2 Samuel 15


In the previous chapter, we saw that David was happy to see his son Absalom again and whilst he kissed him, 2 Samuel 14:33, he was oblivious to what Absalom was planning to do. In this chapter, and the next five chapters, we see that David’s troubles and the trouble for his household are being lived out as Nathan the prophet told him earlier, 2 Samuel 12:10.

Absalom’s Conspiracy

‘In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, ‘What town are you from?’ He would answer, ‘Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.’ Then Absalom would say to him, ‘Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.’ And Absalom would add, ‘If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.’ Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel. At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, ‘Let me go to Hebron and fulfil a vow I made to the LORD. While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the LORD takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the LORD in Hebron.’ The king said to him, ‘Go in peace.’ So he went to Hebron. Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, ‘As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’ Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.’ 2 Samuel 15:1-12

Over a period of time Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses, and fifty men, this should have sent alarm bells to David as to his intentions. This is exactly what Samuel warned Israel would happen when they chose a king, 1 Samuel 9:11.

Absalom’s intentions are absolutely clear here, he didn’t want to wait until his father died to become king, he wants to take over David’s reign as king right now.

Notice Absalom says, ‘if only I were appointed judge in the land’, his words tell us how arrogant this man really is and his words are ironic because he himself should have been judged to death for murdering Ammon, 2 Samuel 13:28-29.

He says if he was judged then everyone would come to him for justice, his words again are the words of a man who is delusional, especially when we think about how he dealt with Joab, 2 Samuel 14:28-33.

Absalom’s dealings with people led them to be deceived into following him, the text says that ‘he stole the hearts of the men.’ His intentions are crystal clear, he wants to take over as king of Israel. He started his political campaign solely to win people over, especially the leaders whilst at the same time lifting himself up as the leader.

The one person he didn’t think about during his whole campaign was God, he refuses to accept that God was the One who anointed David as king over Israel in the first place, 1 Samuel 16:13 / 2 Samuel 2:4 / 2 Samuel 5:3. He’s more concerned about winning people over for him to be king than he is about God’s will for David to be king over Israel.

Notice the text says, ‘at the end of four years’, the K.J.V. and other ancient versions have ‘forty years’ instead of ‘four years’ but the N.I.V. and other translations are correct, it was ‘four years’. This tells us that it took Absalom four years from the time he was reconciled with David to launch his political campaign against David.

Absalom’s rebellion against David began in Hebron, and it was from here that he told messengers to tell the leaders of Israel that he is now reigning as king. He obviously thought that Hebron would be the best place to begin his reign, because this is where David began his reign as king of Israel, 2 Samuel 2:4 / 2 Samuel 5:3.

It’s also important to note that Hebron was in the central region of the land of Judah, it appears that Absalom knew that he needs the allegiance of Judah before he could begin to reign over all of Israel.

Although we’re not told why it appears that Absalom’s conspiracy against David gained strength and he managed to get a large following. We can only imagine that those who were following Absalom wanted the next king of Israel to be like him and not like David. We can imagine they chose to follow him because he would give the people what the people desired and not what God desired of them.

David Flees

‘A messenger came and told David, ‘The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.’ Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, ‘Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.’ The king’s officials answered him, ‘Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king chooses.’ The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at the edge of the city. All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.’ 2 Samuel 15:13-18

When David got news about how Israel was now going to follow Absalom, he once again goes on the run as a fugitive. Although we’re not told why he ran away, it’s possible that he was simply submitting to God’s earlier judgment upon him, 2 Samuel 12:10-12.

The Kerethites, the Pelethites and the Gittites were David’s brave men of war who had been with him in his former days as a fugitive from Saul, 2 Samuel 16:6, and they were loyal to David, 2 Samuel 20:7 / 2 Samuel 23:8.

‘The king said to Ittai the Gittite, ‘Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back and take your people with you. May the LORD show you kindness and faithfulness.’ But Ittai replied to the king, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.’ David said to Ittai, ‘Go ahead, march on.’ So Ittai the Gittite marched on with all his men and the families that were with him. The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.’ 2 Samuel 15:19-23

Ittai the Gittite was loyal to David and it appears that David didn’t want them to go on the run with him, but Ittai, the leader of David’s 600 soldiers, 2 Samuel 15:18, pledged his life in allegiance to David.

Ittai’s group also included women, children and his family, it included some powerful soldiers. It’s clear that Ittai himself was a very powerful and skilled commander because later we see David placing him in command of a third of the army that defeated Absalom and his army, 2 Samuel 18:2.

‘Zadok was there, too, and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. They set down the ark of God, and Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city. Then the king said to Zadok, ‘Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favour in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; let him do to me whatever seems good to him.’ The king also said to Zadok the priest, ‘Do you understand? Go back to the city with my blessing. Take your son Ahimaaz with you, and also Abiathar’s son Jonathan. You and Abiathar return with your two sons. I will wait at the fords in the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.’ So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there.’ 2 Samuel 15:24-29

Zadok along with all the Levites also went with David carrying the ark of the covenant. The Levites are mentioned in both 1 Samuel and 2 Samuel. Parallel accounts are also found in Kings and Chronicles and they indicate that the Levites during the reign of David fulfilled their usual purpose regarding the ark of the covenant.

Although the ark was present, it’s possible that it was just being used as a lucky charm for protection as it did earlier, 1 Samuel 14:18. David said that the ark belonged in the tabernacle in Jerusalem and he reassures Zadok and Abiathar that if God’s favour was for him, he would again see the ark.

David is clearly more concerned that the will of God be done in his life than for any reassurance that would come from having possession of the ark.

‘But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. Now David had been told, ‘Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.’ So David prayed, ‘LORD, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness.’ When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head. David said to him, ‘If you go with me, you will be a burden to me. But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘Your Majesty, I will be your servant; I was your father’s servant in the past, but now I will be your servant,’ then you can help me by frustrating Ahithophel’s advice. Won’t the priests Zadok and Abiathar be there with you? Tell them anything you hear in the king’s palace. Their two sons, Ahimaaz son of Zadok and Jonathan son of Abiathar, are there with them. Send them to me with anything you hear.’ So Hushai, David’s confidant, arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city.’ 2 Samuel 15:30-37

The mount of Olives is east of the city of Jerusalem, across the Kidron valley, and it’s here that David and his men make their way across the Kidron to the Mount of Olives, Matthew 24:3 / John 18:1.

David’s prayer that Ahithophel’s advice is turned into foolishness was eventually fulfilled. Ahithophel committed treason but Hushai came with great mourning concerning the conspiracy and so, David appointed him as a spy in the presence of those who would stand before Absalom.

The rebellion of Absalom and the humiliating flight of David lets us see the best part of David’s character, he truly was a man after God’s own heart, 1 Samuel 13:14 / Acts 13:22.

If we want to know how David felt about Ahithophel’s actions we simply have to read Psalm 41. If we want to know how David felt when he fled from Absalom, we simply have to read Psalm 3 and Psalm 4.

In Psalm 27, we read about the contrast between God’s abiding goodness and the inconstancy of man. Psalm 61 and Psalm 62 were probably written at Mahanaim when David’s anguish of mind had been appeased.

Go To 2 Samuel 16


"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."