2 Samuel 19
Benson Commentary
And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom.
And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son.
2 Samuel 19:2. The victory was turned into mourning to all the people — They had so great a regard to their prince, that, when they heard of his distress, they were afflicted with him; and instead of triumphing, they also made lamentations.

And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.
2 Samuel 19:3. The people gat them by stealth into the city — Not openly and triumphantly, as conquerors use to do; but secretly, as if they thought themselves a kind of criminals, who had contravened the king’s command, and were, on that score, in disgrace with him, and, therefore, were afraid and ashamed lest he should see them and look upon them with an evil eye, as persons that had had a hand in killing his beloved son. As people steal away when they flee in battle — As if they had lost the day and not been victorious.

But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!
2 Samuel 19:4. The king covered his face — As a deep mourner, and as one that neither desired to see nor to be seen by any others.

And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines;
2 Samuel 19:5-6. Joab said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants — By disappointing their just hopes of praises and rewards, and requiting them with contempt and tacit rebukes; and thus making them hang down their heads, as if they had committed such a crime, that they were ashamed to look men in the face. Which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons, &c. — Who, in all probability, would all have been slain, if Absalom had gained the victory. In that thou lovest thine enemies — Thy rebellious son, and those associated with him, to effect thy destruction. And hatest thy friends — Who have risked their lives in thy defence, but in whose preservation thou seemest to take no pleasure, only grieving for the death of a rebel. If Absalom had lived, and we had all died, then it would have pleased thee well — Joab seems to speak this in reference to the exclamation of the king, Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom! for had this been the case, as the king wished, Joab and the rest of David’s faithful commanders would in course have perished through the power of Absalom, who would then have had none to oppose him. Joab’s words, however, are not to be understood as exactly true, but as spoken hyperbolically: but David’s carriage gave too much colour to such a suggestion; and such sharpness of speech was in a manner necessary to awaken the king out of his lethargy, and to preserve him from the impendent mischiefs.

In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well.
Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the LORD, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.
2 Samuel 19:7. Now, therefore, arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants — Show thyself to thy people, acknowledge their good services, and congratulate their success. For I swear by the Lord — He confirms his threat with the most solemn oath. If thou go not forth, &c. — If thou do not instantly quit thy apartment, appear in public, and treat thy people as they deserve; there will not tarry one with thee this night, &c. — Thy subjects will desert thee as one man. This, he signifies, would be far worse than all the calamities that had hitherto befallen him. David appears to have answered nothing to these harsh words of Joab; but, however offended he might be by such rough treatment, he thought fit to dissemble his resentment for the present. He, therefore, immediately left his chamber, and went to the gate, the seat of public justice, where he gave audience to the people, who immediately resorted thither in crowds to him, and were received and treated by him as kindly as his present distress would allow.

Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told unto all the people, saying, Behold, the king doth sit in the gate. And all the people came before the king: for Israel had fled every man to his tent.
And all the people were at strife throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, The king saved us out of the hand of our enemies, and he delivered us out of the hand of the Philistines; and now he is fled out of the land for Absalom.
2 Samuel 19:9-10. All the people were at strife throughout all the tribes — Either, 1st, Striving who should be most forward to bring back the king, and blaming one another’s slackness in the business: or, 2d, Censuring and quarrelling one with another, as the authors and abetters of this shameful rebellion, and discoursing privately and publicly of David’s high merits, which God, being now reconciled to him, brings afresh to their memories. Now, therefore, why speak ye not a word, &c. — The people of Israel speak thus to their elders, as appears by comparing this verse with the next. Seeing their designs for raising Absalom to the throne disappointed, they now repented of that undertaking, and were willing to testify this by their forwardness to bring David back, and re-establish him.

And Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?
And king David sent to Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, saying, Speak unto the elders of Judah, saying, Why are ye the last to bring the king back to his house? seeing the speech of all Israel is come to the king, even to his house.
2 Samuel 19:11-12. Speak unto the elders of Judah — Absalom had begun his conspiracy in Jerusalem itself, and perfected it in Hebron, both cities of Judah; and the people of that tribe had been the first to join him in his rebellion, and to aid and abet his designs; conscious of this, and that, as David was of their tribe, and had long shown them peculiar kindness, their guilt was the greater, they probably despaired of pardon, and, therefore, were backward to promote the king’s restoration. Seeing the speech of all Israel is come to the king — That is, their wishes and desires to bring him back to his throne and palace in Jerusalem. Ye are my bone and my flesh — Ye are related to me by consanguinity, and therefore I cannot be severe with you, nor need you fear lest I should revenge myself of you. Wherefore, then, are ye the last to bring back the king? — This delay doth not suit with the relation you have, and the affection you owe to me.

Ye are my brethren, ye are my bones and my flesh: wherefore then are ye the last to bring back the king?
And say ye to Amasa, Art thou not of my bone, and of my flesh? God do so to me, and more also, if thou be not captain of the host before me continually in the room of Joab.
2 Samuel 19:13. Say to Amasa, Art thou not of my bone, &c. — That is, nearly related to me, being my sister’s son. God do so to me, and more also, &c. — He solemnly promises to prefer him to the highest command in the kingdom; for he now thought it a fit time to depress Joab, who was grown insufferably insolent and imperious, and who, through his credit with the army, had protected himself in the commission of the greatest crimes. He had slain Abner most perfidiously in cold blood, and killed Absalom contrary to the king’s express command, and now lately had insulted him in his sorrow. Having, therefore, now an opportunity of transferring the command to another person, who had as great an interest in the people’s favour as Joab, he gladly embraces it, that so he might both chastise Joab for his faults, and rescue himself from the bondage in which that general had hitherto held him. Some, however, have thought that, considering Joab’s very faithful services to David in all the changes of his fortune, and that his violent measures proceeded in part from a regard to him, as judging them necessary for his safety and tranquillity, David’s conduct in this instance, in making Amasa captain of the host in Joab’s room, is not an amiable trait in his character, and was not a prudent step at this time, especially considering Joab’s violent temper: and, it must be acknowledged, it brought on the murder of Amasa.

And he bowed the heart of all the men of Judah, even as the heart of one man; so that they sent this word unto the king, Return thou, and all thy servants.
2 Samuel 19:14-15. He bowed the heart of all the men of Judah — This prudent and friendly message and free offer of pardon to them, and this kind treatment of the captain of the hostile host, and all his rebel adherents, had all the effect David could hope for; it touched their hearts, and melted them into loyalty and affection. They sent this word unto the king, Return thou, &c. — They immediately deputed the heads of their tribe to wait upon him, and invite him to return. So the king returned — He immediately complied with their request, and began his progress toward Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal — David had not gone far before the principal persons of the whole tribe met him in a body, to conduct him over the river.

So the king returned, and came to Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to conduct the king over Jordan.
And Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite, which was of Bahurim, hasted and came down with the men of Judah to meet king David.
2 Samuel 19:16-17. Shimei hasted and came down to meet King David — As Shimei had so insulted and abused David, he very justly concluded that he could have no hopes of pardon, but in consequence of his being one of the first to go and bring back the king. There were a thousand men of Benjamin with him — Whom he brought, partly to show his interest in the people, and the service he was capable of rendering the king; and partly that they might be intercessors on his behalf, and as witnesses of David’s clemency or severity, that in him they might see what the rest of them might expect. Ziba — Who, being conscious of his former abuse of David, and of his master Mephibosheth, which he knew the king would understand, designed to sweeten David’s spirit toward him, by his forwardness in meeting him. They went over Jordan before the king —

They were so desirous to express their zeal, that they went further than the men of Judah, even to the other side of Jordan where the king was, and then, returning, passed over before him.

And 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 over Jordan before the king.
And there went over a ferry boat to carry over the king's household, and to do what he thought good. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was come over Jordan;
2 Samuel 19:18-20. There went over a ferry-boat — Prepared, it is likely, by the men of Judah. Josephus says, it was a bridge, composed, perhaps, of many boats joined together. Shimei fell down before the king — That he might confess his guilt and perverseness, and implore forgiveness. Neither do thou remember that which thy servant did — So as to resent it deeply, and take revenge. Behold, I am come the first of all the house of Joseph — Shimei knew that a Benjamite, of the house of Saul, came but ill recommended to David under that character; and, therefore, he would not denominate himself from Benjamin, but from Joseph, his beloved brother.

And said unto the king, Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me, neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart.
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.
But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said, Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD'S anointed?
2 Samuel 19:21-23. Abishai said, Shall not Shimei be put to death? — Abishai had before highly resented Shimei’s vile treatment of David, and thought this a fit season for taking revenge. What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? — It seems Joab joined with his brother, and together they thought to govern all the king’s motions as they pleased. But he bids them, in a disdainful manner, stand aside, and not intermeddle in this matter. That ye should this day be adversaries unto me? — Should hinder me from following my own inclinations, and set my people against me. For, by taking their advice, David might have alienated the hearts of all Israel from him, and made them fear the like punishment for their revolt. Shall any man be put to death this day in Israel? — In a time of universal joy, shall any family have cause for lamentation? It was undoubtedly David’s interest, at this time, to appease the people, and reconcile them to himself, and not give them any new distaste by acts of severity; which would have made others jealous, that he would watch an opportunity to be revenged on them. Do I not know that I am this day king over Israel? — And, therefore, have power to punish or to pardon as I please. Is not my kingdom, which was in a manner wholly lost, just now restored and assured to me? And when God hath been so merciful to me in forgiving my sin, shall I show myself revengeful to Shimei? Shall I sully the glory of this day with an act of such severity? Or, shall I alienate the hearts of my people from me, now they are returned to me? “He knew himself a king,” says Delaney, “not of one party, but of a whole people; and therefore wisely resolved that his fatherly affection should extend to them all. He knew himself a sovereign, and he knew that mercy and forgiveness were the noblest privileges of sovereignty.” He therefore turned to Shimei, pronounced his pardon, and confirmed it with an oath, that he should not die.

