a lot about our relationship with our children. It is understandable that a care child demands a lot of our attention. These concerns can be the result of illness, but can also be caused by a sinful path that a child goes. Nevertheless, we must try to maintain or balance the attention given to our children. It does happen that the ‘care child’ receives so much attention that the others miss the attention that they too need. The sigh has sometimes been expressed: ‘I wanted me to dare to do something crazy, so there would be attention for me too.’
Also in the local church, some young people may not get the attention they need. This can create problem situations that could have been avoided if we, as elderly people, had made every young person feel the interest that we have for each of them individually. Then we behave as the Lord wills, Who also has an interest in each of the children of God personally.
After the dramatic events of Absalom’s the coup d'état and the rebel’s death, the people who had gone after Absalom fled to their homes.
9 - 15 David on His Way Back to Jerusalem
9 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. 10 However, Absalom, whom we anointed over us, has died in battle. Now then, why are you silent about bringing the king back?” 11 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? 12 You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’ 13 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.’” 14 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.” 15 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.
Then the discussion among the people starts about David, the strong and at the same time weak man. They talk about the situation that has arisen. Sobriety demands to face up to the situation. They think back to what David has meant and done for them in earlier years. Absalom has not been a good choice. He was their man for a while and they had anointed him king, but things went differently.
Their considerations do not show that they involve the LORD and repent of their wrong choice. It’s just the most obvious solution. This leads them to blame each other for the retrieval of David and accuse each other of negligence.
Immediately after that we read that David orders the elders of Judah to take him back. He does so in response to the consultations of the ten tribes, of which he has heard. This stimulates David to offer himself to Judah to be their king again. He let the priests Zadok and Abiathar convey his message about this. This shows in the picture that priestly service plays an important role in restoring the rule of the Lord Jesus in our lives as Lord. Priestly service focuses our hearts on Him. When we see Him, we will want to serve Him.
In practical terms, David is a weak believer here, giving the impression that he favors the tribe of Judah, while the ten tribes also talked about returning to them. Is there any partiality here with David? As king he should stand above all twelve tribes. Now he (unintentionally) becomes a party-head.
He talks to Judah’s sense of honor. He tells them twice that they will certainly not be the last ones to get him back. He therefore expresses his clear preference. The ten tribes have betrayed him. It seems that he does not grant them the privilege of bringing him back before Judah, whom he calls “my bone and my flesh”. It is not so that he no longer wants to be their king. He does want to show them that the bond with them is not as close as his bond with Judah.
We can make an application to ourselves here. Thus we can say that we love all true believers, while possibly having our preferences. We feel much more being one with those who agree with us and let that be noticed. It may happen that we unnoticedly form a party from which others are excluded. It may also be the case that you let yourself be the party leader, whether you want it or not.
David gives a special word for Amasa. Amasa has been commander of Absalom and David offers him to become commander with him. This also seems to have a tactical reason. How can David give him this promise? It seems that he wants to favor a family member at the expense of a man he wants to get rid of. In doing so, he is again mistaken in Joab. Joab does not tolerate competition and kills Amasa (2Sam 20:9-10).
His diplomatic action is producing the desired results. The hearts of all the men of Judah are won. They all want David to be their king again. The whole tribe comes to the Jordan to help him over there and to receive him back in their midst. It would have been better if the whole people had come.
Throughout everything we see David as the weak man. Everything that has happened in his house in recent years and in which he has failed as father and king, has reduced his mental judgment. This leads him to wrong decisions or decisions that do not have the characteristic of faith.
16 - 23 David Shows Grace to Shimei
16 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. 17 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. 18 Then they kept crossing the ford to bring over the king’s household, and to do what was good in his sight. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king as he was about to cross the Jordan. 19 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 would take [it] to heart. 20 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.” 21 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah said, “Should not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD’s anointed?” 22 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?” 23 The king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” Thus the king swore to him.
In connection with the message of crossing the Jordan, several encounters take place, successively with Shimei, Mephibosheth and Barzillai. In all these cases we see a weak David, with still beautiful characteristics. It is difficult to interpret these encounters correctly. We can carefully learn a few things from it.
With the tribe of Judah Shimei comes as well. He realizes that he must be quick to save his skin. He also realizes that he can only save his life if he acknowledges that he has been wrong and appeals to grace. While David crosses to the promised land, Shimei falls down before David. He acknowledges his sin and at the same time points out that he is the first of Joseph’s house to acknowledge and honor David as king.
