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19 Someone told Joab, “The king is crying because Absalom is dead.”

David's army found out he was crying because his son had died, and their day of victory suddenly turned into a day of sadness. The troops were sneaking into Mahanaim, just as if they had run away from a battle and were ashamed.

David covered his face with his hands and kept on crying loudly, “My son, Absalom! Absalom, my son, my son!”

Joab went to the house where David was staying and told him:

You've made your soldiers ashamed! Not only did they save your life, they saved your sons and daughters and wives as well. You're more loyal to your enemies than to your friends. What you've done today has shown your officers and soldiers that they don't mean a thing to you. You would be happy if Absalom was still alive, even if the rest of us were dead.

Now get up! Go out there and thank them for what they did. If you don't, I swear by the Lord that you won't even have one man left on your side tomorrow morning. You may have had a lot of troubles in the past, but this will be the worst thing that has ever happened to you!

David got up and went to the town gate and sat down. When the people heard that he was sitting there, they came to see him.

Israel and Judah Want David Back

After Israel's soldiers had all returned home, 9-10 everyone in Israel started arguing. They were saying to each other, “King David rescued us from the Philistines and from our other enemies. But then we chose Absalom to be our new leader, and David had to leave the country to get away. Absalom died in battle, so why hasn't something been done to bring David back?”

11 When David found out what they were saying, he sent a message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. It said:

Say to the leaders of Judah, “Why are you the last tribe to think about bringing King David back home? 12 He is your brother, your own relative! Why haven't you done anything to bring him back?”

13 And tell Amasa, “You're my nephew, and with God as a witness, I swear I'll make you commander of my army instead of Joab.”

14 Soon the tribe of Judah again became followers of David, and they sent him this message: “Come back, and bring your soldiers with you.”

David Starts Back for Jerusalem

15 David started back and had gone as far as the Jordan River when he met the people of Judah. They had gathered at Gilgal and had come to help him cross the river.

16 (A) Shimei[a] the son of Gera was there with them. He had hurried from Bahurim to meet David. Shimei was from the tribe of Benjamin, and 17 1,000 others from Benjamin had come with him.

Ziba, the chief servant of Saul's family, also came to the Jordan River. He and his 15 sons and 20 servants waded across[b] to meet David. 18 Then they brought David's family and servants back across the river, and they did everything he wanted them to do.

Shimei Meets with David

Shimei crossed the Jordan River and bowed down in front of David. 19 He said, “Your Majesty, I beg you not to punish me! Please, forget what I did when you were leaving Jerusalem. Don't even think about it. 20 I know I was wrong. That's why I wanted to be the first one from the northern tribes to meet you.”

21 But Abishai shouted, “You should be killed for cursing the Lord's chosen king!”

22 David said, “Abishai, what will I ever do with you and your brother Joab? Is it your job to tell me who has done wrong? I've been made king of all Israel today, and no one will be put to death!” 23 Then David promised Shimei that he would not be killed.

Mephibosheth Meets with David

24-25 (B) Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul, also came to meet David. He had missed David so much that he had not taken a bath or trimmed his beard or washed his clothes the whole time David was gone. David asked him, “Why didn't you go with me?”

26 He answered, “Your Majesty, you know I can't walk. I told my servant to saddle a donkey for me[c] so I could go with you. But my servant left without me, and 27 then he lied about me. You're as wise as an angel of God, so do what you think is right. 28 After all, you could have killed my whole family and me. But instead, you let me eat at your own table. Your Majesty, what more could I ask?”

29 David answered, “You've said enough! I've decided to divide the property[d] between you and Ziba.”

30 Mephibosheth replied, “He can have it all! I'm just glad you've come home safely.”

Barzillai Returns Home

31 (C) Barzillai came from Rogelim in Gilead to meet David at the Jordan River and go across with him. 32 Barzillai was 80 years old. He was very rich and had sent food to David in Mahanaim.

33 David said to him, “Cross the river and go to Jerusalem with me. I will take care of you.”

34 Barzillai answered:

Your Majesty, why should I go to Jerusalem? I don't have much longer to live. 35 I'm already 80 years old, and my body is almost numb. I can't taste my food or hear the sound of singing, and I would be nothing but a burden. 36 I'll cross the river with you, but I'll only go a little way on the other side. You don't have to be so kind to me. 37 Just let me return to my hometown, where I can someday be buried near my father and mother. My servant Chimham[e] can go with you, and you can treat him as your own.

38 David said, “I'll take Chimham with me, and whatever you ask me to do for him, I'll do. And if there's anything else you want, I'll also do that.”

39 David's soldiers went on across the river, while he stayed behind to tell Barzillai goodbye and to wish him well. Barzillai returned home, but 40 Chimham crossed the river with David.

Israel and Judah Argue

All of Judah's army and half of Israel's army were there to help David cross the river. 41 The soldiers from Israel came to him and said, “Why did our relatives from Judah secretly take you and your family and your soldiers across the Jordan?”

42 The people of Judah answered, “Why are you so angry? We are the king's relatives. He didn't give us any food, and we didn't take anything for ourselves!”

43 Those from Israel said, “King David belongs to us ten times more than he belongs to you.[f] Why didn't you think we were good enough to help you? After all, we were the first ones to think of bringing him back!”

The people of Judah argued more strongly than the people of Israel.

Sheba Rebels against David

20 (D) A troublemaker from the tribe of Benjamin was there. His name was Sheba the son of Bichri, and he blew a trumpet to get everyone's attention. Then he said, “People of Israel, David the son of Jesse doesn't belong to us! Let's go home.”

So they stopped following David and went off with Sheba. But the people of Judah stayed close to David all the way from the Jordan to Jerusalem.

David's Ten Wives

(E) David had left ten of his wives in Jerusalem to take care of his palace. But when he came back, he had them taken to another house, and he placed soldiers there to guard them. He gave them whatever they needed, but he never slept with any of them again.[g] They had to live there for the rest of their lives as if they were widows.

The Army Goes after Sheba

David said to Amasa, “Three days from now I want you and all of Judah's army to be here!”

Amasa started bringing the army together, but it was taking him more than three days. So David said to Abishai, “Sheba will hurt us more than Absalom ever did. Take my best soldiers and go after him. We don't want him to take over any walled cities and get away from us.”[h]

Joab Kills Amasa

Abishai left Jerusalem to try and capture Sheba. He took along Joab and his soldiers, as well as David's bodyguard[i] and best troops. They had gone as far as the big rock at Gibeon when Amasa caught up with them. Joab had a dagger strapped around his waist over his military uniform, but it fell out as he started toward Amasa.

Joab said, “Amasa, my cousin, how are you?” Then Joab took hold of Amasa's beard with his right hand, so that he could greet him with a kiss. 10 Amasa did not see the dagger in Joab's other hand. Joab stuck it in Amasa's stomach, and his insides spilled out on the ground. Joab only struck him once, but Amasa was dying.

Joab and his brother Abishai went off to chase Sheba. 11 One of Joab's soldiers stood by Amasa and shouted, “If any of you are for Joab and David, then follow Joab!”

12 Amasa was still rolling in his own blood in the middle of the road. The soldier who had shouted noticed that everyone who passed by would stop, so he dragged Amasa off the road and covered him with a blanket. 13 After this, no one else stopped. They all walked straight past him on their way to help Joab capture Sheba.

Sheba Hides Out in the Town of Abel

14 Sheba had gone through all of the tribes of Israel when he came to the town of Abel Beth-Maacah. All of his best soldiers[j] met him there and followed him into the town.

15 Joab and his troops came and surrounded Abel, so that no one could go in or come out. They made a dirt ramp up to the town wall and then started to use a battering ram to knock the wall down.

A Wise Woman Saves the Town

16 A wise woman shouted from the top of the wall,[k] “Listen to me! Listen to me! I have to talk to Joab! Tell him to come here!” 17 When he came, the woman said, “Are you Joab?”

“Yes, I am,” he answered.

She said, “Please, listen to what I have to say.”

“All right,” he said. “I'll listen.”

18 She said, “Long ago people used to say, ‘If you want good advice, go to the town of Abel to get it.’ The answers they got here were all that was needed to settle any problem. 19 We are Israelites, and we want peace! You can trust us. Why are you trying to destroy a town that's like a mother in Israel? Why do you want to wipe out the Lord's people?”

20 Joab answered, “No, no! I'm not trying to wipe you out or destroy your town! 21 That's not it at all. There's a man in your town from the hill country of Ephraim. His name is Sheba, and he is the leader of a rebellion against King David. Turn him over to me, and we will leave your town alone.”

The woman told Joab, “We will throw his head over the wall.”

22 She went to the people of the town and talked them into doing it. They cut off Sheba's head and threw it to Joab.

Joab blew a signal on his trumpet, and the soldiers returned to their homes. Joab went back to David in Jerusalem.

Another List of David's Officials[l]

23 Joab was the commander of Israel's entire army.

Benaiah the son of Jehoiada was in command of David's bodyguard.[m]

24 Adoram[n] was in charge of the slave-labor force.

Jehoshaphat the son of Ahilud kept government records.

25 Sheva was the secretary.

Zadok and Abiathar were the priests.

26 Ira from Jair was David's priest.

The Gibeonites Hang Saul's Descendants

21 While David was king, there were three years in a row when the nation of Israel could not grow enough food. So David asked the Lord for help, and the Lord answered, “Saul and his family are guilty of murder, because he had the Gibeonites killed.”

(F) The Gibeonites were not Israelites; they were descendants of the Amorites. The people of Israel had promised not to kill them,[o] but Saul had tried to kill them because he wanted Israel and Judah to control all the land.

David had the Gibeonites come, and he talked with them. He said, “What can I do to make up for what Saul did, so that you'll ask the Lord to be kind to his people again?”[p]

The Gibeonites answered, “Silver and gold from Saul and his family are not enough. On the other hand, we don't have the right to put any Israelite to death.”

David said, “I'll do whatever you ask.”[q]

They replied, “Saul tried to kill all our people so that none of us would be left in the land of Israel. Give us seven of his descendants. We will hang[r] these men near the place where the Lord is worshiped in Gibeah, the hometown of Saul, the Lord's chosen king.”

“I'll give them to you,” David said.

(G) David had made a promise to Jonathan with the Lord as his witness, so he spared Jonathan's son Mephibosheth, the grandson of Saul. (H) But Saul and Rizpah the daughter of Aiah had two sons named Armoni and Mephibosheth. Saul's daughter Merab[s] had five sons whose father was Adriel the son of Barzillai from Meholah.[t] David took Rizpah's two sons and Merab's five sons and turned them over to the Gibeonites, who hanged[u] all seven of them on the mountain near the place where the Lord was worshiped. This happened right at the beginning of the barley harvest.[v]

Rizpah Takes Care of the Bodies

10 Rizpah spread out some sackcloth[w] on a nearby rock. She wouldn't let the birds land on the bodies during the day, and she kept the wild animals away at night. She stayed there from the beginning of the harvest until it started to rain.[x]

The Burial of Saul and His Descendants

11-12 (I) Earlier the Philistines had killed Saul and Jonathan on Mount Gilboa and had hung their bodies in the town square at Beth-Shan. The people of Jabesh in Gilead had secretly taken the bodies away, but David found out what Saul's wife[y] Rizpah had done, and he went to the leaders of Jabesh to get the bones of Saul and his son Jonathan. 13-14 David had their bones taken to the land of Benjamin and buried in a side room in Saul's family burial place. Then he gave orders for the bones of the men who had been hanged[z] to be buried there. It was done, and God answered prayers to bless the land.

The Descendants of the Rephaim

(1 Chronicles 20.4-8)

15 One time David got very tired when he and his soldiers were fighting the Philistines. 16 One of the Philistine warriors was Ishbibenob, who was a descendant of the Rephaim,[aa] and he tried to kill David. Ishbibenob was armed with a new sword,[ab] and his bronze spearhead[ac] alone weighed about three and a half kilograms. 17 (J) But Abishai[ad] came to the rescue and killed the Philistine.

David's soldiers told him, “We can't let you risk your life in battle anymore! You give light to our nation, and we want that flame to keep burning.”

18 There was another battle with the Philistines at Gob, where Sibbecai from Hushah killed a descendant of the Rephaim named Saph.

19 There was still another battle with the Philistines at Gob. A soldier named Elhanan killed Goliath[ae] from Gath, whose spear shaft was like a weaver's beam.[af] Elhanan's father was Jari[ag] from Bethlehem.

20 There was another war, this time in Gath. One of the enemy soldiers was a descendant of the Rephaim. He was as big as a giant and had six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot. 21 But when he made fun of Israel, David's nephew Jonathan killed him. Jonathan was the son of David's brother Shimei.

22 David and his soldiers killed these four men who were descendants of the Rephaim from Gath.


  1. 19.16 Shimei: See 16.5-13.
  2. 19.17 waded across: Or “rushed.”
  3. 19.26 I told … me: Two ancient translations; Hebrew, “I said, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself.’ ”
  4. 19.29 the property: The property that had belonged to Saul (see 9.7; 16.4).
  5. 19.37 My servant Chimham: Or “My son Chimham.”
  6. 19.43 King David … you: In this verse “Israel” stands for the ten northern tribes and does not include the tribe of Judah in the south.
  7. 20.3 he … again: Because of what Absalom had done (see 16.21,22).
  8. 20.6 get … us: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  9. 20.7 bodyguard: See the note at 8.18.
  10. 20.14 best soldiers: One ancient translation; the difficult Hebrew text may mean either “Berites” or “Bichrites,” Sheba's relatives.
  11. 20.16 the top of the wall: Or “the town.”
  12. 20.23 Another List of David's Officials: See also the list in 8.16,17.
  13. 20.23 David's bodyguard: See the note at 8.18.
  14. 20.24 Adoram: One ancient translation “Adoniram” (see 1 Kings 4.1-6; 5.14).
  15. 21.2 promised … them: See Joshua 9.3-27.
  16. 21.3 ask … again: Saul's guilt had become a curse on Israel that had resulted in famine. For the effects of this curse to be removed, the Gibeonites would have to ask the Lord to be kind to Israel.
  17. 21.4 I'll … ask: Or “What are you asking me to do for you?”
  18. 21.6 hang: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  19. 21.8 Merab: Some Hebrew manuscripts and some manuscripts of one ancient translation. Most other manuscripts have “Michal,” Saul's daughter who was one of David's wives, but she never had any children (see 2 Samuel 6.23). According to 1 Samuel 18.19, Merab was Saul's daughter, and she married Adriel from Meholah.
  20. 21.8 Meholah: Also known as Abel-Meholah.
  21. 21.9 hanged: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  22. 21.9 This … harvest: This would have been late in April.
  23. 21.10 sackcloth: See the note at 3.31.
  24. 21.10 started to rain: This may have been the beginning of the rainy season in September or October. It usually didn't rain from May to September. Or, it may have been a sign that now there would be enough rain again.
  25. 21.11,12 wife: See the note at 3.7.
  26. 21.13,14 hanged: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  27. 21.16 Rephaim: This may refer to a group of people that lived in Palestine before the Israelites and who were famous for their large size.
  28. 21.16 new sword: One possible meaning for the difficult Hebrew text.
  29. 21.16 spearhead: Or “helmet.”
  30. 21.17 Abishai: David's nephew, the brother of Joab.
  31. 21.19 Goliath: According to 1 Chronicles 20.5, Elhanan killed the brother of Goliath.
  32. 21.19 weaver's beam: A large wooden rod used by a weaver when making cloth.
  33. 21.19 Jari: Or “Jaare.”

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