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This chapter opens with the subject of what may be considered as the foundation forming for Absalom's unnatural rebellion against his father. We are here informed of his courting popularity, - his open avowal of his seeking the crown - the party he formed - and his several operations in prosecution of his design. We read also, in this chapter, David's distress upon the occasion, and the sad state to which this rebellion of his son reduced him.
2 Samuel 15:1
(1) ¶ And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.
The whole life of Absalom seems to have been sinful. He multiplies his train of horses and his chariots, with running footmen to grace his equipage; whereas the Lord had strictly forbidden this to his people Israel. Deuteronomy 17:15 . Moreover, the Lord had told Israel by his servant Samuel, that the king they would choose, but not of the Lord's approbation, would be of this very character, to take pride in what the Lord had forbidden; and that he would oppress his subjects in the number of his chariots, horsemen, and servants. So that these things ought to have been enough to have made the people look shy upon Absalom; whereas it appears that so far from it, these tended to win their affections. See 1 Samuel 8:11 , etc.
(2) And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. (3) And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. (4) Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! (5) And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him. (6) And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
It is awful to consider the depth of guilt and sin in the heart of man. Here is a man wishing himself a Judge, that merited judgment, and punishment, for the murder even of his own brother! Here is such a character aspiring to a crown, and yet apparently so very humble as to embrace the poorest creature in the kingdom. Dearest Jesus! hadst thou not come down from heaven to redeem our nature, and hadst thou not sent thy blessed Spirit to renew our nature; what man alive would have believed that the same seeds of sin as are here seen bringing forth their deadly fruit in the instance of Absalom, are in every man's heart by nature. Lord keep me from that evil man myself!
(7) ¶ And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron. (8) For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD. (9) And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron.
It is not very easy to ascertain the time from whence we are to calculate these forty years. It cannot mean after forty years of David's reign; for his whole reign was no more than forty; and it should seem that this rebellion broke out at least ten years before the death of David. Some have thought that it means after forty years that Israel had been governed by a king. And if so, this makes the calculation to be just, as it happened in about the thirtieth year of David's reign. Here is another proof of the fallacy of the human heart, to make religion a covering for the basest designs. Was it not enough, Absalom, that you leveled a dagger at your too kind and indulgent father; but must God himself be impiously mocked in the attempt?
(10) But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron. (11) And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not anything. (12) And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.
We feel pity for those two hundred men drawn by surprise into such a conspiracy: but as to Ahithophel, David's counsellor and friend, we feel indignation at his conduct. But here, blessed Jesus! do I not feel my soul drawn to thee and thine unequalled trials, from the perfidy of Judas? Alas! what situation hath any of thy faithful ones been ever placed in from the baseness of unfaithful men, but thou hast experienced it before them. Probably, David wrote the forty-first Psalm on the occasion of this conspiracy, in which he particularly takes notice of the falseness of the familiar friend which eat bread with him. But if so, it is still more interesting and striking, typically considered, in reference to the perfidy of Judas towards our Lord Jesus Christ. And indeed, as such, the Lord himself applies it. See John 13:18 .
(13) ¶ And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. (14) And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.
David was a man of great personal bravery, wherefore then did he wish to flee? No doubt he saw the hand of the Lord in the affliction. God had said, I will raise up evil out of thine own house. 2 Samuel 12:11 . Reader! that affliction which comes immediately from the Lord, and as the correction of sin, throws down self-confidence, and makes men cowards. It is sweet to see the hand of him that corrects however, because as his name is, so is his mercy.
(15) And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint. (16) And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house. (17) And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off. (18) And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.
No doubt, in this flight, David's mind was much occupied in a variety of thoughts. It is much, however, that we hear nothing of his presenting himself in this distress before the Lord; in seeking counsel and protection.
(19) Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile. (20) Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee. (21) And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be. (22) And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.
This is an interesting conversation David held with Ittai. But I admire the generosity and attachment of this poor Gittite. At the time when David's own son, whom he had cherished and loved so greatly, was seeking his life, this stranger's heart was warm towards him. Reader! can you and I say as much for our rightful Lord and King, Christ Jesus? Oh! dearest Redeemer! be it my portion to take up the same gracious resolution; and where thou art, there as thy servant may I be.
(23) And 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, toward the way of the wilderness.
Much as I am pleased with what is here said of the affection of the people to David, I gladly leave the subject of David's passing over Kidron, to view thee, thou dear Redeemer, accompanied with thy chosen few, going over the very same memorable brook, in the night of thy sufferings, when thou enteredst into the garden. Had my soul seen thee, dearest Jesus, in that awful hour; and had I then known what through thy gracious teachings I now know, that that Kidron's brook, into which all the black, polluted waters, emptied themselves from the sacrifices of the temple, was typical of the guilt and defilement of my soul, which is poured upon thee; Oh! how should I, like the people following David, have lifted up my voice and wept. John 18:1 .
(24) ¶ And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were 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 had done passing out of the city. (25) And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation: (26) But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.
I have often admired the blessed frame of mind David was in, when he thus expressed himself. Surely nothing but the grace and presence of the Lord with him could have induced it at such a season. It is delightful to see that though the Lord (according to his solemn declaration by Nathan) had raised evil out of his own house, and though the Lord was correcting, he at the same time sustained him under the pressure. His direction to Zadok is as high an evidence of David's devotion and resignation, as we meet with in his whole history. Go Zadok, carry back the Ark! what though I have not the symbol and representation of Jesus, yet I shall have Jesus himself with me; and that will abundantly answer for all. What the designs of my God are in this humbling, sorrowful providence, I know not. Whether I shall ever see Jerusalem again, or whether I shall not; let my Jesus choose for me, I have no choice myself. If I shall find favour in his eyes to return, the Ark will be doubly sweet to my view; the habitation of God's house, and all things pertaining to ordinances. But, if my God say nay to this, he will not say nay to my soul in loving me. He hath spoken peace, and therefore will not unsay it. Oh, Reader! what a frame of mind is here. Better to be thus in God's hottest furnace, living upon Jesus, than at ease under any pleasing frames, or supposed attainments of our own.
(27) The king said also unto Zadok the priest, Art not thou a seer? return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz thy son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. (28) See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify me. (29) Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.
Observe, how strong confidence he put in the counsel of God's Seer, that is, God's prophet; through whom the Lord might graciously be pleased to convey instruction. And, Reader! have not we that which is better than a thousand Seers now? even his holy word, which is a constant light to our feet, and a lamp to our paths.
(30) And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.
How very suitable a frame was David now in! He saw the hand of God in this affliction. This gave the additional bitterness to it. Moreover, be knew not what the event might be. Either way, in success, or the contrary, it was full of evil. If he conquered, it was a son, a beloved son, he subdued. If he fell himself, death would be the consequence. In such a state, as a mourner, he might well go barefoot and weeping. But Reader! can you accompany David in idea up the ascent of Mount Olivet, and not recollect that holy mourner there, David's Lord? Surely! no true believer in Christ can ever hear, or read, the name of Olivet, without connecting with it Jesus, and his agonies there. That was the memorable spot where thy Redeemer, my soul, sweat drops of blood, when the agony and convulsion of his soul was so great in sustaining all the weight and pressure of the divine justice due to thy sins, that David's grief for Absalom compared to it was but as nothing. Here the powers of hell besieged him also, until it became necessary that an angel from heaven should be dispatched to strengthen him. And Reader! you will not forget, I hope, how the Son of God in that tremendous hour in Olivet, was agitated backward and forward; when his whole soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death; and when his few faithful disciples were drenched in sleep, as if on purpose that no help, no comfort, should be afforded him: and that, in redemption-work, of the people there should be none with him. Isaiah 63:8 .
(31) ¶ And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.
