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Bible Commentaries
2 Samuel 19

The Pulpit CommentariesThe Pulpit Commentaries

Verses 1-43


2 Samuel 19:2

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 (2 Samuel 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.

2 Samuel 19:5

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 eared 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 uprise 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.

2 Samuel 19:8

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" (2 Samuel 15:13; and see 2 Samuel 16:15, 2 Samuel 16:18; 2Sa 17:14, 2 Samuel 17:15, 2 Samuel 17:24, 2Sa 17:26; 2 Samuel 18:6, 2 Samuel 18:7, 2 Samuel 18:16, 2 Samuel 18:17).

2 Samuel 19:10

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 2 Samuel 16:1-23. was extremely hurried, the conspirators must have kept their counsel well, and whatever rumours 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.

2 Samuel 19:11

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 politic, therefore, to assure them of David's kindly feelings, and that overtures on their side would be readily received, and the past forgiven.

2 Samuel 19:12

My bones; Hebrew, my bone and my flesh, so nearly related as to be part of my own self (Genesis 2:23).

2 Samuel 19:13

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 politic act. It was to some extent just, for Joab was a man stained with many murders; but politic 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 wilful 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.

2 Samuel 19:14

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 favour. 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.

2 Samuel 19:15

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.

2 Samuel 19:16

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 Stud, 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 favourable 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.

2 Samuel 19:17

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 favour by a show of excessive zeal, and forded the Jordan, so as to be the first to welcome him (see 2 Samuel 19:20).

2 Samuel 19:18

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 2 Samuel 19:17. 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 2 Samuel 19:40). 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.

2 Samuel 19:20

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, Judges 1:35; and comp. Psalms 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 Rehobeam, 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 1Ch 5:1, 1 Chronicles 5:2; 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.

2 Samuel 19:22

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 2 Samuel 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 politic 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.

2 Samuel 19:23

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 favour 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 (1 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" (Psalms 15:4)?

2 Samuel 19:24

Mephibosheth. The meeting of David and Mephibosheth possibly took place at Jerusalem (see on 2 Samuel 19:25), 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, Ezekiel 24:22).

2 Samuel 19:25

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 2 Samuel 19:30). But what, then, is meant in 2 Samuel 19:24 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 2 Samuel 19:30. 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 endeavoured 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: 2 Samuel 19:24 that Mephibosheth went with the vast crowd to welcome the king back; 2 Samuel 19:25 that in due time, in Jerusalem, the explanation was given, and Mephibosheth restored to favour.

2 Samuel 19:26

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 2 Samuel 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, and that, in permitting him to live, and placing him among his friends, the king had done him an act of grace.

2 Samuel 19:29

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 2 Samuel 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" (Psalms 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.

2 Samuel 19:30

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. Blunt's arguments, to show that Mephibosheth really was a traitor, are ingenious, but not convincing.

2 Samuel 19:31

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.

2 Samuel 19:33

And I will feed thee. This is the same verb as that used in 2 Samuel 19:32, and translated "to provide of sustenance."

2 Samuel 19:37

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 sen 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 travellers 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 verse 40 he is called in the Hebrew Chimhan.

2 Samuel 19:40

Half the people of Israel. The northern tribes had been the first to debate the question of the king's recall (2 Samuel 19:9), 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 2 Samuel 19:41 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.

2 Samuel 19:41

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 neighbourhood. The trans-Jordanie tribes are probably those described in 2 Samuel 19:39 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.

2 Samuel 19:42

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 (1 Samuel 22:7), but probably the speaker intended only to protest the purity of his motives.

2 Samuel 19:43

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 1 Kings 11:31, 1 Kings 11:35, 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 2 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 (2 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 1 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 1 Chronicles 5:9, and note on verse 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.


2 Samuel 19:1-15

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 favour.

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.

Solitariness in religious experience.

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 imperilling 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." 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 (2 Samuel 12:9-12), the fulfilment 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 (2 Samuel 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 the bitterness of his grief.

I. 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 (Psalms 130:1-8.) 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. Most men whose religion has depths 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 favourite son.

II. 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 (2 Samuel 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."

III. 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 (2 Samuel 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. The natural mental and moral texture of our nature, the conditions under which our sins were committed, the consequences which we can trace from our former sins, the vividness with which an ideal past is contrasted with present facts, 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.

IV. 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 neighbours 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." 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," and which can never be fully told or even understood.


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. It is very possible for us to misjudge others in the conduct they adopt, and make our own contracted experience a standard of judgment.

4. We may expect that those who are utterly broken down in spirit will be called out of their self-absorption by the voice of Providence.

5. It is a comfort to us all to know that God understands our real thoughts and feelings, and that we have a High Priest who is touched with a feeling of our infirmities, he having entered into deeper depths of sorrow than we can ever know.

The remoter consequences of sin.

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. 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 bad been insulting and because a complete amnesty was deemed desirable, displaced Joab in his favour. 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—

I. THE FORGIVENESS OF SIN MAY COEXIST WITH THE ONWARD FLOW OF SOME OF ITS CONSEQUENCES. There is a certainty that David's great guilt was covered (2 Samuel 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 centre 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. 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.

II. 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 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. A rebellious son in a home, a dishonest deed in business, a vicious habit,—these reveal a manifest series of troubles in private, social, and public connections. No sinner sins to himself. Moral evil gives colour 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.

III. 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 centre the sullen roll falls on the beach. The whole subsequent course of Hebrew history was modified by the deed of evil done in secret. 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. 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.

IV. 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 death of Amasa and 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 favourite 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 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.

2 Samuel 19:16-30

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 honour 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.

The influence of superior minds.

The section now under notice cannot be separated in import from the preceding words (2 Samuel 19:14, 2 Samuel 19:15), 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—

I. 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.

II. 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.

III. 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" (1 Corinthians 12:31).

IV. 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 favourable 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 favouring circumstances as occasionally occur in human affairs.


1. It behoves us not to allow our gifts to be long unused, by reason of absorption in purely personal interests.

2. It is a scripturally enforced duty that we stir up the gifts that may lie in us.

3. 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.

4. 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.

Royal clemency.

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 (2 Samuel 15:25, 2 Samuel 15:26), 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.

I. 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 (2 Samuel 19:11). Judah was waiting for some encouragement to yield (2 Samuel 19:12-14), and receiving it, hasted to be first at Jordan (2 Samuel 19:15, 2 Samuel 19:41). And such representative men as Shimei and Ziba show eagerness to find favour 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.

II. 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.

III. 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 (2 Samuel 19:20). Nor, perhaps, was Ziba without a restless conscience in thus seeking early to court the favour of the king, who would soon learn the facts concerning his former deception (2 Samuel 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.

IV. THE INFLUENCE IN LIFE OF DOMINATING IDEAS. The son of Zeruiah (2 Samuel 19:21) 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. Abishai was the hard, stern soldier, ruled in this instance by the sentiment of rigid discipline, and acting in all things under the idea of power; whereas David was the wise, generous king, ruled by the sentiment of love for 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, 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.

V. 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 (2 Samuel 9:9-13; 2 Samuel 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).

VI. 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 (2 Samuel 16:1, 2 Samuel 16:2), and had been foremost to welcome himself back (2 Samuel 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 (2 Samuel 19:29). But the sense seems to be that David solved the difficulty by restoring the old relations as a matter of practice (2 Samuel 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 (2 Samuel 9:2 2 Samuel 9:4), 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 2 Samuel 9:9-12. There is a natural basis, if we will only take pains to find it, in our modern complications.


1. 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).

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. It will be a great gain to the Church if we can instil 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.

7. 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.

2 Samuel 19:31-43

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 incumbrance 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.

A beautiful old age.

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; end 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.

I. 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.

II. 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 favour to his son (1 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, honoured, 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 kindliness of disposition, wisdom of conduct, consideration of feeling, deep affection for one's own people, faithfulness in the relationships of life, and calm and strong piety. How lovely is old age when so adorned!

III. 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 (2 Samuel 17:28, 2 Samuel 17:29) 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 vigour. 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 honoured a man. It is a blessing and real help to have the favour and sympathy of men who have had large experience in life, and have won for themselves imperishable honours; 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.

IV. 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 (1 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 use 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!


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. We should, in our own lives and in others, look for an advance of moral powers proportionate to the advance of age.

4. We should covet the honour of bringing our ripest and best attainments and placing them at the service of Christ.

The uses and perils of rivalry. 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 (2 Samuel 19:11-13). Influenced by desire not to be outdone in expressions of loyalty, they were first at Jordan. and carried off the honour 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 (2 Samuel 19:41, 2 Samuel 19:43) 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.

