Absalom makes a secret plan against King David
v1 After this, Absalom got a *chariot and some horses. He also got 50 men who ran ahead of him. v2 Absalom used to get up early. He stood by the road that went to the gate of the city. If a person had a problem, that person sometimes went to the king. The king would be the judge. When someone went past Absalom he would say to them, ‘Which town do you come from?’ The man would answer, ‘Your servant is from one of the *tribes of *Israel.’ v3 Then Absalom would say to him, ‘Your situation is right. But the king does not have an assistant who can listen to you.’ v4 Then Absalom would say, ‘I wish that someone would appoint me as the judge of this nation. Then everyone who has problems could come to me. I would make sure that each person gets a fair judgement.’
v5 People went to bend down in front of Absalom, in order to show him honour. But Absalom reached out his hand to each person and held him. Then Absalom kissed the person.
v6 Absalom did this to all the *Israelites who came to the king for a decision. It was as if Absalom stole the people of *Israel. They loved him and they became loyal to him.
v7 After 4 years, Absalom said to the king, ‘Please let me go to Hebron. I want to do what I promised to the *Lord. v8 I made a promise while I was living in Geshur in the country of Aram. I said, “If the *Lord takes me back to Jerusalem, then I will *worship the *Lord in Hebron.” ’
v9 The king said, ‘Go and have peace.’ So, Absalom went to Hebron.
v10 Then Absalom secretly sent men to all the *tribes of *Israel with a message. The men said, ‘When you hear the *trumpets you must say, “Absalom is the king in Hebron.” ’
v11 Then Absalom invited 200 men from Jerusalem and they went with him. But they were innocent. They did not know what he was going to do. v12 Absalom gave *sacrifices. He also sent for Ahithophel from Giloh. He came from his own town, called Giloh. Ahithophel used to give wise advice to King David. More and more people joined Absalom’s group. His plot was getting stronger.
Absalom was probably about 30 years old. He wanted to be king instead of David. David had been a very good king. The *Israelites were loyal to him. So Absalom had to work out a plan that would make the *Israelites loyal to him instead.
First, he wanted to look important (verse 1). Absalom was a handsome young man (14:25). Absalom would have stood in the *chariot. The horses pulled it. They did not run fast. The 50 men who ran ahead were probably guards. Absalom did all this for a show. He was behaving like a king (1 Samuel 8:11). That would have impressed the people who saw his splendid display.
Second, he wanted to help people more than the king did (verses 2-4). The king was a judge. He helped people if their local leader could not help them. Early every morning, Absalom talked to people who were going to Jerusalem. He suggested that the king was too busy to help them. And Absalom said that the king did not have other judges to help him. We do not know whether this was true. But the people believed it. Absalom always said that the person’s situation was right. That made the person happy. Then he thought that Absalom would be a good judge. Absalom did not really care about the people. He just wanted to become king.
Third, he behaved like a king (verse 5). People gave honour to Absalom. Then he kissed them. This showed that he accepted them. He showed that he was available for anyone.
It took Absalom only 4 years to make the people loyal to him. It was as if he ‘stole’ them from his father. The *Israelites may have become unhappy with King David. Perhaps they knew about his bad behaviour. David, and the 200 men who went with Absalom, did not suspect his plan. The *ark of the *Lord was in Jerusalem. But David did not ask Absalom why he needed to *worship the *Lord in Hebron. Absalom was born in Hebron (3:2-3). David had become king of *Israel while he was in Hebron (5:1-3). David *blessed Absalom. David’s last words to Absalom were about peace. But Absalom went to start a war against David.
Ahithophel was Bathsheba’s grandfather (11:3 and 23:34). Perhaps he did not like what David had done to Bathsheba. Or perhaps there were other reasons why he supported Absalom. Giloh was near to Hebron. Absalom gave his *sacrifices. But he cared more about the power that he would get.
David escapes from Jerusalem
v13 A man came and he gave David a message. ‘All the *Israelites have become loyal to Absalom’, he said.
v14 Then David spoke to all the officials who were with him in Jerusalem. ‘We must run away from Absalom. We must leave quickly so that we escape from him. Otherwise, he will catch us and he will destroy our city. And he will kill the people in Jerusalem.’
v15 The king’s officials answered, ‘We are your servants. You are our master and king. We will do whatever you tell us.’
v16 So the king, his family and his officials all set out. The king left 10 *concubines in the palace to look after it. v17 So the king set out. All the people were following him. They stopped after they had gone a short distance. v18 Then all the king’s officials walked past David. All the men called Kerethites and Pelethites walked past him. Then the 600 men from Gath walked past. These men from Gath had been with David when he returned from Gath.
v19 Then the king said to Ittai, who came from Gath, ‘You do not need to come with us. Go back and stay with King Absalom. You come from a foreign country. You do not live in your own country. v20 It seems as if you only arrived yesterday. But today you wander round with me. I do not want to make you wander. I do not even know where I am going. Go back. Take the other men from your country with you. I pray that God will be kind to you. And I pray that he will make you safe.’
v21 But Ittai said to the king, ‘I make this promise to the *Lord who lives. You are my master and king. I am your servant. I may live or I may die. But I will go wherever you go.’
v22 David said to Ittai, ‘Go ahead and walk.’ So, Ittai from Gath walked past. All his men and their families were with him. v23 They all walked through the country. Everyone cried loudly as David and his men walked by. King David also crossed over the Kidron Valley. Then they all walked towards the desert.
In verses 13-39, the writer constantly referred to David as the king. Absalom wanted to become king. But nobody had *anointed him as the king. So really, David was still the king.
One loyal man came to David with the bad news. David realised that Absalom wanted to take the royal city and the *kingdom of *Israel. If David stayed in the city to fight, many people would die. So David left and the people were safe. David had many *concubines. He left 10 of them behind. They had to look after everything in his palace. David’s officials all remained loyal to him. David left the city first. Everyone else followed him. Then he stopped to see who was loyal to him. David’s officials, the men called Kerethites and the men called Pelethites are in the list in 8:15-18. And you can read about David’s 600 men in 1 Samuel 23:13; 27:2; 30:9.
Ittai was a *Philistine man. He had just joined David and his men. In verse 20, ‘yesterday’ means in recent times. David called Absalom the king. And David expected to wander in the country. He had already done this when he had to run away from King Saul (1 Samuel chapters 20-30). David wanted to be fair to Ittai and his men. They could live safely with Absalom. They could be loyal to him. But Ittai was completely loyal to David. He made a serious promise to the *Lord. Ittai would even die for David. This contrasts with David’s own son. Absalom was against David and stole his *kingdom. But a foreign soldier was completely loyal to David. David must have been happy that some people were still loyal to him.
David’s servants and officers took their families with them. Everyone was very unhappy as David’s group left Jerusalem. The people in the city were still loyal to David. The Kidron valley was on the east side of Jerusalem. And the desert was beyond the valley.
v24 Zadok was there too with all the *Levites. The *Levites were carrying the *ark of the promise of God. They put down the *ark of God. Abiathar gave *sacrifices until all the people had left Jerusalem.
v25 Then the king said to Zadok, ‘Take the *ark of God back into Jerusalem. If the *Lord is pleased with me, he will bring me back. He will let me see the *ark and the tent of the *Lord again. v26 If the *Lord is not pleased with me then I am ready. He can do what he wants with me.’
v27 The king also said to Zadok the priest, ‘You are a seer (a *prophet). Go back to the city and have peace. Go with your son Ahimaaz and with Jonathan, the son of Abiathar. You and Abiathar should take your two sons with you. v28 I will wait in the desert where people cross the shallow river. I will wait there until I hear news from you.’ v29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the *ark of God back to Jerusalem. And they stayed there.
The priests and *Levites were also still loyal to King David. They had brought the *ark so that they could give *sacrifices. David knew that the *ark of God would not give him success (1 Samuel chapter 4). Instead, David trusted the *Lord to do the right thing. David wrote Psalm 3 at this time. He knew that the *Lord would save him. David wanted Zadok to return to Jerusalem. He could watch (or see) what happened. Then David knew that he would have loyal men in the city. They could bring him all the news.
v30 David went up to the hill called the *Mount of *Olives. He was crying. He covered his head but his feet were bare. All the people who went with him covered their heads too. They were crying as they went. v31 Someone told David, ‘Ahithophel is with Absalom. He is among the group of men who made secret plans against you.’ So David prayed, ‘*Lord, please ruin Ahithophel’s advice. Make his words seem foolish.’
v32 David reached the top of the mountain where people *worshipped God. Hushai the *Arkite met him there. Hushai had torn his coat and put dust on his head. v33 David said to him, ‘You will give me more responsibilities if you come with me. v34 But you can help me if you return to Jerusalem. You can make Ahithophel’s advice worth nothing. Say to Absalom, “My king, I am your servant. In the past, I was your father’s servant. But I will be your servant now.” v35 Abiathar and Zadok the priests will be there with you. Tell them everything that you hear in the royal palace. v36 Ahimaaz, the son of Zadok, and Jonathan, the son of Abiathar, are there too. Send the two sons to me. Then they will tell me anything that you have heard.’
v37 So David’s friend Hushai arrived at Jerusalem at the same time as Absalom.
The *Mount of *Olives is quite near to Jerusalem. David could stand on the top of the hill and look down over the city. He and the people dressed like very sad people. This was their custom. They cried. They did not know what would happen to them. David did not know whether he would ever return to Jerusalem. In the *New Testament, Jesus often went to the *Mount of *Olives. He taught there in Mark 13:3. He rode to Jerusalem from there on a *donkey. And all the people gave him a grand welcome (Luke 19:28-38). He prayed in the garden there before he died (Luke 22:39). Jesus was on the *Mount of *Olives when he went up to heaven (Acts 1:11-12).
Ahithophel and Hushai had both been David’s officers. They had given him wise advice. Now Ahithophel was not loyal to David but Hushai was still loyal. David sent Hushai back to Jerusalem. Absalom would believe that Hushai was not loyal to David. So, Hushai would be able to help David secretly. And Hushai could ruin Ahithophel’s advice. He could give Absalom bad advice. This was the best way that he could help David.
‘*Arkite’ refers to the family or place that Hushai came from. He was probably not an *Israelite.