Ziba, servant of Mephibosheth, meets David with provisions, and by false insinuations obtains the grant of his masters property, 1-4. Shimei abuses and curses David, who restrains Abishai from slaying him, 5-14. Hushai makes a feigned tender of his services to Absalom, 15-19. Absalom calls a council and Ahithophel advises him to go in to his father's concubines, 20-22. Character of Ahithophel as a counselor, 23.
Notes on Chapter 16
Two hundred loaves of bread
The word loaf gives us a false idea of the ancient Jewish bread; it was thin cakes, not yeasted and raised like ours.
Bunches of raisins
See on 1 Samuel 25:18.
These were probably pumpions, cucumbers, or watermelons. The two latter are extensively used in those countries to refresh travellers in the burning heat of the summer. Mr. Harmer supposes they are called summer fruits on this very account.
A bottle of wine.
A goat's skin full of wine; this I have already shown was the general bottle in the Eastern countries; see on 1 Samuel 25:18.
The asses be for the king's household
This is the Eastern method of speaking when any thing is presented to a great man: "This and this is for the slaves of the servants of your majesty," when at the same time the presents are intended for the sovereign himself, and are so understood. It is a high Eastern compliment: These presents are not worthy of your acceptance; they are only fit for the slaves of your slaves.
To-day shall the house of Israel
What a base wretch was Ziba! and how unfounded was this accusation against the peaceable, loyal and innocent Mephibosheth!
Thine are all
This conduct of David was very rash; he spoiled an honourable man to reward a villain, not giving himself time to look into the circumstances of the case. But David was in heavy afflictions, and these sometimes make even a wise man mad. Nothing should be done rashly; he who is in the habit of obeying the first impulse of his passions or feelings, will seldom do a right action, and never keep a clear conscience.
David came to Bahurim
This place lay northward of Jerusalem, in the tribe of Benjamin. It is called Almon, Joshua 21:18; and Alemeth, 1 Chronicles 6:60. Bahurim signifies youths, and Almuth youth; so the names are of the same import.
Cursed still as he came.
Used imprecations and execrations.
Because the Lord hath said
The particle vechi should be translated for if, not because. FOR IF the Lord hath said unto him, Curse David, who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so!
Let him curse; for the Lord hath bidden him.
No soul of man can suppose that ever God bade one man to curse another, much less that he commanded such a wretch as Shimei to curse such a man as David; but this is a peculiarity of the Hebrew language, which does not always distinguish between permission and commandment. Often the Scripture attributes to God what he only permits to be done; or what in the course of his providence he does not hinder. David, however, considers all this as being permitted of God for his chastisement and humiliation. I cannot withhold from my readers a very elegant poetic paraphrase of this passage, from the pen of the Rev. Charles Wesley, one of the first of Christian poets:-
"Pure from the blood of Saul in vain, He dares not to the charge reply: Uriah's doth the charge maintain, Uriah's doth against him cry! Let Shimei curse: the rod he bears For sins which mercy had forgiven: And in the wrongs of man reveres The awful righteousness of heaven. Lord, I adore thy righteous will, Through every instrument of ill My Father's goodness see; Accept the complicated wrong Of Shimei's hand and Shimei's tongue As kind rebukes from THEE."
The men of Israel
These words are wanting in the Chaldee, Septuagint, Syriac, Vulgate, and Arabic, and in two of Kennicott's and De Rossi's MSS.
Whom the Lord and this people-choose
Here is an equivocation; Hushai meant in his heart that God and all the people of Israel had chosen David; but he spake so as to make Absalom believe that he spoke of him: for whatever of insincerity may appear in this, Hushai is alone answerable. What he says afterwards may be understood in the same way.
Go in unto thy father's concubines
It may be remembered that David left ten of them behind to take care of the house, see 2 Samuel 15:16. Ahithophel advised this infernal measure, in order to prevent the possibility of a reconciliation between David and his son; thus was the prophecy to Nathan fulfilled, 2 Samuel 12:11. And this was probably transacted in the very same place where David's eye took the adulterous view of Bath-sheba; see 2 Samuel 11:2.
The wives of the conquered king were always the property of the conqueror; and in possessing these, he appeared to possess the right to the kingdom. Herodotus informs us that Smerdis, having seized on the Persian throne after the death of Cambyses, espoused all the wives of his predecessor, lib. iii., c. 68. But for a son to take his father's wives was the sum of abomination, and was death by the law of God, Leviticus 20:11. This was a sin rarely found, even among the Gentiles.
Every part of the conduct of Absalom shows him to have been a most profligate young man; he was proud, vindictive, adulterous, incestuous, a parricide, and, in fine, reprobate to every good word and work. We still however recollect that David had grievously sinned, and we should also recollect that he suffered grievously for it; and that his humiliation, repentance, and amendment, were most decisive and exemplary. Reader, God is as just as he is merciful.