David’s son Absalom has died, the fighting has ended, and David’s troops are returning home. It should have been a day of celebration because of the military victory but all David can focus on is the death of his son. By isolating himself from everyone, David has turned what should have been a celebration into an emotional defeat. Like it or not, David was not just a father, he was also the king. Leaders have to lead, no matter what the circumstances. One of the things to notice about David here is that in his younger years, every time David needed to make a decision, he consulted the Lord. But in the whole saga with Absalom, we did not see him consult the Lord once. Over the course of the Old testament so far, we have seen disaster befall many people who did not consult the Lord before making decisions. Joab set David straight in a short but to the point speech that brought David back to reality. He took his customary place at the city gate and greeted the army as they entered the city.
The next thing we see in David is his desire for unity. There was still division among the twelve tribes as witnessed in the David/Absalom fighting. Again, ten tribes broke away and followed Absalom and the other two tribes remained loyal to David. David was still in Mahanaim but knew he needed to return home. The longer he was away the more trouble he would have regaining his city and his throne, so he forged ahead. He was God’s anointed king, and he didn’t need a call for a referendum before taking up his fallen scepter. After all, Judah was the royal tribe. David was from the tribe of Judah and it was the elders of Judah who had first made him king. So, he logically turned to the elders of Judah for help. The challenge for David was this. Hebron was in Judah and that is where Absalom began his rebellion, which must have meant he had help from some of the leaders of Judah. Now it was time for them to show their allegiance to David.
David appointed Amasa to be his new general instead of Joab. This brought two kinds of news to the people. First, they must have been shocked that David would replace Joab. He had been David’s general for some time. But, Amasa was Absalom’s general and by appointing him THE general it meant David was pardoning all the officials who had followed Absalom. So why replace Joab? David had learned it was Joab who had killed Absalom, disobeying the king’s orders. And second, Joab had been increasing in power over the years, more so since David had been urged to stay home during battles. Joab had a record of eliminating anyone who threatened his power or authority, which we saw in the reading for today. Joab and his brothers had caused David all kinds of trouble from early on and that would continue. David appointed Amasa as general, thereby uniting the army and declaring amnesty to all the rebel soldiers. This gave the nation a new beginning.
Not only did David declare amnesty to the rebel soldiers he also declared general amnesty. The men of Judah were at the Jordan River to welcome David and his family and bring them back over the Jordan and home to Jerusalem. But there were others at the river to welcome the king. Shimei the Benjaminite was there with 1,000 men from his tribe. This is the same Shimei who threw rocks and stones at David when he was leaving Jerusalem. No doubt he deserved to be punished for the way he treated the king, but David stopped Joab’s brother Abishai from killing Shimei. It was not the time to be doing more killing. We also see Ziba at the river, the man who managed the land and holdings for Mephibosheth. David saw this day as a day of celebration and did not want any killing that day. He promised Shimei he would not harm him and Shimei was pardoned. David kept his word, but we will see when David is about to die, he will warn Solomon about Shimei and because of his disobedience, he will eventually be put to death.
We see that Ziba is a manipulator at best. He has been a servant to Saul and his family for years and when Saul was killed along with his sons, Ziba continued to serve Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth. When David brought Mephibosheth to live with him, he instructed Ziba to manage the land Mephibosheth had so that Mephibosheth would have money to live on. But when David fled Jerusalem over Absalom, Mephibosheth stayed behind. Ziba told David it was because he was waiting to inherit everything that was rightfully his. Now we find out Ziba has lied and prohibited Mephibosheth from joining David. Much like Solomon who came after David, he told Ziba and Mephibosheth to split the land. All Mephibosheth was concerned with was that David had returned home safely.
Lastly today we see that there is still a struggle between tribes, north vs. south…Israel vs. Judah. It will be the story of God’s chosen people for centuries to come. The challenge was that the men of the south had “conspired” to bring King David home and they didn’t consult the tribes of the north, who had ten stakes in the king vs. the south’s two. We read in Matthew 12:25 that a house divided against itself cannot stand and that is surely the case for God’s chosen people. Sometimes it only takes one person to create trouble and now that person would be Sheba, who was from the tribe of Benjamin…the same tribe as Saul. He didn’t come right out and declare war, but his actions spoke loudly in that direction. He may well have been an officer in Absalom’s army and did not want any part of David as king. Sheba traveled throughout the northern tribes trying to drum up support and seemed to be fairly unsuccessful. He ended up in the northern walled city of Abel.
After killing Amasa, Joab once again took command of David’s troops. He followed Sheba to Abel, intending to surround the city and lay siege to it. For the third time in David’s story a woman changes the course of events. Abigail was the first, the woman of Tekoa was the second and here it is the wise woman from Abel. She called to Joab from the city wall to assure him her city was not in cahoots with any rebel, and they did not deserve to be attacked. Joab explained it was only Sheba they were seeking. This wise woman persuaded the citizens of the city to kill the rebel leader and toss his head over the wall. Again, we see the humiliation that comes with such fighting.
The reading ends with another listing of David’s officers. There are two new names this time, Adoram or Adoniram was in charge of the forced labor. These were probably prisoners of war but occasionally Israelites were conscripted to assist in government building projects. The other was Ira the Jairite who had become David’s chaplain. If David wasn’t fighting the neighboring nations and kings he was fighting with issues in his family. One by one he was losing his sons to violence, hate, jealousy, and bloodshed. And there is more yet to come.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W