2Sa 19:1-8. Joab Causes the King to Cease Mourning.
3. the people gat them by stealth ... to the city -- The rumor of the king's disconsolate condition spread a universal and unseasonable gloom. His troops, instead of being welcomed back (as a victorious army always was) with music and other demonstrations of public joy, slunk secretly and silently into the city, as if ashamed after the commission of some crime.
4. the king covered his face -- one of the usual signs of mourning (see on 2Sa 15:30).
5. Thou hast shamed ... the faces of all thy servants -- by withdrawing thyself to indulge in grief, as if their services were disagreeable and their devotion irksome to thee. Instead of hailing their return with joy and gratitude, thou hast refused them the small gratification of seeing thee. Joab's remonstrance was right and necessary, but it was made with harshness. He was one of those persons who spoil their important services by the insolence of their manners, and who always awaken a feeling of obligation in those to whom they render any services. He spoke to David in a tone of hauteur that ill became a subject to show towards his king.
7. Now ... arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants -- The king felt the truth of Joab's reprimand; but the threat by which it was enforced, grounded as it was on the general's unbounded popularity with the army, showed him to be a dangerous person; and that circumstance, together with the violation of an express order to deal gently for his sake with Absalom, produced in David's mind a settled hatred, which was strongly manifested in his last directions to Solomon.
8. the king arose, and sat in the gate -- He appeared daily in the usual place for the hearing of causes.
all the people came before the king -- that is, the loyal natives who had been faithful to his government, and fought in his cause.
Israel had fled -- that is, the adherents of Absalom, who, on his defeat, had dispersed and saved themselves by flight.
2Sa 19:9-43. The Israelites Bring the King Back.
9-11. all the people were at strife throughout all the tribes of Israel -- The kingdom was completely disorganized. The sentiments of three different parties are represented in 2Sa 19:9, 10: the royalists, the adherents of Absalom who had been very numerous, and those who were indifferent to the Davidic dynasty. In these circumstances the king was right in not hastening back, as a conqueror, to reascend his throne. A re-election was, in some measure, necessary. He remained for some time on the other side of Jordan, in expectation of being invited back. That invitation was given without, however, the concurrence of Judah. David, disappointed and vexed by his own tribe's apparent lukewarmness, despatched the two high priests to rouse the Judahites to take a prominent interest in his cause. It was the act of a skilful politician. Hebron having been the seat of the rebellion, it was graceful on his part to encourage their return to allegiance and duty; it was an appeal to their honor not to be the last of the tribes. But this separate message, and the preference given to them, occasioned an outburst of jealousy among the other tribes that was nearly followed by fatal consequences [see 2Sa 19:40-43].
13. And say ye to Amasa, &c. -- This also was a dextrous stroke of policy. David was fully alive to the importance, for extinguishing the rebellion, of withdrawing from that cause the only leader who could keep it alive; and he, therefore, secretly intimated his intention to raise Amasa to the command of the army in the place of Joab, whose overbearing haughtiness had become intolerable. The king justly reckoned, that from natural temper as well as gratitude for the royal pardon, he would prove a more tractable servant; and David, doubtless, intended in all sincerity to fulfil this promise. But Joab managed to retain his high position (see on 2Sa 20:4-10).
14. he bowed the heart of all the men of Judah -- that is, Amasa, who had been won over, used his great influence in re-attaching the whole tribe of Judah to the interest of David.
15. Judah came to Gilgal -- the most convenient place where preparations could be made for bringing the king and court over the Jordan.
16-23. Shemei ... a thousand men of Benjamin with him -- This display of [Shemei's] followers was to show what force he could raise against or in support of the king. Expressing the deepest regret for his former outrageous conduct, he was pardoned on the spot; and although the son of Zeruiah urged the expediency of making this chief a public example, his officiousness was repulsed by David with magnanimity, and with the greater confidence that he felt himself now re-established in the kingdom (see on 1Ki 2:8).
17. Ziba, the servant of the house of Saul -- He had deceived his master; and when ordered to make ready the ass for the lame prince to go and meet the king, he slipped away by himself to pay court first; so that Mephibosheth, being lame, had to remain in Jerusalem till the king's arrival.
18. ferry boat -- probably rafts, which are still used on that part of the river.
20. I am come the first ... of all the house of Joseph -- that is, before all the rest of Israel (Ps 77:15; 80:1; 81:5; Zec 10:6).
24-30. Mephibosheth ... came down to meet the king -- The reception given to Mephibosheth was less creditable to David. The sincerity of that prince's grief for the misfortunes of the king cannot be doubted.
He had neither dressed his feet -- not taken the bath,
nor trimmed his beard -- The Hebrews cut off the hair on the upper lip (see on Le 13:45), and cheeks, but carefully cherished it on the chin from ear to ear. Besides dyeing it black or red colors, which, however, is the exception, and not the rule in the East, there are various modes of trimming it: they train it into a massy, bushy form, swelling and round; or they terminate it like a pyramid, in a sharp point. Whatever the mode, it is always trimmed with the greatest care; and they usually carry a small comb for the purpose. The neglect of this attention to his beard was an undoubted proof of the depth of Mephibosheth's grief. The king seems to have received him upbraidingly, and not to have been altogether sure either of his guilt or innocence. It is impossible to commend the cavalier treatment, any more than to approve the partial award, of David in this case. If he were too hurried and distracted by the pressure of circumstances to inquire fully into the matter, he should have postponed his decision; for if by |dividing the land| (2Sa 19:29) he meant that the former arrangement should be continued by which Mephibosheth was acknowledged the proprietor, and Ziba the farmer, it was a hardship inflicted on the owner to fix him with a tenant who had so grossly slandered him. But if by |dividing the land,| they were now to share alike, the injustice of the decision was greatly increased. In any view, the generous, disinterested spirit displayed by Mephibosheth was worthy a son of the noble-hearted Jonathan.
31-40. Barzillai the Gileadite -- The rank, great age, and chivalrous devotion of this Gileadite chief wins our respect. His declining to go to court, his recommendation of his son, his convoy across the Jordan, and his parting scene with the king, are interesting incidents. What mark of royal favor was bestowed on Chimham has not been recorded; but it is probable that David gave a great part of his personal patrimony in Beth-lehem to Chimham and his heirs in perpetuity (Jer 41:17).
35. the voice of singing men and singing women -- Bands of professional musicians form a prominent appendage to the courts of Oriental princes.
37. buried by the grave of my father and of my mother -- This is an instance of the strong affection of people in the East towards the places of sepulture appropriated to their families.
40-43. the king went on to Gilgal, ... and all the people of Judah conducted the king, and also half the people of Israel -- Whether from impatience to move on or from some other cause, David did not wait till all the tribes had arrived to conduct him on his return to the capital. The procession began as soon as Amasa had brought the Judahite escort, and the preference given to this tribe produced a bitter jealousy, which was nearly kindling a civil war fiercer than that which had just ended. A war of words ensued between the tribes -- Israel resting their argument on their superior numbers; |they had ten parts in the king,| whereas Judah had no more than one. Judah grounded their right to take the lead, on the ground of their nearer relationship to the king. This was a claim dangerous to the house of David; and it shows the seeds were already sown for that tribal dissension which, before long, led to the dismemberment of the kingdom.