Perhaps Jordan was never passed with so much solemnity, nor with so many remarkable occurrences, as it was now, since Israel passed it under Joshua. David, in his afflictive flight, remembered God particularly from the land of Jordan (Ps. 42:6), and now that land, more than any other, was graced with the glories of his return. David’s soldiers furnished themselves with accommodations for their passage over this river, but, for his own family, a ferry-boat was sent on purpose, 2 Sam. 19:18. A fleet of boats, say some; a bridge of boats was made, say others; the best convenience they had to serve him with. Two remarkable persons met him on the banks of Jordan, both of whom had abused him wretchedly when he was in his flight.
I. Ziba, who had abused him with his fair tongue, and by accusing his master, had obtained from the king a grant of his estate, 2 Sam. 16:4. A greater abuse he could not have done him, than, by imposing upon his credulity, to draw him in to do a thing so unkind to the son of his friend Jonathan. He comes now, with a retinue of sons and servants, to meet the king (2 Sam. 19:17), that he may obtain the king’s favour, and so come off the better when Mephibosheth shall shortly undeceive him, and clear himself, 2 Sam. 19:26.
II. Shimei, who had abused him with his foul tongue, railed at him, and cursed him, 2 Sam. 16:5. If David had been defeated, no doubt he would have continued to trample upon him, and have gloried in what he had done; but now that he sees him coming home in triumph, and returning to his throne, he thinks it his interest to make his peace with him. Those who now slight and abuse the Son of David would be glad to make their peace too when he shall come in his glory; but it will be too late. Shimei, to recommend himself to the king, 1. Came with good company, with the men of Judah, as one in their interest. 2. He brought a regiment of the men of Benjamin with him, 1000, of which perhaps he was chiliarch, or commander-in-chief, offering his own and their service to the king; or perhaps they were volunteers, whom by his interest he had got together to meet the king, which was the more obliging because of all the tribes of Israel there were none, except these and Judah, that appeared to pay him this respect. 3. What he did he hastened to do; he lost no time. Agree with thy adversary quickly, while thou art in the way. Here is, (1.) The criminal’s submission (2 Sam. 19:18-20): He fell down before the king, as a penitent, as a supplicant; and, that he might be thought sincere, he did it publicly before all David’s servants, and his friends the men of Judah, yea, and before his own thousand. The offence was public, therefore the submission ought to be so. He owns his crime: Thy servant doth know that I have sinned. He aggravates it: I did perversely. He begs the king’s pardon: Let not the king impute iniquity to thy servant, that is, deal with me as I deserve. He intimates that it was below the king’s great and generous mind to take it to his heart; and pleads his early return to his allegiance, that he was the first of all the house of Joseph (that is, of Israel, who in the beginning of David’s reign had distinguished themselves from Judah by their adherence to Ishbosheth, 2 Sam. 2:10) that came to meet the king. He came first, that by his example of duty the rest might be induced, and by his experience of the king’s clemency the rest might be encouraged to follow. (2.) A motion made for judgment against him (2 Sam. 19:21): “Shall not Shimei be put to death as a traitor? Let him, of all men, be made an example.” This motion was made by Abishai, who would have ventured his life to have been the death of Shimei when he was cursing, 2 Sam. 16:9. David did not think fit to have it done then, because his judicial power was cut short; but, now that it was restored, why should not the law have its course? Abishai herein consulted what he supposed to be David’s feelings more than his true interest. Princes have need to arm themselves against temptations to severity. (3.) His discharge by the king’s order, 2 Sam. 19:22, 23. He rejected Abishai’s motion with displeasure: What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? The less we have to do with those who are of an angry revengeful spirit, and who put us upon doing what is harsh and rigorous, the better. He looks upon these prosecutors as adversaries to him, though they pretended friendship and zeal for his honour. Those who advise us to what is wrong are really Satans, adversaries to us. [1.] They were adversaries to his inclination, which was to clemency. He knew that he was this day king in Israel, restored to, and re-established in, his kingdom, and therefore his honour inclined him to forgive. It is the glory of kings to forgive those that humble and surrender themselves: Satis est prostrasse leoni—it suffices the lion that he has laid his victim prostrate. His joy inclined him to forgive. The pleasantness of his spirit on this great occasion forbade the entrance of any thing that was sour and peevish: joyful days should be forgiving days. Yet this was not all; his experience of God’s mercy in restoring him to his kingdom, his exclusion from which he attributed to his sin, inclined him to show mercy to Shimei. Those that are forgiven must forgive. David had severely revenged the abuses done to his ambassadors by the Ammonites (2 Sam. 12:31), but easily passes by the abuse done to himself by an Israelite. That was an affront to Israel in general, and touched the honour of his crown and kingdom; this was purely personal, and therefore (according to the usual disposition of good men) he could the more easily forgive it. [2.] They were adversaries to his interest. If he should put to death Shimei, who cursed him, those would expect the same fate who had taken up arms and actually levied war against him, which would drive them from him, while he was endeavouring to draw them to him. Acts of severity are seldom acts of policy. The throne is established by mercy. Shimei, hereupon, had his pardon signed and sealed with an oath, yet being bound, no doubt, to his good behaviour, and liable to be prosecuted if he afterwards misbehaved; and thus he was reserved to be, in due time, as much a monument of the justice of the government as he was now of its clemency, and in both of its prudence.