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.
Verse 1. - Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth. It is the misfortune of troubled times like those in which David found himself, that unscrupulous men use them for selfish purposes. For those in danger have no time for careful examination, nor are their minds sufficiently calm for impartial judgment, but they act on first impressions, and catch at every straw. Ziba's present would naturally raise everybody's spirits, and be taken as a good omen; for it showed that David had adherents in unlikely quarters, when thus a servant of the house of Saul of his own accord brought so timely an offering. The asses saddled for riding contradict the idea that Ziba met David by chance as he was bringing the produce of the farm for the use of Mephibosheth's household. More probably the asses had been saddled for Mephibosheth's own use (comp. 2 Samuel 19:26), and the provisions had been prepared as a contribution to the king's needs: but at the last moment the cunning Ziba managed to hurry away with his men, leaving his master in the lurch, and unable to get anything to ride upon in the short interval between David's escape and Absalom's entry. Moreover, possibly from being a cripple, and from the distressing circumStances of his early life, Mephibosheth always seems deficient in energy, and perhaps David's conduct in mulcting him of half his property may not really have been so unjust as it looks, supposing that it was his dilatoriness which gave Ziba the chance of going away with the whole convoy while he was wasting time. It was this apparent desertion of him by one whom he had so befriended which may have made David say, "All men are liars" (Psalm 116:11), though subsequently he learned that the lie was Ziba's. The food consisted of two hundred leaves, or rather fiat cakes of bread, a hundred bunches of dried grapes, a hundred cakes of pressed dates, and a skin of wine. Instead of "date cakes," some of the versions render "fig cakes;" but for this there is a special Hebrew word (see 1 Samuel 30:12).
And the king said unto Ziba, What meanest thou by these? And Ziba said, The asses be for the king's household to ride on; and the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat; and the wine, that such as be faint in the wilderness may drink.
And the king said, And where is thy master's son? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he abideth at Jerusalem: for he said, To day shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my father.
Verse 3. - Thy master's son; that is, the son of Jonathan, or even of Saul, as the word "son" is used very indefinitely in Hebrew. Mephibesheth held the property as their representative. Today shall the house, etc. Ziba's slander was absurd. Mephibosheth was likely to meet with no kind treatment from Absalom; but perhaps he was a visionary, and David may have thought that he was holding back for any chance that might turn up. But upon this slander David acts with blamable impetuosity, and, indignant that the son of his old friend should so desert him, he gives Ziba all his lands. The grant would be valid only if David's cause prevailed, and Ziba so far deserves credit in that he attached himself to a ruined man; but his motive was not love to David, but selfish calculation.
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.
Verse 4. - I humbly beseech thee that, etc. The words are really a form of grateful acceptance. "I do obeisance" (see margin), that is, "I make my humble bow: may I find favour," etc.; may the king continue to look favourably upon me.
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.
Verse 5. - Bahurim. The exact site of this place is unknown (see note on 2 Samuel 3:16). Lieut. Conder, following a Jewish tradition, identifies it with Almit, a village about four miles northeast of Jerusalem. If so it lay, not on the direct road to the fords, but on a side route. A man of the family of the house of Saul. The words do not mean that he was a near relative of Saul, but that he was a member of the mishpachah, the larger division of the tribe of Benjamin, to which the house of Saul, a much smaller subdivision of the family, belonged (see note on 2 Samuel 14:7). But he was a strong partisan, and so fanatical as to care little for his life, if only he could annoy the usurper. For besides "all the people," David had with him "the mighty men," a few of whom could easily have punished him.
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.
And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:
Verse 7. - Come out; rather, out, out; that is, "get out; begone, begone, thou murderer and worthless man." Shimei could scarcely have referred to the murders of Ishbosheth and Abner, which were too remote to have so rankled in his memory; but as ch. 21. is not in its chronological order, what probably called forth his anger was the surrender of Saul's sons and grandsons into the hands of the Gibeonites. Shimei, probably, even resented David's taking the side of the Gibeonites, and treating as a crime to be severely punished what he and all Saul's partisans regarded as righteous zeal for Israel. The three years' famine, followed by the execution of Saul's sons, made more tragic by the noble conduct of Rizpah, contributed largely to the revolt of the nation from David, and helps to explain that abandonment of him by the people, which otherwise seems so hard to understand (on the date of the famine, see note on ch. 21.).
The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.
Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.
Verse 9. - Then said Abishai. Abishai's indignation was natural, and it is evident, from ver. 10, that Joab shared it. Shimei's conduct was abominable, and David finally condemned him to death for it (1 Kings 2:8, 9), having probably found that, even after his pardon, he was an implacable enemy. His revilings now must not only have been painful to David, but depressing to all the people that were with him, and there must have been many a murmur in the ranks at the king allowing such conduct to go unpunished. But he was in a state of great mental distress and self-condemnation. He had borne sorrow after sorrow since the day when, by his own great sin, he had opened the floodgates of wickedness; and now the son whom he dearly loved, and who had first been put wrong by a crime which might never have been committed but for his own example, was seeking both his crown and his life, and had made his cup of sorrow full to the brim and running over. At such a time of agony it was even a relief to have outward affliction to bear; for it brought the consoling thought that the Divine chastisement had its merciful limit. Jehovah had bidden Shimei revile him, and he would bear it because it was Jehovah's doing. "It may be that Jehovah will look upon my wrong, and that he will requite me good for his cursing of me this day." Go ever. Abishai's word is explained by ver. 13. David's route seems to have lain in a narrow valley, and Shimei, running along the ridge on one side, was near enough for his words to be heard, and for his stones to come near the king's retinue. Abishai, therefore, asked permission to cross over to Shimei's side of the steep ravine with a few men, who would seize him and put him to death.
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?
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.
It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.
Verse 12. - Mine affliction. This reading is supported by the Septuagint and Vulgate. The Syriac has "my subjection," possibly a free translation of the same reading. But the written text (K'tib) has "my wrong," either the wrong I have done, and of which I am bearing the punishment, or, as in the Revised Version, "the wrong done unto me." The correction of the Massorites (K'ri), is literally "my eye," that is, "my team."
And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill's side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust.
And the king, and all the people that were with him, came weary, and refreshed themselves there.
Verse 14. - Weary. Evidently the name of a place; for David "refreshed himself there." It was probably a caravanserai, the full name of which was, "Rest for the weary," but gradually the title was shortened down to the last word, "Weary," Hebrew Ayephim, which the Revised Version puts as a proper name in the margin.
And Absalom, and all the people the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him.
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.
And Absalom said to Hushai, Is this thy kindness to thy friend? why wentest thou not with thy friend?
Verse 17. - Is this thy kindness to thy friend? After carrying the king to Ayephim, on the banks of the Jordan, the narrator now turns back to Absalom, because David was to wait at the caravanserai for news from Jerusalem. And immediately on his arrival, Hushai hastens into Absalom's presence, loudly exclaiming, "Long live the king!" for such is the meaning of the Hebrew. The young man is surprised; for Hushai was David's friend and trusted confidant. Yet he does not suspect this sudden breaking of old ties, but, looking at the bright side only, sees in it a proof that his party was looked upon as sure of success, and David's cause as hopeless. He welcomes, therefore, so notable an adherent, and Hushai's pretences confirm his self-deceit; for he professes to regard Absalom as king, not by fraud and violence, but by the formal choice of both Jehovah and the people. On this assumption, obedience to the nation's choice became a religious duty, and Hushai's love to the father was a pledge of love to the son. We must not, however, condemn Absalom for too easy credulity. The nation was in his favour, and, had he acted with promptitude, David's cause would have been lost.
And Hushai said unto Absalom, Nay; but whom the LORD, and this people, and all the men of Israel, choose, his will I be, and with him will I abide.
Verse 18. - The men of Israel. Here and in ver. 15 the men of Israel are not contrasted with the men of Judah, but include them (see 2 Samuel 15:10). Absalom's rebellion began at Hebron, in Judaea, and the selection of Amasa, a first cousin both of David and Joab, as commander-in-chief, suggests the conclusion that Absalom's chief strength lay in David's own tribe, though men from all the tribes on the west of the Jordan had also flocked to his standard. Besides them, Hushai speaks of this people, that is, the citizens of Jerusalem. For, while there had been general lamentation at David's departure (2 Samuel 15:23), yet the citizens had admitted Absalom without a struggle, and submitted to him. David's adherents are also constantly called "the people," because they did not belong to any special tribe, but were drawn indifferently from them all.
And again, whom should I serve? should I not serve in the presence of his son? as I have served in thy father's presence, so will I be in thy presence.
Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do.
Verse 20. - Give counsel among you; Hebrew, for you; but we have no way in English of expressing the force of this phrase. In Greek it is called the ethic dative, and is supposed to give character to the address, and indicate that those to whom the words are spoken have also an interest in the matter.
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.
Verse 21. - Ahithophel said. Ahithophel's counsel was utterly abominable, even though the deed would not be regarded by any of the Israelites as incestuous. A king inherited his predecessor's harem, and Absalom's act was a coarse and rude assertion that David's rights were at an end, and that crown and lands and property, even to his wives, now all belonged to the usurper. But, while polygamy had thus degraded the wives and concubines into mere chattels, the harem was the property most jealously guarded by its owner (2 Samuel 3:7; 1 Kings 2:22); and Absalom's act was an outrage which David could never have pardoned. And this was what Ahithophel wanted. He was afraid that if Absalom's cause began to decline, he might come to terms with his father, who would readily forgive a son if he submitted, but would certainly punish Ahithophel. For his own selfish purposes, therefore, he led Absalom on to a crime which rendered a reconciliation with David impossible, and pledged all the conspirators to carry out the matter to the bitter end; and that end could only be the death of David if the conspiracy succeeded. But this bitterness to David would vex all moderate men, and weaken Absalom's cause. It was of advantage only to such as were deeply committed to the rebellion, and bent on killing David. To him it was terrible sorrow; for he knew that this open shame was the punishment of his own secret infamy (2 Samuel 12:11, 12); and in it, again, he saw the meshes of the avenger's net tightening around him.
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.
Verse 22. - A tent; Hebrew, the tent; that constantly used by David and his family for the enjoyment of the cool evening breeze, and which the citizens of Jerusalem had frequently seen erected on the flat roof of David's house. It was when walking on this roof that David had given way to guilty passion, and now it is the scene of his dishonour.
And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counselled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.
Verse 23. - The counsel of Ahithophel, etc. These words form a sort of apology for Absalom. He ought to have had more respect for his father than to offer him so grievous an insult, and aggravate by so terrible a deed the quarrel between them. But his conduct from first to last was utterly mean and selfish, and his only excuse here is that there was such a glamour round Ahithophel, that men yielded up their own judgment to him without an effort, and did what he advised as if it had a religious sanction. At the oracle of God; Hebrew, had asked the Word of God; that is, had consulted God by Urim and Thummim. When a man went to the priest to inquire in this way, he did whatever he was told; and the word of Ahithophel was accepted with equal deference.