Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
And when David was a little past the top of the hill, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of asses saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread, and an hundred bunches of raisins, and an hundred of summer fruits, and a bottle of wine.XVI.
(1) Ziba . . . met him.—It is evident from the sequel of the story (2Samuel 19:24-30) that Ziba grossly slandered his master, doubtless for the purpose (as appears from 2Samuel 16:4) of personal gain. This story was, indeed, almost too improbable to be believed; for, quite independently of his obligations to David, Mephibosheth, a helpless cripple of the house of Saul, could hardly have hoped that Absalom’s rebellion would bring the throne to him; yet David, apt to be hasty in his judgments, was in a state to believe in any story of ingratitude, and to be deeply affected by Ziba’s large contribution to his necessities. Ziba shows entire want of principle, and could, therefore, have adhered to David’s cause only because he had the shrewdness to foresee its ultimate success.
Then said the king to Ziba, Behold, thine are all that pertained unto Mephibosheth. And Ziba said, I humbly beseech thee that I may find grace in thy sight, my lord, O king.(4) I humbly beseech thee that I may find grace.—Literally, I bow myself down; let me find favour.
And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came.(5) Bahurim.—See Note on 2Samuel 3:16.
Of the family of the house of Saul.—That is, “of the family,” in the larger sense of tribe. Many of the Benjamites naturally felt aggrieved when the royal house passed away from their tribe; and, although under restraint while David’s government was strong, were ever ready to show their opposition and hatred when opportunity offered, as now with Shimei, and a little later with Sheba, the son of Bichri (2Samuel 20:1-2).
And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.(6) He cast stones.—The road appears to have led along the side of a narrow ravine, on the opposite side of which (see 2Samuel 16:9, “let me go over”) Shimei kept along with the fugitives, out of reach, and yet easily heard, and able to annoy them with stones.
And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:(7) Come out, come out.—Rather, Go out, go out. It is doubtful whether by the words, “thou bloody man,” Shimei meant anything more than that he considered David responsible for “the blood of the house of Saul”, (2Samuel 16:8), especially in the case of Ishbosheth and of Abner, and the execution of Saul’s seven descendants at the demand of the Gibeonites (2Samuel 21:1-9). Yet he may have known of the crime in regard to Uriah, and have wished to point his curse with the charge of shedding that innocent blood.
And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?(10) So let him curse.—This translation follows the margin of the Hebrew, as the LXX. and Vulg. also do. David, throughout, recognises that all his sufferings were from the Lord’s hand, and he wishes to submit himself entirely to His will. He does not, of course, mean to justify Shimei’s wrong; but only to say that, as far as his sin bears upon himself, it is of Divine appointment and he cannot resent it.
And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him.(11) How much more now may this Benjamite.—The “Benjamite” is in contrast to his own son, because he represents the adherent of another and rival dynasty. It is noticeable that David accuses Absalom not only of seeking his throne, but his life.
It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.(12) Look on mine affliction.—The English here follows the LXX. and Vulg. The Hebrew margin has mine eye, but the text has my iniquity, which is probably the true sense. David expresses the hope that God will mercifully look upon his sin, of which he has repented, and for which he is now bearing punishment: a part of this punishment is the cursing of Shimei, and God may be well pleased that it should be patiently borne.
And the king, and all the people that were with him, came weary, and refreshed themselves there.(14) Came weary.—The sentence seems to require the mention of some place, and the clause “refreshed themselves there” to imply that a place has already been mentioned. The word for weary is, therefore, generally taken as a proper name, Ayephim, which was probably a mere caravansary.
And it came to pass, when Hushai the Archite, David's friend, was come unto Absalom, that Hushai said unto Absalom, God save the king, God save the king.(16) God save the king.—In the original, wherever this phrase occurs, it is simply, Let the king live. This and the expression “God forbid” are exceptional instances in which modern phraseology refers more directly to God than the ancient. Absalom is surprised at Hushai’s coming to him, and inclined to distrust one who has deserted his former friend and master. But Hushai succeeds in explaining his conduct as based upon the principle of loyalty to the government de facto; he urges that this has the Divine authority, and his faithfulness to the former king is a pledge of faithfulness to the present one.
And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father's concubines, which he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father: then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong.(21) And Ahithophel said.—The counsel of Ahithophel was in effect that Absalom should make the breach between him and his father absolute and irreconcilable. His followers would thus be assured of the impossibility of his securing a pardon for himself while they were left to their fate. After adopting this course, he must necessarily persist to the end. The taking of the harem of his predecessor by the incoming monarch was an Oriental custom, to the enormity of which the mind was blunted by the practice of polygamy.
So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house; and Absalom went in unto his father's concubines in the sight of all Israel.(22) A tent upon the top of the house.—Nathan had foretold that the nature of David’s public punishment should correspond to the character of his secret crime. The fact that this punishment takes place on the very roof where David had first yielded to his guilty passion makes it particularly striking.