II Samuel 15–16:14. I. Absalom Set the Stage.
Key Notes: A coup made-to-order. David's calm and humility.
The story of how David lost his kingdom and got it back again is told with careful detail. We can see Absalom’s political skills working in his favor. We see David surrendering himself to God’s severe discipline with humility and contrition, and we also see his brilliance as a strategist working under the surface of his suffering.
15:1–6 We recall first that Absalom was the most perfect physical specimen of manhood in Israel (14:25). We know the face of a politician is important. He went to work as a politician, and we learn something about what politicians did in 1000BC; he
*created a scene, a parade with chariots, horses and fifty footmen, whenever he chose to be noticed.
* lobbied for the place of judge for Israel.
*was up early in the morning to meet people coming for legal help.
*greeted them, asking about their home-town and what their trouble might be.
*apologized for the lack of legal assistance and spoke for himself as a possible advocate for the people.
* hugged and kissed the petitioners as they left.
Israel fell in love with him. David did not react. He may nave been amused. Was he unconsciously allowing the rebellion?
15:7–13 Absalom pursued his political campaigning for four years without interference. Then he made his move.
He asked David for permission to go to Hebron, supposedly to satisfy a vow and make a sacrifice: “...worship the Lord.” David approved: “go in peace.” [David! That’s where they anointed you as king!]
Secret messengers were sent to the nation announcing that Absalom would be king in Hebron.
200 from Jerusalem were invited to the feast in Hebron, without a warning of his intentions. Others came along.
He brought Ahithophel, David’s best advisor, from his home-town. Perhaps Ahithophel was out of favor; we would expect him to be in Jerusalem.
A message came to David: “The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom"David is lost, doomed.
5:14–16:14 David did not express anger, shock or dismay. He simply got up and left. Now his military brain kicked in and we can watch him at work. If Absalom is clever, David is brilliant.
15:14–18 He left Jerusalem in order not to compromise the innocent people of the city. He would fight in the open where he could control the conditions. He took his loyal guard and household with him, leaving only ten house-maids (secondary wives) to care for the palace. They would be less likely attacked than male servants. His troops passed on before him, loyal followers including warriors from Philistia and Crete.
15:19–23 He had several people to deal with. The first was Ittai, a newly arrived military officer from Gath. David was unable to dissuade him from joining his army of new exiles. He swore loyalty to David as Ruth did to her mother-in-law years before. (Ruth 1:16–17). By now the procession had gone over the Brook Kidron and was headed for the Jordan and the wilderness, with David coming slowly behind.
15:24–29 Abiathar and Zadok came up with the Ark of the Covenant, but David persuaded them to return to the City, and send their sons with messages to David.
15:30–31 David went out by way of the Mount of Olives, weeping, barefoot, head covered. He was told that Ahithophel was with Absalom. David prayed that he would give the wrong advice.
15:32–37 Hushai of a clan of Benjamin was David’s friend (16:16; I Chronicles 27:33) and advisor. If he were a burden, it may have been because of his old age. He was assigned to stay in Jerusalem and ingratiate himself to Absalom. He was to play a crucial role in David’s victory over Absalom. He would report any news to the sons of the priests.
16:1–4 The fifth person in the “receiving line” was Ziba, Mephibosheth’s steward. He came with bread, raisins, summer fruits, wine and two donkeys for transportation. However, he slandered his master by saying that he stayed back hoping that now he would regain the kingdom of his father Saul. David impulsively gave him title to Mephibosheth’s property.
16:5–14 On his way to Transjordan and Mahanaim (17:24,27) David was harassed by Shimei, a relative of Saul’s. He ran along the hillside, parallelling the army, throwing stones and dirt at David until Abishai was ready to kill him. He cursed David for destruction of the house of Saul, and told him he was ruined. But David forbade touching him: perhaps God told him to curse.
The last people mentioned in the account of the flight are the three who cared for the new exiles on arrival at Mahaniam. (17:27–29).
They came to the Jordan and stopped to rest.
David was humble and contrite, leaning on the Lord who was chastising him. He cried, walked on the stones without shoes, and accepted Shimei’s cursing as his due. He was in God’s hands, but he expected God to let him live. No panic, no despair, no rage, but patient bearing up under just punishment. He was behaving like a saint.
15:25–26 “If I find favor in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me back and let me see both it (the Ark) and His habitation; but if He says, ‘I have no pleasure in you,’ behold, here I am, let him do to me what seems good to Him.”
16:11–12 “Let him [Shimei] alone and let him curse; for the Lord has bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look upon my affliction, and that the Lord will repay me with good for this cursing of me today.”
He spoke to God of the crisis with Absalom in Psalm 3:1–6
“O Lord, how many are my foes!
Many are rising against me;
Many are saying of me,
There is no help for him in God.
But Thou, O Lord, art a shield about me,
My glory and the lifter of my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord,
And He answers me from His holy hill.
I lie down and sleep;
I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
Who have set themselves against me round about.”
But David is of two minds. While he is getting out of Absalom’s way, he is also hopeful that God will give him back his kingdom, and he plans consistently for that outcome.
Major trouble, such as persecution, has two sources, Satan and God, as Peter teaches. Satan wills our ruin; God, our improvement. This enables us to respond to suffering with neither rage, panic nor despair, but with patience and firmness of purpose:
I Peter 5:8,9 “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brotherhood throughout the world.”
God puts Christians under trial to purify the Church for His glory and our good.
I Peter 5:6–7 “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that in due time He may exalt you. Cast all your anxieties on Him, for He cares about you.”