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II Samuel 19-21    Listen Podcast

Joab to David: Get a grip on yourself! (II Samuel 19:1-8)

1 And Joab was told, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.”
2 So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, “The king is grieved for his son.”
3 And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.
4 But the king covered his face, and the king cried out with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”
5 ¶ Then Joab came into the house to the king, and said, “Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines,
6 in that you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well.
7 Now therefore, arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants. For I swear by the LORD, if you do not go out, not one will stay with you this night. And that will be worse for you than all the evil that has befallen you from your youth until now.”
8 Then the king arose and sat in the gate. And they told all the people, saying, “There is the king, sitting in the gate.” So all the people came before the king. ¶ For everyone of Israel had fled to his tent.

Absalom met his death hanging from a tree in II Samuel 18 (see notes). Now David has gotten word that Absalom is dead. He resides at Mahanaim, east of the Jordan, where he had established his headquarters during his exile from Jerusalem. The troops have returned from battle only to hear David crying out for his son Absalom. Joab decides it's time to straighten David out on this; after all, he's crying for the son who tried to kill him and take over. What about all the men who risked their lives to save David from his renegade son? "Come on David! Snap out of it!" Joab admonishes. Nobody talked to David like Joab; notice the words of Joab to David in verse 6, "...for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well." Taking Joab's advice, David cleans himself up and takes his seat at the gate of the city to show his appreciation for all that the troops had done for him.

David returns to Jerusalem (II Samuel 19:9-15)

9 ¶ Now all the people were in a dispute throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “The king saved us from the hand of our enemies, he delivered us from the hand of the Philistines, and now he has fled from the land because of Absalom.
10 But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, has died in battle. Now therefore, why do you say nothing about bringing back the king?”
11 ¶ So King David sent to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, saying, “Speak to the elders of Judah, saying, ‘Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house, since the words of all Israel have come to the king, to his very house?
12 You are my brethren, you are my bone and my flesh. Why then are you the last to bring back the king?’
13 And say to Amasa, “Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me, and more also, if you are not commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab.’ ”
14 So he swayed the hearts of all the men of Judah, just as the heart of one man, so that they sent this word to the king: “Return, you and all your servants!”
15 ¶ Then the king returned and came to the Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to escort the king across the Jordan.

David's NephewsWe have a sticky situation here with the home folks. David's own tribe, Judah, had fallen in behind the rest of Israel to anoint Absalom as the King of Israel, but now he's dead. David's a little agitated that the people of Judah are dragging their feet in taking him back as their king; the rest of Israel has already acknowledged that reality. David, still residing east of the Jordan, sends a message to the priests and says they should notify the elders of Judah to facilitate David's return to his throne. David goes one step too far here in the name of compromise; he forgives Amasa and promises to leave him over the armies of Israel instead of reinstating Joab. Incidentally, Amasa was David's nephew by his sister, Abigail. Joab was also David's nephew, but by David's sister, Zeruiah.

In II Samuel 17 (see notes) we see that Amasa had been a traitor when he forsook David and supported Absalom! What was David thinking? While both were David's nephews it was Joab that remained loyal! Of course, that may have been because Absalom gave the big commander job to Amasa instead of Joab. Remember, the Tribe of Judah was huge compared to the rest. A couple of factors are at play here. First of all, Amasa controlled the army of Israel under Absalom's short rule. As of this time, he hasn't been removed as Israel's top general. An alliance with Amasa, who controls the army, can't hurt in helping Judah to once again rally around David as king. Secondly, Joab doesn't seem to treat David with the same level of respect as others. So, Judah's folks come to Gilgal to escort David over the Jordan and back to power over Israel. Amasa should enjoy his tenure as General of Israel's army; he soon won't have the guts to continue in that position (pun on). Joab doesn't give up that easily.

David to his enemies: "I'm OK, you're OK!" (II Samuel 19:16-30)

16 And Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite, who was from Bahurim, hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet King David.
17 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 the Jordan before the king.
18 Then a ferryboat went across to carry over the king’s household, and to do what he thought good. ¶ Now Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king when he had crossed the Jordan.
19 Then he said to the king, “Do not let my lord impute iniquity to me, or remember what wrong your servant did on the day that my lord the king left Jerusalem, that the king should take it to heart.
20 For I, your servant, know that I have sinned. Therefore here I am, the first to come today of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.”
21 ¶ 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?”
22 ¶ And David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should be adversaries to me today? Shall any man be put to death today in Israel? For do I not know that today I am king over Israel?”
23 Therefore the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king swore to him.
24 ¶ Now Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. And he had not cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he returned in peace.
25 So it was, when he had come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, “Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?”
26 ¶ And he answered, “My lord, O king, my servant deceived me. For your servant said, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go to the king,’ because your servant is lame.
27 And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king, but my lord the king is like the angel of God. Therefore do what is good in your eyes.
28 For all my father’s house were but dead men before my lord the king. Yet you set your servant among those who eat at your own table. Therefore what right have I still to cry out anymore to the king?”
29 ¶ So the king said to him, “Why do you speak anymore of your matters? I have said, ‘You and Ziba divide the land.’ ”
30 ¶ Then Mephibosheth said to the king, “Rather, let him take it all, inasmuch as my lord the king has come back in peace to his own house.”

Then David goes on a pardoning spree. First up: Shimei, the guy who walked along beside David as he was leaving Jerusalem cursing David and throwing rocks at him back in II Samuel 16:5-14 (see notes). Shimei brought 1,000 men with him for his sincere apology act. What a difference in Shimei's attitude; he just gushes with superficial platitudes in verses 19-20. Surely David won't let him walk away unscathed! David's nephew (Joab's brother), Abishai, has what seems like the best idea - kill him! But, no, David makes an oath that he shall not die - at least at the hand of David. However, what isn't mentioned this day is that Shimei only gets a stay of execution; he gets his execution after all in I Kings 2:8-9 (see notes).

Next rolls in Mephibosheth, Jonathan's crippled boy (and Saul's grandson) whom David had shown every kindness back at the palace. He's kind of rough looking - explains that his servant Ziba had lied about Mephibosheth's loyalty to Absalom (II Samuel 16:1-4, see notes), and that Ziba had left him stranded so that he could not leave Jerusalem with David (he was crippled). David forgives him, but only gives him back half of the possessions that he had taken from him and awarded to Ziba. So, does that mean that David still wasn't sure who was telling the truth, Mephibosheth or Ziba? Perhaps. More than likely, however, David felt he could not afford to make any enemies on his first day back as King over all of Israel.

Barzillai was a good man (II Samuel 19:31-43)

31 ¶ And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim and went across the Jordan with the king, to escort him across the Jordan.
32 Now Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old. And he had provided the king with supplies while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very rich man.
33 And the king said to Barzillai, “Come across with me, and I will provide for you while you are with me in Jerusalem.”
34 ¶ But Barzillai said to the king, “How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem?
35 I am today eighty years old. Can I discern between the good and bad? Can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any longer the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be a further burden to my lord the king?
36 Your servant will go a little way across the Jordan with the king. And why should the king repay me with such a reward?
37 Please let your servant turn back again, that I may die in my own city, near the grave of my father and mother. But here is your servant Chimham; let him cross over with my lord the king, and do for him what seems good to you.”
38 ¶ And the king answered, “Chimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him what seems good to you. Now whatever you request of me, I will do for you.”
39 Then all the people went over the Jordan. And when the king had crossed over, the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own place.
40 ¶ Now the king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him. And all the people of Judah escorted the king, and also half the people of Israel.
41 Just then all the men of Israel came to the king, and said to the king, “Why have our brethren, the men of Judah, stolen you away and brought the king, his household, and all David’s men with him across the Jordan?”
42 ¶ So all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “Because the king is a close relative of ours. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we ever eaten at the king’s expense? Or has he given us any gift?”
43 ¶ And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, and said, “We have ten shares in the king; therefore we also have more right to David than you. Why then do you despise us—were we not the first to advise bringing back our king?” ¶ Yet the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.

This old man of 80 had helped David during this traumatic time with provisions, etc. back in II Samuel 17:27 (see notes). He's now here to help escort David back over the Jordan to Jerusalem. David offers him an all-expense-paid stay back at the palace for the rest of his life. As an old guy, Barzillai declines the offer for himself, but secures it for his boy, Chimham. Chimham, you got it made, buddy! David, later on his death bed, instructs Solomon to stand by his promise to Barzillai (I Kings 2:7, see notes). So, the men of Judah and half the remaining people of Israel show up to escort David back to Jerusalem, but not without a little bit of a jealous dispute between the men of Judah and the rest of the men of Israel. After all, even though they were David's own tribesmen, Judah had lagged behind the rest of Israel in accepting David back as King of Israel. can understand the nature of this dispute.

