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2 Samuel 15:1
After this. The Hebrew is a more precise phrase than that on which we have commented on 2 Samuel 10:1 and 2 Samuel 13:1, and implies that Absalom began his devices soon after obtaining his liberty. Chariots and horses; Hebrew, a chariot and horses; that is, a chariot for state occasions, in which Absalom rode, while fifty footmen ran at his side. Probably his grandfather Talmai practised similar magnificence at Geshur. In India it is still common for men of rank to be attended by runners on foot, who will keep up with horses or elephants for an incredible distance.
2 Samuel 15:2
The way of the gate. The gate would be that of the royal palace, where the king gave audience and administered justice. At the gate of the city the elders were the judges, and, though the higher authority of the king may have weakened the action of this citizen court, yet passages such as Isa 50:1-11 :23 and Jeremiah 5:28 imply, not only its continued existence, but also that it retained much importance. Probably all causes between citizens were tried by it, just as causes in the country were tried by the mishpachah (see note on 2 Samuel 14:7); but with an appeal in weighty matters to the king. It is a mistake to suppose that David altogether neglected his judicial functions. On the contrary, the woman of Tekoah obtained an audience, as a matter of course; and Absalom would not have risen up thus early unless David had also taken his seat in the early morning on the royal divan to administer justice. It was the suitors on their way to the king whom Absalom accosted, and made believe that he would be more assiduous in his duties than his father, and that he would have decided every suit in favour of the person to whom he was talking, whereas really one side alone can gain the cause. Still, we may well believe that, guilty himself of adultery and murder, and with his two eider sons stained with such terrible crimes, David's administration of justice had become half hearted. And thus his sin again found him out, and brought stern punishment. For Absalom used this weakness against his father, and, intercepting the suitors on their way, would ask their city and tribe, and listen to their complaint, and assure them of the goodness of their cause, and lament that, as the king could not hear all causes easily himself, he did not appoint others to aid him in his duties. It was delay and procrastination of which Absalom complained; and as many of the litigants had probably come day after day, and not succeeded in getting a hearing, they were already in ill humour and prepared to find fault. Now, as David possessed great powers of organization, we may well believe that he would have taken measures for the adequate administration of law had it not been for the moral malady which enfeebled his will. In the appointment of Jehoshaphat and Seraiah (2 Samuel 8:16, 2 Samuel 8:17) he had made a beginning, but soon his hands grew feeble, and he did no more.
2 Samuel 15:6
Absalom stole the hearts. By professing anxiety to devote himself to the hearing and deciding of the people's causes, by flattering each one with the assurance that his case was so good that it needed only a hearing to be decided in his favour, and by his affability, made the more charming and irresistible by his personal beauty, he won the love of the people almost without their knowing how devoted they had become to him.
2 Samuel 15:7
After forty years. As Absalom was born in Hebron after David was made king (2 Samuel 3:3), and as David's whole reign lasted only forty years and six months, the reading "forty" is evidently incorrect. Suggestions, such, for instance, as that the forty years are to be reckoned from the desire of the Israelites to have a king, or from the anointing of David by Samuel, are merely methods of evading a difficulty. The Syriac, however, and the Vulgate—except the Codex Amiatinus, which reads "forty," supported by Josephus and some manuscripts have "four years," which would give ample, yet not too long, time for the growth of Absalom's popularity, and of dissatisfaction at David's tardy administration of justice. In Hebron. Absalom chose this town, beth as being his birthplace, and also because it was on the road to Geshur (1 Samuel 27:8), whither flight might be necessary should the enterprise fail. He hoped also to win to his cause some of the powerful tribe of Judah, though it generally was the mainstay of David's throne. Local sacrifices were still customary (see note on 1 Samuel 16:2), and the visit of the king's son for such a purpose would be celebrated by a general holiday and much feasting at Hebron. As Ewald remarks, David's confidence and want of suspicion were the results of a noble-minded generosity. And besides, there was no state police ever on the watch, and ready to put an unfavourable construction on all that was done; and probably David was even pleased at his son's popularity, and took his professions as proof that he would be a just and wise ruler on succeeding to his father's place. Perhaps, too, he was glad at this indication of religious feeling on Absalom's part; for a father is sure to look on the better side of his son's acts. tie had been tardy enough in fulfilling his vow, but it seemed to David that conscience had at last prevailed, and that right was to be done.
2 Samuel 15:10
Absalom sent spies. The word means "those who go hither and thither," and, as the object of such journeying would usually be. to gather information, the right translation often is "spies." Here there was no such purpose, nor were they to report to Absalom, but to disperse themselves everywhere, and, when the signal was given at Hebron, they were to endeavour to gather the people to Absalom's standard. Some simple minded commentators wonder how one trumpet could be heard throughout the land. It was heard only at Hebron, but the news of the proclamation would rapidly spread; and, though the rumour might be vague and confused, yet these emissaries, fully acquainted beforehand with its meaning, would turn it to Absalom's advantage, and urge the people to confirm the choice, made, as they would affirm, by the whole tribe of Judah. In such attempts everything depends upon gathering a powerful following at first; and usually a good deal of vigour and even force is necessary to make men take part in a revolt. But as the numbers swell, adherents readily flock in to what seems to be the winning side.
2 Samuel 15:11
Two hundred men. These, doubtless, were courtiers and men of rank, who were so accustomed to Absalom's love of display, that, when called, that is, invited, they would go without suspicion. To Absalom their attendance was most important, not only because, being compromised, many would join him, and even all of them for a time be forced to yield obedience, but because they would make the people of Hebron suppose that Absalom had a powerful body of supporters at Jerusalem. It is quite possible that at Hebron, and generally in Judah, there was great discontent because David had left their tribe to choose a capital elsewhere, and because he did not show them any decided preference over the other tribes, whose good will he would rightly seek to conciliate. The existence of much jealousy between Judah and the ten tribes is plain from 2 Samuel 19:41-43.
2 Samuel 15:12
Ahithophel the Gilonite. The desertion of David by Ahithophel is in every way remarkable, even if he were Bathsheba's grandfather (see note on 2 Samuel 11:3). For he was far too subtle a man to have joined the conspiracy unless he bad felt reasonably sure that it would be successful. Successful it would have been had his advice been followed; but so correctly did he estimate the result if David were allowed time to gather his friends, that, when his counsel was rejected, he withdrew immediately to Giloh, and committed suicide. Still if the revolt had been successful, it would have involved, if not the death of Bathsheba, yet certainly that of her sons, and the exclusion of Ahithophel's great-grandchildren from the throne. In Psalms 41:1-13; written at this time, we learn what were David's feelings when he heard the news of this conspiracy, and Ahithophel is the familiar friend, in whom he had trusted, and who had eaten at his table, but now raised up his heel to kick at him. In John 13:18 the words are quoted of Judas Iscariot, of whom Ahithophel was a type in his treachery and in his death by his own hand. The translation, "sent for Ahithophel," cannot be maintained. The Hebrew is "sent Ahithophel," but for what purpose or on what embassy is not mentioned. As thus something must have dropped out of the Hebrew text, it possibly may be the preposition "for," as this gives a good sense. For Giloh, Ahithophel's town, was situated a few miles to the south of Hebron (Joshua 15:51), and Ahithophel had probably been working there secretly for Absalom for some time. As David's counsellor, his proper place of residence would have been Jerusalem, but the conspiracy had been kept so secret that he had been able to get away without suspicion. He is now summoned to Absalom's side, and his presence there brings in so many adherents that a rapid march on Jerusalem might have put David into their power. The Revised Version is right in translating, while he offered the sacrifices; namely, those which he had vowed, and which were the reason given for his visit to Hebron.
2 Samuel 15:14
Arise, and let us flee. The rebellion of Absalom, and David's humiliating flight, bring out all the better parts of the king's character, and set him once again before us as a man after God's own heart. For this period is richly illustrated by the psalms which were written under the pressure of this great affliction, and which are marked by firm confidence in God, and an assured sense of the Divine nearness and protection. Psalms 41:1-13. shows how poignant was his anguish at Ahithophel's treachery, but it inspired no fear: "As for me, thou up. holdest me in mine integrity, and settest me before thy face forever" (Psalms 41:12). It was a firm faith which prompted such words. In Psalms 63:1-11; written "in the wilderness of Judah," before David had reached the Jordan, he gives utterance to his grief at the loss of his religious privileges at Jerusalem; but Jehovah is still his strong Tower, and his dwelling will be in God's tabernacle forever. Psalms 3:1-8; Psalms 4:1-8. are his morning and evening hymns written "when he fled from Absalom his son." Psalms 55:1-23 is one more sad even than Psalms 41:1-13. He describes in it his panic stricken feelings when the news reached him, his longing to escape from the turmoil of life, and flee into the wilderness and be at rest; and his grief at his desertion by men in whose company he had worshipped in the house of God. Upon this follows an outburst of vehement indignation, made the more bitter by the sense of the treachery whereby he had been duped into connivance with Absalom's plans (verse 21); but amidst it all his confidence was unshaken that if he cast his burden upon God, "he would sustain him, and never suffer the righteous to be moved." Finally, in Psalms 27:1-14, we have the contrast between Jehovah's abiding goodness and the inconstancy of men; while Psalms 61:1-8; Psalms 62:1-12. were probably written at Mahanaim, when David s anguish of mind was being assuaged, and a calm confidence was taking its place. Everywhere in all of them David speaks as one who had now given all his heart to God. As regards his terror and flight (Psalms 55:5-8), it may seem strange that David should have withdrawn so hurriedly from a city so strong as Jerusalem. But we must not suppose that he had a standing army, and his few Cherethites and Pelethites could have made no head against the nation. Probably, too, the fortifications of the city were incomplete (Psalms 51:18); and even if in good order, yet, cooped up in Jerusalem, David would have left the whole country in Absalom's power, and finally, after a long blockade, he must have been driven by famine to surrender. Away from Jerusalem he was the centre whither all who disliked Absalom's attempt would gather, and every day as it passed would make men reflect more and more upon what David had done for them, and the more steady and thoughtful of them would finally decide in his favour. There would be, moreover, the secret conviction that David, with such men round him as Joab and Abishai, if free to take his own course, would be more than a match for Absalom and his larger numbers. This was what Ahithophel foresaw, and was so convinced that, if David were not crushed at once, he would gain the day, that he did not even wait to see, but destroyed himself. Abarbanel thinks that the wish of the people had never been for more than the association of Absalom with David on the throne, according to what he had himself suggested (Psalms 62:4); and that there was a great revulsion of feeling when they saw that they must choose absolutely between father and son, and that whoever lost the crown must lose his life as well. Some commentators consider that Psalms 31:1-24. also belongs to this period, though others ascribe it to Jeremiah. Parts of it are singularly applicable to the circumstances of David's flight, as where the psalmist speaks of Jehovah as being his Fortress in contrast with Jerusalem, and adds, "Thou hast not shut me up into the hands of the enemy, but hast set my feet in a large space," as though "the net which the conspirators had privily laid for him" had been the design to coop him up within the walls of the city, There are touching words, too, of distress at the slander and reproach breaking forth on every side, and at the completeness of his fall, so that whereas but a few days before he had been a king, now "he was clean forgotten, as a dead man out of mind; and east aside as though he were now of no more account than the shards of a broken vessel." But, with the calm strength of faith he adds, "My times are in thy hand;" "Thou shalt hide all who trust in thee in the secret of thy presence;" "Oh, then, love Jehovah, and be of good courage! for he shall strengthen the heart of all whose hope is fixed on him."
2 Samuel 15:15
The king's servants. These were the officers of David's court and household, numerous enough to hamper his movements, but not enough to protect him. All David's wives, moreover, went, and his children, and some of his concubines (2 Samuel 19:5), ten, however, being left in charge of the palace.
2 Samuel 15:17
And tarried in a place that was far off; Revised Version, in Beth-merhak. "The Far House"—so we may translate this proper name—was probably not a dwelling, but a pavilion overlooking the Kidron valley; and here David halted his household until all were assembled, and arrangements made for their journey. Here, too, the bodyguard would gather, and they would cross the Kidron only when everything was ready for their orderly progress. Confusion at such a time would breed a panic and invite an attack.
2 Samuel 15:18
All the Gittites, air hundred men which came after him from Gath. The Septuagint reads "Gibborim," and without doubt these are the persons meant; but while they were styled Gibborim, the "mighties," for honour's sake, because of their prowess, they probably were popularly called David's Gittites, because they were the six hundred men who had formed his little army when he sought refuge with Achish, King of Gath (l Samuel 27:2; 30:9). They were not Philistines, but Israelites of desperate fortune (1 Samuel 22:2); and it is a proof of David's great ability, and of the moral influence of his character, that he was successful, not only in controlling them and maintaining discipline, but also in forming them into as noble a set of heroes as ever existed, and who were faithful to him in all his fortunes. To their number belonged the thirty-seven champions end-merated in 2 Samuel 23:1-39; and possibly the title "Gibborim" strictly belonged to them only. As they are still called "the six hundred," it is probable that the corps was maintained at this number by new appointments, and that they had special privileges which made their position very desirable. Certainly David would never forget men who had shared all his fortunes, and been so true and so useful to him; and it is evident, from Hushai's counsel (2 Samuel 17:8), that Absalom feared their resolute valour, and hesitated to attack without overwhelming numbers. Thenius compares these veterans to Napoleon's Old Guard.
2 Samuel 15:19
Ittai the Gittite. Ittai was not one of the six hundred, though there was an Ittai among them, a Benjamite. He was a citizen of Gath, who had lately come ("yesterday," see 2 Samuel 15:20), with all his household of slaves and dependents, his clan, Hebrew, his taf—translated in 2 Samuel 15:22 his "little ones." He had evidently been a person of importance in his own country, whence he had been driven, perhaps by political troubles, and was now, therefore, an exile and a foreigner (Authorized Version, "stranger") at Jerusalem. As David made him joint commander of his army with Joab and Abishai (2 Samuel 18:2), he must also have been a general of recognized military skill. As he was thus not personally interested in the government of Israel, and, in fact, had only lately come thither, David recommends him to return … and abide with the king, that is, with the de facto king, Absalom. But so great was the fascination which David exercised upon those around him, that this foreigner boldly threw in his lot with him, and accompanied him in his flight. Return to thy place. This is a very daring transposition, as the Hebrew is, Return and abide with the king; for thou art a foreigner, and also an exile art thou to thy place. The Revised Version gives the same sense as the Authorized, though it shows more respect to the grammar. But the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, by "his own place" understand Gath, either taking the words as meaning "an exile as to thy own place," or having a different reading. The Hebrew then proceeds, Yesterday was thy coming, and shall 1 today make thee wander to go with us, seeing I go whither I go? that is, I go I know not whither. Return thou, and take back thy brethren—in mercy and truth. This gives a very good sense, but the Septuagint and Vulgate have a different reading: "Take back thy brethren with thee, and the Lord chew thee mercy and truth." The Syriac gives the genera] sense of the Hebrew, rendering, "Take back thy brethren well."
2 Samuel 15:22
All the little ones; Hebrew, all the taf; in 2 Samuel 15:20 called "his brethren," that is, all the relatives and dependents who had accompanied him in his exile. Their presence with him proves that he had entirely broken with the Philistines, and left his country for good. He may have taken this step for religious reasons, though his swearing by Jehovah (2 Samuel 15:21) does not prove it, as Achish did the same (1 Samuel 29:6); or Ittai, after the capture of Gath by David (2 Samuel 8:1), may have made himself unpopular by becoming the ally of the conqueror, and so finally have determined to leave the city, and find a home in Israel.
2 Samuel 15:23
All the country wept. This general lamentation proves that David was not really unpopular in Jerusalem, though it was there that Absalom had dazzled the people by his magnificence, and sought to win favour by his gracious ways. By the country the inhabitants are meant, who watched the king's departure; while the people are David's followers—his retinue and attendants. The brook Kidron. This is a winter torrent, dry during most of the year, but serving at the rainy seasons to carry off the rainfall from the Valley of Jehoshaphat. It lay on the east of Jerusalem, and beyond it was Mount Olivet. The direction of David's flight was toward the wild country on the east of the Jordan, in which Ishbosheth had found a refuge after the defeat of Gilboa. To reach it he must pass by Jericho, and thence through the Arabah (Jeremiah 39:4) to the ford of the Jordan, after crossing which he would be in comparative safety. Ahithophel would have followed that very night, and have attacked before David had placed the river between himself and his pursuers.
2 Samuel 15:24
And Abiathar went up. This rendering, though confirmed by the versions, is very unintelligible. Whither did Abiathar go up? And moreover it is said that he continued going up until all David's followers had passed out of the city. Another possible rendering is, "And Abiathar offered (sacrifices) until all the people had done passing out of the city." Passages quoted in proof that the verb may be so rendered without the addition of the word "sacrifice" are 1 Samuel 2:28 and 2 Samuel 24:22; but in both these places the context makes the sense plain. Such a sacrifice would, of course, sanctify both king and people in their flight; but as none of the versions support this method of translating the text, it seems unsafe to adopt it, and the passage must remain obscure. On the one hand, it is unlikely that there would be time to offer sacrifices at so hasty a flight; but on the other hand, the removal of the ark was a solemn thing, which probably required some such religious ceremonial, and Cahen and other Jewish authorities translate, "Abiathar offered burnt offerings."
2 Samuel 15:26
Let him do to me as seemeth good unto him. David's answer is full, not only of devout resignation and trust in God, but is remarkable also for the absence of superstition. He feels that God will not judge him by any mere outward sign or privilege, but in truth and equity. If he deserves condemnation, he will not escape it by carrying the ark about with him. If, on the contrary, God accepts him, he will restore him to the enjoyment of his spiritual privileges, and bring him back to worship at the place which he has chosen for his dwelling. We must notice that he addresses these words to Zadok, who had remained with the ark. This was natural if Abiathar was occupied in offering, but hard to understand if he had gone up, that is, in advance of the ark, to acquaint David with their purpose.
2 Samuel 15:27
Art thou (not) a seer? Both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version evade the difficulty of this passage by inserting the word "not." It is one of the merits of the Revised Version that usually it does not take these liberties. But "Art thou a seer?" is meaningless; and the attempts, moreover, to show that Zadok was a seer fail entirely in proof. The receiving revelations by Urim and Thummim was a priestly, and not a prophetic, function. Without altering the text, the words may be correctly translated, "Seest thou?" This was probably a colloquial phrase, of which the Septuagint gives the sense by rendering it in the imperative, "See;" while the Syriac, regarding it as an expletive, boldly omits it.
2 Samuel 15:28
In the plain of the wilderness. The Revised Version has "at the fords of the wilderness," that is, it rightly keeps to the written Hebrew text (the K'tib), while the Authorized Version adopts a conjecture of the Massorites (the K'ri). This conjecture is the substitution of arboth for abroth, and they have made the same alteration at 2 Samuel 17:16. But the substitution is uncalled for and mischievous; for David would not halt indefinitely in the plain, the Arabah (of which Arboth is the plural), but would press on to the fords, where some delay must take place, and where the king's presence would be important in giving instructions for what was by no means an easy operation. At the river, moreover, David could be assailed only in front, where his "mighties" would make a strong defence, while in the Arabah they might be surrounded; and, encumbered as they were with women, their line must be so extended as to be weakened. We find, too, in Judges 3:28 that the fords of the Jordan formed a good military position. In 2 Samuel 17:22 it is expressly said that the fording of the river did not take place until Jonathan and Ahimaaz came with their reports; and their words there, in 2 Samuel 17:21, show that David was on the bank when they arrived, with his preparations so complete, that, in the next few hours, all his company were safely carried over to the other side. Ahimaaz was a famous runner (see 2 Samuel 18:27), and, if David was ready, the time gained by him upon any body of troops leaving Jerusalem at the same hour, would have enabled the king to get his people across; but if he had still some miles to march, with a number of women and children, Ahimaaz's fleetness would have been rendered useless.
2 Samuel 15:30
The ascent of mount Olivet; Hebrew, the ascent of the olive trees. The hill never was called Olivet, which is a word formed from the Latin mons oliveti, the mount of the olive grove. David had his head covered. This was a sign of grief among the Persians, Egyptians, and Romans, as well as the Hebrews (for whom see Ezekiel 24:17), it being originally a natural movement to conceal an outburst of tears. So we in great sorrow bury our faces in our hands. In this mark of mourning all joined, but David added the going barefoot as a sign of deeper humiliation. According to the Jewish Midrash, it was upon the Mount of Olives that David composed the third psalm. More probably it was at the fords of the Jordan, after David, wearied with the fatigues of the march, had enjoyed a short refreshing slumber, and while he was waiting for his two young friends, that he comforted himself by this outpouring of his heart to God.
2 Samuel 15:31
And one told David. The Hebrew literally is, and David told. But we cannot suppose that David had previously known of Ahithophel's defection. The text is evidently corrupt, and the Authorized Version gives the right sense. On hearing of the defection of a man so famous for practical sound judgment, David prays to God to frustrate his counsel, and the opportunity for devising means for this end quickly follows.
2 Samuel 15:32
Where he worshipped God; more correctly, where God was worshipped, and so the Revised Version. The summit of the Mount of Olives was one of the many bamoth, or high places, situated on the top of hills, where, in the old Canaanitish time, men had worshipped their heathenish deities. They were still regarded as consecrated places, but the worship had now been transferred to Elohim, the true God. They continued to be hallowed spots, with Levitical priests to minister at them, until the stricter times of Josiah (2 Kings 23:8), when such worship was forbidden; but even then these priests seem to have retained considerable privileges, though their position was inferior to that held by the priests of the temple. It was at this hallowed spot that David's old friend and privy counselor (2 Samuel 15:37), Hushai, met him, with his coat rent—not the upper garment, but the kuttoneth, the under tunic, the rending of which was a sign of deeper sorrow. We read of "the border of the Archites" (so the Revised Version, rightly) in Joshua 16:2, near Bethel, in the tribe of Manasseh; and Hushai's birthplace was probably there.
2 Samuel 15:33
A burden unto me. Host likely because Hushai was old and infirm. Others, with less probability, think that it was because of his rank, which would demand special attendance.
2 Samuel 15:34
Then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel. David was thus meeting treachery by treachery, and we cannot approve of it, even granting that Ahithophel's conduct was base and selfish, while Hushai was risking his life for his master. Still, he was sent back to tell a falsehood, and his excuse was necessity; for Ahithophel was so sagacious that, if his counsel were not upset, David's cause was lost. It was not Christian morality, but yet it has a sort of nobleness about it in Hushai's devotion to his king. And even now, in war and diplomacy, such acts are not uncommon, and a distinction is unhappily drawn between political and social morality. Even in common life immoral doings are often sanctioned by use. Thus many customs of trade are frauds, considered legitimate because generally practised. Even among ourselves Christian morality is far below the level of our Master's teaching; and the Old Testament must not be taken as approving all that it records. Similar blame does not attach to Zadok and Abiathar. They were known to be David's friends, and had even tried to go with him, bearing with them the ark. They professed no friendship for Absalom, and returned for no covert purpose, looking for protection, not to guile, but to their sacred office. And Absalom would be glad to have them in his power, and would make them continue the customary sacrifices, and, if his rebellion proved successful, would force them to anoint him, and so give his usurpation a religious sanction. But he would tell them none of his plans, nor would they try to insinuate themselves into his confidence. They would have a perfect right to be useful in any way they could to their true master, but would do so at the risk of severe punishment. Hushai's way of defeating Ahithophel was treacherous; but there was no deceit in the young men carrying a message from him, for they were openly David's friends.
2 Samuel 15:37
Absalom came into Jerusalem. Absalom had evidently pushed rapidly forward from Hebron, in hopes, perhaps, of surprising David in the city. Evidently he entered it on the day of David's flight (2 Samuel 17:1), and Ahithophers proposal to select twelve thousand men from Absalom's followers shows how very powerful the conspiracy was. Had this advice been followed, the decisive battle would have been fought that evening at the fords of the Jordan, a few miles only from Jerusalem.
2 Samuel 15:1-12
The shady side of human nature.
The facts are:
1. Absalom sets up a large domestic establishment with a semblance of royalty.
2. Rising early in the morning of each day, he is first to meet the suitors for judgment at the gate of the city, and seizes the occasion for insinuating that there is defect in the king's provision for the administration of justice.
3. He also professes to manifest sympathy with suitors by expressing the wish that he were in a position to do them justice, and gives outward evidence of his concern for them by taking each one by the hand and kissing him.
4. These plans being in progress, he next asks permission of David to go to Hebron, on the plea that he desired to redeem a vow which he had sacredly made to God while in exile; and David granting his request, he sets out for Hebron, with a company of men ignorant of his design.
5. Meanwhile he sends spies throughout Israel, so that on a given signal they might simultaneously make the announcement, "Absalom reigneth in Hebron."
6. He moreover gains to his side Ahithophel, David's counsellor, and so advances his cause among the people. The narrative gives us in brief form the scheme, the principles, the methods, and early form of Absalom's conspiracy. He knew his own mind, and was set on the overthrow of his father's authority, from sheer vanity and lust of power. The outline of his method was clearly defined:
(1) to win over the people by criticizing the king's administration, and gratifying them by a showy establishment, professed zeal for justice, and marked personal attentions;
(2) to secure a good centre for proclaiming his authority, and this by a hypocritical profession of religion which required him to go there;
(3) by scattering agents through the land, and gaining to his side the king's most sagacious adviser. There is not one relieving feature to the dark picture of pride, ingratitude, filial alienation, low cunning, and religious hypocrisy. It is, however, our province to extract good out of evil, and in the early stages of Absalom's rebellion we may see illustrations of the shady side of human nature, which, if noted and applied to conduct, may warn against often-recurring evils, and put us on our guard against the same tendencies in other departments of life.
I. THE PRINCIPLES AND METHODS OF UNJUSTIFIABLE REBELLION. Rebellion against existing authority may perhaps be right under special circumstances. People do not exist for governments, but governments for the people; and it is possible that the rights of the people may be so utterly trodden upon that it is the duty of self preservation to rebel. Even parental authority must be resisted when it comes into direct collision with conscience and with Christ (Matthew 10:33-38). But rebellion is wicked when, as in this case, it springs from a blending of conceit, dislike of constituted authority, and lust for power. This may characterize rebellion originating in an individual or in a restless people. Talk of oppression, justice, kindness and consideration for the oppressed, may be but a cloak for a selfish aversion to restraint and a love of self-will. Even where there is justification for resistance to an evil rule, it is wicked to have recourse to flattery, deceit, hypocrisy, and low cunning to accomplish the end in view. In times of turbulence and agitation it is important that men scrutinize the secret motives of their actions. As a rule, injustice in rulers can be best resisted by the calm, sober protest and passive resistance of conscientious men. Faith in God, and in the force of true principles, with patient persistence, will in the end accomplish more than can be secured by violence; and where injustice exists only in the imagination of the restless, and the evils of life spring from their own habits and practices, then rebellion is one of the greatest crimes of which man is capable.
II. INCIDENTAL REVELATIONS OF CHARACTER. The character of a man lies primarily in the main principles and passions that are deep down in his nature, and which in course of years shape his outward conduct. Absalom's real character was in existence long before it came out to the eye of the public in the form of rebellion against his father's authority. Probably David discerned its incipient form, and hence his extreme slowness in recalling him to a position of prominence. The setting up by Absalom of a large princely establishment, with chariots and horses and runners, was really an incidental revelation in palpable form of a character internally maturing. It was a sign to such men as David and Nathan of what they had believed to exist—a vain, proud, ostentatious spirit. So in course of time men generally do something in their domestic arrangements or business developments which, if the world will only read aright, brings into public view tendencies and tastes which hitherto have been kept under restraint. Our visible acts and creations are the successive revelations of our condition. A man's dress, his handwriting, his domestic establishment, his bearing before the public, his mode of transacting business, is a manifestation of the hidden man—the indicator of the elements entering into the permanent character. The outward aspects of a man's life may be studied with a view to a knowledge of the habits and tastes of his mind.
III. EVIL TENDENCIES IN CONGENIAL ENVIRONMENT. The evil tendencies of Absalom were somewhat pronounced when he set up his pretentious establishment, but by his own act those tendencies were placed in the midst of circumstances eminently calculated to strengthen and develop them further. The heart of man can devise things out of its own tastes and propensities which become at once food on which those tastes and propensities grow to further power. A man of pleasure out of his own desires creates occupations and pursuits which become the nourishers of the passion for pleasure. The same holds of dreadful vices and blessed virtues. There is a self-promotive power in the forces that dwell within our moral nature. Intellectual and physical forces are not so recuperative of themselves by means of what they create as are the moral. We are to ponder the path of our feet, forevery step increases the momentum in the road, be it good or bad.
IV. LUST OF POWER MINUS FITNESS FOR ITS EXERCISE. Absalom set his heart on being King of Israel. The vision of a throne and a submissive people had great attractions for him. The princely establishment, With chariots and horsemen, was only the first instalment of a splendour soon to be won. Like all such men, he had unlimited confidence in himself. He could administer justice! He could win the people and hold them in subjection! And yet this vanity, this low cunning, this love of outward show, and mean lying flattery of the people, disqualified him for ruling as a king. Morally speaking, he was a handsome fool, and knew it. not. The lust for power is common, and often very strong in men. As manifested in bad men, it is an abnormal development of a love of mastery over what is not self. The possession of power over man is safe and good only when there coexist with it justice, generosity, considerateness, and honesty.
V. ALIENATION FROM A FATHER'S HEART THE CLIMAX OF EVIL. Absalom was no longer a true son. No man could have entered on such a scheme and have devised such means unless he had lost all true natural affection. To find fault with a father's administration, to expose a father to ridicule, to seek to alienate men from attachment to a father, and, in short, crush a father's hopes and life's work, could only proceed from a heart utterly alienated. And such a father! Weak and erring as David in a notable instance had been, he was the most generous, and magnanimous of men, and had brought peace and plenty and honour to Israel. Absalom's crime was one of the basest ever recorded. And all alienation from a true father's heart is utterly base and deserving the strongest detestation. There is hope for sons when they still cherish love and reverence for parents; none when these are gone. Every feeling, and act, and companionship, and habit which tend towards this awful separation of heart, should be shunned as men shun the road to death. And yet this is the real state of the human heart in relation to God. The gulf is awful; and nothing but a new creation will lead to a reconciliation (John 3:5; Romans 8:7).
VI. PSEUDO-PATRIOTISM AN ASSUMED VIRTUE. Patriotism is strong in men whose country has been associated in memory with great deeds. To care for one's land and people, to be more concerned for the maintenance of justice and adjustment of the claims of the poor than for the form and personnel of government,—this is always commendable; and so much is this virtue esteemed that it is assumed by Absalom for his own purposes. We cannot believe in the patriotism of any man who shuts his heart against a good father. Civil virtues cannot make amends for the absence of the domestic and primary virtues. It is easy to prate about justice and the oppressed, and to speak smoothly to the populace; to keep the heart pure, loving, true toward man and God, is not so easy. There is much pseudo-patriotism in political life. Men claim virtues they do not possess, and use the claim for gaining an influence that else would be unattainable.
VII. RELIGION A CLOAK FOR EVIL DESIGNS. Absalom knew his father to be a pious man, and therefore seeks to accomplish his purpose by a profession of piety. The heartless son finds no difficulty in taking the holy name of God in vain, and concocting a tissue of lies. To the populace he can be a critic of the government; to the pious king he can be a devout man, intent on keeping sacred vows. No clearer proof of a Satanic spirit than when men dare to lay hold of the most sacred things and use them for vile and selfish purposes. Righteous, indeed, was the indignation of Christ against such "hypocrites." "Woe" from the lips of love came upon them. Manifold are the forms and degrees in which this evil appears. To worship in order to be respectable, to profess religion for the sake of trade, to utter pious phrases in order to win popular applause, are but the less repulsive forms of the very crime of Absalom. How abominable such persons must appear in the sight of the all-searching God!
VIII. TAKING UNDUE ADVANTAGE OF ANOTHER'S DIFFICULTY. In consequence of the immense work thrown on an absolute monarch, the growing complications of a flourishing state, and the incompetence of subordinates, there would necessarily arise many difficulties in the administration of the affairs of the kingdom. In all lands people have to wait for justice when others are being served. But the evil heart of Absalom showed itself in using whatever incidental delays arose as an occasion of promoting its own wicked schemes. There is too much of this in the world. The rich have often taken advantage of the ignorance and helplessness of the poor to secure ends otherwise unattainable. In political life it is a maxim to seize the hour of weakness for a party triumph. It is the devil's opportunity with feeble souls to render more sure their destruction. Trouble in state, Church, or family affords opportunity for testing the qualities of men. Love or hate, sympathy or antagonism, will thereby be revealed. How different to others the blessed Saviour in presence of human infirmity!
IX. POPULARITY ON AN UNSTABLE AND HOLLOW BASIS. The people's hearts were won to Absalom. It seems a great triumph to win the hearts of multitudes; it is an indication of great power on the part of the conqueror or of fickleness on the part of the conquered. But in this, as in many instances, the conquest was a revelation of shallow thinking on the one side and basest cunning on the other. There is in most men a soil for receiving the seeds of discontent from the hand of a deft sower. People are easily caught by flatteries and personal attentions. A visible parade of splendour dazzles and pleases the crowd, who think modest, quiet bearing a sign of mediocrity. The dash and careless promises of a young and handsome man excite the imagination, and raise up pictures of great possibilities. The mass of men do not think; they feel, and are led by the clever orator who can stir up their feelings. It is not always a credit to "go with the multitude," and fall in with an order of things because it is popular. The vox populi maxim is often false. Of One it was once true, "Of the people there was none with him." He was "despised and rejected of men."
X. AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE MOST DREADFUL OF CONSPIRACIES. It is not necessary to endeavour to trace resemblance in all details between antagonism to the mortal king in Zion and opposition to the immortal King in Zion. But there has been and still is a plot to destroy the authority of him whose right it is to reign. Fashion, wealth, power of speech, wit, and alliances with wise Ahithophels, continue to undermine and eventually overthrow the influence of Christ over the hearts of men. The "gates of hell" take counsel against the Lord and his Anointed. Another seat of supreme influence is being set up as a substitute for that occupied by the Anointed One, and "spies" are abroad seeking to create doubt and distrust in the hearts of the faithful. As we read the account of Absalom's ingratitude, daring, and baseness, and feel for his deeds the utmost detestation, so holy beings who look on the endeavour to destroy the authority of Christ over men cannot but regard the deed as the basest, most daring, and at the same time most fatal to the perpetrators, ever attempted. The wicked may seem to triumph, but their end is destruction.
2 Samuel 15:13-30
The facts are:
1. David, being informed of the rising in favour of Absalom, calls upon his friends to flee from Jerusalem, in order to avoid its being smitten by a sudden attack.
2. His servants being willing to go with him, he leads out his entire household, with the exception of a few to take care of the house.
3. In his departure he is accompanied by his bodyguard, and the six hundred men which followed him from Garb.
4. Observing Ittai in the company, he suggests that, being a stranger and exile, he should not risk his fortunes with his own; but, on receiving an assurance that it was his deliberate desire so to do, he permits him to pass on.
5. The people of the district weep with a loud noise as he crosses the brook Kidron, and passes on toward the wilderness.
6. The ark of the covenant being brought out into the procession, when the people have passed the brook, David urges on Zadok that the ark be conveyed back to the city, expressing his humble hope that it might please God to allow him to see it once more, and, in any case, he submits to the appointments of Providence.
7. David requests Zadok and others with the ark to return to the city, and to inform him in the wilderness should anything of great importance arise.
8. The king expresses his grief by passing up the Mount of Olives, with covered head and weeping, accompanied by a covered and weeping multitude.
Submission in the day of adversity.
The order of the narrative of David's departure from Jerusalem is rather involved, as may be seen by comparing 2 Samuel 15:17, 2Sa 15:19, 2 Samuel 15:23, 2 Samuel 15:30; but the actual facts are clear enough. As soon as he became aware of the extent of the rebellion, he resolved to leave the city, and we have a record of the fact and the incidents accompanying it. The first and most obvious impression produced on the mind of the reader is the prompt and quiet submission of the king to the force of circumstances, not because he was of cowardly spirit, but because he saw in what was happening the providence of God. If we analyze the conduct and words of David in their relation to the great fall and Nathan's prophecy (2 Samuel 12:9-13), we shall see the leading features characterizing his submission, and in so doing we shall get a view of the main characteristics of all true Christian submission in the day of adversity.
I. A RECOGNITION OF PERSONAL DESERT. The prompt action, the surrender of regal state, the broken spirit, the barefooted departure from the seat of authority, and the tender references to God doing with him as seemed him good (2 Samuel 15:26), all point to more than a forced submission to mere military necessity. There may have been a deep inexpressible anguish on account of filial ingratitude, and the father's heart could not but weep in silence over an erring lost child; but the remembrance of his own great sin, and the words of the prophet of God, furnished the chief theme of reflection; for the son's ingratitude base as it was, had become the rod to chastise for the errors of the past. A forgiven man does not the less think of the sin as a disgrace and worthy of being branded as evil. Adversities come to us all—happily, few know the sorrow of such filial ingratitude—and the enlightened mind sees in them more than physical sequence. The doctrine that every sorrow that falls is for a specific sin need not be held. Yet all trouble is connected with the fact that sin is in the world, and a consciousness of personal shortcomings makes us feel, when adversity in home, estate, or health falls, that we deserve every pain that enters the heart. There is no assertion of right to be free from the trouble; rather the true heart says, "It is of the Lord's mercies that we are not consumed" (Lamentations 3:22).
II. ACQUIESCENCE IN GOD'S RIGHTEOUSNESS. To a human observer it might seem that it was a very unrighteous thing for the Supreme Ruler to allow so wise and good a king to be set aside and humiliated by a man so base and vain as Absalom, and many a man in his anguish might question the equity which allowed such sorrow to fall upon him when he had recovered from his special sins. David's spirit was the reverse of this. Not a word of complaint, not a murmur or a fret in trouble. During his long exile, when death encompassed him about, and he had washed his hands in innocency, and all the blame lay with Saul and Doeg the Edomite, he trusted in the justice of God; and this confidence, won in the days of comparative innocence, failed him not now, when, after his recovery from a fall, the storm burst upon him with more terrible violence. He knew and rested in the precious truth that the Lord reigned in righteousness and brought correction to his servants for their good. Yes; this is the faith of the faithful. Never do they, however terrible the disaster in this life, distrust the righteousness of God. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him," was true for Job and all of kindred spirit. Men who know not the new life cannot understand this. It is the alphabet of religious experience to all who are really born again and accepted in Christ. None of these things move them.
III. ACCOMMODATION TO NEW CIRCUMSTANCES. David does not yield to fretfulness and irresolution. He vacates his home, provides for his house, goes out to a place of safety, and, by his discreet arrangement with Zadok and Abiathar, keeps up means of connection with the city (verses 27, 28). Utter prostration under calamity does not come where there is the counteractive element of recognition of personal unworthiness and of the righteousness of God. Whether this trouble would pass he knew not, but as a wise man he adapted himself to the storm. As Jacob to his exile (Genesis 28:10-22.), as Moses to his deprivation (Deuteronomy 3:25-27; cf. Deuteronomy 34:1-6), so David makes the best of his position. Providential chastisements are not designed to paralyze action; their benefit is secured when, in a spirit of resignation and trust, we use our powers to bear them and to mitigate their incidence (Hebrews 12:5-12). Adversity becomes truly educational when we are stirred up to adjust our life to its conditions.
IV. CONSIDERATION FOR OTHERS, THAT THEY BE NOT UNNECESSARILY DRAWN INTO OUR SORROWS. David's removal into the open country was partly from policy and partly from feelings of kindness. He probably had suspicions, seeing that his trusty counsellor had been drawn over to Absalom (verse 12; cf. Psalms 41:9; Psalms 55:10-14), that Absalom had many friends in the city, and should he in concert with them come suddenly upon him and his friends, multitudes would fall victims to his malice. It was the same generous feeling that prompted him to suggest that Ittai, not being a Hebrew, should not embroil himself in this sad conflict, and so run a risk in case another king should reign. We see the same David as in earlier years, ever mindful of others, and magnanimous to the extreme. The dreadful sin had not destroyed his noble qualities, but had given a sadly tender form to their expression. There ate beautiful instances in Christian life of this kindly consideration for others. Fathers and mothers strive to shield their children from the woes which they may connect with their own want of wisdom or goodness. The great Saviour himself, in his dire trouble, sought to shield his faithful followers (John 14:1, John 14:27; John 17:9-12; John 18:8).
V. GRATEFUL ACCEPTANCE OF SYMPATHY AND AID. The voluntary sympathy and aid of the faithful bodyguard, and the six hundred who had shared his fortunes prior and subsequent to his departure from Garb, was as cool water to a thirsty soul; and the free services of Ittai and Zadok were greatly valued. In the adversities which Providence permits to come for purposes of discipline there is the merciful admixture of some provision to meet the pressing need of the hour—some human channel for Divine sympathy and compassion to enter the heart. Submission to the inscrutable will always includes a grateful recognition of this relief. The love and presence of Ruth was as balm to the desolate heart of Naomi as she mourned her forlorn condition, imparted a sweet gentleness to her, and enabled her to submit to the blow that had shattered her early joys. David and she had herein a common experience.
VI. A THOUGHTFUL SELF-SACRIFICING CARE FOR THE INTERESTS OF RELIGION. It was very beautiful conduct on the part of Zadok and Abiathar to bring out the ark of the covenant (verse 24), to form a prominent object in the sad procession out of the city; it revealed a tender consideration for the man who in his prosperity had associated his purest joys and most glorious triumphs with that precious symbol of the Divine presence. The ark could not but remind David of the mercy that endureth forever, and its presence with him would be regarded as a pledge of blessing in his wandering. But he desired the priests to take back the treasure, and he, meekly bowing to the chastisement, would go out and suffer the loss of the outward privileges of the sanctuary. The reason of this no doubt was that, as he had been the means of procuring a permanent resting place for the ark (2 Samuel 6:17-19), and constituting Jerusalem the centre of religious influence for the nation, he would not now undo that work and serve his own personal advantage at the cost of the people. No; the religious institutions should remain intact, the blessings of public worship and spiritual comfort should abide for Jerusalem, though he a poor exile pine in solitude and peril for the "beauty of the Lord" (Psalms 42:1-4; Psalms 43:1, Psalms 43:2). How beautiful this tender care for the interests of religion appears in true submission to adverse providences is known to all acquainted with Christian biography. Not a deed, not a word, not a thought is allowed that might be prejudicial to the kingdom of God. Storms may come, hopes may be blasted, if only the Name that is above every name be still honoured.
VII. A DELIBERATE COMMITTAL OF PRESENT AND FUTURE INTERESTS INTO THE HANDS OF GOD. "If I shall find favour in the eyes of the Lord, he will bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation. But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here I am, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him" (verses 25, 26). O blessed trust! O sweet resignation! O modest yet unshaken hope! Truly the discipline was already bearing precious fruit. The spiritual barrenness of those hot days of prosperity (ch. 11.) was clean gone. The temporal chastisement was in process, but the wandering child was a wanderer no more. Enviable beyond expression is this surrender of all interests to the wise and gracious hands of the covenant keeping God. Here comes out the essence of the true submission in the season of adversity. "He will," if he "delight" in me! "Let him do as seemeth him good!" No self-will, no boast of claim, no thought of shame; God is over all and can do all; all is in his care, and what he does shall be deemed the best and kindest and most just. Who does not see the purifying power of the grace of God? Holy David once fallen!
APPENDIX. The sorrowing king, passing over the ridge of the Mount of Olives, on bare feet and weeping, bearing on his heart a terrible woe, and full of pity for the people rejecting his authority, and at the same time entirely submissive to the sovereign will that so ordains, reminds us of the other King, greater, wiser, more holy, and bearing on his heart the woes of many sins not his own, pacing the slopes of that same mount, weeping bitter tears, lamenting for the rebellious people, bearing all for others' good, and submitting with unparalleled gentleness and trust to the sovereign will that ordained that so he must suffer.
Fidelity in misfortune.
It is believed by many that more remarkable virtues are developed in seasons of adversity than in those of prosperity. Their precise form will depend on the individuals concerned and the stress of the time. The conduct of the Gittites, and Ittai, and Zadok, and Abiathar is in pleasing contrast with that of Ahithophel and his coconspirators. In these men we may trace the characteristics of fidelity in misfortune.
I. IT IS ROOTED IN INTELLIGENT SYMPATHY. The six hundred had probably been with David and shared in his trials prior to his departure from Gath (1 Samuel 27:2). They knew him better than any others; they had formed a sympathy for him based on true knowledge, and they stood the test of the evil time. Of Ittai we do not know so much, but the words of the man prove that he appreciated the real character of David in spite of the slanders which such men as Ahithophel may have insinuated. The priestly functions of Zadok and Abiathar account for their interest in so devout a man as David. Their fidelity was not based on personal beauty, vague promises, and outward splendour (verses 1-6), but on intelligence and the feeling which accompanies it in a pure heart. So Ruth was true to Naomi (Ruth 1:16, Ruth 1:17). Any promise of attachment not resting on this foundation is worth nothing.
II. IT IS NOURISHED BY REFLECTION ON THE PAST. There were probably hours when the voice of temptation would come to allure them from a course So perilous in appearance, to a course promising reputation, wealth, and honour; for these men were of like passions with us all, and had no love for poverty and exile in themselves. But they knew David's history, and when temptation to prefer the winning side came they would nourish their vow by thinking of what he had been, how God had befriended him before, and how he had risen from the fall which once was his shame. It is something to be attached to a man with a good history. When we have pledged ourselves to a just though suffering cause, we may ward off many a temptation by allowing the reflective powers to work on the antecedents of the cause to which we are pledged. Thus the early Christians, by reflecting on Christ, his words and work, and all he had been to them, could endorse the dying words of the aged Polycarp.
III. IT IS RESPONSIVE TO FRANKNESS AND MAGNANIMITY. The frank and magnanimous way in which David offered to release them from all risks only drew out into stronger and more pronounced form the attachment already cherished (verses 19-21). Zadok could not but feel a profounder regard for the king aider hearing his words concerning the ark (verse 25). There is something so noble in this frankness and magnanimity in misfortune that a faithful heart recruits its strength by the very sight and sound of the nobleness. Holy sentiments grow in exchange. There is no sure bond between the wicked. Sin is morally a weakness. Holiness is a strength.
IV. IT IS CAPABLE OF RISKS. Whatever might befall the king in his trouble, these faithful ones were prepared to share in it. True affection is not blind, as some would say; it sees, but it fears not. The faithful mind is intent on being on the side of right and weakness, not on securing anything for self. There are risks in adherence to a righteous cause in the day of adversity. Christ points this out to his followers, and it is the sign of true as distinguished from professional fidelity that it can bear and is determined to bear whatever may come. The real clue to the determination is the conviction that right is supreme in its claims, and that present suffering is only an incident of a well-directed human existence (Matthew 10:16-18, Matthew 10:38; Matthew 20:22; Philippians 3:7-9).
2 Samuel 15:31-37
Prayer for Divine intervention.
The facts are:
1. David, hearing that Ahithophel was among the conspirators, prays that God would turn his counsel into foolishness.
2. On reaching the top of the Mount of Olives, the aged Hushai expresses his desire to go with David into exile, but David declines his offer on account of his infirmities.
3. On the other hand, David suggests that he can render him good service by returning to the city and living as a servant of Absalom, and he advises him to act in concert with Zadok and Abiathar.
4. Acting on this suggestion, Hushai returns to the city, and, some time after, Absalom also enters. There passed a pang through the heart of David as he beard of the treachery of his trusty counsellor Ahithophel, bitter because he had relied so much on this wise man's honesty and sagacity, and more bitter still as he remembered the cruel conspiracy which he once entered into with Joab against the life of Uriah. Yet the forgiven and renewed king, in the fulness of his anguish, was true to his revived religious instincts in at once raising his heart to God with the prayer that he would bring his own wisdom to bear so as to defeat the wisdom of this man. We see here—
I. THAT THERE IS IN THIS WORLD A CONFLICT BETWEEN HUMAN AND DIVINE WISDOM. David was well acquainted with two great facts:
(1) that the wisdom of God had designed him to be king over Israel to the end of his days (2 Samuel 7:11-16, 2 Samuel 7:28, 2 Samuel 7:29);
(2) that the wisest man in the land was devising means to frustrate this purpose, not perhaps consciously, yet practically. This is an epitome of the history of mankind. God has a purpose to carry out, and employs good men as his instruments,—all is arranged according to his infinite wisdom; but, on the other hand, there are men who bring their powers to bear so as to frustrate thin purpose. They may not know that they are setting their wisdom against the wisdom of God, but the facts are to that effect. Adam and Eve went against wisdom in the exercise of their wisdom. Pharaoh contrived to prevent what wisdom had ordained. The wisdom of scribes and Pharisees was arrayed against him who was the "Wisdom of God." In the antagonism of men to the gospel the apostle saw a case of the "wisdom of the world" striving against the wisdom which was so far above theirs that their wisdom was more properly folly (1 Corinthians 1:18-25). Men who live in sin, who try to dispense with Christ, really set their wisdom against the great and blessed order which is founded on eternal wisdom. The attitude of the world to the Church may be expressed in the terms just stated. Oh that men were wise!
II. THAT A GOOD MAN BELIEVES IN GOD'S POWER TO COUNTERACT THE WISDOM OF MEN. This was the intellectual basis of David's prayer for intervention against the devices of Ahithophel. Faith in God's appointment of prayer is associated with a perception of the fact that God can and does so control human action as to restrain it within definite lines, and to secure in spite of it certain issues that are for the good of the world. A theism that renders God inactive, or bound in the unbreakable chains of a physical necessity, had better be frank and renounce the sacred name, and say once for all, "Force is in eternal motion along lines eternally fixed." God is a Spirit, and as such has free access to the spirits of men. His unseen and unconscious contact may paralyze or divert thought, and render possible ideas which, when carried out, will prove to be subversive of the very ends which the wicked thinker once had set his heart upon. We don't know how much we owe to this silent action of God on evil men. He also, as a free Spirit, is in contact with the ultimate elements of things, and can act on them without dislocation of the order of nature, more perfectly than we can in the effort of our will. Many Christian people do not, it is feared, half believe in this great truth, and do not sufficiently see its ample bearing on the great stress of life. God not only looks into men and sees them through and through; he is an Actor, and brings his wisdom to put to nought the wisdom of the wise.
III. THAT A GOOD MAN IN EXTREMITY NATURALLY PUTS THIS BELIEF INTO PRACTICE. David felt that he could not cope with the combination against him. His heart fainted at the thought of the sagacity of the counsellor uniting with the daring and dash of the ambitious usurper. His prayer was true to nature. We do not in ordinary circumstances allow our faith to have sufficient influence over our lives. Trouble brings us straight to God. Our vast resources are drawn upon when heart and flesh begin to fail. All prayer is a cry for God's help, or it is nothing; hut the earnestness and intensity of the cry are proportioned to the perception of peril.
IV. THAT PRAYER FOR HELP, IN THE CASE OF A GOOD MAN, IS ATTENDED WITH A DISCREET USE OF MEANS TO SECURE THE END IN VIEW. The practical character of David's religion is seen in this—that, as soon as he had committed his desperate case to God, he took steps, through Hushai, to counteract the wisdom of Ahithophel. He knew that God worked on the minds of men partly by the agency of other men, to whom he secretly imparts wisdom and discretion. Not only would secret unconscious influences operate within Ahithophel to cause him to blunder in advice, hut thoughts would be directed in the minds of Hushai and Zadok so that they would act at the right season and in the right way. This combination of trust in God and action among men is characteristic of all true religious life. "The effectual fervent prayer of the righteous man availeth much," and his labour also "is not in vain in the Lord."
1. In all our dealings with men, and efforts to get them to act, we should remember that we can get at them through God.
2. The Church, in its conflict with the world, should rest in the consolation that the wisdom of God can never fail.
3. Much of our success in Christian work depends on our assigning men to duties suited to their character, age, and position.
4. Good men who are compelled by force of circumstances to live among men of evil purpose may use their knowledge of the world and its ways so as to promote the best interests of the kingdom of God.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
2 Samuel 15:1-12
The rebellion of Absalom.
About twelve years had elapsed since David's fall into sin. One of its effects was the rebellion of Absalom. The history of this event—most critical for the theocratic monarchy, and "revealing the thoughts of many hearts"—sheds a clear light upon the condition of Israel. "We seem to know all the people; the natural manners and vivid outbursts of feeling make the scene stand out with a kind of homely poetry." In it we discern the presence and influence of:
1. Divine chastisement, announced by the prophet (2 Samuel 12:10), "The sword shall never depart from thine house," etc. Forgiveness of sin does not annul its natural consequences. Such consequences are sure, however they may appear to be delayed; and, though inflicted by the hand of man, they do not less really proceed from the hand of God. Already David had experienced the effects of his transgression in his family; he must now experience them, on a larger scale, in his kingdom.
2. Defective administration of judgment by the king (2 Samuel 15:3); due, not so much to advancing age (over sixty), as to timidity, irresolution, and want of energy, consequent on what had taken place; and "a tendency to shrink into private life, with a preference for such duties as preparing materials for the future temple rather than those of active government;" perhaps also to serious illness, brought on by trouble of heart, and partially incapacitating him from performing the increasing duties of his office (Psalms 38:1-22, Psalms 39:1-13, Psalms 41:1-13, Psalms 55:1-23).
3. Prevalent dissatisfaction among the people. His sin "broke the powerful spell which had hitherto bound the whole nation to the name of David" (Ewald). "The imperfections and defects of his internal administration of the kingdom, when the time of his brilliant victories was past, became more and more perceptible to the people, and furnished occasion for dissatisfaction with his government" (Keil). "His pious actions, his attention to the public ordinances of worship, perhaps even his psalms, had for the time lost their credit and their sacredness. Not every one was capable of estimating aright the repentance of the fallen man, and his humiliation before the Almighty. It was almost forgotten that he was king by the grace of God" (Krummacher). "The infirm condition of the king, his eminent godliness and opposition to popular feelings, and the distance of age that now separated him from the sympathies of the younger portion of the people" (Blaikie); some discontent in his own tribe of Judah (2 Samuel 15:10); "the still lingering hopes of the house of Saul and of the tribe of Benjamin (2 Samuel 16:3, 2 Samuel 16:8); and the deep-rooted feeling of Ephraim and the northern tribes (2 Samuel 19:41) against Judah" (Stanley);—all combined to make the people ripe for insurrection.
4. Private animosity on the part of its leaders: Absalom, on account of his long banishment in Geshur and exclusion from court; Ahithophel, the grandfather of Bathsheba (2 Samuel 15:12; 2 Samuel 2:0 Samuel:3), on account of the dishonour done to his house; Amasa, son of Abigal, David's half-sister (2 Samuel 17:25), possibly on account of some neglect or discourtesy shown toward him. "These four years (2 Samuel 15:7) were for David a time of increasing care and anxiety, for that which was planned cannot have remained altogether concealed from him; but he had neither the courage nor the strength to smother the evil undertaking in the germ" (Delitzsch, in Psalms 41:1-13.). The course of Absalom (now twenty-seven years of age) was marked by—
I. AMBITION CRIMINALLY INDULGED. Sinful perversion of the natural desire of preeminence; unhallowed love of power and glory (as in the case of Adonijah, his brother, 1 Kings 1:5), the bait by which Satan seeks to allure men to a false worship (Matthew 4:9; 1 Samuel 15:1-9).
"He showed him in a jewell'd wreath
All crowns the earth bestows;
But not the rankling thorns beneath,
That pierce the wearer's brows."
Absalom's ambition was peculiarly culpable; because of his:
1. Self-conceit; his selfish, proud, and false estimate of his own worth. He was "the representative of vain glory and self-conceit (Wordsworth). Those are commonly most ambitious of preferment that are least fit for it" (Matthew Henry).
2. Covetousness; the object of his desire belonging to another, and unattainable save by injustice. It is not likely that he wished simply to share the sovereignty of Israel.
3. Disaffection and unnatural envy toward his father.
4. Disloyalty toward the king.
5. Rebellion against God, the supreme King of Israel, by whose ordinance David had been appointed. He had, apparently, "no spark of religious principle in his breast."
6. Self-will; indisposition to submit to the will of Jehovah, to defer to the nomination of the king, or to wait for his decease. He resolved to anticipate all, and have his own way. "He that destroys self-will, destroys hell."
7. Suspicion and jealousy of his brother. "It is our impression that David already knew that Solomon was, by the Lord's appointment, to be his successor to the throne. In the promise made to David through Nathan, it was clearly indicated that a son not yet born was to sit upon his throne, and when Solomon was burn he could not but understand that this applied to him. If he had any doubt of this, it must have been removed by his knowledge that the 'Lord loved him,' and had, through Nathan, bestowed upon him the new name of Jedidiah (2 Samuel 12:24, 2 Samuel 12:25). It is even probable that he had, tong before the present time, if not from the first, received those more distinct intimations of the Lord's will in this matter, which he mentions in 1 Chronicles 28:5-7 …. As the intimations we have traced were long before afforded, it is likely that the pledge (1 Kings 1:17) which was founded on them had not been so long delayed" (Kitto, 'Daily Bible Illust.'). "Absalom was a bold, valiant, revengeful, haughty, enterprising, magnificent, eloquent, and popular prince; he was also rich, ambitious, and vain of his personal accomplishments; and, after the death of Amnon and his reconciliation with his father, he saw no hindrance in his way to the throne. He despised Solomon because of the meanness of his birth and his tender years. He was himself of the blood royal, not only by his father, but also by his mother; and doubtless in his own apprehension of sufficient age, authority, and wisdom to sustain the weight of government. He seemed to stand nearest to the throne; but his sin was that he sought it during his father's lifetime, and endeavoured to dethrone him in order to sit in his stead" (Calmer).
"O sacred hunger of ambitious minds,
And impotent desire of men to reign!
Whom neither dread of God, that devils binds,
Nor laws of men, that common weals contain,
Nor bands of nature, that wild beasts restrain,
Can keep from outrage and from doing wrong,
Where they may hope a kingdom to obtain:
No faith so firm, no trust can be so strong,
No love so lasting then, that may endure long."
('The Faerie Queene,' canto 12.)
II. POPULARITY FRAUDULENTLY ACQUIRED. "Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel" (1 Chronicles 28:6); by methods which many a demagogue has since adopted. "David won their hearts by noble deeds of generosity, as well as by deeds of prowess;" but Absalom stole them by:
1. Subtlety and guile.
2. Ostentation; affecting royal state. "Absalom prepared him chariots," etc. (1 Chronicles 28:1; 2 Samuel 13:23, 2 Samuel 13:27; 1 Samuel 8:4-22):
3. Assiduity, in attending to public affairs. "Absalom rose up early," etc. (1 Chronicles 28:2). "Those who least understand the duties and could least endure the burdens of authority are commonly most desirous of it; but when ambition prompts, the most self-indulgent assume the appearance of diligence, and the most haughty that of affability and condescension; and while men aspire to the pinnacle of earthly grandeur, they, for the time, pay the most abject court to the meanest of the mob!" (Scott).
4. Courtesy and pretended sympathy. "Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou?" etc.; "He put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him" (1 Chronicles 28:6).
"And then I stole all courtesy from heaven,
And dressed myself in such humility,
That I did pluck allegiance from men's hearts,
Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths,
Even in. the presence of the crowned king."
('King Henry IV.,' Part 1.Acts 3:0. sc. 2.)
5. Flattery. "Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right" (1 Chronicles 28:3).
6. Disparagement of the existing, adminstration, and insinuation of the king's incapability and neglect. "But there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee."
7. Fair and lavish promises, and holding out the prospect of a golden age under his reign. "And Absalom said, Oh that I were made judge in the land!" etc. (1 Chronicles 28:4). It is not to be wondered at that, by such arts as these, aided by his ready speech and attractive person and manners, he turned the hearts of the people, already prepared for change, from their rightful monarch. "After thus flattering the people, and ingratiating himself into their favour during four years, he decides upon the execution of his cunningly devised project" (Ewald). "The success of this godless rebel shows a lack of true theocratic feeling in the mass of the people, who, in abandoning the king's government, were guilty of opposition to the government of God" (Erdmann).
III. CONSPIRACY CRAFTILY CARRIED OUT (1 Chronicles 28:7-12); apparent in:
1. The selection of the place, Hebron (his birthplace), notable on many accounts, especially as the chief city of Judah, where sympathy could be calculated upon. "There may have been many persons there who had been displeased by the removal of the court to Jerusalem" (Keil). "Accustomed from the earliest times to independence and pre-eminence, Judah stood proudly apart under David even after Saul's death, and now probably offered some opposition to the growing unity of the kingdom" (Ewald).
2. The profession of a religious purpose—the fulfilment of a vow (1Ch 28:7, 1 Chronicles 28:8; 1 Samuel 1:11). "With a subtle refinement of hypocrisy, he pretended that his thank offering was for his return to Jerusalem" (Plumptre). "No villainy can be termed complete which is not disguised under the mask of religion, especially at those times when the profession of godliness is treated with general respect."
3. The obtaining of the king's sanction: "Go in peace" (1 Chronicles 28:9); thereby disarming suspicion and winning confidence.
4. The despatch of emissaries through all the tribes, to prepare for the simultaneous proclamation, "Absalom reigneth in Hebron!" (1 Chronicles 28:10).
5. The securing of the presence of numerous persons from Jerusalem; depriving the king of their aid, and making them unwittingly adherents of Absalom (1 Chronicles 28:11).
6. The gaining of the open support of Ahithophel, whose secret counsel had doubtless been long before afforded (1 Chronicles 28:12, 31). He was "the sinews of Absalom's cause" (Blunt). "While the sacrifices were proceeding, Absalom sent for him from Giloh, and the presence of this influential personage appears to have caused the final outbreak of a conspiracy which had been carefully prepared, and which immediately spread with amazing rapidity, and pouring like a wild mountain torrent from the ancient capital of Judah, soon threatened to flood the whole country" (Ewald).
IV. INSURRECTION SUCCESSFULLY INCITED, only to be disastrously defeated. "And the conspiracy was strong," etc. Its success was:
1. Great, swift, surprising. A few hours later, Jerusalem was in the hands of Absalom.
2. Temporary. The prosperity of the wicked is but for a moment.
3. Followed by signal retribution, whilst itself employed as an instrument thereof, by Divine providence, whose ways, though mysterious, are always just and right. The death of Absalom (2 Samuel 18:14) was "the end of a bitter family history, whose every sorrow was linked to the father's blame." The people who shared his crime shared his punishment. The fatal spark of tribal enmity kindled under his influence, though quenched for the moment, soon burst forth again, and ultimately destroyed the unity, independence, and strength of the nation.—D.
2 Samuel 15:13-18
David's flight from Jerusalem.
"Arise! and let us flee" (2 Samuel 15:14). References:
1. Leaving the palace, on receiving news from Hebron (after the harvest and vintage, 2 Samuel 16:1; 2 Samuel 17:28; Psalms 4:7).
2. At "the Far House" (Beth-hammerhak), on the outskirts of the city (2 Samuel 15:17); and at "the olive tree in (on the road to) the wilderness of Judah" (LXX.); the procession formed; Ittai the Gittite.
3. Passing over the Kidron; the signal of flight; loud and general wailing (2 Samuel 15:23).
4. Commencement of the ascent of Mount Olivet; Zadok and Abiathar (2 Samuel 15:24-29).
5. Ascending the mountain amidst loud wailing (2 Samuel 15:30); tidings concerning Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:31).
6. At the top (about noonday), "where God was worshipped" (2 Samuel 15:32); Hushai the Archite (2 Samuel 15:32-37).
7. Descending, on the other side; Ziba, with refreshments (2 Samuel 16:1-4).
8. At Bahurim; Shimei (2 Samuel 16:5-13).
9. Coming "weary" (or, to "Ayephim") (2 Samuel 16:14); to the fords (Authorized Version, "plains") of the wilderness, or passages of the wilderness leading to the Jordan; and resting there for the night.
10. Crossing the river (after midnight), on the arrival of Ahimaaz and Jonathan with news from Jerusalem (2 Samuel 17:21, 2 Samuel 17:22); and marching onward "by the morning light" toward Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24, 2 Samuel 17:27-29). "There is no single day in the Jewish history of which so elaborate an account remains as of this memorable flight" (Stanley). It was probably the morning after Absalom's revolt when news came from Hebron. Of all the "evil tidings" that David ever received (2 Samuel 13:21, 2 Samuel 13:30), none were more unexpected or alarming. He must determine at once whether to face the gathering storm or flee before it. With something of his former decision he chose the latter course; his servants (state officers, attendants, soldiers) declared themselves ready to do his bidding; and "he went forth and all his household" (wives, sons, daughters), "all the people" ("servants," LXX.) "after him," etc. At first, no doubt, struck with consternation, he yet speedily regained his composure (Psa 112:1-10 :12); and came to his decision not from abject fear, or personal cowardice (2 Samuel 18:2), but (as others should do in similar critical and perilous positions) from motives of—
I. PIETY; or humble submission to the chastisement of God. Lest he "bring evil upon us;" or "drive over us the evil" or calamity which now threatens, and in which David sees the fulfilment of predicted judgment (2 Samuel 12:10, 2 Samuel 12:11).
1. He discerns therein the operation of Divine justice on account of his sin (2 Samuel 16:11). Trouble and danger bring sin to remembrance; and those who remember their sin are quick to perceive the chastening hand of God where others see only the wrathful hand of man. In the view of faith, wicked men are instruments employed by the supreme and righteous Judge. Resentment toward them is thereby moderated, the sense of sin deepened, and suffering borne in a different manner. "Wherefore doth a living man complain?" etc. (Lamentations 3:39; Micah 7:9).
2. He is persuaded of the folly of resistance to the Divine power. Such resistance can be of no avail against the Almighty; it ought not to be attempted; and it can only result in defeat and ruin (as in the case of Saul). If he should remain and defend the city, David had no inward assurance, as in former conflicts, that God would be with him. He rather felt that in resisting Absalom at this moment he would be resisting God. He did not even deem it needful to consult the oracle (2 Samuel 15:24).
3. He acquiesces without murmuring in the Divine will (2 Samuel 15:26), "accepts the punishment of his iniquity" (Leviticus 26:41), and patiently endures the wrath of man, knowing that it is subject to Divine control. When a hurricane sweeps over the land, the things that cannot bend are broken; but those that bow beneath it are preserved, and rise up again when it has passed by. "Humble yourselves," etc. (James 4:10).
4. He hopes for deliverance in the Divine mercy (2 Samuel 15:25; 2 Samuel 16:12). "But as for me, I trust in thee" (Psalms 55:23). Herein lay the secret of David's passivity, tranquillity, and forbearance during his flight.
II. POLICY; or prudent counsel against the assaults of the wicked. Piety without policy is too simple to be safe.
1. He does not presume upon the protection of God, without, on his part, exercising proper caution and energy. A good man's submission to Divine chastisement does not require that he should always remain in the way of danger or voluntarily invite human hostility and cruelty. "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another" (Matthew 10:23).
2. He does not undertake an enterprise rashly, or without adequate means of success. David probably deemed the number of his "servants" present with him in Jerusalem insufficient for the defence of the city. If, indeed, he had the assurance of Divine help, he might have thought otherwise (2 Samuel 5:19). "His departure was an admirable means of testing the real strength of both parties" (Ewald).
3. He does not place an undue confidence in man. "David was perhaps afraid that Jerusalem might fall into Absalom's power through treachery" (Keil). "Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17; John 2:24; Psalms 118:8, Psalms 118:9).
4. He makes use of the means which are most likely to ensure safety and success. "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself" (Proverbs 22:3). If there must be conflict, delay appeared to him desirable; it would afford time for his faithful adherents to assemble; and, in the open field, the tried valour and discipline of his veterans would give them an advantage. Pious men are not unfrequently deficient in prudence (Luke 16:8); since, however, they are sometimes beset by ravening wolves, it is necessary that they should be "wise as serpents" (Matthew 10:16), taking care nevertheless to avoid guile, and to be "harmless as doves." "When he was reviled," etc. (1 Peter 2:23).
III. PITY; or generous concern for the preservation of the imperilled. Foreseeing the misery and bloodshed likely to ensue from awaiting the attack of Absalom, he sought by flight not merely to save his own life, but chiefly:
1. To secure the safety of his helpless household, and aid the escape of his faithful followers (2 Samuel 15:19, 2 Samuel 15:20).
2. To spare the city the horrors of a siege. "He preferred the safety of the people to his own; and was thus also a figure of him who said, in the garden of Gethsemane, 'If ye seek me, let these go their way '" (Wordsworth).
3. To save the life of his rebellious son (2 Samuel 18:12); for which he would have given his own (2 Samuel 18:33).
4. To prevent the miseries of civil war (2 Samuel 2:26; 2 Samuel 3:1), and promote the welfare of the divided and misguided people. If collision could be now avoided, it might perchance be altogether averted (2 Samuel 15:25), or at least occur with less injurious consequences. He was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the "sheep" (2 Samuel 5:2; 2 Samuel 24:17). "Let thy blessing be upon thy people" (Psalms 3:8). His piety was honoured, his policy justified, his pity succeeded by renewed attachment (2 Samuel 19:14), and, in all, the overruling providence of God was displayed. He left Jerusalem in humiliation and grief; he returned (three months afterwards) in triumph (2 Samuel 19:39, 2 Samuel 19:40). Having practically resigned his sceptre to God, from whom he received it, God gave it back into his hands. "As David falls away from Jehovah to be more firmly bound to him, so Israel turns away from David to be (as the close of the history shows) more devoutly attached to him. The prelude to this first clearing up of the relations between king and people is given in the conduct of the faithful band who stand firmly by David in the general defection" (Baumgarten).—D.
2 Samuel 15:19-22
The devotedness of Ittai.
"As Jehovah liveth," etc. (2 Samuel 15:21). In his flight from Jerusalem:
1. David experienced much alleviation of his trouble; as in his flight from the court of Saul (nearly forty years before). He was not left alone (1 Samuel 22:1, 1 Samuel 22:2). His "servants" gathered round him, and professed their readiness to follow him (2 Samuel 15:15). Halting with his household at "the Far House," he found himself accompanied by his bodyguard, the Cretans and Philistines (under Benaiah, 2 Samuel 8:18); his six hundred veterans (under Abishai, 2 Samuel 23:17-39) who had been with him in his early wanderings and followed him from Gath onward (Gittites, equivalent to "Gibborim," 1 Samuel 23:13; 1Sa 27:2; 1 Samuel 30:9; 2 Samuel 2:3; 2 Samuel 5:6); and a part at least of the regular soldiery—the host (under Joab, 2 Samuel 8:16; 2 Samuel 18:1, 2 Samuel 18:2). His attention was arrested by the presence of Ittai the Gittite (who, from some unknown cause, had recently come from Garb) with his brethren (kinsfolk) and children. "The Lord has the hearts of all men in his hands, and if he be our friend, we shall not want friends" (Guild). "Our foremost friends are sometimes raised up among persons from whom we had the least expectations" (Scott).
2. He exhibited noble generosity in his conduct. "Wherefore goest thou with us?" etc. (2 Samuel 15:19-21). "This unexpected meeting with Ittai appeared to the royal fugitive almost like a friendly greeting of his God, and dropped the first soothing balsam drops into the painful wounds of his deeply lacerated heart" (Krummacher). But David, now himself a wanderer, had no desire to make the condition of this "stranger and exile" more homeless and distressing by dragging him into his own misfortunes; released him from whatever obligations of service he may have incurred; advised him to offer his services to the new king; and expressed the wish, "Mercy and truth [from God] be with thee" (2 Samuel 2:6).
"I am a poor fallen man, unworthy now
To be thy lord and master; seek the king …
Neglect him not; make use now, and provide
For thine own future safety."
('King Henry VIII.')
3. He exerted a powerful attraction on his followers; as aforetime. His language was really a pathetic appeal; not unlike that of Jesus, "Will ye also go away?" etc. (John 6:66-69). "Ittai declared his resolution (with a fervour which almost inevitably recalls a like profession made almost on the same spot to the great Descendant of David, Matthew 26:35, centuries afterwards) to follow him in life and death" (Stanley). It was "a beautiful instance of loyal constancy and faithful devotion in a Philistine soldier at a time of apostasy and defection. His truth and fidelity are brought out in a stronger and clearer light by the contrast with the treachery of Absalom, Ahithophel, and eventually of Joab and Abiathar" (Wordsworth). He may be regarded, in his devotion to David, as a pattern of devotion to Christ. It was—
I. SEVERELY TESTED. Like him, the follower of.Christ is often tried and proved, by:
1. The prospect of difficulties, privations, and perils in his service. These are all known to the Lord, for he has himself endured them; and he forewarns his disciples of them (Luke 9:57, Luke 9:58; Luke 14:25-33). He would not have them follow him from mere impulse.
2. The promise of ease, safety, and advantage in other service; worldly pleasure, treasure, power, honour, in devotion to the prince and "god of this world."
3. The example and influence of many persons; bound by stronger ties to serve their rightful king; but forsaking their allegiance to him, joining in revolt against his authority, seeking his life, and heaping reproaches on his head (2 Samuel 16:11). "From that time many of his disciples went back," etc..
4. The peculiar circumstances in which he is placed, the special inducements suggested thereby, and the favourable opportunities afforded for the exercise of his freedom. There are times in which the Lord (however much he values and desires his aid) does not urge him to continue, but seems to do the opposite, and give him liberty, if he be disposed, to depart. So he tests his disciples, sifts the false from the true, and, though it cause the former to fall away, it makes the latter cling to him more closely than ever. The decision between Christ and antichrist has to be made, not only at first, but also often afterwards.
II. WORTHILY DISPLAYED, as it should be by every follower of "the Son of David," in:
1. The deliberate preference of his service to any other. "Just as in the great French Revolution, the famous Swiss Guard showed a brave, though mercenary fidelity, so Ittai, having eaten of the king's salt, determines that where his lord the king is, in life or death, he will be."
2. The disinterested motives by which he is actuated (Ruth 1:16). Ittai was not a mere mercenary, serving David for advantage (Job 1:9). He was influenced possibly by gratitude for the kind reception he met with on coming from Gath as "a stranger and an exile," by a sense of obligation imposed by friendship and previous engagements, by a conviction of the rectitude of the king's cause; certainly by admiration and affection for his person. Hence he wished to be with him, to share his sufferings and to aid in his defence. He was ready "to lay down his life for his sake." An intelligent, sincere, passionate love to the Person of Christ is essential to his service. "Lovest thou me?"
3. The open and solemn pledge of loyalty and fidelity. "As Jehovah liveth," etc. (1 Samuel 29:6; 2 Samuel 4:9). Ittai was doubtless a convert to the faith of Israel. "Whosoever shall confess me before men," etc. (Matthew 10:32; Romans 10:10).
4. The practical, unconditional, whole hearted consecration of himself and all he possessed to the king's service. "And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him." "Who then is willing to consecrate himself this day unto the Lord?" (1 Chronicles 29:5).
III. GRACIOUSLY APPROVED. "And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over" (2 Samuel 15:22), "with me" (LXX.). If he said no more, his look and manner would give peculiar significance to his words. The Lord testifies his reception and approval of every devoted servant by:
1. Giving him the assurance thereof in his heart.
2. Fulfilling his desire to be with him. "If any man serve me," etc. (John 12:26).
3. Appointing him to his post of duty, and making his way plain (John 11:9, John 11:10).
4. Exalting him to a position of responsibility and honour (2 Samuel 18:2), in which he aids the king in gaining a great victory, and shares the joy of a great triumph. The latter, like the former life of this Philistine, is wrapped in obscurity. But his devotion to "the Lord's anointed" shines like a star among the heathen, and condemns the lukewarmness, selfishness, and unfaithfulness of many "who profess and call themselves Christians."
"Lo: of those
Who call, 'Christ! Christ!' there shall be many found,
In judgment, further off from him by far
Than such to whom his Name was never known.
Christians like these the Ethiop shall condemn;
When that the two assemblages shall part—
One rich eternally, the other poor."
(Dante, 'Purg.,' 19.)
2 Samuel 15:23-29
(ACROSS THE KIDRON.)
The ark restored to its place.
"Carry back the ark of God to the city" (2 Samuel 15:25). Having crossed the Kidron ravine amidst the loud wailing of the people, and halted for a moment in the ascent of Olivet, David was met by Zadok (of the elder branch of the Aaronic family), with the Levites, carrying the ark (2 Samuel 6:1-23.), and by Abiathar (a descendant of Eli, of the younger branch). The former had come to him at Hebron (about thirty years before), "a young man mighty of valour" (1 Chronicles 12:28); the latter was a still older friend of David (1 Samuel 22:23), occupying the highest official position (Zadok being his vicar only, or sagan, 1 Kings 2:27, 1 Kings 2:35; 1 Chronicles 16:39), but not taking the most prominent part in active service, and perhaps entertaining "jealousy of his rival" (Blunt). They doubtless intended to render valuable service to the king by bringing the ark. Why, then, did he send it back? Not from want of proper regard for it (2 Samuel 15:25, latter part). He did not, indeed, put a superstitious confidence in it, like Hophni and Phinehas. He esteemed and reverenced it as an appointed symbol of the Divine presence and "favour," and a valuable means of Divine worship and service (1 Samuel 4:11), just as highly as when he conducted it in triumph to its resting place (2 Samuel 6:16). But "he would not use the ark as a charm; he had too much reverence for it to risk it in his personal peril" (Stanley). He locked upon it as belonging to God and to his people, not to himself; considered, not only that it would be of no advantage to him in present circumstances, but also that he was not justified in removing it from the city and depriving the people of its presence; that rather it was the will of God that he should himself be deprived of it, at least for a season; and thus he honoured God in adversity as he had formerly done in prosperity. "David is always great in affliction. His conduct throughout, his goodness, resignation, and patience, are clearly evinced in all these trying scenes" (Kitto). Consider him as an example of:
1. Spiritual insight. He perceived the true nature and worth of the ark; that the symbol was distinct from the reality of the Divine favour, did not necessarily ensure its possession, was not an essential condition of it; that its value depended upon the relation of men to God (1 Samuel 6:1-9). Affliction often teaches us how to regard the outward privileges and ordinances of religion. "He was contented at this time to forbear the presence of the ark, having his confidence in God, and not relying altogether upon the external sacrament" (Willet).
2. Deep humility. Having acted unworthily of the ark of the "testimony," and disobeyed the commandments of God, he deemed himself unworthy of the honour of its presence. His deprivation of it was a just chastisement for his misuse and abuse of it. "I am not worthy," etc. (Genesis 32:10; Luke 5:8; Matthew 8:8).
3. Holy affection toward the "habitation" of God (Psalms 26:8); toward God himself; and toward his people. Hence, although banished from the ark of God, he desired that the God of the ark should still be honoured by others, and do them good. "Observe his disinteresed self-sacrifice for the good of the people. He would not punish his subjects for his son's sins" (Wordsworth). "It argues a good principle to be more concerned for the Church's prosperity than for our own, to prefer Jerusalem before our chief joy, the success of the gospel and the flourishing of the Church above our own wealth, credit, ease, safety, even when they are most at hazard" (Matthew Henry). "Let thy Name be magnified forever" (2 Samuel 7:26).
4. Lofty faith in the presence of God in all places, his superintendence of all events, his acquaintance with all hearts, his righteousness and goodness, favour, guidance, mercy, and truth (2 Samuel 15:20). It is "an instance of David's clear faith in the omnipresence of God and of his spiritual elevation from the outward symbols of the sanctuary to the Divine essence that was symbolized by them." "Salvation belongeth unto the Lord," etc. (Psalms 3:8; Psalms 4:3; Psalms 5:7).
5. Unquenchable hope. "If I find favour," etc. (2 Samuel 15:26). So far from despairing of God's favour, he cherished the expectation of being delivered "out of all his troubles," brought back to Jerusalem, seeing the ark again, and worshipping in his tabernacle with joy. "My hope is in thee" (Psalms 39:7; Psalms 42:5; Psalms 71:14).
6. Entire resignation, "And if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him" (2Sa 15:26; 1 Samuel 3:18; 2 Samuel 12:15-23). "He besought God, as Alexander Severus told his soldiers a generous and a wise man should; praying for the. best things and bearing whatever should befall" (Delany). "This marks strongly his subdued and right spirit, partly induced, we doubt not, by the humility of his own conscious transgressions. He fell; but it was the fall of the upright, and he rose again; submitting himself meekly in the mean time to the will of God" (Chalmers).
7. Practical wisdom. "Art thou a seer? return to the city," etc. (2 Samuel 15:27-29); "Behold! return," etc. (LXX.). "The peculiar exercises of religion ought to precede, but not to exclude, the use of every prudent means of securing success in lawful undertakings" (Scott). When, in time of adversity, we decline the aid of our friends in one form, because it seems to us injudicious and improper, we should gladly avail ourselves of it in another; knowing that by such instrumentality the help for which we look to God is most commonly vouchsafed. "Among the few faithful amidst the faithless, the first place belongs to the priests, whom loyalty and interest alike bound to the throne. So they were ready if they had been permitted to have carried even the ark to share the exile of the king. They will have their loyalty crowned by seeing the ark, the tent of a once nomad worship, signifying by its flame a spiritual life, set up in Jerusalem; the younger amongst them may see a temple rise, the scene of as noble a worship as the world has yet known" (R. Williams).—D.
2 Samuel 15:30
David's tears or Olivet.
1. What a scene of fallen greatness and bitter grief is here depicted! He who yesterday reigned in Jerusalem, as the anointed (Messiah) of Jehovah, is today a homeless fugitive (2 Samuel 15:20), toiling up the ascent of Olivet, in deep humiliation and undisguised sorrow, with head covered (2 Samuel 3:31, 2 Samuel 3:32; 2 Samuel 19:4) and feet bare; accompanied by stern warriors and tender women and children, all, like himself, with covered heads "going and weeping." It is "as one long funeral procession of men wailing over the fall of all their hopes" (Plumptre).
2. What an instance of moral excellence and overcoming faith is here afforded! "The greatness of David did not depend on his royal state; it was within his lofty soul and inseparable from his commanding character" (Milman). He is considerate, generous (2 Samuel 15:19), submissive (2 Samuel 15:26), prayerful (2 Samuel 15:31), grateful (2 Samuel 16:4), forbearing (2 Samuel 16:10), and hopeful (2 Samuel 16:12). His suffering manifests his sincerity, his outward shame his inward worth; and "out of the depths" of his trouble he rises to the loftiest elevation (Psalms 130:1; Psa 84:6; 2 Samuel 23:13, 2 Samuel 23:14; Hosea 2:15).
3. What an outline is here furnished of the ideal representation, given by psalmist and prophet, of the suffering Servant of Jehovah (Psalms 22:1-31.; Isaiah 53:1-12.), and fully realized in him who, on the same spot, a thousand years afterwards, wept over the sinning and perishing city! "And when he was come near," etc. (Luke 19:41-44; Luke 23:27-31). Consider—
I. THE SORROWS OF DAVID. Why did he weep? Not so much on account of his exile, privation, etc; as on account of:
1. The grievous transgressions which he had formerly committed (Psalms 39:12; Psalms 6:6), and which were now brought afresh to remembrance. "My sin is ever before me."
2. The ungrateful treatment which he received, from his son whom he tenderly loved (2 Samuel 16:11), from his subjects whom he faithfully served, from his adversaries who hated him "wrongfully" and "without a cause" (Psalms 69:3-5). Neither his former transgressions nor his recent defects justified rebellion against his authority as king. Indeed, his personal piety and theocratic policy made him to many an object of hatred and reproach; and in him the Divine King of Israel himself was despised.(Psalms 5:10; Psalms 22:8; Psalms 42:3; Psalms 69:7, Psalms 69:9, Psalms 69:20). "Though David suffered for his many sins, he had yet through penitence already obtained forgiveness of sins. Thus he was the righteous sufferer, who could appeal to God for the purity of his heart and the holiness of his cause" (Erdmann).
3. The national calamity which he beheld—the distress of "all the people that was with him" (2 Samuel 15:23), the distracted condition of the country, the ruin which thousands would, bring upon themselves: filling him with commiseration (1 Samuel 15:35 : Psalms 119:136):
4. The Divine displeasure which he experienced against his sin and the sins of the people; regarding this calamity as a sign thereof, enduring it in common with them, and bearing it, as far as possible, in his own person (2 Samuel 24:17). "Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my sorrow," etc. (Lamentations 1:12; Jeremiah 9:1). "When I fall I shall arise," etc. (Micah 7:8, Micah 7:9; Psalms 31:5).
II. THE SORROWS OF CHRIST; arising from:
1. His relation to a sinful race, whose nature he assumed and among whom he dwelt, "yet without sin;" the suffering "which a pure and holy nature must feel from the mere contiguity of evil; and the reflected and borrowed shame and pain which noble natures feel for the sins of those with whom they are closely connected" (Caird).
2. His rejection by the world, which he came to save; being reproached, persecuted, betrayed, deserted, condemned, and crucified; and thus made the victim of human wickedness. His righteousness and love, his Divine dignity, as the Son of God, the King Messiah (2 Samuel 7:16), rendered his treatment peculiarly sinful, and reveals the sin of men in its true light.
3. His compassion for human misery—loss, suffering, bondage, death, in the present and the future; the necessary fruit of human sin (Matthew 8:17; John 11:35; Luke 13:34, Luke 13:35).
4. His endurance of Divine abandonment to the power of darkness and death.; wherein (without the sense of personal guilt and remorse) he gathered into his experience all the griefs endured by the servants of God in all ages from and for transgressors, and all the woes of humanity arising from alienation from God; and whereby, in unfaltering trust and entire self devotion, he fulfilled the Father's will, overcame sin, death, and hell, and "became unto all them that obey him the Author of eternal salvation." "The chastisement was laid upon him for our peace; and through his stripes we were healed" (Isaiah 53:5, Isaiah 53:10; Psalms 22:8, Psalms 22:16, Psalms 22:18, Psalms 22:24-31).
III. THE SORROWS OF THE CHRISTIAN. For everyone who follows Christ must tread the path of sorrows (not only such as are natural, bat such as are spiritual and Divine), on account of:
1. The manifold sins of which he has been guilty against the Lord (Matthew 5:4).
"We have not time to mourn. The worse for us.
He that lacks time to mourn lacks time to mend;
Eternity mourns that."
('Philip van Artevelde.')
2. The evil effects wrought thereby in himself and others.
"Weep not for broad lands lost;
Weep not for fair hopes crost;
Weep not when limbs wax old;
Weep not when friends grow cold;
Weep not that death must part
Thine and the best loved heart;
Yet weep, weep all thou can—
Weep, weep, because thou art
A sin-defiled man."
3. The sinful opposition of men to Christ, his kingdom, and his people; unbelief, enmity, and persecution; the effects of which he shares with his Lord and for his sake (Joh 16:33; 1 Peter 4:13; Philippians 1:29; Colossians 1:24). "For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping," etc. (Philippians 3:18).
4. The miserable condition and gloomy prospects of the impenitent. He mourns over them "with many tears" (Acts 20:19, Acts 20:31) "in the tender mercies of Jesus Christ" (Philippians 1:8), and is willing to undergo the greatest sacrifice and suffering for their salvation (Romans 9:2, Romans 9:3). "If we suffer we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 5:12).—D.
2 Samuel 15:31
The counsel of Ahithophel.
"Turn, I pray thee, the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness, O Jehovah." (References: 2Sa 15:12, 2 Samuel 15:34; 2 Samuel 16:15, 2 Samuel 16:20-23; 2Sa 17:1-7, 2 Samuel 17:15, 2 Samuel 17:23; 1 Chronicles 27:33.) While ascending the Mount of Olives, David received intelligence that his counsellor, Ahithophel the Gilonite, had gone over to Absalom. He was the wisest statesman in Israel, and nothing was more adapted than his counsel to ensure the success of the revolt. The effect which his defection produced upon David is evident from the prayer (suggested probably by his name, "brother of a fool") that forthwith broke from his lips. As he continued his, journey, he, perhaps, reflected on the former course of Ahithophel (the Old Testament Judas) in the light of present knowledge, and indulged some such sentiments as are expressed in Psalms 41:1-13; 'The comfort of the afflicted and betrayed;' Psalms 55:1-23, 'Prayer against a treacherous friend;' Psalms 69:1-36; Psalms 109:1-31. Observe that—
I. A FAMILIAR FRIEND MAY BECOME A DEADLY FOE.
"Also my friend [literally, 'man of my peace'], whom I trusted,
Who did eat of my bread,
Hath lifted up his heel against me."
(Psalms 41:10; John 13:18.)
"For it is not an enemy, etc.
But thou wast a man on an equality with me,
My companion and familiar friend," etc.
The motives of Ahithophel are not expressly stated; but they were probably:
1. Dislike of the religious earnestness and theocratic policy of David.
2. Ambition to be the sole adviser and prime minister of Absalom. "There may have been jealousy of Joab, or the natural tendency to worship the rising instead of the setting sun, or the impatience of a hypocrite at the round of religious services in which he was compelled to bear a part, affecting a devotion he did not feel, Psalms 55:13, Psalms 55:14" (Plumptre).
3. Revenge "for the dishonour done to his family in the person of Bathsheba, which no subsequent marriage could repair or efface" (Delany). "He was urged by the desire of punishing David's greatest crime, if he were not at the bottom of the movement. It is but reasonable to trace in the conspiring Ahithophel one of the intricate methods by which the judicial providence of God works out its own ends; suffering a great offender, notwithstanding his penitence, to eat the fruit of his deeds; yet reserving for treachery in time its reward" (R. Williams). "This text is a glass wherein God's justice is plainly to be seen. David had formerly forsaken Uriah, and now God suffers Ahithophel to forsake David.
(1) Let us learn, when our friends forsake us, to enter into a serious scrutiny with our own souls.
(2) The most politic heads have not always the faithfullest hearts.
(3) False friends will forsake thee in times of adversity" (T. Fuller). "My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook," etc. (Job 6:15; Jacox, 'Stray Side-Lights on Scripture Texts').
II. GREAT GIFTS ARE SOMETIMES PERVERTED TO UNGODLY USES. "That oracular wisdom which made his house a kind of shrine (2 Samuel 16:23) seems to move the spirit of the sacred writer with an involuntary admiration" (Stanley). "His great crimes were enhanced by his immense talents, of which God gave him the use and the devil the application." His criminality appears not only in
(1) his sanctioning and promoting rebellion against the authority of the king; but also in
(2) his lawless and shameless advice against his honour (2 Samuel 16:21, 2 Samuel 16:22), whereby he sought to make reconciliation and compromise impossible in the view of all, and to gratify his revenge in the most effective and significant manner (2 Samuel 11:2, 2 Samuel 11:4, 2 Samuel 11:11); becoming, consciously or unconsciously, an instrument of retribution. "This cursed policy showed him rather an oracle of the devil than of God" (Matthew Henry).
(3) His malicious and cruel proposal to take away his life (2 Samuel 17:2). None but a man devoid of all moral and religious principle could have given such counsel. A powerful intellect is, alas! too often united with a depraved heart. "It is often found true by experience that persons of superior penetration and wisdom are of bad intentions; they see further than other men, and are under a temptation to turn their minds to the overreaching of others, and effecting mischief; their ability in accomplishing wickedness is a snare and a temptation to them; they find they can do it, and therefore are ready and willing to do it" (W. Jones, of Nayland). "This man, while he was one of David's deep counsellors, was one of David's fools, that said in their hearts, 'There is no God;' else he could not have hoped to make good an evil with worse, to build the success of treason upon incest." "Oh the policy of this Machiavelli of Israel, no less deep than hell itself! Oh the wisdom of the Almighty, that can use the worst evils well, and most justly make the sins of man his executioners!" (Hall).
III. GOD IS ABLE TO FRUSTRATE THE CRAFTIEST COUNSELS. "Turn," etc; "either infatuate him, that he may give foolish counsel; or, let his counsel be rejected as foolish, or spoiled by the foolish execution of it" (Poole). "He taketh the wise in their own craftiness," etc. (Job 5:13; 1 Corinthians 3:19). Of this David was persuaded from:
1. His supreme and infinite wisdom, in comparison with which the highest human wisdom is foolishness.
2. His abundant and varied resources for the direction and control of men's purposes and actions, so that they are made of none effect, or turn out contrary to what was intended and expected.
3. His frequent and extraordinary interpositions for that end. History is full of such instances (Acts 4:28). So are individual lives (1 Samuel 23:24-28). "Though Ahithophel spoke as an oracle of God (as we often see statesmen wiser than priests), yet as he turned to treachery his counsel turned to foolishness."
IV. A GOOD MAN HAS AN UNFAILING RESOURCE IN EVERY TROUBLE, viz. sincere, believing, fervent prayer. "Call upon me," etc. (Psa 1:1-6 :15).
1. However beset by the craft and power of his adversaries, he cannot be deprived of this privilege, but has access to God in all circumstances, at all times, and in all places (verse 32). "A Christian cannot always hear, or always read, or always communicate, but he may pray continually. If he be on the top of a house with Peter, he may pray; if he he in the bottom of the ocean with Jonah, he may pray; if he be walking in the field with Isaac, he may pray when no eye seeth him; if he be waiting at table with Nehemiah, he may pray when no ear heareth him; if he be in the mountains with our Saviour, he may pray; if he be in the prison with Paul, he may pray; wherever he is, prayer will help him to find God out. Every saint is God's temple; and he that carrieth his temple about him, saith Austin, may go to prayer when he pleaseth. Indeed, to a Christian every house is a house of prayer; every closet a chamber of presence; and every place he comes to an altar whereon he may offer the sacrifice of prayer" (Swinnock, 'The Christian Man's Calling').
2. The depth of his helplessness and peril is an incentive to higher earnestness and an argument for the fulfilment of Divine promises. "Ejaculations are short prayers darted up to God on emergent occasions. When we are time bound, place bound, or person bound, so that we cannot compose ourselves to make a large solemn prayer, this is the right instant for ejaculations, whether orally uttered or only poured forth inwardly in the heart" (T. Fuller).
3. And his prayer is not offered in vain. Sometimes while he is "yet speaking" (Isaiah 65:24) the answer comes (verse 32). "In answer to a single emphatical ejaculation the counsel of the prudent is carried headlong" (Scott).
"As for me—unto God will I cry,
And Jehovah will save me.
Evening and morning and at noon will I complain and groan,
And he will hear my voice.
Cast thy burden upon Jehovah,
He—he will sustain thee."
(Psalms 55:16, Psalms 55:17, Psalms 55:22.)
2 Samuel 15:32-37
(THE TOP OF MOUNT OLIVET.)
The friendship of Hushai.
(References: Joshua 16:2; 2 Samuel 16:16-19; 2Sa 17:5-15; 1 Chronicles 27:33; 1 Kings 4:16.) Like Uriah and Ittai, he may have been of Gentile origin and a proselyte; was far advanced in life (2 Samuel 15:33), "the king's friend" or confidential adviser, and doubtless, in disposition, more congenial with David than the cool and calculating Ahithophel. "In him David saw the first gleam of hope. For warlike purposes he was useless; but of political stratagem he was master. The moment before the tidings had come of the treason of Ahithophel. To frustrate his designs, he was sent back just in time to meet Absalom arriving from Hebron" (Stanley). Notice:
1. His opportune presence; in answer to prayer (2 Samuel 15:31); at a time of need, when others were unfaithful, trouble oppressed, and danger threatened. A faithful friend is one of Heaven's best gifts. "When friends come to us just at the moment when we want them, and for a purpose which no one else could accomplish as well as they, and for a time which is precisely conterminous with our necessity, it is hard not to look on them as much sent from God as the angels who met Jacob at Mahanaim, or who stood by the open tomb to tell Mary of Christ" (Thorold, 'On the Use of Friends').
"When true friends meet in adverse hour,
'Tis like a sunbeam through a shower;
The watery ray an instant seen,
The darkly closing clouds between."
(Sir W. Scott.)
"A faithful friend is the medicine of life" (Ecclesiasticus 6:16, 14). "The Lord has the hearts of all men in his hands, and if he be our Friend he will not let us want friends; yea, will make our most cruel enemies to be our friends" (Guild).
2. His genuine sympathy; voluntarily and appropriately expressed; and adapted to cheer and strengthen. "There are eight chief uses in the gift of friendship—viz. counsel, defence, appreciation, correction, society, intercession, aid, sympathy" (2 Samuel 7:1, 2 Samuel 7:2; 1 Samuel 18:1-4).
3. His tested loyalty. Would he prove his fidelity, not by going into exile (2 Samuel 15:21), but by returning to Jerusalem, professing allegiance to Absalom, endeavouring to frustrate the counsel of Ahithophel, and communicating secretly with David? "The boldness and originality of this step revealed the remarkable genius which, on former occasions, as in the contest with Goliath, had devised methods so original yet simple for the attainment of its object" (Blaikie). This deceptive policy is recorded, but not commended; it was not contrary to the ideas which prevailed among Eastern nations at the time on the subject of veracity; it has been since practised by Christian monarchs, statesmen, and warriors, toward their enemies, in perilous emergencies, as a justifiable stratagem; and often approved, like a skilful choice of weapons in conflict with an enemy, or like a clever move in a game of chess. It ought not, therefore, to be censured in David with undue severity; and "we must not think that the king's religion was a hypocrisy because it did not bear at once the fruit of the spotless honour and unswerving truth that mark the highest forms of Christian goodness" (Plumptre). But such duplicity cannot be justified on the ground of necessity; or that those against whom it is practised may have (like Absalom) "forfeited all the rights of society" (Delany); or that the end which is aimed at is good. In the light of revelation it must be condemned (Le 2 Samuel 19:11). "And in this respect we have (in David) a contrast with the Divine Antitype, the Son of David, who in all his sorrows and sufferings retained his holiness, purity, and truth unsullied and undefiled" (Wordsworth).
4. His ready service. (2 Samuel 15:37.) He at once complied with the wishes of the king, and evidently without any conception that what he was about to do was morally wrong. "We can hardly excuse his thrusting himself even upon a traitor's confidence in order to play the traitor; though the picture is characteristic of the East; and this is one of many drawbacks which remind us that the Bible embodies an experience and a tone of sentiment which are not always perfect models for the franker races of the West. At least let us remember, though a friend may ask many things of us, he should not ask us to sacrifice the truth and the right; for these are not ours to give him" (R. Williams).
5. His daring courage. Should his treachery be discovered, he might have to pay the penalty with his head.
6. His skilful and prompt activity. (2 Samuel 16:16; 2Sa 17:7, 2 Samuel 17:15.)
7. His complete success. (2 Samuel 17:14.) "In justifying the ways of God to men, and admiring the issues of his will, we are in no case obliged to approve actions which have nothing but their success to commend them" (Kitto, 'Cyc.').—D.
HOMILIES BY G. WOOD
2 Samuel 15:7-9
Absalom's pious vow.
David and his ministers must have been singularly blind and negligent to have allowed Absalom so far to have prepared the way for the revolution he contemplated as he must have done before asking permission to go to Hebron. Nor does the permission itself show less blindness. David should have known his son better than to have so readily believed that he was likely to have made a pious vow, and to be burdened in conscience by its long non-fulfilment, especially as he had allowed four years (2 Samuel 15:7, not "forty") to elapse before taking steps for its fulfilment. But David's foolish fondness prepared him to be easily imposed upon by favourite children. The purport of the pretended vow appears from what follows. It was to hold solemn sacrificial services at Hebron in thanksgiving for his return to his home and reconciliation with his father. Hebron was chosen because it was the place of his birth and early life, where he would have many friends; and the first capital of the kingdom, where many may have been still disaffected to David on account of his transfer of the court to Jerusalem. Sacrificial services were chosen as furnishing a plausible pretext for a large gathering of leading men who either were already disaffected, or, if going to the festival (like the two hundred from Jerusalem, 2 Samuel 15:11) "in their simplicity," knowing nothing, might be won over by Absalom's representations. In his representations to his father we have a glaring instance of—
I. HYPOCRITICAL PRETENCES IN RELIGION.
1. Their nature. They are imitations of real piety; and the closer the imitation the more likely are they to deceive and be successful in their object. Hypocrites are actors of a part, and the more skilful the actor the stronger the impression of reality. What more natural than the vow Absalom said he had made, and the language in which he describes it? A good Hebrew prince, banished from home and kingdom, and with his prospects for the future darkened thereby, might well have longed to return, prayed to God to restore him, and vowed that, if his prayer were answered, he would make some singular demonstration of his gratitude. Absalom most likely lied when he said he had so vowed, as well as offered the sacrifices only as a cloak of wickedness. The counterfeit, however, illustrates the genuine; and in this case suggests that in great trouble we should seek relief and deliverance from God; that earnest prayer may be accompanied by promises of special acts of thanksgiving, and that, when deliverance comes, we should scrupulously perform the vows we have uttered (see Psalms 66:13, et seq.).
2. The motives frets which they proceed. These are as various as the objects which men pursue, and the attainment of which they think may be furthered by the appearance of piety. In Absalom the ultimate aim was the throne; the intermediate were the concealment from David of his purposes, the obtaining of leave of absence from Jerusalem, and opportunity for assembling his partisans and others around him, and maturing his plans with them, before striking the decisive blow. Hypocrites sometimes pretend to piety in order to conceal their wickedness and practise it without suspicion; sometimes with a view to gain (Matthew 23:14); sometimes to obtain credit for virtues they do not possess (Acts 5:1-8), and secure praise from men (Matthew 6:2). In times of persecution the object may be to avoid penalties; and any measure of favour shown to the professors of a particular creed, or of disability imposed on others, is a direct incentive to hypocrisy. How much do they promote hypocrisy amongst the poor who administer their charity in the form of "doles" given away after public worship, or carefully limited to those who attend particular religious services! Again, the hypocrite may pretend to a religion he does not possess, in order to obtain customers in his business from religious people, or to ingratiate himself with his piously disposed fellow citizens, in order to obtain a seat in the town council, or in parliament, or other position in public life. How many large girls to churches and chapels might be thus accounted for! Or the motive may be to secure the favour of parents, uncles, or aunts, with a view to a good place in their wills. Or, again, the forms of religion may be kept up because it is the habit of respectable society, without any real attachment to religion. Nor must we omit another motive. Piety may be seen to be necessary to secure deliverance from hell and admission to heaven; and, in total ignorance of the nature of piety, its forms may be adopted with that view. But this is rather formalism than deliberate hypocrisy. The two run into each other. It follows that hypocrisy is a sin most likely to be committed where real religion is prevalent and honoured. Absalom would not have pretended to piety if his father had not been religious; and when and where religion is disregarded, no one would think of professing it from unworthy motives. Though, to be sure, the general prevalence of formal religion may present the same temptation as that of real godliness. When, however, ungodliness and vice prevail in the neighbourhood or the circle in which a man moves, he may pretend to be worse than he is from motives similar to those which induce others to pretend to be better than they are.
II. THEIR ENORMOUS WICKEDNESS AND SURE DOOM.
1. They evince such knowledge of the nature, grounds, and obligations of piety as enhances the guilt of their impiety.
2. They insult God. By offering him what is worthless as if it were precious; and treating him as if he were unable to distinguish between the real and the unreal, or did not care, so long as his creatures pay homage to him, whether it be with the heart or not.
3. They deceive and defraud men. Imposing upon them with a mere appearance of goodness; inducing them to honour what is detestable and reward the unworthy; and diverting from genuine goodness its due notice and reward.
4. They seriously injure those who are guilty of them. They eat like a canker into the moral nature. A single act of hypocrisy affects injuriously the whole character, and throws suspicion on all that looks good. Habitual hypocrisy tends to destroy the possibility of sincere goodness, and to render salvation impossible.
5. They deserve and ensure "the greater damnation" (Matthew 23:14). It is impossible that the imposition can last or ultimately be successful. It will be exploded, exposed, and punished in the great day of revelation and judgment (1 Corinthians 4:5).—G.W.
2 Samuel 15:20
A farewell blessing.
"Mercy and truth be with thee." Times of adversity are testing times. They try and make manifest the character both of the sufferer and of his friends. The base and the noble in men, their selfishness and their disinterestedness, their faithlessness and their fidelity, are revealed and heightened. David never appeared in better light (in all but, perhaps, courage) than at the fearful crisis when his son was usurping his throne and ready to take his life, and he himself became for a time an exile from home and metropolis and sanctuary; and while some of his servants made manifest their inherent baseness, the virtues of others shone forth in new lustre. The conversation between David and Ittai illustrates these remarks. It is a contest of nobleness, in which both appear to great advantage. The words of the text were intended by David as a farewell Ittai would not, however, accept them as such, but persisted in accompanying him whithersoever he might go. They contain a prayer suitable for all in addressing their friends in parting, or indeed at any time. "Mercy and truth" are, of course, those of God. "May God exercise towards thee his mercy and truth."
I. "MERCY:" HERE EQUIVALENT TO GRACE, KINDNESS, LOVE. Man is entirely dependent on the kindness of God both as a creature and as a sinner. All in some degree are its objects; but in desiring that it may be with any, we wish that they may enjoy it to the fullest extent, both in body and soul, in time and in eternity. It thus includes all manifestations and exercises of Divine grace.
