2 Samuel 19
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom.
Ch. 2 Samuel 19:1-8. David roused from his grief by Joab

2. the victory] The Heb. word means literally the salvation or deliverance. Cp. 1 Samuel 9:16; 1 Samuel 11:3; 2 Samuel 3:18, &c.

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.
And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.
3. gat them by stealth, &c.] Out of respect for the king’s sorrow the army stole into the city silently in small parties, like disgraced fugitives, instead of entering in military order with shouts of triumph for the victory.

that day] Clearly the day of the battle, which must therefore have been fought in the neighbourhood of Mahanaim. See notes on ch. 2 Samuel 18:6.

as people, &c.] Better, as the people steal in who have disgraced themselves by fleeing in the battle.

But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!
4. covered his face] See note on ch. 2 Samuel 15:30.

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;
5. Joab came into the house to the king] The crisis illustrates the good as well as the bad features of Joab’s character—his loyalty to David, and his practical sagacity, as well as his hard unsympathetic nature. Exaggerated and unfeeling as his speech was, it roused David from the extravagance of his grief to a sense of his duty, and saved him from flinging away the fruits of the victory.

Thou hast shamed, &c.] Disappointed their hopes of rejoicing for the victory: treated them like offenders instead of benefactors.

have saved thy life, &c.] For had Absalom been victorious, he would doubtless have put to death all rival claimants to the throne, and possibly other members of the king’s household. Cp. Jdg 9:5; 1 Kings 15:29; 1 Kings 16:11; 2 Kings 10:6; 2 Kings 11:1.

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.
6. neither princes nor servants] Neither the captains of the army (ch. 2 Samuel 18:1; 2 Samuel 18:5), nor the soldiers.

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.
7. speak comfortably] Speak to them in a friendly way, encourage them, and appease their discontent.

I swear, &c.] This is not a threat that he will persuade the army to desert David; but an asseveration in the strongest possible terms that they will not continue faithful to a king who allows a private grief to outweigh his gratitude for their services.

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.
8. in the gate] Where kings and rulers were accustomed to give audience to their subjects. See note on ch. 2 Samuel 15:2.

for Israel had fled] The words should begin a new sentence, But Israel had fled, &c. Israel, that part of the nation which had followed Absalom, is contrasted with “the people,” i.e. David’s army. The sentence resumes the narrative from ch. 2 Samuel 18:17, and prepares the way for the account which follows.

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.
And Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?
9–15. Negotiations for David’s Restoration. His return

10. whom we anointed] The anointing of Absalom is not elsewhere mentioned.

At the end of the verse the Sept. adds, “And the word of all Israel came to the king,” that is, either he heard of the movement for his restoration, or he actually received overtures from Israel. The clause is necessary to introduce 2 Samuel 19:11.

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.
11. the elders of Judah] The representatives of the tribe, who would naturally be its leaders in the restoration of the king. Cp. ch. 2 Samuel 5:3. Their backwardness is explained by the prominent part which Judah had taken in the insurrection (see note on ch. 2 Samuel 15:10), while David’s message to the priests was prompted by the desire to conciliate the good will of the most powerful tribe of the nation, and persuade them to take a leading part in his recall.

seeing the speech … even to his house] The words even to his house give no satisfactory sense, and are probably an accidental repetition of the previous to his house: and the clause seeing the speech of all Israel is come to the king may either have stood here originally as well as at the end of 2 Samuel 19:10, where it is certainly required, or have been repeated by a transcriber’s error.

Ye are my brethren, ye are my bones and my flesh: wherefore then are ye the last to bring back the king?
12. my bones and my flesh] See note on ch. 2 Samuel 5:1. Bones should be, as there, bone.

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.
13. Art thou not of my bone, and of my flesh] Art thou not my bone and my flesh, exactly as in 2 Samuel 19:12. Amasa was David’s nephew, the son of his sister or step-sister Abigail. See ch. 2 Samuel 17:25. Of course the message was to be privately conveyed to Amasa through the priests. It was a bold stroke of policy to promise the post of commander-in chief to the general of the rebel army. By so doing, David designed at once to secure the allegiance of that army, and to punish Joab for killing Absalom in defiance of his command. But it was hardly prudent. Joab was certain not to submit to it tamely: Amasa’s military skill was probably inferior, and his loyalty remained to be proved.

God do so, &c.] See note on ch. 2 Samuel 3:9.

in the room of Joab] i.e. instead of. Room = place, space, from A.-S. rúm, Germ. Raum. Cp. Matthew 2:22.

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.
14. And he bowed, &c.] By this message David inclined the hearts of the men of Judah to restore him to the throne.