Abishai clearly expresses his dissatisfaction with the evil that this man has done to his king. He immediately passes judgement and argues that Shimei will be killed for that. This is the third time that Abishai has tried to get David to kill someone. First Saul (1Sam 26:8), then Shimei (2Sam 16:9), and here again. The first and second time David reacted well. It is difficult to say whether this is the case here. It may be that David Shimei grants grace from a false sense of generosity. He grants grace because he has become king again.
David declares Abishai “an adversary” (literally: Satan), because he wants to bring him to an action that is contrary to his desire to show mercy. Yet Shimei is later killed for his cursing of David. This is done by Solomon, on the advice of David (1Kgs 2:8-9,44,46).
24 - 30 David Meets Mephibosheth
24 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. 25 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?” 26 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. 27 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. 28 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?” 29 So the king said to him, “Why do you still speak of your affairs? I have decided, ‘You and Ziba shall divide the land.’” 30 Mephibosheth said to the king, “Let him even take it all, since my lord the king has come safely to his own house.”
The second one that David meets is Mephibosheth. It can be seen from him that he during the absence of David did not care about himself. All his thoughts have gone out to his benefactor. Mephibosheth is a picture of the believer who looks forward to the coming of his Lord and therefore is not busy with “provision for the flesh in regard to [its] lusts” (Rom 13:14b).
Mephibosheth may be a picture of a believer looking forward to the coming of the Lord Jesus, but David is certainly not a picture of the Lord Jesus here. He accuses Mephibosheth that he did not go with him. Mephibosheth tells David the true reason and also about the deceit of Ziba. He also points out that he is lame, which made him unable to follow David himself. What Ziba told David about him is not true.
Mephibosheth’s attitude is beautiful. He does not speak of David having believed Ziba. He has constantly looked forward to his return, while remaining aware of the grace granted to him. He talks about that. He remembers well how he, someone who was nothing but a dead man because he belonged to the house of Saul, was taken up by David among those who eat at his table (2Sam 9:13). He is still overwhelmed by this evidence of mercy. What right does he have in the light of this?
It is to be hoped that we, to whom mercy has also been shown, will live constantly in the awareness of it and that this awareness may always overwhelm us and bring us to great gratitude to Him Who has shown us that mercy. That will save us from standing on our right and claiming our right.
David’s reaction to the words of Mephibosheth does not make us think of the Lord Jesus. David is aware that he made a mistake by giving Ziba the land. Yet he does not want to discuss this any further. In his words there is some annoyance about the mistake he made. He does not admit this mistake, but decides that the land should be shared. This is not a wise decision; on the contrary, it is a wrong decision.
David’s assignment to share the land makes Mephibosheth’s mind public. Mephibosheth does not protest. On the contrary, he does not want anything from the land, for he has back David. And to him it is about David. Mephibosheth’s attitude is admirable and worthy of being followed by us in view of our relationship with the Lord Jesus.
Mephibosheth’s answer is proof that he is only interested in David and does not in any way seek the getting back of his possessions. It is the language of Paul who says, “But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him” (Phil 3:7-9a).
31 - 40 Farewell to Barzillai
31 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. 32 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. 33 The king said to Barzillai, “You cross over with me and I will sustain you in Jerusalem with me.” 34 But Barzillai said to the king, “How long have I yet to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? 35 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? 36 Your servant would merely cross over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king compensate me [with] this reward? 37 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.” 38 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.” 39 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. 40 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.
The third man we read about meeting David is Barzillai. The discussion David has with him is different from the discussion he had with Shimei and also different from that with Mephibosheth. Here David takes the initiative. Barzillai is a wealthy man and has used his possessions to support the king.
David did not forget those statements of support. Barzillai helped him at a time when he was on the run from Absalom. With this, Barzillai has taken a great risk. He didn’t know how the battle would go. However, he has chosen in faith for the man of God’s choice. For that comes now the appreciation from the mouth of David. Out of gratitude for everything Barzillai has done for him, David offers Barzillai to go with him. Then he may live with David in Jerusalem and David will make sure that in his last years of life he lacks nothing.
