New European Commentary


About | PDFs | Mobile formats | Word formats | Other languages | Contact Us | What is the Gospel? | Support the work | Carelinks Ministries | | The Real Christ | The Real Devil | "Bible Companion" Daily Bible reading plan

Deeper Commentary

2Sa 19:1 It was told Joab, Behold, the king weeps and mourns for Absalom-
Why is this added? Joab was fully aware the king would be upset for the loss of Absalom. Perhaps it is noted here to provoke us to imagine the kinds of feelings and self talk Joab had when he was told this.

2Sa 19:2 The victory that day was turned into mourning to all the people; for the people heard it said that day, The king grieves for his son-
The king's grief became that of the people. They are presented as at one with him. His spirit was theirs. And this looks ahead to the relationship between the Lord Jesus and His people.

2Sa 19:3 The people sneaked into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle-
Truly the victory was turned into a defeat. "The city" is Mahanaim, not Jerusalem.

2Sa 19:4 The king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, My son Absalom, Absalom, my son, my son!-
David covered his head in mourning when Absalom was dead and the rebellion was over, just as he did when Absalom came to power (2 Sam. 15:30). We get the impression that it was grief every way for David, whether Absalom lived or died. And this is indeed the take away lesson for us- that the outcome of sin is a lose lose situation.

2Sa 19:5 Joab came into the house to the king and said, You have shamed this day the faces of all your servants, who this day have saved your life, and the lives of your sons and of your daughters, and the lives of your wives, and the lives of your concubines-
This implies that David's wives and little ones all went with him in the tragic departure from Jerusalem. David's "servants" were specifically his soldiers, who are repeatedly called "David's servants".

2Sa 19:6 in that you love those who hate you, and hate those who love you. For you have declared this day, that princes and servants are nothing to you. For today I perceive that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it would have pleased you well-
Had Absalom won, he would have killed both David and all his inner circle. And that, Joab concludes, would have been pleasing to David.

We see the internal harmony of the record in that Joab's reaction to Abner's being sent away in peace (2 Sam. 3:24) is in spirit so similar to his frustration here with David over the death of Absalom. We note the internal consistency in the record of Joab's character; another reason to believe these records are absolutely credible and inspired by God.

The more we look for it, the more we see other examples of where material relevant to David is applied directly to all believers in the New Testament, thus setting him up as our example and realistic pattern. Joab's comment about the way David loved his enemies (2 Sam. 19:6) was thus verbatim picked up by the Lord and set up as the example for each of us. And yet David only came to be so kind and forgiving because of his experience of God's forgiveness to him over the Bathsheba incident.


2Sa 19:7 Now therefore arise, go out, and speak to the heart of your servants; for I swear by Yahweh, if you don’t go out, not a man will stay with you this night. That would be worse for you than all the evil that has happened to you from your youth until now-
Joab speaks to David roughly, and not at all as a man should speak to his king. This was partly his style, but it also is a tacit reflection upon David's loss of power. Joab speaks the truth when he implies that David was about to lose all power because of his attitude to Absalom's death; he no longer had a strong power base. We can better understand why Solomon in his Proverbs is always making sideways swipes at his potential competitors for the throne. He did not inherit a strong position and had to establish his hold on power.    

2Sa 19:8 Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. They told all the people saying, Behold, the king is sitting in the gate. All the people came before the king. Now Israel had fled every man to his tent-
Now "the people" of David are contrasted to "Israel", implying David's supporters are the true people of God. They passed before David in some formal procession in order to receive his thanks.

2Sa 19:9 All the people were at strife throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, The king delivered us out of the hand of our enemies, and he saved us out of the hand of the Philistines; and now he has fled out of the land from Absalom-
The strife, or conflicting opinions / judgments (Heb.), regarded who the should respect as their king. Sadly there was no expressed opinion that they should again accept God as their king. There were clearly no other credible options as king apart from David, and the people always remembered that David had fulfilled the Divine potential for the king of Israel- that he would save them from their enemies. Absalom and nobody else had done this.

2Sa 19:10 Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why don’t you speak a word of bringing the king back?-
Their anointing of Absalom was effectively a disannulling of David's Divine anointing as their king. They therefore felt leaderless unless there was some formal ceremony whereby David was restored as king. LXX adds “And the word of all Israel came to the king”. Typically the word of the ruler went out to all Israel, but this is stated the other way around, hinting at David's weakness. The initiative for David's restoration came from the ten tribes, and was only later accepted by Judah (:11). All Israel were to be united by their common acceptance of having betrayed their intended king, and by the experience of his grace. See on :16.

2Sa 19:11 King David sent to Zadok and to 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 speech of all Israel has come to the king, to return him to his house-
See on :10. Judah had been the strongest supporters of Absalom, for he had been declared king in Hebron, the historical capital of Judah (2 Sam. 15:10). Yet it was the ten tribes who proposed the restoration of David as king. Clearly those closest to David [the tribe of Judah and the people of Jerusalem] were the most disgusted and disillusioned by his behaviour with Bathsheba and Uriah.

2Sa 19:12 You are my brothers, you are my bone and my flesh. Why then are you the last to bring back the king?’-
This could be read more as an assurance of forgiveness than a rebuke. The suggestion was that they did want the restoration of David as king, but they should be more vocal about it; and the message thereby assured them that David was not looking to take any vengeance for their betrayal. See on :13.

2Sa 19:13 Say to Amasa, ‘Aren’t you my bone and my flesh? God do so to me, and more also, if you aren’t captain of the army before me continually in place of Joab’-
Eph. 5:30 makes the amazing statement that even now, "We are of members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones". In a very detailed study of this language, Henricus Renckens concluded: "In Israel, in order to say that someone was a blood relation, one said: "He is my flesh and my bones" (Gen. 29:14; Jud. 9:2; cp. Gen. 37:27; 2 Sam. 5:1; 19:13 ff.; Is. 58:7)". This is how close we are to the Lord Jesus- blood relatives. This language could in no way be justified if Jesus were God Himself in person.

David is repeating the lessons he learned after the death of Saul, where he showed huge grace to his enemies- and it worked. Even though it ran against the grain of all secular sense and wisdom.  And so now he does the same, in offering the post of commander-in chief to the general of the rebel army. 

2Sa 19:14 He bowed the heart of all the men of Judah, even as one man; so that they sent to the king, saying, Return, you and all your servants-
We see the fickle nature of human hearts. They had been won by David from Saul, then Absalom had stolen the hearts of the men of Judah, and now David bows those hearts back to him, in a very short space of time; and then those hearts are won by Sheba in 2 Sam. 20:2. We think of how the people who once cried "Hosanna" were soon shouting "crucify Him!", and soon after that were so supportive of the apostles preaching Jesus as Christ that the authorities were scared to touch them.

2Sa 19:15 So the king returned, and came to the Jordan. Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to bring the king over the Jordan-
Judah accepted the implicit assurance of :11 that David was not going to be seeking vengeance for their betrayal of him.

2Sa 19:16 Shimei the son of Gera, the Benjamite, who was of Bahurim, hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet king David-
The common experience of David's grace bound together the house of Saul the Benjamite who had persecuted him, along with those of David's betrayers within Judah. Grace is the basis for true unity amongst God's people, rather than any set of agreed theologies. The message for the exiles was that the restoration of the Davidic king was to unite them, along with the ten tribes, as explained on :10. 

2Sa 19:17 There were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, and Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him; and they went through the Jordan in the presence of the king-
"Went through" implies they charged into the river, to demonstrate their zeal to bring the king back- when in fact both Shimei and Ziba had been really on Absalom's side, and had entertained the hope of using the situation to forge a coalition between Absalom and the remnants of the pro-Saul party of Benjamin. "A thousand" may not be a literal number, but can refer to a family or regiment.

2Sa 19:18 A ferry boat went to bring over the king’s household, and to do what he thought good. Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, when he had come over the Jordan-
Grammatically, the "he" seems to refer to Shimei. He went over the Jordan and met David on the eastern bank, before David himself had passed over as recorded in :39.

2Sa 19:19 He said to the king, Don’t let my lord impute iniquity to me, nor remember that which your servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart-
In the same way as God did not impute iniquity to David (Ps. 32:2), so David did not 'impute iniquity' to Shimei for cursing him, and did not carry out a rightful death sentence against that man (2 Sam. 19:19,21). Note how Shimei uses the very same wording which David used in his repentance: "I have sinned" (2 Sam. 19:20).

2Sa 19:20 For your servant knows that I have sinned. Therefore behold, I have come this day the first of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king-
See on :19. Shimei's claim to sincere repentance is rather mitigated by this exaggerated claim, that he was the "first" representative of Ephraim, an idea which covered all of the ten tribes, to welcome the restored David. But David is full of grace at this time and forgives him, without pointing out the fact he was still telling untruths.

God told Shimei to curse David (2 Sam. 16:10). Afterwards, Shimei repents and acknowledges that by doing so he sinned (2 Sam. 19:20). And although David recognized that God had told Shimei to curse him (2 Sam. 16:10), David tells Solomon not to hold Shimei "guiltless" for how he had cursed him (1 Kings 2:9). As with the evil spirit from Yahweh working upon Saul, a man is encouraged by God to do the sinful act in which he has set his heart.

2Sa 19:21 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered, Shall Shimei not be put to death for this, because he cursed Yahweh’s anointed?-
To curse God's representative was seen as cursing God (1 Kings 21:10; Ex. 22:28). And so to curse "Yahweh's anointed" was seen as cursing Yahweh (2 Sam. 19:21) and worthy of death. "Yahweh's anointed" was a title for the High Priest (Ex. 22:28), and confirms that David was seen as both King and High Priest. David knew God well enough to act like the High Priest even when he was not a Levite (2 Sam. 6:13-20), he came to understand that God did not require sacrifices, he came to see that the Law was only a means to an end. David’s sons, although not Levites, were “priests” (2 Sam. 8:18 RV). He could say that the Lord was his inheritance [a reference to how he as the youngest son had lost his?], and how he refuses to offer the sacrifices of wicked men for them (Ps. 16:4,5; 119:57)- speaking as if he was a Levite, a priest, when he was not.

2Sa 19:22 David said, What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should this day be adversaries to me?-
The Greek Septuagint translation of the Old Testament uses the Greek word diabolos to translate the Hebrew 'Satan'. Hence Devil and Satan are effectively parallel in meaning. Thus we read in the Septuagint of David being an adversary [Heb. Satan, Gk. diabolos] in 1 Sam. 29:4 ["turns against us"]; the sons of Zeruiah (2 Sam. 19:22), Hadad, Rezon and other opponents to Solomon (1 Kings 5:4; 11:14,23,25). We face a simple choice- if we believe that every reference to 'Satan' or 'Devil' refers to an evil cosmic being, then we have to assume that these people weren't people at all, and that even good men like David were evil. The far more natural reading of these passages is surely that 'Satan' is simply a word meaning 'adversary', and can be applied to people [good and bad], and even God Himself- it carries no pejorative, sinister meaning as a word.

When reviewing the references to ha-Satan ("the adversary") in the Old Testament, it's significant that a number of them occur in the context of the life of David. There was an incident where David behaved deceitfully with the Philistines with whom he once lived, and he is described as being "a Satan" to them (1 Sam. 29:4). That's another example of where the word 'Satan' doesn't necessarily have an evil connotation- a good man can be an adversary, just as Peter was (Mt. 16:21-23) and God Himself can be (2 Sam. 22:4). But we find that David and his dynasty were afflicted with Satans, adversaries, from then on. The word is used about human beings who were adversarial to them in 2 Sam. 19:22; 1 Kings 5:4,18; 11:14-22,25; Ps. 109:6,20 (Heb. "They say, "Appoint a wicked man against him, let an accuser [Satan] stand on his right hand"". David's enemies are described by a word related to ‘satan’ in Ps. 38:20; 71:13; 109:4. Note that it is stated that God stirred up men to be 'Satans' to David and Solomon- whatever view we take of 'Satan', clearly it or he is under the direct control of God and not in free opposition to Him.

Shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? For don’t I know that I am this day king over Israel?-
David is here learning from the spirit of his enemy Saul (1 Sam. 11:13). This shows David's generous sprit, in learning from the good attitudes of a man who in other parts of his life was wrong and abusive to him, and rejected by God.

2Sa 19:23 The king said to Shimei, You shall not die. The king swore to him-
David graciously overlooked Shimei's cursing, promising him that he would not die because of it (2 Sam. 16:10,11; 19:23). But he didn't keep up that level of grace to the end: he later asked Solomon to ensure that Shimei  was killed for that incident (1 Kings 2:8,9). And one wonders whether it was Shimei’s words which so broke David’s heart that he later wrote: “Because that he remembered not to shew mercy, but persecuted the poor and needy man…as he loved cursing, so let it come unto him; as he delighted not in blessing, so may it be far from him. He clothed himself also with cursing as with a garment…” (Ps. 109:16-18).

2Sa 19:24 Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king; and he had neither groomed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came home in peace-
See on 2 Sam. 1:23. Mephibosheth is called Saul's son (2 Sam. 9:7,10; 19:24), although he was actually Jonathan's son. This suggests that the son was brought up in Saul's house. This certainly does not give the impression that Jonathan separated himself from his father's house, even though he strongly disagreed with Saul. There was no fear of guilt by association with Bible characters, but rather a standing up for Godly principle in whatever situation they were in.

Mephibosheth's lack of care for himself was part of his sorrow at what had befallen David, and it was proof enough that Ziba had misrepresented him to David as planning to become king. For in that case he would have shaved and made himself as attractive a candidate as possible. Having not pared his nails or beard was evident proof that he had been in mourning for some time, since David had fled Jerusalem. See on :25.

2Sa 19:25 It happened, when he had come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?-
But David has still not even crossed the Jordan (:39). This is out of chronological sequence, and refers to a future meeting between the two in Jerusalem (:30, in David's own house). It continues the theme of Ziba in :17. Mephibosheth's "coming down" in :24 would therefore mean ‘came down from his house in the highlands of Benjamin near Gibeah to Jerusalem,’ not ‘came down from Jerusalem to the Jordan’.

2Sa 19:26 He answered, My lord, O king, my servant deceived me. For your servant said, I will saddle me a donkey that I may ride thereon, and go with the king; because your servant is lame-
Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem near David's palace, for he ate at his table every day with him. He had wished to leave Jerusalem along with David's sad group who fled from Absalom, but perhaps he only heard of the crisis too late and anyway Ziba had deceived him so that it was too late to leave. Clearly Ziba intended to manipulate things so that he would forge a coalition between the Saul supporters and Absalom, using Mephibosheth as a pawn in his game. He as the kingmaker would have had the real power in the coalition. This manipulation of others and revelling in being the kingmaker was exactly Joab's weakness, and we see how Abner had failed in this way with Ishbosheth. The repetition of the themes shows how human nature articulates itself in the same way despite the differing situations. And this is the whole purpose of these narratives. 

2Sa 19:27 He has slandered your servant to my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God. Do therefore what is good in your eyes-
Mephibosheth's absolute joy at David's restoration means that he is happy to be slandered, misunderstood by David and even lose all his property (:30)- for joy at the restoration. This was a powerful challenge to the exiles in Babylon, many of whom weighed up what the restoration might cost them, and sided with remaining in exile rather than entering into the abandon and joy of the restoration. And the message of the Gospel is for us too a message of the Davidic kingdom being restored. Whether we are slandered or misunderstood should be made irrelevant by the wonder of that reality.

