2 Samuel 19-20
David’s Grief for Absalom
19 1-4 Joab was told that David was weeping and lamenting over Absalom. The day’s victory turned into a day of mourning as word passed through the army, “David is grieving over his son.” The army straggled back to the city that day demoralized, dragging their tails. And the king held his face in his hands and lamented loudly,
O my son Absalom,
Absalom my dear, dear son!
5-7 But in private Joab rebuked the king: “Now you’ve done it—knocked the wind out of your loyal servants who have just saved your life, to say nothing of the lives of your sons and daughters, wives and concubines. What is this—loving those who hate you and hating those who love you? Your actions give a clear message: officers and soldiers mean nothing to you. You know that if Absalom were alive right now, we’d all be dead—would that make you happy? Get hold of yourself; get out there and put some heart into your servants! I swear to God that if you don’t go to them they’ll desert; not a soldier will be left here by nightfall. And that will be the worst thing that has happened yet.”
8 So the king came out and took his place at the city gate. Soon everyone knew: “Oh, look! The king has come out to receive us.” And his whole army came and presented itself to the king. But the Israelites had fled the field of battle and gone home.
9-10 Meanwhile, the whole populace was now complaining to its leaders, “Wasn’t it the king who saved us time and again from our enemies, and rescued us from the Philistines? And now he has had to flee the country on account of Absalom. And now this Absalom whom we made king is dead in battle. So what are you waiting for? Why don’t you bring the king back?”
11-13 When David heard what was being said, he sent word to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, “Ask the elders of Judah, ‘Why are you so laggard in bringing the king back home? You’re my brothers! You’re my own flesh and blood! So why are you the last ones to bring the king back home?’ And tell Amasa, ‘You, too, are my flesh and blood. As God is my witness, I’m making you the permanent commander of the army in place of Joab.’”
14 He captured the hearts of everyone in Judah. They were unanimous in sending for the king: “Come back, you and all your servants.”
15-18 So the king returned. He arrived at the Jordan just as Judah reached Gilgal on their way to welcome the king and escort him across the Jordan. Even Shimei son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, hurried down to join the men of Judah so he could welcome the king, a thousand Benjaminites with him. And Ziba, Saul’s steward, with his fifteen sons and twenty servants, waded across the Jordan to meet the king and brought his entourage across, doing whatever they could to make the king comfortable.
18-20 Shimei son of Gera bowed deeply in homage to the king as soon as he was across the Jordan and said, “Don’t think badly of me, my master! Overlook my irresponsible outburst on the day my master the king left Jerusalem—don’t hold it against me! I know I sinned, but look at me now—the first of all the tribe of Joseph to come down and welcome back my master the king!”
21 Abishai son of Zeruiah interrupted, “Enough of this! Shouldn’t we kill him outright? Why, he cursed God’s anointed!”
22 But David said, “What is it with you sons of Zeruiah? Why do you insist on being so contentious? Nobody is going to be killed today. I am again king over Israel!”
23 Then the king turned to Shimei, “You’re not going to die.” And the king gave him his word.
24-25 Next Mephibosheth grandson of Saul arrived from Jerusalem to welcome the king. He hadn’t combed his hair or trimmed his beard or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safe and sound. The king said, “And why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?”
26-28 “My master the king,” he said, “my servant betrayed me. I told him to saddle my donkey so I could ride it and go with the king, for, as you know, I am lame. And then he lied to you about me. But my master the king has been like one of God’s angels: he knew what was right and did it. Wasn’t everyone in my father’s house doomed? But you took me in and gave me a place at your table. What more could I ever expect or ask?”
29 “That’s enough,” said the king. “Say no more. Here’s my decision: You and Ziba divide the property between you.”
30 Mephibosheth said, “Oh, let him have it all! All I care about is that my master the king is home safe and sound!”
31-32 Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim. He crossed the Jordan with the king to give him a good send-off. Barzillai was a very old man—eighty years old! He had supplied the king’s needs all the while he was in Mahanaim since he was very wealthy.
33 “Join me in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “Let me take care of you.”
34-37 But Barzillai declined the offer, “How long do you think I’d live if I went with the king to Jerusalem? I’m eighty years old and not much good anymore to anyone. Can’t taste food; can’t hear music. So why add to the burdens of my master the king? I’ll just go a little way across the Jordan with the king. But why would the king need to make a great thing of that? Let me go back and die in my hometown and be buried with my father and mother. But my servant Kimham here; let him go with you in my place. But treat him well!”
38 The king said, “That’s settled; Kimham goes with me. And I will treat him well! If you think of anything else, I’ll do that for you, too.”
39-40 The army crossed the Jordan but the king stayed. The king kissed and blessed Barzillai, who then returned home. Then the king, Kimham with him, crossed over at Gilgal.
40-41 The whole army of Judah and half the army of Israel processed with the king. The men of Israel came to the king and said, “Why have our brothers, the men of Judah, taken over as if they owned the king, escorting the king and his family and close associates across the Jordan?”
42 The men of Judah retorted, “Because the king is related to us, that’s why! But why make a scene? You don’t see us getting treated special because of it, do you?”
43 The men of Israel shot back, “We have ten shares in the king to your one. Besides we’re the firstborn—so why are we having to play second fiddle? It was our idea to bring him back.”
But the men of Judah took a harder line than the men of Israel.
20 Just then a good-for-nothing named Sheba son of Bicri the Benjaminite blew a blast on the ram’s horn trumpet, calling out,
We’ve got nothing to do with David,
there’s no future for us with the son of Jesse!
Let’s get out of here, Israel—head for your tents!
2-3 So all the men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba son of Bicri. But the men of Judah stayed committed, sticking with their king all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem. When David arrived home in Jerusalem, the king took the ten concubines he had left to watch the palace and placed them in seclusion, under guard. He provided for their needs but didn’t visit them. They were virtual prisoners until they died, widows as long as they lived.
4-10 The king ordered Amasa, “Muster the men of Judah for me in three days; then report in.” Amasa went to carry out his orders, but he was late reporting back. So David told Abishai, “Sheba son of Bicri is going to hurt us even worse than Absalom did. Take your master’s servants and hunt him down before he gets holed up in some fortress city where we can’t get to him.” So under Abishai’s command, all the best men—Joab’s men and the Kerethites and Pelethites—left Jerusalem to hunt down Sheba son of Bicri. They were near the boulder at Gibeon when Amasa came their way. Joab was wearing a tunic with a sheathed sword strapped on his waist, but the sword slipped out and fell to the ground. Joab greeted Amasa, “How are you, brother?” and took Amasa’s beard in his right hand as if to kiss him. Amasa didn’t notice the sword in Joab’s other hand. Joab stuck him in the belly and his guts spilled to the ground. A second blow wasn’t needed; he was dead. Then Joab and his brother Abishai continued to chase Sheba son of Bicri.
11-14 One of Joab’s soldiers took up his post over the body and called out, “Everyone who sides with Joab and supports David, follow Joab!” Amasa was lying in a pool of blood in the middle of the road; the man realized that the whole army was going to stop and take a look, so he pulled Amasa’s corpse off the road into the field and threw a blanket over him so it wouldn’t collect spectators. As soon as he’d gotten him off the road, the traffic flowed normally, following Joab in the chase after Sheba son of Bicri. Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel as far as Abel Beth Maacah; all the Bicrites clustered and followed him into the city.
15 Joab’s army arrived and laid siege to Sheba in Abel Beth Maacah. They built a siege-ramp up against the city’s fortification. The plan was to knock down the wall.
16-17 But a shrewd woman called out from the city, “Listen, everybody! Please tell Joab to come close so I can talk to him.” When he had come, the woman said, “Are you Joab?”
He said, “I am.”
“Then,” she said, “listen to what I have to say.”
He said, “I’m listening.”
18-19 “There’s an old saying in these parts: ‘If it’s answers you want, come to Abel and get it straight.’ We’re a peaceful people here, and reliable. And here you are, trying to tear down one of Israel’s mother cities. Why would you want to mess with God’s legacy like that?”
20-21 Joab protested, “Believe me, you’ve got me all wrong. I’m not here to hurt anyone or destroy anything—not on your life! But a man from the hill country of Ephraim, Sheba son of Bicri by name, revolted against King David; hand him over, him only, and we’ll get out of here.”
The woman told Joab, “Sounds good. His head will be tossed to you from the wall.”
22 The woman presented her strategy to the whole city and they did it: They cut off the head of Sheba son of Bicri and tossed it down to Joab. He then blew a blast on the ram’s horn trumpet and the soldiers all went home. Joab returned to the king in Jerusalem.
23-26 Joab was again commander of the whole army of Israel. Benaiah son of Jehoiada was over the Kerethites and Pelethites; Adoniram over the work crews; Jehoshaphat son of Ahilud was clerk; Sheva was historian; Zadok and Abiathar were priests; Ira the Jairite was David’s chaplain.