Do some of you wonder why we’ve taken so long in this series to walk through 2 Samuel? I mean, ‘Aren’t we New Covenant Christians?’ This is a very understandable question about the present-day application of the Old Testament that eventually every Christian asks themselves. Perhaps I can settle this for some of you. In Romans 15:4 Paul says, “Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Why then linger in the Old Testament as we’ve done for so long? Because in it we’re instructed, in it we’re encouraged, and in it we gain much hope. Hope that is ultimately leads us to the One in whom all of these Old Testament promises come to fulfillment in – the Lord Jesus Christ. So back into 2 Samuel we go.
We mentioned last week how 2 Samuel shows us of five encounters David has as he’s fleeing out of the city into exile. At the end of chapter 15 we saw the first three of these encounters and in our text today we see the last two: David and Ziba (v1-4) and David and Shimei (v5-14). But chapter 16 does a bit more than just show us the remaining two encounters, it portrays images of David and Absalom that could not be more contrasting. David will appear humble and meek while Absalom will appear immoral and weak. So I’ve divided our text today, chapter 16, in the following manner:
-Tricked by Ziba (v1-4)
-Cursed by Shimei (v5-14)
-Tricked by Hushai (v15-19)
-Counselled by Ahithophel (v20-23)
Let’s see these things firsthand…
David’s Meekness (v1-14)
Tricked by Ziba (v1-4)
“When David had passed a little beyond the summit, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of donkeys saddled, bearing two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred bunches of raisins, a hundred of summer fruits, and a skin of wine. And the king said to Ziba, “Why have you brought these?” Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and summer fruit for the young men to eat, and the wine for those who faint in the wilderness to drink.” And the king said, “And where is your master’s son?” Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he remains in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will give me back the kingdom of my father.’” Then the king said to Ziba, “Behold, all that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.” And Ziba said, “I pay homage; let me ever find favor in your sight, my lord the king.”
On his way out into exile David’s fourth encounter is with a man named Ziba. He isn’t a stranger to us. We met him before back in chapter 9 when David showed great kindness to the crippled Mephibosheth. Ziba was then and has remained since that day the servant of Mephibosheth, entrusted along with his fifteen sons and twenty servants to manage his household. It’s this same Ziba who now shows up again here, at quite the opportune time. Having been forced to flee the city quickly, it would’ve been difficult for David’s servants to load up sufficient resources for all those leaving with David. They likely had some supplies but barely enough for a long stay in the wilderness. Enter Ziba in v1 who brings donkeys, bread, raisins, fruit, and wine. David asks why he brought all this and instead of answering that question Ziba explains the purpose behind each item he’s brought to them. So David in v3 asks another probing question, “And where is your master’s son?” By asking this David is referring to Mephibosheth, and really asking ‘What is the meaning of this? I know you’re a servant to another, where is the owner of all these supplies? I know they aren’t yours to give.’ Ziba’s answer is twofold. First he says that Mephibosheth is back in Jerusalem, and this was right, he truly was there. But Ziba then added something that would’ve put Mephibosheth in a bit of trouble, “…for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will give me back the kingdom of my father.’” So according to Ziba, Mephibosheth believes he can wield this rebellion so that he’ll become king…? That doesn’t sound like the Mephibosheth of chapter 9, the man who called himself a dead dog who’s grateful to be at the king’s table by the king’s grace. And you’d be right to think that, there is no evidence that what Ziba’s saying is true, and in chapter 19 we’ll actually find out he’s lying here about Mephibosheth. So what is Ziba up to? Plain and simple, he’s trying to get in good with David by deception. He’s shows up at just the right time giving the appearance of generosity while throwing his master under the bus. It seems Ziba is no longer content to be a manager but desires to be a master in his right, and thinks getting on David’s good side will go a great length to that end.
Well, in v4 without further questioning David accepts Ziba’s words and gives him everything that belongs to Mephibosheth. David is deceived here, but is this not understandable? The estate of Mephibosheth, as important as it was, does not even close to a pressing matter at the moment. It’s as if David just agrees with it quickly because he’s got larger things to worry about. All in all, Ziba’s plan worked and David has been tricked. But how will this all turn out in the end? Lord willing, chapter 19 will show us soon. For now see this. I think God is reminding us of the deceitful nature of Saul’s house once again. Long ago, Saul and his house went after David years before in the wilderness but God protected and provided for him in spite of it. And now once again as David sets foot back in the wilderness it isn’t surprising to see Saul’s house back at it again. But as before, God cares for the needs of David and those with him, ironically through Ziba. They were truly in need of help and more lasting supplies, and as Matthew Henry says, “God here makes use of a bad man for good purposes to His people.”
Cursed by Shimei (v5-14)
v5-9, “When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera, and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David, and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, “Get out, get out, you man of blood, you worthless man! The LORD has avenged on you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned, and the LORD has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.” Then Abishai the son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.”
Did you note the title used in v5 and v6, “King David”? This is the first time since the troubles began with Absalom the full title is used. The narrator, it seems, wants us remember that however bad this gets David remains ‘King David,’ even in exile. So as King David continues on into the wilderness his fifth encounter is with another member of Saul’s family and no surprise, the trouble continues. This time it’s a man named Shimei who was a close relative of king Saul and to say he’s mad is an understatement. Fuming might be more appropriate, as the overflow of a great pent-up rage against David coupled with rejoicing in David’s demise leaps out of this man. How does it flow forth from him? Shimei’s hands are full of stones and his mouth is full of cursing. He calls David a man of blood, a worthless man…why? Apparently Shimei knew exactly what the Lord was doing to David: He was not only paying David back for spilling much blood in Saul’s family, He has rejected David, taken the kingdom from him, and given it to Absalom. In what had to be a gleeful fury Shimei adds “See, your evil is on you, for you are a man of blood.” The irony is clear isn’t it? David was a murderer, he was a man of blood, he has killed innocent men. But this isn’t what Shimei has in mind. No, he’s likely thinking David is guilty of the deaths of Saul, his sons, Abner, and Ish-bosheth. Shimei thinks he knows what God is doing and keeps on casting words and stones while we know he doesn’t know what’s going on and wonder at the irony.
Even so, it’s clear Abishai didn’t see any irony in this, no, he was infuriated at this. Probably much like we would be. Back in a crucial moment when David and his men had sneaked up right underneath Saul’s nose it was Abishai who then said to David “God has given your enemy into your hand this day. Now please let me pin him to the earth with one stroke of the spear, and I will not strike him twice” (1 Sam. 26:8). It’s not surprising to see this same man say to David in v9, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and take off his head.” Would David see things this way? Or would he recognize the irony? He didn’t handle Ziba’s trickery well, how will he handle Shimei’s cursing?
v10-14, “But the king said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD has said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who then shall say, ‘Why have you done so?’” And David said to Abishai and to all his servants, “Behold, my own son seeks my life; how much more now may this Benjaminite! Leave him alone, and let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look on the wrong done to me, and that the LORD will repay me with good for his cursing today.” So David and his men went on the road, while Shimei went along on the hillside opposite him and cursed as he went and threw stones at him and flung dust. And the king, and all the people who were with him, arrived weary at the Jordan. And there he refreshed himself.”
David shows himself to be wise here. He sees the irony acutely. He knows Shimei has no idea what’s going on, no idea what the Lord’s doing. Nevertheless, David sees the hand of God in this. He knows he’s suffering for his sins, that his own son seeks his life, so how much more can this man really harm him? Thus, David owns this verbal and physical barrage as from the Lord and tells those near him “Leave him be, I deserve this, more so I know I need every trial God brings my way. Shimei might be cursing, but after all, God might look on my guilt, reverse the curse, and bring me much good.” So on they went, being cursed verbally and abused physically until they arrived at the Jordan weary where they refreshed themselves, likely with Ziba’s wine.
Pause here for a moment. Does David’s response anger you? Would you rather respond like Abishai? “Off with his head!” Or does David’s response confuse you? “Why on earth would he stand for that? He’s the king after all, he ought to demand respect!” Or, do you get it? Church, those who know their sinfulness well, do not despise any trial in this life. For every trial is less than we truly deserve! (Chris Robins staff meeting slander, ‘He doesn’t even know the half of it…’)
How brilliantly and brightly does David preview the Suffering Servant, Jesus Christ, here? Being raged against Himself, remember what Isaiah said of Christ? He was despised, rejected, stricken, smitten, afflicted, yet “…He opened not His mouth…” (Isaiah 53:3-9). Such meekness, such patience, partially displayed here in David – fully displayed in Christ, but with a mammoth difference. David deserved this, Jesus didn’t. David hoped God would look on his sins and suffering and reverse it in mercy for good, while Jesus received no mercy from God, so that all who look to Him in faith can receive mercy. This meekness is one element of Christlikeness that is neglected in today’s church. I get it, no one enjoys being treated like this. But are we not far too quick to defend our reputation and our image? Far too quick to believe that we deserve to be respected? Church, where did Jesus promise we’d be respected? If anything the norm for life in a fallen world looks a lot more like this doesn’t it? Patiently embracing scorn, understanding that those doing the mocking don’t even know the half of it. Yet all the while we know, everything the world throws at us is less than we truly deserve. Such meekness should be present in all those who follow Christ.
David was tricked and cursed but he’s shown himself to be meek, now we the chapter ends with Absalom being tricked and counseled. Will he show himself meek? No, he will not.
Absalom’s Weakness (v15-23)
Tricked by Hushai (v15-19)
“Now Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him. And when Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to Absalom, “Long live the king! Long live the king!” And Absalom said to Hushai, “Is this your loyalty to your friend? Why did you not go with your friend?” And Hushai said to Absalom, “No, for whom the LORD and this people and all the men of Israel have chosen, his I will be, and with him I will remain. And again, whom should I serve? Should it not be his son? As I have served your father, so I will serve you.”