4. Defending and preserving.
5. Comforting and gladdening.
6. Eternally saving.
II. "TRUTH:" EQUIVALENT TO TRUTHFULNESS, FAITHFULNESS. That perfection of the Divine nature which assures us that God will ever act in a manner true to himself as be reveals himself in his Word, and to the promises he has given us. In desiring that the truth of God may be with any, We pray that they may to the fullest extent experience how trustworthy are the revelations he has made of himself, how faithfully his promises are fulfilled, how happy they are who confide in him.
III. THE "MERCY AND TRUTH" OF GOD ARE OFTEN PRESENTED TOGETHER IN THE HOLY WRITINGS, ESPECIALLY IN THE BOOK OF PSALMS. They exhibit the two aspects of the nature of God with which we are chiefly concerned; and, taken comprehensively, include his whole moral character. To desire, therefore, that they may be with any one is to pray that God may be with him in the fulness of his Being, as his God; that he may experience for himself all that he can be to one of his creatures—his kindness in the utmost meaning of his faithful representations; his truth, not in the accomplishment of his threatenings, but in the amplest fulfilment of his gracious promises.
IV. THESE DIVINE PERFECTIONS ARE "WITH US" WHEN THEY ARE EXERCISED FOR OUR GOOD. This often takes place when they are not present to our consciousness. But the highest blessedness is to enjoy their exercise in the full consciousness that it is the "mercy and truth" of God that are blessing our lives. The crowning bliss is to enjoy their uninterrupted exercise towards us, and that forever.
V. FOR TO HAVE GOD'S "MERCY AND TRUTH" WITH US IS TO ENJOY ALL REAL GOOD, AND TO BE SURE OF ITS ENJOYMENT FOREVER. Hence these words express all that the wisest, kindest, and best can address to their friends in parting with them, or on birthdays, new year's days, etc. We cannot be so certain, that we are pronouncing a blessing on them when we wish them health, wealth, long life, abundance of friends, etc.
VI. ONE OF THE BEST EFFECTS OF GOD'S "MERCY AND TRUTH" is to produce their own likeness in those with whom they dwell, making them kind and loving, true and faithful. The possession and cultivation of these qualities are a necessary part of the evidence that we have savingly experienced the Divine grace and faithfulness, and a necessary condition of our continuing to enjoy them (see Proverbs 3:3, Proverbs 3:4).—G.W.
2 Samuel 15:21
Ittai an example to Christians.
It is interesting to find a Gentile, and he a Gittite, so attached to David, so devoted in duty to him, and so honoured as to have (2 Samuel 18:2) been entrusted with the command of one-third of the army in the battle with Absalom and his forces. The proposal of David (2 Samuel 15:19, 2 Samuel 15:20) was generous and reasonable; but to Ittai's loyal spirit was quite inadmissible. He expresses his determination to cleave to David whether for life or for death; and swears to do so by the life of God and the life of the king. His devotedness presents an example to subjects and soldiers, to servants and friends. His language is worthy of adoption by us in addressing our glorious King, the Divine Son of David. It reminds us of the words of Peter, when speaking for all the twelve (John 6:68) and when speaking only for himself (John 13:17), and which expressed his genuine determination, notwithstanding his subsequent fall. It reminds us also of the exhortation of Barnabas to the new converts at Antioch, "that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord" (Acts 11:23)—an exhortation which meets with a cordial response in every Christian's heart. His resolve, his vow, is to cleave unto Christ for life and death; to follow him whithersoever he may lead.
I. WHENCE THIS DETERMINATION ARISES. Primarily from the marvellous power of Christ to attract and attach to himself the hearts of men. David had a similar power, of an inferior kind and on a smaller scale. Christ draws and influences, not only by his character and works, but by his Spirit working directly in the heart. But regarded as springing from the Christian's heart, the resolve and vow are the result of:
1. Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Saviour and King of men. Who has, therefore, a right to supreme homage and service (John 6:69).
2. Ardent love to him. In return for his love (2 Corinthians 5:14, 2 Corinthians 5:15); and as the result of knowledge and experience, perception of his Divine and human excellences, delight in his society and service.
3. Desire and hope to make him some suitable return for his love and self-sacrifice, and the invaluable blessings he has secured and conferred. The ardent Christian will pant for, and delight in, opportunities for serving Christ at the cost of peril, loss, suffering, disgrace with the world, or even sacrifice of life; and for showing his fidelity when others forsake him.
4. Conviction that safety, happiness, and life everlasting are to be found only with Christ.
"Whither, ah! whither should I go,
A wretched wanderer from my Lord?
Can this dark world of sin and woe
One glimpse of happiness afford?
Depart from thee! 'Tis death; 'tis more—
'Tis endless ruin, deep despair!"
5. Memory of past vows. "I have sworn, and I will perform it" (Psalms 119:106).
II. HOW IT IS TO BE FULFILLED. Not merely by warm feelings at times of special devotion, or by words of endearment, or promise, or lavish praise; but by:
1. Bold confession of Christ before men. Wearing his uniform, marching under his banner, acknowledging him openly as King and Captain.
2. Union and communion with his people. In profession of his Name, in worship, at the Lord's table, in social life, etc. Christ is in his Church; they are his visible representatives; openly with them all should be who wish to be "in what place their Lord the King may be."
3. Visiting constantly the places where Christ is specially to be found, and avoiding those which he avoids. Frequenting the closet, the sanctuary, the houses of poor, sick, and dying brethren. Avoiding the haunts of dissipation and iniquity. Going nowhere where we cannot think with satisfaction that Christ is near and approving.
4. Active and zealous cooperation with Aim. Doing, daring, enduring, in promoting his kingdom and the welfare of mankind. "Always abounding in the work of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58). "Enduring hardship, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ" (2 Timothy 2:3). Pressing eagerly to the front with Christ where his battles are to be fought, as Ittai with David, regardless of difficulties, danger, or death.
5. Perseverance in all. Which is the crowning proof of the deep sincerity of the determination.
III. THE REWARDS OF SUCH DEVOTEDNESS.
1. Now. Further opportunities of, calls to, and fitness for, service, suffering, and honour.
"What his guerdon here?
Many a sorrow, many a labour,
Many a tear."
But with these, the manifested presence of Christ, and his smile and words of approval; the pleasures which accompany the exercise of the powers in the noblest possible employment, and those which arise from association with the noblest of God's creatures in earth and heaven.
2. Hereafter. To be with Christ and share his glory and bliss evermore. "Enter into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21). "If we endure, we shall also reign with him" (2 Timothy 2:12, Revised Version).—G.W.
2 Samuel 15:25, 2 Samuel 15:26
David's resignation to the will of God.
David's character shone most brightly amid the darkness of adversity—in the early struggles and perils, and in these later ones. In these verses we see his superiority to a superstitious dependence on the presence of the ark as ensuring the presence and aid of God. He was thus much in advance of the Israelites, elders and people alike, in the days of Eli (1 Samuel 4:3-5). We take the verses, however, as evidencing David's profound submission to the will of God, and illustrating the nature and excellence of godly resignation.
I. TO WHAT HE WAS RESIGNED. To whatever might be the will of God. To the enjoyment of the Divine favour, or the experience of the Divine displeasure. In particular:
1. To defeat or victory in the contest with his unnatural son; and, as results of one or the other:
2. To the permanent loss or the regaining of his throne.
3. To exile from Jerusalem or return to it.
4. To banishment from the ark and house of God or restoration to them. This is specially referred to in 2 Samuel 15:25 :5. To death or life.
II. THE NATURE OF HIS RESIGNATION.
1. It was not insensibility or indifference. How much he felt the position in which he was placed is evident from his language here, and his tears and other signs of mourning referred to in 2 Samuel 15:30. Those who do not feel their troubles cannot cherish resignation to them. Troubles which do not trouble require no exercise of submission. Resignation may be most eminently displayed by those who are most susceptible of suffering.
2. It was not a stoical submission to the inevitable. This is better than vain struggles and useless murmurs, but is not godly resignation.
3. Nor did it involve abandonment of all prayer and effort to secure what was felt to be desirable. David, while surrendering himself to the disposal of the Most High, carefully planned and laboured, and was prepared to fight, that he might obtain the victory. Christian resignation is not fatalism.
4. It was trustful, loving submission to whatever might prove to be the will of God. David recognized the hand of God in his adversities, saw that the issue of events would be according to the Divine appointment, and on this account was prepared to acquiesce in it. "Let him do to me as seemeth good unto him."
III. MOTIVES TO SUCH RESIGNATION.
1. The rightful sovereignty of God. He does rule over all, whether we will or no; and the recognition of his right to rule will much aid in producing willing submission to his will. "You know, my dear," said a poor man to his wife, when they were mourning the loss of a peculiarly interesting and affectionate child, "this family is God's garden, and he has a right to come into it and pluck any flower that pleases him best."
2. His omnipotence. "Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God" (1 Peter 5:6). Because he is almighty, his will must be accomplished; resistance is futile. At the same time, he is almighty to support, to bring good out of evil, and to "exalt in due time" (1 Peter 5:6).
3. His wisdom and goodness. Which assure us that he does not act according to arbitrary choice, but that what "seemeth good unto him" is really good; so that in submitting to him we are acquiescing in our own ultimate well being.
4. Our sinfulness and unworthiness. David was doubtless aided in resigning himself to the will of God by the memory of his heinous sins (comp. Judges 10:15; Nehemiah 9:33; Lamentations 1:18; Lamentations 3:39; Daniel 9:14; Micah 7:9). We deserve more suffering than is inflicted upon us; we merit no good. thing; the more readily, therefore, should we resign ourselves to whatever may be appointed for us.
5. The blessings enjoyed by us or assured to us. The memory of past enjoyments, which tends to embitter present griefs, should nevertheless awaken a gratitude which tends to reconcile us to them. "Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?" (Job 2:10). The mercies still remaining to us, duly appreciated and acknowledged, will have a similar beneficial effect. The way in which God has led us through past difficulties should strengthen confidence in him, and render us willing to trust him with our future. Specially, if we are Christians indeed, let us keep in mind:
(1) The relation in which we stand towards God, as his children, redeemed, reconciled, renewed; and the childlike spirit which becomes us.
(2) The unspeakable blessings which as Christians we enjoy. Pardon, peace with God, access to him, assurance of his fatherly pity and love, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, with his special guidance, support, and consolation.
(3) The promises made to us of all needful good (Psalms 84:11; Matthew 6:33); the cooperation of all things for our good (Romans 8:28); the Divine care, sympathy, and support (Psalms 55:22; Hebrews 13:5, Hebrews 13:6); and final deliverance from all affliction, and enjoyment of eternal glory—glory far outweighing all present trouble, and prepared for and increased through its right endurance (Revelation 21:4; Rom 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:17, 2 Corinthians 4:18).
6. The cross of Christ illustrates and enhances all other motives. The love of God in Christ assures us in the darkest hours that he is love, and his ways are love. The sufferings of Jesus as our atoning Saviour make sure to us all spiritual and eternal blessings. His greater sufferings are adapted to reconcile us to our so much lesser ones. In his resignation we have the brightest and most powerful example, and reasons for imitation of it. As our fellow Sufferer we know that he can, and are assured that he does, sympathize with us; and that he is the better able to succour us.
7. The benefits which flow from resignation.
(1) "The peace of God" (Philippians 4:7), and with it strength to endure: power also to do whatever may be possible towards deliverance.
(2) Evidence to our own consciousness that we are the children of God.
(3) Good influence over others. Proof to them of the worth of religion.
In conclusion, let us lay to heart that in any case we must suffer affliction. The only question is how and with what results? Shall we suffer in faith and hope and. submission, and thus secure Divine approval, support, and blessing? or shall we suffer impatiently and rebelliously, thus adding to our sufferings, and gaining no blessing from them? "Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker!" (Isaiah 45:9).—G.W.
2 Samuel 15:32
The place of worship.
"The top of the mount where God was worshipped" (Revised Version). This "top of the mount" is one of the most sacred spots in the world—the universe. For here the Son of God wept over Jerusalem, which lay full in view at his feet, as he thought of its coming destruction, and declared the cause of it (Luke 19:41). In David's time there appears to have been a "high place" there, where men were accustomed to worship God. It seems strange that so near to the tabernacle such a place should have been tolerated, however difficult it was to abolish such set rate worship elsewhere. Perhaps, however, this was simply "a place of prayer" (Acts 16:13), not of sacrifice or incense-butting, in which case it would not come under the con, demnation of the Mosaic Law. One can hardly doubt that such places of worship must have been scattered over the land long before the known existence of synagogues. How otherwise could social religion, or religion at all, have been maintained? Three visits a year to the tabernacle or temple, and those of the men only, could not have been sufficient. How also could the sabbaths have been kept as days holy to the Lord? But without attempting to settle such questions, this Scripture may be used as suggesting some thoughts on places of worship.
I. THEIR SANCTITY.
1. Because specially set apart and used for the worship of God. Consecrated in the purpose of men, and by their devotions; by the prayers by which they are dedicated, and the worship constantly offered afterwards.
2. Because they are scenes of Divine manifestation and gracious operation. (Exodus 20:24; Psalms 63:2; Matthew 18:20.) They are meeting places, not only between men and men, but between God and men, heaven and earth, consecrated by the presence and blessing of God.
II. THEIR VALVE.
1. As witnesses.
(1) For God; reminding men of him, and calling on them to worship and serve him.
(2) Of the nature of men; as spiritual, fitted and designed for worship, and immortal.
2. As inviting to rest from ordinary occupations and employment in spiritual exercises.
3. As furnishing valuable opportunities for the exercise of gifts for the good of others. Gifts of teaching, singing, organization, etc.
4. In uniting men to each other in sacred bonds, and fostering mutual love and service.
5. In promoting piety, holiness, and happiness. The moral virtues, as well as the godliness, of a people depend to a large extent on their places of worship.
III. THEIR BLESSED ASSOCIATIONS AND MEMORIES. There "our fathers praised" God (Isaiah 64:11); thither "we walked in company" with our own parents and best friends (Psalms 55:14); there many of our most happy and profitable hours have been spent. There, it may be, we were first led to Christ; there we have often met with God, and consciously received his blessing; there we have received instructions and influences which have moulded our character and elevated our lives. There we have been relieved of anxieties, calmed when agitated, comforted when sorrowful, revived when languid, recalled to duty when we have wandered, strengthened in faith and courage when we have become enfeebled. There many a glimpse of heaven has been gained, and many a foretaste of its bliss enjoyed. Many have attended their place of worship from childhood to old age; and esteem it one of the chief blessings of their life. "Planted in the house of the Lord," they "flourish in the courts of our God," and still "bring forth fruit in old age" (Psalms 92:13, Psalms 92:14), waiting to be transplanted to "the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7).
IV. OUR CONSEQUENT DUTY IN RESPECT TO THEM,
1. To be thankful for them.
2. To take our part in establishing and maintaining them.
3. To attend them. Frequently, regularly, punctually. To be negligent in these respects is to dishonour God, and to rob ourselves of blessing.
4. To induce others to do so. Happy the city, happy the land, in which places where men worship God abound, and are attended by crowds of true worshippers!—G.W.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent