The Insurrection Begun
v. 1. And it came to pass after this, shortly after Absalom had received the pardon of his father, that Absalom prepared him chariots, a state-chariot, and horses, and fifty men to run before him, to be runners or footmen. He thus appeared before the people in royal state and influenced their minds to think of him as the coming ruler.
v. 2. And Absalom rose up early, in order to impress people with his zeal in their behalf, and stood beside the way of the gate, at the entrance to the royal palace; and it was so that, when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, if he had a matter in which he sought the king's decision, then Absalom, with every show of winning condescension, called unto him and said, of what city art thou? Such an inquiry on the part of a royal prince was, of course, very flattering to the average member of the nation. And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel, a member of the Israelitish nation, belonging to this or that specific tribe.
v. 3. And Absalom, who had inquired also about his business, said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right, his decision being made without a thorough investigation of the matter; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. The "hearers" of Oriental kings were judicial officers whose duty it was to investigate the matters brought to the king's court, the king usually deciding on the basis of their findings. It is possible that neglect and partiality had crept in without the knowledge of David, so that Absalom could avail himself of a dissatisfaction already existing.
v. 4. Absalom said moreover, in following up the advantage of the good impression made by this bid for the people's favor, Oh that I were made judge in the land, literally, "Who will establish me as judge in the land?" that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! Absalom's imagination causes him to see the people crowding around him as he sits on the throne of judgment before them, eager to correct all the faults which had crept into the judicial procedure of the kingdom
v. 5. And it was so that, when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, to fall down before him and render him homage, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him, thus feigning an affability which was ready to acknowledge all men as brothers.
v. 6. And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel, secretly, by guile, gained them for himself, made everything ready for the insurrection which he had planned.
v. 7. And it came to pass after forty years, about four gears after Absalom's return to Jerusalem, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow which I have vowed unto the Lord in Hebron. He pretended that his vow required a sacrifice in the city of his birth, but in reality he considered Hebron a city peculiarly suited for his temporary capital after he had been proclaimed king.
v. 8. For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, during his banishment, saying, if the Lord shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord, namely, by a special sacrifice.
v. 9. And the king said unto him, Go in peace. Since full order had not yet been restored in the religious observances of Israel and the strict law of Leviticus 2Sa_17:3-4, was not in practical operation, such sacrifices, especially in priestly cities, were not unusual at that time. So he arose and went to Hebron, to carry out his intention of gaining the kingdom.
v. 10. But Absalom, having gained the hearts of the people by the methods described above, sent spies, emissaries, through out all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron. The sound of the trumpet was to be a signal to all those who favored him to proclaim him as king over the entire nation.
v. 11. And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem that were called, members of the king's household; such as usually accompanied the royal princes, invited to the sacrificial feast; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not anything, they were in total ignorance of Absalom's intentions.
v. 12. And Absalom sent for Ahithophel, the Gilonite, David's counselor, from his city, even from Giloh, a city near Hebron, while he offered sacrifices, for he felt that the time for the open insurrection had now come. Ahithophel had probably joined Absalom's party some time before, turning traitor to David either from motives of ambition or on account of the affair with Bathsheba, who apparently was his relative. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom. His venture seemed to be very successful. Absalom is a type of a rebel who disregards the Fourth Commandment. Such people are disobedient to their parents and oppose the lawfully constituted government. Their stock in trade consists of deceits and treason, and they end by being murderers.
The Flight of David
v. 13. And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. Before David had been aware of any dissatisfaction, while he was attending to the affairs of his kingdom in calm security, the damage had been done.
v. 14. And David, seized with a sudden terror at this unexpected development, 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, thrust upon them suddenly the threatened misfortune, and smite the city with the edge of the sword. Not knowing how strong Absalom's army was at that time nor how vigorous the spirit of the insurrection had grown, David's move was intended to avert a storming of the city with its attendant bloodshed.
v. 15. And the king's servants said unto the king, exhibiting a splendid faithfulness in the midst of the general defection, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint. They assured him of their unwavering loyalty.
v. 16. And the king went forth, and all his household after him, as his attendants and followers. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, a part of his harem, to keep the house, to guard the palace.
v. 17. And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off, he stopped for some time at Beth-merhak, possibly a fort which guarded the passage of the Kidron, in order to gather all the faithful followers about him.
