While David is fleeing Israel, he meets up with numerous people on the way.
The first recorded encounter was with Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, and Ziba came bearing gifts: “There was Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth, who met him with a couple of saddled donkeys, and on them two hundred loaves of bread, one hundred clusters of raisins, one hundred summer fruits, and a skin of wine.” (2 Sam 16:1-2 NKJV)
This was a really nice gesture. Or so it seemed.
David would later learn that Ziba took his master’s donkey so that Mephibosheth would not be able to go with David. He then lied about his master, say: “Indeed he is staying in Jerusalem, for he said, ‘Today the house of Israel will restore the kingdom of my father to me.'” (2 Sam 16:3 NKJV)
Why would Ziba do such a thing?
Because of greed! Ziba knew that if David thought Mephibosheth was committing treason, David would give him all of his master’s land and wealth. And that is exactly what happened: “So the king said to Ziba, ‘Here, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.'” 2 Sam 16:4
David’s next encounter was with Shimei, also of the house of Saul, and Shimei was not at all a nice guy:
“He came out, cursing continuously as he came. And he threw stones at David and at all the servants of King David … Also Shimei said thus when he cursed: ‘Come out! Come out! You bloodthirsty man, you rogue! The Lord has brought upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and the Lord has delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom your son. So now you are caught in your own evil, because you are a bloodthirsty man!'” (2 Sam 16:5-8 NKJV)
And what was Shimei’s motivation?
Shimei was an opportunist.
How do we know this?
Because his tone changed as soon as the Absalom uprising was put to rest:
“And Shimei … hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet King David … Now Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king when he had crossed the Jordan. Then he said to the king, ‘Do not let my lord impute iniquity to me, or remember what wrong your servant did on the day that my lord the king left Jerusalem, that the king should take it to heart. For I, your servant, know that I have sinned. Therefore here I am, the first to come today of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.'” (2 Sam 19:16, 18-20 NKJV)
Those neither of these encounters with David’s own people were exactly positive in nature, he wasn’t completely friendless. The next people he encountered were Shobi, Machir and Barzillai.
Machir and Barzillai are from Gilead, which was at that time part of Israel, but Shobi was of the people of Ammon, and Ammon’s relationship with Israel was a bit rocky. When David became king, he had a good relationship with the king of Ammon, and when this king died, David sent a group of his people to comfort the new king for the loss of his father. But the new king of Ammon humiliated David’s men, an act that resulted in war. All in all, it cannot be said that anyone of Ammon was a friend of King David! Yet the Bible records that Shobi, an Ammonite, was among those who greeted David …
And what did these three men do?
They “… brought beds and basins, earthen vessels and wheat, barley and flour, parched grain and beans, lentils and parched seeds, honey and curds, sheep and cheese of the herd, for David and the people who were with him to eat.” (2 Sam 17:27-29a NKJV).
And what is their motivation? Are they, like Ziba, looking to get ahead?
Not that the Bible records: “For they said, the people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” (2 Sam 17:29b NKJV)!
Interesting that among all the people the David meets while fleeing Absalom, the only ones with pure motives are those from across the Jordan, and one of them is an enemy!
They say that it’s in tough times that you discover who your friends truly are, and this story proves this point nicely. But the real lesson to be learned comes by examining David’s reaction to these encounters.
David rewarded Ziba for his “faithfulness”: “Here, all that belongs to Mephibosheth is yours.” (2 Sam 16:4)
David did not punish Shemei for his insolence: “And David said, ‘… Shall any man be put to death today in Israel? For do I not know that today I am king over Israel?’ Therefore the king said to Shimei, ‘You shall not die.’ And the king swore to him.” (2 Sam 19:21-23 NKJV)
David accepted the kindness of Shobi, Machir and Barzillai, despite the fact that Shobi was an Ammonite.
Whether friend or foe, true motives of false, David treated each with the love of God. David truly lived the principle of love taught by Jesus: “…love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you…” (Matt 5:44 NKJV)
And that, my friends, is the important lesson we can learn from the people David met on the road: No matter how good or bad we are treated, no matter whether the motives are true or false, our job is to treat each one with love!
Please join us next Saturday for LESSONS FROM DAVID’S FALL, Part 8: A Very Bad Hair Day
In His love,
Lyn Chaffart, Speech-Language Pathologist, mother of two teens, Author and Moderator for The Nugget, a tri-weekly internet newsletter, and Scriptural Nuggets, a website devoted to Christian devotionals and inspirational poems, www.scripturalnuggets.org, with Answers2Prayer Ministries, www.Answers2Prayer.org.
(To access the entire “Lessons From David’s Fall” mini-series, please click here.)