As David wept, the people who had been celebrating the victory, turned to mourning the death of the King's son. They slinked back into the city quietly while David sobbed aloud. They were ashamed for breaking the king's heart and their victory became a loss.
Joab shows up and gives the king and absolute tongue thrashing. He points out that all of David's caterwauling shows those who fought to save the king, his family, and his throne, that the dead son meant more to him. And if Absalom had lived and they all died, David would be happier. Joab actually says that David has covered his people in shame.
Then Joab takes it up a notch and command David to go out and speak kindly to the servants who fought for him. He threatens David that if he does not, no man will stay and David will suffer more than he did for his whole life combined.
David does get up and go out to the gate. When people heard they assembled before him.
Meanwhile, those who tried to kill David and his followers returned home. People were quarreling over how to move forward. they seem to acknowledge David's situation and the fact that they had anointed Absalom and he was now dead. They wanted the elders to invite David back; but the elders had been in the front of the line with Absalom and were hesitant to bring back the man they had acted against.
v. 11 David sent word that they should invite him back and not fear. He emphasized that were all family- bone and flesh. He would keep Amasa as the head of the army- to show that the rebel army would be accepted, and to punish Joab for killing Absalom, most likely.
The Journey Home
v.15 David headed toward home as far as the Jordan. Then his people from Judah met him and brought him across the river.
v. 16 The sleazy Bejaminite (Shimei) who heckled and threw rocks at David as he fled suddenly decides to show up with the supporters from Judah. Another thousand Benjamintes came to help and bring all of the household back across the Jordan. Shimei fell down and begged that David not take it personally that he cursed and tried to stone David.
v.21 Abishai, as always, suggested that Shimei be put to death for cursing God's anointed. David answers and calls him an adversary for stirring up trouble when David is coming back and trying to reconcile. He swears not to kill Shimei for his treachery.
v.24 Oh...and then then continuing sad story of Mephibosheth (Saul's grandson via Jonathan). When last we heard, David was fleeing and Mephibosheth's servant (Saul's previous servant) had brought gifts to engraciate himself with David; but lied and said that Mephibosheth stayed behind in revolt to claim back the kingdom.
Now, David finds Mephibosheth in a state of extreme grieve and mourning. He hadn't cared for his lame feet or any other basic hygiene. This was not a man revolting against the king, but a cripple who had been left behind and betrayed.
He came out from Jerusalem to meet the king and David asked why he hadn't fled with David. Mephibosheth told him about his servant's treachery when they were fleeing. He also explained that the servant has slandered him; but he trusted David to do whatever he thought was right. he points out that David had the right to kill everyone related to Saul and take the estate, so Mephibosheth had no claim now, especially since David had taken Mephibosheth into his own home and he didn't need the estate.
v. 29 So David proclaimed that Mephibosheth and Ziba (the servant) would split the estate. Mephibosheth said Ziba could have it all in celebration that the king had come home.
I wondered why David let Ziba keep half. It reminded me of Issac letting Jacob keep the firstborn blessing, even though it was earned by deceit. There seems to be some rule that your word must be upheld, even if earned by deceit. I would like to learn more about this.
But I also wondered if David felt genuinely indebted to Ziba for the provisions he brought when David needed it most.
Ryrie has three theories: David showed bad judgement, David wanted to avoid alienating Ziba, David didn't believe completely in Mephibosheth's innocence. So, none of these three align with the two I considered above. We'll see what Wiersbe has to say on the subject later.
v. 31 Apparently, while in Mahanaim, David was sustained by a wealthy old man named Barzillai. Barzillai came and met David at the Jordan and David asked him to come with him and promised to care for him in Jerusalem. But Barzillai pointed out that he was 80 years old and couldn't see, hear, or taste well anymore. He wanted to stay close to home and die near his ancestors.
But Barzillai did send his son or someone he was supportive of, Chimham. David promised to do whatever Chimham directed in repayment of Barzillai's generosity and support in David's time of need.
The Heart of the Matter: Reconciling for a Future
This seems like a key scene in David's journey. He was maneuvering between the past and the present in everyone one of these mini-dramas on the journey.
- First he tried to grieve his son, but ignoring what the people in his life had done to save him. past=Absalom and the sin that started all of this; present= grieving; future= Joab makes him choose his future- keep grieving the traitor and lose all of his supporters or suck it up and go congratulate all of those who will be in future supporters.
- Next, the people who, in his recent past, had been his enemies returned home and struggled as to what to do for a king. They ran the Lord's anointed king out of town and they anointed their own. Who was now dead. they needed to bring David back; but those who conspired against him hesitated. David helped everyone get from the past to the future together by appealing to the people of Israel and assuring the that they were all a family who would get past this.
- Then he started home and had to face some people who were still stuck in the way past, grieving Saul. They all seemed to enthusiastically want to come and help David back across the Jordan. Something had changed for them and they seemed to embrace the future with David as King. But the past came back in the form of Abishai, who wanted the Benjamite who cursed David to be slain. David once again navigated a past and the future. He had every right to stop and punish those who cursed him; but he saw the need to rebuild and restore as he retook the throne. He once again chose reconciliation.
- Then again with Mephibosheth, his past colliding with his future. He and Ziba and Mephibosheth had a long history and it had gotten even further confused in the fog of war. David asked Mephibosheth for an explanation, and Mephobosheth's poor state of being seemed to back his story that there was no treachery there. David pulled a Solomon 🙂 and split the baby. He gave each man half pf Saul's remaining estate.
- Finally, Brazillai was a generous provider in David's recent past, but refused to come with him into the future. Although, he did send an envoy. We'll have to see how that plays out in the future.
In all, the Jordan is once again such a strong symbol in the Bible. David crossing back to the Promise Land, wrestling with the past and making his way on a journey to the future. As usual, God is working through this at His own pace. Sometimes, especially when we are suffering, we want God to be a genie. Rub the bottle and get three wishes. But God tells the tale over time. He brings many characters into the journey and all of their tales intertwine. It's a tapestry and we are but threads. Pottery to the Potter. Servants of the king. The Lord loved David and was faithful to keep the covenant; but David made choices that forced the Lord to have to redeem David as part of being faithful to the covenant.
From the Jordan to Home
v. 40 Now the king went on to Gilgal, bringing Brazillai's envoy (son?) with him. By now, he had all of Judah and half of the rest of Israel accompanying him.
That's a strange thought. More than half of a nation journeying out to meet their king and bring him home. I wonder if this was a sign from God. that He moved in their hearts and brought them out to their king. Or a desire on their part to be a united nation once again under David? I guess it's not as hard to imagine when I remember the first time the Denver Broncos won a Super Bowl and HALF of the population of the state of Colorado poured into Denver for the welcome home celebration. If we can be that enthusiastic for a pro-sport team, how much more a people for their lost king's return.
But, of course, it was not so simple. The men of Israel were annoyed that the men of Judah had rushed ahead to bring the King across the Jordan. Apparently, it was not lost on any of them how strong that symbol was as well.
- Israel complained that Judah stole David.
- Judah defended themselves by reminding them that David was close family.
- Judah also pointed out that they hadn't taken anything from the king.
- Israel replied with, we are 10 tribes of the 12 and so we own him more.
- Israel claimed they were the ones who had pushed to bring David home.
- Judah's response to that was "harsher".
This is the end of Chapter 19, so I'll pause the action here to reflect on the last two chapter with the Wiersbe commentary in my next post. Then we'll conclude his journey home in Chapter 20.
I will add a thought to ponder. David is such a complex person. I feel like I would need to read this a hundred times to encapsulate it all. There were times when he fiercely abided by and defend the law and then time when he blatantly ignored God's law and time when he forgave others for doing the same. No one can be perfectly consistent over a lifetime (or even a day for most of us), but it is interesting to see in this person's life. To wonder how he could do the amazing and heroic things, only to watch him make such crazy mistakes.
I don't know what to make of it yet, it's just a topic I have floating around in the back of my head. the man who grieved cutting a piece of trim from Saul's robe then left and joined the Philistine army! The man who slayed the messenger of Saul's death murdered a man to cover up impregnating his wife. There were (relatively) small laws he kept to a "t", but huge laws he violated, seemingly without any regard.
Just to be clear, I am not judging, as I am riddled with my own sins and hypocrisies. It just stuns me to see it so clearly in others.
Maybe this is back to my earlier post- we want heroes and villains. We want our good guys bullet proof and our bad guys unlikable so we can cheer when they get their comeuppance. But humans aren't like that. Jesus is the only one who is perfect, without hypocrisy. He can save us. Wanting that from anyone else, even a type and shadow of Jesus, will leave you disappointed.