2 Samuel 19:9-20:26

A King Returns

Discussion Question

Might this world see another revival in the West? Or has the West deserted Christ with no hope of return?

Background (Context)

David took the news of Absalom’s death hard. He was rebuked by Joab, the commander of his army, to show love to the people who have served him. David sat at the entrance of Mahanaim and 2 Samuel 19:8 reported that all of Israel (the people who had followed Absalom) fled to their homes. The war has been won and the one who raised his hand against the king has been killed. But the kingdom has been damaged.

Read 2 Samuel 19:9-20:26

Follow this link to read the passage on BibleGateway… 

What did you see? (Observation)


  • The tribes of Israel repent and turn to the king (9-20)
  • Reminders of the gentle and kind kingdom (21-30)
  • Barzillai and Kimham (31-40)
  • Ten shares in the king (40-43)
  • The trouble with Sheba (20:1-7)
  • The return of Joab (8-13)
  • Abel Beth Maakah (14-22)
  • The king’s men (23-26)

The tribes of Israel repent and turn to the king (9-20)

“Throughout the tribes of Israel, all the people were arguing among themselves…” What we see in Verses 9 to 20 is the aftermath of a rebellion gone wrong. David had proven himself to be a great king – delivering Israel from their enemies in the past. There had been a rebellion and David fled from his son. But the son is dead and now they argue about how and when they should restore David as king. It would seem that the country is sorry for what has happened. The news of this discussion reaches the ear of the king and so he sends messages to his own people in Judea.

“Ask the elders of Judah, ‘Why should you be the last to bring the king back…’” This could be reworded as, ‘Judah, my people, you ought to be the first to bring me back. Why delay?’

“And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my own flesh and blood…commander of my army for life in place of Joab.’” David is clearly not happy with Joab. Although Joab had acted justly and perhaps mercifully toward David by killing Absalom, David has in mind to remove Joab as a commander and keep Amasa in his place. Amasa had been delegated leader under Absalom. While Joab has always been loyal to David, his methods have been hard in contrast to David’s kindness. This decision has the added effect of winning over the hearts of the men of Judah. 

“The king returned and went as far as the Jordan.” He had been in Mahanaim on the east of the Jordan. This river marks a major eastern perimeter to the Promised Land.

“Now the men of Judah had come to Gilgal…” It was in 1 Samuel 11 that Israel made Saul king over them in Gilgal. The history of making kings in Israel has not been a smooth and faultless one. 2 Samuel 19 is about a people who had risen up against David who now wish to repent and draw near to him. Firstly, the people argued about their predicament, then David sent messages to ask why they don’t bring him back. As they meet him now at Gilgal, we meet some named characters to put flesh on this time of awkward submission.

“Shimei son of Gera…” He was the man who threw dirt and rocks down on David’s head as he marched out of Jerusalem (Chapter 16:5ff). He will speak to David in Verse 19 but we meet some other names running with him. Ziba had appeared. He also appeared in Chapter 16 with the appearance of being a great friend. He brought provisions for the king to be refreshed. David had blessed Ziba for his apparent faithfulness. He allowed Shimei to curse him since this may very well have been a discipline from God. What happens next in Chapter 19 is a part 2 to those encounters in Chapter 16.

“…Shimei…fell prostrate before the king and said, ‘…I have sinned…’” When David was cursed by Shimei, he told Abishai not to harm the man. Now the same man who was once David’s enemy is repentant and asking that his actions be not remembered. How will David handle this?

Reminders of the gentle and kind kingdom (21-30)

“Abishai son of Zeruiah said, ‘Shouldn’t Shimei be put to death for this?…’” Good question. He admitted to doing wrong. What David does in response is tricky to analyse. On the one hand, David is able to once again show the compassion and kindness that is characteristic of the kingdom of God. When a man repents sincerely, he is welcomed home. On the other hand, David has been frustrated with this family of Zeruiah (the mother of Abishai and Joab). “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah.” Zeruiah was one of David’s own sisters. So Abishai and Joab were his nephews.

“Should anyone be put to death in Israel today?” Another good question. Shouldn’t people be put to death for treason? Or is forgiveness offered in David’s kingdom. For Shimei, who had personified hostile rejection of David, pardon was granted. He has David’s word that he will not die. 

“Why didn’t you go with me, Mephibosheth?” Little Shebby had received such grace from David back in Chapter 9. A descendant of Saul was given a place at the King’s table along with the King’s men and family. A man with no earthly value in the kingdom was allowed to eat every night at the King’s side. Ziba had reported to David in Chapter 16 that Shebby had abandoned David. We read now that Shebby had exercised a sort of fast while the king was in exile. He did not look after his legs. This is not the actions of a man happy to be free of David but one who is in grief.

“…Ziba my servant betrayed me. And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king…” Shebby’s whole speech in Verses 26 to 28 is filled with humility, truth and submission. He comes to the king now with nothing to be guilty of but still bows to the king’s will.

“Mephibosheth said…Let him take everything, now that my lord the king has returned home safely.” There is no sign of deceit from Shebby. He has a true dedication to David despite his reward or lack of it.

So we have seen a confessed rebel (Shimei) receive pardon from sin. We have heard how Ziba cheated a man out of his inheritance but because the King had given the land to Ziba, he does not take back his promise. A faithful servant (Shebby) is happy again because the kingdom has been restored, his own inheritance is worth nothing compared to being returned to the king. And Abishai is rebuked for not understanding the kindness of this kingdom.

Barzillai and Kimham (31-40)

“The king kissed Barzillai and bid him farewell, and Barzillai returned to his home. When the king crossed over to Gilgal, Kimham crossed with him.” Barzillai had provided for David in Mahanaim (17:27-29) and also helped David on his was to return to Jerusalem. His heart was for David and his kingdom but his age was against continuing in the journey. He had worked hard to care for David as he had. This is the end of his journey but he passes on to Kimham the joy of going with David. Kimham is described as David’s servant but is likely to be a son of Barzillai (see 1 Kings 2:7). 

Ten shares in the king (40-43)

“All the troops of Judah and half the troops of Israel had taken the king over.” This is a status report in the story. We have the king being returned by his kin in Judah but there is still only half of Israel that have returned. And this leads us to what happens next.

“We have ten shares in the king…But the men of Judah pressed their claims even more forcefully that the men of Israel.” The sad story of the nation of Israel is that they have often failed to be as one. Judah appeared to be doing nothing wrong and wouldn’t admit to anything foul they were doing. What would they admit to? But the ten tribes of Israel were frustrated with their brother’s apparent ownership of David. Who were the ten tribes? It would seem Judah and Benjamin are excluded from the ten. In 1 Kings 11 ten tribes are allotted to Jeroboam, it excluded Judah and Benjamin. We have here the continued story of the sons of Jacob (renamed Israel) who fight and quarrel.

The trouble with Sheba (20:1-7)

“Now a troublemaker named Sheba…” No sooner had David begun to return Jerusalem that there was another rebel rise up to take the men of Israel with him. David, unlike his actions toward Absalom, was determined to stop this rebellion. David sent Amasa to get Sheba but Amasa did not return. With no news, David may presume that Sheba has acquired the help of Amasa also. Abishai is sent to deal with Sheba. Joab and his men go in pursuit also.

The return of Joab (8-13)

“Without being stabbed again, Amasa died.” Amasa had not expected Joab to jab him. Why had Amasa been delayed? Perhaps he had not changed sides but was just taking longer than everyone expected to get the job done. Joab is not interested in a reunion. He makes out like he is greeting Amasa as a brother but drives his sword into Amasa who dies quickly. Amasa had taken Joab’s place as commander of the army. Joab does not agree with this situation.

“When [one of Joab’s men] realized that everyone who came up to Amasa stopped, he dragged him from the road…” One man was clearly behind Joab and ready to encourage all to follow him. Everyone saw their alternate leader dead on the road. The distraction and confusion was literally removed from site so that the mission could continue.

Abel Beth Maakah (14-22)

“Long ago they used to say, ‘Get your answer at Abel’…” This little resolution in Verses 14-22 illustrates the diversity found inside the people of Israel. This little city of Abel Beth Maakah had a reputation for peace and wisdom. To tear this down would be a tragedy. Sheba is described as coming from Ephraim – which will future be renowned as the rebellious capital of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Joab’s force had come up to the peaceful city where Sheba had taken refuge. But this wise woman had no intentions of harbouring a rebel of the king. So, off with his head. Problem solved. Too easy.

The king’s men (23-26)

“Joab was over Israel’s entire army…” This man had reinstated himself into this powerful position. He was not a rebel to the king but neither was he akin to the gentle ways of the king. The feeling of Verses 23-26 is that things have returned to normal but how much is David really in charge of things? The kingdom is back in order with all the places filled at the top. No mention is given of David being the king.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

Chapter 19 reminded us again of the compassion and kindness of the King who is ready to welcome and forgive. Yet to those who have butted heads against this approach in the past, the king is not so friendly toward. Joab doesn’t seem to fit and yet he is still there. The faithful and repentant rebels are all welcome in the kingdom of David. But his kingdom displayed cracks of disunity which are growing greater and greater. The king of God under Jesus Christ is a kingdom that also receives repentant sinners with gladness and joy and yet the brothers and sisters in this kingdom are instructed to live in unity. Where there is division there is a weak house. Wisdom says, chop off the head of the persistent rebels.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Can God forgive anybody? Shemai was forgiven. After times of persecution in church history, men and women who had denied Christ wanted to return to church fellowship. Many found this difficult to swallow.

Topic B: Letting the next generation take the baton. Kimham was given reward from David for what his father had done for David. It must be hard for those who love the Lord and have lived long and many years leading and teaching and discipling others, to be unable to do as much as they used to for the kingdom. Of course I am not suggesting that they are ‘passed it’ and we ought to find ways for young Christians to learn from experienced Christians – but energy goes with the young.

Topic C: Disunity in the church. The New Testament commands us to love one another from the heart. We are to avoid quarrels, bear with one another and forgive as the Lord forgives us. The call to unity is to be carried out within a local church group and congregation. Also amongst the congregations but also beyond our own parish or denomination. Unity is to be founded in our loyalty to the King and the gospel of grace. But when we are brothers and sisters in Christ, let’s work hard at putting the mission first.