The Word Made Fresh
1Some time passed. Absalom procured a chariot and horses, with fifty men to run ahead of him. 2He would often rise early and station himself beside the road at the gate, and whenever someone came bringing a dispute for the king to rule on, he would call out, “What town is home for you?” They would answer him, telling him what town or tribe they were from. 3Then Absalom would say, “Your claims should be addressed, but the king has no one to hear your case. 4If I were to be appointed a judge, then anyone who needs legal help could come to me and I would see to it they receive justice.” 5And whenever anyone approached him to bow down to him, Absalom would reach out and embrace them and kiss them. 6In this way he befriended everyone who came to ask the king for a settlement, and he ingratiated himself with the men of Israel.
7After four years Absalom went to the king and asked permission to go to Hebron in order to fulfill a promise he had made to the LORD. 8“While I was living in Aram in Gerar,” he said, “I made a promise that if the LORD would bring me back to Jerusalem, I would go and worship the LORD at Hebron.”
9“Go in peace,” the king told him.
Absalom went to Hebron, 10but he sent secret agents to all the tribes in Israel to tell his supporters that when they heard the sound of trumpets they were to shout, “Absalom has been made king in Hebron!” 11He invited two hundred men from Jerusalem to travel to Hebron with him, but none of them knew anything about what he was planning to do. 12While he was at Hebron making sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel, David’s advisor from Giloh, and his conspiracy grew as people kept coming to join him.
13A messenger came to David and reported that “the hearts of all the men of Israel have joined with Absalom.” 14David summoned his officials and said, “Get up! We have to leave now, or none of us will escape Absalom. Hurry! He will soon be here and will attack the city and bring disaster to us!”
15All his officials responded, “We are at your service, and we’ll do whatever you ask.”
16Then the king left Jerusalem along with his whole family. He left ten concubines to take care of his house. 17He was followed by many of the people. They halted just beyond the last house, 18and all the king’s officers passed by him, including all the Cherethites and Pelethites and the six hundred Gittites who had come with him from Gath.
19The king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Don’t come with us. Go back and support the king. You are a foreigner, and you are exiled from your home. 20You just arrived. I’m not going to make you wander around with me while I try to figure out where to go. Go back. Take your family with you, and may the LORD bless you with kindness and faithfulness.”
21But Ittai said, “As long as the LORD lives, and as long as my lord the king lives, wherever you may go, whether you live or die, I will be there.”
22“Walk on, then,” said the king, and Ittai and all his family marched on.
23The whole country wept aloud as they walked by. The king crossed the Kidron wadi and they moved on toward the wilderness. 24Abiathar and Zadok the priests had come, along with the Levites carrying the covenant chest of God. They set it down at the gate as all the people left the city. 25The king told Zadok to take the chest back into the city. “If the LORD favors me, I will return, and I will see the chest and its tent. 26But if the LORD does not favor me, here I am, and the LORD will do to me whatever is right.”
27Then he said, “You and Abiathar go back also with your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. 28I will wait at the crossing into the wilderness until you send word to me letting me know what’s going on there.” 29Then Zadok and Abiathar carried the covenant chest back into Jerusalem and stayed there.
30David climbed the Mount of Olives, weeping, with his head covered and his feet bare. All the people with him covered their heads and wept. 31David was informed that Ahithophel had joined Absalom’s conspiracy. He prayed, “LORD, please turn Ahithophel’s counsel into folly.”
32David arrived at the hilltop, a place where God was worshiped. Hushai the Archite came to him, his coat torn and dust on his head. 33David said, “If you travel with me, you’ll slow me down. 34But return to the city and tell Absalom, ‘I’m at your service, O king. I have been your father’s servant in the past, but now I am your servant.’ Try to confound whatever advice Ahithophel gives him. 35The priests Abiathar and Zadok will be there with you. Pass on to them any information you might receive in the king’s house. 36They also have their sons with them — Zadok’s son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. Use them to report to me whatever you might hear.”37So, David’s friend Hushai returned to the city and arrived just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem.
1-6: Absalom, with his display of chariot and horses and runners, is clearly setting himself up as heir to the throne in place of Amnon (his older half-brother whom he had murdered). But he wants more than that. He stations himself in a strategic location so that he can commiserate with anyone who comes to David with a problem, and over a period of four years ingratiates himself with a sizeable part of the population.
7-12: His plot is beginning to take shape. He requests permission to go to Hebron in keeping with a fictitious vow to the LORD. Two hundred men go with him, although Absalom keeps his plans a secret from them for the moment. Once in Hebron he begins the ruse of offering sacrifices, but at the same time sends messengers to all the tribes to tell them that he is about to become king of Israel. Obviously, he has been laying the groundwork for some time. He then sends to Jerusalem for Ahithophel, David’s own counselor, who is apparently in on the plot to depose David.
13-18: David gets word of Absalom’s doings and loses no time at all in fleeing from Jerusalem. He hastily puts together an entourage of families and courtiers and soldiers and immediately evacuates the city, leaving behind part of his harem to look after the palace. Other key operatives are left behind as well, but we’ll find out about that later. It appears that David, knowing Absalom’s ambitions and informed of his actions over the past several years, is not taken completely by surprise; he seems to have had some plan of escape already in place.
19-23: We meet Ittai the Gittite. He is a mercenary soldier only just come to Jerusalem, probably recruited by David along with his band as part of David’s military establishment. David sees Ittai and all his people coming with him out of Jerusalem and bids him return because he hasn’t been there long enough to have developed any sense of belonging. But Ittai insists on his loyalty to David, and David passes him on. In short order Ittai will be a commander on a par with Joab.
The people of Jerusalem gather to bid farewell to the king. David and his rather considerable retinue cross the wadi and head out toward the wilderness beyond.
24-29: Abiathar and Zadok bring the ark of the covenant, but David sends them back into the city. Abiathar has been with him since his outlaw days when Saul was chasing him around the country, and David knows he can be trusted. Abiathar and Zadok will be his eyes and ears within the palace, and their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan will be the messengers to take information to David.
30-31: As David ascends the Mount of Olives weeping, he receives word that his counselor Ahithophel has gone over to Absalom, and he is shaken by the news. He prays for God to negate Ahithophel’s counsel to Absalom.
32-37: Hushai is another trusted friend and counselor to David. He wants to go also, but David sends him back to offer his services to Absalom in hopes that his counsel will counter that of Ahithophel. So, David’s defense is organized. Hushai will counsel Absalom and report to the priests Abiathar and Zadok whatever is going on. They in turn will gather information from whatever other sources they can develop, and their sons Jonathan and Ahimaaz will deliver messages to and from David.
David has reached the summit of the Mount of Olives and can look back over Jerusalem as he prepares to descend the other side and head into hiding. It has been many years since he has lived in the wild, but his training as an outlaw guerilla leader in his younger days will save his life and his throne now (the Mount of Olives, or Olivet, is the site where the disciples see Jesus ascending into heaven. See Acts 1:1-12).