Joab speaks to David and David returns to Jerusalem
v1 Someone told Joab, ‘The king is crying. He is very sad about Absalom.’ v2 David’s army had won the battle that day. But then they heard that David was very sad about his son. So, it became a sad day for the army too. v3 The men returned to the city quietly that day. They behaved like men who had run away from a battle. They were as quiet as men who felt ashamed. v4 The king covered his face. He cried loudly, ‘My son Absalom. Absalom, my son, my son.’
v5 Then Joab went into the king’s house. Joab said to the king, ‘Today you have made your men feel ashamed. Those men have saved your life. They have saved the lives of your sons and daughters. They have saved the lives of your wives and *concubines. v6 You love the people who hate you. And you hate the people who love you. You have clearly shown that your officers and their men have no value to you. You do not care whether we die. You would be happy if Absalom was alive today instead of us. v7 You should go out and encourage your men. Otherwise, not one man will remain loyal to you tonight. The *Lord knows that this is a serious matter. This will be the worst thing that has ever happened in your life.’
v8 So the king got up and he sat by the gate. Someone told the men, ‘The king is sitting by the gate.’ So, they all went to see him.
During this time, the *Israelites had run away to their homes. v9 The people in all the *tribes of *Israel were arguing with each other. They said, ‘The king saved us from all our enemies. He saved us from the *Philistines. But now he has left the country because of Absalom. v10 We *anointed Absalom to rule us. But he has died in the battle. Our leaders should bring David back to be the king.’
v11 King David was in his house. He had heard what the *Israelites were saying. So, he sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. ‘Tell the leaders of *Judah, “You should not be the last *tribe to bring the king back to his palace. v12 You are my closest relatives. You are my family. So you should not be the last people to bring back the king.” v13 Also, say to Amasa, “You are part of my own family. I will appoint you to be the leader of my army instead of Joab. God knows that I have made this promise to you.” ’
v14 So David persuaded the men of *Judah. They all became loyal to him again. They sent a message to the king, ‘You and all your men should return.’ v15 So David started to return. He reached the river Jordan. All the people of *Judah went to Gilgal. They went to meet David and to bring him across the Jordan.
David’s soldiers had won the battle. They had saved David and his family. They had also saved his *kingdom. But David cared only about his son. Absalom had hated David, but David still loved him. David covered his face so that he could not see anyone else. He cried loudly so that he could not hear anyone else. David should have met his soldiers as they returned from the battle. They had been brave and loyal. They were happy because they had won the battle. David should have praised them. But when they saw David’s reaction, they felt guilty about Absalom. And they felt as if they were worth nothing to David.
Joab was angry with the king. Joab spoke very strongly to him. He showed that the king had insulted his men. Joab even told the king what to do. Joab knew that the soldiers were ready to leave David before that night. David was very sad about his son. But David was still the king. He had to do what was right for everyone in the country. And he had to act quickly before the situation got worse.
Absalom had divided the country. When people in a country fight each other, it causes a lot of trouble. This still happens in many countries today. David had to unite all the *Israelite *tribes. This difficult job would take a long time. Perhaps he never really managed to unite them. When King David died, his son Solomon became the king. When Solomon died, the *Israelites divided into two countries, *Israel and *Judah (1 Kings 12). They never became a united country again.
Absalom’s soldiers (called the *Israelites) had gone to their homes. Now, David came from the *tribe of *Judah. So first, he decided to send a message to the people of Judah. He wanted them to show that they were loyal to him. David’s message in verse 11 united the men of *Judah. But it did not help to unite *Judah with the other *tribes of *Israel. Amasa had been the leader of Absalom’s army (17:25). He was David’s cousin. David was not happy with Joab. So, David made Amasa the leader of his army instead of Joab. Absalom’s men would have been happy about this. So, David travelled from Mahanaim to the river Jordan. It was an honour to help the king and to welcome him back to his country. Only the people of *Judah went to meet him. This caused a problem later (verses 41-43).
David and Shimei
v16 Now Shimei was the son of Gera. He came from the *tribe of Benjamin. He lived in Bahurim. He hurried with the men of *Judah to meet King David. v17 Shimei had 1000 men with him who came from the *tribe of Benjamin. Ziba was also with him. Ziba was the chief servant from Saul’s family. Ziba’s 15 sons and 20 servants were also with him. They rushed to the river Jordan to meet the king. v18They crossed the river where it was shallow. They helped the king and all his family to cross over the river. And they did whatever the king wanted.
When Shimei, the son of Gera, crossed the Jordan, he laid on the ground in front of the king. v19 Shimei said to the king, ‘My master, please forgive me. I did a terrible thing on the day that my master the king left Jerusalem. Do not remember what I did. I hope that the king will forget about it. v20 I am your servant. I know that I have *sinned. But today I am the first person from the entire family of Joseph to meet my master the king.’
v21 Then Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, said, ‘Shimei should die because he insulted the king. The *Lord *anointed David as king.’
v22 David replied, ‘Sons of Zeruiah, you have nothing in common with me. You are speaking as if you are my enemies. Nobody in *Israel will die today. Today I know that I am the king over *Israel.’ v23 So the king made a serious promise to Shimei. The king said to him, ‘You shall not die.’
Shimei had insulted David and his men when they left Jerusalem (16:5-14). Shimei was afraid that David would punish him. So Shimei was eager to meet the king and to confess his *sin. Shimei lay on the ground to show that he was humble (verse 18). This action also gave honour to David. In verse 20, Shimei suggested that the rest of the *Israelites would follow him. The ‘family of Joseph’ refers to the *tribes in the north of *Israel. Shimei had arrived with many men. They all obeyed the king and they helped him and his family. They wanted to show how loyal they were.
Abishai was not happy. He told the king what he should do. Abishai was Joab’s brother. Both these men had told David what he should do. But David suddenly showed his authority as the king. He decided that he himself would not punish Shimei. But David did not forget what Shimei had done. Shimei was still guilty. Just before David died, David told Solomon to kill Shimei (1 Kings 2:8-9).
David is kind to Mephibosheth
v24 Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, also went to meet the king. After the king left, Mephibosheth had not looked after his feet. Nor had he cut his beard or washed his clothes. He did not take care of himself again until the king returned safely. v25 Mephibosheth came from Jerusalem to meet the king. The king said to him, ‘Mephibosheth, why did you not go with me?’
v26 Mephibosheth answered, ‘My master and king. You know that I cannot walk. I told my servant, “Put a saddle on my *donkey. I will ride on it so that I can go with the king.” But my servant was not loyal to me. v27 He lied to you about me. My master and king, you are like an *angel of God. Do what you think is right. v28 You should have killed all my grandfather’s family. Instead, you gave me honour. You let me eat my meals at your table. So I cannot ask the king for anything else.’
v29 The king said, ‘Do not say anything else. You and Ziba will share the land between you.’
v30 Mephibosheth said to the king, ‘Let Ziba take all the land. I am happy now because you, my master the king, have arrived safely home.’
David had been kind to Mephibosheth (chapter 9). But Mephibosheth did not leave Jerusalem when David escaped from Absalom. Now David wanted to know why. Ziba, who was Mephibosheth’s servant, had helped David. Ziba provided food for David and his men (16:1-4). Ziba told David that Mephibosheth was not loyal to him.
Verse 24 describes the customs of a man who was very sad. Other people would have noticed Mephibosheth’s behaviour. So, Mephibosheth told David his account of the events. David did not know who was telling the truth. He had given Mephibosheth’s land to Ziba. Now David divided the land between the two men. But Mephibosheth did not care about the land. He only cared that David was safe. Mephibosheth trusted David completely (verse 27). David had given great honour to Mephibosheth. And Mephibosheth always gave honour to David, as Mephibosheth called David ‘my master the king’.
David is kind to Barzillai
v31 Now Barzillai lived in the land of Gilead. He came from the town of Rogelim. He crossed the Jordan with the king. v32 Barzillai was a very old man. He was 80 years old. Barzillai was a very wealthy man. He had provided food for the king when he stayed in Mahanaim. v33 The king said to Barzillai, ‘Come and stay with me in Jerusalem. I will look after you.’
v34 But Barzillai answered the king, ‘I will not live for very long. There is no reason why I should go to Jerusalem with the king. v35 I am 80 years old now. I cannot distinguish between good and bad things. I cannot appreciate good food and drink. I cannot hear the men and women singers. I will be a nuisance to my master the king. v36 I, your servant, will cross over the Jordan with the king. And I will go just a little way with you. But I do not deserve such a great reward. v37 Let me return so that I can die in my home town. I want to be near the grave of my father and mother. But here is your servant Kimham. Let him go with my master the king. Do for him whatever you desire.’
v38 The king said, ‘Kimham shall go with me. I will deal with him as you desire. And I will do anything for you that would please you.’
v39 So all the people crossed the river Jordan. The king crossed the river too. The king kissed Barzillai and *blessed him. Then Barzillai returned to his home.
Barzillai was loyal to the king. He was old. But he managed to travel to the river Jordan. He had great wealth. He had provided all that the king and his men needed at Mahanaim (17:27-29). David was grateful. He wanted to give Barzillai a reward. Barzillai had looked after David. David now wanted to look after Barzillai. But Barzillai explained that he would not be able to enjoy that good life. Maybe he needed someone to look after him all the time. This would give David extra work. Instead, Barzillai wanted to die in his home town. So, David allowed Barzillai to go home. Kimham was probably Barzillai’s son. He was young enough to enjoy the benefits at the king’s palace.
Judah and *Israel argue about the king
v40 The king went on to Gilgal. Kimham went with him. All the people of *Judah and half the people of *Israel went with him. v41 Soon, the men of *Israel went to the king and they said, ‘The men of *Judah are like brothers to us. But they took you away from us. They brought you and your family across the Jordan (river) with all your men.’
v42 All the men of *Judah answered the men of *Israel. The men of *Judah said, ‘We did this because the king is our close relative. So, you should not be angry about this matter. We have not eaten any of the king’s food. We have not taken anything for ourselves.’
v43 Then the men of *Israel answered the men of *Judah, ‘We have ten *tribes in *Israel. Therefore, we have more right to the king than you have. You are talking as if we have no value. We wanted to bring back the king before you did.’
But the men of *Judah were even more fierce when they replied to the men of *Israel.
Gilgal was about 6 kilometres (4 miles) west of the Jordan and about 26 kilometres (16 miles) north east of Jerusalem. David had crossed the river. The men of *Judah had given honour to the king as he crossed the Jordan. David came from the *tribe of *Judah in the south of the country. He preferred the people of *Judah. They were his relatives. But the men of *Israel were not happy about that. They said that it was not fair. They had ten *tribes in the north of the country. There were many more people in *Israel than in *Judah. Also *Israel wanted David to be the king of the whole country. *Judah agreed later. This argument divided the nation again.