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Bible Commentaries

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

2 Samuel 19

Verse 5


(5) And Joab came.—This is a continuation of 2 Samuel 19:1, the intervening verses being parenthetical. Joab’s whole character appears strikingly in his conduct on this occasion. With his hand red with the blood of the beloved son, he goes, in the hardest and most unfeeling terms, to reproach the father for giving way to his grief; he treats the king with thorough insolence, and with the air of a superior; yet withal he counsels David for his own welfare and for that of the kingdom as a wise and loyal statesman. It may be doubted whether David yet knew of Joab’s part in the death of Absalom.

The lives of thy sons.—Had Absalom succeeded he would no doubt not only have slain his father, but also, after the Oriental custom, have put out of the way all who might possibly have become rival claimants of the throne. (Comp. Judges 9:5; 1 Kings 15:29; 1 Kings 16:11; 2 Kings 10:6-7; 2 Kings 11:1.)

Verse 7

(7) I swear by the Lord.—The statement which Joab emphasises with this solemn oath is not that ne will lead the people into revolt—he does not seem to have conceived, far less to have expressed any such design—but it is simply an assurance of the extreme danger of the course David was pursuing, put in such a strong and startling way as to rouse him from the selfishness of his sorrow.

Verse 8

(8) For Israel had fled.—Translate, but Israel fled; “Israel” being used here, as throughout this narrative (see 2 Samuel 16:15; 2 Samuel 16:18; 2 Samuel 17:5; 2 Samuel 17:14-15; 2 Samuel 17:24; 2 Samuel 17:26; 2 Samuel 18:6-7; 2 Samuel 18:16-17), for those who had espoused the cause of Absalom.

Verse 9

(9) The king saved us.—With the collapse of the rebellion the accompanying infatuation passed away, and the people began to remember how much they owed to David. There seems to have been a general disposition among the people to return to their allegiance, yet the movement was without organisation or leadership.

Verse 10

(10) We anointed over us.—There is no other mention of the anointing of Absalom, and it certainly would not have been performed by the high-priests. It may have been done by some prophet, or this may be a mere form of expression taken from the custom of anointing, and only mean “whom we appointed over us.”

Why speak ye not?—There was evidently a hesitation and delay, arising probably from a mere want of organisation, but yet of dangerous tendency. It is under these circumstances that David shows that politic power which had so often before stood him in good stead. The LXX. very unnecessarily places at the end of this verse the clause which is found at the end of 2 Samuel 19:11.

Verse 11

(11) The elders of Judah.—Judah was naturally particularly slow in returning to its allegiance. It had shown especial ingratitude to David, and had formed the cradle and centre of the rebellion, and even now Jerusalem probably had a garrison of Absalom’s soldiers. They might naturally doubt how they would be received, and their military organisation in Absalom’s interest threw especial obstacles in their way. The last words of the verse, “to his house,” may be an accidental repetition from the previous clause.

Verse 12

(12) My bones and my flesh.—More exactly, bone, as in 2 Samuel 19:13 and 2 Samuel 5:1. Of course the tribe of Judah, from which David sprung, was more closely connected with him by blood than any other; but the point likely to influence them was that the king recognised this relationship.

Verse 13

(13) Say ye to Amasa.—Amasa, like Joab, was David’s nephew, although possibly his mother may have been only half-sister to David. In this offer of the command-in-chief to the rebel general, David adopted a bold, but a rash and unjust policy. Amasa should have been punished, not rewarded for his treason. He had given no evidence of loyalty, nor was there proof that he would be trustworthy. Moreover, this appointment would be sure to provoke the jealousy and hostility of Joab. But David had long been restless under the overbearing influence of Joab (see 2 Samuel 19:22; 2 Samuel 16:10; 2 Samuel 3:39), and now since he had murdered Absalom, was determined to be rid of him. He therefore took advantage of the opportunity by this means to win over to himself what remained of the military organisation of Absalom.

Verse 15

(15) Judah came to Gilgal.—The two parties met at the Jordan, David coming from Mahanaim to the eastern side of the ford, near Jericho, and the representatives of the tribe of Judah to Gilgal on the opposite bank.

Verse 16

(16) Shimei the son of Gera.—See Note on 2 Samuel 16:5. It is evident that Shimei was a man of influence and importance, and his accession to David at this juncture was of great value. At the same time, it is plain that Shimei himself was only a time-server, and that he was thoroughly disloyal in his heart, and only came now to David because he saw that his was “the winning cause.”

Verse 17

(17) Before the king.—Comp. the same phrase in 2 Samuel 20:8. In both cases “before” is, literally, before the face of, and is equivalent to saying “they went over Jordan to meet the king.” In their eagerness to prove their very doubtful allegiance, they dashed through the waters of the ford, and met the king on the eastern side of the Jordan.

Verse 18

(18) As he was come over.—Rather, as he was coming over, as he was about to cross. Shimei and Ziba met the king on the east of Jordan, and his crossing is not spoken of until 2 Samuel 19:31-40.

Verse 20

(20) The house of Joseph.—Shimei was not strictly of “the house of Joseph,” but of Benjamin; and it is plain that Joseph, as the name of the most prominent member, stands for all the tribes outside of Judah. This usage is well recognised at a later time (see 1 Chronicles 5:1-2; Amos 5:15), and it has hence been argued that it indicates a late date for the composition of the book; but it is also found in Psalms 80:1-2; Psalms 81:5 (the date of which it would be rash to attempt to fix), in the reign of Solomon, 1 Kings 11:28, and probably very early in Judges 1:35. There is no reason why the expression may not have been used at the earliest date when there began to be a certain separation and distinction between Judah and the other tribes, which was soon after the conquest of Canaan.

Verse 22

(22) Adversaries.—The word in the original here is Satan.

Verse 23

(23) The king sware unto him.—This oath of David assuring immunity to Shimei brings to mind his dying charge to Solomon concerning him (1 Kings 2:8-9): “His hoar head bring thou down to the grave with blood.” The whole transaction is to be viewed from a political point. Shimei had been guilty of high treason in David’s distress; at his return he had confessed his fault, and exerted himself to help on David’s restoration to the throne. He had accordingly been pardoned, and David, somewhat rashly, had confirmed this pardon with an oath, in such a way that he was unable to punish any subsequent treasonable tendencies showing themselves in Shimei. From the character of the man, however, and from Solomon’s address to him in 1 Kings 2:44, it is plain that he remained thoroughly disloyal. David saw this, and hindered by his oath from treating him as he deserved, pointed out the case to Solomon. Solomon settled the matter by a compact (into which Shimei willingly entered), that his life should be forfeited whenever he should go out of Jerusalem. There he was under supervision; elsewhere he could not be trusted. After a few years he violated this condition, and was executed. David had made a rash oath, and observed it to the letter, but no farther, towards a thorough traitor.

Verse 24

(24) Came down to meet.—The obvious meaning of this is that Mephibosheth came down from the high land of Jerusalem to meet the king in the Jordan valley, and in this case the following verse should be translated, “And it came to pass when Jerusalem” (meaning its inhabitants, with Mephibosheth among them) “was come to meet the king.” Some writers, however, prefer to keep 2 Samuel 19:25 as it is, and to suppose that during the rebellion Mephibosheth had taken refuge on his ancestral estate near the heights of Gibeah, and that he came thence to Jerusalem to meet David. In either case the signs of deep mourning used by Mephibosheth “from the day the king departed” were an evidence of his loyalty. The word for beard is used only for the moustache.

Verse 25

(25) Wentest not thou with me?—David had heard and believed the story of Mephibosheth’s ingratitude and treachery (2 Samuel 16:3-4), and his present remonstrance is so gentle and kindly as to show that Mephibosheth’s appearance at once produced an impression, and suggested in David’s mind a doubt of the truth of what Ziba had told him.

Verse 26

(26) My servant deceived me.—It now appears that the two asses laden with provisions which Ziba had brought to David in his flight (2 Samuel 16:1-2) were those which he had been ordered to prepare for his master. When Ziba had stolen away with these, Mephibosheth was left helpless in his lameness. Most of the ancient versions read “said to him, Saddle,” &c., but the sense is plain enough as the text stands.

Verse 29

(29) Divide the land.—When Ziba came to David with his false report about Mephibosheth, David had instantly transferred to him all his master’s possessions (2 Samuel 16:4); he now saw the injustice of his hasty action, and ought at least to have reversed it, if not to have punished Ziba besides. Either, however, because he had still some doubt of the real merits of the case, or more probably because he was unwilling for political reasons to offend Ziba, he resorts to that halfway and compromise course which was both weak and unjust. The circumstances of the case, the continued mourning of Mephibosheth, the silence of Ziba, concur with the physical infirmity of Mephibosheth to show the truth of his story.

Verse 32

(32) Provided the king of sustenance.—An old use of the preposition “of,” meaning with. The word is the same here as that translated in the next verse “feed thee,” and there is an especial fitness in the use of the same word in both cases which is lost in the English Version. It is translated “nourish” in Genesis 45:11; Genesis 47:12; Genesis 1:21, &c., and “sustain” in 1 Kings 17:9, Nehemiah 9:21, &c. The king proposes to return Barzillai’s service in kind, but multiplied manifold.

Verse 37

(37) Chimham.—It appears from 1 Kings 2:7, where David gives charge to Solomon to care for Barzillai’s sons, that Chimham was his son. This might be supposed from the narrative here, but is not expressly stated. In Jeremiah 41:17 mention is made of “the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem,” from which it is supposed that David conveyed to Chimham a house upon his own paternal estate.

Verse 39

(39) All the people.—As “Israel” has been used throughout this narrative for Absalom’s supporters, so “the people” is used for those faithful to David.

Verse 40

(40) All the people.—The tribe of Judah, deeply moved by the measures and words of David, had united generally in his restoration; the other tribes, who had first proposed to return to their allegiance (2 Samuel 19:9-10), had not had time to join in the present movement, or had not generally known of it, and only Shimei with his one thousand Benjamites, and doubtless others living near, together with the tribes east of the Jordan, represented altogether as “half the people of Israel,” were able to come together.

Verse 41

(41) All the men of Israel.—When David had crossed the Jordan, he naturally made a halt at Gilgal, and then the representatives of the remaining tribes came to him, full of wrath at the apparent neglect of them. Jealousies between the tribes, and especially between Judah on the one side and the ten tribes on the other, had all along existed, the tribe of Ephraim being particularly sensitive (Judges 8:1; Judges 12:1). By the successful wars of Saul these jealousies were held in check, but broke out in national separation on his death; after seven and a half years they were partially healed by David, and were kept in abeyance by the wise administration of Solomon, but at his death they broke out with fresh power, and dismembered the nation for ever.

Verse 42

(42) Have we eaten.—Judah justifies its course by its nearness of relationship to the king, and repels the idea of having received any especial favours from him. In this, then, may be a taunt to the Benjamites on account of the partiality shown them by Saul. On the other hand, the Israelites urge their claim of numerical superiority. The whole dispute is a remarkable testimony to the fairness of David’s government as between the tribes.

Verse 43

(43) More right in David than ye.—The LXX. adds “and I am the firstborn rather than thou,”—an unnecessary gloss, and certainly untrue as respects Benjamin, who was probably prominent in the discussion.

That our advice should not be first had.—Better, was not our word the first for bringing back the king? (Comp. 2 Samuel 19:9-10.)

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Bibliographical Information
Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 19". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.