Absalom knew how to take full advantage of his outward acceptance by his father Now there was no difficulty in beginning to exalt himself in the eyes of Israel. His chariots and horses and fifty men to run before him (v.1) were all intended as a show of his importance. If David was troubled by this, we read nothing of it.
More than this, Absalom was adept in influencing the people personally. Others ought to have seen through his activities, and to have warned David, but he got away with his intercepting of people who came early in the morning to the gate of the city to look for judgment in cases of personal problems. He would be most friendly, beginning by asking where their home was. Then whatever grievance they had, he told them their case was right, but added that there was no-one appointed by the king to handle these matters. If this was true, Absalom should have suggested to the king that he should appoint someone to this work, but his object was to plant in the people seeds of discontent and distrust toward David and to worm his way into the affections of the people. He succeeded in this without David apparently suspecting anything (v.6).
In verse 7 it is said that after 40 years Absalom approached the king. It is considered that this may be an error in copying from the earliest manuscripts, and that four years seems more likely. Though he had only treachery in his heart, Absalom was able to speak in such a pious way as to deceive David. He said he had vowed a vow to the Lord in Geshur to the effect that he would serve the Lord if the Lord brought him back to Jerusalem. Now he wanted to go to Hebron to fulfil the vow. David still does not suspect his hypocrisy, and does not even question as to why he was choosing Hebron as a place to serve the Lord.
But Absalom was making the most solid plans he knew how to. Hebron was the first place in which David reigned, and Absalom was making an appearance of returning to the original principles of the kingdom. Also, the place would be enshrined in people's affections because of its close association with Abraham's history. He went to Hebron and sent spies throughout all Israel to inform them that, when the trumpet sounded, Absalom would be reigning in Hebron. When he left Jerusalem he also brought 200 men with him who had no idea what he had in mind, but followed him apparently because they like him (v.11).
How great are the multitudes today who are merely followers of men! They have no serious exercise as to the principles of the truth of God, but are influenced by what appeals to their own comfort or convenience. In many cases their choice is not only unwise but links them with what is absolute wickedness in opposition to God, as was true of these followers of Absalom.
Absalom then sent for Ahithophel, who was David's counsellor, and who willingly came. No doubt he had strong feelings against David that had been suppressed until now, for his later advice to Absalom was to brazenly use David's concubines, then to concentrate only on killing David (ch.16:21-22; 17:1-3). The reason for this strong enmity was likely that Ahithophel was the grandfather of Bathsheba (cf.ch.13:3 and 23:34). In this God was again making David feel the results of his great sin. Absalom's conspiracy was well planned, and it grew strong with many people carried by the current.
Having been unaware of all this, David was finally awakened by a messenger who told him that the hearts of the men of Israel had been led to follow Absalom in revolt. Of course David realized that an attack on the city of Jerusalem was imminent. But he was not prepared to defend the city, nor to send an army to meet an attacking company. His only recourse was to flee the city. David did have servants who were not so easily moved by Absalom's popularity, and the king left with his household, though leaving ten concubines to take care of the house (v.16). On the outskirts of the city David took time to review all the people who were with him. His servants who had remained loyal to him are mentioned as passing before him, then the Cherethites and the Pelethites who had been chosen as David's bodyguard. After these came 600 men from Gath, led by Ittai (v.18).
Of course Gath was a prominent Philistine city, and it would be an unusual thing for Philistines to stand true to Israel at a time like this. Not many Palestinians today would be devoted to Israel! David therefore questions Ittai as to why he was going with him, since he was a foreigner and had only recently identified himself with David. David gave him fullest opportunity to return with his brethren and be identified with whatever king reigned in Jerusalem (which appeared to be Absalom at this time.).
However, Ittai shows convincing evidence that the Lord had worked within his heart to give him a genuine love for David (v.21). He speaks with firm decision that, as the Lord lives and David lives, he chooses to be in the place where David is, whether this should mean life or death.
In this present day of grace it is sometimes refreshing to witness cases similar to that of Ittai. Some who have had an outwardly near position in the testimony of God for some years, have, when troubles came, given up any such testimony, while others who have newly come in fresh, vital affection toward the Lord, are not moved by difficulties, but prove their stedfast devotion by whole heartedly continuing with the Lord. David therefore welcomes the help of lttai and his men (v.22).
There was deep distress and weeping as the people and the king himself crossed over the brook Kidron. Zadok and Abiathar the priests and all the Levites with them had also come, bearing the ark of God. but David realized that he had no right to have the ark accompany him. He knew he was under the chastening hand of God and should bow to this rather than giving the people the impression that the ark should leave its proper place in Jerusalem just because David was in exile. He tells Zadok and Abiathar to return with the ark, and that God could simply restore David to Jerusalem if it was His will, while if He did not do so, His will was still to be accepted He also told them to keep their two sons with them and use them to send David any useful information (vs.27-28)
In all of this David was no doubt showing a proper spirit of submission and faith, and in verse 30 we are told that he showed signs of penitence, having his head covered in humiliation and his feet bare, an admission of weakness and dependence before God, not preparing for battle. When he heard that Ahithophel had joined Absalom's conspiracy he was no doubt alarmed, for he knew Ahithophel to be a shrewd and capable counsellor. He prayed immediately that God would turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness (v.31).
However, instead of leaving this matter entirely with God, David saw an opportunity, when Hushai came to him, of planting his own secret agent in Absalom's court. Hushai was also a counsellor, and though he was willing to suffer rejection along with David, David told him he has no need of him, but that if he returns to the city and professes allegiance to Absalom, he might defeat the counsel of Ahithophel (v.34). This was not faith on David's part, for he told Hushai to lie to Absalom in declaring that he would be Absalom's servant just as he had been David's servant. Actually, the matter did work out as David hoped, but he might have seen God work in a more miraculous way if he had simply trusted Him.
David had already arranged that Ahimaaz and Jonathan could bring secret intelligence from the priests, so he tells Hushai to use them in order to give David information. Naturally speaking, David was able to make well grounded plans in the very short time he had. Hushai then returned to Jerusalem, and in a short time Absalom with all his retinue walked in to take possession of the city without any resistance.
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
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