II Samuel 19

 

 

(vs. 1-15)  The Facts are: 

 

1. In consequence of David’s sorrowful isolation, the people mourn and

betake themselves to the city ashamed and discouraged.

2. Joab, being informed of the fact, enters the king’s house, and sharply

rebukes him for his conduct, charging him with disregarding the sacrifices

his people had made, and caring more for his rebellious son than for his

attached friends.

3. Joab then advises him at once to arise and go forth to encourage the

people, pointing out that otherwise the greatest trial of his life will be sure

to come in the alienation of his subjects.

4. The king thereupon sits in the gate of the city, and all the people come

to him.

5. Meanwhile, during David’s sojourn at Mahanaim, the people of Israel

are at variance as to the course to be pursued with reference to brining him

back to rule over them, and it is urged that, under all the circumstances of

the case, something should be done in that direction.

6. David, hearing of the intentions of Israel, sends to Zadok and Abiathar

to suggest to the elders of Judah the impropriety of their being forestalled

in the movement by their brethren of Israel.

7. He also instructs them to inform Amasa of his purpose to displace Joab

in his favor.

8. The heart of the people of Judah being entirely won, they send unto him

a message that he should return, and the king acting upon it, they meet him

at Gilgal to conduct him over Jordan.

 

1 “And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for

Absalom.   2 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.  3 And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city,

as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.

4 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 victory (Hebrew, the salvation) that day was turned into

mourning. Naturally, the people did not understand the poignant emotions

caused by the activity of David’s conscience, and were pained at this

seeming ingratitude to them for their brave exertions in his behalf, and at

what they must have regarded as indifference to the welfare of the nation.

Nor would it be easy for us to understand his conduct during the flight

from Jerusalem, and in bearing Shimei’s imprecations so tamely, did we not

find in the psalms written at this time that David was suffering extreme and

even excessive self-reproach and mental anguish at his past sin. It was a

relief to bear Shimei’s rudeness, for God might remember it for good.

Racked thus with self-reproach, he had urged upon his generals to spare

the young man (ch. 18:5), whose sin was part of a web which he

had himself begun to spin, and in terror he waited for the result. Mentally it

would have been better for him if he had gone to the battle instead of

sitting in gloomy self-reproach between the gates. His eager inquiries, “Is

the lad safe? meant — Has the hand of justice again smitten me? and when

he found that a second blow had fallen, his self control gave way. Joab,

more statesmanlike, and with his personal feelings unmoved, notices the

fresh wrong that David is committing, and is vexed at seeing his brave

warriors slink into Mahanaim ashamed, instead of being welcomed with

deserved praise. But their conduct in being so depressed at David’s sorrow

is a proof of their affection for him, and it was plainly his duty to master his

feelings, and to think of making a due return for the great service they had

rendered him. The Hebrew word “salvation,’’ that is, deliverance, gives the

better side of the idea, while “victory” is a coarser word, taken from the

language of a people whose trade was war.

 

5 “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;  6 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.

7 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.”

And Joab... said. Joab’s speech puts the alternative in a very

incisive and even rude way before the king. But what he says is true,

namely, that Absalom’s success would inevitably have been followed by the

massacre, not only of David himself, but of his sons and daughters, and of

the women who had accompanied him in his flight. Nor would it have

stopped there. but the officers of his court, the captains of his army, his

mighties, and all who had long cared for and loved him would have been

put to the sword. It was this horrible certainty, according to Oriental

usage, which made Absalom’s rebellion so abominable, and which steeled

the heart of Joab against him when he saw him hanging in the tree. He

regarded him as a fratricide and parricide, who had plotted murder on a

large scale; and Joab was not made milder by the thought that this would

have included himself and the heroes who had made David’s throne so

great. With stern good sense he, therefore, bids the king suppress his mere

personal feelings, and leave the chamber in which he had concealed

himself, to go forth and “speak to the heart of his servants,” that is, thank

and praise them in a friendly manner. For otherwise they would disperse

and leave him; and this would be followed by the uprising of some other

claimant of the throne — some relative, perhaps, of Saul, backed by the

tribes of Benjamin and Ephraim; and David, abandoned by the nation,

would fall an easy victim, with all his family, of this second rebellion.

Absalom’s rapid success proved that David had many enemies, and without

great prudence he might be left at Mahanaim as powerless as Ishbeshoth

had been. The long delay between the death of this puppet king and

David’s appointment to be sovereign of all Israel was probably owing to

the same want of enthusiasm for David which had made the nation transfer

its allegiance so lightly to the handsome Absalom. But with all his good

sense Joab was coarse and rude. He was, moreover, utterly incapable of

understanding David’s real feelings. He saw only a father giving way to an

exaggerated loss for a handsome but worthless son. David really was

condemning himself for having brought lust and murder into his own house

by abominable sin.

 

 

Solitariness in Religious Experience (vs. 1-6)

 

The isolation of David from his people during this absorption in what

appeared to be a domestic sorrow caused pain to his staunchest friends,

was very near imperiling his influence as sovereign, and gave some

ostensible ground for the ungracious remonstrance of Joab. But the fact is,

David was true to himself as a man of deepest piety, and the people were

unable to enter into the actual struggle through which he was passing. Like

One greater, he “trod the wine press alone.” (Isaiah 63:3)  It was not mere natural

affection for a son, it was not pain that a son had been ungrateful, that

crushed him and rendered him for the time forgetful of the claims of his

people and the duties of his office. The key to the whole is to be sought in

the prediction of Nathan (ch. 12:9-12), the fulfillment of this in its

severest form in the tragedy of the life just ended, and the keen perception

of this in relation to his own dreadful sin. His distinct recognition of the

chastising hand of God (ch.15:24-30) when, with bare feet and

broken heart, he passed in silence and tears over Mount Olivet, was now

repeated with, of course, the fuller and more overwhelming anguish

attendant on the ruin of a life, yea, of a soul, as he felt, through his own

great sin. Joab and the people never, perhaps, knew of Nathan’s

declaration.  It was always a latent element in David’s restored life of piety;

but now it was the crushing force before which he could not hold up.  He saw,

as he believed, how his spiritual degeneracy, during those dark months of

horrible sin and guilt, had acted perniciously on the spirit of his son; and

he could not but feel that, in the temporal and spiritual destruction of his

son, he was now reaping just what he had sown.  Yet all this he had to bear

alone!  No one could share the dreadful secret; and in proportion as he saw

what was involved in A RUINED SOUL so would be the utterness of his

anguish.  No wonder if in his solitary experience he forgot all earthly things,

and gave himself up to bitterness of his grief!

 

  • THERE ARE CRISES IN SPIRITUAL EXPERIENCE. David was a

man of many crises. The history and the Psalms reveal them. His call to

kingship by Samuel meant an unrecorded experience of a most

extraordinary kind. His anguish in exile when pursued by Saul put his faith

to a terrible test. His sad fall was a descent into a pit of horrors. The

tremendous conflict involved in his restoration is indicated in the fifty-first

psalm, and now, when the judgment of God for his sin falls in heaviest

form, he descends into the depths (Psalm 130.) further, perhaps, than was

ever known by any other man. We see similar crises in the lives of some

others. Jacob knew the desolation of Bethel and the pains of the wrestling

with the angel. Paul was dumb and blind before God till prayer brought him

forth to light and peace; and he later on had experiences of things which it

was “not lawful” to utter. (II Corinthians 12:4)  Most men whose religion has

depth have known times when anguish before God has shut out all thought

and care of earthly things. Some have seasons of temptation equal to that

of Bunyan’s Pilgrim in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. As a rule, religious

life is a steady growth, but there are checks and disasters when the question of

life itself is at stake. We can understand David’s experience in the case before

us without having recourse to the hypothesis of a weak mind overborne by

natural sorrow for the death of a favorite son.

 

  • CRISES IN RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE ARE OFTEN MOST

ABSORBING. David was so absorbed in the spiritual anguish springing

from a religious view of the ruin of Absalom in connection with his own

great sin, as practically to forget that he was a king, and that a nation

needed his guidance. The narrative is true to the spiritual facts that may be

traced by a comparison of this event with the king’s previous conduct. The

intensity of his nature, as revealed in the strong and passionate utterances

of the psalms, whether in joy or sorrow, would add to the tendency to yield

himself utterly to this greatest of all the calamities consequent on his sin.

The passion with which he once pleaded for Bathsheba’s child (ch. 12:16-20)

was an instance of the same kind, only less than this, because here the trouble

was the more serious in so far as the moral and bodily ruin of a son was a

greater consequence of his sin. All who have entered into the solitariness

of the great crises in the soul’s career know how at such times all earthly

things seem to vanish into insignificance; and it is with extreme difficulty

that ordinary and necessary duties can be attended to. Men have been known

to forget to take food, and to isolate themselves from their friends. And no

wonder, when the soul sees its sins in the awful light of God’s judgments,

or is made to feel the consequences to others of its past deeds. Peter did

not associate freely with friends that night on which he “went out and

wept bitterly.”  (Luke 22:62)

 

  • THERE ARE QUALIFYING CIRCUMSTANCES THAT

DETERMINE THE DEGREE OF ABSORPTION IN THE SORROWS

OF A RELIGIOUS EXPERIENCE. David never felt anything like this.

But the reason is plain. Never before did he see a connection between his

own past conduct and so awful an event. The special elements contributing

to his self-absorbing misery were a vivid remembrance of his dreadful sin in

the case of Bathsheba and Uriah; a spiritual appreciation of the awful issue

of his son’s life; a deep conviction that that issue was, in the judgment of

God, in some way connected with his own sin; a contrast, inevitable in the

association of ideas, of the end of Absalom with the hopes once cherished

concerning him; a reflection, which could not but occasionally force itself

in (ch. 12:13), that he only was forgiven and saved; a feeling that

no one on earth could enter into his sorrows and afford him consolation.

All these circumstances gained force by the fact that constitutionally he

always felt strongly, and religiously his superior spiritual discernment

rendered sin and its effects the more terrible. So in our own experience

there will be, perhaps, specialities which may render our absorption much

more absolute than is that of others.

 

Ø      The natural mental and moral texture of our nature,

Ø      the conditions under which our sins were committed,

Ø      the consequences which we can trace from our former sins,

Ø      the vividness with which an ideal past is contrasted with present facts,

Ø      the relative clearness of our spiritual perceptions and tenderness of

our susceptibilities, and degree of homage paid to the majesty of

God’s holy Law,

 

all these may qualify the self-surrender to the experience of the time. We

cannot expect cold and stolid men to bear the same troubles in the same

way as do men of quick and highly developed spiritual sensibilities.

 

  • THE SORROWS OF SUCH CRISES CANNOT BE SHARED. A

community of experience is necessary to the creation of a sympathy

coextensive with the depth of the sorrow. There were parents in Israel and

Judah who had lost sons, and they would be able to enter into David’s grief

to that extent, and he could so far speak to them of his trouble. There were

sinful men at Mahanaim who knew what trouble of conscience was, and

who might afford comfort to their neighbors when mourning over their

guilt; but there was no man in all the world who had sinned as David had,

and no one in the world, perhaps, who now saw what an unutterably awful

thing sin in general was, and especially his sin. To no one except Nathan,

who probably kept aloof from him, had the connection of David’s sin with

this judgment on it been known. Consequently, David felt shut up to his

own anguish. “Of the people there was none with Him.” (Isaiah 63:3)

The transaction was between himself and God. He knew that the people

did not understand him, and he could not explain himself to them. So is it

with all our deepest experiences before God. We see our sins set in

the light of His countenance, and no one can share the experience involved

therein. Reversing the picture, it may be said that there are also seasons of

blessedness in the course of life when the “joy is unspeakable and full

of glory” (I Peter 1:8), and which can never be fully told or even understood.

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS.

 

Ø      Let us remember that there are daily some persons passing through

fearful crises in their religious life, and that it is possible to help all

such by our prayers.

Ø      We should be very considerate of others who may appear to be unduly

cast down, as there may be circumstances which, if known, would

strengthen our pity.

Ø      It is very possible for us to misjudge others in the conduct they adopt,

and make our own contracted experience a standard of judgment.

Ø      We may expect that those who are utterly broken down in spirit will be

called out of their self-absorption (I have experienced this twice in my

life – 1979 and 1997, and I would not wish it on anybody!  – CY – 2018)

by the voice of Providence.

Ø      It is a comfort to us all to know that God understands our real thoughts

and feelings (Psalm 139:1-12), and that we have a High Priest who is

touched with a feeling of our infirmities (Hebrews 4:15), He having

entered into deeper depths of sorrow than we can ever know. 

 

 

AN IDEAL PAST CONTRASTED WITH PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES.

 

 

The Remoter Consequences of Sin (vs. 1-7)

 

The narrative sets forth the action of Joab to arouse the king from his self-absorption,

and the changed attitude of the people towards him, as also the

measures taken by David to bring about a reconciliation between himself

and the entire nation. The great judgment on David’s sin was now passed.

Nathan’s words had been fearfully fulfilled, but in what followed we see

also some of the remoter consequences of the sin. Thus Joab’s rough

treatment and unbecoming familiarity in the discharge of an honest duty

were connected with the fact that David had put himself in Joab’s power by

making him privy and accessory to the death of Uriah. The people were

now almost alienated because of the absorption of the king in sorrow.

which would not have happened but for the sin which created the sorrow.

 

Of all the words of tongue or pen,

the saddest are these:

What might have been!”       

                    (John Greenleaf Whittier)

 

The question of the precedence of Judah in the matter of his restoration

was the distinct formulation of a jealousy and sectional interest which

subsequently resulted in a schism of the kingdom, and this question would

not have arisen but for the chastisement for sin in the form of a son’s

rebellion. Likewise the ultimate death of Amasa came through David’s

having, probably because Joab had been insulting and because a complete

amnesty was deemed desirable, displaced Joab in his favor. These bitter

streams all flowed into the remoter ramifications of life from the fountain

of trouble opened by the fall of David. Hereon we may observe:

 

  • THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN MAY COEXIST WITH THE

ONWARD FLOW OF SOME OF ITS CONSEQUENCES.  (Concurrent:

existing, happening, or done at the same time - a word I learned in pursuing

my master’s degree at Murray State in the early 1970’s – CY – 2018)  There

is a certainty that David’s great guilt was covered (ch. 12:13). The

prayer of the fifty-first psalm had been fully answered, and privately he had

been able to rejoice again in the God of his salvation. But we have in this

history the spectacle of a pardoned, reconciled man, confident in his

personal salvation, and the onward flow of a stream of social and material

evils which, so far at least as they were related to him, sprang from his sin.

The prediction of Nathan did not establish an arbitrary relation between his

conduct to Bathsheba and Uriah, and the whole mental and moral

condition implied therein, and the rebellion of Absalom and the perplexities

of the situation after its suppression. There was an organic connection

between the spiritual fall and the civil troubles. The spiritual element in us

is the center of our composite nature. A change for the worse in it radiates

through the entire being, and as the outward relations are affected by the

condition and direction taken by our various powers, so the inmost change

is the spring of manifold and ever-flowing consequences.  (Thus in the

lesson for July 15, 2018, we discussed that SIN IS A WAVE OF EVIL

there are much left in its wake! 

 

The law of dynamics - by which every wave of motion

produces an effect forever - holds true, even in the

moral sphere - SIN IS A WAVE OF EVIL!

 

“...the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest,

whose waters cast up mire and dirt.

There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”  Isaiah 57:20-21 – CY –

2018)

 

The deteriorated influence on others, consequent on a period of spiritual

declension, cannot but act dynamically as a wave long after we have by

repentance and faith been restored to God. The personal condemnation is

gone, but the injury done on society is not gone. The intricate mass of

material and social evils now afflicting the world is the outcome of

deviation from the perfect will of God, and though some who thus

deviated are now blessed in heaven, the quota they contributed by

their former sins is still somewhere in the tangled mass.

 

  • SIN IS A DISTURBER OF MANY RELATIONS. David’s sin

affected his relation to God and to his own family and people. It touched

his personal influence among friends, his administration, and indirectly,

through the rebellion, the lives and dearest interests of multitudes. The

distress and uncertainty at Mahanaim after the defeat of Absalom and the

hesitancy of the tribes to welcome him back, were traceable to what he had

formerly done. Who can describe the manifold disturbances in the order of

things produced in our world by the sin of Adam? The ramifications

(consequences of an action or event, especially when complex or unwelcome)

of the wave of disturbance created by any one sin are more than can be

numbered. It is in the more conspicuous acts of transgression that we get

visible traces of a widespread disturbance similar to what is caused by

every inconspicuous act.

 

Ø      A rebellious son in a home,

Ø      a dishonest deed in business,

Ø      a vicious habit,

 

these reveal a manifest series of troubles in private, social, and public

connections. No sinner sins to himself.

 

“No man is an island,”

                                   
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend's
Or of thine own were:
Any man's death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.   (John Donne)

 

Moral evil gives color and form to all things. It infuses an element of

defect, if not of positive evil, into every bodily, mental, and moral relation

sustained by the sinning man.

 

  • THE DISTURBANCE CAUSED BY SIN FLOWS ON INTO THE

REMOTE FUTURE. The great moral shock involved in David’s great sin

produced effects which for years flowed on, and which, in fact, are flowing

on now. The great storm in mid-ocean sends the under swell into far

distant bays, and long after quietude has been restored at the center the

sullen roll falls on the beach. The whole subsequent course of Hebrew

history was modified by THE DEED OF EVIL DONE IN SECRET!

 

                                    “Stolen waters are sweet,

                        and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.

     But he knoweth not that the dead are there,

    and that here guests are in the depths of hell!”

                                                            (Proverbs 9:17-18)

 

In so far as the power of David over the world is less, and different in kind,

from what it would have undoubtedly been had he kept himself pure, so far

his sin is still at work shaping the destinies of men. (Giving men excuses for

committing sexual immorality“Howbeit, because by this deed thou

hadst given great occasioin to the enemies of the Lord to blaspheme...

ch. 121:14 – CY – 2018)  We can never call back the waves of

pernicious influence we send forth in a single sinful act or feeling. It is the

law of the universe that they go on. The supposed counteraction of them

by subsequent repentance and amendment only means that we modify the

influence previously sent forth, — we make the world somewhat better

than it would have been had the sinful influence gone out alone. We cannot

annihilate it any more than we can annihilate force. THE FUTURE is the

sum of all the influences of THE PAST!

 

  • THE MANIFOLD AND EVER-FLOWING CONSEQUENCES OF

SIN ARE NOT ADEQUATELY RECOGNIZED BY MANKIND. David

recognized the rebellion and death of Absalom and the associated civil

inconveniences as being in some way connected with his sin; but even he

did not see, when at Mahanaim, that the subsequent:

 

Ø      death of Amasa and

Ø      the schism of the two kingdoms

 

were also a consequence of his conduct, and therefore of his sin. His own

people probably did not even connect the troubles of the times with his sin,

but rather with what they regarded as a foolish over fondness for a favorite

son. In our life we do not sufficiently connect our bodily and mental

imperfections with the sins of others in the past, or, in some cases,

especially with our own sins. Political bodies and publicists (Pundits

and Spin-doctors – CY – 2018) fail to recognize the spiritual origin of

VAST and COMPLICATED SOCIAL TROUBLES.   The Bible in this

respect is the most statesmanlike and philosophical of all books, in that it

gives prominence TO SIN as the determining factor in all our material

and social troubles. A spiritual mind discerns the spiritual causes.

 

8 “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.

9 “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.”  All the people came before the king. Probably

they passed in review before him, and received his thanks. By thus acting in

accordance with Joab’s wise counsel, David probably saved the nation from

years of anarchy, and a fresh civil war. For Israel had fled every man to his tent;

Hebrew, and Israel, that is, Absalom’s partisans, fled each man to his tent

— to his home. The Authorized Version confounds Israel with David’s

soldiers, but consistently throughout the narrative “the hearts of the men of

Israel are after Absalom” (ch. 15:13; and see ch. 16:15, 18; 17:14-15, 24, 26;

18:6-7, 16-17).

 

 

Loving Enemies and Hating Friends (v. 6)

 

“Thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends.” Joab’s remonstrance

with David was rude, and in the language of exaggeration; yet in substance

it was wise, as the issue proved. The king’s lamentations did show

excessive love for his deceased son, who had been his deadly enemy; and

his abandonment of himself to grief when he ought to have been thanking

his brave friends as they returned from the battle, and congratulating them

on the victory they had won for him, did indicate a present insensibility to

their services and claims which might easily be construed as enmity. It is,

however, no unusual thing for men to love their enemies and hate their

friends; or at least, by their conduct, to give good reason for others to

charge them with doing so.

 

  • THOSE DO SO WHO LOVE ERROR AND HATE THE TRUTH. For

truth is one of our best friends, error one of our worst enemies. Moral and

religious truth especially is life, health, guidance, happiness, to the soul; it

leads to God and goodness and heaven. But error in such matters is death,

disease, delusion; producing false peace and leading to destruction. Yet

men often love the errors which favor what they are inclined to, and hate

the truth which shows them their duties, sins, and dangers. They “love

darkness rather than light, because their deeds are evil” (John 3:19).

“Fools hate knowledge” (Proverbs 1:22). Hence they love false

teachers and hate the true. “I hate him,” said Ahab of Micaiah,

for he doth not prophesy good concerning me, but evil” (I Kings 22:8).

 

  • THOSE WHO LOVE THEIR LOWER RATHER THAN THEIR

HIGHER SELF. Our lower nature is good in itself, but is very prone to run

to excess, and become evil. Then, from a friend, it is transformed into an

enemy. Our higher nature is a friend, especially when informed and

directed by the Holy Spirit. Man’s worth and blessedness depend on his

obeying the latter and subduing the former. Too often, however, he takes

the opposite course, yielding himself to the government of the flesh, and

resisting the promptings of the spirit.

 

  • THOSE WHO LOVE THE WICKED AND HATE THE GOOD.

Associating with the former and finding pleasure in their practices, but

avoiding the society of the latter; loving flatterers, and hating faithful

reprovers and advisers. Ungodly and unholy men are necessarily, though it

may be unconsciously and unintentionally, the enemies of the souls of those

whom they influence, whether by conversation or example; and the more

attractive they are, so much the more dangerous. “Evil company doth

corrupt good manners” (I Corinthians 15:33, Revised Version).

 

  • THOSE WHO DELIGHT IN BAD BOOKS, AND DISLIKE AND

NEGLECT GOOD ONES. Good books are good friends, promoting in us

that which is good. The Bible is the best of books. Bad books, books

which suggest and foster evil, are enemies; and the more they interest their

readers, the more they injure them. Yet many delight in them, and dislike

the books which would profit them.  (Nowadays movies, pornography,

etc. - CY - 2018)

 

  • THOSE, IN A WORD, WHO LOVE, IF NOT SATAN, HIS WAYS,

AND LIVE IN ENMITY WITH GOD AND CHRIST. Satan is our chief

enemy, the head and ruler of all other spiritual foes. He seeks our ruin by

manifold devices, and, so that we serve him, is quite content that we should

do so in the fashion we most approve. We may join which company of his

servants — the coarser or the more refined, the open or the secret — we

may prefer. But to follow him in any way is, in effect, to love our worst

enemy. Christ, on the other hand, and God in Him, is our best Friend, who

loves us most truly and most wisely, who has made greater sacrifices for us

than any other can make, who has done for us what no other can do, who

proffers us blessings beyond the power of any other to confer, who exalts

those who love him to a position of honour and happiness to which no

other can raise their friends, and lives on to bless them when others die and

pass away. To reject Him, to refuse him the love, allegiance, and obedience

which he claims, is, in effect, to hate the Friend who is most of all needed

by us, and most worthy to be loved with all the power of loving which our

hearts possess. Let those to whom these representations apply reflect on the

sin and folly of which they are guilty; the incalculable good they are losing;

the incalculable evils they are choosing. Their eyes will at length be opened;

may it be in time!

 

 

Immoderate Grief (vs. 1-8)

 

This interview between David and Joab throws light upon the character of

both, and the relations subsisting between them.

 

1. The best of men are by no means perfect. David’s grief, although

natural, and, in some respects, commendable, was unseasonable, excessive,

and injurious; and exposed him to just reproof.

2. The worst of men are not altogether bad, but often exhibit admirable

qualities. When Joab put Absalom to death against the king’s order he was

actuated partly by regard for the king’s interest and the national welfare,

“loyal disobedience;” he was also desirous of preventing unnecessary

slaughter (ch.18:16), and showed a thoughtful concern for Ahimaaz (ibid.

vs. 19-20, 22); and now, although his bearing toward the king was harsh and

cruel (ch. 3:24), he was fully justified in expostulating with him (as on another

occasion, ch. 24:3).

3. The worst of men are often intimately associated with the best of men,

and render them invaluable services; but their association is usually

uncongenial, and productive of trouble and mischief (ch. 3:39).

By his great abilities Joab made himself necessary to David, and became

confirmed in his high position (I Chronicles 11:6); and by his

complicity “in the matter of Uriah,” he gained a despotic influence over

him; hence his daring disobedience and overbearing attitude, and when the

king, resenting his conduct, seeks to replace him as captain of the host, he

strikes down his rival, then “calmly takes upon himself to execute the

commission with which Amasa had been charged; and this done, ‘he

returns to Jerusalem, unto the king,’ and once more he is ‘over all the host

of Israel’” (Blunt, ‘Coincidences’). David’s inordinate grief was:

 

  • REALLY REPRESENTABLE. “And the king covered his face,” etc.

(v. 4). It was connected (as cause or effect) with:

 

Ø      The lack of due consideration of the moral causes of the event which he

mourned over, and which was their natural and deserved consequence; and

of the salutary influence which that event would have upon the nation. In

surrendering himself to sorrow for the loss of his son, he was in some

measure blind to the justice of his doom.

 

Ø      The absence of humble submission to the Divine will, such as he had

previously displayed in “the day of his calamity” (ch. 12:20; 15:26;

16:10).

 

Ø      The feeling of bitter resentment against those who had despised his

commandment and disappointed his hopes. He would at first, perhaps,

blame all his “servants;” and, when he was informed (ch.18:13)

of the circumstances under which Absalom came to his end, would

naturally regard the conduct of his executioners in its darkest aspect. “To

understand this passionate utterance of anguish, we must bear in mind not

only the excessive tenderness, or rather weakness, of David’s paternal

affection toward his son, but also his anger that Joab and his generals

should have paid so little regard to his command to deal gently with

Absalom. With the king’s excitable temperament, this entirely prevented

him from taking a just and correct view of the crime of his rebel son, which

merited death, and of the penal justice of God, which had been manifested

in his destruction” (Keil).

 

Ø      The neglect of urgent duties: thanksgiving to God for victory, the

commendation of his faithful soldiers, the adoption of proper measures to

confirm their attachment and secure peace and unity, the subordination of

private grief to the public weal. “The deliverance that day was turned into

mourning unto all the people,” etc. (v. 2). “Their hearty participation in

the sorrow of their beloved king, for whom they had emperiled their lives,

soon changed to gloomy dissatisfaction at the fact that the king, absorbed

in private grief, did not deign to bestow a look upon them” (Erdmann).

 

  • RUDELY REPROVED. “And Joab came into the house of the king,”

etc. (vs. 5-7). His reproof (ch. 12:1) was:

 

Ø      Unfeeling, hard hearted, pitiless. He had no respect whatever for the

natural feelings of the father; no sympathy with David’s intense and

peculiar emotion,

Ø      Unscrupulous and reckless; whilst declaring the truth in part (v. 5),

and as it appeared on the surface, casting unjust reproaches on the king

for his heartless selfishness, ingratitude, and hatred (v. 6).

Ø      Unbecoming the relation of a subject to his sovereign; in language and

manner, as well as in substance.

Ø      United, nevertheless, with wise counsel and solemn warning. “And now

arise, go forth,” etc. (v. 7). No doubt David felt greatly hurt; and “the

immediate effect of his indignation was a solemn vow to supersede Joab by

Amasa; and in this was laid the lasting breach between himself and his

nephew, which neither the one nor the other ever forgave” (Stanley) But,

convinced that he had given occasion for reproof, he now patiently

submitted to it (Psalm 141:5.) “Hard natures and harsh words have

their uses in life after all” (Scott). “The undisciplined word of Joab became

a means of discipline to David, and the king turned from the destructive

path into which unbridled feeling had led him.”

 

  • READILY RESTRAINED and laid aside. “And the king arose,” etc.

(v. 8). “He was stung into action, and immediately roused himself to the

discharge of his royal duties.” Would we overcome immoderate grief? We

must:

 

Ø      Listen to the admonitions of truth, however disagreeable; and learn the

evil of indulging it.

