Monday, February 18, 2013

CXVI - II Samuel 19-20 - David's Return to Power

Chapter 19  -  To remind you, David's temporary headquarters was in Mahanaim.  He stayed there while Joab and two other appointed commanders led the troops to the forest to deal with Absalom's revolt.  David's army was successful.  Vastly outnumbered, they had triumphed over the rebels.  Absalom and his entire militia was defeated and dispersed.  Absalom and his lieutenants were killed.  All military victories back then, as now, are cause for celebration.  But especially this one, as it restored David as king.  This was a special day.  However, the triumphant army that returned to Mahanaim from the forest of Ephraim did not return to a hero's welcome, but rather to a city bewildered and shrouded in gloom.  David was consumed with grief over the death of Absalom.  Such was his grief that gloom infectiously spread throughout Mahanaim.  So intense that the soldiers could feel it in the air as they entered the city gates.

Vs 2 - By abandoning himself to grief and remorse over Absalom's death, David caused the morale of his troops to hit bottom, even on the verge of desertion.  {Probably adding to this was the fear that David would punish anyone he suspected of disobeying his order to "deal gently" with Absalom.}

Then (vss 5-->) David's general Joab saw with clarity exactly what was happening and knowing that there was noone to speak up, he decided to step forward and approach King David.  But Joab knew he must be assertive, bordering disrespectful to make David realize the severity of his actions.  Joab was blunt.  To paraphrase:  "Enough of this.  Your soldiers have risked their lives for you and you act like you would be happy if all of them were killed and the rebel Absalom was still alive.  They feel they have no value at all.  If you do not correct this situation, the soldiers will desert by nightfall."  Joab goes on to give David instructions, "Wipe the tears from your eyes and the frown from your face and go out to the city gate and greet your men, giving them the words and attention they deserve."  {What a good friend Joab is.  We all need friends and/or family members that will take the unpleasant step of telling us when we are wrong and what we need to do, however difficult it may be.}  Vs 8 - David did exactly as Joab instructed.  The atmosphere in the city suddenly reversed itself as the king was once again started acting like a king.

With David in Mahanaim, the nation was officially without a leader, as the capital remained in Jerusalem.  There was no king or administration staff members to conduct the day-to-day business of the nation.  So the elders of all the tribes realized the importance of bringing David back to Jerusalem as soon as possible.  This next passage is very important as it influenced the next few centuries on Israel's History.  Here we see how the tribe of Judah had become a separate nation from the other
eleven tribes of Israel.  {When asked how this happened, always refer to II Samuel 19:9-43.}  Vss 9-10 - Most tribes in Israel had representation in Absalom's militia.  Absalom's attempt to take over as king had failed.  Judah of course was not a part of this rebellion.  They remained loyal to David, mainly because David was of the tribe of Judah.  Therefore the tribes of Israel realized they had no king.  They talked among themselves and decided they needed to present themselves in a united front
and approach David, endorsing him as the legitimate king, and bring him back to Jerusalem.  But suspiciously absent in this group was the delegation from Judah.  Naturally this was noticed by David and all of his closest officers.  David sent Zadok and Abiathar to ask the elders of Judah why they were not involved in this.  This concerned the Judaens, so they rushed an armed delegation to meet David at the Jordan River and escort him back to Jerusalem, acting like it was their idea in the first
place.  This caused a large divide between the Judaens and the rest of Israel.  Judah claimed a right to the kingship because they stuck with David the whole time, plus they were close in kinship with David.  The remaining tribal elders claimed they were ten times in number as Judah.  This argument was not going to be solved any time soon.

Chapter 20 - The tension between Judah and the rest of Israel had become fever-pitch before David even finished his return to Jerusalem.  The dueling factions didn't take much to turn it violent.  In the first verse of chapter 20, Sheba was mentioned as a "troublemaker".  He was the son of Bikri, a Benjamite.  He called for all Israelites who were not Judaens to follow him, claiming that David would always favor Judah, and never treat any other tribesmen as equal.  So most men of Israel deserted David and followed Sheba.  David sent Joab and his army to stop Sheba.  Sheba and his army holed up in the fortified city of Abel Beth Maakah.  While Joab and his men were building a ramp to seige the city, a "wise woman" approached Joab, offering to bring to him Sheba's head if Joab did not destroy her city.  Joab agreed and the woman had the people of the city take Sheba, cut off his head, and threw it over the wall to Joab.  Without their leader, the Israelited men who had followed Sheba dispersed to their homes, leaving no resistance to David as the king of all Israel.  David therefore was able to resume his reign without further internal resistance.  Vss 23-26 names David's cabinet in his new administration.

Next post:  David seeks God's guidance and gives Him praise.

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