After his usurping son is killed, David reconstructs the kingdom and writes a psalm about his love for God.
David’s network of spies then begins to have their desired effect. Hushai begins to give advice that is counter to Ahithophel’s, and the new “king” rejects the plan that would have secured the kingdom for him. Instead of acting when he needs to act, he waits. His waiting gives David time to recover from the shock of Absalom’s actions, to gather his forces to him, and to prepare for battle. Ahithophel realizes that everything is lost and that he has no future. Instead of waiting for the ax to fall, he goes off and hangs himself.
David continues to gather his forces and supplies as he waits for the battle that is sure to come.
David then sends out his army and offers to go with them. But he is talked out of that, because everybody knows that if he falls, everything is lost. This may be a bit of hyperbole on the part of the writer, but is true nonetheless. But then David does a very curious thing. His last words to his generals as they are leaving are instructions not to hurt Absalom if possible. These are rather strange instructions to be given to those who are about to go out to save the kingdom. Win the battle, but don’t hurt the one who caused the fight! Joab knows what will happen if Absalom is not killed: David will forgive him, and the whole mess will start all over again.
The battle begins, and Absalom’s forces are routed. He is caught in a tree by his long, flowing hair and hangs there helplessly until he is found by one of Joab’s troops. That soldier goes and tells Joab, who castigates him for not finishing off Absalom. But the word was probably out about what David had said, and everybody knows how David dealt with those who had killed Saul and his son in the past. So, nobody in his right mind would have touched Absalom. But Joab will, and he and his men kill the usurper while he hangs from the tree. A messenger is sent to David, Joab wanting it to be somebody “expendable” – the Cushite – if things go badly when David gets the news.
18:24 to 19:1
So the word gets to David, and in the “fog of war,” he first gets only the message that the battle has been won. He immediately begins to ask about Absalom, and the second messenger comes in with news of his death. Note that the messenger only says that he is dead, not how he died. We don’t know if David ever got that little tidbit of information. Immediately upon hearing that Absalom is dead, David begins to weep publicly for his lost son. Not exactly the thing to inspire continued loyalty among troops who have just fought a hard battle for him.
Joab realizes just how tenuous their grasp on things is. He goes in and rebukes the king, an action few could do and survive. David is on the verge of grasping defeat out of the jaws of victory, and Joab knows it. But, thankfully, David listens to his long-time companion and pulls it together. He goes out and thanks the troops for all they have done for him and his kingdom.
David then begins the reconstruction of his kingdom. He sends messengers to Judah to convince them to come back into the fold, promising great rewards to Amasa for his services. Other people who supported the king in his time of need are rewarded, such as Ziba. Some like Shimei throw themselves at David’s feet and beg forgiveness for having turned against him. David is magnanimous, granting pardon to those who don’t deserve it.
A surprise is the greeting that Mephibosheth comes crawling back to David. Now, he pretends he didn’t intend to turn against him, but only didn’t go with him because he is lame. No mention is made as to whether David believes this, and he does restore half of the property that he took from him and gave to Ziba. But Mephibosheth refuses the offer. No mention is made if he reconsiders this, or is simply glad to be allowed to keep breathing. Others start to come back to the fold, but not everyone is happy that David is restored to the throne.
One of those who was not happy was a man named Sheba. He tries to organize a further revolt against David. At the same time, David is dealing with his concubines by shutting them off from him for the rest of their lives. Nice reward for staying behind and taking care of things, right? Well, they could have been put to death, so I guess this is better than that.
David sends an army after Sheba, and the generalship of that army comes into
question. David had promised Amasa that he would be the new general if he brought the men of Judah back to David. But Joab, being Joab, was having none of that, and he murders Amasa right in front of everybody. Then he issues a challenge to everyone to either follow him or else. So the now-combined army chases Sheba up to Able, where they besiege the city. The inhabitants of the city murder Sheba and throw his head over to wall, thereby saving their city from destruction. Joab returns to David, once again secure in his position as general of David’s army.
A famine comes over the land, and the oracles say that it is because God is still displeased with the blood guilt of Saul with the Gibeonites. They say that only a sacrifice of seven men from the house of Saul will appease them.
Now there are three problems with this passage. 1) Human sacrifice is absolutely prohibited in Israel. It is one of the things they always look down upon the Canaanites and the Philistines for. The only other reference to human sacrifice is the story of Jephtah in the book of Judges. And that story is there to serve as a “good-bad example” of what happens when you start offering to sacrifice human beings. 2) The only source for these instructions is a private oracle to David. No one else was witness to this statement that the drought was caused by the blood guilt of Saul. 3) There is no clear reference that Saul, and hence his house, ever did anything to incur such blood guilt.
It is entirely possible that David is creating this whole scenario to clean house, and to take care of any future insurrections from the house of Saul before they can occur. He does spare Jonathan’s son, but gives him a stark example of what could have happened to him if David wasn’t such an honorable man who is keeping his word to Jonathan.
Further wars break out, and David is almost killed in one of them. He is saved by Abishai, and then gives him a “retirement package” so he no longer has to go to
Chapter 22 is basically a repetition of Psalm 18. In this, David extols his love for God, how God has supported him throughout all of his trials. He goes on to maintain how he is blameless in the sight of God and how he shall never leave his strong support.
It is a brilliantly written elegy that is probably placed here to try to rehabilitate some of David’s image as we come to the end of the story. Remember that there are two heroes in this story: David and God. This lengthy poem assures us that their relationship is tight and that neither has ever given up on the other. Quite a statement from a guy who has been through and done all that David has done. But this is part of the reason David is so well loved. He was a Godly man who lived in the guts of life. He did some very “un-godly” things, but always came back to his base relationship with God.