2 Samuel 19
Clarke's Commentary
David continues his lamentation for his son, and the people are greatly discouraged, 2 Samuel 19:1-4. Joab reproves and threatens him with the general defection of the people, 2 Samuel 19:5-7. David lays aside his mourning, and shows himself to the people, who are thereby encouraged, 2 Samuel 19:8. The tribes take counsel to bring the king back to Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 19:9-12. He makes Amasa captain of the host in place of Joab, 2 Samuel 19:13. The king, returning, is met by Judah at Gilgal, 2 Samuel 19:14, 2 Samuel 19:15. Shimei comes to meet David, and entreats for his life, which David grants, 2 Samuel 19:16-23. Mephibosheth also meets him, and shows how he had been slandered by Ziba, 2 Samuel 19:24-30. David is met by Barzillai, and between them there is an affecting interview, 2 Samuel 19:31-40. Contention between the men of Judah and the men of Israel, about bringing back the king, 2 Samuel 19:41-43.

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.
The victory - was turned into mourning - Instead of rejoicing that a most unnatural and ruinous rebellion had been quashed, the people mourned over their own success, because they saw their king so immoderately afflicted for the loss of his worthless son.

And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in 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!
The king covered his face - This was the custom of mourners.

O my son Absalom - Calmet has properly remarked that the frequent repetition of the name of the defunct, is common in the language of lamentation. Thus Virgil, act. v., ver. 51: -

- Daphnin que team tollemus ad astra;

Daphnin ad astra feremus: amavit nos quoque Daphnis.

"With yours, my song I cheerfully shall join,

To raise your Daphnis to the powers Divine.

Daphnis I'll raise unto the powers above,

For dear to me was Daphnis' well tried love."

See the notes on the preceding chapter, 2 Samuel 18 (note).

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;
Thou hast shamed this day - Joab's speech to David on his immoderate grief for the death of his rebellious son is not only remarkable for the insolence of office, but also for good sense and firmness. Every man who candidly considers the state of the case, must allow that David acted imprudently at least; and that Joab's firm reproof was necessary to arouse him to a sense of his duty to his people. But still, in his manner, Joab had far exceeded the bonds of that reverence which a servant owes to his master, or a subject to his prince. Joab was a good soldier, but in every respect a bad man, and a dangerous subject.

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.
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.
The king - sat in the gate - The place where justice was administered to the people.

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?
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.
Speak unto the elders of Judah - David was afraid to fall out with this tribe: they were in possession of Jerusalem, and this was a city of great importance to him. They had joined Absalom in his rebellion; and doubtless were now ashamed of their conduct. David appears to take no notice of their infidelity, but rather to place confidence in them, that their confidence in him might be naturally excited: and, to oblige them yet farther, purposes to make Amasa captain of the host in the place of Joab.

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.
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.
And he bowed the heart of all the men of Judah - The measures that he pursued were the best calculated that could be to accomplish this salutary end. Appear to distrust those whom you have some reason to suspect, and you increase their caution and distrust. Put as much confidence in them as you safely can, and this will not fail to excite their confidence towards you.

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.
Shimei the son of Gera - It appears that Shimei was a powerful chieftain in the land; for he had here, in his retinue, no less than a thousand men.

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;
There went over a ferry-boat - This is the first mention of any thing of the kind. Some think a bridge or raft is what is here intended.

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.
For thy servant doth know that I have sinned - This was all he could do; his subsequent conduct alone could prove his sincerity. On such an avowal as this David could not but grant him his life.

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?
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.
Neither dressed his feet - He had given the fullest proof of his sincere attachment to David and his cause; and by what he had done, amply refuted the calumnies of his servant Ziba.

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?
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.
The king is as an angel of God - As if he had said, I state my case plainly and without guile; thou art too wise not to penetrate the motives from which both myself and servant have acted. I shall make no appeal; with whatsoever thou determinest I shall rest contented.

