Expositor's Dictionary of Texts
And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom.Bringing the King Back
2 Samuel 19:10
The rebellion was over; Absalom was dead; the messengers had not hesitated to bring what they thought would be the good tidings to the king. But how could they be good tidings, remembering the wonderful love which he bore for his son? A plaintive cry went up from him when he realized the fullness of the news, and he wished he had died instead. The joy of victory was turned to mourning; the people heard of the sorrow of the king, and little could they rejoice when they found he was bowed with sorrow. Little could they realize the joy of victory or what it meant, and they sent messengers to him one after another, and they held consultations between themselves; and then we come to these words: 'Why therefore speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?' He was there. He was still their king, but there seemed to be a division between himself and the people for the time; they could not realize that he was their king, they certainly did not enjoy his presence. And so the thought arose, 'Why therefore speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?' You know the result—he sent an upbraiding but nevertheless a loving message to his son. And then he returned once more to his people. He realized what his return meant to them, as they felt that he was now again their king.
There is a spiritual truth in these words which appeals very continuously to some of us.
I. Rebellion Against the King.—Realizing that Jesus Christ Himself is our lawful King, our Sovereign, and Saviour, may we ask ourselves what our position is in respect to Him? Many of these men had been rebels against the king; they had ranged themselves on the side of Absalom, and were willing to cast in their lot with his. But, rebels as they were, there now came the opportunity of owning their allegiance to the true king. Is it not possible for us to be rebels against our Lord Jesus Christ Himself? We may set something or somebody else up in our hearts to the exclusion of Himself; we may not own Him to be our Lord. We may not bow ourselves before Him. We may live our lives, so far as we can, without reference to Him; all our influence may be cast absolutely in the wrong direction. We may really be helping forward the kingdom of Satan rather than the kingdom of Christ. It is only too possible for us to be out-and-out rebels against Jesus Christ Himself, and to be casting in our lot with those who are vaunting against the cause of truth, righteousness, and justice. If that be the case—if any of us are conscience-stricken and feel that we have been rebels against our Lord and against His kingdom—shall we speak the word to bring Him back to us? The word must be a word of penitence, it must be a word of prayer, it must be a prayer offered up in faith, it must be a prayer to be followed by the subjection of ourselves, no matter what that may mean and involve in each individual case.
II. Separation from the King.—Or there may be many of us who have not, at any rate consciously, been rebels against our Lord Jesus Christ, but who nevertheless feel that there has been something which has separated us from Him. We know that no longer are we enjoying communion with Him. It seems as though He were a long way from us. We realize not His presence with all the joy, and hope, and light which that presence brought us in days gone by. It seems that everything is miserable that once was joy. We remember, for instance, the time when we could kneel down and pray; or we remember the time when we used to delight to read God's Word; or we remember when we could realize His presence in our daily life; or we remember when our communions were seasons of joy and spiritual refreshment; or we look back and recollect how we believed that He was not only in the world somewhere, but we believed that He was with us, we felt more joy in doing some work for Him, no matter how feeble it might be. Those were the bright, happy days of our spiritual life. But somehow or other there has been a change. We have lost the happiness which once we had, and things are not so clear and easy as they once seemed to be. We find ourselves walking in the darkness, groping our way and stumbling. We find all sorts of difficulties staring us in the face. We do not believe in prayer now, or, if we do, we do not pray; and we do not read God's Holy Word, and we have given up our communions, or, if we still attend, it is merely a matter of form. How is it? Many of us, I think, find it very difficult to hold on. We find it so easy to go back. It is so difficult always to realize the presence of the King with us, and there are so many distractions in this world, there are so many influences brought to bear upon us.
III. To Bring the King Back.—'Why therefore speak ye not a word of bringing the King back?' Do you think He will come back? Do you think He will give us the joy that once we knew? Do you think He will come to speak the word of consolation? Do you think He will come to give us that strength which His presence alone can give? Yes; speak the word to bring the King back, for He is wanted now. If we have forgotten Him He has not forgotten us. If we have been weak in our own love, if we have been an easy prey to our spiritual foes, speak the word to bring Him back. Send a message through prayer to the King to ask him to come back to the heart from which He has been expelled. Ask Him to return with all the light and joy and sunshine which ever come from His presence with us.
References.—XIX. 10.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xiv. No. 808. XIX. 31.—D. T. Young, Neglected People of the Bible, p. 92. XIX. 33-37.—W. H. Simcox, The Cessation of Prophecy, p. 123.
Fewness of Days
2 Samuel 19:34
Suppose we accommodate this inquiry of Barzillai, and apply it here and there along the sensitive line of our ever-changing life.
I. 'How long have I to live,' that I may make the most of what remains? That is a very proper question; we ought to ask ourselves that question every day. To make the most of what remains. What does remain? No man can tell. A breath. Where is your friend? He is dead. What thine hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; he that does it quickly does it twice. You have no time to lose; you have been haffling with yourself for the last six days, and you are six days nearer your end.
II. 'How long have I to live,' that I may set my house in order? You want a little time for preparation, you do not want to be hastened away so as to leave many things unarranged and unprovided for. What a beautiful thing it is to be able to stand over the grave of your friend, and to say, He did what he could; he was a sweet, heroic, valiant soul; in his own little way and sphere, take him for all in all, he was a man, we ne'er shall look upon his like again; so gentle as a father, so faithful as a friend, so wholly excellent and estimable in every capacity and aspect of life. If you want to set your house in order, make a just will. I know of no sweeter reading—and I myself have no recollection of ever having been named in a will, so I can speak the more without prejudice—I know no sweeter reading than a will after which men say, That is just, that is wisely conceived.
III. 'How long have I to live,' that I may do the most important things first? There is a gradation in importance; some things are important, others are more important, others again are most important, are indeed of superlative and inexpressible importance. That is a graduated scale which commends itself to common sense: why not apply it in all the regions and outgoings of life? It is not enough to be busy; you must be busy at the right time, in the right place, and in the right work.
'How long have I to live,' that I may pay all that I owe? This is not a question of money only, it is a far greater question. Pay the bill of thy neglect, and take a receipt from the hand of God.
—Joseph Parker, City Temple Pulpit, vol. III. p. 185.
References.—XIX. 34.—Studies in Texts, vol. i. p. 175. H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Common Life Religion, p. 36. XIX. 34-37.—A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture—2 Samuel, p. 113.
2 Samuel 19:43
Here is the beginning of a long controversy which ended in the dismemberment of God's people, and in the permanent alienation of those who by tradition, by hopes, and by privileges, were common children of a common Lord.
I. Guard against the controversial spirit. It has been well said by the late Bishop Moberly that the temper which prefers to denounce sin rather than faithfully and meekly endeavours to increase holiness in oneself and others; which rather likes railing at want of discipline, than sets itself in gentleness and prayer to bring about the restoration of it, is nearly connected with feebleness of moral fibre.
Guard against the controversial spirit. It more than anything else serves to damage the sensitiveness of the soul.
II. But while we deplore—as deplore we must—the divisions of Israel and Judah, the divisions which rend the seamless robe of Christ, we must not forget, at the same time, that as God can use the fierceness and the passions of men, so He can overrule for good 'our unhappy divisions'. Nay, we may go further and say that, bad as they are, divisions are not all bad; and sad as it is, disunion is no ground for despair. The presence of controversy, and even the sad spectacle of division, do bear witness to the intense importance of Truth. The Church of Christ does not deal with views and opinions, but with the Faith. The Apostle St. Jude entreats us earnestly to contend for the Faith once delivered to the Saints.
Sad as it is, religious dissension will try a man's earnestness, and will deepen conviction. Men do not contend for that about which they feel indifferent; sometimes it has been that the very sight of a quarrel has led men to believe that there was something worth contending for.
III. He who would use the weapons of controversy aright, whether in attack or defence, must look to it that he wears the right equipment, or he will find himself injured by the very force of the weapons which he was trying to wield. In a time of religious excitement, or among religious disputants, there is need for some very special excellences, which men do not always stop to perceive. And among these, not the least, we would put knowledge. If men knew more than they do of the Bible, a little of Church history, and a little of the true meaning of theological terms, there would be less misunderstanding and fewer religious bickerings.
And besides knowledge, the controversialist needs love. We need not think that this much-abused term commits us only to a vapid indifference, and a courteous surrender of vital truth. St. Paul was, if anyone, a practised controversialist. And yet he, in his writings, has supplied us with the most splendid and appealing utterances as to the power of love.
And more than all, the religious controversialist needs piety. The ark of God must be steadied with a holy hand, the fact that it is being shaken does not justify the unhallowed usage of Uzziah; not even Uzziah in the height of his prosperity can venture to take liberties in holy things. It needs a very chastened life, a very holy, refined touch to deal with things which concern the inner verities of the faith and the religious life of Christians. Purity, gentleness, piety, deep religious conviction—these are the healing bath in which all controversial weapon must be steeped.—W. C. E. Newbolt, Words of Exhortation, p. 40.
And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son.
And the people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.
But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!
And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines;
In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well.
Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the LORD, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now.
Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told unto all the people, saying, Behold, the king doth sit in the gate. And all the people came before the king: for Israel had fled every man to his tent.
And all the people were at strife throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, The king saved us out of the hand of our enemies, and he delivered us out of the hand of the Philistines; and now he is fled out of the land for Absalom.
And Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle. Now therefore why speak ye not a word of bringing the king back?
And king David sent to Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, saying, Speak unto the elders of Judah, saying, Why are ye the last to bring the king back to his house? seeing the speech of all Israel is come to the king, even to his house.
Ye are my brethren, ye are my bones and my flesh: wherefore then are ye the last to bring back the king?
And say ye to Amasa, Art thou not of my bone, and of my flesh? God do so to me, and more also, if thou be not captain of the host before me continually in the room of Joab.
And he bowed the heart of all the men of Judah, even as the heart of one man; so that they sent this word unto the king, Return thou, and all thy servants.
So the king returned, and came to Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to conduct the king over Jordan.
And Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite, which was of Bahurim, hasted and came down with the men of Judah to meet king David.
And there were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, and Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him; and they went over Jordan before the king.
And there went over a ferry boat to carry over the king's household, and to do what he thought good. And Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king, as he was come over Jordan;
And said unto the king, Let not my lord impute iniquity unto me, neither do thou remember that which thy servant did perversely the day that my lord the king went out of Jerusalem, that the king should take it to his heart.
For thy servant doth know that I have sinned: therefore, behold, I am come the first this day of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.
But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said, Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the LORD'S anointed?
And David said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah, that ye should this day be adversaries unto me? shall there any man be put to death this day in Israel? for do not I know that I am this day king over Israel?
Therefore the king said unto Shimei, Thou shalt not die. And the king sware unto him.
And Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king, and had neither dressed his feet, nor trimmed his beard, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he came again in peace.
And it came to pass, when he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said unto him, Wherefore wentest not thou with me, Mephibosheth?
And he answered, My lord, O king, my servant deceived me: for thy servant said, I will saddle me an ass, that I may ride thereon, and go to the king; because thy servant is lame.
And he hath slandered thy servant unto my lord the king; but my lord the king is as an angel of God: do therefore what is good in thine eyes.
For all of my father's house were but dead men before my lord the king: yet didst thou set thy servant among them that did eat at thine own table. What right therefore have I yet to cry any more unto the king?
And the king said unto him, Why speakest thou any more of thy matters? I have said, Thou and Ziba divide the land.
And Mephibosheth said unto the king, Yea, let him take all, forasmuch as my lord the king is come again in peace unto his own house.
And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.
Now Barzillai was a very aged man, even fourscore years old: and he had provided the king of sustenance while he lay at Mahanaim; for he was a very great man.
And the king said unto Barzillai, Come thou over with me, and I will feed thee with me in Jerusalem.
And Barzillai said unto the king, How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king unto Jerusalem?
I am this day fourscore years old: and can I discern between good and evil? can thy servant taste what I eat or what I drink? can I hear any more the voice of singing men and singing women? wherefore then should thy servant be yet a burden unto my lord the king?
Thy servant will go a little way over Jordan with the king: and why should the king recompense it me with such a reward?
Let thy servant, I pray thee, turn back again, that I may die in mine own city, and be buried by the grave of my father and of my mother. But behold thy servant Chimham; let him go over with my lord the king; and do to him what shall seem good unto thee.
And the king answered, Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do to him that which shall seem good unto thee: and whatsoever thou shalt require of me, that will I do for thee.
And all the people went over Jordan. And when the king was come over, the king kissed Barzillai, and blessed him; and he returned unto his own place.
Then the king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him: and all the people of Judah conducted the king, and also half the people of Israel.
And, behold, all the men of Israel came to the king, and said unto the king, Why have our brethren the men of Judah stolen thee away, and have brought the king, and his household, and all David's men with him, over Jordan?
And all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, Because the king is near of kin to us: wherefore then be ye angry for this matter? have we eaten at all of the king's cost? or hath he given us any gift?
And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, and said, We have ten parts in the king, and we have also more right in David than ye: why then did ye despise us, that our advice should not be first had in bringing back our king? And the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.