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Deeper Commentary

2Sa 15:1 It happened after this, that Absalom prepared him a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run before him-
"Prepared" or "established" is a major theme in the promises of the eternal establishment of David's throne (2 Sam. 7:12,13,16 etc.), and Absalom thought he could prepare / establish his own kingdom, himself. Solomon wrongly assumed that the conditional nature of the promises concerning the seed were just irrelevant to him as he had wisdom. Therefore he uses the word of how his kingdom has been "established" (1 Kings 2:24 s.w.). Solomon's contenders for the throne were all stopped by God, they tried to prepare or establish themselves but it never worked out (2 Sam. 15:1; 1 Kings 1:5); and so surely Solomon has the idea in mind that he has been established as the promised Messianic seed of David with an eternally "established" throne and kingdom. This leads him to the conclusion that the outcome of wisdom and folly is in this life, and he has no perspective of a final day of judgment and eternal establishment of God's Kingdom on earth. This is why the simplistic dichotomies he presents in Proverbs between the blessed and wise, and the cursed and foolish, are not always true to observed experiences in this life. For it is the future Kingdom which puts them in ultimate perspective.

2Sa 15:2 Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate. It was so, that whenever any man had a suit which should come to the king for judgement, then Absalom called to him and said, What city are you from? He said, Your servant is of one of the tribes of Israel-
This is the situation which David complains of in Ps. 69:12: "Those who sit in the gate talk against me". It was David's own son who stood in the gate talking against his own father (2 Sam. 15:2-6). This was the typical consequence of David's sin with Bathsheba which Nathan had predicted; and yet when it happened, David complains about it, as if still struggling to accept Nathan's words, and not focused enough upon the simple wonder of the fact he had been forgiven and his life preserved by God's amazing grace.

2Sa 15:3 Absalom said to him, Behold, your matters are good and right; but there is no man deputised by the king to hear you-
We note his hypocrisy. He criticizes David for not delegating power because David wants it all for himself; as an excuse for Absalom wanting power. Absalom has no interest in justice, only in his own power. For he tells everyone that their case is good and just- and he will give them what they want if he is the judge. We note that David had centralized judicial power in himself; and yet he was hopelessly compromised as a judge by what he had done with Uriah and Bathsheba.

2Sa 15:4 Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that each man who has any suit or cause might come to me, and I would do him justice!-
Absalom told everyone that he would give them justice, even though the people who came to him were probably against each other. He promised whatever people wanted, in return for them giving him power. This is the spirit of politics to this day.

2Sa 15:5 It was so, that when any man came near to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand and took hold of him and kissed him-
This could imply that he didn't let people prostrate themselves before him, but lifted them up and hugged them. This was the style of greeting used by Joab in 2 Sam. 20:9, and we wonder if this continues the theme of the last two chapters- a man influencing another. Maybe we are to get the hint that Joab was influencing Absalom still, although when Absalom finally grabs power, Joab decides to still support David.

2Sa 15:6 Absalom did this sort of thing to all Israel who came to the king for judgement. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel-
LXX "made his own"; the hearts of Israel were stolen from David to Absalom. Perhaps this was to make David reflect upon how he had stolen the lamb of Uriah, according to Nathan's parable. Solomon's later condemnations of those who steal were true enough (Prov. 6:30; 9:17), but as ever with the Proverbs, Solomon harnesses God's truth to his own justification and the criticism of those whose supporters he deemed were still a threat to his throne.

2Sa 15:7 It happened at the end of forty years that Absalom said to the king, Please let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed to Yahweh, in Hebron-
"Forty years" creates chronological problems. Some texts read "four years". I have elsewhere commented that this is a symbolic period and not to be always read literally; for if the forty year reigns of Saul, David and Solomon are read literally, we again have chronological problems. Absalom's claim to have vowed to Yahweh was again hypocritical. There is no historical record of him having made such a vow, nor of his presence in Hebron, the previous capital of Judah before Jerusalem was taken from the Jebusites. Hebron would have been the second city in Judah after Jerusalem. It was his birthplace, so perhaps that fact was being twisted by him.

2Sa 15:8 For your servant vowed a vow while I stayed at Geshur in Syria saying, ‘If Yahweh shall indeed bring me again to Jerusalem, then I will serve Yahweh’-
Jacob had vowed: "If God will be with me... then shall Yahweh be my God: and this stone... shall be God's house" (Gen. 28:20-22- words quoted by faithless Absalom in 2 Sam. 15:8). The implication was that Jacob didn't consider Yahweh to be his God at that time. And yet God had promised Abraham that he would be the God of his seed (Gen. 17:7,8); Jacob was aware of these promises, and yet he is showing that he did not accept their personal relevance to him at this time. And Absalom quoted them about himself. This accords with how Amnon likewise quoted words of Joseph out of context to justify his sin against Tamar. Likewise Bible phrases and precedents can be quote right out of context in order t justify what is clearly wrong. Absalom was kidding himself that murdering or deposing his father was going to be 'serving Yahweh', just as all manner of evil is done in the name of doing God service. Perhaps the Lord alludes to this in Jn. 16:2. See on 2 Sam. 17:13.

2Sa 15:9 The king said to him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron-
David had enough power to still need to give Absalom his blessing to travel. And he must have guessed what would happen. But he was hopelessly compromised. It had been the same when Absalom had begged the king to allow Amnon to come to his shearing festivity, when David again had surely guessed what would happen.

2Sa 15:10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel saying, As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron!’-
Hebrew tenses are not exact, so we are to read that Absalom "had sent spies". See on :36. Hebron was the old capital of Judah. We discern from 2 Sam. 19:11 that Judah was now the least supportive of David.

2Sa 15:11 Two hundred men went with Absalom out of Jerusalem, who were invited and went in their innocence; and they didn’t know anything-
These men were presumably leaders of Judah, and were invited to Hebron to celebrate Absalom's devotion to Yahweh's service at the feast he had proclaimed there (:7). They were unaware of his plans. But his idea was that they would fall in behind him, and David would be left in Jerusalem without most of his government. To use a feast of dedication to Yahweh in this way is as bad in our days as manipulating the breaking of bread feast to our own ends.

2Sa 15:12 Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he was offering the sacrifices. The conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom-
Those sacrifices were supposed to represent Absalom's dedication to Yahweh's service (see on :7,11). It was cruel abuse of the things of God.

Ps. 3:1,2 refers to this time. The people considered that God wouldn't now help David (Ps. 3:2); there was a spiritual argument used against David, no matter how wrong it was. We have here a classic example of a collapse mentality, whereby a feeding frenzy begins against an innocent man, and quasi spiritual arguments are brought in to support it. "Many" in Ps. 3:1,2 is the same word used for how the people "increased" with Absalom. "Rise up" in Ps. 3:1 is the word used of Ahithophel wishing to 'rise up" and pursue David (2 Sam. 17:1; 18:31). In response to the rising up of others against him, David asks God to 'rise up' (Ps. 3:7 s.w.). David's prayer in Psalm 3 was answered, and Ahithophel 'rose up' and committed suicide (2 Sam. 17:23).

The person in view in Ps. 41:9; 55:13,14 is clearly Ahithophel, David's counsellor, the "man of my peace" (2 Sam. 15:12). He was Bathsheba's grandfather, so we can imagine how his bitterness with David developed.

This is alluded to by Solomon in Prov. 21:27: "The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination: how much more, when he brings it with a wicked mind!". Solomon may have in view Saul's rejection from the kingship for his wrong attitude to sacrifice (1 Sam. 15:21,22). Likewise the attempts of Absalom and Adonijah to take the throne from David and Solomon involved the offering of sacrifices (2 Sam. 15:12; 1 Kings 1:9). What Solomon says in the Proverbs is true on one level, but he harnesses Divine truth to justify himself and his own agendas; just as we can.

2Sa 15:13 A messenger came to David saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom-
David surely already perceived that over the years, Absalom had already stolen the hearts of Israel. The repeated stress upon the "men" of Israel may suggest Absalom was particularly attractive as a leader to the men; whereas David had been attractive to the women of Israel.

2Sa 15:14 David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for else none of us shall escape from Absalom. Make speed to depart, lest he overtake us quickly and bring evil down upon us and strike the city with the edge of the sword-
David knew that Absalom intended to murder him and his supporters. It was David's servants who had perished along with Uriah (2 Sam. 11:17), and David desperately wanted to learn from this and not again bring death to his servants as a result of his folly. "Overtaken" is the word used of how David was overtaken by his sin with Bathsheba (Ps. 40:12). The way he was saved from being overtaken by Absalom in judgment for this was perhaps an answer to his prayer of Ps. 40:12.

2Sa 15:15 The king’s servants said to the king, Behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king chooses-
We are intended to sense their extreme loyalty to David. They had of course realized his failures, but on balance believed that he was the anointed king of Israel and was overall a man of God worthy to be followed. We too at times need to stop ourselves judging a brother or sister in Christ for their out of character failures.

2Sa 15:16 The king went forth, and all his household after him. The king left ten women, who were concubines, to keep the house-
He would have recalled Nathan's prediction that his wives would be slept with by his usurper. He took his wives with him but left the concubines, surely knowing their fate. He did not seek to stop that prophecy coming true; he humbled himself to accept his sin and the judgment pronounced for it. See on 2 Sam. 16:21.

2Sa 15:17 The king went forth, and all the people after him; and they stayed in Beth Merhak-
The day David fled Jerusalem is recorded in more detail than any day in Biblical history. The tragedy of a good man having to suffer for his sins is thereby underlined to us. "Beth Merhak" is literally 'the last / far house', the last house on the edge of Jerusalem, on the banks of the Kidron.

2Sa 15:18 All his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, the Pelethites and all the Gittites, six hundred men who came after him from Gath, passed on before the king-
The figure of 600 may not be literal, and alludes to the 600 men whom David commanded whilst fleeing from Saul in earlier years. They were maybe called "the men of Gath" not because they were Philistines from Gath, but because they had been with David in Gath when he lived there for over a year when fleeing from Saul. Their loyalty had not been ultimately swayed by David's failure with Bathsheba. They recalled David's undoubted faith, spirituality and bravery as a soldier of Yahweh, and didn't allow themselves to be fazed by his temporary failure over Uriah. LXX adds "and halted at the olive tree in the wilderness". The idea may be that the mount of Olives was still as it were with David in the desert, just as God's presence was just as much with him there as in the tabernacle and before the ark in Jerusalem.

2Sa 15:19 Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, Why do you also go with us? Return, and stay with the king; for you are a foreigner, and also an exile. Return to your own place-
Naturally David feared that his ranks would be infiltrated by Absalom's agents. Ittai was a Philistine who had only recently joined David's ranks (:20); all the indications were that he was an agent for Absalom. David refers to Absalom as "the king", accepting that he was no longer king.

2Sa 15:20 Whereas you came but yesterday, should I this day make you go up and down with us, since I go where I may? Return, and take back your brothers. Mercy and truth be with you-
Although David was sceptical of Ittai, he speaks to him in spiritual terms, wishing this Gentile the "mercy and truth" of covenant relationship with Yahweh. LXX "and the Lord shew thee mercy and truth". This is just how David had spoken to the men of Jabesh (2 Sam. 2:5,6). We are shown how David's past experiences were now repeating in this crisis, and he was demonstrating that he had learned the lessons. Our crises are likewise designed to evoke memories of past experiences, and we are to demonstrate that we have learned the lessons. Likewise "I go where I may" is just how he had felt at the time of Saul's persecution (1 Sam. 23:13). He felt circumstances repeating, and perhaps hoped that Yahweh would likewise miraculously preserve him against seemingly overwhelming odds.

2Sa 15:21 Ittai answered the king and said, As Yahweh lives, and as my lord the king lives, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, even there also will your servant be-
By using the term "Yahweh" and swearing by Him, Ittai shows that he has accepted covenant relationship with Yahweh. And his promise of loyalty to David is expressed in terms of the Gentile Ruth's words to Naomi, when also in exile (Ruth 1:16,17).

