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the Week of Proper 2 / Ordinary 7
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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 16

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

Verses 1-23

2 Samuel 16:3 . Where is thy master’s son? Ziba had been servant to Jonathan. Here is another sad case superinduced by a civil war. Mephibosheth, a prince at the mercy of a covetous and a lying servant, a traitor who by accusing his master of high treason, obtained the grant of Saul’s estates. We should always hear the other party.

2 Samuel 16:7 . Shimei cursed David. See on Genesis 9:25.

2 Samuel 16:11 . Let him curse, for the Lord hath bidden him; spoken subjunctively, it may be the Lord hath bidden him.

2 Samuel 16:14 . The king and all the people came weary, and refreshed themselves there. That is, at the fords of Jordan opposite to Mahanaim, to be ready to pass over on the approach of Absalom’s army, and to receive the king’s friends every moment flocking to the royal standard. Here, according to Josephus, he numbered his army and appointed the officers.

2 Samuel 16:21 . Thy father’s concubines. This advice was unique in its kind, and consummate in its character. Truly Absalom and his counsellor had a spirit of error sent from God.


What a chapter of instruction is this to princes, and to nations: what a monitor to loyalty under reverses, and to consistency of character. A civil war lays open all the vileness of the human heart. David having left Jerusalem weeping, and wisely without a garrison, wished to collect his forces into one body all the way to Jordan. Among these came Ziba the servant of Saul, whom the king had reappointed to the stewardship of his master’s lands. He brought rich and seasonable presents. But he had deceived Mephibosheth; and saddled the ass for himself instead of his lord, that he might accuse him of treason to the king. Ziba was made rich, as servant of Saul’s house; yet through covetousness he wished to destroy his master, that he might inherit his wealth: and taking advantage of David when his soul was loaded with anguish, and his heart softened with grief, he obtained a promise of the land. A servant, who through interest accuses his master, should seldom be credited without the fairest evidence. The king on leaving Jerusalem was beset with a hypocrite, and on entering Bahurim he was assailed by Shimei, an open foe. Had Saul’s house reigned, this man had been a prince. Hence, disappointment, envy and malice, had long lurked in his heart; and now he ventured to disgorge the whole on his afflicted sovereign. Impelled by implacable passions, he confined not his reproaches to truth. He accused the king as the cause of every visitation which befel that house. He went on cursing him, and throwing stones towards him, indicating that he ought to be stoned for his complicated crimes. It is cruel to reproach any man suffering under the hand of God; but adversity makes manifest the human heart. By this strange conduct Shimei justly forfeited his life; and his curses and stones ultimately recoiled on his own head.

David’s restraining Abishai from smiting Shimei, is characteristic of a great and noble mind, actuated by a high sense of superior virtue. Deeply affected with the rebellion, he regarded his own sins as the principal cause; and viewing himself in God’s hands, and as a criminal at his bar, he would not inflict justice on another criminal. So our blessed Lord, while on the cross, prayed for those who mocked and derided and falsely accused him. It is the best and brightest ornament of a christian to bear calumny and reproach in the spirit of our Master.

But what must Shimei feel, after thus exhausting his malice in the frantic effusions of passion? What must he feel in his chamber, when he found his life had been spared, and no notice taken of his wickedness? Must he not say, surely David, who has spared my life under all these atrocious provocations, could never be accessory to the fall of Saul’s house. I have acted the part of a traitor and a fool; and if the king shall return in peace, perhaps my life will be required for my folly. Acute indeed are the reproaches of conscience, after a violent excess of passion.

Leaving the king reposed on the Jordan, and encreasing in strength, we are conducted back to Jerusalem. This city Absalom had entered, and almost on the steps of his father. In the council, Ahithophel, accounted an oracle of the age, and supposed to be grandfather of Bathsheba, was first consulted. This old and wicked man perceiving many in the army afraid that a compromise would take place between the father and the son, and consequently that all the blame of the revolt would be thrown on them, advised Absalom openly to dishonour his father’s bed; then every one would be confident that no reconciliation could ever be effected. This was to brand the prince with the indelible infamy of Reuben, and of PhÅ“nix’s sin. But though this advice might remove the fears in view, it did far more mischief in revolting the feelings of every virtuous mind. He who advises his sovereign against morality, advises him against his God. It was artful advice, and being adapted to the well known passions of the son, it was immediately put in execution. Let us learn never to do evil that good may come; for here the adviser and the advised perished in their folly, and were monuments of vengeance to all future ages. He is a base minister who flatters the royal passion.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 16". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/jsc/2-samuel-16.html. 1835.
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