Only a short time after his return from his exile in Geshur, Absalom had assembled a small army of men for himself. Chariots and men would run ahead of him as he travelled throughout the land. To the onlookers, Absalom seemed to have an impressive security detail provided to him by the king like the security detail provided to presidential candidates as they traverse the land garnering the support of the people. Perhaps he was still being supported by his maternal uncle, the king of Geshur. Absalom used that support to recruit a small army of men to surround himself with. The people of Israel would not have known about all this but would have simply thought that the king was grooming his handsome son to take over his throne in the near future.
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.”2 Samuel 15:2-4 (NIV)
The goal was to circumvent David’s authority and make himself the poster boy for justice. Absalom made false promises just to make contacts among Israelites coming to David’s court for help. He had no authority to deliver them the justice that they so desperately needed but he won their hearts by simply acknowledging the troubles they were going through much like our modern-day politicians, creating a problem that does not exist and then labelling themselves as the solution.
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.2 Samuel 15:6-8 (NIV)
At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill 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 Hebron Caucus
Hebron was Absalom’s birthplace and the tribes of Judah, who were the earliest supporters of David and would eventually propel him to the throne of Israel ahead of the descendants of Saul.
Similar to the Iowa caucus in American politics, the leaders of the tribe of Judah had massive clout in deciding the successor to king David. Nothing good has ever come from someone asking permission to visit another land to worship God. Jacob lied to Laban using this rouse, the Israelites and Moses tried the same to get out of Egypt and now Absalom is doing the same to usurp his father in the eyes of his countrymen.
Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter.2 Samuel 15:11 (NIV)
People will continue to follow their leaders blindly as long as there is an outward show of power still with them. Some of the men that Absalom had gathered did not know about the conspiracy to overthrow king David, however even after finding out the real reason for the gathering they did not run to the hill city of Jerusalem and report it to the king. Perhaps these men were disgruntled under David’s regime and were excited by the prospect of a younger and good-looking king to sort out their issues.
While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.2 Samuel 15:12 (NIV)
Just like his father did when publically bringing back the Ark of God to Jerusalem, Absalom is doing the same by offering sacrifices himself. Like father, like son as they both are violating the commandments that restricted the offerings to be sacrificed by ordained priests, just to gain the affection of the people of the land. Destroying the sanctity of the sacrifices and what it meant to our broken relationship with God does not matter to men who are fine with using it to quench their thirst for public affection and the wielding power that comes with it. The prospect of a new king even swayed the former counsellor of David to jump ships and back Absalom.
David in Exile
A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.”2 Samuel 15:13-14 (NIV)
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.”
When David realised that Absalom had been planning an insurrection for a long time without anyone informing him about it he knew that he had already lost the support of the people. The people had given their allegiance to Absalom and knowing what he was capable of David knew that his life was in danger. Losing the support of Hebron would have a ripple effect among the larger tribe of Judah and David not want to stay in Jerusalem to fight it out with his own son. He was ready to abandon the high-ground fortress that he had built to prevent the enemy from entering his kingdom, but when the enemy was from his own blood he would rather high-tail out of there. He had other sons to think about and leaving Jerusalem seemed best for his entire family.
The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace.2 Samuel 15:16 (NIV)
David left ten women behind to take care of the place unsure of what would be their fate under Absalom’s rule. He thought he was protecting his place but this happened so the word of God against David would be fulfilled. Just like he slept with another man’s wife in secret God prophesied that his own family member will sleep with his wife in the sight of all Israel. This happened when Absalom sleep with his father’s concubine on top of the roof of the place for everyone to witness.
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 15:23 (NIV)
There is some similarity in this part of David’s journey and Jesus’ last night on the earth. Both David and Jesus crossed the Kidron valley on the eve of their respective betrayals and while David was being driven out of his own kingdom, Jesus was being driven out of the world he had created. The difference was how they both took their rejection. Jesus was not weeping when He was being driven out of Jerusalem and taken to Calvary to be crucified.
Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again.2 Samuel 15:25 (NIV)
David initially left carrying the Ark of God but later realised that the ark belonged in the capital city of Jerusalem. We later find out that he plants informants in Jerusalem and to keep up a semblance of normalcy in Jerusalem the Ark of God played a key role. David is again using the covenant of God as a pawn in his own grand schemes.
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.2 Samuel 15:32-35 (NIV)
On the one hand, David is trusting God to bring him back to Jerusalem and restore his throne and on the other, he is forming his own plans to forge a way back to his fortress. We scheme our own plans on the side all the while asking for God’s will to be accomplished in our lives. In the absence of GPS, we rely on the approximate north to find our way back home. David is disconnected from God and wants to ensure that he has done everything possible to restore his kingdom.
We all fall into this trap when we do not trust God to deliver on his word. We try to get help from any source possible and often end up accepting help from the evil one. Trusting God when things are going our way is the easy part, holding on to that faith when our family is out to get us is the hard part. Jesus was also persecuted by his own family but he never gave up on the path that God had put Him on, to save us from bearing the cost of our sins. Let us abandon all our backup plans and put our complete trust in God to lead us out of our current predicament.
- V4: What is Absalom trying to do by telling people that they would get justice if they came to him and if he were appointed a judge?
- V7: Why is Absalom desiring to go to Hebron?
- V10: Why are the people who were with Absalom, continuing to be with him even after they now see him declare himself as king?
- V16: Why is David leaving behind 10 concubines to take care of the palace?
- V25: Is David attributing his current downfall to God? If yes, Why?
- V25: Why bring the Ark of God halfway and then return?