2Sa 15:22 David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones who were with him-
David accepted Ittai as sincere. And we marvel at the power of God's truth. A Philistine, from Goliath's home town, had accepted covenant relationship with Yahweh and therefore accepts His anointed king, David. Even though David had lied to the men of Gath and later slain them, and had recently disgraced himself again over Bathsheba. The power of God's truth was greater than all the disadvertisments for that truth in Yahweh's chosen representative. And this is a powerful challenge to those who turn away from God because of the bad examples of His representatives.

2Sa 15:23 All the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over towards the way of the wilderness-
Although Absalom is presented as having much support, "the country" is presented as sharing in the tragic grief of this sad procession of David going into exile. The triple emphasis upon "passed over" shows David's unity with his people and theirs with him. The exiles reading this would have seen the similarities with their own exile from Zion. It was also due to the effect of their sins; but they too had hope of restoration, despite much opposition. The crossing over Kidron was to be repeated by the Lord Jesus (Jn. 18:1), suffering as if He were a sinner although He was personally innocent. "The way of the wilderness" was the road to Jericho, used by the Lord Jesus in His parable of the man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho being beaten [= suffering for his sins, in the parable], and being saved by grace and now law. Surely the Lord had David in mind, and is presenting the long day of his tragic exile as being the experience of everyman.

2Sa 15:24 Behold, Zadok also came, and all the Levites with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God; and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people finished passing out of the city-
David had learned from previous history and experience that the ark should not be used as a talisman. He had learned in his wilderness years that God's presence was just as close in a man's heart as if that man were in His presence before the ark. We note too that they "set down" the ark having learned the lesson from David's inappropriate transportation of the ark on a wagon previously. Passing out of the city is parallel with passing over Kidron (:23), because that was the border of the city (see on :17). Again we see internal corroboration and consistency within the records.

2Sa 15:25 The king said to Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city. If I find grace in the eyes of Yahweh, He will bring me again, and show me both it, and His dwelling place-
The lesson for the exiles was that restoration from exile was to be by grace and not at all because they deserved it or had  been unjustly treated. David has in view Jacob as he fled into exile, also a sinner justly on the run; but he too was eventually to be restored. David prayed for restoration to the place of the ark (Ps. 43:3), so his words should not be read as mere fatalism.

The temple and ark are sometimes referred to as the heavens (2 Sam. 15:25 cp. 1 Kings 8:30; 2 Chron. 30:27; Ps. 20:2,6; 11:4; Heb. 7:26). The church is the new temple, and is therefore at times referred to as the heavenlies in the New Testament.

I have discussed on 1 Sam. 4:3 how the ark was often seen by Israel as a talisman. David had brought the ark to Zion in 2 Sam. 6, but this was without any Divine command to do so and without consultation with Him;  and there was the disaster with Uzzah the first time he attempted it. He clearly also veered towards seeing the ark as a talisman. It was almost as if he wanted to underwrite his own enthronement in Jerusalem by having Yahweh enthroned there also over the ark. Likewise David's desire to permanently locate the ark in a physical temple in Jerusalem can be seen as a desire to legitimate the enthronement of his dynasty in that city. But on the other hand, David often 'gets it' about the lack of need for the ark's physical presence. His psalms speak of how he lived permanently beneath the shadow of the cherubic wings, as if he lived on the mercy seat, on the sprinkled blood. In 2 Sam. 15:24-29 he flees from Absalom, and refuses the suggestion he take the ark with him. But, so true to real spiritual life, he also had tendencies towards needing the physical and religious when it came to the ark. 

2Sa 15:26 but if He say thus, ‘I have no delight in you;’ behold, here am I. Let Him do to me as seems good to Him-
These words are applied directly to the exiles, when they are assured that at their restoration, Yahweh would delight in them (Is. 62:4), just as finally He did in David (2 Sam. 22:20). David also has in view how the land of the Kingdom was to be given by grace if Yahweh delighted in His people, even though the obstacles to possessing it appeared huge (Num. 14:8). And he too stood near the Jordan river as they had done. He reasoned from Biblical precedent. David on this long day of exile (see on :17) is David at perhaps his best in spiritual terms.

2Sa 15:27 The king said also to Zadok the priest, Aren’t you a seer? Return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar-
The connection between being a seer and needing to therefore return to Jerusalem is unclear. Hence LXX "See! thou shalt return...".

