Signs of Trouble to Come
“The men of Israel answered the men of Judah, ‘We have ten shares in the king, and in David also we have more than you. Why then did you despise us? Were we not the first to speak of bringing back our king?’ But the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel” (v. 43).- 2 Samuel 19:24–43
Scripture frequently depicts David as the model king. First Samuel introduces him as the man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:14; 16:1–13). Foreseeing the messianic kingdom, the prophets frequently look for his return to the throne as a way to highlight the glory of the coming age by comparing it to the golden era of Israel under David, its greatest king (Jer. 30:1–9; Ezek. 34:11–24). Yet, God’s Word also shows David’s imperfections. In addition to David’s sins in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah (2 Sam. 11), the king made several poor decisions during his reign.
Consider today’s passage. Remember that while David was fleeing Jerusalem during Absalom’s coup attempt, Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth, told the king that Mephibosheth was hoping to take David’s place on the throne. David evidently believed Ziba, granting him Mephibosheth’s inheritance (16:1–4). However, 2 Samuel 19:24–30 reveals that Ziba had lied to David. Mephibosheth greeted the returning David in a state of being unwashed and unshaven, gestures of mourning for David’s exile (v. 24). He had remained behind in Jerusalem because Ziba stole a ride on Mephibosheth’s donkey, leaving the grandson of Saul unable to go with David (vv. 25–27). Mephibosheth’s loyalty should have been evident to David, but instead of returning the property to Mephibosheth or at least investigating the matter further, he dispensed with any potential problem with Ziba and his promise to him by splitting the property (vv. 28–29). David made a poor decision. It was enough for Mephibosheth, however, that David was back. He was not interested in financial gain (v. 30). Matthew Henry comments that “a good man can contentedly bear his own private losses and disappointments, while he sees Israel in peace, and the throne of the Son of David exalted and established.”
David’s poor judgment regarding Mephibosheth indicates that although David was a good king, he could not be counted on to deal perfectly with trouble. In fact, Israel’s troubles would increase after David, and we see a sign of this in verses 41–43 (see also vv. 8b–15). Upon David’s return, there was a dispute between Judah and Israel over who would actually get to bring the king back (ten shares means the ten northern tribes, or every tribe of Israel except Judah and Simeon). Such arguing portended greater division to come, though the kingdom would remain united under David.
As we will see, Israel would be divided into two kingdoms after the death of Solomon. However, signs of the future division were evident as early as David’s reign. When we are facing trouble, we can often look back and see that potential danger was evident for a long time. We do well to look out for hints of trouble in the present so that they do not become more significant problems in the future.
Passages for Further Study
1 Kings 2:7–9; 12:1–24