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.
15. to Gilgal] Gilgal, between Jericho and the Jordan, was the rendezvous for the representatives of Judah—probably the elders—who were sent to escort the king back to Jerusalem.

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.
16–44. David’s return. Episodes on the journey

16–23. Shimei sues for pardon

16. Shimei] See ch. 2 Samuel 16:5 ff. Shimei and Ziba came with guilty consciences to curry favour by seeming to shew special zeal in bringing back the king.

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.
17. And there were a thousand men of Benjamin with him] Omit there were, and join this clause to 2 Samuel 19:16.

they went over Jordan before the king] Ziba and his retinue dashed into the river and crossed it—the word for went over is a peculiar one, expressing impetuous movement—to shew their zeal by meeting the king on the eastern bank.

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;
18. And there went over a ferry-boat] And the ferry-boat was passing to and fro, placed at the service of the king by the men of Judah.

as he was come over Jordan] This probably means as David was crossing over the Jordan, i.e. during the general proceedings of the transit, not necessarily during the actual passage. Shimei seems to have crossed along with Ziba to meet the king on the eastern bank. David’s crossing is not mentioned till 2 Samuel 19:39.

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.
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.

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?
21. Abishai] True to his fierce, impetuous character. See ch. 2 Samuel 16:9.

cursed the Lord’s anointed] Since the king was Jehovah’s representative, to curse him was almost as heinous an offence as to curse Jehovah Himself. Exodus 22:28; Leviticus 24:15; 1 Kings 21:10.

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?
22. adversaries] Opposing my true interests. The Heb. word is satan. Cp. Matthew 16:23.

that I am this day king] The rejoicing of the day which saw him restored to his kingdom must not be marred by any bloodshed. Cp. 1 Samuel 11:13.

Therefore the king said unto Shimei, Thou shalt not die. And the king sware unto him.
23. the king sware unto him] David cannot be acquitted of breaking the spirit if not the letter of his oath by the charge which he gave to Solomon (1 Kings 2:8 ff.).

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.
24–30. Mephibosheth’s meeting with David

24. had neither dressed his feet, &c.] The neglect of his person, the unwashed feet, the untrimmed moustache, the soiled garments, were outward signs of extreme grief. Cp. ch. 2 Samuel 12:20; Ezekiel 24:17. The Sept. adds “nor trimmed his nails,” after “dressed his feet” (see Deuteronomy 21:12), but the words are perhaps only a duplicate rendering of the Hebrew.

beard] Properly moustache. The word occurs elsewhere only in connexion with the custom of covering the upper lip or moustache in mourning. See Leviticus 13:45; Ezekiel 24:17; Ezekiel 24:22; Micah 3:7.

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?
25. when he was come to Jerusalem] If the reading is right, the meeting between David and Mephibosheth must have taken place in Jerusalem, and is introduced here out of the strictly chronological order, because of the mention of Ziba in 2 Samuel 19:17. “Came down” in 2 Samuel 19:24 must then be explained ‘came down from his house in the highlands of Benjamin near Gibeah to Jerusalem,’ not ‘came down from Jerusalem to the Jordan.’ The conclusion of 2 Samuel 19:30 agrees with the supposition that Mephibosheth met David in Jerusalem. This is better than rendering when Jerusalem (i.e. the inhabitants of Jerusalem) came, which is forced, or emending from Jerusalem, which is a conjecture supported by no external authority of value.

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.
26. said, I will saddle me an ass] Meaning of course, I will have my ass saddled. The Sept. however reads, said unto him, Saddle me the ass, which certainly suits the context better. Apparently Ziba, after receiving the order, saddled the asses, loaded them with provisions, and went to meet David with his fictitious story (ch. 2 Samuel 16:1), leaving Mephibosheth in the lurch.

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.
27. as an angel of God] To discern the truth, and decide justly. Cp. ch. 2 Samuel 14:17; 2 Samuel 14:20.

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?
28. were but dead men] For David might have put them all to death. Possibly there is an allusion to the surrender of Saul’s sons to the Gibeonites (ch. 2 Samuel 21:6-9).

what right, &c.] Since all David’s favours to him were undeserved, he had no ground for making a complaint, and demanding the restoration of his property as a right.

And the king said unto him, Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land.
29. Thou and Ziba divide the land] This is usually supposed to be a compromise between the two claimants, either because David suspected the truth of Mephibosheth’s story, or because he was unwilling to alienate Ziba, and possibly a considerable party of Benjamites, by entirely revoking the grant to him (ch. 2 Samuel 16:4). But it may be a confirmation of the original arrangement by which Ziba was to be Mephibosheth’s tenant, and as he certainly did not cultivate the land for nothing, might be said to share it with him.

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.
30. Yea, let him take all] Mephibosheth’s affection was for his master, not for his property. There is no reason for supposing that his version of the story was false and Ziba’s true, in spite of Blunt’s ingenious arguments to prove that he was a traitor and a hypocrite (Undes. Coinc. p. 157 ff.).

And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.
31–40. Barzillai’s farewell to David

31. Barzillai] See ch. 2 Samuel 17:27.

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.
32. provided … of sustenance] An obsolete use of the preposition of where we now employ with.

lay] i.e. abode. Cp. Joshua 2:1, marg.

And the king said unto Barzillai, Come thou over with me, and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem.
33. I will feed thee] I will provide thee with sustenance; the same word as in 2 Samuel 19:32, and Genesis 45:11 (E. V. nourish).

And Barzillai said unto the king, How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem?
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?
35. fourscore years] Cp. Psalm 90:10.

singing men and singing women] Musicians were a part of royal state (Ecclesiastes 2:8); banquets were commonly enlivened by music. See Isaiah 5:11-12; Isaiah 24:8-9; Amos 6:4-6.

Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the king: and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward?
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.
37. and be buried by the grave, &c.] The ancient affection for the family sepulchre is very remarkable. See Jdg 8:32; 2 Samuel 2:32; 2 Samuel 17:23; 2 Samuel 21:14; 1 Kings 13:22.

Chimham] Barzillai’s son, who with his brothers was specially commended to Solomon’s care (1 Kings 2:7). From the mention of “the habitation of Chimham which is by Bethlehem” in Jeremiah 41:17, it has been ingeniously inferred that Chimham received a grant of land from David’s patrimony at Bethlehem, which retained his name for at least four centuries. See Stanley’s Lect. II. 152.

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.
39. all the people] David’s followers, who are repeatedly termed the people in this narrative.

kissed Barzillai, and blessed him] A farewell salute. Cp. Genesis 31:55.

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.
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?
41–43. Dispute between the men of Judah and the men of Israel

41. And behold, all the men of Israel] This must be read in connexion with the preceding verse which introduces and explains it. The northern tribes had been foremost in proposing the restoration (2 Samuel 19:9-10), but owing no doubt to tribal jealousies, they had not been invited by the men of Judah to the gathering at Gilgal to welcome the king. Consequently only a fraction of them, probably those from the immediate neighbourhood and the trans-Jordanic country, were there. But while the king was still at Gilgal, the rest of the Israelite representatives arrived, and complained to David that they had been unwarrantably forestalled by Judah, and cheated of the honour and privilege of escorting him back. Cp. the instances of Ephraimite jealousy in Jdg 8:1; Jdg 12:1.

stolen thee away] Brought thee home without our knowledge. They justly censured the men of Judah for doing by themselves that which should have been the united act of the whole nation, and possibly suspected that David himself was not altogether blameless (2 Samuel 19:11-12).

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?
42. to us] Lit. to me: and so art thou angry: and in 2 Samuel 19:43 the pronouns are singular throughout; each party being as it were personified and regarded as a unit.

42. have we eaten at all of the king’s cost, &c.] They defend themselves by alleging the purity of their motives. Some see in the words a side-thrust at the Benjamites, who had enjoyed special privileges during Saul’s reign (1 Samuel 22:7).

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.
43. ten parts] The northern tribes claimed a share of the king in proportion to their number. Ephraim and Manasseh are counted as one in the reckoning of Israel as ten tribes. Cp. 1 Kings 11:31; 1 Kings 11:35.

and we have also more right in David than ye] And even in David we have more right than ye: lit. I … than thou. They claim a share of the king, as king, in proportion to their number, and maintain this to be their right even in the case of David, whom the men of Judah might assert to belong specially to them as being their kinsman. But the Sept. preserves (in addition to a rendering of the present Heb. text), a different and very remarkable reading, which is perhaps the true one: and I am the firstborn rather than thou. Reuben, the natural firstborn, forfeited his birthright, and it was transferred to Joseph, the eldest son of Jacob’s second wife. In virtue of the birthright Joseph inherited a double portion (Deuteronomy 21:17) by Jacob’s adoption of his two sons Ephraim and Manasseh. See 1 Chronicles 5:1-2; Genesis 48:22; Joshua 16:4. It was most natural for Ephraim, speaking on behalf of the northern tribes, “the house of Joseph” (2 Samuel 19:20), to assert such a claim at the present crisis.

why then, &c.] Better: why then hast thou despised me? was not my word the first for bringing back my king? a reference to the movement described in 2 Samuel 19:9-10.

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