2 SAMUEL 16, 17 and 18
Now David was running for his life and, to make matters worse, the disgruntled members of Saul’s household were taking the opportunity to get their revenge. Ziba, the not-so-faithful steward of Mephibosheth, had decided to curry favour with the King at his master’s expense. By slandering Mephibosheth and making him out to be a rebel, he managed to persuade David to confiscate Mephibosheth’s land and give it to Ziba.
Then, Shimei, a member of Saul’s household, followed David’s flight from Jerusalem and chose to curse him and pelt him with stones, foolish man! David was amazingly mature about it and did not do the obvious thing of having Shimei killed. He decided to leave the revenge to God and hope that God also took pity on David and restored the covenant blessing to his household.
Supporting the usurper, the powerful prophet, Ahithophel gave advice to Absalom to sleep with the ten concubines that David had left behind in Jerusalem; this was intended to be a make-or-break action, an insult to the King, ensuring that there could be no reconciliation between the Absalom and the rightful monarch. It also fulfilled the word of the Lord to David immediately after the Bathsheba incident.
The good news was that Absalom also listened to David’s spy in the camp, Hushai the Arkite, who made a good job of countering the military advice of Ahithophel – which so shamed and disgusted Ahithophel that he immediately committed suicide! The two sons of the High Priest then had the dangerous task of warning David of the course of action that Absalom had decided on. Duly warned, David prepared his army and attacked Absalom’s forces unexpectedly, but charged his commanders not to kill Absalom should he be captured. The battle swung David’s way and he routed Absalom’s forces easily. Absalom himself was unfortunate to be captured by Joab’s men; Joab, instead of obeying David’s orders, made sure that he killed Absalom personally – obviously hiding the fact from the King.
Joab comes out of these stories increasingly badly – being a scheming and double-crossing individual who sought power rather than integrity. He was very loyal to David most of his life but would stop at nothing to remove any and all threats to his own position as well as to David’s. Much later on, we see that Joab supported another son of David – Adonijah – against the anointed new king, Solomon. This was to be Joab’s final mistake, which he paid for with his life – and not before time!
At the end of the battle with Absalom’s forces, David learned that his son had died and was completely distraught. “Oh, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you…”, he wailed. This is the natural cry of a father’s heart, but much of the problem had been caused by David himself – first by being too harsh with Absalom and then by being too lenient. This is another example of a situation where forgiveness does not entirely solve the problem and there are consequences to sinful behaviour that may last years or lifetimes.