Israel (the ten tribes minus Judah and Benjamin) is in complete turmoil, and getting pretty nervous without a king. They realize that David had delivered them from the Philistines, but they thought maybe Absalom could do a better job…but now Absalom is dead and David is out of town. They had to have been thinking: we need to start thinking about bringing back the king!
David obviously hears about this and decides to contact Judah instead.
11 And King David sent this message to Zadok and Abiathar the priests: “Say to the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back to his house, when the word of all Israel has come to the king? 12 You are my brothers; you are my bone and my flesh. Why then should you be the last to bring back the king?’ 13 And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me and more also, if you are not commander of my army from now on in place of Joab.’” 2nd Samuel 19:11-13 esv
Joab had disobeyed the king, but worse than that he’d killed his precious, spoiled son, and David must have resented him deeply. He publicly appoints the general of Absalom’s rebel alliance (Amasa), giving the appearance here that loyalty is punished, and sin is rewarded.
But by now the people are about as weak-minded as David.
14 And he swayed the heart of all the men of Judah as one man, so that they sent word to the king, “Return, both you and all your servants.” 15 So the king came back to the Jordan, and Judah came to Gilgal to meet the king and to bring the king over the Jordan. 2nd Samuel 19:14-15 esv
When a leader is this far gone, his people won’t be far behind. It goes downhill from there.
David mistreats Mephibosheth, who is clearly been mourning the king’s absence. He has all the physical markings, but David is so blind in his own sinful delusions that he doesn’t see. He should have punished Ziba for his slander. (Please see 2nd Samuel 16 and 19.)
In the meantime, Israel has heard that Judah alone has gone to bring the king back – and they’re upset that they weren’t invited to participate in the reunification.
41 Then all the men of Israel came to the king and said to the king, “Why have our brothers the men of Judah stolen you away and brought the king and his household over the Jordan, and all David’s men with him?” 42 All the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “Because the king is our close relative. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we eaten at all at the king’s expense? Or has he given us any gift?” 43 And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, “We have ten shares in the king, and in David also we have more than you. Why then did you despise us? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?” But the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel. 2nd Samuel 19:41-43 esv
Here’s that sword that Nathan the prophet (Please see 2nd Samuel 12) was talking about – the fierce words of the men of Judah – these never depart from David’s kingdom. Not only do we see the trouble it leads to in Chapter 20, but eventually to the division of Israel and Judah on the map.
Now there happened to be there a worthless man, whose name was Sheba, the son of Bichri, a Benjaminite. And he blew the trumpet and said,
“We have no portion in David, and we have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; every man to his tents, O Israel!” 2nd Samuel 20:1 esv
The Hebrew word for worthless in this text is actually Belial. Sheba was of Belial, and the definition is rendered “wickedness.” And his rally cry, every man to his tents, is like a national watchword for insurrection. Now David’s got another rebellion on his hands.
2 So all the men of Israel withdrew from David and followed Sheba the son of Bichri. But the men of Judah followed their king steadfastly from the Jordan to Jerusalem.
3 And David came to his house at Jerusalem. And the king took the ten concubines whom he had left to care for the house and put them in a house under guard and provided for them, but did not go in to them. So they were shut up until the day of their death, living as if in widowhood. 2nd Samuel 20:2-3 esv
David finally shows some forethought and concern here for someone else other than his wretched son. The first order of business when he enters his home is to take care of the concubines that have been violated in his absence. He puts them under guard, assuring that what happened to them in his absence before will not happen again – just in case Sheba’s rebellion is successful.
David sends Absalom’s rebel commander, Amasa, to summon Judah, but Amasa doesn’t return in accordance with his orders. David then appoints Abishai (his nephew) as commander – so he must still be estranged from Joab.
Joab kills Amasa. And even though Abishai has been appointed commander, it becomes clear that Joab is the one with the reputation for victory.
11 And one of Joab’s young men took his stand by Amasa and said, “Whoever favors Joab, and whoever is for David, let him follow Joab.” 12 And Amasa lay wallowing in his blood in the highway. And anyone who came by, seeing him, stopped. And when the man saw that all the people stopped, he carried Amasa out of the highway into the field and threw a garment over him. 13 When he was taken out of the highway, all the people went on after Joab to pursue Sheba the son of Bichri.
14 And Sheba passed through all the tribes of Israel to Abel of Beth-maacah, and all the Bichrites assembled and followed him in. 15 And all the men who were with Joab came and besieged him in Abel of Beth-maacah. They cast up a mound against the city, and it stood against the rampart, and they were battering the wall to throw it down. 2nd Samuel 20:11-15 esv
And not only does Joab have a reputation for victory, but his statesman persona has also traveled ahead of him.
16 Then a wise woman called from the city, “Listen! Listen! Tell Joab, ‘Come here, that I may speak to you.’” 17 And he came near her, and the woman said, “Are you Joab?” He answered, “I am.” Then she said to him, “Listen to the words of your servant.” And he answered, “I am listening.” 18 Then she said, “They used to say in former times, ‘Let them but ask counsel at Abel,’ and so they settled a matter. 19 I am one of those who are peaceable and faithful in Israel. You seek to destroy a city that is a mother in Israel. Why will you swallow up the heritage of the Lord?” 20 Joab answered, “Far be it from me, far be it, that I should swallow up or destroy! 21 That is not true. But a man of the hill country of Ephraim, called Sheba the son of Bichri, has lifted up his hand against King David. Give up him alone, and I will withdraw from the city.” And the woman said to Joab, “Behold, his head shall be thrown to you over the wall.” 22 Then the woman went to all the people in her wisdom. And they cut off the head of Sheba the son of Bichri and threw it out to Joab. So he blew the trumpet, and they dispersed from the city, every man to his home. And Joab returned to Jerusalem to the king. 2nd Samuel 20:16-22 esv
Joab returned to the king. This is big. After all the disobedience, Joab goes out and grabs an enormous victory, avoiding additional bloodshed, showing himself as a compassionate diplomat, and David welcomes him back into the court, and back into the command of all the army of Israel.
…the reappearance of Joab… is a proof that, in public affairs David could not do without Joab and Joab could not do without David. Had David continued in the Path of Faith he would himself, as already pointed out, have captured Jerusalem, retained his God-given position as captain and chief, and thus never have fallen into the hands of his crafty and ambitious nephew.
—George Williams, The Complete Bible Commentary
David is our type of Christ, but an imperfect type. While David was willing to shirk his responsibility as supreme commander over Israel and her troops, Christ retains his position of commander for all times, without help from anyone.
Please come back on November 15, 2018, when we start a new series: A Kingdom Divided. The first post will be entitled Loose Ends Part 1.
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© 2018 Ta`Mara Hanscom