Ø      Receive the consoling assurances of Heaven, and pray for needful

strength.

Ø      Repress it with prompt and determined effort.

Ø      Devote ourselves with diligence to necessary and useful activities.

 

“Heaven hath assigned

Two sovereign remedies for human grief:

Religion, surest, firmest, first, and best

Strength to the weak, and to the wounded, balm;

And strenuous action next.”

(Southey.)

 

Ordinary grief must be restrained within due bounds. But there is a sorrow

— tender, hopeful, godly sorrow for sin, to which we may freely and fully

surrender ourselves; for it always conducts to greater purity, strength, and

joy.

 

 

Late Reflection and Appreciation (vs. 9)

 

The rebels against King David having been defeated, and their chosen

leader slain, they bethink themselves of their position and of the claims of

their injured sovereign; and begin to stir up each other to obtain his return

and reinstatement. Their words are obviously true; but the facts they now

recognize were as truly facts when they rose in rebellion. It was only their

feeling with respect to them that had changed. So it is commonly. Under

the excitement of sinful feeling, the most obvious truths are forgotten and

neglected. Well is it when there is a reawakening to their significance, and

a consequent return to the path of duty. Especially desirable is it that all

who are living without any due feeling of the claims of their great King

should become sensible of them, and begin to render them a practical

recognition.

 

  • THE ACTUAL AND ABIDING CLAIMS OF CHRIST TO BE

ACCEPTED AND OBEYED AS KING.

 

Ø      His nature. Divine and human; including all qualifications for rule.

Ø      His Divine appointment. Signified in manifold ways.

Ø      The deliverance He has wrought. It is here said of David, “The king

saved us,” etc. Our Lord has saved us in a more marvelous way, from

enemies more to be dreaded than the heathen that harassed Israel. He has

conquered, in personal conflict and through suffering unto death:

 

o        Satan,

o        the world,

o        sin, and

o        death.

 

He has thus “saved us out of the hand of our enemies,” including those

that, like the Philistines in relation to Israel, are nearest to us and most

ready and able to harass us — our own special besetting sins. True, the

deliverance is not yet completely accomplished in actual experience;

but it is assured, and as really ours, if we are Christ’s, as if we were

already perfectly freed from all evil

 

  • THE INSENSIBILITY TO THESE CLAIMS WHICH COMMONLY

PREVAILS. Looking at the lives of most men, even where Christ is made

known, it is painfully manifest that they have no due sense of His rights and

their duty to Him; for they do not submit their minds, hearts, and lives to

His government.

 

Ø      Causes of such insensibility.

 

o        A depraved nature, whose spiritual sensibilities are further suppressed

and benumbed by the practice of sin.

o        Absorption in worldly pursuits. Leaving no opportunity for higher

matters to attract attention, no time to think of them.

o        Unconcern as to the enemies from whom Christ delivers.

§         No conviction of sin;

§         no sense of the evil of it;

§         no desire for rescue from its guilt or power.

The Deliverer, therefore, excites no real interest.

o        Familiarity with the truth. The habit of hearing, or reading, or even

repeating it, without accepting it; or of assenting to it without really

believing it; or of accepting (in a sense) the atonement, and relying on

Jesus for pardon, without receiving Him as King. The process also of

indulging feeling and sentiment about Christ, without rendering

obedience; and of resisting the feelings which prompt to obedience,

thus resisting and grieving the Holy Spirit. In this way the gospel

becomes a means of hardening the heart against itself.

o        The attractions of some pretender to the throne. As Absalom

stole the hearts of the men of Israel” (ch. 15:6) by his youth, beauty,

activity, assiduous attentions, insinuating address, and hints as to the

defects of his father’s government, and the improvements which he

would make if he were in power; so the hearts of many are withdrawn

from the Lord Jesus by the attractions of some newly revived system

of error in philosophy or religion, or anti-religion, of which the

novelty (to them) is charming, and the representations of human nature

more flattering, and the demands less exacting. The old king comes

to be regarded and treated as worn out, quite unsuited to the needs

of an enlightened and scientific age; and the young pretenders are

welcomed, one by one class, and another by another, with shouts

of joy and paeans of anticipated victory.

 

Ø      Effects of such insensibility.

 

o       Negatively, in the prevention of faith and love, loyal obedience

and active service.

o       Positively, by leading to disaffection and active rebellion;

as in the case of Israel and David.

 

  • THE HAPPY AWAKENING WHICH IS OFTEN EXPERIENCED.

As in the case of the Israelites in respect to David. This may be produced:

 

Ø      By calamity. As the Israelites were awakened by defeat and disaster.

Troubles stir the conscience, lead the soul to look around for support,

throw an unusual light on objects, reveal the vanity of cherished

dependencies, prepare for due appreciation of those which are solid

and satisfying; and so lead to a right appreciation of Christ.

Ø      By impressive presentation of forgotten facts. As by the tribes of Israel

to each other, reminding of their obligations to David, and the ill requital

he had received from them. It may be a sermon heard with unaccustomed

interest, or some part of the Holy Book read with a new perception of the

significance and importance of its teaching, or the appeals, of a friend, or

the statements of a tract, or words of parents or teachers long ago,

recurring with new power to the mind; whatever it be that stirs the

heart to consideration and renders it sensible of the rights and worth

of Christ, blessed are the means, blessed the moment when such

effects are produced.

Ø      Always by the enlightening and convincing Spirit. Whose work it is to

reveal and glorify the Son of God (John 16:14).

 

  • THE CHANGE PRODUCED BY THIS AWAKENING. Similar to

that in the text.

 

Ø      In conduct.

 

o        Return to allegiance, loyalty, and service to the rightful Sovereign.

Incitement of others to return.

 

o        In position. The returning rebels are accepted, and restored to the

privileges of faithful subjects. The heavenly King is,

like David, dependent on his subjects, needing them as much as

they him, but of pure grace. However long they may have been

insensible and rebellious, on coming to a sense of their duty, and

seeking forgiveness, they are pardoned and restored to favor.

Lastly, the awakening may come too late, producing terror and

remorse, but not repentance, and importunate prayers which are

unavailing (see Luke 13:24-28).

 

10 “And Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now

therefore why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?”

Absalom, whom we anointed over us. It is evident from

these words that there had been some solemn anointing and appointment of

Absalom, and this accounts for the manner in which his partisans are

always described as Israel,” while David’s men are simply “his servants.”

With this anointment there must also have been a formal renunciation of

David’s rule, and, being thus dethroned, he does not attempt to return until

the nation summons him back. As the flight of David narrated in ch. 16.

was extremely hurried, the conspirators must have kept their counsel well,

and whatever rumors reached him apparently he disregarded. But

meanwhile representatives of the tribes secretly convened at Hebron had

claimed to act in the name of Israel, and, chosen a new king. The words

certainly imply that, had Absalom lived, the Israelites would have

considered themselves bound to obey him.

 

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.”   David sent to Zadok and to Abiathar.

The two high priests had remained behind at Jerusalem, to watch over David’s

interests, and he now, by a messenger, probably Ahimaaz or Jonathan, urges

them to quicken the proceedings of his own tribe. We may feel quite sure that

there was discussion in Judah as well as in the other tribes; but the rebellion had

begun at Hebron, and probably many of the leading chiefs were deeply

implicated in Absalom’s proceedings. Probably they now regretted it, but

hung back through fear of punishment. It was political, therefore, to assure

them of David’s kindly feelings, and that overtures on their side would be

readily received, and the past forgiven.

 

12 “Ye are my brethren, ye are my bones and my flesh: wherefore then

are ye the last to bring back the king?”  My bones; Hebrew, my bone and my

flesh, so nearly related as to be part of my own self (Genesis 2:23).

 

13 “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.”  Of my bone, and of my flesh;

Hebrew, art thou not my bone and my flesh? — a most near and dear relative.

It is difficult to understand why in the Authorized Version this common metaphor

in the Hebrew has been so meddled with, Ewald thinks that this purposed

degradation of Joab and the substitution of Amasa in his stead was a wise and

political act. It was to some extent just, for Joab was a man stained with many

murders; but political it was not. Passing over the fact that Amasa had actually

taken the command of the rebel army, he was an ambitious and selfish man, and

could lay no claim to that sturdy fidelity which had characterized Joab

throughout his long service. For all he had done had been for David’s

good, and his advice, however roughly given, had averted grave

misfortunes. Joab’s murder of Absalom was an act of willful disobedience;

but David had used Joab for a far meaner murder, committed, not for

reasons of statesmanship; but for purposes of lust. The guilt of slaying

Absalom was as nothing compared with that of slaying Uriah, nor was it so

base as the assassination of Abner, which David had tolerated, though

made angry by it. The dismissal of Joab could have been effected only by

putting him to death, and this certainly he did not deserve at David’s hands;

and the attempt, unless carried out secretly, would have led to tumult and

insurrection. Joab, too, was a far more skilful general than Amasa, who,

with larger forces, had just suffered a disastrous defeat; and if Joab was

removed secretly, his brother Abishai remained to avenge him. David was,

in fact, blinded by love for the son whom for so many years he had treated

with coldness. There was a strong reaction now in the father’s mind, and

under its influence he was prepared to sacrifice the nephew who had been

faithful to him and saved him, for the nephew who had joined in Absalom’s

rebellion. But possibly it had an immediate good effect, as Amasa, assured

of forgiveness and promotion, now took David’s side.

 

14 “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, etc. It was not Amasa, but David, who

made all the members of his tribe unanimous in his recall. And not only were the

high priests active in his cause, but David, He may feel sure, sent numerous

messages to all the more powerful men, assuring them of forgiveness and favor.

In his general policy he was right. After the solemn anointing of Absalom, it was

necessary for him to wait until some equally public and national act authorized

his resumption of the royal power; and delay was dangerous. Every day now spent

at Mabanaim might give the opportunity for fresh troubles.

 

15 “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.”

Gilgal. As Gilgal lay upon the west bank of the Jordan (Joshua 5:9), near

Jericho and the fords, it was a convenient place for the elders of Judah to await

there the king. During the crossing, two interesting events happened — the

meeting of Shimei and David, and the leave taking of Barzillai the Gileadite.

Shortly afterwards came the apology of Mephibosheth but it is uncertain whether

he was among those who had come to Gilgal to welcome the king.

 

 

The Uses and Perils of Rivalry (vs. 9-15)

 

It was natural that, at first, there should be some hesitation in at least the leaders

of the people, both in Judah and Israel, in making overtures to David and in sending 

deputations to welcome him back. Israel, however, overcame this feeling first, and

David, reasonably anxious that Judah, so near to him, should not be outdone, took

means to inform them of what was in contemplation, and urged that they

certainly need not hesitate, seeing that his promotion of Amasa was proof

of his unchanged feelings of interest in them (vs. 11-13).  Influenced by desire

not to be outdone in expressions of loyalty, they were first at Jordan. and carried

off the honor of accompanying the king to Jerusalem. There is no evidence that

David wished Judah to steal a march on Israel, and so embitter the feeling between

them. Probably he thought that a conference would take place for joint action. His

sole anxiety was that Judah should not be tardy in indicating restored allegiance and

taking measures for showing it. For reasons not stated, Judah acted alone, much

to the chagrin of Israel, and hence the controversy (vs. 41, 43) as to the

relative right to manifest special interest in the king. It was a rivalry in

good works, not unmixed with questionable feelings. Rivalry has its uses

and its dangers.

 

  • IT TENDS TO STIMULATE ACTION AND DEVELOP LATENT

POWERS. The thought that Israel might reach Jordan first, and so get the

honor of showing attachment to the king, stirred up zeal in Judah, and

drew forth whatever feeling of loyalty was latent in the community; and the

fact that Judah outstripped Israel roused the heart of Israel to give verbal

evidence of strong attachment to the king. This rivalry in accomplishing a

common work enters into all life; it seems to have its roots deep down in

our nature. It is associated with the conviction that duties have to be

attended to, and that our honor is concerned in attending to them, at least

as well as other people. Thus it is a side issue of the action of conscience,

though it may easily develop unworthy feelings which will render its

connection with conscience very obscure. Leaving out the question of

improper feelings for the present, it doubtless does develop our powers,

and even draws out latent forces, the existence of which had not been

known. By the parallel action of the rivals much mutual instruction is

gained as to methods of work, and weakness and strength of character,

which instruction being applied, renders effort more successful.

 

  • IT TENDS TO KEEP THE IDEAL OF DUTY MORE

CONSPICUOUSLY BEFORE THE MIND. The suggestion that Israel

was about to welcome the king at once set before Judah in striking form

the highest ideal of allegiance. Any thoughts concerning it hitherto

cherished now were cleared of obscurity, and the duty was manifest.

Rivalry among pupils, workmen, statesmen, and literary men necessarily

causes all who enter into it to direct their attention from their own

achievements as adequate, to the ideal towards which all are striving. This

constant presence of a lofty ideal is a great gain to humanity. (Here is

another evidence of Deep State and the encroachment of socialism in

America - stopping Spelling Bees, giving everyone a participation

trophy, cutting out competition; all are totally alien to the above.  CY -

2018)  It is the absence of ideals which marks off the beast from man. When

we are expected to provoke one another to love and good works, we at once

think of the standard after which we are, as Christians, bound to strive

(Philippians 3:12-14). The fact that others surpass us is a reminder of

the vows we have taken, and so, setting the “mark” before us afresh, we

press forward with renewed zeal. The healthful effect on us of the presence

of a superior Christian is well known. The sight of holy men and women

devoting their energies to the service of Christ in the world rebukes sloth,

points to “what manner of persons” we ought to be (II Peter 3:11), and so,

by rendering the ideal more real to the mind, enable us to be more faithful

to our Lord.

 

  • THERE IS, HOWEVER, A RISK OF LOSING SIGHT OF BROAD

PRINCIPLES, AND BEING ABSORBED IN SIDE ISSUES. Judah and

Israel were right in provoking to loyalty and reassertion of allegiance, and

so far as they purely followed out the first impulse of rivalry all was well;

but the ideal before them became obscured as soon as they began to

dispute on a matter of detail as to precedence and personal motive. The

question as to whether the motive of Judah was pure arose out of the zeal

of Judah on the one side and the zeal of Israel on the other. Probably Judah

did design to outwit Israel. The secrecy was not purely for the sake of

loyalty to David, but to gratify pride in being first. It was not an open

competition. Thus, by the minor feelings of the rivalry being allowed to

gain ascendancy, there arose an issue which exposed a wholesome rivalry

to the danger of being the occasion of sowing the seeds of permanent

mischief. Here lies the great danger of rivalry in deeds and enterprises

perfectly good in themselves. Especially is there a great risk in the matter

of the competition of denominations and religious parties. Work is done,

perhaps, to outstrip others, to gain notoriety, to gratify a love of

preeminence, and also, in the heat of zeal, motives are impugned, and

time and strength spent in mutual recriminations which had better be

spent in rendering service to Christ.

