The Reign of David: David Retreats, David Reinstated 2 Samuel, Chapters 16 - 20
Ziba’s Betrayal; Shimei’s Curse (16:1 – 14) As David retreated, the house of Saul haunted him twice. First, Ziba, the steward or servant of Mephibosheth betrayed his master and deceived David. Ziba implied that Mephibosheth has given his support to Absalom. As a result of this lie, David gives Ziba all that once belonged to Mephibosheth. Then there was Shimei, a man from the family line of Saul. He cursed David for being a man of bloodshed and pelted him with stones. David’s men wanted to rebuke and punish Shimei but David left the judgment of Shimei in the LORD’s hands.
Hushai Goes Over To The Other Side (16:15 – 17:23) With David gone, Absalom entered Jerusalem and took control of Israel. He met Hushai, who had returned at David’s request to be a spy in Absalom’s camp. Hushai offered his counsel much to Ahithophel’s dislike. Ahithopel advised Absalom to attack quickly and David while he was weak and on the run. If he killed the king, Ahithophel argued that those loyal to David would then follow Absalom.
Hushai’s Counsel Is Preferred Over Ahithopel’s(16:15 – 17:23) Before taking action, Absalom also sought Hushai’s counsel. Hushai disagreed with Ahithopel’s strategy. He argued that even weakened King David was too strong. Instead of attacking now, Hushai recommended building a larger army and then going after David. Absalom and all the men of Israel affirmed Hushai’s rather than Ahithopel. All of this happened because God answered David’s earlier prayer to frustrate the counsel of Ahithopel.
David Remains One Step Ahead (16:15 – 17:23) Had Absalom listened to Ahithophel, he might have secured the throne. But he preferred Hushai’s advice, which gave Hushai time to warn David of what Absalom planned to do. Hushai sent word to David as to Absalom’s plans of attack through different sources. Each time Absalom believed that he had David in his grasp, he was thwarted. David always had David time to escape across the Jordan. Absalom did take Ahithophel’s advice on one matter, he slept with each of David’s concubines on the palace rooftop as a way of insulting his father.
Absalom Attacks, David Waits (17:24 – 18:5) Absalom crossed the Jordan with an army to do battle but by then many had defected to David. David organized his forces and told the troops, “I myself will march with you.” But the men said, “No! The enemy won't care about us, they only want you. Stay in the city.” So David stayed behind. David ordered each commander, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake." The whole army heard the king’s orders concerning Absalom.
David Victorious, Absalom Gets Caught (18:6 – 9) David’s army went out to fight against Israel’s army that was loyal to Absalom in the forest of Ephraim. David’s army defeated Absalom’s army. Twenty thousand men died. The forest claimed more lives that day than the sword. As Absalom rode out on his mule to engage David’s troops, he traveled under the thick branches of a large oak tree. Absalom's long hair got caught in the tree while his mule ran away--leaving Absalom dangling in midair!
Joab Strikes, Absalom Falls (18:10 – 33) When Joab got word of Absalom’s predicament he took three spears and stabbed Absalom in the heart. Joab disobeyed David, thinking it best for the king and for Israel. Joab then blew the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing the army of Israel. They took Absalom, threw him into a pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. When David heard that Absalom was dead, he cried out, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you…”
David Mourns, Morale Gets Low(19:1 – 4) God had given David victory in the civil war caused by his son Absalom, now dead. The Israelite army returned home but David continued to mourn. They had risked their lives for their king; many died, yet it was a time of victory! They should have rejoiced, but were so upset by David’s grief that they crept around as if they had failed him. Soon this mood would become a spirit of discontent, then rebellion. They had served David out of love for him. Now he seemed to reject them, crying for Absalom. David’s people needed him.
Joab’s Rebuke (19:5 – 8) Joab went to King David and rebuked him. Joab pointed to the loyalty and valor of David’s men. He accused David of loving Absalom more than his own troops. Joab insisted that instead of mourning, David needed to encourage his men in order to prevent their abandonment of him. The king responded and went to the city gate. His soldiers presented themselves before their king. David showed his gratitude for their faithfulness.
There’s No Place Like Home… (19:9 – 15) Israel was without a king and had to decide if David should be invited back from exile. David could have invaded, but he waited to be asked to return. He asked the priests Zadok and Abiathar to call Judah’s leaders together and encourage them to call him back. Judah was David’s tribe; they, of all people, should want him to return. David won Judah over, their response was unanimous: “Return, you & all your men!”
From a Curse to a Blessing… (19:24 – 39) Now David stood on the shore of the Jordan River, waiting to return to Israel once more as her king. Judah’s leaders escorted him across. Shimei came with a thousand Benjamites (Saul’s tribe) and begged forgiveness for his sins. Abishai wanted to kill him right then, but David granted mercy. Shimei emphasized his connection with the northern tribes, assuring David of their allegiance. Ziba came to ask David’s favor; so did Mephibosheth. Barzillai of Gilead asked that his son Kimham go with David, who promised to care for him.
Not Everyone Is Happy (19:13, 40 – 43; 20:1) David was restored as king; however, the alliance between Judah and the other tribes was fragile. Many of the men from the tribes of Israel were discontent. The men of Israel, upset that Judah had welcomed David back without them deserted David to follow “a troublemaker” named Sheba. David demoted his nephew Joab for had served as his general. He promised his other nephew, Amasa the position of general, even though Amasa had led Absalom’s rebel army!
Amasa Stumbles, Joab Strikes (20:2 – 14) David ordered Amasa to muster the men of Judah and meet him three days later to pursue the rebel, Sheba, but Amasa could not do it that quickly. Fearing the rebels would have the advantage of time, David ordered Abishai to pursue Sheba; Joab came along. Too proud to let Amasa control an army Joab considered his, Joab tricked and then killed Amasa. He asked his officers to reassert their loyalty and then hunted down Sheba.
Joab Reinstated But… (20:15 - 23) Joab pursued Sheba to a city called Abel Beth Maacah. After an initial attack on the city, Joab negotiated with the citizens to turn over Sheba. They promptly threw Sheba’s head over the city wall! David accepted the actions of Joab and soon made him commander over the entire Israeli army. But David did not forget Joab’s wrongs. Before dying, David charged Solomon to punish Joab for the deaths of Abner and Amasa.