Thursday, February 03, 2022

2 Samuel 16:1-14

2 Samuel 16:1–14: David and the house of Saul

For this post I combined together two different “sections,” according to the NIV section headings: David and Ziba (verses 1–4) and Shimei Curses David (verses 5–14)1. They seemed thematically relevant.


As David and his people are leaving the city, he comes across Ziba. We might remember Ziba from Chapter 9, where he was introduced as the servant of Mephibosheth, who was Saul’s only remaining descendent. At the time David was kind to Mephibosheth because of a promise he’d made to Jonathan. Now Ziba meets David as he’s leaving the city, and offers him food and drink. David asks where Mephibosheth is, and Ziba answers that he stayed in Jerusalem, hoping that the kingdom would be “restored” to him. In response to Mephibosheth’s treachery and Ziba’s faithfulness, David hands over to Ziba all of the possessions he’d formerly given to Mephibosheth. (Foreshadowing: When we get to Chapter 19 we’ll find that Mephibosheth disputes Ziba’s telling of the story. This off-the-cuff judgement might have been premature. Or maybe not. We’ll talk about it in Chapter 19…)

After this David and his people continue on their way, and then pass by a man named Shimei, who is from Saul’s clan. Shimei has never really gotten over David becoming king in the first place, and this is his chance to demonstrate his displeasure:

He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!” (verses 6–8)

One of David’s men, Abishai, volunteers to go and cut the head off of this “dead dog” who dares to insult the king, but David stops him:

But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’”

David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to. It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”

(verses 10–12)

So they keep going on their way, with Shimei cursing them and pelting them with stones and dirt, until they finally reach their destination, exhausted.


Not much to say about this passage, except that:

  • It’s interesting that, once again, the Scriptures are not trying to hide the complexity of life. King David has been revered for millennia as a man after God’s own heart, and as a good king (with flaws), but of course someone from Saul’s clan wouldn’t see it that way! Is Shimei being rational by claiming David is a murderer? Not at all! But it shouldn’t surprise us that someone from Saul’s clan would see it that way, rational or not.
  • I feel like I’ve mentioned numerous times over the last few passages how much the current events were shaped by David’s weak fatherhood, and refusal to discipline his sons. I don’t feel that way about his treatment of Saul’s family, however; when he helped Mephibosheth back in Chapter 9, or as he endures these curses from Shimei, I’m not reading weakness. Maybe I’m wrong.
    • That being said, I have always thought that maybe part of the reason David is enduring this abuse from Shimei is that he’s feeling defeated by Absalom, and maybe wallowing in his misery a bit.
    • The ESV Study Bible notes put it in a nicer way, though: “He still wonders whether all this opposition is the Lord’s just punishment for his sin, and he humbly endures the abuse.”

  1. If you’re new to the Bible, you should know that the section headings in the text—in whatever version of the Bible you read (e.g. New International Version/NIV, or English Standard Version/ESV, or King James Version/KJV, or whatever)—are not part of the original text. They were added by the translators to break the text up into digestible chunks and help us understand it. This is why the section headings are different in different versions of the Bible; for example, the NIV and ESV happen to have the same section headings I mentioned above for these two sections (David and Ziba for verses 1–4 and Shimei Curses David for verses 5–14), but then the NIV translators use the heading The Advice of Ahithophel and Hushai for the remainder of the chapter, whereas the ESV uses the heading Absalom Enters Jerusalem. While we’re on the subject, chapter and verse numbers were also not part of the original text, they were added in later as well! I guess people realized that they kept wanting to quote certain passages within the Scriptures, and wanted a way to specify which part of the text they were referring to. ↩︎

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