King David eating Beans

Vicia faba beans, Rignanese (192x128)

After killing his older brother Amnon, Absalom fled to Geshar. Only after five years did David welcomed Absalom back into his presence. After returning from exile, Absalom set out to win the hearts of the men of Israel from David. Absalom greeted those who approached him warmly reaching out his hand and kissing them. Absalom’s primary assertion was that David was unresponsive to the claims and complaints of the people. After years of undermining David, Absalom went to Hebron where he had himself declared King. Hebron was where David ruled Judah for 7 years. Absalom had a large following of men from Israel and some from the tribe of Judah where Hebron was located. In addition, Ahithophel, David’s most important and most trusted adviser, sided with Absalom.

Hearing that Absalom was declared king and not knowing the extent of the rebellion, David fled Jerusalem with his household and close fighting men. David walked barefoot up the road to the top of the Mount of Olives; he wept and his head was covered in grief. When David reached the summit, Hushai, one of his trusted advisers, met him. David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem to foil Absalom’s plans and to serve as David’s spy. Shortly, after David passed over the summit of the Mount of Olives, Ziba met him with a string of donkeys, food, and wine.

As David traveled away from Jerusalem and approached Buhurim, Shimei a man from the tribe of Benjamin (the tribe of Saul) cursed David and threw stones at him; however, David would not allow his men to harm Shimei. David said that Shimei’s cursing may be at God’s direction. Eventually, David, his tired household, and fighting men arrived at Mahanaim where he set up camp. About 100 miles north-northwest of Jerusalem, Mahanaim had historical significance. It was in Mahanaim that Saul’s son, Ish-Bosheth, lived during his two year reign as king over the tribes of Israel. While David was at Mahanaim, three wealthy men brought him provisions that included bedding, cooking and eating bowls, sheep, dairy products, grains, and beans. The three benefactors were an Ammonite leader, Shobi, who probably was appointed governor after David conquered Rabbah (2 Samuel 12:29); Makir of Lo Debar who first sheltered Mephibosheth, the crippled son of Jonathan (2 Samuel 9:4); and the 80 year old Barzillai, the Gileadite from Rogelim.

Meanwhile King Absalom entered Jerusalem and took over David’s palace. Increasingly more men from the northern tribes of Israel and from Judah swore allegiance to Absalom. Through God’s intervention, Abaslom decided not to mount a focused attack to kill David immediately. Rather Absalom led his men against David and his fighters who were on the eastern side of the Jordan River in the forest of Ephraim. David must have been confident his commanders would win the battle against Absalom because them to deal gently with Absalom. In the battle David’s long-time commander, Joab, deliberately killed Absalom. After some negotiations, David returned to Jerusalem as King over Israel and Judah.

The Broad Bean

The bean was the Vicia faba known as the broad bean, faba bean, and Vicia vulgaris. Beans are one of the oldest cultivated plants. Their origin is North Africa or the Middle East. Although beans are not drought resistant, they are sufficiently hearty to live through mild frosts. The broad bean can grow in semi-shade as well as strong sunlight and tolerates. Beans are a green, up-right, annual, legume. The attractive flower is white with dark purple markings. Mature beans are between 3–9 inches long. Beans should be harvested as beans inside mature. If harvesting is delayed until all pods are ripe, pods nearer the bottom of the plant split and beans are lost. Beans are oblong or oval, smooth, and flattened on the sides. Bean color is mottled reddish-brown. In the ancient Middle East, beans were and are an important alternative source of protein particularly for those living in or near poverty. Even today in the Middle East beans remain one of the most important winter crops. Broad bean flour is very rich in protein, vitamins and minerals; therefore, it is used alone or mixed with other flours to make bread.

Symbolism: Extend, Extent

Traditionally, beans were associated with pending conflict, laughter, or something small. European folklore claims that planting beans during the night time or on Good Friday is good luck. In Nicaragua newlyweds are given a bowl of beans for good luck. When beans were included in the provisions brought to David at Manhaniam, luck was probably not considered. More likely David’s benefactors were providing a high source of protein that was both a meat and flour extender.

Extend means to make the offer of or to make available. David’s three benefactors at Manhaniam extend provisions including beans to David when he was in severe need. The three men who extended themselves to support David knew that they would likely forfeit their lives and lands if Absalom’s rebellion prevailed. The Bible has a great deal to say about individuals who willingly extend help to the needy. A proverb in Biblical Israel about a noble woman was, “she opens her arms to the poor and extends her hand to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20). Extending assistance to the needy included sharing food (Proverbs 22:9), lending money (Proverbs 28:8) and defending rights (Proverbs 31:9). Those who were kind and extend assistance to the needy were blessed (Proverbs 14:21; 22:9) and lacked nothing (Proverbs 28:27).

In the New Testament two verses use the word “extend or extent.” In describing God’s great and glorious provision of salvation for his people, Mary (the mother of Christ) said that God extends his mercy to those that fear him from generation to generation (Luke 1:50). Saint John wrote that Christ loved his own who were in the world and showed them the fullest extent of his love (John 13:1). Showing the fullest extent of his love entailed Christ being tortured, crucified, and dying in place of each of us.

Absalom won the hearts of the Israelites because he was young, attractive, smooth talking, and extended himself with handshakes and kisses to the Israelites (2 Samuel 14:25; 15:1-6). In contrast, David was elderly, more introspective, and less available to the people. Yet, David had solid friends who stood by him during Absalom’s rebellion even when David retreated to the east side of the Jordan River. From the time David began his retreat and all during the time of his exile, David extended his plans to return as king of Israel and Judah. Similarly, during his entire life Christ demonstrated the extent of his love for individuals and humanity.

Reflection. How can you extend your love to other individuals? How can you share your food and money with others? How can you defend the rights of the poor and needy?

I love Bible plants along with their symbolism. If you want to learn more about them, read my two books: 1) Rooted in God and 2) God as a Gardener. You can purchase them from my website: Carolyn Roth Ministry at

Copyright December 29, 2011; carolyn a. Roth


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