The primary character in today’s stories, as much as David, is Joab, the commander of his army. Joab is furious as David’s grief forces the victors to return as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle. Chapter 19 opens with Joab fiercely rebuking David for his grief: “You have today covered with shame the faces of all your servants… for today I know that if Absalom were alive and all of us were dead today, then you would be pleased.”
It’s interesting to look back on Joab’s story. Remember that Joab had taken revenge on Abner for his brother’s death, and that the king lamented for Abner – the commander of Saul’s army – but did not lament for Joab’s brother – one of David’s soldiers. Joab was faithful to David in the Uriah affair, but also knew he was ending an innocent man’s life on David’s behalf. And again, out of loyalty to David’s throne but not obedience to his command, Joab would not “waste time” debating whether to kill Absalom.
Today Joab unleashes his fury at the king in a public and humiliating way – if others could hear David mourning, you can be sure they heard Joab’s rebuke. While it initially seems that he gets away with treating the king this way, David soon replaces him with Amasa – who later suffers the same fate as others who have stood in Joab’s way.
David could not, or would not, see what Absalom was about. Then he exerts greater effort to mourn his son than to thank the thousands who defended him. But this is only symptomatic of something bigger going on with him. Remember that he chose to abandon the capital, rather than defend it. Today he is unable to discern when there might be another side to the Mephibosheth story. He still steadfastly refuses to take any action against Joab, who has thoroughly revealed his character and even killed the king’s son in known violation of a direct order. And today he will face a second civil conflict from one “who will do more harm than Absalom.”
There is one other literary detail to note. At the end of chapter 19 the author notes discord between “the men of Judah” and “the men of Israel.” You’ll hear in this a condition that has been hinted at for some time – a division between the Judahite loyalty to David’s throne and the other tribes – consolidated as “Israel,” challenging David’s authority. This is the first glimpse of a cleft that will threaten the nation’s existence in years to come.
Our verse for this week is Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
2 Samuel 19 and 20. Now let’s read it!
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.