King Saul was undoubtedly David’s worst enemy. David respected the office Saul held and would not raise a hand against him, even though Saul tried to kill him more than once.
Yet, his lamentation in 2Sa 1:17-27 was not just for his friend Jonathan, but for both Saul and Jonathan. That has to be one of the most graphic displays of forgiveness in the Bible. Remember, Saul chased David for 7 – 8 years just prior to this.
There was still war between the house of Saul and the house of David (2Sa 3:1). Abner was the captain over the army of Saul’s house, headed up by Ishbosheth. Ishbosheth accused Abner of sleeping with his father’s concubine (v 7). This made Abner angry enough to defect to David.
Abner sent a message to David (v 12). How did David react? Did he accuse Abner of being rebellious? Did he demand that Abner submit?
Unfortunately for Abner, Joab had other plans and killed him. Did David say, “That’s OK, the rebel deserved it”? No. In fact, David took pains to distance himself from Abner and mourn for him at his funeral.
Afterwards, Rechab and Baanah killed Isbhosheth. They brought the head of Ishbosheth to David (v 8), probably expecting a reward. Now, Ishbosheth wasn’t king. David was God’s anointed. Did David say, “Good, another rebel dead”? No. In fact, he had Rechab and Baanah killed for their misdeed. David even accused them of killing “a righteous person” (v 11).
It was only after these events that David was anointed king over all of Israel.
When David ran from Absalom, he met a real rebel. How did David deal with him?
5And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came.
6And he cast stones at David, and at all the servants of king David: and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left.
7And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial:
8The LORD hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man.
9Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king, Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray thee, and take off his head.
10And the king said, What have I to do with you, ye sons of Zeruiah? so let him curse, because the LORD hath said unto him, Curse David. Who shall then say, Wherefore hast thou done so?
11And David said to Abishai, and to all his servants, Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels, seeketh my life: how much more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him.
12It may be that the LORD will look on mine affliction, and that the LORD will requite me good for his cursing this day.
13And as David and his men went by the way, Shimei went along on the hill’s side over against him, and cursed as he went, and threw stones at him, and cast dust. (2 Samuel 16:5-13, King James Version)
Joab was a very righteous man, was he not? OK, so maybe he wasn’t, as we already saw. He was a scoundrel, but he was the king’s captain. Joab corrected David. Joab corrected the king! In some areas of the world, that would bring the death penalty!
5And Joab came into the house to the king, and said, Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters, and the lives of thy wives, and the lives of thy concubines;
6In that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well.
7Now therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the LORD, if thou go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now. (2 Samuel 19:5-7, King James Version)
How did David respond to this rebuke? Did he get angry and have Joab killed for rebellion and/or sedition? No.
8Then the king arose, and sat in the gate. And they told unto all the people, saying, Behold, the king doth sit in the gate. And all the people came before the king: for Israel had fled every man to his tent. (2 Samuel 19:8, King James Version)
David accepted the rebuke, as he had accepted the prophet Nathan’s rebuke years earlier.
David might have been a man after God’s own heart, but that didn’t keep him from being humble, accepting criticism and changing for the better.
Where are the leaders like David today?
Your example of Joab correcting David is a good one and reminds me that the Bible does not teach that correction is always from the top down. There is another example of corrective advice to the one in authority by those under him, and that is the account of Naaman's servants advising him to do what Elisha said (wash in the Jordan to be cleansed of leprosy) (2 Kings 5:9-14). Also, Joab on another occasion tried to correct David, but David did not follow Joab's advice, but should have – when David numbered Israel (1 Chronicles 21:1-4).