2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 16.
Events during David’s Flight.
ZIBA AND SHIMEI. — V.1. And when David was a little past the top of the hill, beyond the summit of Mount Olivet, behold, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, met him, having gone on in advance of the army in order to approach David after the first disorder was over, with a couple of asses saddled and upon them two hundred loaves of bread and an hundred bunches, or cakes, of raisins, and an hundred of summer fruits, probably fig-cakes, and a bottle, a skin, of wine. V.2. And the king said unto Ziba, What meanest thou by these? literally, “What these to thee?” What object did he have in bringing them at this time? And Ziba said, The asses be for the king’s household to ride on, and the bread and the summer fruit for the young men, the servants of the king, to eat, and the wine, that such as be faint in the wilderness may drink. This act was, unfortunately, no unselfish thoughtfulness, but rather a shrewd move to gain the king’s favor, since Ziba felt sure that David would come out victor over his son. V.3. And the king said, And where is thy master’s son, Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan? And Zibah, taking this opportunity to cast an unfounded suspicion upon his master, said unto the king, Behold, he abideth at Jerusalem; for he said, To-day shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my father. Ziba intimated that Mephibosheth expected the present disorder to result in his being restored to royal dignity and power, this lie being told in order to obtain possession of the estate which he was now taking care of by the king’s order, chap. 9, 9-11. V.4. Then said the king to Ziba, Behold, thine are all that pertained unto Mephibosheth; all the latter’s lands were to be transferred to Ziba for this supposed act of loyalty, whereas, in reality, Ziba was not only a liar, but also a thief and traitor, as the sequel shows, chap. 19, 26-29. And Ziba said, still playing the part of a loyal friend of the king, though he was a hypocrite, I humbly beseech thee that I may find grace in thy sight, my lord, O king. He expressed the hope that David might continue to show himself a gracious sovereign to him. David, in the excitement of the flight and his consequent distracted state, became guilty of a double wrong, by treating the faithful Mephibosheth as a traitor without hearing his testimony and by rewarding the slander of the false Ziba without investigating the charges made by him. V.5. And when King David came to Bahurim, some little distance beyond Mount Olivet, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, a distant relative of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; he came forth, and cursed still as he came, literally, “Going forth he went forth, and cursed,” that is, he cursed as he went along. V.6. And he cast stones at David and at all the servants of King David, those of his body-guard; and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. In spite of this fact Shimei dared to offer this insult. V.7. And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, literally, “Out, out,” namely, out of the kingdom and out of the land, thou bloody man, probably with reference to Ishbosheth and Abner, for he falsely connected David with these murders, and thou man of Belial, vain and good-for-nothing scoundrel! V.8. The Lord hath returned upon thee, as a just recompense, all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned, the implication being that this was done contrary to right and justice; and the Lord hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom, thy son, as a just punishment for the misdeeds of the past; and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, literally, “Behold thee in thy evil,” because thou art a bloody man, a man of blood art thou, rejoicing in murders. This vile talk was all the more reprehensible since Shimei used the name of the Lord and ascribed the present state of affairs to Jehovah. V.9. Then said Abishai, the son of Zeruiah, one of David’s generals and heroes, unto the king, Why should this dead dog, this despicable, vile cur, chap. 9, 8, curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head, making Shimei atone for his reviling with his life. V.10. And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? Joab had probably agreed with his brother Abishai on the need of swift and drastic measures against Shimei, and David declared with great emphasis that he could not share their attitude. So let him curse, because the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David. In his humility David was willing to consider it a special dispensation on the part of God, permitting Shimei to cast such aspersions upon him. Who shall, then, say, Wherefore hast thou done so? V.11. And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, whose true father he was, seeketh my life; how much more now may this Benjamite do it? It was far less surprising that a member of a hostile family should act in this manner. Let him alone, and let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him. V.12. It may be that the Lord will look on mine affliction, on the guilt of sins which David really had, since he felt that he had deeply offended the Lord, though not in the matter mentioned by Shimei, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day. Note that David’s humility is again apparent in this “perhaps”; he will not be sure of the divine blessing even now, but leaves the matter in the hands of God. V.13. And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill’s side over against him, separated from the army of David by the valley, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust. It seems, then, that David’s quiet behavior only enraged Shimei all the more, causing him to become ever more challenging in his vile conduct. V.14. And the king and all the people that were with him came weary, they arrived at Ajephim, a caravansary, or camping-place for travelers, and refreshed themselves there. Like David, all believers are obliged occasionally to endure the mockery, the scorn, the blasphemy of the world. But in such cases they do not revenge themselves, leaving the matter, instead, in the hands of Him who has said: “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.”
THE COUNSEL OF AHITHOPHEL. — V.15. And Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, the men who had cast their lot with the rebellious son of David, and Ahithophel with him, the counselor who had turned traitor to David. V.16. And it came to pass, when Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, whom the king had persuaded to return to Jerusalem the better to serve his interests, was come unto Absalom, that Hushai said unto Absalom, God save the king, God save the king, the double “May the king live” being intended to express his best wishes, since he does not state the name of the king to whom he refers. V.17. And Absalom, who was astonished and even suspicious at this greeting, said to Hushai, Is this thy kindness to thy friend? Why wentest thou not with thy friend? Hushai’s relation to David had been a matter of common knowledge. V.18. And Hushai said unto Absalom, deliberately casting dust into his eyes, Nay; but whom the Lord and this people, those who had joined the cause of Absalom, and all the men of Israel, the entire nation, choose, his will I be, and with him will I abide. He infers that the choice of the nation in this case is the choice of Jehovah. V.19. And again, his second reason, whom should I serve? Should I not serve in the presence of his son? This idea he presented to Absalom as self-evident. As I have served in thy father’s presence, before the face of thy father, so will I be in thy presence. This flattered and satisfied Absalom, vain as he was, immensely, for he felt that the best minds of the nation were now on his side. V.20. Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do. He was anxious to take some steps by which his authority would definitely be announced and secured. V.21. And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father’s concubines, in public carnal intercourse, which he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father, since the insult would be practically unforgivable and since the act, according to Oriental usage, would indicate actual dethronement of his father, since he would thereby take over his harem; then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong, they mould be greatly encouraged to decide in his favor. V.22. So they spread Absalom a tent, the tent commonly used as a protection against sun, wind, and rain, upon the top of the house, on the same roof where David’s look at Bathsheba led him into the path of sin; and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel, in an unspeakably filthy act, but one which fulfilled the words of Nathan against David, chap. 12, 8. V.23. And the counsel of Ahithophel which he counseled in those days was as if a man had enquired at the oracle of God, it was regarded and followed as if inspired by God Himself, a far too high estimate of any man’s ability; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom. Rebels who overthrow the order of God in rising against the government instituted by Him are very often the slaves of the most loathsome sins and vices, their hearts hardened against every influence for good.