After Joab reprimanded David for letting his sorrow over Absalom keep him from showing honor to his troops who’d fought so bravely to return him to power, “the king went out and took his seat at the town gate, and as the news spread throughout the town that he was there, everyone went to him” (II Samuel 19:8b, NLT). David had made peace with what had happened and wanted his men to see that and feel free to approach him.
“Meanwhile, the Israelites who had supported Absalom fled to their homes. And throughout all the tribes of Israel there was much discussion and argument going on. The people were saying, ‘The king rescued us from our enemies and saved us from the Philistines, but Absalom chased him out of the country. Now Absalom, whom we anointed to rule over us, is dead. Why not ask David to come back and be our king again?’” (II Samuel 19:8b-10).
Realizing that they’d hitched their wagons to the wrong mule, Absalom’s former supporters were in a tizzy. With good-looking charismatic Absalom out of the picture, they suddenly remembered how much David had done to keep them safe for their enemies. Now they were without a leader and vulnerable to every outside force. “Why not ask David to come back and be… king again?”
“Then King David sent Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, to say to the elders of Judah, ‘Why are you the last ones to welcome back the king into his palace? For I have heard that all Israel is ready. You are my relatives, my own tribe, my own flesh and blood! So why are you the last ones to welcome back the king?’ And David told them to tell Amasa, ‘Since you are my own flesh and blood, like Joab, may God strike me and even kill me if I do not appoint you as commander of my army in his place’” (II Samuel 19:11-13).
Why was it so important that Amasa receive a personal message from David? “Absalom had appointed Amasa as commander of his army… (Amasa was Joab’s cousin)” (II Samuel 17:25). For David to welcome Amasa back was a sure sign that David wanted no more bloodshed.
So “Amasa convinced all the men of Judah, and they responded unanimously. They sent word to the king, ‘Return to us, and bring back all who are with you’” (II Samuel 19:14).
“So the king started back to Jerusalem. And when he arrived at the Jordan River, the people of Judah came to Gilgal to meet him and escort him across the river. Shimei son of Gera, the man from Bahurim in Benjamin, hurried across with the men of Judah to welcome King David. A thousand other men from the tribe of Benjamin were with him, including Ziba, the chief servant of the house of Saul, and Ziba’s fifteen sons and twenty servants. They rushed down to the Jordan to meet the king. They crossed the shallows of the Jordan to bring the king’s household across the river, helping him in every way they could” (II Samuel 19:15-19a).
A couple of names stick out in this welcoming party: Shimei and Ziba. What do we know about them? Shemei was the guy who cursed David and “threw stones at the king and the king’s officers and all the mighty warriors who surrounded him” (II Samuel 16:6) when they arrived at the village of Bahurim. Shemei had screamed at David, “The Lord is paying you back for all the bloodshed in Saul’s clan. You stole his throne, and now the Lord has given it to your son Absalom. At last you will taste some of your own medicine, for you are a murderer!” (II Samuel 16:8).
Ziba was “the chief servant of the house of Saul” who had been serving Saul’s grandson Mephibosheth. He’d met David and his men and given them supplies. But when David asked him about Mephibosheth, he’d told him that Mephibosheth “stayed in Jerusalem” and had said “Today I will get back the kingdom of my grandfather Saul” (II Samuel 16:3b) - see First Samuel 16:1-4 for the whole story.
While David might have been happy to see Ziba, what would his reaction to Shemei be?
What’s your response to people who’ve mistreated you? Tomorrow we’ll see if David handled it the right way or the wrong way.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates