In the last chapter, we caught a glimpse of the old David. Here, in this passage, he is fading in and out. He is easily duped by Ziba, but he also shows great restraint and humility in the face of Shimei’s taunting. But, for all his stumbles, he remains a clear type of the Lord Jesus.
“And when David was a little past the top of the hill, behold, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him . . .” (2 Sam. 16:1-23).
Summary of the Text
As David passes the top of the mountain, Ziba arrives with many provisions (v. 1). David asks, and the provisions are explained (v. 2). The absence of Mephibosheth is noticed by David, and Ziba slanders his “master’s son” (v. 3). David impetuously gives all Mephibosheth’s holdings to Ziba (v. 4). David goes a little further, and encounters someone else from the house of Saul, a man named Shimei, a man cursing as he came (v. 5). Across some kind of a ravine, he threw rocks at David and his entourage (v. 6). He calls David a man of blood, and a son of worthlessness, a son of Belial (v. 7). He accuses David of bloodguilt concerning the house of Saul (v. 8), which was false. Abishai suggests that if someone were to cut off Shimei’s head, it would stop talking so much (v. 9). David rebukes Abishai, and says that the Lord is behind it (v. 10). Look, David says, my own son is trying to kill me. Why can’t this Benjamite curse (v. 11)? Perhaps the Lord will turn this cursing around (v. 12). As they continued, Shimei walked alongside them, cursing, throwing stones, and throwing dirt (v. 13). Eventually, they came to a stopping point, presumably the Jordan (v. 14).
Back in Jerusalem, Absalom arrives with Ahithophel (v. 15). Hushai comes to him, saying God save the king, but not saying which king (v. 16). He is called David’s friend, which was a court title, but also a just description. Absalom asks him why he is not with David (v. 17). Hushai replies that he will serve the one that is chosen by the Lord, and by the people (v. 18). Notice the ambiguities. Shouldn’t he serve the king’s son (v. 19)? Absalom asks Ahithophel what he should do next (v. 20). Ahithophel tells him to burn all his boats by publicly going into his father’s ten concubines (v. 21). This will prevent anyone from hedging their bets because of any possibility of rapprochement. So they pitched a tent on the top of the palace, and Absalom took his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel (v. 22). And the counsel of Ahithophel was regarded as if it were from an oracle of God (v. 23).
Your Master’s Son
The story that Ziba tells is not plausible on the face of it. Absalom would be as likely to hunt down and kill any remaining heirs of Saul’s house as to put one on the throne. But David, stung and betrayed, accepts this story immediately. At the same time, he still thinks of Mephibosheth as the son of Jonathan—your “master’s son.”
The Palace Roof
The palace roof where the concubines were violated was the same roof from which David first lusted after Bathsheba. Everything is coming back around. And David is humiliated by Shimei near the top of the mountain, and by his own son on the top of his palace.
A Word Picture for Bitterness
Shimei is filled with irrational hatreds. He calls David a man of blood, which he was, but he accuses him of this with regard to the house of Saul, which he manifestly had not been. When Nathan rebukes David for his sin, he does so because it had given occasion to the enemies of God to blaspheme (2 Sam. 12:14), and this is an instance of it. Shimei had clearly hated David prior to the incident with Bathsheba. Sins and failures in the godly are often what breach the dam of resentment—but the resentment accumulated in the first place because of godliness.
The Secret Things
We must always distinguish the decrees of God from the commandments of God (Dt. 29:29). God governs the world through His sons and through His tools. He always governs the world in every detail—that is not up for grabs. But the fact that someone is a tool in the hand of God does not mean that he is morally justified in doing what he is doing. We have here a case in point.
The law of God prohibited a son taking his father’s wife or concubine (Lev. 18:7-8). The prophet Nathan had predicted that God would do this very thing (2 Sam. 12:11). So even though God was giving these women to Absalom, he still had no right to take them. Ahithophel had no right to give this counsel, even if he knew of Nathan’s prophecy.
Is it possible for the will of God to be thwarted? Well, of course, and of course not, depending on what you mean by will. Do you mean the decretive will of God? Of course not. Do you mean the moral will of God, as measured by His commands? Of course.
The supreme example of this is of course the murder of Jesus. Jesus going to the cross was the will of God (Luke 22:42). At the same time, it was the will of Herod, Pontius Pilate, the Gentiles, and all the Jews (Acts 4:27). What they did, they did with wicked hands (Acts 2:23), and those wicked hands fulfilled the holy decree of God (Rev. 13:8).
David leaves Jerusalem by crossing the Kidron to the Mount of Olives (2 Sam. 15:23, 30). Jesus leaves Jerusalem by crossing the Kidron to the Mount of Olives (John 18:1). David leaves the Ark behind him in Jerusalem (2 Sam. 15:24-29). Jesus leaves the Temple behind Him in Jerusalem (Matt. 24:1-3). David was betrayed by Ahithophel (2 Sam. 15:31). Jesus was betrayed by Judas (Matt. 26:47-50). Ahithophel hangs himself when his plan is not followed (2 Sam. 17:23). Judas hangs himself when his plan backfires (Matt. 27:5). Mephibosheth seems to fall away (2 Sam. 16:1-4). Christ’s disciples do fall away (Matt. 26:56). David is reviled without responding (2 Sam. 16:5-8). Jesus is reviled without responding (Matt. 27:39-43).
Jesus, the perfect one, is not ashamed to be called our brother. Neither is He ashamed, as the perfect antitype, to be represented by a failed type. We are to look at David and—less the sin—we are to see Jesus.