2 Samuel 19:20
For thy servant doth know that I have sinned: therefore, behold, I am come the first this day of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.
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(20) The house of Joseph.—Shimei was not strictly of “the house of Joseph,” but of Benjamin; and it is plain that Joseph, as the name of the most prominent member, stands for all the tribes outside of Judah. This usage is well recognised at a later time (see 1Chronicles 5:1-2; Amos 5:15), and it has hence been argued that it indicates a late date for the composition of the book; but it is also found in Psalm 80:1-2; Psalm 81:5 (the date of which it would be rash to attempt to fix), in the reign of Solomon, 1Kings 11:28, and probably very early in Judges 1:35. There is no reason why the expression may not have been used at the earliest date when there began to be a certain separation and distinction between Judah and the other tribes, which was soon after the conquest of Canaan.

19:16-23 Those who now slight and abuse the Son of David, would be glad to make their peace when he shall come in his glory; but it will be too late. Shimei lost no time. His abuse had been personal, and with the usual right feeling of good men, David could more easily forgive it.This is the first time that the "house of Joseph," or "Joseph," stands for all the ten tribes of which Ephraim was the head and leader. While Saul of Benjamin was king, or while Mahanaim was the capital of his son's kingdom, it was not natural so to name them, nor does it seem so at first sight in the mouth of Shimei the Benjamite. But it is very possible that he used the phrase for the purpose of exculpating himself and his own tribe from having taken the initiative in the rebellion, anti of insinuating that they were drawn away by the preponderating influence of the great house of Joseph. On the other hand, the phrase may be an indication that the passage was written after the separation of the kingdom of Israel, when the phrase was a common one. 20. I am come the first … of all the house of Joseph—that is, before all the rest of Israel (Ps 77:15; 80:1; 81:5; Zec 10:6). Thy servant doth know that I have sinned; I do not excuse my sin, but with grief and shame confess it; in which case the Lord thy God is ready to pardon offenders, and so I trust wilt thou be.

I am come the first; the sense of my former sin now hath, and whilst I live will, make me the first and most forward in all acts of duty and service to thy majesty.

Of all the house of Joseph.

Object. He was a Benjamite, 2 Samuel 16:5. How then doth he make himself one of the house of Joseph?

Answ. The house of Joseph is here put, either,

1. For the ten tribes, which are oft distinguished from Judah, and then they are called the house of Joseph, as Zechariah 10:6. But this distinction was not made before the division of the people into two kingdoms; and even after that division Benjamin was constantly reckoned with Judah, and not with Joseph or Ephraim. Or,

2. For all the tribes of Israel, who are called the children of Joseph, Psalm 77:15; compare Psalm 80:1 81:5; as well they might, not only because of Joseph’s eminency, (the most eminent persons and things being oft put for the rest of the kind,) and because the rights of primogeniture were in a great part devolved upon him, 1 Chronicles 5:1; but also because Joseph had been as a father to them, and had nourished them all like children, as is expressed in the Hebrew text, Genesis 47:12. But in this sense this was not true, for the house of Judah came before him, 2 Samuel 19:15.

Or rather,

3. For all the tribes except Judah, which are conveniently called the house of Joseph for the reasons now mentioned, and are fitly distinguished from Judah, because the rights of the first-born were divided between Judah and Joseph, 1 Chronicles 5:2. And though Benjamin, after the division of the kingdoms, was fitly joined with Judah, because then they adhered to that tribe; yet before that time it was more conveniently joined with Joseph, because they marched under the standard of the house of Joseph, or of Ephraim, Numbers 10:22-24; whence it is that Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh are put together, Psalm 80:2.

For thy servant doth know that I have sinned,.... He was sensible of it, and sorry for it, and publicly acknowledged it before all the men he brought with him, and before all the servants of David; and as a token of the sincerity of his repentance, and as an earnest of his future fidelity, he made this early submission:

therefore, behold, I am come the first this day of all the house of Joseph, to go down to meet my lord the king; but why does he make mention of the house of Joseph, when he was of the tribe of Benjamin? Kimchi says that Benjamin, Ephraim, and Manasseh, were called the house of Joseph; and it may be observed that it is sometimes used for all Israel, as in Psalm 80:1; and he was the first of them that came, inasmuch as he came along with the men of Judah, who came first of all to fetch the king back; or Joseph may stand for the tribes of Israel, as distinct from Judah, and he was the first of them; some of the Jewish writers think he makes mention of the name of Joseph, because as the brethren of Joseph used him ill, and he returned good to them; so though he had used David ill, he hoped he would do as Joseph did, return good for evil; and others represent him as suggesting hereby to David, that all Israel had used him ill, and he worse than them all; and now he was come first, and they were all waiting what he would do to him, that if he received him kindly, all would come and make their peace with him.

For thy servant doth know that I have sinned: therefore, behold, I am come the first this day of all the house of {i} Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.

(i) By Joseph he means Ephraim, Manasseh and Benjamin (of which he was) because those three were under one standard, Nu 2:18.

20. the house of Joseph] The ten tribes of Israel as distinguished from Judah are thus named from Ephraim, the most powerful tribe among them (Genesis 48:5). Cp. Psalm 78:67-68; 1 Kings 11:28; Amos 5:6. Shimei the Benjamite claims to be the first representative of Israel to welcome the king.

Verse 20. - The first.., of all the house of Joseph. Shimei, who was a Benjamite, could not have thus claimed to be the representative of the northern tribes, had he remained on the western bank, where "half the people of Israel" were assembled. Strictly, "the house of Joseph" signified the tribe of Ephraim (Judges 1:22, 35; and comp. Psalm 78:67), and in this sense Shimei did not belong to it. But Ephraim claimed a supremacy over all Israel; and one cause of the opposition to David certainly was the transference of the leadership to the tribe of Judah. Even the long reign of Solomon failed to weld the tribes together, and as soon as the reins of power fell into the weak hands of Rehobeam, an Ephraimite. Jeroboam, whom Solomon had made "ruler ever all the charge of the house of Joseph" (1 Kings 11:28), quickly wrested the ten tribes from him. In Amos 5:6 "the house of Joseph" signifies all the northern tribes, for the reason given in 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2; and such is its sense here. And Shimei compressed many powerful arguments in the phrase. For as a Benjamite he offered David the allegiance of the tribe which had given Israel its first king; while, as an Israelite, he professed also to represent the leading house of Ephraim, and all the northern tribes which usually followed its bidding. 2 Samuel 19:20"For thy servant knoweth (i.e., I know) that I have sinned, and behold I have come to-day the first of the whole house of Joseph, to go to meet my lord the king." By "the whole house of Joseph" we are to understand the rest of the tribes with the exception of Judah, who are called "all Israel" in 2 Samuel 19:12. There is no reason for the objection taken by Thenius and Bttcher to the expression בּית־יוסף. This rendering of the lxx (παντὸς Ἰσραὴλ καὶ οἴκου Ἰωσήφ) does not prove that כּלישׂראל was the original reading, but only that the translator thought it necessary to explain οἴκου Ἰωσήφ by adding the gloss παντὸς Ἰσραὴλ; and the assertion that it was only in the oratorical style of a later period, when the kingdom had been divided, that Joseph became the party name of all that were not included in Judah, is overthrown by 1 Kings 11:28. The designation of the tribes that opposed Judah by the name of the leading tribe (Joseph: Joshua 16:1) was as old as the jealousy between these tribes and Judah, which did not commence with the division of the kingdom, but was simply confirmed thereby into a permanent distinction. Shimei's prayer for the forgiveness of his sin was no more a proof of sincere repentance than the reason which he adduced in support of his petition, namely that he was the first of all the house of Joseph to come and meet David. Shimei's only desire was to secure impunity for himself. Abishai therefore replied (2 Samuel 19:21), "Shall not Shimei be put to death for this (זאת תּחת, for this, which he has just said and done), because he hath cursed the anointed of Jehovah?" (vid., 2 Samuel 16:5.). But David answered (2 Samuel 19:22), "What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah (cf. 2 Samuel 16:10), for ye become opponents to me to-day?" שׂטן, an opponent, who places obstacles in the way (Numbers 22:22); here it signifies one who would draw away to evil. "Should any one be put to death in Israel to-day? for do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?" The reason assigned by David here for not punishing the blasphemer as he had deserved, by taking away his life, would have been a very laudable one if the king had really forgiven him. But as David when upon his deathbed charged his successor to punish Shimei for this cursing (1 Kings 2:8-9), the favour shown him here was only a sign of David's weakness, which was not worthy of imitation, the more especially as the king swore unto him (2 Samuel 19:24) that he should not die.
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