2Sa 19:28 For all my father’s house were but dead men before my lord the king-
This could refer to how David had not slain the house of Saul, and also possibly to the events of 2 Sam. 21:6-9, which may not be placed in chronological sequence and may have already happened at this time.

Yet you set your servant among those who ate at your own table. What right therefore have I yet that I should cry any more to the king?-
The wonderful honour of sitting at the Lord's table should likewise mean for us that all anger at slander or being disbelieved (:27), or loss of personal wealth (:30), is thereby eclipsed.

2Sa 19:29 The king said to him, Why do you speak any more of your matters? I say, you and Ziba divide the land-
As discussed on :27,28, all argument between brethren and all concern about material things should be made irrelevant by the wonder of the restored Kingdom and our experience of the grace which allows us to be there. David had earlier responded to Ziba's slander that Mephibosheth had betrayed David by giving Ziba all Mephibosheth's land, in faith that he would one day be restored as king. But now he appears to tell the two men to just divide the land. Or he could be saying that they should return to the original 'division' of the land, whereby the land was Mephibosheth's but Ziba farmed it.

2Sa 19:30 Mephibosheth said to the king, Yes, let him take all, because my lord the king has come in peace to his own house-
As discussed above, Mephibosheth was so thrilled with the restoration of the Kingdom that all issues of material things were now seen as irrelevant by him. If he was to continue to sit at David's table (cp. our participation at the memorial feast), then such matters were irrelevant. This is a powerful challenge to us, the weak and lame who sit by grace at the table of the Son of David.

2Sa 19:31 Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim; and he went over the Jordan with the king, to conduct him over the Jordan-
Rogelim in Gilead may well have been Gentile territory, and his descendants were unable to prove their genealogies (Ezra 2:61-63), although they wished to serve as priests and support the restored Kingdom, just as their ancestor supported David's restoration. As noted on 2 Sam. 17:27, some of David's most loyal friends at this time of crisis were Gentiles.

2Sa 19:32 Now Barzillai was a very aged man, even eighty years old: and he had provided the king with sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man-
This would imply that David was there for some while at the time of 2 Sam. 17:29 (see note there), and "while he lay..." sounds as if he was ill at that time.

2Sa 19:33 The king said to Barzillai, Come over with me, and I will sustain you with me in Jerusalem-
As Barzillai had sustained David with a feast in the wilderness, David wanted to have Barzillai at his table in Jerusalem, and to be "sustain" him for the rest of his life. As with Mephibosheth, to eat at David's table was the sign of ultimate acceptance. And this is the wonderful significance of our sitting at His table at His invitation today. We are never to deny others a place at that table.

2Sa 19:34 Barzillai said to the king, How many are the days of the years of my life, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem?-
In essence he has the same attitude as Mephibosheth. He is so thrilled at the good news of the restored kingdom of David that he despises all material advantage to himself. And this is our pattern, if we really grasp the good news of the restored Kingdom (Acts 1:6). 

2Sa 19:35 I am this day eighty years old. Can I discern between good and bad? Can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be yet a burden to my lord the king?-
Solomon's whole description of old age in Ecc. 12 is based on his father’s experience with Barzillai here. Even in the cynicism of Ecclesiastes, written in Solomon’s later life, he still uses words and phrases which have their root in his father David- e.g. his description of women as snares in Ecc. 7:26 goes back to how his father dealt with women who were a snare (1 Sam. 18:21). Solomon was living out his father, using the same phrases his father had used, and yet he clearly had no real personal commitment to Yahweh as he turned away to idols in his old age. The lack of true zeal within our community, after several generations 'in the Truth', may be related to all this too. We each need to seriously examine ourselves in this connection, and know the meaning of personal conversion. 

2Sa 19:36 Your servant would but just go over the Jordan with the king. Why should the king repay me with such a reward?-
Again we are awed by this man's selfless response to the restoration of the Davidic kingdom, which good news we receive in the good news of the Kingdom of God. He wasn't interested in personal reward, his focus was upon the glory of God and His appointed "son" David. And we too will not see things so much in terms of our personal "reward" in God's Kingdom when it is finally restored, but will instead be consumed with the joy of the fact that God's Kingdom has been restored.

2Sa 19:37 Please let your servant turn back again, that I may die in my own city, by the grave of my father and my mother. But behold, your servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do to him what shall seem good to you-
We could infer from the reference to the habitation of Chimham which is by Bethlehem” (Jer. 41:17) that Chimham was given a piece of land from David’s personal inheritance at Bethlehem. This was the depth to which David appreciated loyalty to him at a time when he seemed a hopeless cause. And the same will be seen true in the rewards given by the Lord Jesus to those who have followed Him now, when true Christianity seems a hopeless cause.

2Sa 19:38 The king answered, Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good to you. Whatever you require of me, that I will do for you-
Perhaps the grant of land in David's patrimony in Bethlehem (see on :37) was what Barzillai asked for Chimham. He was happy himself to be buried in the inheritance of his parents, but wished something more for Chimham.

2Sa 19:39 All the people went over the Jordan, and the king went over. Then the king kissed Barzillai, and blessed him; and he returned to his own place-
We note the order. The people went over first, followed by the king. He was no longer their charismatic leader, but they were his advance guard. We are left with a lovely impression of Barzillai, but his name means 'hard / iron hearted', and we marvel at how the hard hearted were so transformed by David's grace and the joy of the prospect of the restored Davidic kingdom- a pattern for us all.

2Sa 19:40 So the king went over to Gilgal, and Chimham went over with him. All the people of Judah brought the king over, and also half the people of Israel-
It was the ten tribes who had first proposed the restoration (:9,10). But it seems due to wanting to steal the show for themselves and other tribal jealousy issues, the elders of Judah hadn't invited them to the celebration at Gilgal. Therefore only some of them were present. But during the celebration at Gilgal, which would have lasted some days, the rest of the ten tribes representatives arrived; "all the men of Israel" (:41). 

2Sa 19:41 Behold, all the men of Israel came to the king, and said to the king, Why have our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away, and brought the king and his household, over the Jordan, and all David’s men with him?-
See on :40. They were seeking for David to rebuke Judah, especially as it appears that David's men were apparently open to this special treatment by the men of Judah. There is no recorded response of David; for the men of Judah butted in with their response first, and this is adequately answered by the men of Israel in :43. Perhaps this reflects David's passivity at the time. Or maybe it is one of those open ended points in the narrative, intentionally left hanging so that we imagine what his gracious response would have been. For at this time he was the master of all grace and unity to all.  


2Sa 19:42 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 cost? Or has he given us any gift?-
Their idea was that they were totally genuine in their desire to see David restored, and it was not because they hoped for any personal benefit from him. Saul had practiced nepotism, aiming to enrich his own tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam. 22:7), but  David had not done so to Judah. Again the theme taught by the reactions of Mephibosheth and Barzillai is continued- we should rejoice in the prospect of the restored kingdom of David not because we look for any personal benefit, but because of the wider glory of God.

2Sa 19:43 The men of Israel answered the men of Judah and said, We have ten parts in the king, and we have also more claim to David than you. Why then did you despise us, that our advice should not be first had in bringing back our king? The words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel
See on :40. Their argument reflects how David had always actively stood for the unity of all Israel, and the ten tribes could therefore argue that he was as it were ten parts theirs. LXX adds: "And I am the firstborn rather than thou". The right of firstborn had been removed from Reuben and transferred to Joseph, who had a double portion (Dt. 21:17) and his sons Ephraim and Manasseh, “the house of Joseph” (2 Sam. 19:20), therefore could rightly claim to be the most significant part of all Israel. Their logic was indeed stronger, but the matter was allowed to pass. The joy of the prospect of the Kingdom should lead us also to pass over all these kinds of slights and weaknesses of our brethren.