Battle Wounds, and Broken Hearts (2 Samuel 19)

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 19

Today’s devotional returns to the historical narrative in 2 Samuel 19. As a point of reference, remember David, his family, and servants were in Mahanaim in Gilead on the east side of the Jordan River, where he had fled during Absalom’s insurrection (17:27).

The news of Absalom’s death overwhelmed David’s heart. More than the heartaches and humiliation he had suffered, the news of his son’s death moved the king who physically trembled with grief (18:33). Absalom was dead, and David bewailed him in his bedchamber, crying, “would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33).

Joab Challenged David’s Perspective (19:1-8)

Returning victorious from the battlefield where he had slain Absalom, Joab, one of three captains of David’s forces, received news: “Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom” (19:1). Those loyal to David returned from their victory, only to learn the king was grieving the death of his son (19:2). Ashamed to be gloating in their victory, when their king grieved the death of his son, we read, “the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son. 3And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed [as though bearing the king’s displeasure] steal away when they flee in battle” (19:2-3).

Feeling David’s sorrow was unacceptable, and knowing the heartache Absalom had brought upon Israel, Joab reproved the king. His manner betrayed his contempt for the king (remember, Joab had been commanded by David to cover the murder of Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, 11:14-17).

In appearance, David cared more for his enemies (Absalom and those who followed him), than his faithful servants (19:6). Rightfully, Joab urged the king to greet the soldiers returning from battle (19:7a). Should he fail to honor his servants, Joab threatened, every man in Israel would abandon the king (19:7b). Rising from his bed of sorrow, David sat in the gate of the city, and was present when the men passed before him (19:8).

David’s Patience (19:9-12)

Though there might have been cause for David and his army to pursue, and destroy those who had participated in Absalom’s insurrection, the king chose to wait on the people to invite him to return to Jerusalem as their king. Those who had supported the rebellion now found themselves at the mercy of David. They remembered the good David had done as king (19:9a). Israel, specifically the ten northern tribes, was divided concerning how they would deal with the division between themselves and the king (19:9). They questioned their elders, “why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?” (19:10)

David had received word that the ten tribes were ready to pursue peace (19:11), and he commanded the priests to go to his own tribe, Judah, and say, “Why are ye the last to bring the king back to his house?” (19:11). The king appealed to the men of Judah, saying, “12Ye are my brethren, ye are my bones and my flesh: wherefore then are ye the last [the last of the tribes] to bring back the king?” (19:12)

Evidencing humility, and desiring to see the division of his kingdom healed, David began a series of encounters that revealed the godly character of the king. (19:13-30)

The king sent a message to Amasa, captain of Absalom’s soldiers (17:25), and appealed to him as a kinsman of Judah, saying, “Art thou not of my bone, and of my flesh?” (19:13) David’s invitation humbled the heart of every man in Judah, and the tribe sent him word saying to the king, “Return thou, and all thy servants” (19:14).

Shimei, the man who had hurled stones and curses at David when he fled Jerusalem (16:5-13; 19:18), was the first to meet the king when he returned to the west side of the Jordan River (19:16, 18-23). No doubt fearing for his life, Shimei admitted his wrong, and confessed his sin, saying, “I have sinned” (19:20). Now, Abishai who had wanted to slay Shimei before, was ready once again to kill Shimei for his betrayal (19:21). David, however, made the decision to spare the life of his adversary (19:22-23). The Scriptures, however, reveal that David did not trust Shimei (1 Kings 2:8), and Solomon would later deal with him (1 Kings 2:36-46).

Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son who had eaten at David’s table, sought to be restored to David. Evidencing the outward signs of distress and sorrow, we read, “Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace” (19:24). David questioned, why Mephibosheth had not escaped the city with him (19:25). He answered the king, and detailed how Ziba, his servant had betrayed his trust to court the king’s favor (19:26-28). Requesting nothing for himself, but to be restored to the king’s fellowship, David ordered the matter be concluded. That which had belonged to Mephibosheth was to be evenly divided with Ziba (19:29); sadly, Mephibosheth was slighted for no wrong, and Ziba’s deceit was rewarded.

David also remembered Barzillai the Gileadite, who had sustained him with hospitality when he fled Jerusalem. David desired to honor the eighty-year-old man (19:31-36); however, Barzillai declined the honor, and requested it be given to a man named Chimham. Chimham is not identified, but there is good cause to believe he was Barzillai’s son (19:37-39).

Closing thoughts – Notice there is a rift recorded in the last verses of today’s Scripture reading, between the tribe of Judah, and those identified as “all the men of Israel” (19:41). Judah was the royal tribe, and the kinsman of David, and the appearance that he favored that tribe above the other tribes, will become a cause of future conflicts (19:41-43).

Finally, we have observed a lot of heartache in David’s life, especially in the rebellion and death of his son Absalom. Thousands were lost in that civil war, and at the root of all the conflicts was the king’s adultery with Bathsheba, and his hand in having her husband Uriah killed.

Let us all remember: “Be sure your sin will find you out” (Numbers 32:23).

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith