II Samuel 19–20. How David Got His Kingdom Back.

Key Notes: Settling scores with Shimei, Mephibosheth, Barzillai, Amasa,and Sheba. Ruthless Joab. A messy kingdom.

These chapters detail the story of the aftermath of Absalom’s short reign—finished almost before it began. David and the peace of Jerusalem was restored, but with blood-shed, confusion and revolt. Since this was the beginning of the Kingdom of God as expressed through David’s reign, we wonder why it did not appear more glorious. It is far away from the proud beginnings at Hebron. (I Chronicles 11–12). But we will see glory restored in the reign of Solomon.

19:1–8  We rejoin the story with David crying out in lamentation when he heard of the death of his beloved son, Absalom. Everyone in Mahanaim was quiet and embarrassed, walking around on tiptoe. Joab was not only not embarrassed, but angry at David for ruining the morale of his people. David would rather have Absalom alive and everyone dead? He insisted that David come out and sit in the gate or else .... The bulk of the fighting men went for home.

19:9–15             Israel was in confusion.
                        David saved us from the Philistines.
                        He ran away from Absalom.
                        We anointed Absalom, but now he is dead.
                        Why don’t you bring the king back?

David did not wait for a political move in his favor, but sent word to the priests, Zadok and Abiathar, to summon the elders of Judah. They were his next-of-kin and should take the lead in restoring David to Jerusalem. Judah responded heartily. He also ordered that Amasa replace Joab as army commander and report in three days. David and his company came to the Jordan and met the elders at Gilgal.

19:16–23  The first individual to be recognized was Shimei, a relative of Saul, who had cursed David. (II Samuel 16:5–13). He did not come alone, but with a thousand men of Benjamin, both a guard and an implied threat. He begged forgiveness for sin and wrong against David. Abishai still thought he should be killed, but David forbade any killing on the day of his return. This was not an acquittal, however. David later put him under house-arrest from which he did not escape. I Kings 2:36–46

19:24–30  The next person was Mephibosheth. He had not washed or shaved since David left Jerusalem. David chided him for staying behind, supposing that Ziba was right in slandering him. David agreed to divide the estate between him and Ziba. That was not fair either, but which of the two men was David to believe? If Mephibosheth could come now, why did he not come sooner? Mephibosheth did not care for rewards.

19:31–40  Barzillai escorted David over the Jordan and was invited to stay with David, but declined because of his old age. He could not hear well or enjoy food and drink. He offered his servant (or son) Chimham. David blessed Barzillai and sent him home. Half of Israel and Judah was accompanying David.

19:41–43  But the rest of Israel was jealous of Judah for "stealing" David. They protested that they had ten shares of David and Judah only one or two. But the men of Judah were more vehement, more vehement than was appropriate. David should have intervened. He had set up a revolt which he did not intend.

20:1–3  Sheba took up the revolt and Israel withdrew from David. “We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel.”  Practically the same words were spoken by Jeroboam and Israel against Rehoboam and Judah some fifty years later. (I Kings 12:16). That time the division was permanent. David went back to his palace and isolated his ten concubines, so that they lived as if widows.

20:4–13  David sent word to Amasa to bring the men of Judah in three days. David wanted Amasa to be his general instead of Joab (19:13), although he had led Absalom’s army (17:25). David was likely trying to discipline Joab for killing Abner years ago and his son Absalom just now.

Amasa was the son of David's sister, Abigail. (Joab was the son of David's sister, Zeruiah:  his first cousin {I Chronicles 2:16–17}.)  He delayed and David sent Abishai after him, but Joab and the Cherethites and the Pelethites followed. Joab met Amasa at the great stone at Gibeon, and murdered him on the spot. Then Joab and Abishai went after Sheba while one of Joab's men stood by Amasa. Everyone stopped until he pulled Amasa's body out of the road into a field and covered it with a garment.

Joab would tolerate no rivals for the military leadership of Israel, not even his own flesh and blood.

20:14–22  Sheba was besieged in Abel of Beth-maacah. A wise woman of the city asked Joab why he would destroy a mother-city in Israel. Joab said he was only after one man. They gave him the head of Sheba and the army went home.

20:23–26  The list of officers of 8:16 now includes Sheva instead of Seraiah as secretary, Adoram in charged of forced labor (a new position), and Ira the Jairite also as priest (?). The use of forced labor (I Chronicles 22:2) would later (II Chronicles 10:18) divide the monarchy.


Nathan’s prophecy following David's dalliance with Bathsheba was fulfilled:

a. The sword did not depart from his house. Amnon, Absalom, and Amasa were dead, and later             Adonijah and Joab were killed. There were two revolts. Absalom and Ahithophel defected, as well as Sheba.
b. David’s wives were given to his “neighbor”. Ten concubines were raped by Absalom on the palace roof-top.
c. His child by Bathsheba died.
d. David did not die.

The kingdom of David was now fully restored. David and his kingdom are the progenitors of the Messianic kingdom of Christ. The Kingdom awaits its consummation. “The Kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15). We would wish it could be accomplished without blunders, mistakes, jealousy, revolt and bloodshed, but Revelation suggests otherwise. God works His will with human beings, bad as well as good. He does not usually do miracles to accomplish his purposes.

Ought not the church, an outpost of God’s kingdom in the city, accomplish its work without making a mess? Clearly it should, but clearly it does not. As C.S. Lewis comments in The Pilgrim’s Regress, “The Landlord’s house is always falling down.”  That should comfort us in the crises to which every church is prone.