However, Barzillai does not want David to be “an added burden” (verse 35). He gives various reasons for this in verses 34-35. The reasons he gives – his age and the associated defects – could be interpreted negatively. Then there would be a refusal, packed in plausible excuses. Yet this approach does not seem to do justice to what Barzillai did for David. David’s reaction does not give rise to a negative approach either.
It is more obvious to see the reasons given as proof that he is not seeking his own interest, but that of David. He has always done that and he does it now. When he gives Chimham to David in his stead to cross the Jordan with him, we see the same mindset in speaking to David. David’s appreciation for Barzillai is great. He will treat Chimham as if it were Barzillai himself.
In Barzillai we can also see what the elderly believers can do for the Lord Jesus and His own. When we think of what he did for David, we can see in him a picture of a father in Christ (1Jn 2:13-14). Fathers in Christ have gathered much spiritual wealth. They are able to share with believers who have no knowledge of spiritual blessings the riches and help them on their way to ‘Jerusalem’, that is, the place where the Lord Jesus dwells in the midst of His own.
That Barzillai instead of going along himself let the young Chimham – maybe his son, maybe his servant – go, is also a lesson. We see a good example of how an old believer allows a young believer to take his place in the way with the Lord Jesus.
David goes back into the promised land through the Jordan. In this way, the remnant of Israel will return to the land in the end of time. Then the whole people will be united. Here the separation is still a fact. Also Gilgal is mentioned on the way back. It is the way the people went at the time to conquer the land. In Gilgal the circumcision took place, which speaks of the judgment over the flesh. That way should be followed again if there has been a deviation. The wrong must be confessed and removed. If that happens, it is a new beginning, the beginning of a new path with the Lord on which new spiritual experiences are being gained.
41 - 43 Israel and Judah Quarrel over David
41 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?” 42 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 taken for us?” 43 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.
Then comes the moment when the men of Israel make themselves heard. They complain about the conduct of their brothers, the men of Judah. David himself has contributed to this by his preferential treatment of Judah. The result is jealousy. We see that the schism that will occur under the reign of the grandson of David, Rehabeam, is already hidden present here.
In church history, division is not always – or perhaps better: often not – the result of a difference in doctrines, but of the difference in characters of those who defend certain doctrines. What happens under the appearance of a difference in doctrine perception, is in reality a struggle between people who do not want to be the least.
The men of Israel react carnal. The answer from the men of Judah is just as carnal. Solomon’s wise word “a gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Pro 15:1), is not taken to heart by either party. The men of Israel think that they have more right to David because they are greater in number. There is a dispute among God’s people between Judah on the one hand with a part of Israel and on the other hand the rest of Israel. The dispute revolves around the question of who is most entitled to David. Is it good to speak like this? David is king of all the people, isn’t he?
We must be careful not to claim the Lord Jesus for our group. This can easily happen if we believe that we are more faithful than others, or that we have more knowledge than others, or that we believe we have more gifts of the Spirit than others. Let us pray that the Lord will preserve us from talking about Him with our brothers and sisters wherever they may be, in the sense that we would have a greater right to Him than any other.
This is the evil Paul condemns among the Corinthians (1Cor 1:12-13). The group that claims Christ as party leader is the worst. They are even worse than the Corinthians who have chosen Peter or Paul as party leader. That may sound strange, but it is still so. Paul lists four parties, each with its own party leader. One of those party leaders is Christ. But can He be put on a par with any other person? Yet that is exactly what the Corinthians do. Christ is made a party leader, next to Paul and Peter and Apollos! What this party is saying is: ‘We are the only ones who take the right position. Whoever joins Paul or Apollos or Peter does not belong to us.’ However, every believer belongs to Christ, although perhaps, unfortunately, he has joined some group that calls himself after a certain servant.
Christ cannot be placed in a box – nor can His true servants, for they do not want to be at the leader of a party or placed in a box. Therefore, when Paul says that Christ is not divided, he indicates that Christ cannot be claimed as party leader by any group.
You will certainly recognize this picture in the Christianity around you. What a division! One group calls itself after Luther, another after Calvin. There are also groups and churches where people come together, just because they agree on certain pieces or subjects from the Bible, for example baptism, while others, who think otherwise, cannot join them. The fact that the Lord Jesus is the only One by Whom Christians belong together, has increasingly been pushed into the background. Let us therefore put Him and what He says in His Word back in the foreground!