Absalom’s Treason – 2 Samuel 15
Read the Passage: 2 Samuel 15
Rebellion in Hebron (15:1–12)
In 2 Samuel 15 David is still in the midst of grappling with the consequences of his past sins of adultery and murder (cf. 2 Sam. 12:10–12). After killing his half-brother Ammon, David’s son Absalom had fled to Geshur, where he was under the protection of his grandfather, King Talmai (cf. 2 Sam. 13:34–39). 2 Samuel 14 narrates Absalom’s return to Jerusalem, after three years of exile, as well as David’s eventual forgiveness of Absalom. 2 Samuel 15 records that after his status was restored, Absalom began to set in motion a plan to overthrow his father David and become king. Specifically, Absalom developed a practice of meeting people who traveled to Jerusalem for legal matters. He would treat these men cordially, side with them in their legal cases, and express frustration with the pace of the civil courts. In this manner Absalom was cultivating popular support for his future rebellion.
This chapter teaches that “after four years” (2 Sam. 15:7) of cultivating popular support, Absalom requested permission from David to travel to Hebron. Hebron was a significant city, for it is where Absalom was born and a location in which he would have had family support (cf. 2 Sam. 3:2–3). Furthermore, Hebron was David’s first capital city and it is where David had been inaugurated as king (cf. 2 Sam. 2:4; 5:3). Given Absalom’s natural giftedness (cf. 2 Sam. 14:25–27), his growing popularity, and God’s earlier declaration, “I will raise up adversity against you from your own house” (2 Sam. 12:11), perhaps David should have been suspicious about Absalom’s motives; yet, David consented to Absalom’s request (cf. 1 Kings 1:6). Once in Hebron, Absalom set his plan in motion, sending spies throughout Israel, gathering 200 people to himself, and calling for one of David’ chief counselors to join him (cf. 2 Sam. 15:10–12).
Escape from Jerusalem (15:13–18)
2 Sam. 15:12 reports that Absalom convinced David’s chief counselor Ahithophel, who had been offering sacrifices in his home town of Giloh, to join his rebellion. Note that Ahithophel was the grandfather of Bathsheba (cf. 2 Sam. 11:3; 23:34). While Ahithophel had apparently given David flawless advice in the past (cf. 2 Sam. 16:23), it is possible his defection is the result of harbored bitterness toward David for his adultery with Bathsheba and/or murder of Uriah (cf. Ps. 41:7–9; 55:12–14). When David learned of Absalom’s treason, he purposed to leave Jerusalem with his devoted followers. Apparently, David penned Psalms 3 & 63 at this time. It appears that David was concerned for the lives of his family, as well as for the for city of Jerusalem (cf. 2 Sam. 15:14). While David took most of his family and guards with him, he left ten concubines behind, thus allowing for the fulfillment of 2 Sam. 12:11–12.
Servants in Exile (15:19–37)
2 Sam. 15:18 reports that Cherethites, Pelethites, and Gittites traveled with David out of Jerusalem. These were likely all mercenary soldiers who served as David’s personal guards. 2 Sam. 19:37 records three additional servants who traveled with David, including: Ittai the Gittite (cf. 2 Sam. 15:19–23), Zadok the priest (cf. 2 Sam. 15:24–31), and Hushai the Archite (cf. 2 Sam. 15:32–37). Ittai the Gittite had apparently just joined David’s guard, yet he showed loyalty in traveling with David in exile. David would later install Ittai as a leader over one-third of the army in recognition of his loyalty (cf. 2 Sam. 18:2). Zadok the priest, along with many Levites and Abiathar the high priest also joined David, bringing with them the ark of the covenant. David then sent them back to Jerusalem, as he planned for the sons of Zadok and Abiathar to serve as secret messengers from Jerusalem.
While David’s counselor Ahithophel had attached himself to Absalom, another of David’s counselors, Hushai the Archite (cf. 1 Chron. 17:33), allied himself with David. When Hushai met David on the top the Mount of Olives, directly east of Jerusalem, David asked him to return to Jerusalem to serve as a spy under Absalom. David’s plan was to use Hushai to counteract the advice of Ahithophel and to serve as an information conduit via the sons of Zadok and Abiathar. This plan would prove to be quite valuable, for in 2 Samuel 17 Hushai’s advice would lead to the suicide of Ahithophel and set events in motion that would end in the overthrow and death of Absalom. In 2 Sam. 16:1–14 David met two additional people during his flight: Ziba, who had deceived Mephibosheth (cf. 2 Sam. 16:1–4) and Shimei, who cursed David as he fled (cf. 2 Sam. 16:5–14).
- Prov. 22:6 says, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Have you found this teaching to be true in your own life?
- Do you think those whose hearts Absalom stole were aware of his manipulation and planned future rebellion? Why do you think that Ahithophel joined the rebellion?
- As he left the city of Jerusalem, do you believe David was confident of victory over his son Absalom (cf. Ps. 3; 63)?
- Why did David send the ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem (cf. 1 Sam. 4:1–11)? Would not the ark have been a morale booster for the beleaguered people?
- Like David, has God put different individuals in your path during times of trials? What can we learn from David’s interaction with his servants during his flight?