Today we return to our narrative and the conclusion of the Absalom incident. David prepares his army for battle and readies himself to go out with them (18:1-2). However, David’s generals do not want him going into battle (v. 3). David is older now. Also, his feelings about his son may cloud his judgment. Additionally, his death would mean the end of the war, as Ahithophel had said (17:1-3). And we see those feelings David has for his son in verse 5. He does not want Absalom killed in the battle. In the ensuing battle, David’s men prevail, causing a wholesale retreat of Absalom’s forces (vv. 6-8). And Absalom himself retreats, and while doing so, gets his head stuck the branches of a tree. The hair that was so glorious by worldly standards (see 14:25-26) will serve to be his downfall.
When Joab finds out about Absalom’s predicament, he asks why Absalom has not been killed (v. 11). But the men will not because of David’s orders (v. 12 – see v. 5). So Joab, as usual, does what he thinks is best for David and the kingdom, and kills Absalom (vv. 14-15). The battle was over (v. 16). In verses 19-20, Joab does not send Ahimaaz to bring David news, because Ahimaaz was used as a bearer of good news (see v. 27). Absalom’s death – though necessary in Joab’s estimation – is not a reason for celebration. Ahimaaz goes anyway and overtakes the other messenger (v. 23). And David is given the good news that he had won the battle (v. 28). The slower messenger then gives the news of Absalom’s death (v. 32). And David mourns his son and wishes he had died instead of Absalom (v. 33).
In chapter 19, we see that David’s reaction to the victory turned it into a reason to mourn for his people (19:1-2). Those who were victorious and put the enemy to flight now feel as if they were defeated (v. 3) because of David’s mourning for Absalom (v. 4). And Joab, as usual, does what he thinks is best for David and the kingdom, and rebukes David for his mourning (v. 5-7). And David complies with Joab’s instructions (v. 8).
We see in verses 9-10 that the people of Israel are confused over what to do. They had made Absalom their king, but David defeated him and retains the throne. What do they do? David appeals to the tribe of Judah (he is quite the politician) and they accept him back as king first (vv. 11-15). Then Shimei (remember him? – see 16:5-14) comes to David to beg for forgiveness (vv. 19-20). And even though he is advised to exact revenge (v. 21), David humbly forgives Shimei (vv. 22-23). Then Mephibosheth comes to David. Remember, David believed he had betrayed him (16:1-4). So Mephibosheth gives his side of the story. He says that Ziba pulled a fast one on him and David (vv. 26-27), and he humbly leaves David to judge as he will (v. 28). David’s response may indicate that he is not sure who to believe (v. 29).
But the trouble is not over for David. The ten northern tribes of Israel are offended that David has thus far only been restored to Judah (v. 41). Judah responds that it is only because he is of their tribe (v. 42). In the ensuing argument (v. 43), we see the seeds of division are already sown. And Sheba – a Benjamite like Saul – convinces the northern tribes to renounce David as king and follow him (20:1-2). The kingdom is divided again (temporarily).
David takes the ten concubines that Absalom laid with and provides for them, but no longer treats them as concubines (v. 3). He then turns his attention to the northern tribes. He wants all of Judah’s fighting men to come to him (v. 4). When his messenger Amasa delays (v. 5), David sends Joab and a few warriors to find Sheba (v. 6). When Joab sees Amasa, he again does what he believes is best for David and the kingdom, and kills him, perhaps believing him to be a traitor (vv. 8-10). Joab then pursues Sheba, closing him in a walled city (vv. 14-15). As Joab and his forces are laying siege to the city, those of the city do not want to be destroyed (vv. 16-19), so Joab tells them to kill Sheba (v. 21), which they do (v. 22).
Like the sin of our first parents, we see that David’s sin continues to have far-reaching effects not just for him, but for all of Israel.