Private grief, public face.
David’s grief over his usurper son Absalom is overwhelming him. David escaped his rebellion to a foreign land, he’s “won”, but because victory meant the loss of his son, David is in a massive depression.
It’s created a power vacuum. New king dead, Old king AWOL. David’s general Joab, who I sort of love, gives him a general-Patton-like reality slap and pep talk.
It’s all very well to love your enemies, but they’ve just saved many lives, all of those of David’s friends and supporters – David should spare a bit of love for the living and loyal! For the good of the nation he has to get out there and be king!
If not there will probably be another civil war. There is simmering tension between Judah and Israel always. David was Judah’s king before the civil war united the nation, so that is his base.
David man’s up. He channels his grief into mercy. This is the most beautiful thing in the chapter. We get a series of anecdotes of David letting bygones be bygones with enemies because he doesn’t want more death.
Shimei, who was hilariously belligerent, now asks and receives mercy; Saul’s lame grandson Mesthispotheth gives a feeble explanation for why he ran off to the usurpers side, no worries. Another 80 year old leader is torn because not coming on the victory march with David will cause offence, but he’s old and tired. Take it easy, David says.
David does two returns, the symbolic crossing the Jordan into Judah, echoing the people coming to the promised land, and then the journey to Jerusalem, entering Israel, foreshadowing Jesus’ journey to Calvary.
The Judeans and Israelites both love him again, but like squabbling siblings, get a bit fierce about who loves him more. Seeds of future struggle there.
David is fulfilling the role of king out of duty, but in his heart, god is king and he is clearly full of regret and grief. He doesn’t seem to have an ounce of pride. From all that flows a river of mercy.
Help me to make you king and swallow my pride, father.