 

  • RIVALRY BRINGS FORTH ITS WORST FRUIT WHEN IT

ISSUES IN PERMANENTLY DEBASED FEELINGS AND MUTUAL

ESTRANGEMENT. We see in this controversy the beginning of an unholy

feeling of jealousy and ill will, which, we know, issued at last in positive

aversion and enmity. They were one people, the people of God, called to

do a good and holy work in the world, and held under the government of

God’s anointed. This consideration ought to have been uppermost in all

times of effort and of difficulty. For one to seek to gratify pride at the cost

of another was base; for the other to cherish bitterness of spirit was wrong;

for both to weaken, by fierce controversy, the brotherly sentiment, and to

create separate interests, instead of being one in devotion to their king and

country, was a moral debasement from which they never recovered. To do

Christian work well in rivalry requires watchfulness over motives, generous

consideration of others, add delight in what they accomplish for the

Master’s sake, and a conscientious maintenance of the honor and glory of

Christ above all the petty considerations of personal or denominational

interest. The mutual estrangement of Christians is a great calamity.

It has its root in the inferior feelings which have been allowed to mingle

with genuine zeal for the kingdom of God; and the removal of it is to be

sought in deep searching of heart, and a return to the simplicity of entire

consecration to Christ’s service.

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS.

 

Ø      The holy rivalry of the primitive Christians (John 20:1-4) to be first

at the sepulchre should be preferred as a model, both as to aim and spirit,

to that of Judah and Israel.

Ø      The temptation to indulge in a feeling of personal pride should be met by

a reflection on the serious evils that may issue from even one departure

from purity.

Ø      In all our Christian enterprises it should be our endeavor to keep Christ

and His honor clearly in view, and get inspiration from the zeal of others,

not simply to outstrip them, but to bring more glory to Him than any one

else can.

Ø      In our efforts we should remember that we are all equally “kin” to

Christ, and are equally dear to His heart.

Ø      In our estimate of Churches we are to give more weight to spiritual

qualities than to numbers.  (Since we are reduced from 196 members

in 1971 to 7 now in 2018 - we are alarmed although many, many of

them have passed on to meet the Lord!  CY - 2018)

Ø      If on our guard against lurking evils, we may frequently ask ourselves

how we can more perfectly prove our fidelity to our Lord and advance the

honor of His Name.

 

 

 

The Influence of Superior Minds (vs. 14-15)

 

The section now under notice cannot be separated in import from the

preceding words (vs. 14-15), which relate that David bowed the heart of

all the men of Judah so that they came to conduct him over Jordan. The

particular instances of Shimei and Mephibosheth are special illustrations of

the general truth expressed in David’s bowing the hearts of men. The

mighty power of the king’s words and methods gathered around him the

most bitter of foes and the most lonely and helpless of his friends. The facts

bring out into view the influence which a superior mind exercises over

others; and on the nature and conditions of this influence we may, by the

help of the narrative in addition to broad facts in human life, make a few

observations, noting:

 

  • THE NATURAL BASIS. The bowing of the hearts of all the people

indicates the swaying of an influence of an unusual kind. Whatever the

means and whatever aids to this end came from the sudden transition of

public feeling produced by Absalom’s death, the fact remains that there

was in David’s nature as a man something which, when aroused, gave him

a mental and moral power over others. Intellectually and morally he was a

born king of men. If “king” = konig = konnen, “to be able,” then he, by

virtue of his nature, was king — was above others, and there went forth a

spell which all recognized. Apart from special endowments, he was the

superior man of the age. There were elements in him which, under evil

disposition, would render him most capable of leading people captive in

evil ways, and which, under a good disposition, did lay hold of them for

their good. The history of mankind and the observation of daily life reveal

the domination of one mind over others. The influence of mind is the most

subtle and mighty thing we know. Millions sometimes submit to its spell. It

is the proud prerogative of the select few to bow down the hearts of their

fellows. All attempts to explain the fact by psychological analysis are

insufficient. No analysis can get at the mysterious nature of the impact of

one spirit on another: yet we knew that the reality has its root in the

peculiar constitution of the individual. This applies to preacher, statesman,

philosopher, poet, king. The Apostle Paul’s power was in its basis a

constitutional power. Grace is grafted on nature, not a force apart from

nature.

 

  • ACQUIRED INCREMENT. The native qualities of David determined

the fact and the kind of his superior influence over other minds, though not

its moral direction. But his education and experience in the gradual

exercise of his powers in lower spheres of activity contributed to the

mature form and range of his influence. The conqueror of lion and giant

became, by an educational process, a conqueror of the hearts of men. The

development of natural powers, whether of oratory, administration,

will-force, moral suasion, or the more nameless thing which goes out from

one’s personal presence, is another way of saying that we have added to

the store of influence which lay in the mental constitution from the first.

The difference in the degree to which some men acquire this increment

accounts, in large measure, for their ascendancy over the equally gifted.

Perhaps this is the meaning of those who regard genius as a name for great

powers duly developed by continuous exercise.

 

  • SPIRITUAL ENDOWMENT. In the case of David we must

recognize this element in his superior power over the hearts of good and

bad. Grace in him had perfected and beautified a fine nature. The spiritual

is always the most subtle and subduing influence over men, when brought

fairly into play. In spite of sin, men acknowledge the spell. The anointing

by Samuel in the name of God was more than a formal act. David was

indeed the Lord’s anointed. Hence all the natural and acquired qualities

received an elevation and a tone which, when the dire evils of the great fall

were not at work on him, gave to his words, his counsels, his movements,

and commands a charm and force over men of most diverse temperament

and character. In this he was like the apostles when they stood before men.

We occasionally see now how greatly the power of certain minds is

increased over others when they have the natural and acquired gifts

baptized with the anointing of the Holy Spirit. A consecrated heart and

intellect gains influence by its consecration. There are men who by oratory

have bowed the hearts of thousands; but when such men have became true

Christians, the bowing of the hearts under their words is a much more

thorough and enduring victory. “Covet earnestly the best gifts”

(I Corinthians 12:31).

 

  • CIRCUMSTANTIAL AIDS. The circumstances of the time gave

advantage to David in the exercise of his ordinary powers. His friends had

mourned his sorrowful isolation; his enemies had felt that, by defeat, they

had placed themselves in an awkward position; his being aroused from his

self-absorbing grief led him to calmly review the position of advantage in

which now the goodness of God had placed him; the reflection that now a

supreme effort was needed if he was to prevent the alienation of friends

and follow up the fruits of victory so as to save the nation from anarchy,

drew forth his entire soul into sympathy with the purpose of God in making

him king; and, as a consequence, he so infused into his conversation with

the people of Mahanaim, and into his messages to the elders of Judah, the

whole power of his nature that he bowed the hearts of all. Events had

prepared the minds of the people to receive the influence going forth from

his very soul. The narrative evidently implies that there was some unusual

persuasiveness in his manner and language, and it reached even to Shimei

and Mephibosheth, who certainly were rendered more accessible to his

influence by the change in affairs. Seasons of excitement and public interest

are favorable to the putting forth of the influence which superior minds

can exercise. The Day of Pentecost was a time which brought aid to the

efforts of the apostles. A grave responsibility rests on gifted men to use

their influence under such favoring circumstances as occasionally occur in

human affairs.

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS.

 

Ø      It behoves us not to allow our gifts to be long unused, by reason of

absorption in purely personal interests.

Ø      It is a scripturally enforced duty that we stir up the gifts that may lie in

us. (II Timothy 1:6)

Ø      Among the various powers that may be exercised in the world, we

should especially desire and seek that of bowing down the hearts of

men to the interests of God’s kingdom.

Ø      We may rest assured that, if we use our powers to the utmost in a good

cause and in dependence on God, we shall overcome many an obstacle

and win over even adverse hearts.

 

 

David’s Return to Jerusalem (v. 15)

 

“And David returned, and came to the Jordan” (the eastern bank; while

Judah came to Gilgal, joined by Shimei and Ziba; and a ferry boat was

passing to and fro to carry over the king’s household, v. 18); crossed

over (to the western bank, conducted by Judah and half the people of

Israel, vs. 39-40); came to Gilgal (where all the men of Israel met him,

and a new contention arose (v. 41; ch. 21:1); and finally

(conducted by the men of Judah) to Jerusalem (ibid. v. 3). The

return of David, like his flight, is described minutely and graphically.

As he had been called to the throne by the voice of the people (ch. 5:1-3),

so he desired to return to it, not by force, but by their free consent; and

would take no active measures for his restoration until he should receive

some intimation thereof. “Our Lord Jesus will rule only in those that invite

Him to the throne in their hearts, and not till He is invited. He first bows the

heart, and makes it willing in the day of His power, then rules in the midst

of his enemies (Psalm 110:2-3)” (Matthew Henry). David’s restoration

was distinguished by:

 

1. The returning allegiance of the rebellious. (vs. 9-10.) “All the tribes

of Israel (except Judah). Popular revolutions are usually followed by

speedy reactions. Convinced of their error, ingratitude, and injustice by

their defeat, remembering the great services which David had rendered on

their behalf, and considering the present condition of affairs, “all the

people” manifest a disposition to “bring the king back;” and this gratifying

intelligence is reported to him while waiting at Mahanaim.

 

2. The decisive action of the dilatory. (vs. 11-15.) “The men of Judah,”

who, since the rebellion arose in their territory, feared the king’s

displeasure, or proudly held aloof in continued disaffection under Amasa.

But when assured of his regard, reminded of their kinship, and urged to

activity, they are at once “drawn” unto him “as one man;” send the

message, “Return,” etc.; and come to conduct him across the Jordan. Judah

is again to the front. David’s appeal was conciliatory, and seems wise and

just (though some think otherwise), however disastrous its ultimate effect.

 

3. The humble submission of the guilty. (vs. 16-23.) Shimei, with a

thousand men of Benjamin, and Ziba,’ etc. “They went eagerly

[prosperously, Hebrew, tzalach] over the Jordan in the presence of the

king” (v. 17); and “Shimei fell down before the king in his crossing over

(abar) the Jordan (while the transit was going on). “With a self-control

rare in Western no less than Eastern history, every step in his progress was

marked by forgiveness” (Maclear).

 

4. The joyful welcome of the suspected. (vs. 24-30.) The innocent

Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, now vindicated and restored to “all

that he most cared for — the king’s favour, his old place at the king’s

table, and the formal recognition of his ownership” of the inheritance.

 

5. The friendly greeting of the faithful. (vs. 31-39). Barzillai, an aged

and “very great man,” representative of the trans-Jordanic inhabitants;

testifying his devotion to the king in prosperity, whom he had aided in

adversity, and receiving his grateful benediction. How different is it with

David now from what it had been at his former crossing! (ch. 17:22) 

“This passage of the Jordan was the most memorable one since

the days of Joshua.”

 

6. The zealous emulation of the tribes. (v. 40-43.) Their strife for preeminence;

“Ephraim envying Judah, and Judah vexing Ephraim’ (Isaiah 11:13),

leading to a fresh revolt, which, however, is speedily overcome.

David’s troubles, so incessant, so varied, so great, “from his youth” (v. 7),

are not yet ended; but they are all ordered by the hand of God for his

good. “Sanctified affliction is spiritual promotion.”

 

7. The complete establishment of the kingdom. (ch. 20:3, 22-26.)

He sees again the habitation of the Lord (ch. 15:25), and rules

over a peaceful and united nation. His return is like the commencement of

a new reign (v. 22). “The remainder of David’s life — a period probably

of about ten years — flowed on, so far as we can gather, in a bright calm,

and an undisturbed course of improvements” (Ewald).

 

 

(vs. 16-30)  The Facts are: 

 

1. Shimei, with a considerable Benjamite following, including Ziba and his

household, joins the men of Judah to meet David at the Jordan.

2. Previous to the king being ferried over, Shimei falls down before him,

confesses his past sins, and pleads for mercy, and urges as evidence of

sincerity that he is the first to come and bid the king welcome.

3. On Abishai expressing his feeling that Shimei should rather be put to

death for his evil deeds, David resents the suggestion, and in honor of the

day of his restoration declares to Shimei that his life shall be spared.

Mephibosheth also comes, with his person uncared for, to welcome the

king at Jerusalem, and on being asked why he had not gone out with him

into exile, explains that it was owing to the deception of his servant Ziba.

5. Placing himself and all his interests entirely at the king’s disposal,

admitting that all his rights and privileges were, according to political

custom, of pure clemency, he is told that he need not enter further into the

question, but that he and Ziba should divide the land between them.

 

16 “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. The fact that he came attended by a

thousand men of the tribe of Benjamin is a proof, not only that he was a

person of influence, but that he had exerted himself to bring over his

tribesmen to David’s side. His adherence was, therefore, of importance.

Ziba had always professed allegiance to David, and as he virtually

represented the house of Saul, his presence was also valuable, even if

prompted by the desire to keep Mephibosheth’s land. For though Absalom

seemed to be the nation’s choice, yet there would be many legitimists who

would consider that the crown belonged to Saul’s heirs, and who would

watch the course of events for any opportunity favorable to their views.

David’s victory ruined their hopes, and the public acts of Shimei and Ziba

removed all fear of public disturbance on the part of Saul’s friends.

 

17 “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.”

They went over Jordan before the king. This might mean

that, in bringing the king across, Shimei and the Benjamites led the way.

But, first, the verb, which is a rare one, means that they dashed through the

river impetuously; and secondly, before the king, means “in the king’s

presence.” While the tribe of Judah remained on the left bank to receive the

king on his landing, Shimei and Ziba sought favor by a show of excessive

zeal, and forded the Jordan, so as to be the first to welcome him (see v. 20)

18 “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;

19 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.” And there went over a ferry boat; more correctly, and

the ferry boat kept crossing, went backwards and forwards to bring the king’s

household over. Shimei… fell down before the king, as he was come

over Jordan. If this translation were right, instead of fording the river,

Shimei would have waited on the western bank. Some commentators do

take this view, but it is contradicted by the latter part of ver. 17. Really the

Hebrew words signify no more than “at his crossing the Jordan,” that is, at

some time or other during the passage. Shimei’s course was not only the

boldest, but also the wisest. For, in the first place, his prompt surrender

would commend itself to David’s generosity; and, secondly, had Abishai’s

counsel been taken, it would have offended the thousand Benjamites who

formed his escort, and also all the warriors present there from Israel (see

v. 40). Trouble and discontent would certainly have followed upon any

attempt on David’s part to punish any of his enemies, and there might even

have been armed resistance to his crossing.

 

20 “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.  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?”

The first.., of all the house of Joseph. Shimei, who was a

Benjamite, could not have thus claimed to be the representative of the

northern tribes, had he remained on the western bank, where “half the

people of Israel were assembled. Strictly, “the house of Joseph” signified

the tribe of Ephraim (Judges 1:22, 35; and compare Psalm 78:67), and

in this sense Shimei did not belong to it. But Ephraim claimed a supremacy

over all Israel; and one cause of the opposition to David certainly was the

transference of the leadership to the tribe of Judah. Even the long reign of

Solomon failed to weld the tribes together, and as soon as the reins of

power fell into the weak hands of Rehoboam, an Ephraimite. Jeroboam,

whom Solomon had made “ruler ever all the charge of the house of

Joseph” (1 Kings 11:28), quickly wrested the ten tribes from him. In

Amos 5:6 “the house of Joseph” signifies all the northern tribes, for the

reason given in I Chronicles 5:1- 2; and such is its sense here. And

Shimei compressed many powerful arguments in the phrase. For as a

Benjamite he offered David the allegiance of the tribe which had given

Israel its first king; while, as an Israelite, he professed also to represent the

leading house of Ephraim, and all the northern tribes which usually

followed its bidding.

 

22 “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?”  Ye sons of Zeruiah… adversaries unto me; literally,

that ye be to me for a Satan; rendered “adversary” in Numbers 22:22, but by

Ewald in this place “tempter.” It probably means “one who would do me

harm.” Though David speaks of the sons of Zeruiah in the plural (as in

ch. 16:10), there is no reason to suppose that Joab shared in

Abishai’s impetuosity. Indifferent as he was to the shedding of blood, he

was too prudent and political to put the people out of temper by an

execution on the day of David’s return. In Israel... over Israel. There is

much force in this repetition. A short time before Israel had been for

Absalom, but now, by Shimei’s submission, and that of the large body of

Benjamites with him, David felt that once again he was king over the whole

people.

 

23 “Therefore the king said unto Shimei, Thou shalt not die. And the

king swear unto him.”  The king sware unto him. David’s magnanimity was not

the result merely of policy, but also of joyful feeling at seeing all the tribes so

readily welcome him back to the throne. But in spite of his oath, he orders

Solomon to execute him, regarding what he had done as a sin past

forgiveness. In so doing we can hardly acquit David of breaking his oath,

even granting that Shimei’s repentance was insincere, and that the motive

of his actions was the desire simply to save his life. But we must remember

that our Lord described his injunction, “that ye love one another,” as “a

new commandment” (John 13:34); and the utmost that can be said in

David’s favor is that his character was generous and full of chivalry. A

half excuse may be found for his order in the supposition that Shimei was

an inveterate conspirator, and dangerous to Solomon’s peace. This view

seems confirmed by the command given to Shimei to build a house at

Jerusalem (I Kings 2:36), where he would always be under surveillance.

But had not David himself praised the man who “sweareth to

his own hurt, and changeth not” (Psalm 15:4)?

 

 

The Pardon of Shimei (vs. 16-23)

 

The conduct of Shimei towards David in his flight (ch.16:5) was

base and iniquitous. “The wheel turns round once more; Absalom is cast

down and David returns in peace. Shimei suits his behavior to the

occasion, and is the first man, also, who hastes to greet him; and had the

wheel turned round a hundred times, Shimei, I dare say, in every period of

its rotation would have been uppermost” (Sterne). But he may have been

actuated by something better than selfish and time-serving policy; at least,

the history affords no intimation that his repentance was insincere and

hypocritical. And he was forgiven by David (of whose clemency he had

been persuaded).

 

  • ON THE CONFESSION OF WRONG DOING (vs. 19-20) with:

 

Ø      Deep abasement. He “fell down before the king.”

Ø      Free, full, unqualified, and open self-condemnation. “Thy servant did

perversely,” and “doth know that I have sinned.”

Ø      Fervent petition for mercy, “Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me.”

Ø      Professed devotion and zealous endeavor to repair the wrong which

had been done. “And behold I am come the first this day,” etc. He had

brought with him a thousand men of Benjamin, to do honor to the king

whom he had formerly despised; perhaps, also, to show the value of his

reconciliation and services (which were really important at such a time, in

the light of subsequent events, ch. 20:1). Confession must

precede the assurance of forgiveness; and, when made in a becoming

manner, should be graciously treated (Luke 17:3-4). God alone knows

the heart.

 

  • AGAINST THE DEMAND FOR PUNISHMENT (vs. 21-22); in

which Abishai displayed, as before (ch. 16:9):

 

Ø      An impulse of natural vengeance toward the evildoer; unaltered by

change of circumstances, unsoothed by Shimei’s repentance.

Ø      A desire for the rigorous execution of the Law, according to which the

traitor and blasphemer should suffer death “without mercy.” Its stern and

relentless requirements, unmodified by its deeper and more merciful

principles, are represented in “the sons of Zeruiah.”

Ø      A spirit of reckless imprudence; not less injurious to the king’s interests

on “this day” of his triumphant return than it was on the day of his perilous

flight.

Ø      An assumption of unjustifiable authority, and interference with the

king’s rights and privileges, feelings and purposes; incurring a repetition of

the rebuke, “What have I to do with you,” etc.? “Ye will be an adversary

[satan, Numbers 22:22; I Chronicles 21:1] to me;” hindering the

exercise of mercy and the joy of my return (I Samuel 11:12-13). “Get

thee behind me, Satan” (Matthew 16:23). “Our best friends must be

considered as adversaries when they would persuade us to act contrary to

our conscience and our duty” (Scott).

 

  • WITH THE ASSURANCE OF MERCY. “Thou shalt not die” (v. 23;

ch. 12:13). “And the king sware unto him.” From:

 

Ø      An impulse of personal feeling of the noblest nature; by which

(regarding Shimei’s offence as a personal one) he was raised above the

level of “the Law,” and anticipated the forgiving spirit of a higher

dispensation.

Ø      A sense of the exceeding mercy of God toward himself; by, which he

was disposed to show mercy toward others.

Ø      A perception of the wisest policy to be adopted on such an extraordinary

day as that of his restoration to the throne. “Shall there any man be put

to death this day in Israel? For do I not know that I am this day king over

Israel?” (It is noticeable how frequently he is designated “the king” in this

chapter.)

Ø      An exercise of the royal prerogative of pardon. This prerogative, indeed

(though prompted by a generous impulse), he no doubt stretched beyond

due bounds. Hence, reflecting on the matter at the close of his life (during

which he kept faithfully to his oath), he committed (not from a feeling of

personal revenge, but of sacred duty) the vindication of the Law to his

successor (I Kings 2:8-9). “It can be explained only from the fact that

David distinguished between his own personal interest and motive, which

led him to pardon Shimei, without taking the theocratic legal standpoint

and the theocratic interests of the kingdom, of which Solomon was the

representative, and so held himself bound on theocratic political grounds to

commit to his successor the execution of the legal prescription which he

had passed over” (Erdmann).

 

  • REMARKS.

 

Ø      In showing mercy to private as well as public offenders, due regard must

be paid to the claims of public justice.

Ø      It is better to err on the side of too much mercy than too much severity.

Ø      How vast is the mercy of God toward men, in Him whom He has

exalted to be a Prince and a Saviour,” etc. (Acts 5:31)!

Ø      Those who have received mercy must live in the sphere of mercy and

obedience, otherwise mercy ceases to be of any avail (I Kings 2:42-46;

Matthew 18:32-35).

 

24 “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.” Mephibosheth. The meeting of David and Mephibosheth

possibly took place at Jerusalem (see on v. 25), and, if so, the order of

events is not chronological. Ziba certainly came to the Jordan fords, and

the narrative may have been introduced here to complete the account of his

doings. In neglecting his person and his dress, Mephibosheth was showing

signs of heartfelt sorrow, and as he thus mourned during Absalom’s tenure

of power, it exposed him to the usurper’s displeasure, and was a public

avowal that his sympathies were with David. And his treatment was unjust;

but David was in a strait. Ziba had been actively useful to him in his flight,

and had also aided greatly in his recall. It was, probably, even owing to his

influence that Shimei came with a thousand men of Benjamin. He deserved,

therefore, a reward, but not at his master’s cost. His beard; Hebrew, the

upper lip (see Leviticus 13:45; Ezekiel 24:17, 22).

 

25 “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?” When he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king. This

certainly looks as if the meeting took place at Jerusalem, and apparently

when David had reached the royal palace (see v. 30). But what, then, is

meant in v. 24 by his “going down” to meet the king? If, too, he had been

at Jerusalem all the while, how could he come there? Some, therefore,

translate, “Then Jerusalem came to meet the king” — a possible, but not a

natural, rendering, nor one that agrees with v. 30. Others consider that he

had withdrawn to his house in the highlands of Benjamin at Gibeah of Saul;

but David had given these lands to Ziba, and the crippled Mephibesheth

would have met with rough treatment had he endeavored to contest the

ownership. The Arabic Version reads. “when he came from Jerusalem;” but

it is not confirmed by any trustworthy authorities. The view of Kimchi is

probably right, that Mephibosheth did go down to the Jordan fords to meet

David, and certainly his duty required of him no less. He had been

slandered and ill used, but the king believed him to be guilty, and regarded

him with displeasure. To have remained, therefore, at home when all Judah

and half Israel had gone to welcome David back, would have been culpable

remissness. And though he was lame, yet the ride was not so long as to be

very fatiguing. But he did not rush through the river, as Shimei and his

thousand men had done; and when David had crossed, there was too much

going on for him to get an audience. He followed, therefore, in David’s

suite; but in Jerusalem the meeting actually took place. Thus the verses

briefly record different facts: v. 24 that Mephibosheth went with the vast

crowd to welcome the king back; v. 25 that in due time, in Jerusalem, the

explanation was given, and Mephibosheth restored to favor.

 

26 “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.  27 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.  28  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?”  Thy servant said, I will saddle

me an ass. This would mean, “Thy servant purposed, said within himself, that

he would saddle an ass, not by his own hands, but by those of his servants.”

All the versions, however, except the Chaldee, read, “Thy servant said to him,

Saddle me an ass.” With this agrees the narrative in ch. 16:1. Mephibosheth

ordered Ziba to saddle for him an ass, and one for an attendant, and to put

hastily together a supply of food for the journey. And Ziba does so; but

when everything is ready, he leaves his master in the lurch, and carries all

away to David, to whom he falsely represents Mephibosheth as a traitor. In

the words that follow, he unreservedly submits himself to David, on the

ground that, though innocent in this affair, yet that, as a member of a

dethroned dynasty, his life was forfeit (compare ch. 21:7), and that,

in permitting him to live, and placing him among his friends, the king had

done him an act of grace.

 

29 “And the king said unto him, Why speakest thou any more of thy matters?

I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land.”  Thou and Ziba divide the land.

Two views are taken of this decision — the one, that it was a complete reversal

of the command in ch. 16:4, placing matters upon the old footing, by which Ziba

was to have half the produce for cultivating the estate; the other, and

apparently the most correct view, is that Ziba was now made actual owner

of half the land, and Mephibosheth, instead of a half, would henceforth

have only a quarter of the crops. The decision was not equitable, and

David speaks in a curt and hurried manner, as though vexed with himself

for what he was doing. As a matter of fact, Ziba’s treachery had been most

useful to David. Besides the pleasure at the time of finding one man

faithful, when “all men were liars” (Psalm 116:11), Ziba had been most

active in bringing over the tribe of Benjamin to David’s side; and though

his motives were selfish and venal, yet, as the king reaped the benefit of his

conduct, he was bound not to leave him without reward.

 

30 “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.”  Yea, let him take all. These words betray a feeling of

resentment. Though outwardly they profess to regard the loss of the

property with indifference, as compared with the joy of the king’s return,

yet this sort of “I don’t care” answer usually covers anger.

 

 

 

Royal Clemency (vs. 24-30)

 

The sudden collapse of the rebellion placed David in a position of

advantage, and yet of difficulty. He was not the man to care for

sovereignty over a disunited people, and the attitude of those who had

been in rebellion was not quite certain. Those who do wrong are suspicious

of those against whom the wrong has been done when power comes into

their hands. It was, therefore, the policy of David to convince them that

they need not be under any apprehension of his using the recovered power

to punish them. This was the evident meaning of the deputation of the high

priests to the men of Judah, and the reason of the promotion of Amasa

(together with his reasonable desire to express his sense of Joab’s

dangerous liberty in disobeying a positive public command). The noble

hearted king felt the importance of the restoration of peace and unity so

deeply, and was so sensible of the mercy of God in answering his desire

when in anguish (ch. 15:25-26), that, on this occasion of joy,

sobered though it was by thoughts of chastisement just past, he cannot but

grant an amnesty to all his foes. In the exercise of this royal clemency we

see set forth the following truths.

 

  • THE INFLUENCE ON MEN OF ALL CONDITIONS OF A TIDE OF

SUCCESS. The turn of the tide had come for David, and with it men good

and bad, great and small, throughout the land began to consider how they

had better comport themselves under the new circumstances. Israel

hastened to indicate readiness (v. 11). Judah was waiting for some

encouragement to yield (vs. 12-14), and receiving it, hasted to be first at

Jordan (vs. 15, 41). And such representative men as Shimei and Ziba

show eagerness to find favor with the victorious monarch. Probably only

an active section of the less thoughtful people had really rejected David;

the great mass were won over to the winning side because it was the

winning side, and, now that David was returning to power, they, and also

the real leaders of the rebellion, move on with the tide. Success has a great

charm for some minds. The day of prosperity draws out many friends. In

national and religious affairs multitudes are influenced, not by a calm and

independent consideration of the merits of the question or system, but by

the fact that there is a semblance of prosperity. Men are not without reason

spoken of as a “flock;” they are disposed to go in with the rest. This is not

the highest type of humanity.

 

  • DOUBTFUL LOYALTY IN THE RELATIONSHIPS OF LIFE. The

real friends of Absalom and such men as Shimei fell in with the change in

public opinion, and professed, the latter most eagerly and humbly, to

welcome the king back. Allegiance is a matter of degrees, and springs from

mixed motives. David had to feel for the rest of his days that policy

governed the loyalty of some of his people. In national life there are many

causes of unsteadiness of loyal attachment to the head of the state — some

lying in the seat of authority, and some in ignorance, prejudice, or

occasionally the convictions of the people. Every bond of union between

moral beings implies a loyalty more or less defined to persons and interests.

Master and servant, husband and wife, partners in business and

government, teachers and pupils, create, by the relation formed, a demand.

for loyalty the one to the other and to the common interests professedly

sought by the union. The fellowship of the saints in Church life especially

creates scope for mutual loyalty and common loyalty to Christ. We may

see many things in one, for all truth is related; and therefore, in the

doubtful loyalty of men in David’s time, with its necessary weakness to the

national life, and injury to the highest interests of the kingdom, we see the

evil brought on the world by defective loyalty in the various relationships

men enter into; and especially do we see the pernicious effect of defective

loyalty of professing Christians to the Church and to Christ. The practical

bearings of this are very many and very wide.

                                                                                           

  • INDICATIONS OF AN UNEASY CONSCIENCE. The moral value

of actions is not to be seen by looking at them simply as actions; their form

may be perfect, their real value is seen in their connections. It was a

beautiful action to hasten over Jordan and be first to bid the king welcome;

the most devoted of his friends could not do more; but for Shimei to do it,

after his conduct towards David, took away from the deed the flow of its

natural beauty. The act was evidence of an uneasy conscience conjoined

with a cowardly, time serving policy. That he was truly penitent is not

admissible from the tenor of his words — they sound hollow. It is not the

custom of the true penitent to refer to his good deeds in proof of penitence

(v. 20). Nor, perhaps, was Ziba without a restless conscience in thus

seeking early to court the favor of the king, who would soon learn the

facts concerning his former deception (ch.16:1-4). We here see

that conscience is alive, even in very base men; that it is quiescent and

seemingly at ease when either possibility of exposure or punishment is far

off; that it is nevertheless sensitive to any change in events which tend to

hasten exposure or punishment; that its greatest dread is falling into the

hands of a supreme power; and that, instead of elevating the man, and

prompting to renovation, it rather drags him down to the low and plausible

means of avoiding what it knows is deserved. Let the religious teacher see

how this action of conscience is verified in the case of many who have

rejected Christ, the Lord’s Anointed. Once let them know that He is coming

into His kingdom, and uneasiness will appear.

 

  • THE INFLUENCE IN LIFE OF DOMINATING IDEAS. The son of

Zeruiah (v. 21) wished to slay Shimei at once, and, had he done so, many

would have said that the wicked man reaped the desert of his crimes. The

anointed of the Lord desired that the man should not die, and many

doubtless thought that the clemency was ill judged. But the reason of the

totally diverse desires and judgments was that the two men were on that

day governed by totally diverse ideas.

 

Ø      Abishai was the hard, stern soldier, ruled in this instance by the

entiment of rigid discipline, and acting in all things under the idea

of power; whereas:

 

Ø      David was the wise, generous king, ruled by the sentiment of love

or his people, and acting in this instance under the idea of kingly grace.

 

The one saw no reason in the event of the day for sparing an unworthy life;

the other saw that kingly grace found befitting exercise when prosperity

and joy were returning to all. The ideas that ruled the one life left no room

for variation; those that ruled the other required variation. It is an important

inquiry to what extent men’s lives are ruled by a few leading ideas, and

what is the relation of these ideas to the impulses and dispositions that

seem to lie next to the will. The Christian man has certain clear and definite

conceptions concerning God, and Christ, Himself, the relation of the

present to the future, which mark him off from the non-Christian man,

and these form the intellectual elements that determine all his conduct

toward God and man. Men of diverse ages differ much in the general

conceptions they entertain on the details of life, and hence we get

differences in the degree of conformity of conduct to an absolute standard

of morality. In so far as we can procure unity of perception and unity of

disposition, so far do we lay the basis for harmony of conduct and the

welfare of civil society. Hence the radical and yet progressive work

of true Christianity: it will bring “eye to eye” and heart to heart,

and so establish peace forevermore. Hence also the importance of

instilling in young and old such views as shall, by their range and

controlling influence over the mind, practically determine conduct along

the Christian line.

 

  • THE PATIENT WAITING OF THE DECEIVED, AND

OPPRESSED. The personal appearance of Mephibosheth when he came to

welcome David to Jerusalem was indicative of trouble and sorrow arising

from neglect and poverty, and possibly real grief, experienced during the

time of the rebellion. The conduct of Ziba and the loss of David’s table

(ch. 9:9-13; 16:1-4) account for his poverty, and it is not likely

that such a man as Absalom would make ample provision for one of the

house of Saul. There is no trace of Mephibosheth having by treasonous

means done wrong to David, though it is possible that, in real Oriental

manner, he, like the sons of Zadok, may have assumed an outward

prudential appearance of fidelity to the cause of Absalom. He was a

helpless man, deceived and oppressed, and placed, by reason of his physical

infirmity, in such a position as not to be able to extricate himself from

trouble. His only chance was to wait and cherish hope that the generous

king, who had so bountifully befriended him for his father’s sake, would

return to power. A fair illustration is this of the patient waiting of men

suffering from craft and wrong. The African race in slavery, deceived and

robbed of their patrimony by men more strong and crafty, waited and

hoped almost against hope for the day of freedom. Their only hope was in

the rise of the beneficent kingly power of the Lord’s Anointed, and IT DID

COME!   Others, such as the Waldenses and Malagasy, wronged and

oppressed, waited for the coming of the better day, and it did come. Many

a soul, deceived by the cunning craft of the father of lies, and robbed of

moral and material wealth, has known the pains of poverty of spirit, and

waited for the king’s gracious restoration. The Apostle Paul tells us, too,

of the “whole creation,” afflicted with the ills consequent on the great

rebellion against God, travailing in pain, and waiting for a better time

(Romans 8:18-22). It is the joy of the preacher to be able to announce

the acceptable year of the Lord” to all who mourn. They shall not wait in

vain (Isaiah 61:1- 4).

 

  • A PRACTICAL VIEW OF THE ANOMALIES OF LIFE. The

position in which David found himself when, on hearing the story of

Mephibosheth and observing his distressed circumstances, he had to decide

with respect to the property at stake, was one of extreme delicacy and

difficulty. In all good faith he had handed over the property to Ziba, and

Ziba had befriended his friends in a time of need (ch. 16:1-2),

and had been foremost to welcome himself back (ch. 19:17). The

kindness of the man in the hour of need was a set off to his deceit. On the

other hand, the forfeiture of the property of Mephibosheth by royal decree

was based on false information; and being a member of a royal house, and

not proved to have been openly disloyal, he certainly had a claim to

restoration to rights. The brevity of the narrative leaves the actual decision

of David in some obscurity (v. 29). But the sense seems to be that David

solved the difficulty by restoring the old relations as a matter of practice

(ch. 9:9-11), without formally revoking the legal right of Ziba.

As formerly, so now, the two families were to live on the produce of the

soil, and in this there was great consideration, for Mephibosheth was

physically incapable of looking after his own affairs. The example of David,

as a matter of procedure, is worthy of attention. Life is crowded with

difficulties analogous to this. Claims and counter claims force themselves

on our attention. Wrongs have to be righted and merits have to be

considered in alleviation of judgment. The principle on which David acted

was a sound one, and can be used by us in all things, namely, to deal with

anomalies practically, not merely speculatively, and to aim at a restoration

of things to their natural basis. To bring men and things back to nature, so

far as circumstances admit, is a safe and prudent rule. The old relationship

of Ziba to Mephibosheth (ch. 9:2=4), and the incapacity of the

latter, rendered it most unwise to cut the knot of present complications by

having recourse to the practical division indicated in ibid. vs. 9-12.

There is a natural basis, if we will only take pains to find it, in our

modern complications.

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS.

 

Ø      We should see in the returning success of the servant of God after a

season of severe chastisement a token of our joyous return to the

possession of privilege when we have been duly exercised by the

chastisement of Providence (Hebrews 12:5-7).

Ø      Success is not to be regarded as less real because imperfect and weak

men crowd in with it, though we ought to separate their attachment from

the elements of endurance in the success.

Ø      In selecting friends we should not place much reliance on those most

eager in their expression of interest. Words are to be tested by deeds.

Ø      It is incumbent on all Christians to purge from their relationships,

whether of master, servant, professor of religion, member of Church, or

subject of the realm, every trace of doubtful loyalty.

Ø      The profession of interest in religion is to be carefully weighed, seeing

that an uneasy conscience will often prompt to a formal profession when

there is not sincere love and faith.

Ø      It will be a great gain to the Church if we can instill into the minds of the

young the most cardinal principles of Christianity, which, by their

dominating power, will expel inferior views and lead to right action.

Ø      We may encourage the poor and oppressed to take heart from seeing

how in the course of history God does vindicate the needy. The great

vindications will be when the King of kings COMES TO JUDGMENT!

 

 

The Vindication of Mephibosheth (vs. 24-30)

 

“He hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king” (v. 27). The lame

son of Jonathan comes upon the scene once more before his final

disappearance. During the rebellion he seems to have continued at

Jerusalem; and a strange spectacle he must have presented there, with his

neglected person and mournful countenance. On hearing that the king was

returning, he set out from Jerusalem (Hebrew, to; or “Jerusalem came,”

Keil) to meet him. But he had been preceded by Ziba, who was present,

when, in answer to the inquiry, “Wherefore,” etc., he said, “My lord, O

king, my servant deceived me,” etc. (ch.16:1-4).

 

1. The unfortunate and helpless are commonly made the victims of a

slanderous tongue. Others may not escape its venom; but these become its

ready prey. Ziba knew that he could not be pursued and punished; and

destroyed the reputation of his master with the king for the sake of his own

profit.

 

2. The voice of slander is put to silence in the presence of honesty and

truth. Already, before Mephibosheth spoke, his appearance must have

borne witness to his innocence. His explanation of his conduct, the tone of

his defense, and the silence of his accuser, would hardly fail to convince

the king that, whatever may have been the designs of others concerning the

house of Saul (ibid. v. 5), the son of his friend Jonathan was not

implicated therein. Slander may remain long unchallenged; but it is sure to

be ultimately put to shame.

 

3. No vindication from slander is able to do away with all its mischievous

effects. The property of which Mephibosheth had been deprived might be

restored in whole or in part; but the feelings and actions induced in others

could not be obliterated. “Reluctant to think that he had been too hasty;

having a royal aversion to admit that he could err and had been duped; and

being, in his present humor of overlooking and pardoning everything,

indisposed to the task of calling to account a man of such influence as Ziba,

who had been forward in his cause when many tried friends forsook him,

the king’s answer was something less than generous and much less than

kind to the son of Jonathan” (Kitto).

 

4. Notwithstanding the wrong which he suffers, a man of humble and

grateful heart still possesses abundant satisfaction. Seeking no revenge,

acknowledging his dependence even for life, thankful for the kindness

formerly shown toward him, and foregoing every claim (vs. 27-28), he is

little concerned about worldly possessions in comparison with the honor

and welfare of his lord, and finds his chief delight in “the king’s favor.”

“True to his noble saintly nature, all that he desires is to love and to be

loved again” (Plumptre). “Let him also take all,” etc. (v. 30).

 

“Fret not thyself because of the evil doers,

Be not envious against the workers of iniquity,…

  The meek shall inherit the land,

And shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

(Psalm 37:1-11)

 

 

Inability Hindering Desired Service (vs. 24-30)

 

Although some are disposed to accept Ziba’s account of his master’s

conduct (ch. 16:3) rather than Mephibosheth’s own, as given in

these verses, there seems to be no just reason to doubt his truth and

sincerity. He did not go with David because, owing to his lameness and the

treachery and cunning of Ziba, he was unable to do so. The narrative

suggests such thoughts as follow.

 

  • INABILITY DEBARS MANY CHRISTIANS FROM SOME

DEMONSTRATIONS OF LOVE AND LOYALTY TO THEIR KING

WHICH THEY WOULD MAKE WITH PLEASURE. Indeed, every one,

however strong in some respects, is weak in others. The inability may be in

body or mind, in understanding, or heart, or speech, or in purse; but to its

extent it disables from forms of service which others can adopt. We can

only serve Christ with the faculties and powers we have. To attempt what

we cannot accomplish is to be hindrances rather than helps.

 

  • INABILITY IN SOME RESPECTS WILL NOT PREVENT THE

TRUE HEARTED FROM MAKING SUCH MANIFESTATIONS OF

LOVE AND LOYALTY AS ARE WITHIN THEIR POWER. If

Mephibesheth could not follow David in his exile. or take part in the

contest, he could mourn for him, and exhibit signs of mourning; and this he

did. He thus showed a courage as great as, or greater than, that of those

who took part in the war. (Think of the treatment that open supporters

of the United States of America are receiving by exasperated enemies -

CY - 2018)  In like manner, every one, however feeble, poor,

or obscure, may do something for Christ; and, if his heart be right, he will.

 

Ø      He who cannot preach can speak to a neighbor.

Ø      He who cannot say much for Christ can bring others where they

can hear of Him, or give them an instructive book or tract.

Ø      He who cannot give much money towards the evangelization

of the world can give a little, and at least can pray.

Ø      He who cannot found a hospital can visit the sick poor.

 

All have some power, and, according to the measure of their power, are

responsible. All who love their King will employ such ability as they have

in serving him. And the service is accepted by him which comes from a

true heart and is according to the ability possessed. Work or gift for Christ

is valued by Him, not for its quantity, or even quality of the material, or

merely mental kind, but for the love to Him which it expresses; and many

a man who wins the plaudits of men for his talents, his outward success in

religious work, or his large gifts for its sustentation, is less pleasing to Christ

than some poor and humble friend of His who can give and do but little,

but thinks much of Him, mourns in secret the dishonor done to Him, and

prays without ceasing for His triumph. Ziba’s handsome and timely

presents were really of far less worth than helpless Mephibosheth’s

mourning and self-neglect.

 

  • INABILITY IS LIABLE TO BE MISUNDERSTOOD AND

MISREPRESENTED. Not only by the malicious or designing, as here, but

by the inconsiderate. Men judge of others by their own peculiar standards.

If truly zealous in a good cause, they show their zeal in the way most

natural and available to themselves, and are ready to condemn as lukewarm

those who do not adopt their methods, though these may with equal zeal

seek the same ends by the means natural and available to them. Even David

judged harshly and unjustly of Mephibosheth. It was, in truth, unreasonable

to expect his lame friend to accompany him. He could only have been a

burden. It was absurdly unjust to accept Ziba’s insinuation that his master

was hoping to be placed on the vacant throne. But judgments equally

unjust are constantly being pronounced upon zealous servants of Christ,

whose only fault is that they are not of the same order of mind, or cannot

practice the same bustling activity as their accusers, or have not equal

incomes, or equal physical strength or energy, or do not care to exhibit

their “zeal for the Lord” (II Kings 10:16) in the same manner or to

secure similar results. Happily, Christ knows His servants better than

they know each other.

 

  • INABILITY IS OFTEN ASSOCIATED WITH QUALITIES THAT

RECONCILE TO THE DISADVANTAGES WHICH BELONG TO IT.

Mephibosheth was enabled to bear meekly what he had to endure, because

he was humble, thankful, sincerely and disinterestedly devoted to the king,

and ready to submit without murmuring to his will. Similar qualities are of

great value to those servants of our Lord who are deficient in some

endowments or possessions by which others are equipped for Christian

service.

 

Ø      Thankfulness for, and contentment with, the powers and opportunities

granted to them, and the kind and measure of success accorded to them.

Ø      Humility arising from the consciousness of their defects or

unworthiness.

Ø      Absence of envy of those who are more abundantly favored in respect

to talents or success.

Ø      Consciousness of sincere devotion to the King, however men may

reflect on them.

Ø      Joy that, by whomsoever and in whatever way, the King’s cause is

triumphing. Such qualities are frequently found associated with

deficient abilities, and go far to compensate those who possess

them for the lack of power, or obvious efficiency, or appreciation

of them and their work, which may be their lot. Let the less liberally

endowed cultivate them.

 

  • INABILITY WILL AT LENGTH BE EXPLAINED AND JUSTIFIED.

When the King comes back, all His servants will receive

commendation and reward, not according to their several abilities, but

according to THEIR FIDELITY!

 

Ø      Mistakes will be rectified,

Ø      unjust judgments reversed.

Ø      Many a plaudit will be hushed;

Ø      many an inflated reputation will collapse;

Ø      many a brave looking building will be reduced to a mass of

rubbish by the searching fires, and the builder put to shame,

if not utterly rejected (I Corinthians 3:12-15).

 

On the other hand, many an obscure and perhaps disregarded servant of Christ

will find himself unexpectedly applauded and exalted. “Lord, when saw we

thee an hungered, and fed thee?  or thirsty and gave thee drink?  When

saw we a stranger, and took thee in?  or naked and clothed thee?  When

saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?  And the king shall

answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, inasmuch as ye have

done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto

me!”  (Matthew 25:37-40).

 

Wherefore:

 

Ø      “Judge nothing before the time” (I Corinthians 4:5).

Ø      Let Christians of limited powers and opportunities be encouraged

TO DO THEIR BEST!  Their Lord appreciates their spirit and

services, though men may mistake and misjudge; and He will

pass a more just judgment than David didv(v. 29) in the case

of Mephibosheth.

 

(vs. 31-43)The Facts are:

 

1. Barzillai, having provided sustenance for David while he was at

Mahanaim, and accompanying him over Jordan, is entreated to go and live

with him at Jerusalem.

2. Barzillai, having no relish for the kind of life which he thought prevailed

at court, pleads age and infirmity and a fear of being an encumbrance to

David, as a reason for not complying with his request, but asks that his

own son Chimham may be permitted to go.

3. David consents, promises to do for Barzillai all that he may require,

kisses and blesses him, and, while the good old man returns home, David

passes on to Gilgal, conducted by all the people of Judah and half the

people of Israel.

4. The men of Israel protest against what they conceive to be the stealthy

way in which the men of Judah forestalled them in bringing back the king.

5. The men of Judah assign, as the explanation of their conduct, that they

were not mercenary, but that their near kinship was the clue to their zeal.

6. The controversy waxes strong on the men of Israel asserting in their

rejoinder that, being ten tribes, they had more right in the king than had

Judah.

 

31 “And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went

over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.

32 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. Barzillai was so wealthy a man that,

with some help from others, he had provided the king “of sustenance,” or, in

more modern English, “with sustenance,” while his army lay encamped at

Mahanaim; and now, though he was eighty years of age, he wished to attend

the king in person until he reached the other side of Jordan.

 

33 “And the king said unto Barzillai, Come thou over with me, and I

will feed thee with me in Jerusalem.  34 And Barzillai said unto the king,

How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem?

35 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?  36 Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the

king: and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward?” 

And I will feed thee. This is the same verb as that used in v. 32, and translated

to provide of sustenance.”

 

 

The Privations of Old Age (v. 35)

 

Barzillai graphically depicts these as experienced by himself. All old men

have not exactly the same experience; but all who live to a great age must

expect a similar diminution of their powers.

 

  • THE PRIVATIONS OF THE AGED.

 

Ø      Enfeebled or annihilated powers. Blunted or extinct senses; dullness or

loss of sight, hearing, taste, smelling; feebleness of body and mind.

Consequent inability for active employments. Loss of the pleasures which

the exercise of vigorous faculties confers.

Ø      Increasing dependence on others. Possibly, unlike Barzillai, for the

means of subsistence; certainly for much besides. Hence the old man is apt

to become, and feel himself to be, “a burden,” putting the kindness and

patience of others to a severe test. The discomfort arising from such

dependance is often very great.

Ø      The sense of loneliness. Sometimes the aged survive all who have loved

and cared for them, and, if not, they commonly feel themselves cut off from

the interests and pleasures of the new generation.

 

  • HOW THESE PRIVATIONS SHOULD BE BORNE.

 

Ø      With cheerful submission and patience. Remembering that the order of

nature which brings such ills to the aged, and the circumstances which

occasion their own particular troubles, are the appointment of the infinitely

wise and good Creator and Father. Recalling also their many years of

vigorous faculty and lively enjoyment, and cherishing a gratitude which will

suppress discontent.

Ø      With thankfulness for what remains. The love and care which provide

for, or minister to, their needs and alleviate their troubles. Above all, the

unchanging love of God and the Redeemer, and the spiritual blessings

hence enjoyed.

Ø      With watchfulness against the temptations incident to old age. Such as

those to:

o        fretfulness,

o        irritability,

o        impatience,

o        envy of the young, and needless interference with their enjoyments,

o        the revival with new power of old sinful propensities,

o        ill tempers, and

o        bad habits.

Ø      With joyful hope. Of speedy deliverance from all burdens and troubles,

and the recommencement of life with renewed and perfected energies.

Nothing can keep the aged Christian long out of HEAVEN!

 

  • HOW OTHERS SHOULD REGARD THEM.

 

Ø      With respectful tenderness, sympathy, and readiness to alleviate them.

Ø      With diminished desire for the great prolongation of their own lives.

Ø      With steadfast aim and endeavor so to live that, if old age come, it may

not be oppressed with the needless burdens and anxieties which a

godless life leads to. Let the young keep in mind the admonition,

“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth, while the evil

days come not, nor the years draw nigh, when thou shalt say,

I have no pleasure in them” (Ecclesiastes 12:1).  (You may not

be able to tell it but this verse was understood from my youth,

for which I am exceedingly grateful to God to have experienced!

CY - 2018)

 

37 “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.

38 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.  39 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.”

That I may die in mine own city...by the grave of my

father and of my mother. The inserted words, “and be buried,” are very

matter of fact and commonplace. What Barzillai wished was that, when

death overtook him, it should find him in the old abode of his family, where

his father and mother had died, and where their tombs were. This regard

for the family sepulchre was hereditary among the Israelites, who followed

in it the example of their forefather (see Genesis 49:29-31). Chimham.

David remembered Barzillai’s kindness to the last, and. on his dying bed

specially commended Chimham and his brothers to the care of Solomon. In

Jeremiah 41:17 we read of “the habitation of Chimham, which is by

Bethlehem,’’ whence it has been supposed that David also endowed the

son of Barzillai with land near his own city. Stanley (‘Jewish Church,’

2:201) considers that this was a caravanserai founded by Chimham for the

hospitable lodging of travelers on their way to Egypt, and that Mary and

Joseph found shelter there. It lay to the south of Bethlehem; but there is

nothing more than the name to connect it with the son of Barzillai.

In v. 40 he is called in the Hebrew Chimhan.

 

 

A Beautiful Old Age (vs. 31-38)

 

The scene described by the historian of the parting of Barzillai and David is

one of the most touching to be found in Old Testament story; and the two

elements which chiefly contribute to its interest are — the return of the

banished king to his beloved city and his throne at the close of a most

anxious season; and the beautiful character of the venerable man who had

befriended him in his misfortunes, and now, with a consciousness that his

own earthly course is nearly run, bids him an affectionate farewell. There

are many venerable saints referred to in the Bible — from the time of

Enoch to the beloved exile of Patmos — and they all convey to us a certain

common instruction concerning life and its destiny, blended with what is

peculiar to each; but we shall here confine attention to those features of a

beautiful old age which are specially brought out in the description given of

Barzillai.

 

  • OLD AGE ITSELF NATURALLY AWAKENS A TENDER

INTEREST. This is the natural basis of all our regard for the aged, and is

an element entering into the beauty which in some cases we recognize. In

every age and clime, and among all except the most savage, age has won

respect and developed tender feelings in the younger. We regard it as a

sign of moral debasement when men fail to cherish tender consideration for

the aged. The reasons that account for our best feelings are not always

definite, and in this case they are certainly very subtle — being hidden

away in the thoughts and sentiments that grow with our growth. If we seek

the analysis of our sentiment towards age, we shall find these items: a sense

of our inferiority in all that makes up the deepest experiences of life; a

conviction that the venerable form is the symbol of many a veiled sorrow

and buried hope; a perception of traces of unrecorded conflicts; a feeling of

sympathy with increasing infirmities; a remembrance of the fleeting

character of the best and most vigorous manhood; and a reflection that a

responsible being is getting near to the eternal world. In the presence of

age we cannot but feel that to live is a grave and solemn business.

 

  • OLD AGE EXHIBITS A SPECIAL BEAUTY WHERE IT IS

PERVADED BY KINDLY FEELINGS AND EARNEST PIETY.

Sometimes we meet with old age rendered hard, bitter, venomed, and

remorseful, and, while our hearts are touched with tender interest, we feel

that we can only pity — there is no admiration, because there is no moral,

and probably no physical, beauty. In Barzillai we see all the natural,

physical beauties of age crowned by virtues of the most attractive kind. His

generous provision for the king when in need, and his making an effort to

see him happily on his way home, revealed kindliness. His desire to share

in such valued society so far as strength permitted, his right estimate of

what befits the closing days of life, and his quiet content with the comforts

and joys of home, show his wisdom. His anxiety not to be a burden to the

king amidst the duties and cares of government, and his request for a

favor to his son (I Kings 2:7), prove his considerateness. His wish to

live and die and be buried among the kindred whom he had loved so long,

was evidence of his domestic affection. His having befriended, honored,

and loved the banished king when appearances were against him, and his

being privileged to take so tender a leave of the Lord’s anointed, was a

sign of distinguished loyalty. His obvious faith in the right cause when the

rebellion was at its height, his bold identification of his interests with those

of the Lord’s afflicted servant, his doing all for the right cause without any

idea of compensation, was proof of deep piety. Thus the beauty of old age

lies much in years being crowned with:

 

Ø      kindliness of disposition,

Ø      wisdom of conduct,

Ø      consideration of feeling, deep affection for one’s own people,

Ø      faithfulness in the relationships of life, and

Ø      calm and strong piety.

 

How lovely is old age when so adorned!

 

  • AN OLD AGE THUS BEAUTIFIED IS VERY HELPFUL TO

OTHERS. Barzillai was helpful to David in his trials and triumphs; but it

was not the mere food (ch.17:28-29) which he, with others,

brought that gave strength to David’s heart and raised his hope in God.

The hoary head, crowned with the glory of true goodness, was more to

David than all the material supplies. To have the friendship and the kindly

attentions of a vendable man of God, was to the king a real spring of new

life and vigor. The vain and trifling young man might go off to take sides

with rebellion, but age, with its wisdom, its deep experience, its large

heartedness and settled piety, was with him. As cold water to a thirsty soul

was the loyalty and affection of so honored a man. It is a blessing and real

help to have the favor and sympathy of men who have had large

experience in life, and have won for themselves imperishable honors; and,

though the infirmities of age may seem to set a narrow limit to the

usefulness of the aged, yet their moral power is very great. Their influence

is quiet, but real and pervading. The tone they impart to home affects the

world outside, and their known interest in Christ’s servants and the work

they are doing, is power and cheer to many a heart.

 

  • A BEAUTIFUL OLD AGE IS AN ABIDING CHARM IN THE

MEMORY. David and Barzillai never met again on earth. Their parting

partook of all the sweet tenderness of a final severance. Before David had

finished his career, the venerable man had passed away to his blessed

reward (I Kings 2:7). But it could not but be, as was evident from his

charge to Solomon, that throughout his life David cherished the memory of

the good old man, and found amid the cares and sorrows of life much

comfort therein. The vision of that bent form, laden with precious fruits of

a long and godly experience, bending before him and bidding him God

speed in his high vocation would often rise up and again cheer his spirit.

The dead yet speak to us. Our memories retain the cherished form and

words and tender embraces of venerable saints, and, as we think of their

faith and hope and triumph over the world, we take fresh courage and

struggle on. Thank God for aged Christians living or departed!

 

  • GENERAL LESSONS.

 

Ø      We see how wondrously God does, in His kind providence, sweeten the

bitters of life by friendships which would not have been formed but for

the trouble.

Ø      There is great blessedness in being enabled to render encouragement to

God’s servants when they are engaged in arduous and perplexing service,

and this form of usefulness may be sought by all, especially by the aged.

Ø      We should, in our own lives and in others, look for an advance of moral

powers proportionate to the advance of age.

Ø      We should covet the honor of bringing our ripest and best attainments

and placing them at the service of Christ.

 

40 “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.”  Half the people of Israel. The northern tribes had been the

first to debate the question of the king’s recall (v. 9), while the men of

Judah hung back. But at the instigation of the high priests and of Amasa,

who was actually in command, they determined upon David’s restoration,

and acted so promptly and so independently of the rest of Israel that, when

they reached Gilgal, only the delegates of a few tribes were in time to join

them. As we read in v. 41 of “all the men of Israel,” it is evident that the

rest had rapidly followed. It would have been well if the tribe of Judah had

informed the rest of their purpose, as the bringing of David back would

then have been the act of all Israel; but tribal jealousies were the cause of

Israel’s weakness throughout the time of the judges, and broke out into

open disunion upon the death of Solomon.

 

 

Old Barzillai (vs. 31-40)

 

“How long have I to live?” (v. 34). Barzillai dwelt at Rogelim (his own

city, v. 37), in Gilead, where, amidst the rich highland pastures, diligently

superintending his flocks and herds, he spent his days in peace. He enjoyed

the blessing of the Old Testament” — prosperity; and was “a very great

[wealthy] man.” Like Machir ben-Ammiel (ch.  9:4), he was loyal,

hospitable, and generous (ch. 17:28). One of his sons (I Kings 2:7),

named Chimham, accompanied him to do honor to the king at

his restoration. He was an octogenarian, his memory reaching back to the

appointment of the first King of Israel, and Saul’s brilliant exploit on behalf

of Jabesh-Gilead (I Samuel 11:11). Of his genuine piety, his answer to

the king’s invitation, “Come over with me, and I will provide (v. 32) for

thee in Jerusalem,” leaves no room for doubt. “May we not legitimately

infer that his conduct was influenced, not merely by loyalty to his earthly

sovereign, but by the recognition of the higher spiritual truths, and the

hope for Israel and the world, symbolized by the reign of David?”

(Edersheim). More especially, he furnishes a picture of a beautiful old age

(I Samuel 12:2). To every one, if he should live long enough, old age

will come, with impaired powers of judgment, sensibility, and activity

(Ecclesiastes 12); but whether it will be honorable, useful, and

happy depends on the course previously pursued and the character

possessed. “Clearness and quickness of intellect are gone; all taste for the

pleasures and delights of sense is gone; ambition is dead; capacity of

change is departed. What is left?

 

Ø      The old man lives in the past and in the future.

Ø      The early child love for the father and mother who hung over his

cradle eighty years ago remains fresh.

Ø      He cannot ‘hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women;’

but he can hear, stealing through almost a century, the old tones, thin

and ghostlike, of the dear ones whom he first learned to love.

Ø      The furthest past is fresh and vivid, and in memory

of it is half his life.

Ø      Also he looks forward familiarly and calmly to the very

near end, and thinks much of death.

 

That thought keeps house with him now, and is nearer to him than the world

of living men is. Thus one-half of his life is memory, and the other half is hope;

and all his hopes are now reduced to one — the hope to die, and then to be laid

down and go to sleep again beside his father and mother (Although I will not

be buried there, I visited the grave sites of my mother and father this morning

this being July 27, 2018 - Oak Hill Cementary - Somerset, Kentucky  - CY).

And so he returns to his city, and passes out of our sight” (Maclaren). Notice:

 

  • HIS CLEAR RECOGNITION OF THE NEARNESS OF HIS

APPROACHING END. How many are the days of the years of my life?”

etc. (vs. 34-35; Genesis 47:9). Many an old man considers not that

he is old, and must shortly leave the world; he rather strives to keep both

his age and his departure out of sight. But such a man as Barzillai is

accustomed to reflect on his actual condition, deems himself a “stranger

and pilgrim on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13; I Chronicles 29:15); and

feels certain that a few more steps will bring him to the end of his journey.

He also understands what is possible and becoming during his brief

continuance, and acts accordingly. “Can anything be more amiable than

these simple and sensible words? What a cheerful and peaceful spirit do

they breathe! and how does he put to shame very many old men of our day,

who, the more the years perform their dismantling work upon them, are so

much the more zealously bent on concealing the decay of their strength

behind the glittering surroundings of vain dignities, titles, and high

alliances!” (Krummacher). “Usually the nearer men approach to the earth,

they are more earthly minded; and, which is strange to amazement, at the

sunset of life are providing for a long day” (W. Bates).

 

  • HIS CHEERFUL RESIGNATION UNDER THE INFIRMITIES OF

ADVANCED AGE. He utters no complaint (such as is too common with

others) at the failure of his mental and bodily powers, the loss of earthly

pleasures formerly possessed, his incapacity for new enterprises and

excitements, which, at an earlier age, might have been suitable and

desirable. His language is singularly free from fretfulness, disappointment,

and discontent. He perceives and acquiesces with a “glad contentment” in

the will of God, who “hath made everything beautiful in its season”

(Ecclesiastes 3:11), and, although deprived of some enjoyments, he is

not destitute of others of a higher order. “It is this, the tasteless meats, the

deafness to the singing men and singing women, the apathy to common

pleasures, for which old age is pitied and deplored; but this is God’s mercy,

it is not his vengeance; He deadens the keenness of our bodily senses only

to guide us to IMMORTALITY; we are disgusted with the pleasures of youth,

we deride the objects of manly ambition, we are wearied with one worldly

trifle or another, that our thoughts may center at last IN GOD!  (Sydney

Smith. ‘On the Pleasures of Old Age’). “Old age may be not only

venerable, but beautiful, and the object of reverence untinctured by

compassion. The intellect, the emotions, the affections (the best of them)

all alive,it is the passions and appetites only that are dead; and who that

is wise and has felt the plague of them, does not, with the aged Cephalus,

in Plato’s ‘Republic,’ account a serene freedom from their clamorous

importunities a compensation for the loss of their tumultuous pleasures?”

(‘Sel. from the Correspondence of R.E.H. Greyson, Esq.’).

 

  • HIS COURTEOUS REFUSAL OF THE PROFFER OF EARTHLY

FAVORS. What can even a monarch give him now? The society, the

pleasures, the honors, of a court; enlarged influence, increased

responsibility, more abundant wealth. Is it worth while for their sake to be

transplanted to a new soil from the place where he has been so long

growing; and when he must so soon be removed from the world

altogether? If he had been a sensual, ambitious, or avaricious man, the

craving for such things would have remained, and led him (like others) to

grasp at their possession, though no longer able to enjoy them or employ

them aright. “What so distressing as to see the withered face of old age dull

and dead to every consideration of eternity, and kindling with life only at

the mention of earthly vanities?” (Blaikie). He declines them, not because

they are sinful and worthless in themselves, but because they are unsuitable

to him. His heart is set on other pleasures; his immediate duties are

determined and sufficient for his strength. He will not take new burdens on

himself, nor be a burden to others. He will accompany the king “a little

way,” to show his loyal devotion, and then return (II Kings 4:13).

“With all the dignity of self-respect, with the courtesy of a true gentleman,

undervaluing not the king’s offers, but his own service to him, with the

prudent love of a father for the son whom he recommends to his kindness,

having outlived nothing really belonging to the true character of the life of

man, he returned with the royal kiss and blessing, master of his own will, to

his own place” (W. Romanis).

 

  • HIS CHERISHED REMEMBRANCE OF PARENTS AND THE

FAMILIAR SCENES OF HIS EARLY DAYS. “Let thy servant, I pray

thee, turn back,” etc. (v. 37). His thoughts turn back to his native place,

his childhood, his father and his mother, whom he must have loved and

honored (Exodus 20:12); and the memory of whom, tender,

affectionate, and reverent, is a fountain of pure and undying joy in his

breast. How much does the happiness of old age depend upon ITS

MEMORIES! Whilst in one case old age is tormented by the recollection of

the pleasures of sin,” in another it is gladdened by the recollection of the

practice of piety; and such recollections mingle with and, in great measure,

determine its anticipations.

 

“Son of Jesse, let me go:

Why should princely honors slay me?

Where the streams of Gilead flow,

Where the light first met mine eye,

Thither would I turn and die;

Where my parents’ ashes lie,

King of Israel! bid them lay me.”

(Sigourney.)

 

  • HIS CONSTANT DESIRE FOR REST in his “long home”

(Ecclesiastes 12:5), “the house of eternity.” It is now a pervading and

increasing feeling. He longs for repose in the sacred spot where his parents

lie, as a pilgrim longs for home. The grave for him has no terrors. “He

looks for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and Maker is God!” 

(Hebrews 11:10,16); and desires to be “gathered with his fathers,” and to

be forever at rest IN GOD (I Samuel 25:1; here ch. 7:12; Psalm 49:15;

Proverbs 14:32; Daniel 12:13). “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart

in peace” (Luke 2:29). “A man should still be bound for home as you see

all creatures be. Let a bird be far from the nest, and it grow towards night,

she will home even upon the wings of the wind. Every poor beast, and

every creature, though the entertainment be but slender at home, yet if you

let it slip loose, it will home as fast as it can. Everything tends to its place;

o       there is its safety,

o       there is its rest,

o       there it is preserved,

o       there it is quiet.

Now, since it is so with every creature, why should it not be so with us?

Why should not we be for our home? This is not our home; here is not our

rest. That is our home:

o       where our chief friends be,

o       where our Father God is,

o       where our Husband Christ is,

o       where our chief kindred and acquaintance be,

o       where all the prophets and apostles and martyrs of

God departed are;

that is our home, and thither should we go” (R. Harris). “I am now passing

through the latest stage of my pilgrimage on earth. My sun is speedily going

down; but ere it wholly disappear, its parting beams stream sweetly forth

upon the face of all things, and cover all the horizon with a blaze of glory.

My Father’s house shines bright before my eyes. Its opening door invites me

onward, and fills me with an earnest longing to be safe at home. My richest

treasures and my dearest hopes are all packed up and gone before, while

my whole soul is on the wing to follow after” (W. Gilpin).

 

  • HIS CONSIDERATE REGARD FOR THE WELFARE OF THOSE

WHO SURVIVE HIM. “Let thy servant Chimham go over,” etc. (vs. 38, 40).

He is not wholly absorbed in thoughts of past time or of his final rest; but is

interested in the younger man now present with him, and sympathizes with

his enjoyments and aspirations. He remembers his own youth. What he

declines for himself, he seeks and obtains for his son (Jeremiah 41:17).

“When the king could not persuade the father, he gladly accepts the charge

of his son. He seems to feel as if the care of this young man would bring

comfort to his heart, which was still bleeding for the loss of Absalom. It

was not in lightness that he made the request, and when on his death bed

he remembered it and charged Solomon to show kindness to the son for

the sake of what his father had done for him when he fled from the face of

Absalom. (I Kings 2:7)  In Barzillai we have a man:

 

Ø      who knows that he is old, but is not distressed by the thought of it;

Ø      who is rich, but is satisfied with his natural possessions;

Ø      of long experience, who has kept up his love of simple pleasures; and

Ø       who is attached to the past, but does not distrust the future” (John Ker).

 

“It is a very reasonable conjecture of Grotius, that David, having a

patrimony in the field of Bethlehem, the place of his nativity, bestowed it

on Barzillai’s son; and from thence this place took the name of Chimham,

which remained unto the days of Jeremiah” (Patrick). His descendants

continue for ages to partake of the fruit of his piety and beneficence, to

perpetuate his name and honor his memory (Ezra 2:61; Nehemiah 7:63;

Psalm 102:28).

 

41 “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?”  Why have our brethren the men

of Judah stolen thee away? Why, that is, have they acted by stealth and

without our concurrence? As they were discussing the matter, their decision

should have been awaited, and David should not have crossed until formally

invited so to do. The half of Israel consisted, probably, of the trans-

Jordanic tribes, upon whom those on the west of the river looked

contemptuously, and of Shimei and his Benjamites, and a few more in the

immediate neighborhood. The trans-Jordanie tribes are probably those

described in v. 39 as “the people who went with David over Jordan;” for

certainly a powerful body of the men who had defeated Absalom would

escort David back to Jerusalem to overawe the malcontents and prevent

any opposition to his return.

 

42 “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?”  The king is near of kin to us. The pronouns are singular

throughout: “He is near of kin to me. Why art thou angry? Have I eaten... I

have ten parts… Why didst thou despise me?” and so everywhere. This is

much more piquant; but such personification is contrary to the genius of

our language. Have I eaten, etc.? Saul had boasted of enriching the

Benjamites (I Samuel 22:7), but probably the speaker intended only to

protest the purity of his motives.

 

43 “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.”

I have ten parts in the king. One tribe disappears, which

certainly was not Benjamin; nor was this warlike state thus early awed into

obedience to Judah. In I Kings 11:31, 35, again, we have ten tribes

given to Jeroboam, and here, also, not only must Benjamin be counted, but

be included in the tribes rent from the house of David. The tribe that had

disappeared was that of Simeon, partly lost among the desert races south

of the Negeb, and partly absorbed by Judah. Its position always made it

unimportant, and no trace can be found of its taking any part in the

political life of Israel. Some strangers from Simeon are mentioned in

II Chronicles 15:9 as coming to the great gathering of Judah and Benjamin at

Jerusalem after Asa had defeated Zerah the Ethiopian; and Josiah carried

out his reformation in Simeon as well as in Manasseh, Ephraim, and

Naphtali (II Chronicles 34:6). But it never seems to have emerged from

a state of semi-barbarism, and no town can be found within its territories.

We must, therefore, omit Simeon, and of course the Levites, who took no

part in politics, and thus we have Judah standing alone, and all the rest

determined to resist any attempt on its part to establish a hegemony, and

restless even at having to endure the more ancient claims of Ephraim to be

the leading tribe. By the ten parts which they claim in the king, they meant

that, as king, he belonged equally to all, and not to his own tribe only. In

this they were expressing a sound view of the royal position. The next

words, literally, are, “And also in David I am more than thou;” to which

the Septuagint adds, “And I am the firstborn rather than thou.” This is in

accordance with I Chronicles 5:1, and states an important claim always

made by Ephraim; whereas the Hebrew, “I in David am more than thou,” is

unintelligible. Except upon the score of numbers already stated, the right of

each tribe in David was equal. Why then, etc.? rather, Why hast thou

despised me? Was not my word the first for bringing back the king? (see

v. 9, and note on v. 40). Were fiercer. While the Israelites debated the

matter calmly, the men of Judah met their complaint with harsh and bitter

rejoinders. This explains the feud which followed.

 

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