David, the man after God’s heart (1 Samuel 13:14; Jeremiah 3:15; Hebrews 10:22– similar phrase used with regards to Samuel in 1 Samuel 2:35; 1 Samuel 16:7, using the same Hebrew phrase lebab לֵבָב, also indicates our heart as defining our standing before God, that this new heart is the same as that clean heart of Christ referred to in Psalm 24:4), weeps for his son who was crucified on the oak and murdered by Joab despite his personal plea for mercy. Is it right for Joab to bark at his king? This bloodthirsty and vengeful soldier can be hugely contrasted to the latter half of this chapter. Where Joab screams for victory, David ushers it in peacefully. Where Joab stabbed the three branches (shebet שֵׁבֶט standing for rod, staff, or branch) into the centre (literally into the heart, leb לֵב, of Absalom – contrasting the death of Absalom’s heart and the life of David’s heart) of Absalom’s being as he hung between heaven and earth (chapter 18v.9), David chose to pardon his enemies (2 Samuel 19:12). Though Joab secured a bloody victory for Israel, it is David’s mercy which is the true source of unity in the kingdom. Where Joab fought and won by might and by worldly means (chapter 18v.12), David wept and embraced his enemies (v.6). Joab, along with Abishai, these sons of Zeruiah are but implied as adversaries to David (v.22) – and not contributors to the everlasting kingdom prophecied in 2 Samuel 7.
Yet, what is also significant, is the lethargic response to the king’s victory. This is because of v.10 – “Absalom, whom we anointed over us, is dead in battle”. The man whom they anointed over them, the man which the LORD did not choose to be king, is now dead. Why are they not returning as a bride to the bridegroom? This is the immediate accusation which David brings to his people. Yet, unlike Joab, he does not command obedience by brute force. Instead, David identifies with them in flesh and blood as one body with them (v.13 – c.f. Romans 12:5) – such unity only found in the marital relationship of Adam and Eve, man and woman (Ephesians 5:22-33).
This marriage call immediately beckons the likes of Shimei and the men of Judah and Benjamin; Ziba and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants, both coming from places like the Bahurim, rushing down to the Jordan and crossing the ford to bring over the king’s household and to do his pleasure (v.16-17). What a beautiful picture of the LORD who loves and is loved in return! Is this not the picture of the parable of the rebellious son (Luke 15:11) yearning for forgiveness (v.19)? Is this not a prophetic picture of Isaiah 2:1-4 (the law going out of Zion and all the nations flowing up to the mountain of the LORD), of the fellowship of the bride returning to the true bridegroom rather than the false imposter Absalom who is nailed to the oak, a picture of the crushed serpent (Numbers 21)? Shimei has sinned (v.20), and yet David as a type of Christ forgives man of his sins (v.23) though he deserved death. Such an oath, such forgiveness, can only be given by the LORD God Himself whom David is representing like The Angelic Mediator.
Not only do we receive a picture of the rebellious, but also a picture of the meek and humble – of Mephibosheth who has, until now, been portrayed by Ziba as a deserter of the kingdom trying to reclaim it for the lineage of Saul (2 Samuel 16). Instead, what we see in v.24-30 is that David is referred to as like a sent one of God (v.27 – angel), Mephibosheth understanding clearly that Saul, like Absalom, is but a king anointed and chosen by men (2 Samuel 15) doomed to death (v.28). It is upon this that Mephibosheth is granted a share of Ziba’s land (though it is rightfully Mephibosheth’s: 2 Samuel 9:9-11), yet the beauty of Mephibosheth’s repentance is the gripping of this angel of God himself (contrary to the elder son in the parable of the two sons in Luke 15 who had worked for his inheritance of the land and not for the Father’s embrace); is the embrace of serving his lord the king who mediates on his behalf to restore this cursed man from the house of Saul.
Besides the facets of Shimei and Mephibosheth’s stories, we also read about Chimham who inherits the blessing of Barzillai. “Chimham shall go over with me, and I will do for him whatever seems good to you, and all that you desire of me I will do for you” (v.38). Unlike Shimei and Mephibosheth, Barzillai need not apologise for sins committed. Instead, David extends his mercy through Barzillai to Chimham, now David’s new servant to enjoy the pleasant, the food, the drink, the voice of singing men and singing women (v.35). With the threefold story of these three men, this brings chapter 19 to a close – though opening with Joab’s plea for David to love his kinsmen and not only his enemies, what we see instead is David’s act of mercy shaming the wrathful and vengeful sons of Zeruiah. What we see instead is David embracing those who do not deserve such a great reward (v.36b), rather than embracing those who achieved victory by murdering David’s son despite his plea for mercy (2 Samuel 18:5).
What is interesting is the internal strife of Judah and Israel; the lofty latter party who had been first persecuting David under Absalom’s name (2 Samuel 15:13) now wishes to be the first in receiving David with open arms. Yet, in their discussions Judah had already taken action as David had swayed the heart of all the men of Judah as one man (v.14); yet the chapter is silent on Israel’s response. Like the parable of the labourers (Matthew 20), who is last shall be first, and who is first shall be last. Much like Jesus’ ministry in Israel causing jealousy amongst his disciples (Luke 22:24-27), so also David’s actions emulate what Christ shall do in his incarnate ministry.