v. 18. And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites and all the Pelethites, 2Sa_8:18, and all the Gittites, the men who had been with David in the wilderness and had followed him from Gath on, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king. These companions of his wilderness wanderings were the old guard, the heroes of David, who were ready now as ever to defend their master with their lives.
v. 19. Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, a Philistine who had joined his forces, Wherefore goest thou also with us? Return to thy place, and abide with the king, to him who would occupy that position; for thou art a stranger and also an exile, wherefore it would not be advisable for him to take sides at this time.
v. 20. Whereas thou camest but yesterday, having cast his fortunes with David but recently, 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. Since the lot of David would at best be most uncertain in the near future, he did not want Ittai to share this uncertainty, which partook of the nature of a banishment, but commended him to the grace and faithfulness of God.
v. 21. And Ittai answered the king and said, with a solemn oath. 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 thus expressed his unconditional devotion and fidelity to him unto death.
v. 22. And David, accepting this splendid vow of loyalty, said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, for he had a company of his own, and all the little ones that were with him, the members of his family.
v. 23. And all the country, the inhabitants of the countryside east of Jerusalem, along the line of march, wept with a loud voice, lamenting over the misfortune of their king; and all the people, those in the company of the king, passed over. The king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, the valley between Jerusalem and Mount Olivet, whose course is filled with water only during the winter or rainy season; and all the people passed over toward the way of the wilderness, the northern part of the wilderness of Judah, between Jerusalem and Jericho.
v. 24. 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, in order to give the people that were still coming time to join the procession. And Abiathar went up, on the road which led over Mount Olivet toward the east, until all the people had done passing out of the city. Abiathar was the high priest, and Zadok was the chief officer in charge of the ark.
v. 25. And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city, to its place in the sanctuary. If I shall find favor in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me again, and show me both it and His habitation;
v. 26. 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 thus resigned himself to the Lord for evil or for good, for favor or for disfavor; for he saw in these events the hand of the Lord, as the Prophet Nathan had foretold.
v. 27. The king said also unto Zadok, the priest, Art got thou a seer? Return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz, thy son, and Jonathan, the son of Abiathar. David bade Zadok, as the second high priest and as a prophet of the Lord, to return to his place in the sanctuary, where he could, moreover, watch events as they transpired.
v. 28. See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, near the fords of Jordan, until there come word from you to certify me; he should observe the trend of events, and report to David.
v. 29. Zadok, therefore, and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem; and they tarried there, remaining to see what the outcome would be.
v. 30. And David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, the road which led up past its summit, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, as the symbol of a sorrowful mind wholly withdrawn from the outer world, and he went barefoot, as a sign of great grief and humiliation; and all the people that was with him, following his example, covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up. In giving way to a superior force and taking the suffering sent by the Lord upon him, David prepared the way for the salvation of the people. He appears here as a type of Christ, who also entered upon His great suffering by passing over the brook Kidron.
Hushai goes to Jerusalem
v. 31. And one told David, saying, Ahithophel, in whom David had trusted as his secret counselor, is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, in a brief sigh commending the matter to the Lord, O Lord, I pray Thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. The way for the fulfillment of this prayer was immediately prepared.
v. 32. And it came to pass that, when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshiped God, or, where men were wont to worship God, for the summits of hills, the so-called high places, were still used for that purpose at the time of David, behold, Hushai the Archite, came to meet him with his coat rent and earth upon his head, as a token of his sympathetic grief;
v. 33. unto whom David said, if thou passest on with me, joining his forces in the campaign which was sure to come, then thou shalt be a burden unto me, probably on account of his advanced age and feeble condition:
v. 34. 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, in the capacity of private counselor, 2Sa_16:16; 1Ch_27:33, so will I now also be thy servant, then mayest thou for me, in the interest of David, defeat the counsel of Ahithophel. In this way Hushai could be of assistance in defeating the insurrection and restoring the rightful king to the throne.
v. 35. And hast thou not there with thee Zadok and Abiathar, the priests? These two men also held to the cause of David. Therefore it shall be that what thing so ever thou shalt hear out of the king's house, thou shalt tell it to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, with whom David had arranged to have such reports forwarded to him.
v. 36. 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 everything that ye can hear.
v. 37. So Hushai, David's friend, for such he remained during the events which followed, came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem, at about the same time. Note: It is the duty of all Christians not only to pray against the evil projects of the enemies, but also, so far as in them lies, to do all in their power to thwart the evil designs of the enemies against the kingdom of Christ.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany