Today we continue the story of David fleeing from Absalom. As David passes the summit of the Mount of Olives, he is met by Ziba (16:1 – see 2 Sam 9:1-12). He brings David provisions for the road. When David asks where Mephibosheth is, Ziba tells him that Mephibosheth has turned on David and expects that the kingdom would be restored to the family of Saul (v. 3 – Mephibosheth has a different story, as we will see in chapter 19). Mephibosheth was part of David’s inner circle (“he ate always at the king’s table” – 9:13). This is further evil out of David’s own house (see 12:11). So David gives to Ziba all of Mephibosheth’s belongings (v. 4).
In verse 5 we are introduced to Shimei, a relative of Saul. He curses David (v. 5), throws stones at him (v. 6), and mocks David (v. 7-8). We know that David did no wrong to Saul, even when Saul wrongly pursued him. David had multiple opportunities to kill Saul, but would not, trusting God to judge justly. Here, David is mocked though he has done nothing wrong. He is taking the blame for that which he did not do. This is another pointer to the greater Son of David Who will endure unjust mocking, and Who will take the “blame” for the sins of all the elect, all the while trusting God to judge justly (1 Peter 2:23). And even here, we see David continue to show kindness to the house of Saul. He forbids his men to harm or even rebuke Shimei (vv. 9-11). In verse 12, we see that David has indeed been humbled and is now the David of old, trusting only in God.
In verse 15, Absalom enters Jerusalem, along with Ahithophel. Absalom is wary at first when he sees that Hushai has remained behind (v. 17 – see 16:32-37), but Hushai speaks to him as David instructed him to (vv. 18-19), which appears to satisfy Absalom. When Absalom seeks counsel from Ahithophel, he advises that Absalom should make it obvious that he intends to take the throne from David permanently by taking David’s concubines in the site of the people (v. 21). This is a direct violation of the law (Lev 18:8). We read in verse 23 that Ahithophel’s counsel was considered as good as a word directly from God. It doesn’t say that it was from God, because God would never counsel sin. Yet, this is according to God’s plan, because fulfilled in verse 22 is the curse of 2 Samuel 12:11-12 – this is evil out of David’s house, and it is a public taking of David’s wives in broad daylight.*
Psalm 7 is believe to have been written by David about his flight from Jerusalem, possibly about the incident with Shimei in particular. David starts the Psalm with the refrain that the Lord is His refuge (7:1). That David takes refuge in God to be saved from his pursuers is a reference to the rules about the Avenger of Blood and the cities of refuge, where someone would flee if innocent of pre-meditated murder (see Deut 19:4-7). The idea is that David is taking refuge in God because of the false accusations against him (see above – note that Shimei’s accusation against David is for the blood of Saul, of which David was innocent). David then turns to a humble prayer for God to search him for sin (vv. 3-5). If David is guilty, then he will accept his punishment (v. 5). Then David expresses his faith in the just Judge, Who will only punish evil (vv. 6-7). David’s description of judgment here points us forward to the final judgment where all people will be judged (see Rev 20:11-13).
In verse 8, David is asking for God to judge Him justly according to his righteousness and in verse 9 to judge the evil according to their wickedness. Does David think himself sinless? Well, if Psalm 51 is any indication, David is well aware of his sin. How then can David believe himself righteous? How is he upright in heart enough to receive salvation (v. 10) while the righteous Judge is indignant against sin (v. 11)? The answer is in verse 12. David has recognized his sin before God, and he has repented. We have seen how humbled David has been by what has happened to him. We see again that faith and repentance are the “righteousness” God demands (see Psalm 51:17). We see, then, that what David is suffering because of his sin is rehabilitative judgment, and not retributive. God has brought him to repentance.
David then goes on to describe the retributive judgment of God. He uses the imagery of the sword and the bow (v. 12), and deadly weapons and arrows (v. 13). These are reserved for those who are evil, who are “pregnant with mischief and give(s) birth to lies” (v. 14 – what a metaphor!). These kinds of people are laying their own trap (v. 15), and they get what they deserve (v. 16). Such describes the man that “does not repent” (v. 12). David ends with a prayer of thanksgiving and praise for God’s righteousness (v. 17).
*In the ancient world, there was a very blurred line between “wife” and “concubine.” Additionally, the word for “wife” in Hebrew is the word for “woman.” So God literally told David in 12:11 that “I will take your women…and he shall lie with your women in the sight of this sun.”