2 Samuel 15: Abalom's Conspiracy
Besides David's wars with other nations, he had troubles at home with his own sons. One of these was Absalom. No one in the whole land was so much praised for his beauty as Absalom, and his hair was very thick and heavy. Absalom had been three years away from Jerusalem, with his mother's people in the country beyond Jordan. David had sent for him to come back to Jerusalem, for he loved him.
But Absalom wished to be king instead of David. He made ready for himself chariots and horses, and men to run before him, as was done for Joseph when he was made ruler in Egypt. Absalom also stood at the city gate and talked kindly with the people that came with their troubles to the king. In the old days the king used to sit in the gateway of the city or of the palace to hear and settle the disputes among the people. It was the most public place, and all the people knew any matter which was settled in the gate. So Absalom stole the hearts of the people from David.
Absalom now went to Hebron and had himself made king. Word came to David of what Absalom had done, and with some faithful people he sadly left Jerusalem and went across the Kidron and over the Mount of Olives and on to the country beyond the Jordan.
It is a sad picture. The king climbed the Mount of Olives weeping as he went, with his head covered and with bare feet, as a sign of sadness, and all the people with him with heads covered and weeping. A little farther on a man ran along the hillside, cursing David and throwing stones and dust at him. The priests brought the ark of the Lord to carry it with David, but he told them to take it back to its place, and told the priests to stay in the city. So David and the people with him came safely to the country beyond the Jordan. There they were kind to him and brought presents and food for him and those who were with him. (2 Sam. 17:27-29) We shall learn next time of a battle between Absalomís men and David's in this country beyond the Jordan.
In the first verse of our chapter we meet the name Absalom. He was a son of David and his mother was a daughter of the king of Geshur, a district beyond Jordan in the border of Bashan. (2 Sam. 3:3) Absalom now wished to make himself king instead of David. He was much praised for his beauty, and was especially noted for his heavy hair. (2 Sam. 14:25, 26) Absalom had been three years in Geshur, his mother's country, but David had sent Joab and brought Absalom home to Jerusalem, for David loved him. (2 Sam. 14:1, 21-24) David's love for Absalom and his kindness to him make Absalom's treachery toward David seem the more contemptible.
We learn now how Absalom worked to steal the hearts of the people. The chariots and runners remind us of the royal honor given to Joseph. (Gen. 41:43) Absalom's meeting in the city gate the people who came with cases to the king reminds us of the old custom of kings of hearing cases in the gate where the people would be witnesses. Remember Abraham's bargain with Ephron in the gate of Hebron. (Gen. 23:17-18)
At last it seemed to Absalom a favorable time to have himself declared king, and he did this in Hebron, having made an excuse and got permission of David to go there. (Verses 7-12) News came to David. Visualize David leaving Jerusalem, climbing the Mount of Olives, barefooted with head covered, and weeping as he went. Verse 12 tells us that Absalom called to himself Ahithophel, a wise counselor of David. You will see as you read on in the chapter that this gave David great anxiety. But he found means through Hushai to counteract the advice of Ahithophel. (Verses 31-34) We read in chapter 17 how Ahithophel advised to pursue David at once, but Hushai advised to wait and gather a large army. So time was given David to make his escape.
Read, too, in chapter 15 about Zadok and Abiathar, the priests who had charge of the ark and were faithful to David. (Verses 24-29) We must also make acquaintance of Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, and Jonathan, the son of Abiathar, who waited outside the city to serve as messengers to take word to David. (Verses 27, 28) And this they did, and helped David to get safely across the Jordan. (2 Sam. 17:15-22) Note also the fate of Ahithophel. We find Ahimaaz in our next lesson running to David with another important message.
1. Who was Absalom? What is said of his appearance?
2. What did Absalom wish to do? How did he try to bring it about?
3. What did David do? Tell me about his going over the Mount of Olives.
4. Who at another time was rejected in Jerusalem, and found a welcome with the people beyond Jordan?
In connection with this story, read Psalm 3. "A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son. Lord, how are they increased that trouble me! Many are they that rise up against me." In Prophets and Psalms this Psalm is seen in its application to the Lord "when He was in temptations and subdued the hells and was then in a state of humiliation in which He prayed to the Father."
A sad feature of this story is David's love for Absalom which had so poor a return. This appears still more strongly in our next lesson. There is in the treachery of Absalom and Ahithophel the sadness which we recognize in Judas' betrayal of the Lord, and in all unfaithfulness to Him in those who have opportunity to know and love Him. The sadness of such treachery is expressed in other Psalms. See Ps. 41:9; 55:12-15.
Several things that are said of Absalom give us some idea of the kind of temptation which is represented by this rebellion. His mother was a princess of Geshur in the beyond-Jordan country. This, like Saul's association with that country, at once suggests an external, not spiritual quality of life. Absalom was noted for his physical beauty and especially for his hair. Remember Samson's hair as a type of the letter of the Divine Word and its power. (S. 49) The mule which carried Absalom to his death and the branches of the oak in which he was caught both suggest a literal, not spiritual mind. (A. 1949, 4552) Absalom's effort by flattery and attractive promises to win the hearts of the people away from David must represent the power of literal interest in the Word and of attractive externals of religion to draw one away from spiritual truth which searches the heart and makes life genuinely good. Saul represents a first literal grasp of the Lord's truth and a first effort by that truth to rule the life. This is good when it is the best understanding and obedience that one is yet capable of, but when one is able to understand and to live more truly and spiritually it is disloyal to be satisfied with a superficial understanding of the Word or with superficial piety. (D. 2658, 2694)
In David's leaving Jerusalem in order that war might not come upon the holy city, there is a suggestion of the Lord's Providence in restricting contention so far as possible to external things, keeping deeper things concealed until they can be received in a humble and reverent state of mind. (A. 4677, 9942)