2 Samuel 15-17

Good morning! Yesterday we read the drama of Absalom’s banishment from Jerusalem for the revenge killing of David’s firstborn Amnon, and his eventual return to the king’s good graces. Today in 2 Samuel 15-17 we see the situation reversed. Abaslom rises to power and leads a coup that expels his father from the throne to the wilderness, where David must once again fight for survival as he did against Saul.

At the beginning of chapter 15, Absalom persuades the people that he’s more concerned about their welfare than David is. He secretly builds support for a revolution, then goes to Hebron and there is acclaimed king by rebels against the throne. David leaves Jerusalem in order to save the city from being sieged and razed to the ground. Those loyal to the king march out with him. David determines to leave the ark of the covenant in Jerusalem rather than carrying it out and about with him. This demonstrates trust that God is present and active regardless of where the ark is at, and it also makes sure that the king’s forces can be nimbler in their escape. David’s mournful walk out takes him up the Mount of Olives, more famous later as the place where Jesus also offered up an aggrieved farewell in the garden of Gethsemane. A few of David’s loyal followers stay behind in Jerusalem to secretly communicate and foil the plans of Absalom.

We see evidence in 2 Samuel 16 that the ghost of Saul is still in the land, through those who were loyal to him rather than David. Ziba is the servant of Jonathan’s son Mephibosheth, and he goes out with many provisions for King David, loyal to the monarch even in retreat. However, Mephibosheth stays in Jerusalem, with the (foolish) hope that Absalom would restore to him the kingdom that Saul once held. Another of Saul’s relatives, Shimei, showers curses on David’s head as the deposed king goes by. While he could have commanded Shimei’s death, David nevertheless takes it in stride as the will of God. (This willingness to suffer nonviolently rather than use force inappropriately is one of the characteristic and admirable things about David, but it only seems to show up when he is on the run.) Ahithophel is a chief advisor to the king—he once served David but now he serves Absalom. While Absalom is gathering the powerful people of Israel around himself—including secret David-supporters—Ahithophel determines to rub salt in the wound to David. On his suggestion Absalom sleeps with his father’s concubines, in gross defiance of his father and of Hebrew customs.

Ahithophel recommends at the start of chapter 17 that Absalom chase after David immediately, killing him swiftly so as not to incite a long civil war. Hushai, a (hidden) friend of David, suggests waiting to amass all Israel and attacking David with mighty force. Absalom agrees, and thereby Hushai buys time for David to get further away. The servants who carry the message to David are spotted and reported to Absalom, but a woman hides them from discovery in her family’s well (reminding me of scenes from the Underground Railroad). Because of the woman’s courage and the bravery of these messengers, David’s loyalists escape across the Jordan River before Absalom can corner them. Ahithophel leaves the royal court and hangs himself because his counsel was not followed. (Was he perhaps afraid of retribution in case David regained the throne?) Another person loyal to David, Shobi, sets out a feast of his own provisions in order that David and all who were with him might eat and be strengthened for what’s to come. Happy reading!

Read 2 Samuel 15-17.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is 2 Samuel 18-20. Thanks for reading!

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