Reader! do observe how near the Lord is to his people in all that they call upon him for. The issue of this prayer, and the success of it, the subsequent history proves. Ahithophel's counsel was considered foolishness. And through this, as an instrument in the Lord's hand, Absalom lost his cause, Oh! the privilege of the faithful, in their nearness of access to God!
(32) And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head: (33) Unto whom David said, If thou passest on with me, then thou shalt be a burden unto me: (34) But if thou return to the city, and say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king; as I have been thy father's servant hitherto, so will I now also be thy servant: then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel. (35) And hast thou not there with thee Zadok and Abiathar the priests? therefore it shall be, that what thing soever thou shalt hear out of the king's house, thou shalt tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests. (36) Behold, they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz Zadok's son, and Jonathan Abiathar's son; and by them ye shall send unto me everything that ye can hear. (37) So Hushai David's friend came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.
Here we find David at his devotions. Not all the hurry of business, nor all the precipitancy of flight, could stop the fervor of David in his communion with God. The title of the third Psalm gives us an acquaintance with the sum and substance of David's prayer, what he said to the Lord upon this occasion: and very sweet the petitions are, to which I refer the Reader. He complains of the number, and of the malice of his enemies: but takes refuge in God, both as a sun and shield, to whom salvation alone belonged. Probably David poured out his soul to the Lord as he ascended the mount, weeping and praying as he went, and even praising God through all. Beautiful pattern for afflicted souls! Whether suffering under the effects of sin, the ungraciousness of children, or of the world. See Psalms 3:0 . The coming of Hushai seems to have been providential. And the event fully justified the advice of David in the moment.
PAUSE, Reader! over the perusal of this Chapter, and in the contemplation both of the father and of the son, David and Absalom, learn to observe what nature is, and how much grace is needed to correct and reform poor fallen man. Behold in Absalom the awful consequence of indulging the corrupt and pampered passions of children. Had David, as a king in Israel, followed up the divine law, in punishing him for murder, painful as it might have been to nature, yet perhaps the Lord would then have sent his servant the Prophet to interpose; and Absalom being convicted and convinced of the atrocious sin of murdering his brother, would have called forth mercy in his exemplary sorrow and repentance. At least this effect would have been produced by it, that he could not so shortly after have been found in open rebellion against his father. But, when David in the feeling of the father lost sight of his duty as a king, and took again to his bosom the murderer of a son, can it be wondered at, that the serpent so fostered should sting him, or that the wretch forgiven the blood-shedding of a brother, should so ripen in iniquity, as to aim the dagger at the father! Oh! what hath sin wrought in our fallen nature! What is not the heart of man capable of devising in evil, void of divine grace!
Reader! let us remark in David also, how sure God's judgments are, and how certain it is that our sin will find us out. How much more amiable David appears in ascending the hill of Olivet, weeping as he went, than when triumphing in his conquests over Bath-sheba and Uriah! How very gracious the Lord is in condescending to correct his people, in order to bring their hearts home to him, when without those corrections they would wander from him forever.
Precious Jesus! how dear are thy recoveries! Oh! how very sweet, to thy people, are thy many, many redemptions. Yes! dearest Lord, thou hast not only redeemed us to God by thy blood; but the everlasting efficacy of thy precious blood-shedding and righteousness, again and again pleads for us, when by our frequent departures, thy corrections for our recovery are rendered necessary, Oh! Lord! grant that such may be the views, both of him that writes and him that reads, (if it be thy blessed will), of all thy tender corrections for our trespasses, that though thou mayest bring us down by affliction, our faith may yet be assured thou wilt not cast us off: though we are, chastened, yet not destroyed. Though in us there is nothing of worth, yet with Jesus there is perpetual merit. He ever liveth to make intercession; and his blood cleansed from all sin. Now, Lord, would I sing that song, even before I quit this mortal life; and ere long I shall chant it loud amidst the heavenly host: Worthy is the Lamb that was slain; for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Epiphany