II Samuel 16

The Word Made Fresh

1Just beyond the hilltop Mephibosheth’s servant, Ziba, was waiting for David with two saddled donkeys. He had brought two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred clumps of raisins, a hundred assorted fruits and a skin filled with wine. 2When the king asked why, Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king’s family to ride. The bread and fruit are for the young men, and the wine for those who tire along the way.

3“And where is the son of your master?” the king asked.

“He will stay in Jerusalem,” Ziba answered. “He thinks the people of Israel will return his grandfather’s kingdom to him.”

4Then the king said, “In that case, everything that belonged to Mephibosheth now belongs to you.”

“I am your obedient servant,” Ziba replied as he bowed before the king.

5At Bahurim a member of Saul’s family, Shimei son of Gera, came out cursing king David. 6He threw stones at the king and his entourage even though David was surrounded by the people and the soldiers. 7Shimei shouted, “Get out! Get out, you murderer! Get out, you scoundrel! 8The LORD is punishing all of you for the blood of Saul and his house! You thought you could rule in his place, but the LORD has given the kingdom to your son Absalom! You’re going to get what you deserve, you murderer!”

9Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Don’t allow this dead dog to curse my lord the king! Send me and I’ll take his head off!”

10But the king replied, “What should I do with you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing me because the LORD told him to do so, who are we to question it?” 11Then he said to Abishai and all those with him, “My own son wants to kill me. This man from the tribe of Benjamin has even more reason to want that. Leave him and let him curse. It may be that the LORD wants him to do it. 12Or maybe the LORD will look down at my situation and repay me with good because of the calamity that has befallen me today.” 13David and his men proceeded down the road while Shimei went along the opposite hillside, cursing as he went, throwing stones and kicking up dust toward them.

14When the king and his entourage arrived at their destination they were exhausted, and he paused there to rest.

15Meanwhile, Absalom and his men had arrived at Jerusalem and Ahithophel was with him. 16Hushai the Archite, David’s friend, approached Absalom and said, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”

17“Is this how you show loyalty to your friend?” Absalom retorted. “Why didn’t you go with him?”

18Hushai replied, “I will serve the one the LORD and all the people of Israel have chosen. I am your servant, and I will support you. 19Who else deserves my support if it isn’t his son? I served your father; now I will serve you.”

20Then Absalom consulted with Ahithophel about what he should do next, 21and Ahithophel said, “Bed your father’s concubines, the women he left behind to keep his house. The whole country will know then that your father will hate you, and all those who support you will be assured.” 22They set up a tent on the roof, and Absalom ravaged his father’s concubines in full view of the people of Israel. 23Back in those days Ahithophel’s advice was respected like the word of God, and everything he advised was accepted, by David as well as Absalom.


1-4: Ziba, whom David has made caretaker of Saul’s crippled son Mephibosheth, brings supplies. When David questions him he explains that Mephibosheth has stayed behind, convinced that the kingdom will now fall into his hands as the legal heir to Saul. David gives all of Mephibosheth’s land and other holdings to Ziba. (But is Ziba telling the truth?)

5-8: They haven’t gone far when another member of Saul’s family, Shimei, comes out slinging rocks and cursing David, calling him a murderer, and screaming that now he’ll get what’s coming to him. This Shimei, by the way, was of the tribe of Benjamin — Saul’s family. More opposition to the house of David will come from that tribe as we read on.

9-14: Abishai wants to kill Shimei, but David stops him, letting Shimei follow them throwing stones and insults. David’s reasoning is that perhaps God will pity him because of the cursing. They stop at the Jordan to rest.

15-19: They escape just in time, for Absalom has arrived in Jerusalem. Hushai, David’s trusted friend and counselor, wastes no time in carrying out David’s plan. He offers himself to Absalom, and Absalom accepts him after some hesitation.

20-23: But Absalom values more the counsel of Ahithophel, whose intelligence and wisdom was respected by David. Ahithophel tells Absalom to go in to David’s concubines on the palace roof in sight of the people. Such an act would be a strong public signal that he has indeed overthrown his father. It is also exactly what Nathan prophesied would happen (12:11-12).


David almost certainly did not have to flee. He is a popular king, and has his special troops — Pelethites and Cherethites – with him in Jerusalem. His flight reflects his affection for his son Absalom rather than his fear of him. He allows Saul’s relative, Shimei, to curse them as they go, saying that perhaps God wants Shimei to do that. I think the real reason is because David is determined not to be the first to shed blood in this contest with his son.