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?
And the king said unto him, Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land.
I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land - At first, David gave the land of Saul to Mephibosheth; and Ziba, his sons, and his servants, were to work that land; and to Mephibosheth, as the lord, he was to give the half of the produce. Ziba met David in his distress with provisions, and calumniated Mephibosheth: David, too slightly trusting to his misrepresentation, and supposing that Mephibosheth was actually such a traitor as Ziba represented him, made him on the spot a grant of his master's land. Now he finds that he has acted too rashly, and therefore confirms the former grant; i.e. that Ziba should cultivate the ground, and still continue to give to Mephibosheth, as the lord, the half of the produce. This was merely placing things in statu quo, and utterly annulling the gift that he had made to Ziba. But why did he leave this treacherous man any thing? Answer,

1. He was one of the domestics of Saul, and David wished to show kindness to that house.

2. He had supplied him with the necessaries of life when he was in the greatest distress; and he thinks proper to continue him in his old office, by way of remuneration.

But it was certainly too great a compensation for his services, however then important, when all the circumstances are considered.

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.
And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.
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.
Barzillai was a very aged man - This venerable person had given full proof of his attachment to David by the supplies he had given him when he lay at Mahanaim, where his case was all but desperate; the sincerity of his congratulations now none can suspect. David's offer to him was at once noble and liberal: he wished to compensate such a man, and he wished to have at hand such a friend.

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?
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?
Can thy servant taste what I eat - Here is at once an affecting description of the infirmities of old age; and a correct account of the mode of living at an Eastern court in ancient times.

Barzillai was fourscore years old; his ear was become dull of hearing, and his relish for his food was gone: he therefore appears to have been not only an old man, but an infirm old man. Besides delicate meats and drinks, we find that vocal music constituted a principal part of court entertainments: male and female singers made a necessary appendage to these banquets, as they do in most Eastern courts to the present day. As David was a most sublime poet, and emphatically styled the sweet singer of Israel, he no doubt had his court well supplied with vocal as well as instrumental performers; and, probably, with poets and poetesses; for it is not likely that he was the only poet of his time, though he undoubtedly was the most excellent.

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.
Thy servant Chimham - It is generally understood that this was Barzillai's son; and this is probable from 1 Kings 2:7, where, when David was dying, he said, Show kindness to the sons of Barzillai: and it is very probable that this Chimham was one of them. In Jeremiah 41:17 mention is made of the habitation of Chimham, which was near to Bethlehem; and it is reasonably conjectured that David had left that portion, which was probably a part of his paternal estate, to this son of Barzillai.

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.
The king kissed Barzillai, and blessed him - The kiss was the token of friendship and farewell; the blessing was a prayer to God for his prosperity, probably a prophetical benediction.

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?
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?
Wherefore then be ye angry for this matter? - We have not done this for our own advantage; we have gained nothing by it; we did it through loyal attachment to our king.

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.
We have ten parts in the king, and - more right - We are ten tribes to one, or we are ten times so many as you; and consequently should have been consulted in this business.

The words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel - They had more weight, for they had more reason on their side.

It is pleasant when every province, canton, district, and county, vie with each other in personal attachment to the prince, and loyal attachment to his government. From such contentions as these civil wars are never likely to arise. And how blessed it must be for the country where the king merits all this! where the prince is the pastor and father of his people, and in all things the minister of and to them for good!

It is criminal in the prince not to endeavor to deserve the confidence and love of his people; and it is highly criminal in the people not to repay such endeavors with the most loyal and affectionate attachment.

Where the government is not despotic, the king acts by the counsels of his ministers, and while he does so he is not chargeable with miscarriages and misfortunes; they either came through bad counsels, or directly thwarting providences. On this ground is that political maxim in our laws formed, the king can do no wrong. Sometimes God will have things otherwise than the best counsels have determined, because he sees that the results will, on the whole, be better for the peace and prosperity of that state. "God is the only Ruler of princes." And as the peace of the world depends much on civil government, hence kings and civil governors are peculiar objects of the Almighty's care. Wo to him who labors to bring about a general disaffection; as such things almost invariably end in general disappointment and calamity. It is much easier to unsettle than to settle; to pull down than to build up.

Commentary on the Bible, by Adam Clarke [1831].
Text Courtesy of Internet Sacred Texts Archive.

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