Biblical Commentary on the Old Testament, by Carl Friedrich Keil and Franz Delitzsh, [1857-78], at sacred-texts.com
2 Kings (2 Samuel)
David Reinstated in His Kingdom - 2 Samuel 19:1-39
In his passionate and sinful sorrow on account of Absalom's death David not only forgot altogether what it was his duty to do, in order to recover the affections of the people, so that Joab was obliged to remind him of this duty which was binding upon him as king (Sa2 19:1-8); but he even allowed himself to be carried away into the most inconsiderate measures (Sa2 19:9-14), and into acts of imprudence and injustice (Sa2 19:16-23, Sa2 19:24-30), which could not contribute to the strengthening of his throne, however much the affection with which he wished to reward the old man Barzillai for his faithful services (Sa2 19:31-40) might show that the king was anxious to promote the welfare of his subjects.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:1
David's mourning, and Joab's reproof. - Sa2 19:1-6. When Joab was told that the king was mourning and weeping for Absalom, he went to him into the house to expostulate with him. Sa2 19:5 introduces the continuation of Sa2 19:1; Sa2 19:2-4 contain parenthetical sentences, describing the impression made upon the people by the king's mourning. Through the king's deep trouble, the salvation (the victory) upon that day became mourning for all the people who had fought for David, and they went by stealth in to the city (לבוא יתגּנּב: they stole to come, came by stealth), "as people steal away who have covered themselves with shame, when they flee in battle."
But the king had covered his face, and cried aloud, "My son Absalom," etc.
Then Joab went into the house to the king, and said to him, "Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants who have saved thy life, and the life of thy sons and daughters, thy wives and concubines" (covered them with shame, by deceiving their hope that thou wouldest rejoice in the victory).
לאהבה, "to love" (i.e., in that thou lovest) "those who hate thee, and hatest those who love thee; for thou hast given to know to-day (through thy conduct) that chiefs and servants (commanders and soldiers) are nothing (are worth nothing); for I have perceived to-day (or I perceive to-day) that if (לא for לוּ) Absalom were alive, and we had all perished, that it would be right in thine eyes."
"And now rise up, go out and speak to the heart of thy servants (i.e., speak to them in a friendly manner: Gen 34:3; Gen 50:21, etc.): for I swear by Jehovah, if thou go not out, verily not a man will stay with thee to-night; and this will be worse to thee than all the evil that has come upon thee from thy youth until now." Joab was certainly not only justified, but bound in David's own interests, to expostulate with him upon his conduct, and to urge him to speak in a friendly manner to the people who had exposed their lives for him, inasmuch as his present conduct would necessarily stifle the affection of the people towards their king, and might be followed by the most serious results with reference to his throne. At the same time, he did this in so heartless and lordly a manner, that the king could not fail to be deeply hurt by his words.
Nevertheless David was obliged to yield to his representations. "The king rose up, and sat in the gate, and ... all the people came before the king," i.e., the troops marched before the king, who (as we may supply from the context) manifested his good-will in both looks and words. But Israel, i.e., that portion of the people which had followed Absalom, had returned to its tents (i.e., gone home: cf. Sa2 18:17). This sentence forms the transition to the account which follows.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:9
Preliminaries to the return of David to Jerusalem. - Sa2 19:9, Sa2 19:10. As the rebellion was entirely crushed by Absalom's death, and the dispersion of his followers to their respective homes, there arose a movement among all the tribes in favour of David. "All the people were disputing (נדון, casting reproaches at one another) in all the tribes of Israel, saying, The king has saved us out of the hand of our enemies, ... and now he is fled out of the land before Absalom. But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle; and now why do ye keep still, to bring back the king?" This movement arose from the consciousness of having done an injustice to the king, in rising up in support of Absalom.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:11
When these words of all Israel were reported to David, he sent to the priests Zadok and Abiathar, saying, "Speak to the elders of Judah, why will ye be the last to bring back the king to his palace? ... Ye are my brethren, my bones and flesh (i.e., my blood relations): why then," etc.? The last clause of Sa2 19:11, "the speech of all Israel is come to the king, even to his house," is a circumstantial clause inserted in the midst of David's words, to explain the appeal to the men of Judah not to be the last. In the lxx, and some Codices of the Vulgate, this sentence occurs twice, viz., at the end of Sa2 19:10, and also of Sa2 19:11; and Thenius, Ewald, and Bttcher regard the clause at the end of Sa2 19:10 as the original one, and the repetition of it at the close of Sa2 19:11 as a gloss. But this is certainly a mistake: for if the clause, "and the speech of all Israel came to the king to his house (at Mahanaim)," ought to stand at the close of Sa2 19:10, and assigns the reason for David's sending to Zadok and Abiathar, Sa2 19:11 would certainly, or rather necessarily, commence with המּלך ויּשׁלח: "The word of all Israel came to the king, and then king David sent," etc. But instead of this, it commences with שׁלח דּיד והמּלך, "But king David sent." This construction of the sentence decidedly favour the correctness of the Hebrew text; whereas the text of the Septuagint, apart altogether from the tautological repetition of the whole of the sentence in question, shows obviously enough that it is nothing more than a conjecture, by which the attempt was made to remove the difficulty occasioned by the striking position in which the circumstantial clause occurred.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:13
"And say ye to Amasa, Art thou not my bone and flesh? so shall God do to me, and so add, if thou shalt not be prince of the army (chief captain) before me continually in the place of Joab."
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:14
Thus he (David) inclined the heart of all the people as of one man, and they sent to the king, saying, "Return thou, with all thy servants." The result of David's message to the priests is given summarily here. The subject to ויּט is David, not Amasa or Zadok. So far as the fact itself is concerned, it was certainly wise of David to send to the members of his own tribe, and appeal to them not to be behind the rest of the tribes in taking part in his restoration to the kingdom, lest it should appear as though the tribe of Judah, to which David himself belonged, was dissatisfied with his victory, since it was in that tribe that the rebellion itself first broke out; and this would inevitably feed the jealousy between Judah and the rest of the tribes. But it was not only unwise, but unjust, to give to Amasa, the traitor-general of the rebels, a promise on oath that he should be commander-in-chief in the place of Joab; for even if the promise was only given privately at first, the fact that it had been given could not remain a secret from Joab very long, and would be sure to stir up his ambition, and lead him to the commission of fresh crimes, and in all probability the enmity of this powerful general would become dangerous to the throne of David. For however Joab might have excited David's anger by slaying Absalom, and by the offensive manner in which he had reproved the king for giving way to his grief, David ought to have suppressed his anger in his existing circumstances, and ought not to have rendered evil for evil, especially as he was not only about to pardon Amasa's crime, but even to reward him as one of his faithful servants.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:15
Return of the king; and occurrences at the crossing of the Jordan. - Sa2 19:15-23. Pardon of Shimei. - Sa2 19:15, Sa2 19:16. When David reached the Jordan on his return, and Judah had come to Gilgal "to meet him, to conduct the king over the Jordan," i.e., to form an escort at the crossing, Shimei the Benjaminite hastened down from Bahurim (see Sa2 16:5.) with the men of Judah to meet David.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:17
There also came along with Shimei a thousand men of Benjamin, and Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, with his fifteen sons and twenty servants (see Sa2 9:10); and they went over the Jordan before the king, viz., through a ford, and the ferry-boat had crossed over to carry over the king's family, and to do whatever seemed good to him, i.e., to be placed at the king's sole disposal. And Shimei fell down before the king, בּעברו, i.e., "when he (David) was about to cross over the Jordan," not "when Shimei had crossed over the Jordan;" for after what has just been stated, such a remark would be superfluous: moreover, it is very doubtful whether the infinitive with בּ can express the sense of the pluperfect. Shimei said, "Let not my lord impute to me any crime, and do not remember how thy servant hath sinned."
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:20
"For thy servant knoweth (i.e., I know) that I have sinned, and behold I have come to-day the first of the whole house of Joseph, to go to meet my lord the king." By "the whole house of Joseph" we are to understand the rest of the tribes with the exception of Judah, who are called "all Israel" in Sa2 19:12. There is no reason for the objection taken by Thenius and Bttcher to the expression בּית־יוסף. This rendering of the lxx (παντὸς Ἰσραὴλ καὶ οἴκου Ἰωσήφ) does not prove that כּלישׂראל was the original reading, but only that the translator thought it necessary to explain οἴκου Ἰωσήφ by adding the gloss παντὸς Ἰσραὴλ; and the assertion that it was only in the oratorical style of a later period, when the kingdom had been divided, that Joseph became the party name of all that were not included in Judah, is overthrown by Kg1 11:28. The designation of the tribes that opposed Judah by the name of the leading tribe (Joseph: Jos 16:1) was as old as the jealousy between these tribes and Judah, which did not commence with the division of the kingdom, but was simply confirmed thereby into a permanent distinction. Shimei's prayer for the forgiveness of his sin was no more a proof of sincere repentance than the reason which he adduced in support of his petition, namely that he was the first of all the house of Joseph to come and meet David. Shimei's only desire was to secure impunity for himself. Abishai therefore replied (Sa2 19:21), "Shall not Shimei be put to death for this (זאת תּחת, for this, which he has just said and done), because he hath cursed the anointed of Jehovah?" (vid., Sa2 16:5.). But David answered (Sa2 19:22), "What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah (cf. Sa2 16:10), for ye become opponents to me to-day?" שׂטן, an opponent, who places obstacles in the way (Num 22:22); here it signifies one who would draw away to evil. "Should any one be put to death in Israel to-day? for do I not know that I am this day king over Israel?" The reason assigned by David here for not punishing the blasphemer as he had deserved, by taking away his life, would have been a very laudable one if the king had really forgiven him. But as David when upon his deathbed charged his successor to punish Shimei for this cursing (Kg1 2:8-9), the favour shown him here was only a sign of David's weakness, which was not worthy of imitation, the more especially as the king swore unto him (Sa2 19:24) that he should not die.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:24
David's conduct towards Mephibosheth admits still less of justification.
Mephibosheth, the son, i.e., grandson, of Saul, had also come down (from Jerusalem to the Jordan) to meet David, and had not "made his feet and his beard," i.e., had not washed his feet or arranged his beard (עשׂה, as in Deu 21:12), and had not washed his clothes - all of them signs of deep mourning (cf. Eze 24:17) - since the day that the king had gone (i.e., had fled from Jerusalem) until the day that he came (again) in peace.
"Now when Jerusalem (i.e., the inhabitants of the capital) came to meet the king,"
(Note: Dathe and Thenius propose to alter ירוּשׁלים into מירוּשׁלים (from Jerusalem), from a simple misunderstanding of the true meaning of the words; for, as Bttcher has observed, the latter (from Jerusalem) would be quite superfluous, as it is already contained in the previous ירד. But Bttcher's emendation of בּא into בּאה, because Jerusalem or the population of Jerusalem is a feminine notion, is equally unnecessary, since towns and lands are frequently construed as masculines when the inhabitants are intended (vid., Ewald, 318, a.). On the other hand, the rendering adopted by the lxx, and by Luther, Michaelis, and Maurer, in which ירוּשׁלים is taken as an accusative in the sense of "when Mephibosheth came to Jerusalem to meet the king," is altogether wrong, and has been very properly given up by modern expositors, inasmuch as it is at variance not only with the word ירד, but also with Sa2 16:3 and Sa2 9:13, where Mephibosheth is said to have lived in Jerusalem.)
David said to him (i.e., to Mephibosheth, who was with the deputation from the capital which welcomed David at the Jordan), "Why wentest thou not with me, Mephibosheth?" David was justified in putting this question after what Ziba had told him concerning Mephibosheth (Sa2 16:3).
Mephibosheth replied, "My lord king, my servant hath deceived me: for thy servant thought I will have the ass saddled and go to the king; for thy servant is lame." If we understand אחבּשׁד as signifying that Mephibosheth had the ass saddled by a servant, and not that he saddled it with his own hands, the meaning is obvious, and there is no ground whatever for altering the text. חבשׁ is certainly used in this sense in Gen 22:3, and it is very common for things to be said to be done by a person, even though not done with his own hands. The rendering adopted by the lxx and Vulgate, "Thy servant said to him (the servant), Saddle me the ass," is not true to the words, though correct so far as the sense is concerned.
"And he (Ziba) slandered thy servant to my lord the king." Mephibosheth had not merely inferred this from David's words, and the tone in which they were spoken, but had certainly found it out long ago, since Ziba would not delay very long to put David's assurance, that all the possessions of Mephibosheth should belong to him, in force against his master, so that Mephibosheth would discover from that how Ziba had slandered him. "And my lord the king is as the angel of God," i.e., he sees all just as it really is (see at Sa2 14:17); "and do what is good in thy sight: for all my father's house (the whole of my family) were but men of death against my lord the king (i.e., thou mightest have had us all put to death), and thou didst set thy servant among thy companions at table (see Sa2 9:7, Sa2 9:11); and what right or (what) more have I still to cry (for help) to the king?" The meaning is, "I cannot assert any claims, but will yield to anything you decide concerning me." It must have been very evident to David from these words of Mephibosheth, that he had been deceived by Ziba, and that he had formed an unfounded prejudice against Mephibosheth, and committed an act of injustice in handing over his property to Ziba. He therefore replied, in evident displeasure (Sa2 19:29), "Why talkest thou still of thine affairs? I have said, thou and Ziba shall divide the field?" to which Mephibosheth answered (Sa2 19:30), "He may take the whole, since my lord the king has returned in peace to his own house." This reply shows very clearly that an injustice had been done to Mephibosheth, even if it is not regarded as an expression of wounded feeling on the part of Mephibosheth because of David's words, but, according to the view taken by Seb. Schmidt and others, as a vindication of himself, as said not to blame the king for the opinion he had formed, but simply to defend himself. But this completely overthrows the opinion held by Thenius and O. v. Gerlach, that David's words in Sa2 19:30 contain nothing more than a revocation of his hasty declaration in Sa2 16:4, and a confirmation of his first decision in Sa2 9:7-10, and are to be understood as signifying, "Let everything be as I settled it at first; hold the property jointly," inasmuch as Ziba and his sons had of course obtained their living from the produce of the land. Moreover, the words "thou and Ziba divide the land" are directly at variance with the promise in Sa2 9:7, "I will restore thee all the land of Saul thy father," and the statement in Sa2 9:9, "I have given unto thy master's son all that pertained to Saul, and to all his house." By the words, "I have said, thou and Ziba divide the land," David retracted the hasty decree in Sa2 16:4, so as to modify to some extent the wrong that he had done to Mephibosheth, but he had not courage enough to retract it altogether. He did not venture to dispute the fact that Mephibosheth had really been calumniated by Ziba, which was placed beyond all doubt by his mourning during the whole period of David's flight, as described in Sa2 19:24. There is no ground for Winer's statement, therefore, that "it is impossible now to determine whether Mephibosheth was really innocent or not."
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:31
Barzillai comes to greet David. - Sa2 19:31. Barzillai the octogenarian "had also come down from Roglim and gone across the Jordan with the king, to escort him over the river." את־בּירדּן is the portion in, or over, the Jordan. את is the sign of the accusative, "the piece in the Jordan," and no further. This is the correct explanation as given by Bttcher, after Gesenius and Maurer; and the Keri היּרדּן is a bad emendation.
As Barzillai had supplied the king with provisions during his stay in Mahanaim (שׁיבה for ישׁיבה, like צואה for יצואה, and other words of the same kind), because he was very wealthy (lit. great), David would gladly have taken him with him to Jerusalem, to repay him there for his kindness; but Barzillai replied (Sa2 19:34.), "How many days are there of the years of my life (i.e., how long shall I have yet to live), that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? I am now eighty years old; can I (still) distinguish good and evil, or will thy servant taste what I eat and drink, or listen again to the voice of the singing men and singing women? and why should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king? Thy servant would go over the Jordan with the king for a short time (i.e., could not remain long with him), and why does the king wish to repay me this favour?" ישׁב־נא: "Let thy servant return, that I may die in my city (my home), at the grave of my parents; and behold thy servant Chimham (i.e., according to the explanation given by Josephus, Barzillai's son, who had come down with his father, as we may infer from Kg1 2:7) may go over with my lord the king; and do to him what seemeth good to thee," i.e., show him favours at thy pleasure.
David consented to this, and said, "All that thou desirest of me I will do to him." בּחר with על is a pregnant construction, signifying to choose and impose, "choose upon me," i.e., the thing for me to grant thee.
Thus all the people went over the Jordan; and when the king had crossed over, he kissed Barzillai (to take leave of him: vid., Rut 1:9); and he (Barzillai) blessed him, and turned to his place (returned home). Barzillai only escorted the king over the Jordan, and the conversation (Sa2 19:31-38) probably took place as they were crossing.
2 Kings (2 Samuel) 19:40
Quarrel between Israel and Judah about the restoration of the king. - Sa2 19:40. David went across to Gilgal (in the plain of the Jordan: Jos 4:19), and Chimham (Chimhan is a modified form for Chimham: Sa2 19:37) had gone over with him, and all the people of Judah had brought the king over (the Keri העבירוּ is an easier reading than the Chethib ויּעבירוּ, "and as for the people, they had," etc.), and also "half the people of Israel," namely, beside the thousand Benjaminites who came with Shimei (Sa2 19:17), other Israelites who dwelt in the neighbourhood.
All the men of Israel, i.e., the representatives of the other tribes of Israel, came to meet the king in Gilgal; and being annoyed at the fact that the men of Judah had anticipated them, they exclaimed, "Why have our brethren the men of Judah stolen thee away?" i.e., fetched thee thus secretly without saying a word to us. "All David's men" were all his faithful adherents who had fled with him from Jerusalem (Sa2 15:17.).
The men of Judah replied against (על) the men of Israel: "The king stands near to us" (inasmuch as he belonged to their tribe), "and wherefore then art thou angry at this matter? Have we eaten from the king (i.e., derived any advantage from our tribe-relationship to him, as the Benjaminites did from Saul, according to Sa1 22:7), or received anything for ourselves therefrom?" נשּׂאת is an infinitive abs. Niph. with a feminine termination, borrowed from ה;ל literally, "or has taking been taken for us."
The Israelites were annoyed at this answer, and retorted, "I (Israel) have ten portions in the king, and also more than thou in David; and wherefore hast thou despised me?" They considered that they had ten shares in the king, because they formed ten tribes, in opposition to the one tribe of Judah, as the Levites did not come into consideration in the matter. Although David was of the tribe of Judah, he was nevertheless king of the whole nation, so that the ten tribes had a larger share than one tribe. הקלּתני refers to the fact, that Judah took no notice at all of the tribes of Israel when fetching back the king. וגו ולא־היה, "and was not my speech the first to fetch back my king?" (On the fact itself, see Sa2 19:10-11.) לי is an emphatic dat. commodi, and is to be taken in connection with להשׁיב, notwithstanding the accents. "And the speech of the men of Judah became fiercer (more violent) than the speech of the men of Israel." With these words the historian sums up briefly the further progress of the dispute, for the purpose of appending the account of Sheba's rebellion, to which it gave rise.