I. IT TENDS TO STIMULATE ACTION AND DEVELOP LATENT POWERS. The thought that Israel might reach Jordan first, and so get the honour 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 honour 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.

II. 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. 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, and so, by rendering the ideal more real to the mind, enable us to be more faithful to our Lord.

III. 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 pre-eminence, 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.

IV. 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 honour 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.


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. In all our Christian enterprises it should be our endeavour to keep Christ and his honour 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.

4. In our efforts we should remember that we are all equally "kin" to Christ, and are equally dear to his heart.

5. In our estimate of Churches we are to give more weight to spiritual qualities than to numbers.

6. 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 honour of his Name.


2 Samuel 19:1-8


Immoderate grief.

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 (2 Samuel 18:16), and showed a thoughtful concern for Ahimaaz (2 Samuel 18:19, 2 Samuel 18:20, 2 Samuel 18:22); and now, although his bearing toward the king was harsh and cruel (2 Samuel 3:24), he was fully justified in expostulating with him (as on another occasion, 2 Samuel 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 (2 Samuel 3:39). By his great abilities Joab made himself necessary to David, and became confirmed in his high position (1 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—

I. REALLY REPRESENTABLE. "And the king covered his face," etc. (2 Samuel 19:4). It was connected (as cause or effect) with:

1. 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.

2. The absence of humble submission to the Divine will, such as he had previously displayed in "the day of his calamity" (2 Samuel 12:20; 2 Samuel 15:26; 2 Samuel 16:10).

3. 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 (2 Samuel 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).

4. 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. (2 Samuel 19:2). "Their hearty participation in the sorrow of their beloved king, for whom they had perilled 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).

II. RUDELY REPROVED. "And Joab came into the house of the king," etc. (2 Samuel 19:5-7). His reproof (2 Samuel 12:1) was:

1. 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,

2. Unscrupulous and reckless; whilst declaring the truth in part (2 Samuel 19:5), and as it appeared on the surface, casting unjust reproaches on the king for his heartless selfishness, ingratitude, and hatred (2 Samuel 19:6).

3. Unbecoming the relation of a subject to his sovereign; in language and manner, as well as in substance.

4. United, nevertheless, with wise counsel and solemn warning. "And now arise, go forth," etc. (2 Samuel 19:7). 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 (Psalms 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."

III. READILY RESTRAINED and laid aside. "And the king arose," etc. (2 Samuel 19:8). "He was stung into action, and immediately roused himself to the discharge of his royal duties." Would we overcome immoderate grief? We must:

1. Listen to the admonitions of truth, however disagreeable; and learn the evil of indulging it.

2. Receive the consoling assurances of Heaven, and pray for needful strength.

3. Repress it with prompt and determined effort.

4. 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."


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.—D.

2 Samuel 19:15

David's return to Jerusalem.

"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, 2 Samuel 19:18); crossed over (to the western bank, conducted by Judah and half the people of Israel, 2 Samuel 19:39, 2 Samuel 19:40); came to Gilgal (where all the men of Israel met him, and a new contention arose, 2 Samuel 19:41; 2 Samuel 21:1); and finally (conducted by the men of Judah) to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 21:3). 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 (2 Samuel 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 (Psalms 110:2, Psalms 110:3)" (Matthew Henry). David's restoration was distinguished by:

1. The returning allegiance of the rebellious. (2 Samuel 19:9,2 Samuel 19:10.) "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. (2 Samuel 19:11-15.) "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 whoa 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. (2 Samuel 19:16-23.) 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" (2 Samuel 19:17); 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. (2 Samuel 19:24-30.) 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. (2 Samuel 19:31-39). 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 (2 Samuel 17:22) 1 "This passage of the Jordan was the most memorable one since the days of Joshua."

6. The zealous emulation of the tribes. (Verses 40-43.) Their strife for pre-eminence; "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" (verse 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. (2 Samuel 20:3, 2 Samuel 20:22-26.) He sees again the habitation of the Lord (2 Samuel 15:25), and rules over a peaceful and united nation. His return is like the commencement of a new reign (verse 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).—D.

2 Samuel 19:16-23


The pardon of Shimei.

The conduct of Shimei towards David in his flight (2 Samuel 16:5) was base and iniquitous. "The wheel turns round once more; Absalom is cast down and David returns in peace. Shimei suits his behaviour 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)—

I. ON THE CONFESSION OF WRONG DOING (2 Samuel 19:19, 2 Samuel 19:20) with:

1. Deep abasement. He "fell down before the king."

2. Free, full, unqualified, and open self-condemnation. "Thy servant did perversely," and "doth know that I have sinned."

3. Fervent petition for mercy, "Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me," etc.

4. Professed devotion and zealous endeavour 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 honour 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, 2 Samuel 20:1). Confession must precede the assurance of forgiveness; and, when made in a becoming manner, should be graciously treated (Luke 17:3, Luke 17:4). God alone knows the heart.

II. AGAINST THE DEMAND FOR PUNISHMENT (2 Samuel 19:21, 2 Samuel 19:22); in which Abishai displayed, as before (2 Samuel 16:9):

1. An impulse of natural vengeance toward the evildoer; unaltered by change of circumstances, unsoothed by Shimei's repentance.

2. 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."

3. 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.

4. 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; 1 Chronicles 21:1] to me;" hindering the exercise of mercy and the joy of my return (1 Samuel 11:12, 1 Samuel 11:13). "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).

III. WITH THE ASSURANCE OF MERCY. "Thou shalt not die" (1 Chronicles 21:23; 2 Samuel 12:13). "And the king sware unto him." From:

1. 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.

2. A sense of the exceeding mercy of God toward himself; by, which he was disposed to show mercy toward others.

3. 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 clay king over Israel?" (It is noticeable how frequently he is designated "the king" in this chapter.)

4. 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 (1 Kings 2:8, 1 Kings 2:9). "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).


1. In showing mercy to private as well as public offenders, due regard must be paid to the claims of public justice.

2. It is better to err on the side of too much mercy than too much severity.

3. 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)!

4. Those who have received mercy must live in the sphere of mercy and obedience, otherwise mercy ceases to be of any avail (1 Kings 2:42-46; Matthew 18:32-35).—D.

2 Samuel 19:24-30


The vindication of Mephibosheth.

"He hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king" (2 Samuel 19:27). 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. (2 Samuel 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 defence, 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 (2 Samuel 16:5), 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 humour 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 (2 Samuel 19:27, 2 Samuel 19:28), he is little concerned about worldly possessions in comparison with the honour and welfare of his lord, and finds his chief delight in "the king's favour." "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. (2 Samuel 19:30).

"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," etc.

(Psalms 37:1-11.)


2 Samuel 19:31-40


Old Barzillai.

"How long have I to live?" (2 Samuel 19:34). Barzillai dwelt at Rogelim (his own city, 2 Samuel 19:37), 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 (2 Samuel 9:4), he was loyal, hospitable, and generous (2 Samuel 17:28). One of his sons (1 Kings 2:7), named Chimham, accompanied him to do honour 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 (1 Samuel 11:11). Of his genuine piety, his answer to the king's invitation, "Come over with me, and I will provide (2 Samuel 19:32) 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 (1 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 12:1); but whether it will be honourable, 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? The old man lives in the past and in the future. The early child love for the father and mother who hung over his cradle eighty years ago remains fresh. 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 learnt to love. The furthest past is fresh and vivid, and in memory of it is half his life. 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. And so he returns to his city, and passes out of our sight" (Maclaren). Notice—

I. HIS CLEAR RECOGNITION OF THE NEARNESS OF HIS APPROACHING END. "How many are the days of the years of my life?" etc. (2Sa 19:34, 2 Samuel 19:35; 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; 1 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).

II. 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 centre 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.').

III. HIS COURTEOUS REFUSAL OF THE PROFFER OF EARTHLY FAVOURS. What can even a monarch give him now? The society, the pleasures, the honours, 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 ether 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 (2 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).

IV. HIS CHERISHED REMEMBRANCE OF PARENTS AND THE FAMILIAR SCENES OF HIS EARLY DAYS. "Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back," etc. (2 Samuel 19:37). His thoughts turn back to his native place, his childhood, his father and his mother, whom he must have loved and honoured (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 honours 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."

V. 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," etc. (Hebrews 11:10, Hebrews 11:16); and desires to be "gathered with his fathers," and to be forever at rest in God (1Sa 25:1; 2 Samuel 7:12; Psalms 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; there is its safety, there is its rest, there it is preserved, 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 where our chief friends be, where our Father God is, where our Husband Christ is, where our chief kindred and acquaintance be, 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).

VI. HIS CONSIDERATE REGARD for the welfare of those who survive him. "Let thy servant Chimham go over," etc. (2 Samuel 19:38, 2 Samuel 19:40). 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. In Barzillai we have

(1) a man who knows that he is old, but is not distressed by the thought of it;

(2) who is rich, but is satisfied with his natural possessions;

(3) of long experience, who has kept up his love of simple pleasures;

(4) and 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 honour his memory (Ezra 2:61; Nehemiah 7:63; Psalms 102:28).—D.


2 Samuel 19:6

Loving enemies and hating friends.

"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.

I. 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 favour 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" (1 Kings 22:8).

II. 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.

III. 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" (1 Corinthians 15:33, Revised Version).

IV. 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.

V. 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!—G.W.

2 Samuel 19:9

Late reflection and appreciation.

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.


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

2. His Divine appointment. Signified in manifold ways.

3. The deliverance he has wrought. It is here said of David, "The king saved us," etc. Our Lord has saved us in a more marvellous way, from enemies more to be dreaded than the heathen that harassed Israel. He has conquered, in personal conflict and through suffering unto death, Satan, the world, sin, and 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

II. 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.

1. Causes of such insensibility.

(1) A depraved nature, whose spiritual sensibilities are further suppressed and benumbed by the practice of sin.

(2) Absorption in worldly pursuits. Leaving no opportunity for higher matters to attract attention, no time to think of them.

(3) 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.

(4) 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.

(5) The attractions of some pretender to the throne. As Absalom "stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (2 Samuel 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.

2. Effects of such insensibility.

(1) Negatively, in the prevention of faith and love, loyal obedience and active service.

(2) Positively, by leading to disaffection and active rebellion; as in the case of Israel and David.

III. THE HAPPY AWAKENING WHICH IS OFTEN EXPERIENCED. As in the case of the Israelites in respect to David. This may be produced:

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. Always by the enlightening and convincing Spirit. Whose work it is to reveal and glorify the Son of God (John 16:14).

IV. THE CHANGE PRODUCED BY THIS AWAKENING. Similar to that in the text.

1. In conduct.

(1) Return to allegiance, loyalty, and service to the rightful Sovereign. Incitement of others to return.

2. In position. The returning rebels are accepted, and restored to the privileges of faithful subjects. Not because 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 favour.

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).—G.W.

2 Samuel 19:24-30

Inability hindering desired service.

Although some are disposed to accept Ziba's account of his master's conduct (2 Samuel 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.

I. INABILITY DEBARS MANY CHRISTIANS FROM SOME DEMONSTRATIONS OF LOVE AND LOYALTY TO THEIR KING WHICH THEY WOULD FAIN MAKE. 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.

II. 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. In like manner, every one, however feeble, poor, or obscure, may do something for Christ; and, if his heart be right, he will. He who cannot preach can speak to a neighbour. He who cannot say much for Christ can bring others where they can hear of him, or give them an instructive book or tract. He who cannot give much money towards the evangelization of the world can give a little, and at least can pray. 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 dishonour 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.

III. 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 practise 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" (2 Kings 10:16) in the same manner or to secure similar results. Happily, the King knows his servants better than they know each other.

IV. 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.

1. Thankfulness for, and contentment with, the powers and opportunities granted to them, and the kind and measure of success accorded to them.

2. Humility arising from the consciousness of their defects or unworthiness.

3. Absence of envy of those who are more abundantly favoured in respect to talents or success.

4. Consciousness of sincere devotion to the King, however men may reflect on them.

5. 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.

V. 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. Mistakes will be rectified, unjust judgments reversed. Many a plaudit will be hushed; many an inflated reputation will collapse; 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 (1 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," etc.? (Matthew 25:37).


1. "Judge nothing before the time" (1 Corinthians 4:5).

2. 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 juster judgment than David did (2 Samuel 19:29) in the case of Mephibosheth.—G.W.

2 Samuel 19:35

The privations of old age.

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.


1. Enfeebled or annihilated powers. Blunted or extinct senses; dulness 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.


1. 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.

2. 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.

3. With watchfulness against the temptations incident to old age. Such as those to fretfulness, irritability, impatience, envy of the young, and needless interference with their enjoyments. The revival with new power of old sinful propensities, ill tempers, and bad habits.

4. 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.


1. With respectful tenderness, sympathy, and readiness to alleviate them.

2. With diminished desire for the great prolongation of their own lives.

3. With steadfast aim and endeavour 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).—G.W.

Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 19". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tpc/2-samuel-19.html. 1897.
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