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Bible Commentaries

Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary

2 Samuel 15

Verses 1-6

Second Samuel - Chapter 15

Absalom Conniving, vs. 1-6

It soon became apparent that Absalom had returned from his exile with the same ambitious plot to make himself king which was already apparent when he assassinated his brother, Amnon. The first thing he did was to put himself in the public eye. He prepared himself a princely chariot and horses, and employed runners like a mighty king. the purpose of the runners was to move the crowds out of the path of his chariot and to call on the pedestrians to bow as the prince rode by. In this way he showed himself to be someone of surpassing importance, and many of the gullible people accepted him as such.

Absalom next put himself in a prominent place, at the king’s court, where he would be seen by those coming to the throne to receive judgment. Absalom arrived on the scene early to impress the people with his concern. He would talk with the supplicants to the king to learn their matters, then advise them of the worth of their cause. Absalom would condone their cause, then show how helpless it was for him to get them justice. If only he could be in a judge’s place the person could get a friendly hearing! Thus he persuaded the people of Israel that he was a person of wisdom and who would govern them well.

Thirdly, Absalom distinguished himself as a crafty politician. He appeared to be willing to place himself on a level with the common man. It was customary, even usually required, that members of the royal family should receive the obeisance of those who approached them. But Absalom would lift up those who started to do him obeisance, embrace, and kiss them.

In this way Absalom sought to show the people that he had regal bearing, knowledge of their problems and wisdom to deal with them properly, and humility to treat them fairly. All these were calculated to give Absalom the reputation and accrue to him the support he would need to seize the throne. Thus the Scripture says, "Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel." Israel was thoroughly deceived (Romans 16:18).

Verses 7-12

Absalom Rebelling, vs. 7-12

The language of verse 7 is unclear in the Hebrew, as well as in the English. Various suggestions include: 1) Absalom was in the fortieth year of his life; 2) the rebellion occurred in the fortieth year of David’s reign, which would have been the last year; 3) the actual number is four years, the "forty" being due to a copyist’s error. Any of these is possible, but the majority of commentators seem to prefer the second.

Absalom approached his father with a proposal most likely to gain his object. Absalom’s story that he had vowed to the Lord when he was in Geshur, that he would serve the Lord if he was allowed to return to Jerusalem, was calculated to appeal to David. David had surely prayed for such a conversion on the part of his wayward son, and may have rejoiced to think that Absalom had actually decided to mend his ways.

Absalom had key men throughout the tribes waiting to be alerted. For this purpose he sent out "spies", or secret agents, to tell them the time was ripe, that when the trumpet sounded out through the land they would know Absalom reigned and would secure their areas in his cause. The naivete of the ordinary people, and their blind willingness to follow him, is illustrated in the two hundred who followed Absalom "in their simplicity," not being aware of the rebellion. No doubt the day came that they rued their ignorance (Matthew 15:14).

Absalom secured the services of David’s chief counsellor, Ahithophel the Gilonite. Why Ahithophel betrayed his king is unknown, but some have suggested his resentment toward David over the affair of Bathsheba, who was his granddaughter (2 Samuel 11:3, with 2 Samuel 23:34). However, if this be true Ahithophel waited a very long time to seek revenge. His town of Giloh was in the tribe of Judah, twenty or so miles south of Jerusalem.

While he waited Absalom went through the farce of worshipping the Lord and seeking His guidance by sacrifices. The people, hearing of Absalom’s conspiracy, noting his worshipful demeanor, were impressed, and the rebellion grew stronger continually.

Verses 13-23

David in Flight, vs. 13-23

The rebellion of Absalom was well underway and out of control before David was apprised of it. When the news came to him that all Israel was turning to Absalom it was imperative that David flee at once. He was also ready to leave the city of Jerusalem to prevent its siege and possible destruction in an effort to take him prisoner. By giving up the city David expected to save many lives.

The servants, David found, were ready ’to follow his leadership. He then hastily planned to leave the palace in the care of his concubines and to evacuate his people from Jerusalem. David is said to have gone with his people to a place far off, but otherwise unidentified. That it was still in the environs of Jerusalem is clear from verse 23, so that "far off" is, therefore, not as far as one might expect from the words. All David’s servants went with him, including the special forces known as the Cherethites and Pelethites, under the command of Benaiah, and the six hundred Gittites, commanded by Ittai, a Philistine.

The Cherethites and Pelethites were specially trained forces for the protection of the king and to carry out minor military expeditions he required. The Gittites appear to havo been a relatively new force. The name, Gittites, refers to inhabitants of Gath, the chief of the Philistine cities. Why these men, with Ittai, their leader, had come into the service of David is not explained. That they were very loyal to him is apparent. David urged Ittai and his men to return to the service of "the king," meaning Absalom, since they were but lately come to the country, and were aliens and exiles from their own country.

But Ittai was devoted not only to David, but also to the Lord, by whom he swore that he would be with David, his lord, whether in life or in death. (Cf. Ruth 1:17). Such loyalty David could not refuse, so Ittai and his men passed on with the people of the city weeping and crying aloud in sorrow at their woeful lot. Thus they passed on across the brook Kidron, between Jerusalem and the mount of Olives on the east, and went toward the wilderness.

Verses 24-37

Planning Countermeasures, vs. 24-37

David soon learned that he also had the priests on his side. Zadok and Abiathar the chief priests, with their sons, soon arrived carrying the ark of the covenant of God: They set it down until all the people had passed over the mount. Abiathar went up with David, as his long time friend and companion from the days of the king’s flight from Saul many years before. But David disapproved of carrying out the ark from its prepared place in Jerusalem. He was not like the average Israelite, who superstitiously attributed some special divine favor to the ark’s presence in their midst. David knew God’s will in matters was not dependent on the location of the ark. If the Lord wished to return David to Jerusalem He would do so without the ark. If not, then the proper location of the ark should be with the new king. (See Acts 7:48; Acts 17:24.)

David told the priests they could serve him better by returning into the city and keeping their eyes and ears open and informing him what they learned. Zadok, who was also a seer as well as priest, could learn the will of God and any information they had could be conveyed by the young priest’s, their sons, Ahimaaz and Jonathan. So these returned the ark to its place in Jerusalem.

Meanwhile the company with David continued their mournful way across Olivet, weeping and crying. In keeping with their feeling they took off their shoes and walked barefoot with heads covered. Amid his suffering David received the news that Ahithophel had turned traitor and joined Absalom. This was grave news for David, for he knew the sageness of Ahithophel’s counsel, and that he would doubtless advise the young Absalom wisely. Upon hearing it David uttered a prayer, "O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness." It will be seen how precisely God answered this prayer of David, (2 Samuel 17:23).

Following this news came Hushai, another of David’s counsellors, whose coming must have heartened the king. Hushai is called David’s friend, indicating that he advised him in matters of an intimate and personal nature, while Ahithophel served to counsel in matters of state. But Hushai was old, and the flight would prove very rigorous for him, so that David sent him back. He was given a dangerous assignment, to be a kind of counter spy. He should give advice counter to that of Ahithophel, hopefully to override the counsel of that wise man. He was to keep David informed by using Ahimaaz and Jonathan as his couriers to the king. So instructed Hushai returned into the city to await the coming of Absalom.

Chapter 15 - Lessons to be gleaned: 1) Satan works his cunning way in alluring and attractive schemes; 2) some become so deluded by Satan’s emissaries they follow blindly to their eventual destruction; 3) those who walk in the will of the Lord are never so bereft of friends as they may think; 4) all may look hopeless at times, but it is to be remembered that the Lord can always reverse trends according to His will, and His people should rely on that.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of Blessed Hope Foundation and the Baptist Training Center.
Bibliographical Information
Garner, Albert & Howes, J.C. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". Garner-Howes Baptist Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ghb/2-samuel-15.html. 1985.