Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 19

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Today’s Bible study returns to the historical narrative in 2 Samuel 19. For context, 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. Even more than the heartaches and humiliation he suffered, the news of his son’s death moved the king to tremble with grief (18:33). Absalom was dead, and David bewailed him in his bed-chamber and cried, “Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (18:33).

Joab Challenged David’s Perspective (2 Samuel 19:1-8)

Joab, one of three captains of David’s forces, returned victorious after slaying Absalom. Yet, he received the news that stated, “Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom” (19:1). Rather than commendation for their loyalty at having risked their lives and praise for the victory, the faithful warriors of Israel were greeted by a king grieving the death of his son (19:2).

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).

Knowing the heartache Absalom wrought upon Israel, Joab contended the king’s sorrow was unacceptable, and he reproved the king. His manner toward David betrayed his contempt for the king. Remember, Joab had covered Uriah’s murder by obeying the king and sending him into the heat of the battle to be slain (11:14-17).

From Joab’s perspective, it appeared that 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 David fail to honor his servants, Joab warned, every man in Israel would abandon the king (19:7b).

Heeding Joab’s counsel, David rose from his bed of sorrow, sat in the gate of the city, and was present when the men of Israel passed before him (19:8).

David’s Patience (2 Samuel 19:9-12)

While there was cause for David and his army to pursue and destroy the insurrectionists, the king determined to wait for the people to invite him to return to Jerusalem. Those who supported the rebellion found themselves at David’s mercy but remembered the good he had done as king (19:9a). Israel, specifically the ten northern tribes, was divided concerning how they would heal the division between themselves and the king now that Absalom was dead (19:9). They questioned their elders, “why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?” (19:10)

David received word that the ten tribes were ready to pursue peace, and yet he had not heard from Judah, his tribe (19:11). The king commanded the priests to go to his tribe and say to Judah, “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 his kingdom healed, David initiated a series of encounters that revealed his godly character. (19:13-30)


First, the king sent a message to Amasa, captain of Absalom’s soldiers (17:25). He 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. The tribe sent word and said to the king, “Return thou, and all thy servants” (19:14).

Then, as David crossed the Jordan River to return to Jerusalem, he was greeted by Shimei (19:16). He was the one who cursed and hurled stones and accusations at the king when he fled Jerusalem, 16:5-13; 19:18). Fearing for his life, Shimei humbled himself and confessed to the king, “I have sinned” (19:20). Abishai, who had wanted to slay Shimei, was ready to kill him for betraying the king (19:21). David, however, determined to spare the life of his adversary (19:22-23), though the king did not trust Shimei (1 Kings 2:8). Years later, Solomon, David’s son, was forced to deal with Shimei (1 Kings 2:36-46).

The next to meet David was Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son, who had eaten at David’s table, then came and sought to be restored to David (19:24-30). 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 and instead courted the king’s favor (19:26-28). Requesting nothing for himself and only 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 Remembered the Kindness of Barzillai (19:31-39)

Returning triumphantly to his throne in Jerusalem, David did not forget Barzillai, whose hospitality sustained him when he fled Jerusalem and lived in exile (19:31-33). The king wished to honor Barzillai and have him live out his days in Jerusalem. Barzillai, however, graciously declined the king’s kindness and explained he was an eighty-year-old man who wished to live out his days at home (19:31-37). Instead, Barzillai requested that the honor to go with the king be given to Chimham. Though not identified, here is good reason to believe he was Barzillai’s son (19:37-39).

Closing thoughts –

Our Scripture reading concludes with the evidence of a rift between the tribe of Judah and others identified as “all the men of Israel” (19:41). Judah was the royal tribe and the kinsman of David. Unfortunately, the assertion that the king favored Judah above the other tribes would become the cause for future conflicts (19:41-43).

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 © 2023 – Travis D. Smith

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