Passing over the mountain, David was met by Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who had with him two donkeys carrying a large provision of bread, raisins and summer fruits, as well as a skin of wine. Questioned by David Ziba told him that these things were for David's men. David was puzzled that Mephibosheth's servant should come with these things that evidently belonged to Mephibosheth yet Mephibosheth was not there. Ziba then reported that Mephibosheth had chosen to remain in Jerusalem with the expectation that the kingdom of Israel would be handed over to him (v.3).
David ought to have immediately suspected that there was something questionable in Ziba's words. Ziba was evidently not bringing these things with Mephibosheth's permission. But more than this, Mephibosheth's attitude toward David had before proven admirable. Would he change so drastically? Also, how would he ever expect to have the kingdom when he was crippled on both feet and Absalom was an attractive, popular man who had gained the admiration of the people? In fact, later it was proven that Ziba's accusation was totally false (ch.19:24-30). He had taken advantage of Mephibosheth's lameness to see that he had no way of coming to David. But Mephibosheth had been in such mourning for David's absence that he had not trimmed his beard nor cared for his feet nor even washed his clothes all the time David was away. David had not fully appreciated Mephibosheth's attachment to him, as he ought to have.
However, David was so deceived by Ziba's false words that he judged the matter without inquiry. He told Ziba that now all Mephibosheth's property was to belong to Ziba. This was an unjust judgment simply in the fact that he was taking away from Mephibosheth all that rightly belonged to him and giving it to a servant who had no right to it at all. Of course it was worse than this, as the subsequent history proved. The fawning reply of Ziba was only hypocrisy, "I humbly bow before you, that I may find favor in your sight, my lord, 0 king." In this matter, David's wisdom failed him greatly.
ln contrast to David's sad failure of wisdom in the case of Ziba's deception, in the succeeding incident David shows a wisdom and self-judgment that is most commendable. A man named Shimei, of the house of Saul, came out from Bahurim cursing David and throwing stones at him and his servants (v.6). His words too were insulting and bitter, calling David a "bloodthirsty man" and " a man of Belial" (worthlessness), and declaring that the Lord was now bringing judgment on David because David reigning in place of Saul. He was inferring that David was guilty of the deaths of the men of Saul's house, and now God was punishing him for this.
What he was saying was not actually true, but David discerned that there was some underlying truth m the fact of David's having shed blood without proper cause. Abishai was anxious to immediately cut off Shimei's head, and urged David to let him do it (v.9). But David's response is one that every believer should take deeply to heart. He refuses the very suggestion, for he sees beyond Shimei, to realize that God had told him to curse David. Of course Shimei's bitter attitude did not have God's approval, but God had not hindered him from cursing, and David knew that he deserved cursing, even though Shimei was going beyond what was even true. How much better then for David to learn from God in this matter rather than to silence Shimei by killing him. In fact, he says that his own son Absalom was doing far worse than Shimei, seeking David's life (v.2). He had already been mourning before God in recognizing God's serious dealings with him in this painful experience. If he was to bow to God's governing hand in Absalom's case, then surely he was to do the same in the case of Shimei.
What he says therefore in verse 12 was true. If one bows to the government of God, to leave matters in the hand of God in such cases is the way of true blessing in the end. David proved it in experience.
David's attitude therefore stands in sharp contrast to that of Shimei, who had reason to be surprised that David did not lower himself to the same offensive bitterness in defending himself. Yet Shimei continued his cursing, throwing stones and kicking up dust for some time. Shimei was evidently very certain that David would never regain the throne and therefore did not hesitate to abuse him when he was down. When David did return, Shimei found himself humiliated to the pont of having to recant and apologize to David (ch.19:18-20).
After the long day's trip the king and all the people with him became weary and took time while still on the road to refresh themselves.
In the meantime Absalom, Ahithophel and the many conspirators had taken possession of Jerusalem. Absalom was surprised by the presence of Hushai, who greeted him enthusiastically, "Long live the king! Long live the king!" Of course we know that Hushai really meant King David, but he knew Absalom would not see through this. Yet Absalom knew that Hushai was a close friend of David. and asks the pointed question, "is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?" (v.17). Hushai's answer, not at all being a lie, was yet a masterpiece of deception. He knew Absalom's pride and took advantage of this in his speaking. "No," he says, "but whom the Lord and this people and all the man of Israel choose, his will I be, and with him I will remain." Of course Absalom thought this applied him. Hushai had confidence that really applied to David. More than this, he adds "Whom should I serve? Should I not serve in the presence of his son? As I have served in your father's presence, so will I be in your presence." This was so worded that Absalom thought Hushai would serve in devotion to Absalom, but Hushai had in mind that even in Absalom's presence he would still be serving David, just as he had done before. Absalom accepted him without further question.
The counsel of Ahithophel to Absalom in verse 21 can only be disgusting to any upright heart, but Ahithophel was determined to sacrifice decency to his cause of vindictive hatred against David. He wanted to be sure that the rift between Absalom and David would be irreconcilable. This was necessary if Absalom's kingdom was to be established. Absalom accepted his counsel and a tent was spread on the top of the house (the very place where David's sin with Bathsheba began), where everyone knew that Absalom was committing fornication with David's concubines. Thus it was made clear that Absalom was absolutely rejecting his father. Yet what a reminder is this of God's words to David in chapter 11:11-12 that the results of David's sin would be emblazoned before the eyes of the people!
Verse 23 assures us that the counsel of Ahithophel was regarded with highest respect, as though he had the wisdom of God behind him David had valued his counsel, and so it was with Absalom also. Of course he did not speak as God's oracle, but his counsel was given with unusual discernment of what would best serve the interests of the kingdom, for he saw his own interests as bound up with this.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 16". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany