2 Samuel 18:19-33
Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son, said, “Let me run to the king and bring him the good news that God has delivered him from his enemies.” But Joab said, “You’re not the one to deliver the good news today; some other day, maybe, but it’s not ‘good news’ today.” (This was because the king’s son was dead.)
Then Joab ordered a Cushite, “You go. Tell the king what you’ve seen.”
“Yes sir,” said the Cushite, and ran off.
Ahimaaz son of Zadok kept at it, begging Joab, “What does it matter? Let me run, too, following the Cushite.”
Joab said, “Why all this ‘Run, run’? You’ll get no thanks for it, I can tell you.”
“I don’t care; let me run.”
“Okay,” said Joab, “run.” So Ahimaaz ran, taking the lower valley road, and passed the Cushite.
David was sitting between the two gates. The sentry had gone up to the top of the gate on the wall and looked around. He saw a solitary runner. The sentry called down and told the king. The king said, “If he’s alone, it must be good news!”
As the runner came closer, the sentry saw another runner and called down to the gate, “Another runner all by himself.”
And the king said, “This also must be good news.”
Then the sentry said, “I can see the first man now; he runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”
“He’s a good man,” said the king. “He’s bringing good news for sure.”
Then Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “Peace!” Then he bowed deeply before the king, his face to the ground. “Blessed be your God; he has handed over the men who rebelled against my master the king.”
The king asked, “But is the young man Absalom all right?”
Ahimaaz said, “I saw a huge ruckus just as Joab was sending me off, but I don’t know what it was about.”
The king said, “Step aside and stand over there.” So he stepped aside.
Then the Cushite arrived and said, “Good news, my master and king! God has given victory today over all those who rebelled against you!”
“But,” said the king, “is the young man Absalom all right?”
And the Cushite replied, “Would that all of the enemies of my master the king and all who maliciously rose against you end up like that young man.”
The king was stunned. Heartbroken, he went up to the room over the gate and wept. As he wept he cried out,
O my son Absalom, my dear, dear son Absalom!
Why not me rather than you, my death and not yours,
O Absalom, my dear, dear son!
2 Samuel 19
David’s Grief for Absalom
Joab was told that David was weeping and lamenting over Absalom. The day’s victory turned into a day of mourning as word passed through the army, “David is grieving over his son.” The army straggled back to the city that day demoralized, dragging their tails. And the king held his face in his hands and lamented loudly,
O my son Absalom,
Absalom my dear, dear son!
But in private Joab rebuked the king: “Now you’ve done it—knocked the wind out of your loyal servants who have just saved your life, to say nothing of the lives of your sons and daughters, wives and concubines. What is this—loving those who hate you and hating those who love you? Your actions give a clear message: officers and soldiers mean nothing to you. You know that if Absalom were alive right now, we’d all be dead—would that make you happy? Get hold of yourself; get out there and put some heart into your servants! I swear to God that if you don’t go to them they’ll desert; not a soldier will be left here by nightfall. And that will be the worst thing that has happened yet.”
So the king came out and took his place at the city gate. Soon everyone knew: “Oh, look! The king has come out to receive us.” And his whole army came and presented itself to the king. But the Israelites had fled the field of battle and gone home.
Meanwhile, the whole populace was now complaining to its leaders, “Wasn’t it the king who saved us time and again from our enemies, and rescued us from the Philistines? And now he has had to flee the country on account of Absalom. And now this Absalom whom we made king is dead in battle. So what are you waiting for? Why don’t you bring the king back?”
When David heard what was being said, he sent word to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, “Ask the elders of Judah, ‘Why are you so laggard in bringing the king back home? You’re my brothers! You’re my own flesh and blood! So why are you the last ones to bring the king back home?’ And tell Amasa, ‘You, too, are my flesh and blood. As God is my witness, I’m making you the permanent commander of the army in place of Joab.’”
He captured the hearts of everyone in Judah. They were unanimous in sending for the king: “Come back, you and all your servants.”
So the king returned. He arrived at the Jordan just as Judah reached Gilgal on their way to welcome the king and escort him across the Jordan. Even Shimei son of Gera, the Benjaminite from Bahurim, hurried down to join the men of Judah so he could welcome the king, a thousand Benjaminites with him. And Ziba, Saul’s steward, with his fifteen sons and twenty servants, waded across the Jordan to meet the king and brought his entourage across, doing whatever they could to make the king comfortable.
Shimei son of Gera bowed deeply in homage to the king as soon as he was across the Jordan and said, “Don’t think badly of me, my master! Overlook my irresponsible outburst on the day my master the king left Jerusalem—don’t hold it against me! I know I sinned, but look at me now—the first of all the tribe of Joseph to come down and welcome back my master the king!”
Abishai son of Zeruiah interrupted, “Enough of this! Shouldn’t we kill him outright? Why, he cursed God’s anointed!”
But David said, “What is it with you sons of Zeruiah? Why do you insist on being so contentious? Nobody is going to be killed today. I am again king over Israel!”
Then the king turned to Shimei, “You’re not going to die.” And the king gave him his word.
Next Mephibosheth grandson of Saul arrived from Jerusalem to welcome the king. He hadn’t combed his hair or trimmed his beard or washed his clothes from the day the king left until the day he returned safe and sound. The king said, “And why didn’t you come with me, Mephibosheth?”
“My master the king,” he said, “my servant betrayed me. I told him to saddle my donkey so I could ride it and go with the king, for, as you know, I am lame. And then he lied to you about me. But my master the king has been like one of God’s angels: he knew what was right and did it. Wasn’t everyone in my father’s house doomed? But you took me in and gave me a place at your table. What more could I ever expect or ask?”
“That’s enough,” said the king. “Say no more. Here’s my decision: You and Ziba divide the property between you.”
Mephibosheth said, “Oh, let him have it all! All I care about is that my master the king is home safe and sound!”
Barzillai the Gileadite had come down from Rogelim. He crossed the Jordan with the king to give him a good send-off. Barzillai was a very old man—eighty years old! He had supplied the king’s needs all the while he was in Mahanaim since he was very wealthy.
“Join me in Jerusalem,” the king said to Barzillai. “Let me take care of you.”
But Barzillai declined the offer, “How long do you think I’d live if I went with the king to Jerusalem? I’m eighty years old and not much good anymore to anyone. Can’t taste food; can’t hear music. So why add to the burdens of my master the king? I’ll just go a little way across the Jordan with the king. But why would the king need to make a great thing of that? Let me go back and die in my hometown and be buried with my father and mother. But my servant Kimham here; let him go with you in my place. But treat him well!”
The king said, “That’s settled; Kimham goes with me. And I will treat him well! If you think of anything else, I’ll do that for you, too.”
The army crossed the Jordan but the king stayed. The king kissed and blessed Barzillai, who then returned home. Then the king, Kimham with him, crossed over at Gilgal.
The whole army of Judah and half the army of Israel processed with the king. The men of Israel came to the king and said, “Why have our brothers, the men of Judah, taken over as if they owned the king, escorting the king and his family and close associates across the Jordan?”
The men of Judah retorted, “Because the king is related to us, that’s why! But why make a scene? You don’t see us getting treated special because of it, do you?”
The men of Israel shot back, “We have ten shares in the king to your one. Besides we’re the firstborn—so why are we having to play second fiddle? It was our idea to bring him back.”
But the men of Judah took a harder line than the men of Israel.