Absalom Leads an Insurrection against David
1 Some time later Absalom managed to acquire a chariot and horses, as well as fifty men to serve as his royal guard. 2 Now Absalom used to get up early and stand beside the road that led to the city gate. Whenever anyone came by who had a complaint to bring to the king for arbitration, Absalom would call out to him, “What city are you from?” The person would answer, “I, your servant, am from one of the tribes of Israel.” 3 Absalom would then say to him, “Look, your claims are legitimate and appropriate. But there is no representative of the king who will listen to you.” 4 Absalom would then say, “If only they would make me a judge in the land! Then everyone who had a judicial complaint could come to me and I would make sure he receives a just settlement.”
5 When someone approached to bow before him, Absalom would extend his hand and embrace him and kiss him. 6 Absalom acted this way toward everyone in Israel who came to the king for justice. In this way Absalom won the loyalty of the citizens of Israel.
7 After four years Absalom said to the king, “Let me go and repay my vow that I made to the Lord while I was in Hebron. 8 For I made this vow when I was living in Geshur in Aram: ‘If the Lord really does allow me to return to Jerusalem, I will serve the Lord.’” 9 The king replied to him, “Go in peace.” So Absalom got up and went to Hebron.
10 Then Absalom sent spies through all the tribes of Israel who said, “When you hear the sound of the horn, you may assume that Absalom rules in Hebron.” 11 Now two hundred men had gone with Absalom from Jerusalem. Since they were invited, they went naively and were unaware of what Absalom was planning. 12 While he was offering sacrifices, Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s adviser, to come from his city, Giloh. The conspiracy was gaining momentum, and the people were starting to side with Absalom.
David Flees from Jerusalem
13 Then a messenger came to David and reported, “The men of Israel are loyal to Absalom!” 14 So David said to all his servants who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come on! Let’s escape! Otherwise no one will be delivered from Absalom! Go immediately, or else he will quickly overtake us and bring disaster on us and kill the city’s residents with the sword.” 15 The king’s servants replied to the king, “We will do whatever our lord the king decides.”
16 So the king and all the members of his royal court set out on foot, though the king left behind ten concubines to attend to the palace. 17 The king and all the people set out on foot, pausing at a spot some distance away. 18 All his servants were leaving with him, along with all the Kerethites, all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites – some six hundred men who had come on foot from Gath. They were leaving with the king.
19 Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you come with us? Go back and stay with the new king, for you are a foreigner and an exile from your own country. 20 It seems like you arrived just yesterday. Today should I make you wander around by going with us? I go where I must go. But as for you, go back and take your men with you. May genuine loyal love protect you!”
21 But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king is, whether dead or alive, there I will be as well!” 22 So David said to Ittai, “Come along then.” So Ittai the Gittite went along, accompanied by all his men and all the dependents who were with him.
23 All the land was weeping loudly as all these people were leaving. As the king was crossing over the Kidron Valley, all the people were leaving on the road that leads to the desert. 24 Zadok and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. When they positioned the ark of God, Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city.
25 Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back to the city. If I find favour in the Lord’s sight he will bring me back and enable me to see both it and his dwelling place again. 26 However, if he should say, ‘I do not take pleasure in you,’ then he will deal with me in a way that he considers appropriate.”
27 The king said to Zadok the priest, “Are you a seer? Go back to the city in peace! Your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan may go with you and Abiathar. 28 Look, I will be waiting at the fords of the desert until word from you reaches me.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and remained there.
30 As David was going up the Mount of Olives, he was weeping as he went; his head was covered and his feet were bare. All the people who were with him also had their heads covered and were weeping as they went up. 31 Now David had been told, “Ahithophel has sided with the conspirators who are with Absalom. So David prayed, “Make the advice of Ahithophel foolish, O Lord!”
32 When David reached the summit, where he used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite met him with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. 33 David said to him, “If you leave with me you will be a burden to me. 34 But you will be able to counter the advice of Ahithophel if you go back to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king! Previously I was your father’s servant, and now I will be your servant.’ 35 Zadok and Abiathar the priests will be there with you. Everything you hear in the king’s palace you must tell Zadok and Abiathar the priests. 36 Furthermore, their two sons are there with them, Zadok’s son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. You must send them to me with any information you hear.”
37 So David’s friend Hushai arrived in the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem.
C H Spurgeon
2 Samuel 15:12. And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.
Absalom had, by graft, insinuated himself into the hearts of the children of Israel, and led a rebellion against his father David, that he might obtain the crown for himself.
2 Samuel 15:13-14. And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of lsrael are after Absalom. And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee, for we shall not else escape from Absalom; make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.
It must have been a sore peril which compelled so brave a man as David to say to his servants, “Arise, and let us flee.”
2 Samuel 15:15. And the king’s servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.
What a loyal spirit they displayed in the time of trial! Oh, that such loyalty could always be found in all the servants of King Jesus! But, alas! many of his servants pick and choose as to which of his commands they will obey. Some of them will not understand the plain letter of Scripture; and others of them know their duty, yet they do it not. There is reason to question whether we are the servants of Christ if we have not the spirit of obedience to him. Brethren, let us search and look, in the book of the King’s ordinances, and see whether we are walking in all of them blamelessly. If we can say that we are, it is well; but I am afraid that there are some of his commandments which we would rather not understand; or if we do understand them, we are not in a hurry to obey them. How easy it is to make excuses for not doing what we have no wish to do! Blessed are those Christians who can say, “Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my Lord the King shall appoint”
2 Samuel 15:16-18. And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house. And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off. And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath passed on before the king.
