31David Abandoning of Jerusalem
ABANDONING OF JERUSALEM
2 SAMUEL 15,16
TIMES WERE GETTING rougher and rougher for David, and things would get worse before
they got better. The painful chastisements of David which we have seen in previous
studies were not all of David’s chastisements. More chastisements for his adulterous sins
were coming, and much of the coming chastisements would be in the form of an
attempted insurrection against his government by his son Absalom. The acceptance of
Absalom by David back to Jerusalem gave Absalom great opportunity to stage an
insurrection against David’s monarchy. The insurrection would eventually be crushed, as
later Scripture reports. But before it was crushed, it would deal some crushing blows to
David’s heart and home and honor. His heart would be broken over the tragedy of
Absalom’s death, his home would suffer another tragic loss, and his honor would be
diminished among the people of Israel. Oh, what great troubles David brought upon
himself because of the evening of illicit pleasure he had with Bathsheba. And how
frequently and unfortunately this experience happens in every age. A moment of sinful
pleasure results in a lifetime of serious problems for so many people. But God’s Word
warns mankind. If men would only heed the Word of God, they would eliminate a great
many troubles from their lives.
The study of the attempted insurrection of Absalom will take up several chapters in
our book. In this chapter, we will look at the initial stages of the insurrection which
resulted in David having to abandon the capital city of Jerusalem where the seat of
government and religious center of Israel were located. In examining this abandonment,
we will consider the prompting of the abandoning (2 Samuel 15:1–12), the preparations
for the abandoning (2 Samuel 15:13–22), the pathway in the abandoning (2 Samuel
15:23–16:14), and the pollution after the abandoning (2 Samuel 16:15–23).
A. THE PROMPTING OF THE ABANDONING
That which prompted David to abandon Jerusalem was “the conspiracy” (2 Samuel
15:12) of Absalom against David. The first part of the text for our study introduces us to
this conspiracy. It tells us about the pomp, politicking, and progress in the conspiracy.
1. The Pomp in the Conspiracy
“It came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty
men to run before him” (2 Samuel 15:1). Absalom’s conspiracy against David began to
manifest itself when he started parading before the Israelites in a very pompous way in a
chariot with horses and runners. The purpose of this pompous parading by Absalom was
to promote Absalom for the throne by giving him (1) extra attention—the pomp would
really turn the eyes of the crowds towards him, (2) the appearance of importance—he
would look more important than David who only rode on a mule (1 Kings 1:33), and (3)
the guise of legality—the pomp would suggest David intended him to be the next king.
Today, instead of using horses, chariots, and runners to promote himself, Absalom
would use such things as self-exalting press releases, high powered TV advertisements,
and expensive convertibles to ride in parades. But in that day, horses, chariots, and
runners were the method used to promote one’s self. Later, Adonijah, another son of
David, also used this same method to promote himself for the throne when he tried to
usurp the throne just before David died. The Bible said he “exalted himself, saying, I
will be king; and he prepared him chariots and horsemen, and fifty men to run before
him” (1 Kings 1:5).
While these pompous promotional methods may succeed in impressing people and
gaining much popular support (they obviously helped Absalom in this way), they also
reveal much poor character on the part of those who exalt themselves. If you must use
pompous means to promote yourself, you, like Absalom, have some serious character
problems. People who are so eager for attention that they must be gaudy and noisy to get
it are the ones who should not have it. People who must put on a show to make
themselves look important are the ones who are not important. And people who parade
in front of the public are, like Absalom, only trying to beguile the public.
With the world being so vile today, it is not surprising that these methods are very
popular. In fact, they are the predominate methods used in advertising and political
campaigns. Unfortunately, many churches and other religious endeavors are also
adopting the principles of this pompous parading. They advertise themselves in the
gaudiest of ways, boast of size and statistics which are grossly inflated, and lay claim to
positions they do not practice. If you are looking for a church, do not choose one that
uses these methods; or you will get an Absalom church. Also, do not give money to any
religious endeavor that uses these methods; or you will put your money in an Absalom
ministry which only opposes God’s Anointed One.
2. The Politicking in the Conspiracy
Announcing his kingly ambitions by his prancing around pompously in a chariot
with horses and accompanying runners was not all that Absalom did to forward the cause
of his conspiracy against David. Absalom also did a great deal of politicking with the
people to seduce them into supporting his conspiracy to take the throne from David. To
examine this politicking, we note the pursuit, place, prejudging, propaganda, plea,
passion, and purloining in the politicking.
The pursuit of the politicking. “Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of
the gate” (2 Samuel 15:2). Absalom was very zealous in this politicking business, for he
got up early in the morning to pursue his evil. He meant business in his conspiracy
against David. Oh, that we would see as much zeal for good causes as we see in
Absalom for a bad cause. How often good people are shamed for lack of zeal for good
causes by the zeal of bad people for evil causes. The devil is not lazy; he is up early and
plotting late to do evil. He does not sleep in late in the morning and quit work early in
the afternoon. He is a workaholic. He rises before the birds and burns the midnight oil.
When was the last time you exerted yourself with anything akin to that zeal in your
service for God?
The place in the politicking. “Absalom .stood beside the way of the gate” (2 Samuel
15:2). The “way of the gate” spoke of the place of judgment. Today it would be the
courtroom. “Controversy” (v. 2), “thy matters” (v. 3), and “suit or cause” (v. 4) all refer
to lawsuits and other such complaints one finds in a courtroom. This place would,
therefore, be a place where you would find a lot of disgruntlement and complaining. And
when these things are present, evil causes thrive. Absalom used this fact about “the way
of the gate” very effectively to advance his conspiracy against David. He knew the
people at “the gate” would be more attentive than others to his complaints about the
government and his desire to change it. Communists know this fact, too; and often stir up
disgruntlement in a land so they can better push their program. Churches know about
this tactic of evil, too. It is through the complaining and disgruntled Christians that the
devil can often do his most damaging work in the church.
The prejudging in the politicking. “When any man that had a controversy came to the
king for judgment . . . Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right” (2
Samuel 15:2,3). Absalom evilly used the “gate” location to try to ingratiate himself with
the people by appearing to side with them in whatever matter they were bringing to the
king for judgment. This, of course, was despicable judgment; for it decided a case before
all sides were heard. But Absalom was not interested in justice—he was interested in a
job—the job of a king. So he said whatever would help him gain the people’s favor. This
is a popular tactic of politicians. They always try to appear to represent the people’s
interest. Wherever they travel, they side with the people in that area. This means they
will often contradict themselves. But they could care less, for they are not interested in
bringing equity to the voters but in being elected by the voters.
The propaganda in the politicking. “There is no man deputed of the king to hear
thee” (2 Samuel 15:3). Absalom resorted to a clever, but corrupt, political tactic which is
to make false accusations if necessary in order to stir up people against your opponent.
And in making these accusations, he did what many crafty politicians do—play on the
people’s impatience and emphasize the lack of service being provided for them. People
do not like to wait, and they especially get upset if they think they are not getting
something due them, such as, if they are not getting their rights which we hear so much
about today. Absalom endeavored to turn the people against David by charging that
David’s government was inefficient in dealing with the problems of its citizens. But it
was a trumped-up charge. David was taking care of the people’s complaints as was
evidenced by the fact that he heard the complaint of the woman of Tekoah (which we
noted in our previous chapter). But there is no performance by the criticized that will
satisfy the evil criticizer.
The plea in the politicking. “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” (2
Samuel 15:4). What a sick plea. Absalom’s claim about doing justice is most
hypocritical, for he had already demonstrated in prejudging the people’s cases that he is
not interested in justice. Furthermore, he was unqualified to be a judge, for he was a
gross lawbreaker (murderer and arsonist). He did not obey the law yet wanted to be a
judge to promote obeying the law. He is an example of the unqualified person pushing
himself for high office. Matthew Henry said, “Those are commonly most ambitious of
preferment that are least fit for it, the best qualified are the most modest.” Those with the
least talent are often the first to want to perform. Those who have accomplished the least
want to lecture on achievement. The crooked politician wants to talk about better laws
against crime. Communists want to talk about human rights. And the most unqualified at
church, such as divorced people, are often the most presumptuous in pushing themselves
forward for positions of spiritual leadership.
The passion in the politicking. “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 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” (2 Samuel 15:2, 5). Another way in which Absalom
gained support was his passionate show of affection for the people. He was not really in
love with the people, but he was in love with the power of being the king, and so all this
show of affection was simply used to gain that power. This passionate show of affection
for the people is still done by politicians today. In campaigning for election, they feign
great interest in the voter’s situation (“Of what city art thou?”), hug the people, and kiss
the babies. Insurance salesmen do likewise. They gush over you and make over you to
get you to buy a policy from them. So beware of this ostentatious affection, for it is to
fleece you of your money, mind, and morals. Young people need to remember this when
dating. Passionate kissing on dates does not evidence real love but dangerous lust. True
affection reveals itself in wholesome words and works.
The purloining in the politicking. “So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel”
(2 Samuel 15:6). “Stole” means Absalom did not gain the people’s hearts by legitimate
means. People did not become his supporters because of his great and gallant exploits
and outstanding service for the country. People did not become his supporters because of
his wise and judicious governing of the land. People did not become his supporters
because of his noble character and conduct. Rather, people became his supporters
because of Absalom’s evil politicking which we have been examining. In contrast, David
merited the monarchy because of his great achievements and character. He killed
Goliath, won numerous battles with the Philistines, evidenced great skill in governing
people, was of excellent character, and was anointed of God for the kingship. Absalom
had none of these merits. Yet, he got the support which forced David to abandon
Jerusalem. Evil politicians are ever doing this. They steal elections by vote fraud, false
advertising, and other evil ways.