2Sa 15:28 Behold, I will stay at the fords of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me-
"The plain of the wilderness" (AV) is the plain of Jericho (Josh. 5:10; 2 Kings 25:5; 2 Sam. 2:29; 17:16). "The way of the wilderness" in 2 Sam. 15:23 was therefore the road to Jericho, used by the Lord Jesus in His parable of the man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho being beaten [= suffering for his sins, in the parable], and being saved by grace and now law. Surely the Lord had David in mind, and is presenting the long day of his tragic exile as being the experience of everyman.

2Sa 15:29 Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem; and they stayed there-
David was concerned for the ark. His desire it not accompany him reflected that, and also his willingness to accept that he may be killed by Absalom and the ark destroyed in the fighting. He knew his son had no real respect for Yahweh. And he knew from his earlier experiences that God's presence would be with him whether or not the ark was with him.

2Sa 15:30 David went up by the ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered, and went barefoot: and all the people who were with him covered each man his head; so they went up, weeping as they went up-
This may be slightly out of chronological sequence. But it is noted that David went there to worship (:32). We note how the Lord Jesus was likewise around the mount of Olives before He crossed the Kidron in Jn. 18:1. His covered head and going barefoot would suggest he recognized it was holy ground, and that he was there as a sinner. He was to likewise cover his head in mourning when Absalom was dead and the rebellion was over (2 Sam. 19:4), just as he did when Absalom came to power (2 Sam. 15:30). We get the impression that it was grief every way for David, whether Absalom lived or died. And this is indeed the take away lesson for us- that the outcome of sin is a lose lose situation.

2Sa 15:31 Someone told David saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. David said, Yahweh, please turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness-
Ahithophel was Bathsheba's grandfather, and his defection was surely not unexpected to David. But we can imagine the bolt of pain which he experienced as he received the news. This turning of wisdom into foolishness is alluded to be in Is. 44:25. The exiles were being comforted that all the wisdom of Babylon would likewise be turned into foolishness, and they would likewise be restored. David's prayer was considered and answered by a decree passed in the court of Heaven; see on 2 Sam. 17:14).

2Sa 15:32 It happened that when David had come to the top, where God was worshipped, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat torn, and earth on his head-
The mount of Olives was clearly one of the "high places" where Yahweh was legitimately worshipped (1 Sam. 7:17; 9:13); hence David ascends it barefoot as if on holy ground. Such high places were not God's ideal intention, especially as this mount was so near to the sanctuary. But He still accepted worship there, such is His desire by all means to meet with man even on less than ideal terms.

2Sa 15:33 David said to him, If you pass on with me, then you will be a burden to me-
This may have been because of his age. As in 2 Sam. 19:35, it was older men who had known David in earlier years who were faithful to him at this time.

2Sa 15:34 but if you return to the city and tell Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king. As I have been your father’s servant in time past, so will I now be your servant; then you will defeat for me the counsel of Ahithophel’-
This raises the question as to whether lying is always wrong, necessarily. Rahab's lies and those of the Hebrew midwives at the exodus are rewarded as acts of faith. But this is of course a slippery slope. But such open questions are left for our reflection, underlining that spiritual life cannot be run by laws but by principles.

2Sa 15:35 Don’t you have Zadok and Abiathar the priests there with you? Therefore it shall be, that whatever thing you shall hear out of the king’s house, you shall tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests-
David's experience of having friends within the court of Saul prepared him for having friends within the court of Absalom, when both those men were hunting him. One experience prepares us for another, years later.

2Sa 15:36 Behold, they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son, and Jonathan, Abiathar’s son; and by them you shall send to me everything that you shall hear-
We get the impression David is being presented as matching Absalom's "spies throughout all Israel" (:10) with his own smaller scale espionage system. And his worked, whereas Absalom's much larger system failed. It was David against Goliath all over again.

2Sa 15:37 So Hushai, David’s friend, came into the city; and Absalom came into Jerusalem
Absalom entered Jerusalem the day David fled (2 Sam. 17:1). The day David fled Jerusalem is recorded in more detail than any day in Biblical history. The tragedy of a good man having to suffer for his sins is thereby underlined to us. Ahithophel's advice to attack David immediately was undoubtedly the best advice.