How should you respond when suffering unjustly? In 2 Samuel 16, David was used and abused by two members of Saul’s family: Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth and Shimei the son of Gera. Ziba and Shimei are the counterparts to Ittai and Hushai in the last chapter. As David ascended the Mount of Olives (2 Samuel 15), Ittai & Hushai encouraged him. As David descends to the wilderness (2 Samuel 16), he is met by Ziba, who uses him and Shimei, who abuses him.
In 2 Samuel 15, the consequences of David’s sin with Bathsheba came back in full force as his son Absalom seeks to take the kingship from him. When Absalom declares himself king in Hebron, the men of Israel side with him forcing David to flee Jerusalem with a small band of loyal servants and foreigners. He is encouraged in his journey by the loyalty of Ittai and Hushai. He allows Ittai to come with him into exile. But he sends Hushai back to the Jerusalem along with the priests, their sons, and the ark of the Covenant.
David had made a covenant with Jonathan that David would show steadfast love to Jonathan’s household when David became king (1 Samuel 20). David kept that vow by bringing the only remaining son of Jonathan’s household, Mephibosheth, to Jerusalem, restoring Saul’s property to him and granting him a place of honor at David’s table. David placed Ziba who had been a servant in Saul’s household in charge of the estate (2 Samuel 9).
David’s encounter with Ziba
- When David asks in 16:3 “where is your master’s son?” he is not asking for his geographical location, but he is asking which side is he on? Ziba’s gifts signify loyalty to David and David is asking whether the gifts are from Mephibosheth or not?
- Ziba lies to David, a fact revealed to us in 2 Samuel 19.
- Notice it is only after Ziba obtains the material possessions that he bow in homage (16:4).
- Ziba takes advantage of David in his troubles to gain wealth.
David’s encounter with Shimei
- Shimei calls David a man of blood three times in verses 16:7-9.
- Shimei interprets Absalom’s rebellion as punishment for the death of Saul (16:8), and the brutal murders of Abner and Ish-bosheth. Ironically, though David is guilty of many things, theses deaths are not his fault.
- Shimei mocks David at his lowest point, much like Jesus was mocked on the cross.
- David interprets Absalom’s rebellion and Shimei’s cursing as the deserved consequences of his sin.
- David gives three reasons to let Shimei live: 1) David is currently under judgment (vs 10); 2) if his own son seeks his life, it is not remarkable that the son of an enemy seeks his life (vs 11) and 3) God will repay the wrong (vs 12).
- David neither proclaims his innocence to Shimei nor admits his guilt. Essentially David says, I am guilty and I am in God’s hands.
Absalom arrives in Jerusalem
- Instead of waiting for Absalom to question his arrival, Hushai presents himself to the traitor king.
- If his true loyalties are discovered, Hushai faces certain death, most likely not just his own death, but the death of his entire household.
- Hushai says “long live the king” without naming the king (16:16) and he refers to the King as the “chosen one of YHWH” — which is certainly not Absalom.
- When Hushai says, “should I not serve the son just as I served the father” (vs 18-19), Absalom hears Hushai proclaiming a new loyalty, but Hushai most likely means he will continue serving the father as he serves the traitor son.
- Taking the concubines is irrevocable break with his father David.
- David’s example teaches us to 1) know who you are and 2)know who you serve.
- David has repeatedly proclaimed that he serves as King at the grace of God. The kingship is not his to demand, his to take or his right based on God’s promises. He serves at the Lord’s pleasure.
- Compare with 1 Peter 2:19-20 and Psalm 143
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.
Previous: 2 Samuel 15 Absalom’s Conspiracy
Series: The Rebellion of Absalom
Also: 2 Samuel: David as King
Scripture quotes are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.
Photo used here under Flickr Creative Commons.