And David said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries unto me? shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? for do not I know that I am this day king over Israel?
Therefore the king said unto Shimei, Thou shalt not die. And the king sware unto him.
And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace.
2 Samuel 19:24. Mephibosheth the son of Saul — That is, the grandson, 2 Samuel 4:4. Had neither dressed his feet — Neither washed them, which in those hot climates was usual and very refreshing; nor cut the nails of his toes, but let them grow, as he did his beard, which he had not trimmed nor taken any care of, but suffered to become very long and disorderly. Nor washed his clothes — His linen clothes. He had wholly neglected himself, as persons were wont to do in a time of public sorrow. From the day the king departed — This long-continued mourning argued him to be really afflicted for the king’s exile, and was evidence sufficient of the falsehood of Ziba’s relation concerning him, 2 Samuel 16:3.

And it came to pass, when he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said unto him, Wherefore wentest not thou with me, Mephibosheth?
2 Samuel 19:25-27. When he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king — He had probably continued near Jerusalem during the king’s absence, and it seems could not go to a distance from it to meet him, as others did, for want of conveniences for his journey: for Ziba had gotten possession of all his lands and goods, and it is not likely that he, who would not provide him an ass to ride on, to accompany the king at his departure, would now be forward to furnish him with one to meet the king, to whom he knew he would complain of him. My servant deceived me — He had ordered an ass to be made ready for him, to carry him to David; instead of which Ziba saddled it for himself, and went with that false story mentioned 2 Samuel 16:3. My lord the king is as an angel of God — To discern between truth and falsehood, between facts and calumnies. Do, therefore, what is good in thine eyes — I submit myself entirely to thy judgment.

And he answered, My lord, O king, my servant deceived me: for thy servant said, I will saddle me an ass, that I may ride thereon, and go to the king; because thy servant is lame.
And he hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes.
For all of my father's house were but dead men before my lord the king: yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table. What right therefore have I yet to cry any more unto the king?
2 Samuel 19:28. All my father’s house were but dead men before my lord — Before thy tribunal: we were all at thy mercy; not my estate only, but my life also was in thy power, if thou hadst dealt with rigour, and as earthly kings use to do with their predecessors’ and enemies’ children. What right have I yet to cry? — For the vindication of my honour, and the restitution of my estate.

And the king said unto him, Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land.
2 Samuel 19:29. Thou and Ziba divide the land — The land shall be divided between thee and him, according to my first order, chap. 2 Samuel 9:10; he and his sons managing it, and supporting themselves out of it, as they did before, and giving the rest of the profits thereof to thee. It is easy to perceive, from this answer of David, that he saw Mephibosheth’s innocence, and the error of his former credulity, and therefore could not bear to hear of it. But he had now no time to discuss the matter more fully: and, therefore, all that he could do for the present was to restore him to his estate, and leave both him and his accuser in their former condition, till he could inquire further. However Ziba might have been faulty toward Mephibosheth, he had been signally faithful and useful to David; and to condemn him unheard, as he had Mephibosheth, was to run the risk of a second rash decision; a decision that might be now as unseasonable as rash, while any rebellion subsisted in his dominions.

And Mephibosheth said unto the king, Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house.
2 Samuel 19:30. Mephibosheth said, Yea, let him take all — Nothing could be more generously spoken, or signify greater affection, than that he was content to be without an estate, now the king was restored to his kingdom.

And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.
2 Samuel 19:31-33. Barzillai came down from Rogelim — Rogelim was a place in mount Gilead, and Barzillai came down from thence to do the king honour and see him safe over Jordan. He had provided the king sustenance — Barzillai had a very generous heart, which moved him to supply the wants of David and all his family and attendants as long as he stayed at Mahanaim, which was a considerable time. I will feed thee with me — Entertain thee at my own table as a singular friend.

Now Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old: and he had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man.
And the king said unto Barzillai, Come thou over with me, and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem.
And Barzillai said unto the king, How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem?
2 Samuel 19:34. Barzillai said, How long have I to live, &c. — In a spirit of true wisdom, and becoming moderation, he declined accepting the king’s generous offer. The pleasures of a court had no charms for him in that advanced age, being then fourscore years old; his senses and appetites were long since palled, and both music and banquets had lost all their relish. He therefore begged the king to give him leave to wait upon him over the river, and then return to his own city, there to die in peace, and be laid in the grave of his father and his mother.

I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king?
Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the king: and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward?
2 Samuel 19:36-38. Why should the king recompense it me with such a reward?— Since he had but done his duty to his sovereign, he did not expect to be so highly rewarded for it. That I may die in mine own city — That my bones may, with little ado, be carried to the place of their rest. The grave is ready for me; let me go and get ready for it, go and die in my house. But behold thy servant Chimham — That he might not seem rude in refusing the king’s gracious offer, he desires him to transfer his kindness to his son, and bestow upon him what he pleased. The king answered, Chimham shall go over with me — He readily consented to take the young man with him, promised to provide for him, and assured Barzillai he would do every thing else he desired.

Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother. But behold thy servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do to him what shall seem good unto thee.
And the king answered, Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good unto thee: and whatsoever thou shalt require of me, that will I do for thee.
And all the people went over Jordan. And when the king was come over, the king kissed Barzillai, and blessed him; and he returned unto his own place.
Then the king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him: and all the people of Judah conducted the king, and also half the people of Israel.
2 Samuel 19:40. All the people of Judah — That is, the elders and great men of Judah. Also half the people of Israel — Whereas the men of Judah came entirely and unanimously to the king, the Israelites, of the other tribes, came in but slowly, and by halves, as being no less guilty of rebellion than the tribe of Judah; but not encouraged to come in by such a gracious message as they were. And this is here mentioned as the occasion both of the contention here following, and of the sedition, chap. 20.

And, behold, all the men of Israel came to the king, and said unto the king, Why have our brethren the men of Judah stolen thee away, and have brought the king, and his household, and all David's men with him, over Jordan?
2 Samuel 19:41. All the men of Israel — That is, those that were present. It appears that David, to gratify his own tribe, had marched on, not expecting the coming of all the great men of Israel, who were making themselves ready to wait upon him. And therefore, when they were come together, and found that the tribe of Judah were unexpectedly beforehand with them, they resented the slight put upon them; and being joined and supported in their resentment by the rest of their brethren who had reconducted the king in conjunction with Judah, they all with one voice warmly expostulated with the king upon it. Why have the men of Judah stolen thee away? — That is, why did they hasten the matter so, and not expect our concurrence and assistance, who were as zealous as themselves to bring the king back? And all David’s men with him — All his officers, guards, and soldiers. This is mentioned as an aggravation of their fault, that they not only brought the king over Jordan, but all his men too, without asking their advice.

And all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, Because the king is near of kin to us: wherefore then be ye angry for this matter? have we eaten at all of the king's cost? or hath he given us any gift?
2 Samuel 19:42. The king is near of kin to us — Of the same tribe with us, and therefore both oweth the more respect to us, and might expect more respect from us. Hath he given us any gift? — We have neither sought nor gained any advantage to ourselves hereby, but only discharged our duty and testified our love to the king, and used all expedition in bringing him back, which you also should have done, and not have come by halves, and so coldly as you have done.

And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, and said, We have ten parts in the king, and we have also more right in David than ye: why then did ye despise us, that our advice should not be first had in bringing back our king? And the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.
2 Samuel 19:43. We have ten parts in the king — Or kingdom rather, and consequently there was the greater reason why we should be consulted upon a point of so much importance. They say but ten, though strictly there were eleven; either because they counted Joseph, which comprehended both Ephraim and Manasseh under it, for one tribe; or because Simeon, whose lot lay within the tribe of Judah, was joined with Judah in this action. And we have more right in David — As in general we have more right in the king and kingdom, so particularly we have more right in David than you, because you were the beginners, and the most zealous promoters of this rebellion: and if it had been otherwise, as he is king we justly claim a greater interest in him than you, inasmuch as we are the far greatest part of his subjects. This was a natural contest between greater power and nearer relation; both claim a preference, which both cannot have; and which those of nearer relation should have yielded, both in point of prudence and affection for their friend, which the men of Judah did not. In all disputes it is natural for the party injured to be more angry; and therefore they who are in the wrong often assume that character, by supplying from passion whatever is wanting to them in point of reason and argument, as the tribe of Judah did now; for the text informs us, that the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel — That is, more vehement: instead of mollifying the Israelites with gentle words they answered them with greater fierceness: or they had the advantage of the men of Israel in their argument. As David did not think fit to interpose, the Israelites judged that he was partial, and favoured Judah, and thence arose a new rebellion.

Benson Commentary on the Old and New Testaments

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