Thursday, February 27, 2014

Life of David - Lesson 38

Philistines & Mighty Men - 2 Samuel 21:15-22 & 23:8-39

Prayer: Lord we thank you for faithful friends, those we know will love us and stand by us no matter what, they are such an amazing blessing!

Quickly Form Groups:
1.  Why do we need friends?  What benefits come from friendship?

David was a valiant warrior, but David didn't fight alone, he had this group of men from a wide variety of backgrounds/nations that had joined forces with him over the years & became his most trusted fellow-warriors & friends.  They are affectionately labeled "David's Mighty Men", we're going to focus in on this group today.  When these men are called "Mighty" this is no exaggeration, as you'll see when we read of some of their exploits - these were the best warriors of their day.

But before we get to these guys I'm going to take a sidetrack and investigate the Rephaites (descendants of Rapha), the Anakites/Anakim (descendants of Anak), and the Nephilim... I'm going to talk about giants, and I'm going to do some educated speculation - please keep in mind it is speculation, but speculation widely accepted within some Christian circles (theological differences).  What I will say with conviction is that the Bible speaks of Giants, and I trust God's word to be true.

Genesis 6:4 - Ok, there's this group called Nephilim.  These are "heroes of renown", apparently known for their ability in battle.  There's this odd intermarriage being mentioned, about the sons of God taking the daughters of men & their offspring are these Nephilim.  What's interesting is when they showed up, they are mentioned in the Bible just before the great flood... the logical conclusion is that their presence was part of the pre-flood problem, and that they were wiped out by the flood.  But there's this odd phrase in the middle of the verse, they were on the earth pre-flood "and also afterward".  Huh?  If they're completely wiped out how do they get back?  This is a problem, isn't it?

What if the Nephilim aren't a people-group as such, but rather a type of people that are a result of Demonic manipulation of human genes (by direct sexual contact or indirect means)?  I warned you there would be speculation, but let's look to scripture to see why some think this is the case.

Numbers 13:27-28 & 33: When the people of Israel first spied out the promised land they found it was a rich fertile land, but with a big problem.  There are these "sons of Anak" (Anakim), they are huge, the Israelites (at the time men averaged about 5' tall) felt like grasshoppers next to them.  And the Bible tells us these descendants of Anak "come from the Nephilim".  Is the same sort of Demonic manipulation happening again?

Deuteronomy 2:10-11 & 20-21: Anakites (descendants of Anak) are considered Rephaites, but they're not the only ones considered to be Rephaites.  We are given the names of two other groups of notoriously tall & strong people: the Emites & the Zamzummites, which were also considered to be Rephaites.  So the Rephaites appear to be a type of peoples, similar to or possibly the same as the Nephilim.

Deuteronomy 3:10-11: This passage records the demise of the "last of the Rephaites" King Og of Bashan, whose bed was about 14' long and 6' wide.  Though he's mentioned as "the last" we know in David's time that the Rephaites are still around.  In fact, even before we leave the book of Deuteronomy there are Rephaites around though they are called Anakites (sometimes called Anakim).  Confusing isn't it?

It seems like in those days you no sooner killed off all these Rephaites / Nephilim, and they're showing up again somewhere else.  So who is Rapha?  Who is Anak?  Are these the names of demonic beings?  We don't know, but lest you think I'm grasping at straws... Acts 7:42b-43 (quoting Amos 5): apparently the name of one of the "gods" worshiped by the Israelites during their rebellion in the dessert (time of Exodus) was Rephan, it says his star was worshiped, that sounds an awful lot like demon worship.

Deuteronomy 9:1-3: Though some scholars try to excuse the report of the Israelite spies (which we read in Numbers 13) as being an exaggeration, the Bible doesn't treat it as such.  The Israelites are being told they'll have to battle these giants, and their cities with "walls up to the sky", but that God is the one who will go before them to bring demise & allow them to defeat their enemies.

The book of Joshua records some of the Anakites being killed & removed, even naming some of them - so these must have been famous warriors.  Even in David's early life we have him slaying the giant Goliath, who was recorded as being 9'9" tall, and is a descendant of Rapha.

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I've had fun with our side trip, but we need to get to our passage for the week... which includes some additional descendants of Rapha.

2 Samuel 21:15-17 - David is an amazing warrior & strategist, but he's human, he gets exhausted.  It's possible that this battle happened when David was older, but we don't know - it is simply one of many battles David was a part of.  It's interesting that David isn't the hero this time, but instead is helped by another - his nephew Abishai (one of his generals).   The head of the spear carried by Ishbi-Benob weighed about 7.5 pounds, that would have been a massive spear, though only 1/2 the weight of Goliath's - we'll learn later in the passage that he is a descendant of Rapha in Gath.

2 Samuel 21:18-19 - Sibbecai (one of David's Mighty Men) killed another descendant of Rapha named Saph.  Elhanan (another of the Mighty Men) killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath, another descendant of Rapha.   This passage calls him Goliath, but Chronicles clarifies that it's actually his brother - there's a literary "quirk" which may explain the disparity, having to do with the way that "Lahmi the brother of" looks nearly identical in Hebrew to "the Behlehemite".  Lahmi, like his brother Goliath before him, had a spear with a shaft described to be like a weaver's rod.

2 Samuel 21:20-22 - Then there's this real huge man that goes unnamed, with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot, he's also a descendant of Rapha... being that it's mentioned how huge he is I'm guessing he was big for a giant - eek!  Jonathan, David's nephew not his best friend, is the Mighty Man credited with slaying this giant.

So ends the giant-slaying on the part of David's men, 4 giants in all were slain at their hands, 5 if you count David's slaying of Goliath at a tender young age.  An interesting bit of trivia is the fact that David needed only one stone to slay Goliath - but he picked up 5 stones when he went through the brook on the way to defeat Goliath.  Five stones for 5 descendants of Rapha?  Perhaps...

We're going to skip ahead a bit (we'll come back in a couple weeks) to more about the Mighty Men & their exploits.

2 Samuel 23:8Josheb-Basshebeth (J-B) was the head of one group of 3 men, he killed 800 men in one encounter (one battle).

2 Samuel 23:9-10 - Eleazar was one of the three with J-B, he stayed and fought when the rest of the army had fled, he fought for so long his hand cramped around the sword.  When the rest of the army returned all they could do to help was strip the dead bodies for booty.

2 Samuel 23:11-12 - Shammah was the third of the three with J-B, his account is almost identical to Eleazar's, he alone stayed behind and killed off the Philistines.

2 Samuel 23:13-17 - Three of David's Mighty Men risked their lives to get David a drink of water from the well at Bethlehem, but David refused to drink, pouring it out as an offering before God.  Verse 17 implies this is the same 3 men mentioned earlier in the chapter, but there are some who disagree.

2 Samuel 23:18-19 - Abishai (David's nephew, brother of Joab, one of David's generals), single-handedly killed 300 men.  He became the commander of "the Three" but was not considered one of them.

2 Samuel 23:20-23 - Benaiah was known for multiple exploits: he killed two of Moab's best warriors, he went into a pit & killed a lion, and he killed an Egyptian with his own spear.  He was not considered one of "the Thirty" or one of "the Three", but he was put in charge of David's bodyguard & is considered one of David's 37 Mighty Men.

(skim) 2 Samuel 23:24-39 - Notice the wide varieties of nationalities - I quickly counted & came up with 20 non-Israelite nationalities, and notice the last name mentioned in the list.  Uriah the Hittite was Bathsheba's former husband, the one that David had sent to the front lines so that he'd be killed.

Did you notice who was not mentioned in this passage?  Joab is not mentioned, except for being Abishai's & Asahel's brother... though I'm sure he's included in the overall number it's interesting that he's not given honor here.

Closing Prayer:  Thank You God for providing valiant warriors to come along side your servant David to help and to defend him & the nation of Israel.  I thank you that you allowed people from all nations in, showing that even in Old Testament times all were welcome in your family.  Help us Lord to appreciate the friends in our lives, the ones who are faithful to us and will do battle for us, and help us remember to express our love and appreciation to them - to acknowledge them.  Amen!

Quickly Form Groups Again:
2.  Share about a valiant friend in your life (names need not be given).  What can you do to express your appreciation for this friend?

3.  Pray for each other.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Life of David - Lesson 37

Keeping an old Vow & Honoring the Dead - 2 Samuel 21:1-14

Prayer: Lord, the passage we have today is one of blood & pain, of revenge & grief.  This is a difficult passage that needs careful consideration, please work through the power of your Holy Spirit this day to help us to see your purpose & plan being worked out through the events described.

Quickly Form Groups:
1.  Think about sins you've committed that have had long-term consequences.  How do you see God's grace at work through the consequences?  What good can come from God's chastisement?

I am standing in front of you today, teaching the Word of God, as a direct result of the chastisement of God.  I'm not going to take the time today to share my story, but I will say that I know what it is to be broken at the hands of a loving God.  When God breaks or punishes it is with a purpose: it gets our attention, it causes us to repent, it causes us to commit ourselves more deeply to His ways.  Not all pain in our lives is a result of our sin, but no matter the cause God doesn't waste pain in the lives of His beloved; instead, He uses it in an efficient and purposeful way.  If you're going through something painful today I'm going to encourage you to go to your knees & seek God's face to discover how He is working through it for your benefit.

Today we have another bloody passage, and this one seems a bit contrary to how God might work, so we're going to have to look at a bit of history to understand this one.  We're going back to the time when Joshua was leading the Israelites into the promised land, and there were many battles going on to capture the land from those who were inhabiting the land.  The Israelites had been commanded by God to wipe out the inhabitants of the land because the people in the land were deeply pagan & reprobate - beyond hope of salvation.

Joshua 9 - The Gibeonites were spared, and verse 15 tells us an oath was made that they would not be destroyed - at this point in Israel's history an oath would have been made to God.  They would live among the Israelite's with a specific function.  Despite the mistake (sin) of the leaders in not consulting the Lord, the Lord is still going to hold Israel to this vow.

2 Samuel 21:1 - Back to David's day, there is a famine for 3 years - this would have been hard on the nation as a whole.  The obvious problem is that food supplies were low, for both man & beast, but the problems go deeper.  This is an agrarian culture, they were dependent on farming for overall national finances & thus national strength.  It's not clear when this famine occurred during the reign of David, but by other indicators in the passage it occurs after Mephibosheth (Saul's grandson, Jonathan's crippled son) had been brought into David's royal court.

David knows how God operates, there is trouble & God doesn't waste pain, so David seeks God to determine what is causing the problems.  We don't know the extent of David's seeking God's face, but I'm guessing that this seeking happened throughout the 3 year period of drought.  We also don't know how God communicated to David, we're not told, it could have been directly (though not likely by the passage) or by prophet or by use of the Urim & Thummim.

God points out the problem - Saul & his blood-soaked house have broken a vow & put the Gibeonites to death.  God takes vows seriously, it is an egregious sin to break a vow.  God is holding the nation of Israel to an old vow made about 400 years previous to this time in David's reign, a vow that had been brokered during Joshua's time & broken during Saul's reign.

2 Samuel 21:2-3 - Now that David knows the cause of the famine he begins to take action.  Saul had tried to destroy the Gibeonites because of his national pride, breaking Israel's vow, now David is trying to set things right.  David summons the Gibeonites & asks what can be done to make amends for the wrong done to their people at the hand of Saul & his house.  Because a vow made to their people had been broken they had every right to call on God to bring down a curse on the land, David is negotiating for a return of God's blessings on the nation of Israel.

2 Samuel 21:4-6 - The Gibeonites are a people under subjection to Israel (not slaves, but under Israel), as a subjugated people they had no right to request blood-justice in Israel.  This is man's way, not God's way, God's perfect justice is for all people - slave or free & everyone in between.  David encourages them to speak what they would want, as king he is granting them the right to request blood-justice in Israel for this particular wrong.

The Gibeonites make their request, they rightly lay the blame for their trouble on Saul & his house.  Not only had Saul tried to annihilate this people, he had made it almost impossible for them to find a place to call home within Israel.  They request 7 of Saul's descendants to be given to them for execution & exposure before God in Saul's former place of residence.  They are actually demonstrating knowledge of God in their request, they ask for 7 men - 7 is considered a number of completion, they are not asking for as many to be slain as had been killed at Saul's hand.

David agrees to this, 7 of Saul's descendants will be slain & exposed, this will serve as a message to Saul's house in particular & Israel as a whole.  God is going to extremes in this passage to make a point: He expects His people to be people of their word because it reflects on His character, and God always keeps His word. (Ecclesiastes 5:4-7)

2 Samuel 21:7-9 - David spares Mephibosheth, keeping his own vow in doing so, but selects 7 other descendants of Saul's house and hands them over (the Barzillai mentioned is not the one that helped David a couple chapters back). The men are executed together & exposed on a hill in full sight of God & man.  This nearly obliterates the line of Saul, the only recorded descendants of Saul's remaining are from Jonathan's line.  The timing of the execution is at the beginning of the barley harvest, approximately mid-April, relatively early in the year.

2 Samuel 21:10 - Not much of Saul's family remains to grieve, but Rizpah has just lost her two sons, sons born to Saul.  She guards the bodies, she won't let any birds or animals get to the bodies.  She stays from the time of the barley harvest until a time of heavy rain - this rain may indicate that the famine was caused by drought, but we aren't told that directly.  How long was this?  We don't know, but in her grief she's committed to her task.

2 Samuel 21:11-14 - David hears about Rizpah he has compassion on her & Saul's family, the wrong against the Gibeonites has been set right, now it is time for Saul's family & Israel as a whole to find healing.  (1 Samuel 31:11-13)  Apparently David knew what had happened to the bodies of Saul & Jonathan, how the men of Jabesh Gilead had risked their lives to honor them & give them a proper burial.  Now David honors them further by returning their bones, along with the bones of the 7 slain descendants of Saul, and burying them in the tomb of Saul's father in their tribal homeland of Benjamin.  This might not seem like such a big deal to us, but to ancient peoples this was critical - they wanted to be buried with their ancestors.

Now God answers the prayers on behalf of the land, the land will once again be fruitful.  God sometimes takes His time answering prayers, and many times answers in ways that we don't understand, but that is His prerogative.  He has time on His side, and His ways are always best, His ways serve His purpose and His plans.  When we leave spiritual matters unresolved we will face consequences, leading to a famine in our relationship with God.

Closing Prayer:  God, we all experience periods of spiritual famine, times when it feels like we're "all dried up", yet we know that as your children you never leave us.  Lord help us, when we experience a famine, to come to you & seek to make things right. Amen!

Quickly Form Groups Again:
2.  What unsettled business do you have in your life?  Who needs to be forgiven?  Where do you need to make restitution? What chapters of your life need to be re-written or closed by God?

3.  Pray for each other.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Life of David - Lesson 36

Joab Getting Back - 2 Samuel 20:4-26

Prayer: Lord, today we're going to see one of David's loyal men being disloyal not only to David but to You.  Help us Lord not to let anger and resentment get a foothold in our lives, even though revenge may seem to get us what we want it is never the right answer.  Help us to seek to love & live at peace with our fellow man, even those who are in opposition to all we hold dear.

Quickly Form Groups:
1.  Why should we never take action when we're angry?  Come up with real-life examples of what can go wrong.

Since Absalom's rebellion David's kingdom is a mess, and he's been attempting to regain loyalties & broker peace... but there's at least one guy who doesn't want peace with David, his name is Sheba and he's leading a rebellion.  When last we left the narrative of David's life he was going through the process of returning to the palace after living in exile in Mahanaim, and that was a time for making peace - not for chasing down a rebellion.  Amasa is now David's primary general, he was formerly Absalom's general but now has replaced Joab as David's primary general, and Amasa is about to get his first assignment.  Lest we forget, these guys are family, Joab & Amasa are full cousins & are sons of two of David's half-sisters (David's nephews).

2 Samuel 20:4-5 - David sends Amasa out to summon the troops, specifically the troops of the tribe of Judah.  David asked Amasa to be back in 3 days, but Amasa didn't get back in time.  At this point David has to be wondering if Amasa is happy with his new position as the primary general of David's army, having just previously been the primary general over Absalom's army.  We don't know what David is thinking at this point, but we do know that David still needed to deal with Sheba & the men that joined in his rebellion, and Amasa hasn't returned with the troops.

2 Samuel 20:6-7 - David decides not to wait any longer before dealing with Sheba, and decides to send his own personal troops out under the leadership of Abishai (another of David's generals & Joab's brother).  He sends Abishai & the troops out to pursue Sheba, trying to prevent Sheba from gaining a foothold in Israel.  The men normally assigned to Joab, and Joab himself, are heading out under Abishai.  Joab is still not being named as the leader - this confirms to me that David is upset with Joab.  I believe David knew or suspected Joab's involvement in Absalom's death, though it's possible there was some other issue.  These two brothers, Joab & Abishai, have both been serving David as generals for a very long time.  Of the two Joab appears to be the more aggressive, more impulsive, and more hot-headed.  This smaller force (not the full troops of Judah) that is setting out is most likely the force known as David's "Mighty Men" - we've talked about them previously, they've been with David since his years on the run from (former) King Saul - we'll learn more about these men in a lesson coming up in a couple weeks.

2 Samuel 20:8-10 - Remember how I said Joab was aggressive & a bit of a hot-head, we see it here.  David had put Amasa over his troops as a means of reuniting the kingdom, Joab doesn't care.  Joab has no respect for Amasa, probably considers him a traitor, and definitely considers him a personal enemy.  Amasa has done nothing wrong since becoming David's primary general - except being late, there are no reasonable grounds for this action - Joab is simply exacting his own personal revenge.  Lest you think I'm being hard on Joab, I'm going to remind you that this isn't the first time Joab has acted in this manner.  Joab also murdered Abner in another act of revenge:
Abner had been King Saul's primary general, and David had been trained up and served under Abner before he was forced to flee for his life from King Saul.  After Saul's death, but before the nation had been united under David, there had been a battle between David's men & Israel's army.  During this battle another of Joab's brothers, Asahel, had relentlessly pursued Abner & wouldn't turn away (though Abner begged him to).  Abner later realized how David would be a better king for Israel than the son of Saul who was sitting on the throne, so Abner & his troops voluntarily allied themselves with David.  Abner, at the same time, got the heads of the families of Israel to also give their allegiance to David as king.  Abner had successfully brokered a peaceful uniting of all Israel under David as King, but all Joab could see is the man who killed his brother in battle - so Joab killed Abner.
So Joab pretends to be a friend, greeting Amasa as if with a kiss, but instead guts him (it's a grotesque & graphic scene).  Once again Joab has committed murder, this time murdering his cousin, David's nephew, and the current primary general of David's forces.

2 Samuel 20:11-13 - Abishai & Joab continue on their way in pursuit of Sheba, but it's interesting that this time Joab's name is listed first - the implication of which is that Joab is back in charge.  If that's not enough, one of Joab's men is encouraging the troops to rally behind Joab, basically equating loyalty with Joab to loyalty to David.  These aren't just the troops that have come with Abishai, these are also the troops that arrived with Amasa, so we shouldn't be surprised at their hesitation as they come across the murdered body of Amasa - were they perhaps concerned for their own lives?  In any case, the body is causing the troops to hesitate, so the body is removed from the road & covered, and the troops head off with Joab to pursue Sheba.

2 Samuel 20:14-16 - So Sheba has been working his way through Israel, gathering men to himself.  Sheba has settled himself and his troops in Abel Beth Maacah (or Beth Maacah in the area of Abel), a fortified city in Israel (the location of which I was unable to confirm).  Joab & the troops of David besiege the city,   build a siege ramp against the outer fortifications, and were beginning to batter their way into this fortified city in order to get to Sheba.  The people in Beth Maacah were probably wanting nothing to do with having their city walls breached, and a wise woman of the city calls out to the troops that she wants to speak to Joab.  The people of Israel would have been used to Joab being the general in charge of David's army, so it's not too surprising that she asked for Joab by name.  Normally a woman wouldn't take a lead role like this, so she must have been a special woman that was trusted by the people of Beth Maacah - and the scriptures record she was wise.  I want to point out that she's a woman, because culturally this is a bit of a big deal, in those days women were considered property, not leaders or spokespersons - so she must have been exceptional.

2 Samuel 20:17-19 -  Joab comes forward, and the woman doesn't recognize him, so she verifies she's talking to the right guy.  Then she humbly requests he listen, a good move on her part.  Joab is taking the time to listen to a woman, this is pretty amazing considering his personality, so I'm even more impressed - this is one woman I'd like to meet & hope she's in heaven so I can get to know her in eternity.  She reminds Joab that the area of Abel is an area known where people could seek answers from God, a place that is known for being peaceful, and a town that has been faithful to Israel.  The town isn't part of this rebellion, the town wants to continue it's role as being a "mother" - a nurturing society in Israel.  So she asks Joab outright what he's up to, what he's got against their city - I'm guessing that Sheba's presence, or his intentions, may not have been common knowledge within the city.

2 Samuel 20:20-21 - Joab responds with a clear purpose, he knows there's no point in destroying a strong city - that would just weaken Israel as a whole.  Joab makes it clear that all he wants is this one man Sheba handed over, he makes it clear that Sheba is a traitor to David's throne, and promise to withdraw is Sheba is handed over.  The woman, now with a clear picture of the problem, and knowing the people of her city, promises that she'll set that Sheba's head is thrown over the wall.

2 Samuel 20:22 - The woman goes around and speaks with the people of her city, advising them to throw Sheba's head over the wall, and they take her advice.  This is obviously a city that wants no part of harboring a traitor, they don't want to be caught in the middle of a conflict, they want peace.  They cut off Sheba's head & toss it over the wall to Joab, Joab sounds the trumpet & ends the pursuit - the men of Judah's forces all head back home, and Joab leads the king's forces back to Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 20:23-26 - These last few verses almost feel like a footnote, but it gives credit by name to some of David's loyal men & priests.  The interesting thing here is that Joab is back as the primary general of Israel's army, and nobody appears to be questioning his position - not even David.  Joab doesn't get away with all his evil acts, they catch up to him eventually, but not until the reign of Solomon - this is another case (like Shimei in last week's lesson) where David, on his death bed, asks Solomon to deal with something by the special gift of wisdom God has granted to him.

Closing Prayer:  Lord we thank you for the wisdom that comes from you.  We thank you for the wisdom of this exceptional woman of Beth Maacah, and how she was able to broker peace for her city.  We thank you for the special gift of wisdom that you granted to Solomon, we thank you for your wisdom available to us through your Word, and we thank you for wisdom given to us through the working of your Holy Spirit in our lives.  Help us to rely on your wisdom rather than our own thoughts or emotions.  Amen!

Quickly Form Groups Again:
2.  Think about situations or circumstances stir you up (your "hot-buttons").  When you realize that you're being stirred up what do you do to get your emotions in-check?  What might you need to do differently?

3.  Pray for each other.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Life of David - Lesson 35

The Rough Road back Home - 2 Samuel 19:8b-20:3

Prayer: Lord we thank you that you provide forgiveness & healing for our hearts and minds.  We ask that you help us as we strive to love & forgive the people in our lives that have harmed us, help us to do this as a response to your mercy & grace toward us.

Quickly Form Groups:
1.  Think of a situation in your life in which a relationship (family, friendship, co-worker, etc) has been broken.  What is your responsibility in the matter?  What steps should you take to try to rebuild? 

When we last left the narrative on David's life he'd been usurped by his son Absalom, taken his family & trusted troops & fled across the Jordan but left behind some who would provide him vital intelligence.  Then Absalom had gone with his army to find & kill David, but it was Absalom who was killed & his army defeated.  David grieved the death of his son, but recovered from his grief with the help of Joab (his nephew, general, and friend) to the point of being able to once again lead his people.  David at this point in the history is still across the Jordan, headquartered in Mahanaim, and now he is ready to head back home to Jerusalem.  There is a lot of repair-work that needs to be done, we'll see David start to rebuild the people's confidence in him & offer peace as he works through the process of restoring his throne.

2 Samuel 19:8b-10 - The men who had sided with Absalom high-tailed it back home.  The Israelites as a whole seem to be divided - some had wanted Absalom as king, but now Absalom is dead.  Those with some sense (perhaps the older ones with longer memories) reminded the others that David had been a good king, one who was victorious over their enemies.  I get the sense that they were using the argument that any king is better than no king, even if he's not the king you wanted.  As we continue through the next couple chapters its important that we realize that all is not well in Israel, it is a country with divided loyalties, this might help us understand some of David's actions on his return to Jerusalem.

2 Samuel 19:11-14 - Remember that these two priests, Zadok & Abiathar, were part of David's intelligence network, so David knew he could rely on them to do his bidding.   As priests it would be natural for them to be leaders in attempting to restore Israel, so as Israel's priests they are asked to call together the elders of Judah (David's tribe) to spearhead David's return.  David wants all Israel to see that though the trouble started in his own family (tribe) that his family was behind him.  Keeping with getting the family back together on his side, David extends a pardon to Amasa (his nephew, cousin of Absalom / Joab / Abishai) and offers to give him Joab's position as his primary general.  Remember that Amasa had been the primary general of Absalom's forces - so this is a "transfer" that will keep him at the same rank, this is a strategic move on David's part to attempt to merge the forces (his and Absalom's) into one & have them loyal to his throne.  I'm sure Joab wasn't happy about this (more on this later in the chapter), but this is the action taken by David that makes me wonder if word had gotten to him that Absalom had died at Joab's hand - that would help explain the demotion of Joab.  In any case, David's strategy seems to work, the men of Judah (his tribe) are now fully behind him & encourage him to return. 

2 Samuel 19:15-18a - David starts the journey home, and gets as far as the East Bank of the Jordan river.  Remember that the Jordan is a major river, and that it acts as a bit of a barrier, crossing the Jordan is no small task & there is a huge entourage that needs to cross.  The men of Judah (David's tribe) have come to Gilgal, near the West Bank of the Jordan, and are preparing to help David & his entourage ford the river.  His tribe is now demonstrating solidarity with David.  There are some others that also come to help, some of which are surprising:
  • Shimei, the most surprising & most unlikely to help & want David, he is a Benjamite, has joined up with the men of Judah.  We'll get back to him in the next few verses.
  • An entourage of 1000 Benjamites with Shimei - this is important, since the tribe of Benjamin is Saul's tribe - the family that had the most reason to resent David were actually being supportive of him.
  • Ziba & his 15 sons & 20 servants - Ziba was the steward of Saul's household & had told David of Mephibosheth (Saul's grandson, Jonathan's son, who was crippled & being cared for by David) siding with Absalom.  Ziba had been loyal to David & had provided provisions for David & his entourage as they fled Jerusalem.  David had promised Ziba he could have all of Saul's household as his own because of Mephibosheth's betrayal (more on this later in the chapter).

2 Samuel (16:5-14 &) 19:18b-23 - I like this guy Shimei, he has guts & conviction, but he also has humility.  Shimei had been convinced that David had deserved being ousted by Absalom (and in actuality what happened was part of the prophecy given to David by Nathan in chapter 12).  David had not disagreed with Shimei at the time, and actually understood that the punishment of being dethroned by his son may have been at God's hands.  Now Shimei realizes that it was not God's plan to remove David, and he humbly comes to David seeking forgiveness.  Abishai, one of David's generals & his nephew, isn't in any mood to be forgiving but David has a forgiving heart.  David also realizes that in order to rebuild his kingdom he'll have to repair broken relationships & forgive & make amends, and this is but one step of many along the way.  Let's not go thinking that David is completely letting Shimei off the hook, on his deathbed he puts Shimei's fate into the hands of his son Solomon - David trusts Solomon's wisdom (given by God) in dealing with this man.

2 Samuel 19:24-30 - Now David has to deal with someone who has betrayed him, or has he?  Mephibosheth comes to meet him, Ziba had indicated that Mephibosheth had betrayed David & sided with Absalom, but we're left wondering.  Mephibosheth has the  appearance of one who had been pining for David's return, but we're left with more questions than answers.  Why didn't he go with David? He has an answer for that, he claims that Ziba betrayed him.  This leaves David in a spot, its really hard for him to know which of these men to believe, and so in order to keep peace he order's that Saul's household be divided between the two men.  I tend to believe Ziba, Mephibosheth seems to be laying it on a bit thick, but only the Lord knows the truth of the matter, and David handled it as best he could.

2 Samuel 19:31-39 - Barzillai, I like this guy, this guy came along side David when he was in need.  Barzillai is old, and this is a healthy reminder to us that God has a purpose for us throughout our lives.  Barzillai had provided for the households of David's band of refugees, given them beds & kitchen items, as well as provided food & drink.  Now Barzillai has come to say goodbye to his friend David, and I can't help but read into the passage a sense of sadness on the part of these two men at their parting - it's likely they would never see each other again in this world.  David tries to get Barzillai to go back to Jerusalem with him, to join him in his court, but Barzillai says no - he's settled and just wants to stay home.  Barzillai offers up Kimham to go in his place, this is likely his son (hinted at elsewhere in scripture), a younger man who could appreciate David's generosity & the pleasures of life in David's court.  David kisses Barzillai, this is a common eastern action when parting company with a dear friend, David pronounces a blessing on him & sends him home.

2 Samuel 19:40-43 - Finally David crosses the Jordan, and Kimham is with him.  All of the troops of Judah & half of the troops of Israel are there to help get David & his entourage safely back to the West side of the river.  But all is not well, there continues to be bad feelings between the men of Judah & the rest of the men of Israel (I get the sense that the trouble is between the troops of the two factions).  There is still a great deal of distrust, the nation of Israel is still divided, and David still has trouble that he will need to deal with - he needs to get these hot-heads all onto the same side.

2 Samuel 20:1-2 - This was predictable, one hot-head decided he wanted to be in charge & so he sounds the trumpet & starts a rebellion - and David has only made his way back as far as crossing the Jordan.  The men of Israel have deserted David, but his own tribe continues to back him.  David wisely doesn't pursue at this point, and instead continues on his way & heads back home.

2 Samuel 20:3 - David is finally home in the palace.  The concubines left behind were violated by Absalom (in fulfillment of God's prophecy to David - a prophecy given through Nathan) & can no longer be a part of David's harem.  It seems odd to us that he would put them in a house under guard, but we need to remember that this guard may have been as much for their protection as for the protection of David's household & throne.  David likely had children by these concubines, so in a way he's taking care of & guarding his family.  The women are provided for, but treated as widows, for the rest of their lives.

Closing Prayer:  Lord I thank you for David's example, how he worked to try to make peace and rebuild trust.  How he loved those who were faithful to his throne & attempted to reconcile with those who were not.  It takes a big man to take the risk & offer a hand of friendship to an enemy, and it shows an amazing heart that longed for peace in Israel.  Help us to be a people who reach out and love our enemies, as you have directed us to do.  Amen!

Quickly Form Groups Again:
2.  What can we do with the Sheba's in our life?  How do you respond to those who don't want to heal, but rather want to tear things apart further?  As believers, what responsibility do we have toward them?

3.  Pray for each other.