We just read in v14 that David arrived at the Jordan with all the people who were with him, and they were weary. Now in v15 we read that into Jerusalem Absalom walks…note, with all the people, there is no mention of weariness, and there is mention of Ahithophel being with him. The two kings with their two peoples, the contrast would seem to imply that David is in a far weaker position. But as Absalom comes in he’s taken by surprise. There was no battle to win, no resistance at all in fact. Into the city he walked. The ark is still there, even some priests. He likely notices how many have left the city. David’s obviously gone and all those closest to him. But then he sees the last person he expects to see. Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, and he’s approaching him. Before all this took place Absalom likely did some work to get Ahithophel onto his side, but he did nothing to sway Hushai, why? Hushai was known to be a great friend to David.
They see each other and Hushai begins talking first in v16 with a royal announcement Absalom would’ve eaten right up, “Long live the king!” He announces this twice but never mentions Absalom’s name. Probably a bit taken back, joyful at this sudden turn of events, but still surprised, Absalom questions him further in v17 about his loyalty to his friend, a word Absalom uses twice. Hushai’s answer is sneakily clever in v18-19. He will remain as he has been and will serve the king whom the Lord and the people have chosen. And remember David had asked Hushai to serve before his son, and so in his reply Hushai says just that. But Absalom heard it differently. He heard it through his high opinion of himself as an endorsement of his reign, as if he too has left David behind and will support him now. But we the readers know he’s there with Absalom because he’s David friend and as David’s friend.
As Ziba took advantage of David’s meek state and tricked him, here Hushai takes advantage of Absalom’s weak state and tricks him! These two scenes are so similar and yet so different. Sadly these similarities and differences will continue to unfold even as the chapter ends in a horrifically wicked scene.
Counselled by Ahithophel (v20-23)
“Then Absalom said to Ahithophel, “Give your counsel. What shall we do?” Ahithophel said to Absalom, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house, and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.” So they pitched a tent for Absalom on the roof. And Absalom went in to his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. Now in those days the counsel that Ahithophel gave was as if one consulted the word of God; so was all the counsel of Ahithophel esteemed, both by David and by Absalom.”
Absalom was surprised to Hushai earlier, and he now does something that surprises us, he asks what he should now do. Having gotten the throne he has so long desired and plotted for he now sits on it unsure of what to do next. So he turns to Ahithophel, asks, and Ahithophel does not hesitate to give direction in v21, “Go in to your father’s concubines, whom he has left to keep the house, and all Israel will hear that you have made yourself a stench to your father, and the hands of all who are with you will be strengthened.” This counsel suited Absalom deeply and he did not wait to put it into action.This wasn’t just intended for Absalom’s pleasure or for a shock factor. It was intended to make a statement. A statement against David, that would make it near impossible to reconcile with David, which would in turn strengthen his position within the city, so they think. I find it interesting that while Absalom’s decline began in a holy rage against an episode of sexual misconduct against his sister, his reign as king begins with an episode of sexual misconduct against his father.Well, up to the roof they go and there Absalom took his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel. This is the same roof that David years before had first looked on Bathsheba, and so we remember…as grotesque as this is, it’s the fulfillment of God’s rebuke to David. 2 Samuel 12:11-12, “Thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I will raise up evil against you out of your own house. And I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.’” What David hid in secret, God did before the watching world.
How strange a thing to see, that in all the wickedness Absalom and Ahithophel were carrying out here it is these two vile fellows that ultimately carry out God’s designs. Sound familiar? Many years before this Joseph’s brothers meant evil against Joseph by handing him over to be sold into slavery…but God meant it for good, to save many people from famine. And so too, many years after this Judas meant evil against Jesus by handing Him over to be arrested…but God meant it for good, to accomplish the redemption of innumerable sinners.
Church, the world may rage against us. Remember two things:
First, in their raging they don’t even know the half of it. We deserve far worse than they can ever bring against us.
Second, in their raging they mean great evil. But God will see it and in mercy use it for our great good and His great glory.
 Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary’s, Vol. 2, Joshua – Esther (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 1991) 411.
 Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible, Vol. 2, The Prophets (New York, New York: Norton, 2019), 375.
 Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary’s, Vol. 2, Joshua – Esther, 411.
 Bill T. Arnold, 1-2 Samuel, NIVAC (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2003) 582-83.
 Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary’s, Vol. 2, Joshua – Esther, 411.
 John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 404.
 Alter, The Hebrew Bible, Vol. 2, The Prophets, 375.
 Dale Ralph Davis, 2 Samuel: Out of Every Adversity, Revised edition (Fearn, Ross-Shire Scotland: Christian Focus, 2013), 203.
 Davis, 206.
 Woodhouse, 2 Samuel, 412–13.
 Woodhouse, 413.
 Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary’s, Vol. 2, Joshua – Esther, 414.
 Davis, 2 Samuel, 207.