David was en route “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” (II Samuel 19:15b-17a, NLT).
Shimei 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. 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).
What had David done for Ziba when he’d met him with all those supplies and given him the news about Mephibosheth? He’d told him, “I give you everything Mephibosheth owns” (II Samuel 16:4b). And at the time of Shimei’s rock-throwing incident, what had David told his men concerning Shimei? “Leave him alone” (II Samuel 16:11b). Looks like Ziba has nothing to worry about, but what about Shimei?
“As the king was about to cross the river, Shimei fell down before him. ‘My lord the king, please forgive me,’ he pleaded. ‘Forget the terrible thing your servant did when you left Jerusalem. May the king put it out of his mind. I know how much I sinned. That is why I have come here today, the very first person in all Israel to greet my lord the king” (II Samuel 19:18b-20).
“Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said, ‘Shimei should die, for he cursed the Lord’s anointed king!’” (II Samuel 19:21). Abishai had a point, but David was sick of the violence.
“‘This is not a day for execution but for celebration! Today I am once again the king of Israel!’ Then, turning to Shimei, David vowed, ‘Your life will be spared’” (II Samuel 19:22b-23).
Granted, David didn’t give Shimei blanket immunity for what he’d done, but neither did he exercise his power to have him executed. Considering he’d been cursing the Lord’s anointed leader for Israel, I’d say he got off pretty lightly.
And at last we find out what happened with Mephibosheth. “Now Mephibosheth, Saul’s grandson, came down from Jerusalem to meet the king. He had not cared for his feet, trimmed his beard, or washed his clothes since the day the king left Jerusalem” (II Samuel 19:24). Everything described here were signs of mourning – a strange thing for an enemy to have done when David was ousted. But David had to ask:
“‘Why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?’ the king asked him. Mephibosheth replied, ‘My lord the king, my servant Ziba deceived me. I told him, ‘Saddle my donkey so I can go with the king.’ For as you know I am crippled. Ziba has slandered me by saying that I refused to come. But I know that my lord the king is like an angel of God, so do what you think is best. All my relatives and I could expect only death from you, my lord, but instead you have honored me by allowing me to eat at your own table! What more can I ask?’” (II Samuel 19:25-28).
Ziba had lied! Mephibosheth had never turned against David. But David was clearly in a merciful state of mind: “‘You’ve said enough,’ David replied. ‘I’ve decided that you and Ziba will divide your land equally between you’” (II Samuel 19:29).
A liar and a cheat ended up with half of Mephibosheth’s property! The biggest takeaway I can offer from this one is this: as the wise grandmother once told her complaining granddaughter, “Honey, fare is what you pay to ride the bus.” Life isn’t always fair; it’s simply up to us to be faithful.
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates