And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom.
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.
Verse 2. - The victory (Hebrew, the salvation) that day was turned into mourning. Naturally, the people did not understand the poignant emotions caused by the activity of David's conscience, and were pained at this seeming ingratitude to them for their brave exertions in his behalf, and at what they must have regarded as indifference to the welfare of the nation. Nor would it be easy for us to understand his conduct during the flight from Jerusalem, and in bearing Shimei's imprecations so tamely, did we not find in the psalms written at this time that David was suffering extreme and even excessive self-reproach and mental anguish at his past sin. It was a relief to bear Shimei's rudeness, for God might remember it for good. Racked thus with self-reproach, he had urged upon his generals to spare the young man (2 Samuel 18:5), whose sin was part of a web which he had himself begun to spin, and in terror he waited for the result. Mentally it would have been better for him if he had gone to the battle instead of sitting in gloomy self-reproach between the gates. His eager inquiries, "Is the lad safe? meant - Has the hand of justice again smitten me? and when he found that a second blow had fallen, his self control gave way. Joab, more statesmanlike, and with his personal feelings unmoved, notices the fresh wrong that David is committing, and is vexed at seeing his brave warriors slink into Mahanaim ashamed, instead of being welcomed with deserved praise. But their conduct in being so depressed at David's sorrow is a proof of their affection for him, and it was plainly his duty to master his feelings, and to think of making a due return for the great service they had rendered him. The Hebrew word "salvation," that is, deliverance, gives the better side of the idea, while "victory" is a coarser word, taken from the language of a people whose trade was war.
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;
Verse 5. - And Joab... said. Joab's speech puts the alternative in a very incisive and even rude way before the king. But what he says is true, namely, that Absalom's success would inevitably have been followed by the massacre, not only of David himself, but of his sons and daughters, and of the women who had accompanied him in his flight. Nor would it have stopped there. but the officers of his court, the captains of his army, his mighties, and all who had long eared for and loved him would have been put to the sword. It was this horrible certainty, according to Oriental usage, which made Absalom's rebellion so abominable, and which steeled the heart of Joab against him when he saw him hanging in the tree. He regarded him as a fratricide and parricide, who had plotted murder on a large scale; and Joab was not made milder by the thought that this would have included himself and the heroes who had made David's throne so great. With stern good sense he, therefore, bids the king suppress his mere personal feelings, and leave the chamber in which he had concealed himself, to go forth and "speak to the heart of his servants," that is, thank and praise them in a friendly manner. For otherwise they would disperse and leave him; and this would be followed by the uprise of some other claimant of the throne - some relative, perhaps, of Saul, backed by the tribes of Benjamin and Ephraim; and David, abandoned by the nation, would fall an easy victim, with all his family, of this second rebellion. Absalom's rapid success proved that David had many enemies, and without great prudence he might be left at Mahanaim as powerless as Ishbeshoth had been. The long delay between the death of this puppet king and David's appointment to be sovereign of all Israel was probably owing to the same want of enthusiasm for David which had made the nation transfer its allegiance so lightly to the handsome Absalom. But with all his good sense Joab was coarse and rude. He was, moreover, utterly incapable of understanding David's real feelings. He saw only a father giving way to an exaggerated loss for a handsome but worthless son. David really was condemning himself for having brought lust and murder into his own house by abominable sin.
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.
Verse 8. - All the people came before the king. Probably they passed in review before him, and received his thanks. By thus acting in accordance with Joab's wise counsel, David probably saved the nation from years of anarchy, and a fresh civil war. For Israel had fled every man to his tent; Hebrew, and Israel, that is, Absalom's partisans, fled each man to his tent - to his home. The Authorized Version confounds Israel with David's soldiers, but consistently throughout the narrative "the hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom" (2 Samuel 15:13; and see 2 Samuel 16:15, 18; 17:14, 15, 24, 26; 18:6, 7, 16, 17).
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?
Verse 10. - Absalom, whom we anointed over us. It is evident from these words that there had been some solemn anointing and appointment of Absalom, and this accounts for the manner in which his partisans are always described as "Israel," while David's men are simply "his servants." With this anointment there must also have been a formal renunciation of David's rule, and, being thus dethroned, he does not attempt to return until the nation summons him back. As the flight of David narrated in ch. 16. was extremely hurried, the conspirators must have kept their counsel well, and whatever rumours reached him apparently he disregarded. But meanwhile representatives of the tribes secretly convened at Hebron had claimed to act in the name of Israel, and, chosen a new king. The words certainly imply that, had Absalom lived, the Israelites would have considered themselves bound to obey him.
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.
Verse 11. - David sent to Zadok and to Abiathar. The two high priests had remained behind at Jerusalem, to watch over David's interests, and he now, by a messenger, probably Ahimaaz or Jonathan, urges them to quicken the proceedings of his own tribe. We may feel quite sure that there was discussion in Judah as well as in the other tribes; but the rebellion had begun at Hebron, and probably many of the leading chiefs were deeply implicated in Absalom's proceedings. Probably they now regretted it, but hung back through fear of punishment. It was politic, therefore, to assure them of David's kindly feelings, and that overtures on their side would be readily received, and the past forgiven.
Ye are my brethren, ye are my bones and my flesh: wherefore then are ye the last to bring back the king?
Verse 12. - My bones; Hebrew, my bone and my flesh, so nearly related as to be part of my own self (Genesis 2:23).
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.
Verse 13. - Of my bone, and of my flesh; Hebrew, art thou not my bone and my flesh? - a most near and dear relative. It is difficult to understand why in the Authorized Version this common metaphor in the Hebrew has been so meddled with, Ewald thinks that this purposed degradation of Joab and the substitution of Amasa in his stead was a wise and politic act. It was to some extent just, for Joab was a man stained with many murders; but politic it was not. Passing over the fact that Amasa had actually taken the command of the rebel army, he was an ambitious and selfish man, and could lay no claim to that sturdy fidelity which had characterized Joab throughout his long service. For all he had done had been for David's good, and his advice, however roughly given, had averted grave misfortunes. Joab's murder of Absalom was an act of wilful disobedience; but David had used Joab for a far meaner murder, committed, not for reasons of statesmanship; but for purposes of lust. The guilt of slaying Absalom was as nothing compared with that of slaying Uriah, nor was it so base as the assassination of Abner, which David had tolerated, though made angry by it. The dismissal of Joab could have been effected only by putting him to death, and this certainly he did not deserve at David's hands; and the attempt, unless carried out secretly, would have led to tumult and insurrection. Joab, too, was a far more skilful general than Amasa, who, with larger forces, had just suffered a disastrous defeat; and if Joab was removed secretly, his brother Abishai remained to avenge him. David was, in fact, blinded by love for the son whom for so many years he had treated with coldness. There was a strong reaction now in the father's mind, and under its influence he was prepared to sacrifice the nephew who had been faithful to him and saved him, for the nephew who had joined in Absalom's rebellion. But possibly it had an immediate good effect, as Amasa, assured of forgiveness and promotion, now took David's side.
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.
Verse 14. - And he bowed, etc. It was not Amasa, but David, who made all the members of his tribe unanimous in his recall. And not only were the high priests active in his cause, but David, He may feel sure, sent numerous messages to all the more powerful men, assuring them of forgiveness and favour. In his general policy he was right. After the solemn anointing of Absalom, it was necessary for him to wait until some equally public and national act authorized his resumption of the royal power; and delay was dangerous. Every day now spent at Mabanaim might give the opportunity for fresh troubles.
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.
Verse 15. - Gilgal. As Gilgal lay upon the west bank of the Jordan (Joshua 5:9), near Jericho and the fords, it was a convenient place for the elders of Judah to await there the king. During the crossing, two interesting events happened - the meeting of Shimei and David, and the leave taking of Barzillai the Gileadite. Shortly afterwards came the apology of Mephibosheth but it is uncertain whether he was among those who had come to Gilgal to welcome the king.
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.
Verse 16. - Shimei the son of Gera. The fact that he came attended by a thousand men of the tribe of Benjamin is a proof, not only that he was a person of influence, but that he had exerted himself to bring over his tribesmen to David's side. His adherence was, therefore, of importance. Ziba had always professed allegiance to David, and as he virtually represented the house of Stud, his presence was also valuable, even if prompted by the desire to keep Mephibosheth's land. For though Absalom seemed to be the nation's choice, yet there would be many legitimists who would consider that the crown belonged to Saul's heirs, and who would watch the course of events for any opportunity favourable to their views. David's victory ruined their hopes, and the public acts of Shimei and Ziba removed all fear of public disturbance on the part of Saul's friends.
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.
Verse 17. - They went over Jordan before the king. This might mean that, in bringing the king across, Shimei and the Benjamites led the way. But, first, the verb, which is a rare one, means that they dashed through the river impetuously; and secondly, before the king, means "in the king's presence." While the tribe of Judah remained on the left bank to receive the king on his landing, Shimei and Ziba sought favour by a show of excessive zeal, and forded the Jordan, so as to be the first to welcome him (see ver. 20).
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;
Verse 18. - And there went over a ferry boat; more correctly, and the ferry boat kept crossing, went backwards and forwards to bring the king's household over. Shimei... fell down before the king, as he was come over Jordan. If this translation were right, instead of fording the river, Shimei would have waited on the western bank. Some commentators do take this view, but it is contradicted by the latter part of ver. 17. Really the Hebrew words signify no more than "at his crossing the Jordan," that is, at some time or other during the passage. Shimei's course was not only the boldest, but also the wisest. For, in the first place, his prompt surrender would commend itself to David's generosity; and, secondly, had Abishai's counsel been taken, it would have offended the thousand Benjamites who formed his escort, and also all the warriors present there from Israel (see ver. 40). Trouble and discontent would certainly have followed upon any attempt on David's part to punish any of his enemies, and there might even have been armed resistance to his crossing.
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.
Verse 20. - The first.., of all the house of Joseph. Shimei, who was a Benjamite, could not have thus claimed to be the representative of the northern tribes, had he remained on the western bank, where "half the people of Israel" were assembled. Strictly, "the house of Joseph" signified the tribe of Ephraim (Judges 1:22, 35; and comp. Psalm 78:67), and in this sense Shimei did not belong to it. But Ephraim claimed a supremacy over all Israel; and one cause of the opposition to David certainly was the transference of the leadership to the tribe of Judah. Even the long reign of Solomon failed to weld the tribes together, and as soon as the reins of power fell into the weak hands of Rehobeam, an Ephraimite. Jeroboam, whom Solomon had made "ruler ever all the charge of the house of Joseph" (1 Kings 11:28), quickly wrested the ten tribes from him. In Amos 5:6 "the house of Joseph" signifies all the northern tribes, for the reason given in 1 Chronicles 5:1, 2; and such is its sense here. And Shimei compressed many powerful arguments in the phrase. For as a Benjamite he offered David the allegiance of the tribe which had given Israel its first king; while, as an Israelite, he professed also to represent the leading house of Ephraim, and all the northern tribes which usually followed its bidding.
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?
Verse 22. - Ye sons of Zeruiah... adversaries unto me; literally, that ye be to me for a Satan; rendered "adversary" in Numbers 22:22, but by Ewald in this place "tempter." It probably means "one who would do me harm." Though David speaks of the sons of Zeruiah in the plural (as in 2 Samuel 16:10), there is no reason to suppose that Joab shared in Abishai's impetuosity. Indifferent as he was to the shedding of blood, he was too prudent and politic to put the people out of temper by an execution on the day of David's return. In Israel... over Israel. There is much force in this repetition. A short time before Israel had been for Absalom, but now, by Shimei's submission, and that of the large body of Benjamites with him, David felt that once again he was king over the whole people.
Therefore the king said unto Shimei, Thou shalt not die. And the king sware unto him.
Verse 23. - The king sware unto him. David's magnanimity was not the result merely of policy, but also of joyful feeling at seeing all the tribes so readily welcome him back to the throne. But in spite of his oath, he orders Solomon to execute him, regarding what he had done as a sin past forgiveness. In so doing we can hardly acquit David of breaking his oath, even granting that Shimei's repentance was insincere, and that the motive of his actions was the desire simply to save his life. But we must remember that our Lord described his injunction, "that ye love one another," as "a new commandment" (John 13:34); and the utmost that can be said in David's favour is that his character was generous and full of chivalry. A half excuse may be found for his order in the supposition that Shimei was an inveterate conspirator, and dangerous to Solomon's peace. This view seems confirmed by the command given to Shimei to build a house at Jerusalem (1 Kings 2:36), where he would always be under surveillance. But had not David himself praised the man who "sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not" (Psalm 15:4)?
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.
Verse 24. - Mephibosheth. The meeting of David and Mephibosheth possibly took place at Jerusalem (see on ver. 25), and, if so, the order of events is not chronological. Ziba certainly came to the Jordan fords, and the narrative may have been introduced here to complete the account of his doings. In neglecting his person and his dress, Mephibosheth was showing signs of heartfelt sorrow, and as he thus mourned during Absalom's tenure of power, it exposed him to the usurper's displeasure, and was a public avowal that his sympathies were with David. And his treatment was unjust; but David was in a strait. Ziba had been actively useful to him in his flight, and had also aided greatly in his recall. It was, probably, even owing to his influence that Shimei came with a thousand men of Benjamin. He deserved, therefore, a reward, but not at his master's cost. His beard; Hebrew, the upper lip (see Leviticus 13:45; Ezekiel 24:17, 22).
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?
Verse 25. - When he was come to Jerusalem to meet the king. This certainly looks as if the meeting took place at Jerusalem, and apparently when David had reached the royal palace (see ver. 30). But what, then, is meant in ver. 24 by his "going down" to meet the king? If, too, he had been at Jerusalem all the while, how could he come there? Some, therefore, translate, "Then Jerusalem came to meet the king" - a possible, but not a natural, rendering, nor one that agrees with ver. 30. Others consider that he had withdrawn to his house in the highlands of Benjamin at Gibeah of Saul; but David had given these lands to Ziba, and the crippled Mephibesheth would have met with rough treatment had he endeavoured to contest the ownership. The Arabic Version reads. "when he came from Jerusalem;" but it is not confirmed by any trustworthy authorities. The view of Kimchi is probably right, that Mephibosheth did go down to the Jordan fords to meet David, and certainly his duty required of him no less. He had been slandered and ill used, but the king believed him to be guilty, and regarded him with displeasure. To have remained, therefore, at home when all Judah and half Israel had gone to welcome David back, would have been culpable remissness. And though he was lame, yet the ride was not so long as to be very fatiguing. But he did not rush through the river, as Shimei and his thousand men had done; and when David had crossed, there was too much going on for him to get an audience. He followed, therefore, in David's suite; but in Jerusalem the meeting actually took place. Thus the verses briefly record different facts: ver. 24 that Mephibosheth went with the vast crowd to welcome the king back; ver. 25 that in due time, in Jerusalem, the explanation was given, and Mephibosheth restored to favour.
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.
Verse 26. - Thy servant said, I will saddle me an ass. This would mean, "Thy servant purposed, said within himself, that he would saddle an ass, not by his own hands, but by those of his servants." All the versions, however, except the Chaldee, read, "Thy servant said to him, Saddle me an ass." With this agrees the narrative in 2 Samuel 16:1. Mephibosheth ordered Ziba to saddle for him an ass, and one for an attendant, and to put hastily together a supply of food for the journey. And Ziba does so; but when everything is ready, he leaves his master in the lurch, and carries all away to David, to whom he falsely represents Mephibosheth as a traitor. In the words that follow, he unreservedly submits himself to David, on the ground that, though innocent in this affair, yet that, as a member of a dethroned dynasty, his life was forfeit (comp. 2 Samuel 21:7), and that, in permitting him to live, and placing him among his friends, the king had done him an act of grace.
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.
Verse 29. - Thou and Ziba divide the land. Two views are taken of this decision - the one, that it was a complete reversal of the command in 2 Samuel 16:4, placing matters upon the old footing, by which Ziba was to have half the produce for cultivating the estate; the other, and apparently the most correct view, is that Ziba was now made actual owner of half the land, and Mephibosheth, instead of a half, would henceforth have only a quarter of the crops. The decision was not equitable, and David speaks in a curt and hurried manner, as though vexed with himself for what he was doing. As a matter of fact, Ziba's treachery had been most useful to David. Besides the pleasure at the time of finding one man faithful, when "all men were liars" (Psalm 116:11), Ziba had been most active in bringing over the tribe of Benjamin to David's side; and though his motives were selfish and venal, yet, as the king reaped the benefit of his conduct, he was bound not to leave him without reward.
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.
Verse 30. - Yea, let him take all. These words betray a feeling of resentment. Though outwardly they profess to regard the loss of the property with indifference, as compared with the joy of the king's return, yet this sort of "I don't care" answer usually covers anger. Blunt's arguments ('Undesigned Coincidences,' p. 157, etc.), to show that Mephibosheth really was a traitor, are ingenious, but not convincing.
And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim, and went over Jordan with the king, to conduct him over Jordan.
Verse 31. - Barzillai. Barzillai was so wealthy a man that, with some help from others, he had provided the king "of sustenance," or, in more modern English, "with sustenance," while his army lay encamped at Mahanaim; and now, though he was eighty years of age, he wished to attend the king in person until he reached the other side of 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.
Verse 33. - And I will feed thee. This is the same verb as that used in ver. 32, and translated "to provide of sustenance."
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.
Verse 37. - That I may die in mine own city...by the grave of my father and of my mother. The inserted words, "and be buried," are very matter of fact and commonplace. What Barzillai wished was that, when death overtook him, it should find him in the old abode of his family, where his father and mother had died, and where their tombs were. This regard for the family sepulchre was hereditary among the Israelites, who followed in it the example of their forefather (see Genesis 49:29-31). Chimham. David remembered Barzillai's kindness to the last, and. on his dying bed specially commended Chimham and his brothers to the care of Solomon. In Jeremiah 41:17 we read of "the habitation of Chimham, which is by Bethlehem," whence it has been supposed that David also endowed the sen of Barzillai with land near his own city. Stanley ('Jewish Church,' 2:201) considers that this was a caravanserai founded by Chimham for the hospitable lodging of travellers on their way to Egypt, and that Mary and Joseph found shelter there. It lay to the south of Bethlehem; but there is nothing more than the name to connect it with the son of Barzillai. In ver. 40 he is called in the Hebrew Chimhan.
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.
Verse 40. - Half the people of Israel. The northern tribes had been the first to debate the question of the king's recall (ver. 9), while the men of Judah hung back. But at the instigation of the high priests and of Amasa, who was actually in command, they determined upon David's restoration, and acted so promptly and so independently of the rest of Israel that, when they reached Gilgal, only the delegates of a few tribes were in time to join them. As we read in ver. 41 of "all the men of Israel," it is evident that the rest had rapidly followed. It would have been well if the tribe of Judah had informed the rest of their purpose, as the bringing of David back would then have been the act of all Israel; but tribal jealousies were the cause of Israel's weakness throughout the time of the judges, and broke out into open disunion upon the death of Solomon.
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?
Verse 41. - Why have our brethren the men of Judah stolen thee away? Why, that is, have they acted by stealth and without our concurrence? As they were discussing the matter, their decision should have been awaited, and David should not have crossed until formally invited so to do. The half of Israel consisted, probably, of the trans-Jordanic tribes, upon whom those on the west of the river looked contemptuously, and of Shimei and his Benjamites, and a few more in the immediate neighbourhood. The trans-Jordanie tribes are probably those described in ver. 39 as "the people who went with David over Jordan;" for certainly a powerful body of the men who had defeated Absalom would escort David back to Jerusalem to overawe the malcontents and prevent any opposition to his return.
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?
Verse 42. - The king is near of kin to us. The pronouns are singular throughout: "He is near of kin to me. Why art thou angry? Have I eaten... I have ten parts... Why didst thou despise me?" and so everywhere. This is much more piquant; but such personification is contrary to the genius of our language. Have I eaten, etc.? Saul had boasted of enriching the Benjamites (1 Samuel 22:7), but probably the speaker intended only to protest the purity of his motives.
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.
Verse 43. - I have ten parts in the king. One tribe disappears, which certainly was not Benjamin; nor was this warlike state thus early awed into obedience to Judah. In 1 Kings 11:31, 35, again, we have ten tribes given to Jeroboam, and here, also, not only must Benjamin be counted, but be included in the tribes rent from the house of David. The tribe that had disappeared was that of Simeon, partly lost among the desert races south of the Negeb, and partly absorbed by Judah. Its position always made it unimportant, and no trace can be found of its taking any part in the political life of Israel. Some strangers from Simeon are mentioned in 2 Chronicles 15:9 as coming to the great gathering of Judah and Benjamin at Jerusalem after Asa had defeated Zerah the Ethiopian; and Josiah carried out his reformation in Simeon as well as in Manasseh, Ephraim, and Naphtali (2 Chronicles 34:6). But it never seems to have emerged from a state of semi-barbarism, and no town can be found within its territories. We must, therefore, omit Simeon, and of course the Levites, who took no part in politics, and thus we have Judah standing alone, and all the rest determined to resist any attempt on its part to establish a hegemony, and restless even at having to endure the more ancient claims of Ephraim to be the leading tribe. By the ten parts which they claim in the king, they meant that, as king, he belonged equally to all, and not to his own tribe only. In this they were expressing a sound view of the royal position. The next words, literally, are, "And also in David I am more than thou;" to which the Septuagint adds, "And I am the firstborn rather than thou." This is in accordance with 1 Chronicles 5:1, and states an important claim always made by Ephraim; whereas the Hebrew, "I in David am more than thou," is unintelligible. Except upon the score of numbers already stated, the right of each tribe in David was equal. Why then, etc.? rather, Why hast thou despised me? Was not my word the first for bringing back the king? (see ver. 9, and note on ver. 40). Were fiercer. While the Israelites debated the matter calmly, the men of Judah met their complaint with harsh and bitter rejoinders. This explains the feud which followed.