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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 16

Preacher's Complete Homiletical CommentaryPreacher's Homiletical

Verses 1-4


2 Samuel 16:1. “Met him.” “Ziba had therefore gone on in advance of the army (as Hushai did) in order more easily to secure David’s attention after the first disorder was over.” (Erdmann.) “Bunches of raisins,” i.e., raisin cakes. “Summer fruits,” probably fig-cakes, as in 1 Samuel 25:18. “A bottle,” a skin.

2 Samuel 16:2. “The asses,” etc. “The manner of Ziba’s trick was this (2 Samuel 19:26). Mephibosheth, learning of David’s flight, had ordered asses saddled for himself and his servants, in order to repair to the king in token of his faithful attachment. Ziba had taken the asses together with the presents intended by Mephibosheth for the king, come to the latter, and left the helpless Mephibosheth in the lurch.” (Erdmann.)



I. Benevolent acts are often performed from motives of policy and sometimes at another man’s expense. Although it is not our business at all times to inquire minutely into the sources whence men obtain the means of doing deeds of charity and apparent kindness, or to be severe in passing judgment upon them, the interests of truth and justice sometimes demand such an investigation and sentence. For instance, in olden times, the smuggler and the highwayman were sometimes lavish in giving of the fruits of their dishonesty to the poor and needy, but in doing so they gave what did not belong to them and therefore deserved blame, and not praise. And men now-a-days often give away what they have gotten by means quite as unlawful, though more outwardly respectable. We can hardly suppose that in any such case what is given is given from a right motive. In the case of Ziba, the motive for his liberality was evidently as corrupt as its source. We cannot believe that he was prompted by the same feelings as were David’s other benefactors. The character of the man forbids such a supposition, and we must conclude that he was farsighted enough to see that David would be victorious, and credulous enough to think that he would not discover his falsehood. Like the unjust steward of our Lord’s parable, he could well afford to be generous at his master’s expense, and although his selfishness might be less palpable, his dishonesty warrants us in concluding it was quite as real.

II. The best of men often err in their judgment of others. David here looks upon Ziba as his true friend, and upon Mephibosheth as a most ungrateful man. In this we know he was altogether mistaken, yet how entirely were appearances in favour of his opinion. In these days, in a civilized country, a man could not suffer such a wrong as Mephibosheth here suffered at the hand of David, for he would not be condemned without an opportunity of defending himself, but in other forms men often suffer much from the calumny and mistakes of others. A wicked and designing person, for his own selfish ends, falsely accuses a good man to his friend, the accused person is ignorant of the charge, circumstances seem against him, and the very esteem in which his friend has hitherto held him seems to increase his indignation at the supposed treachery. For, if David had not had so great a regard for Mephibosheth, he would not have been stung so keenly by his supposed desertion, and probably would not have so hastily passed so severe a sentence upon him. In view of his error let us learn to be slow in believing evil of any, especially of those whom we have hitherto had reason to regard as honest and true, and let us be thankful that above and over all human judges there is One who cannot err in His judgment, because “He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes, neither reprove (decide) after the hearing of His ears, but will judge with righteousness and reprove (decide) with equity.” (Isaiah 11:3-4).


2 Samuel 16:4. Flatterers are generally backbiters; for it is as easy to them to forge slanders of the absent as to pretend affection and respect for the present.… When much treachery and ingratitude have been experienced, men are apt to become too suspicious, and to listen to every plausible tale of calumny. The mind being greatly agitated, views everything through a false medium, and we are naturally most precipitate when least capable of judging aright.—Scott.

There is often more danger, and therefore more need of caution, with those who profess an especial regard for us, than with those who are avowed enemies. It is the remark of an old writer (Fuller), that “Ziba’s gifts did David more harm than Shimei’s curses, for those betrayed him into an act of injustice, whilst these reproved his patience.”—Lindsay.

Verses 5-19


2 Samuel 16:5. “Bahurim.” (See note on 2 Samuel 3:16).

2 Samuel 16:6. “On his right hand,” etc. i.e., “On the right and left of the king.” (Keil).

2 Samuel 16:7. “Come out,” etc., or “Away, away” “Thou bloody man.” “He may possibly have attributed to David the murder of Ishbosheth and Abner.” (Keil.) “Other, less probably, think also of Saul and Jonathan, and even of Uriah.” (Erdmann.)

2 Samuel 16:8. “The Lord,” etc. “Shimei is so far devout and religious that he ascribes the present state of things wholly to Jehovah, but he ignores Samuel’s sentence of rejection (1 Samuel 15:0) and otherwise shows a bad spirit.” (Translator of Lange’s Commentary). “Taken in thy mischief,” rather “thou art in thy misfortune.”

2 Samuel 16:10. “What have I?” etc. Lit., “What to me and you?” i.e., what feelings and desires have we in common. It is evident that Joab also desired to put Shimei to death. “The Lord hath said,” etc. “By allowing him to do so. Since nothing happens against, or without the will of Him.” (Wordsworth.) In the East they make use of bold figures, much less common among us, although not altogether unknown. They speak of the mediate cause without saying it is the mediate cause, and use the very expression which denotes the immediate cause. We should regard Shimei as an instrument in the hands of Providence. In the East they go a far greater length. There God has done and commanded all that men do contrary to His commandments.” (Jamieson.)

2 Samuel 16:12. “Affliction.” Some translate this word into “eye,” and understand David to refer to his tears; but the correct translation appears to be “iniquity,” on which Erdmann remarks, “God’s looking upon his iniquity” can then only be a gracious and merciful looking.

2 Samuel 16:14. “Weary.” Ayephim. Most scholars regard this as the name of a place since, if it is rendered weary, there is no mention of the place referred to by the word there. Jamieson, however, remarks that the absence of the particle of motion favours the English version. There is no other mention of a place of this name but that, as Kiel remarks, applies to many other places whose existence is never called in question.

2 Samuel 16:15. “Men of Israel.” “Very significant: The old malcontents, 2 Samuel 2:8-9. (Thenius).



I. The day of adversity is the day when we may look for insult from the mean-spirited. We hear nothing of Shimei in the day of David’s prosperity, although the deeds for which he upbraided him had been done long before. A truly noble man will reprove another from a sense of duty, and will do it without considering what the consequences to himself may be. There are also many men who, although they will not risk their own safety by rebuking the real or supposed faults of those who have power to punish them for so doing, have too much humanity in them to do so when their respective positions are reversed. But, alas for our human nature! there are those also who, like the cur, which only barks when he thinks the object of his dislike has no means of defence, gladly avail themselves of another’s misfortune to charge him with all manner of iniquity. Although David, as it appears from the narrative, had even now the means of avenging himself, it is quite evident from what took place afterwards that Shimei would not have acted as he did if he had not felt tolerably secure.

II. The manner and circumstances in which an accusation is made, and the spirit in which it is borne, will often help us to decide as to its truth or falsehood. If we knew nothing of David before this event, as we know nothing of Shimei, we should conclude that he did not deserve the character here given to him. Great as his fall had been on the one great transgression of his life, the charges brought against him by Shimei were false—he was not a blood-thirsty tyrant who had risen to power by injustice and cruelty. But where there is manifest cowardice, we may safely conclude—without any other proof—that there is falsehood. The more meekly, too, an accusation is borne, the less likely is it to be true, Such a spirit as David here displays never goes hand in hand with such selfish ambition as Shimei here lays to his charge, and the accuser here is as surely condemned out of his own mouth, and by his own conduct, as the accused man justifies himself by his humble words and by his patient forbearance.


2 Samuel 16:5. There is no small cruelty in the picking out of a time for mischief; that word would scarce gall at one season, which at another killeth. The same shaft flying with the wind pierces deep, which against it can hardly find strength to stick upright. The valour and justice of children condemn it for injuriously cowardly, to strike their adversary when he is once down. It is the murder of the tongue to insult upon those whom God hath bumbled, and to draw blood of that back which is yet blue from the hand of the Almighty.—Bp. Hall.

Was not David rightly punished by Shimei’s railing, for his hearkening so readily to Ziba’s flattering? Was not he justly spoiled of his honours, who had so unjustly spoiled Mephibosheth of his good?—Trapp.

2 Samuel 16:11. Even while David laments the rebellion of his son, he gains by it, and makes that the argument of his patience, which was the exercise of it; “Behold my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life; how much more now may this Benjamite do it?” The wickedness of an Absalom may rob his father of comfort, but shall help to add to his father’s goodness. It is the advantage of great crosses, that they swallow up the less. One man’s sin cannot be excused by another’s, the lesser by the greater. If Absalom be a traitor, Shimei may not curse and rebel; but the passion conceived from the indignity of a stranger, may be abated by the harder measure of our own; if we can therefore suffer, because we have suffered, we have profited by our affliction. A weak heart faints with every addition of succeeding trouble; the strong recollects itself, and is grown so skilful, that it bears off one mischief with another.—Bp. Hall.

2 Samuel 16:12. According to His usual dealing with His poor afflicted. Howsoever, if He bring not down His will to theirs, He will bring up their will to His, which will make infinite amends for all their patience.—Trapp.

We may here learn how falsely and wickedly men sometimes wrest the providence of God, to justify their unjust surmises, and gratify their malevolent passions. Many who are themselves living without God in the world, have, at the same time, no scruple in speaking of the calamities which befal others, as Divine judgments … Job’s friends condemned him on this false principle, and our Lord censures a similar rash judgment which some in His day had formed of certain others, in consequence of their extraordinary sufferings.—Lindsay.

Verses 20-23


2 Samuel 16:20. “Give counsel,” etc. This is the first cabinet council on record.” (Jamieson).

2 Samuel 16:21. “Go in unto,” etc. “This advice was sagacious enough. Lying with the king’s concubines was an appropriation of the royal harem, and, as such, a complete usurpation of the throne (see at 2 Samuel 3:7) which would render any reconciliation between Absalom and his father utterly impossible, and therefore would of necessity instigate the followers of Absalom with all the greater firmness. This was what Ahithophel hoped to attain by his advice. For unless the breach was too great to be healed, with the affection of David towards his sons, which might in reality be called weakness, it was always a possible thing that he should forgive Absalom, and in this case Ahithophel would be the one to suffer. But under the superintendence of God this advice was to effect the fulfilment of the threat held over David in 2 Samuel 12:8.” (Keil.) Perhaps Ahithophel was also avenging the wrong done to Bathsheba. (See note on 2 Samuel 11:3.)

2 Samuel 16:22. “The top of the house.” The same roof where David’s look at Bathsheba led him into the path of sin.

2 Samuel 16:23. “The oracle of God.” That is, the counsel of Ahithophel had almost the weight of a Divine command with both father and son.



I. When all the plans of the wicked have been worked out, God’s counsel will be found to prevail. Sometimes a man may permit a thief to escape from his grasp and run away from him because he knows that in front of him is a precipice, and that every step he takes brings him nearer to his final fall. He has only to let him pursue his own course and he will be the author of his own ruin. So, when men break away from God, and seem to think they can leave Him out of their calculations, He sometimes leaves them entirely to their own devices, and they become their own destroyers, and at the same time fulfil the Divine purposes. At this crisis in the history of the people of Israel it might have seemed to some good men that God had entirely withdrawn from the nation, and that these bad men were having their own way in everything. The last assumption was true, but not the first—Ahithophel and Absalom met with no hindrance as yet in the execution of their designs, but God was looking on and seeing in them the instruments of His will, as they unconsciously executed a part of the sentence against David. (2 Samuel 12:11).

II. The sin which the parent commits in secret will probably be committed openly by the child. Children show themselves apt pupils in the school of vice, and often go far beyond their teachers in the wrong direction. None of David’s virtues were reproduced in Absalom, but his deed of sin was not only closely imitated but far exceeded, and what the father did in secret the son did not blush to do in the sight of all Israel. Let no parent or any man deceive himself by thinking that those under his influence will stop in the path of sin just where he stopped—it is a downward road and they who set out upon it neither know where they will stop themselves, nor can they stay the course of those who may follow in their steps. Let the father or mother who breaks God’s law and blushes for the sin, think how likely it is that their child may make a boast of the same deed of shame.


It is not improbable that Ahithophel remembered God’s denunciation against David by the prophet Nathan, and therefore considered it a deep stroke of policy thus to take advantage of existing circumstances, to establish the Divine purposes. He might hope perhaps, thus to encourage a belief, that Absalom was a chosen instrument in the hands of God for the execution of His judgments, and consequently, that all opposition to him was both wicked and fruitless. But Ahithophel with all his wisdom, was not wise enough to know that the rule of man’s conduct is not the secret purposes, but the revealed precepts of God; that a man may be fulfilling the former, yet incurring God’s severe displeasure by transgressing the latter.—Lindsay.

2 Samuel 16:23. David’s chief counsellors were God’s testimonies (Psalms 119:24) to these as to the test he brought all counsel given him, whether by Ahithophel or any other … Absalom and his adherents followed Ahithophel’s counsel, howsoever, as infallible, because it was for their purpose.—Trapp.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 16". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/phc/2-samuel-16.html. Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1892.
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