Commentary on 2 Samuel 19

To help us better understand the context of 2 Samuel 19, here is an excerpt from New Bible Commentary:

19:1–15 Preparations for David’s return. This section is concerned with three distinct groups of people: David’s army, Absalom’s northern supporters, and the representatives of the tribe of Judah. David could easily have offended any of these. He had to show graciousness and forgiveness to former rebels without angering loyal supporters.

At first, he was in danger of offending his victorious army, till Joab once again took firm action. David’s decision to make Amasa the commander of his army (13) had two motives. First, it would show all rebels the extent of David’s forgiveness, since Amasa had been their commander. Secondly, David took pleasure in displacing Joab, who had been responsible for killing Absalom.

The northern tribesmen were ready to accept David as king once more, but plainly Judah showed some hesitation. We may infer that Absalom’s revolt had divided Judah, and as a tribe they were uncertain about David’s attitude towards them. It was, however, essential for David’s position that his own tribe should give him solid support, and he made it his priority to win them over. Some friction between north and south resulted (see vs 40–43).

19:16–39 David’s return. This whole section is set at the River Jordan, and it is the dramatic reversal of 16:1–14. The individuals who had reacted to David in various ways when he had been fleeing from Jerusalem now came to meet him as he returned victorious. David was forgiving to enemies like Shimei (18–23) and he rewarded those who had been truly loyal like Barzillai (31–40). Ziba once again reached David before his master Mephibosheth, but this time Mephibosheth presented himself and tried to undo the harm Ziba had caused (17–18, 24–30). Perhaps David could not decide which man was telling the truth, or else he felt that Ziba’s loyalty deserved some reward. The important consequence was that Mephibosheth lost some property but retained his life and presumably his honoured position at court.

19:40–20:13 Rebellion in the north. The final verses of ch. 19 revert to the tense relationship between Judah and the northern tribes. The northern group were half-hearted about David (40), even though they claimed a greater share in the king (43). The friction between them and Judah resulted in another revolt against David, led by Sheba (20:1). It was in reality a small affair which ended without a battle, but it had wide appeal nevertheless (20:2).

The personal interest centres on Joab and his relative Amasa. Amasa showed that he was a poor general, and it was Joab yet again whose ability and loyalty to David would defeat the enemy. The story also demonstrates again Joab’s brutal and ruthless character.[1]


[1] D. A. Carson, New Bible Commentary : 21st Century Edition, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, Ill., USA: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994). 2 Sa 19:1–20:13.

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