Incidentally, notice the reference here in verse 43 that the leaders of Israel make when they say, "We have ten shares in the king." You will recall that in the distribution of land in Joshua 19 (see notes) that the Tribe of Simeon received land within the Tribe of Judah instead of their own distinct territory. That's undoubtedly the reason they are not numbered with the "ten" tribes here in this passage - they were part of Judah. As a matter of fact, when the Kingdom of Israel split into two after Solomon's reign in I Kings 12 (see notes), these ten tribes, indeed, split from Judah.

But not everybody is happy about this! (II Samuel 20:1-13)

1 And there happened to be there a rebel, whose name was Sheba the son of Bichri, a Benjamite. And he blew a trumpet, and said:
“We have no share in David,
Nor do we have inheritance in the son of Jesse;
Every man to his tents, O Israel!”
2 So every man of Israel deserted David, and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah, from the Jordan as far as Jerusalem, remained loyal to their king.
3 ¶ Now David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten women, his concubines whom he had left to keep the house, and put them in seclusion and supported them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up to the day of their death, living in widowhood.
4 ¶ And the king said to Amasa, “Assemble the men of Judah for me within three days, and be present here yourself.”
5 So Amasa went to assemble the men of Judah. But he delayed longer than the set time which David had appointed him.
6 And David said to Abishai, “Now Sheba the son of Bichri will do us more harm than Absalom. Take your lord’s servants and pursue him, lest he find for himself fortified cities, and escape us.”
7 So Joab’s men, with the Cherethites, the Pelethites, and all the mighty men, went out after him. And they went out of Jerusalem to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri.
8 When they were at the large stone which is in Gibeon, Amasa came before them. Now Joab was dressed in battle armor; on it was a belt with a sword fastened in its sheath at his hips; and as he was going forward, it fell out.
9 Then Joab said to Amasa, “Are you in health, my brother?” And Joab took Amasa by the beard with his right hand to kiss him.
10 But Amasa did not notice the sword that was in Joab’s hand. And he struck him with it in the stomach, and his entrails poured out on the ground; and he did not strike him again. Thus he died. ¶ Then Joab and Abishai his brother pursued Sheba the son of Bichri.
11 Meanwhile one of Joab’s men stood near Amasa, and said, “Whoever favors Joab and whoever is for David—follow Joab!”
12 But Amasa wallowed in his blood in the middle of the highway. And when the man saw that all the people stood still, he moved Amasa from the highway to the field and threw a garment over him, when he saw that everyone who came upon him halted.
13 When he was removed from the highway, all the people went on after Joab to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri.

This guy named Sheba (isn't that a girl's name) decides "It ain't over 'til it's over!" Verse 1 calls him a "rebel." Sheba decides to mount another rebellion against David, and remarkably, the men of Israel (the ten tribes) buy into it. They did so because of the fact that David seemed to be embracing Judah (who had been hesitant to bring him back as king) over the other ten tribes who had first accepted David's restored kingship.

Despite this northern-tribe rebellion led by Sheba (a Benjamite), the men of Judah remain firmly behind David. So, David returns to Jerusalem, takes back control of his household, reassigns the 10 concubines who had been defiled by Absalom (they lived as widows for the rest of their lives) back in II Samuel 16:21-22 (see notes) and makes preparation for war again; this time it's Judah led by David against Sheba leading the rest of Israel.

David sends his new commander out to gather together the army from among the men of Judah, but Amasa doesn't show up with an army in the three days he was allocated to do so. David then appoints Abishai (another of David's nephews and brother of Joab) to take David's men and go after Sheba. Joab and his men tag along; Amasa then catches up with them. Joab goes to greet Amasa...with a sword! While greeting Amasa, Joab takes the sword in his hand and kills him...whoa...didn't see that coming! That was easy; now Joab is commander of the army again. Ironically, Joab had remained faithful to David in Absalom's treason, and Amasa had rallied around Absalom. It was a political compromise that allowed Amasa to remain in control over the army after David's restoration to the throne. Really, he couldn't be trusted, and Joab knew it.

In the end, however, David shows his appreciation for Joab's loyalty by directing his son, King Solomon, to have Joab executed in I Kings 2:5-6 (see notes). He cites as one of his justifications for doing so this slaying of the less-than-loyal Amasa here in this passage.

Sheba loses his a woman! (II Samuel 20:14-26)

14 ¶ And he went through all the tribes of Israel to Abel and Beth Maachah and all the Berites. So they were gathered together and also went after Sheba.
15 Then they came and besieged him in Abel of Beth Maachah; and they cast up a siege mound against the city, and it stood by the rampart. And all the people who were with Joab battered the wall to throw it down.
16 ¶ Then a wise woman cried out from the city, “Hear, hear! Please say to Joab, ‘Come nearby, that I may speak with you.’ ”
17 When he had come near to her, the woman said, “Are you Joab?” ¶ He answered, “I am.” ¶ Then she said to him, “Hear the words of your maidservant.” ¶ And he answered, “I am listening.”
18 ¶ So she spoke, saying, “They used to talk in former times, saying, ‘They shall surely seek guidance at Abel,’ and so they would end disputes.
19 I am among the peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city and a mother in Israel. Why would you swallow up the inheritance of the LORD?”
20 ¶ And Joab answered and said, “Far be it, far be it from me, that I should swallow up or destroy!
21 That is not so. But a man from the mountains of Ephraim, Sheba the son of Bichri by name, has raised his hand against the king, against David. Deliver him only, and I will depart from the city.” ¶ So the woman said to Joab, “Watch, his head will be thrown to you over the wall.”
22 Then the woman in her wisdom went to all the people. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri, and threw it out to Joab. Then he blew a trumpet, and they withdrew from the city, every man to his tent. So Joab returned to the king at Jerusalem.
23 ¶ And Joab was over all the army of Israel; Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was over the Cherethites and the Pelethites;
24 Adoram was in charge of revenue; Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud was recorder;
25 Sheva was scribe; Zadok and Abiathar were the priests;
26 and Ira the Jairite was a chief minister under David.

In pursuit of Sheba and his army, they locate him in a walled city named Abel in northern Israel. As they begin to besiege the city and tear down the walls, a woman of the city propositions Joab with her solution, "How 'bout we just throw Sheba's head out to you, and you go home?" "Good deal!" replies Joab. Soon afterward, here comes Sheba's head as promised, and everybody goes home - rebellion ended. David's back, and so is Joab! And Amasa? He's just lying dead in a field somewhere; it's not wise to cross Joab.

Incidentally, the Cherethites and Pelethites in verse 23 were likely a couple of Philistine tribes in Southern Israel who were loyal to David. Many scholars think they were King David's guards. We are told that it was common practice among monarchs during this period to have a guard of foreign mercenaries.

A sobering story about the rain and the Gibeonites (21:1-14)

1 Now there was a famine in the days of David for three years, year after year; and David inquired of the LORD. And the LORD answered, “It is because of Saul and his bloodthirsty house, because he killed the Gibeonites.”
2 So the king called the Gibeonites and spoke to them. Now the Gibeonites were not of the children of Israel, but of the remnant of the Amorites; the children of Israel had sworn protection to them, but Saul had sought to kill them in his zeal for the children of Israel and Judah.
3 ¶ Therefore David said to the Gibeonites, “What shall I do for you? And with what shall I make atonement, that you may bless the inheritance of the LORD?”
4 ¶ And the Gibeonites said to him, “We will have no silver or gold from Saul or from his house, nor shall you kill any man in Israel for us.” ¶ So he said, “Whatever you say, I will do for you.”
5 ¶ Then they answered the king, “As for the man who consumed us and plotted against us, that we should be destroyed from remaining in any of the territories of Israel,
6 let seven men of his descendants be delivered to us, and we will hang them before the LORD in Gibeah of Saul, whom the LORD chose.” ¶ And the king said, “I will give them.”
7 ¶ But the king spared Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, because of the LORD’S oath that was between them, between David and Jonathan the son of Saul.
8 So the king took Armoni and Mephibosheth, the two sons of Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, whom she bore to Saul, and the five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she brought up for Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite;
9 and he delivered them into the hands of the Gibeonites, and they hanged them on the hill before the LORD. So they fell, all seven together, and were put to death in the days of harvest, in the first days, in the beginning of barley harvest.
10 ¶ Now Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it for herself on the rock, from the beginning of harvest until the late rains poured on them from heaven. And she did not allow the birds of the air to rest on them by day nor the beasts of the field by night.
11 ¶ And David was told what Rizpah the daughter of Aiah, the concubine of Saul, had done.
12 Then David went and took the bones of Saul, and the bones of Jonathan his son, from the men of Jabesh Gilead who had stolen them from the street of Beth Shan, where the Philistines had hung them up, after the Philistines had struck down Saul in Gilboa.
13 So he brought up the bones of Saul and the bones of Jonathan his son from there; and they gathered the bones of those who had been hanged.
14 They buried the bones of Saul and Jonathan his son in the country of Benjamin in Zelah, in the tomb of Kish his father. So they performed all that the king commanded. And after that God heeded the prayer for the land.

Remember the neighboring heathen tribe who tricked Joshua into letting them live in Joshua 9 (see notes)? Well, here they are again. Joshua had made an oath to them; Saul had broken it as King of Israel. We aren't given any details of how or when, but you will recall that Saul lived among them, and you should also remember how loose he was with his spear and the keeping of his oaths. Moreover, he didn't seem to have much tolerance for folks who irritated him. These Gibeonites resided within the borders of Saul's tribe, Benjamin.

Well...Saul's been dead for quite sometime, but now Israel has famine; David discovers (from the Lord) that it is because of Saul's wrongdoing in violating his oath to the Gibeonites. David goes to these Gibeonites to see what it will take for them to be appeased for Saul's wrongdoing. David gets outsmarted here; look at verse 4, "And the Gibeonites said to him, 'We will have no silver or gold from Saul or from his house, nor shall you kill any man in Israel for us.' So he said, 'Whatever you say, I will do for you.'" David had been assured in his negotiations with them that nobody had to die here, but he didn't listen very well to the fine print of the carefully-worded contract before he agreed to its terms. They want to do their own killing of Saul's descendants.

David has already agreed (an oath, you see) to the terms of the contract, so he then surrenders seven children and grandchildren of Saul to the Gibeonites at their request for execution. Michal, David's wife, had been raising her sister's (Merab) five children. They were surrendered for death among the seven. It's a gruesome story. David had made a promise to Jonathan regarding his offspring. Therefore, Mephibosheth was not surrendered. Let's face it, David was outsmarted here. He should have consulted with God before he agreed to the contract with the Gibeonites. While God had chastised Israel for Saul's disregard for Israel's oath with them, God was not a party to this solution. However, verse 14 tells us that, despite the troubling solution agreed to by David, God responded by lifting the famine.

David's just not a very good warrior anymore (II Samuel 21:15-22)

15 ¶ When the Philistines were at war again with Israel, David and his servants with him went down and fought against the Philistines; and David grew faint.
16 Then Ishbi-benob, who was one of the sons of the giant, the weight of whose bronze spear was three hundred shekels, who was bearing a new sword, thought he could kill David.
17 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah came to his aid, and struck the Philistine and killed him. Then the men of David swore to him, saying, “You shall go out no more with us to battle, lest you quench the lamp of Israel.”
18 ¶ Now it happened afterward that there was again a battle with the Philistines at Gob. Then Sibbechai the Hushathite killed Saph, who was one of the sons of the giant.
19 Again there was war at Gob with the Philistines, where Elhanan the son of Jaare-oregim the Bethlehemite killed the brother of Goliath the Gittite, the shaft of whose spear was like a weaver’s beam.
20 ¶ Yet again there was war at Gath, where there was a man of great stature, who had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, twenty-four in number; and he also was born to the giant.
21 So when he defied Israel, Jonathan the son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.
22 ¶ These four were born to the giant in Gath, and fell by the hand of David and by the hand of his servants.

When they go out to fight the Philistines, Abishai has to bail David out from apparent death from a giant Philistine warrior named Ishbibenob. Because David just isn't the warrior he was in his youth, his men decide he just isn't battle worthy any longer. Then David's army fought a series of battles with the Philistines - winning each one. The really big Philistine with the unusual hands and feet is given special mention here - he had six digits on each hand and foot. I'm not sure how that enhanced his battle abilities, but after David's nephew (Jonathan the son of Shimea the brother of David) took out this Philistine giant, it must have made quite a conversation piece. Altogether, we have the slaying of four giants in this passage - warriors for the Philistines.