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Bible Commentaries

Layman's Bible Commentary

2 Samuel 15

Verses 1-12

Absalom’s Conspiracy (15:1-12)

Absalom now entered into a deeper intrigue against his father. David was aging and his prestige had been damaged by the affair with Bathsheba. Absalom therefore sought to ingratiate himself with his father’s subjects. He stood at the king’s palace and talked to all who came on business, sympathizing with those who had come for a royal judgment on some grievance, showing an apparent interest in the private life of the litigant, and implying that he himself could give a better judgment than the king as the present government was incompetent. By his charm and sympathy, Absalom began to command a following. He also built up his position by gathering a bodyguard of fifty men and driving around in a chariot, thus advertising himself as a claimant for the royal suecession. Since no precedent had yet been established with regard to the matter, he could not reckon on any law of primogeniture.

After four years, Absalom felt strong enough to make an attempt for the throne. He sought permission from David to keep a vow in Hebron, a strange place to worship the Lord since Jerusalem was, with the presence of the Ark, now the established center of religious practice. There was policy, however, in this choice of a center, for it had been David’s old capital and was the rallying center for the tribe of Judah. It seems highly probable that Absalom was playing upon some dissatisfaction in the latter tribe at the transfer of the capital to Jerusalem. At Hebron, Absalom gathered his followers together. He was joined by Ahithophel, Bathsheba’s grandfather (compare 2 Samuel 11:3 with 2 Samuel 23:34), who had been David’s counselor, possibly a "wise man," who may have joined Absalom because of the dishonor brought on Bathsheba. The plans were well laid. Key persons in all the cities were kept in readiness to announce Absalom’s kingship at the appropriate signal, and Absalom seems to have obtained a large and growing following.

Verses 13-29

David’s Flight (15:13-29)

Capitalizing on the many grievances throughout David’s kingdom, Absalom had already achieved some success. David, taken by surprise, fled his capital accompanied by his ministers and protected by his bodyguard of mercenaries, including Philistines from Gath. Among the latter was a recently joined soldier of fortune, Ittai, who appears to have been the leader of the Gittites, since he was bidden return and take them with him. If so, the Gittites were as a whole a recent addition to the bodyguard. Despite the absence of long attachment and obligation to David, Ittai elected to stay with the king, undoubtedly attracted by the same personal qualities which had established David among his people. The priests Abiathar and Zadok accompanied David with the Ark, but David refused to allow it to leave the city, electing that Jerusalem should remain the center of God’s presence among his people. If God were not favorable to him, the presence of the Ark in his fleeing band would make no difference. He would put his trust in God’s faithfulness and rely on no talisman to help him win his battles. The priests were therefore ordered to remain in Jerusalem, with the added instruction that they were to act as spies. Meanwhile David retreated in grief.

Verses 30-37

Hushai the Archite (15:30-37)

David proceeded up the steep ascent of the Mount of Olives, past the high place, his head covered and his feet bare as outward signs of his grief. News that his counselor, Ahithophel, had joined Absalom served but to increase David’s grief and drew forth the prayer that he should give the pretender bad counsel. Hushai the Archite came almost as an answer to the prayer. In verse 37 he is termed David’s "friend." This may have been an official title, and Hushai, a Gentile, may have belonged to a special group of courtiers who served as David’s companions or "friends." David sent him back to Jerusalem, with instructions to offer his services to Absalom and so to act as a spy within the center of the enemy camp, using the priests Zadok and Abiathar to transmit his messages to David.

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Bibliographical Information
"Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". "Layman's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/lbc/2-samuel-15.html.