The king’s bodyguard of personal friends, who had seen long service with him in the contest with Saul, these kept close to his person.
2 Samuel 15:19-20. Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile. Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.
This was the manifestation of a generous spirit on the part of David, and therein he was like the Son of David, who thought more of the safety of his disciples than he did of any way of escape for himself. Let the same mind be in us which was also in David, and in Christ Jesus, great David’s greater Son; and let us look, not only on our own things, but also on the things of others.
2 Samuel 15:21. And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.
He was a new-comer, but he was a fine recruit, and when our young converts, who have lately joined the church, have this spirit of loyalty in them, they will make mighty men of valour in the Lord’s army. Whether Christ’s cause be held in honour or in contempt, we will cast in our lot with him, whether he be reigning on the earth or his name be cast out as evil, we will share his fortunes. To whom should we go but to him, and where could we find a better Master than this gracious King under whose banner we have enlisted?
2 Samuel 15:22-26. And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him. And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness. And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city. And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation; But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.
David would run no risks with this sacred treasure, and though it would have been a great comfort to him to have had the ark of the covenant with him, yet he cared too much for it to think of his own comfort alone. How careful ought we to be of the truth of God, and of the things of God, of which this ark was but a type! Lord, let us run what risks we may, but we would not expose thy truth, or thy good cause to any risk. “Let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.” What a grand spirit there was in David even in his exile! There was a sweet spirit of song in him before his great fall, but that fall broke his voice, and he sang more hoarsely ever afterwards; yet what depth, what volume, what melody and harmony are here; “deep calleth unto deep.” What submission and subjection to the divine will; and, withal, what a holy confidence! Let the Lord do as he wills, David feels himself to be less than nothing, and submits himself absolutely to the divine purpose. It is not easy to get to that pass, but we must be brought to it, if we are the Lord’s servants, we must lie passive in his hands, and know no will but his. Yet deep waters will have to be passed through ere we reach this blessed experience.
2 Samuel 15:27-30. The king said also unto Zadok the priest, Art not thou a seer? return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz thy son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify me. Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there. And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.
David probably wept partly because of his troubles, but also because of his sin, which the thought of his troubles doubtless brought to his mind, and especially that sin which he has so deeply deplored in the seven penitential Psalms, and most of all in the 51st Psalm. He wore no royal robe on this pilgrimage of sorrow, and “he went barefoot” up the slopes of Olivet.
2 Samuel 15:31. And one told David, saving, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.
Ahithophel was David’s choicest friend, companion, and counsellor, yet he had failed him in his time of need. David could use the weapon of all-prayer when he could use no other, and this is like the flaming sword at Eden’s gate which turned every way. It will slay our foes if they come from hell, it will drive away Satanic suggestions; it will overcome our adversaries if they come from earth; it will sanctify our afflictions even if they come from heaven. To know how to pray is to know how to conquer. David checkmated Ahithophel when he said, “O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.”
2 Samuel 15:32. And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head:
Here was an immediate answer to David’s prayer, for the very man, who alone could deal effectually with Ahithophel, comes to the king.
2 Samuel 15:33-37. Unto whom David said, If thou passest on with me, then thou shalt be a burden unto me: But if thou return to the city, and say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king; as I have been thy father’s servant hitherto, so will I now also be thy servant: then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel. And hast thou not there with thee Zadok and Abiathar the priests? therefore it shall be, that what thing soever thou shalt hear out of the king’s house, thou shalt tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. Behold, they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz Zadok’s son, and Jonathan Abiathar’s son; and by them ye shall send unto me every thing that ye can hear. So Hushai David’s friend came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.
You know the rest of the history, how Absalom took the advice of Hushai, and Ahithophel was defeated. God does not always answer prayer quite so rapidly as he did in this case, yet, when his people are in sore straits, they often have prompt replies to their petitions, to encourage their faith, and to keep their hope alive in the time of trial.
This was one of the greatest trials of David’s life.
2 Samuel 15:13-14. And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. and David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.
There is much to admire in David’s conduct when he fled from Absalom, but yet his courage would seem to have well nigh forsaken him. In his brighter days before his great sin had weakened him, he would have been master of the situation; but now he trembles in the presence of the great calamity.
2 Samuel 15:15. And the king’s servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord, the king shall appoint.
They were attached to him — ready to take his counsel at once. Can we say the same to King Jesus? Will every Christian here now say to his Master, “Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my Lord the King shall appoint”? There are many that pick and choose of Christ’s commands. They do not obey all his will. There are known duties which are neglected — plain precepts which are wilfully forgotten. I would to God we could all say from our heart to King Jesus, “Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my Lord the King shall appoint.”
2 Samuel 15:16-18. And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house. And the king went forth, and all the people after him and tarried in a place that was far off. And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.
These were his old guard, soldiers which he kept always around his person, deeply attached to him, upon whose loyalty he could rely. But what a come-down from the King of Israel to have an army of only six hundred men — to be fleeing before his own rebellious people, led on by his more rebellious son!
2 Samuel 15:19-23. Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile. Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee. And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be. And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him. And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over; the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.
A fit type of that future passage of the Kidron by the great son of David, when on that dark and doleful night, when all the powers of darkness met, the Prince — the King himself — passed over that black and bitter brook into the garden of Gethsemane. There were faithful ones that went with David: there were some faithful ones with Christ. Happy are they who shall be found to be with their Lord and Master in the day of his sorrow, for they shall be with him in the day of his joy.