While Absalom “stole” the hearts of the people, the people are not exempt from
blame here. The people went for Absalom instead of David, just as people unwisely go
for the unworthy and corrupt politicians of our day instead of good men who are running
for office. People have been going for Absalom-type people for ages. Israel wanted Saul
for king more for his height than his holiness. The people in Christ’s day gave honor to
Pilate, Barabbas and Herod but rejected the infinitely worthier Christ. If a man has
charisma, there are a great many voters who will vote for him instead of the man who
has character. Some voters are indeed innocently beguiled by the evil tactics of corrupt
politicians, but others choose to be beguiled because they themselves lack character and
will vote for those of their kind.
3. The Progress in the Conspiracy
After Absalom had gained the “hearts of the men of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6), the
conspiracy progressed rapidly. The progress is seen in the moving of Absalom, the
media for Absalom, and the multitude with Absalom.
The moving of Absalom. “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” (2 Samuel 15:7). The moving of Absalom from Jerusalem to continue
his conspiracy reflected considerable progress in the work of his conspiracy to become
king of Israel. This verse reports the period of the moving, the petition about the moving,
the permission for the moving, and the place of the moving.
First, the period of the moving. It was “after forty years” that Absalom made plans to
move from Jerusalem to Hebron. The word “forty” creates problems here. If “forty” was
Absalom’s age, David would be about through with his life, if even alive, which
certainly was not the case here. Also, “forty” obviously cannot refer to Absalom’s time
in Jerusalem. However, some Hebrew manuscripts read “four” instead of “forty” which
certainly make more sense. But as Pink said regarding the problem of the “forty” in our
text, “That which is most germane to our present line of meditation is [that] Absalom
considered that his wicked plot was ripe for execution.” When opportunity is ripe, evil
moves promptly. Would that those involved in good causes would be as ready and
zealous to seize opportunity for advancing good as evil men are for advancing evil.
Second, the petition about the moving. “I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow,
which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron. 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” (2 Samuel 15:7,8). This petition to David is all pretense. On
the surface, and to David, it would look like Absalom is more spiritual than we thought.
But in truth, Absalom is more subtle than we thought. He is using this guise of a vow
and spiritual devotion to gain a cover for his evil revolt. When Absalom got to Hebron,
Scripture says he indeed “offered sacrifices” (2 Samuel 15:12). But that was not a
fulfillment of a vow, but a show of piety to help cover up his evil. Absalom, like so
many, would cover his evil by a religious cloak. Jezebel did likewise when she had
Naboth killed. Under the guise of a “fast” (1 Kings 21:9) and the accusation that Naboth
did “blaspheme God” (1 Kings 21:13—a very false accusation, for in truth Naboth had
courageously honored God), she perpetrated her evil. Evil politicians cover up their evil
agenda by showing up in churches before elections to make it look like they are pious
and, therefore, good men for office. Apostate ministers in churches and apostate
professors of religion in schools have under the guise of religion promoted false and
blasphemous doctrine. And today rock music is being pushed in the church under the
guise of religious verse. Few things propagate evil more effectively than the guise of
Third, the permission for the moving. “And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So
he arose, and went to Hebron” (2 Samuel 15:9). Once again we see David being
involved unwittingly with his children’s crime. He became involved unwittingly in
Amnon’s crime when he gave permission for Tamar to go to Amnon’s apartment which
resulted in Tamar experiencing the horror of being raped. He became involved
unwittingly in Amnon’s murder when he gave Amnon permission to go to Absalom’s
sheepshearing celebration which cost Amnon his life. Now he becomes involved
unwittingly in Absalom’s conspiracy by giving Absalom permission to go to Hebron
which will lead to Absalom’s death in the civil war. All of this is simply David’s sin
coming home to haunt him, for it mirrors the sin in which he caused Uriah to be involved
unwittingly in carrying the orders for his own death to Joab. David kept Uriah in the
dark about his doom so Uriah would aid in his own death, and now God keeps David in
the dark about the doom of his children so David will aid the coming of their doom.
What a solemn warning this is about the consequences of sin even though we repent of
our evil. Chastisement will come upon us heavily so that we will loath our sin. Folk need
to take the warning about sin more seriously. Failure to do so will bring painful
experiences no one in his right mind will want to experience.
Fourth, the place of the moving. Absalom’s move would take him to the city of
Hebron (2 Samuel 15:7). This city was not chosen at random. Absalom had good reasons
for choosing it as the place where he would launch his all-out effort to throw David off
the throne. Dissidents, like Absalom, make sure they get plenty of effect out of
everything they do. One reason the choice of Hebron would aid Absalom’s causes was
that it was the place where Absalom was born (2 Samuel 3:2,3). Politicians like to go
back to their hometown to announce they are running for office. Absalom was no
different, and so he also sought to gain the “hometown” support of those in Hebron.
Another reason the choice of Hebron would aid Absalom’s cause was that this was
where David first reigned over Israel. For seven and a half years (2 Samuel 5:5) David
reigned from Hebron. Then he moved the capital to Jerusalem. There would be some
who would be piqued about David moving the capital elsewhere. Absalom would
capitalize on this pique. Hence, when Absalom’s agents later announced “Absalom
reigneth in Hebron” (v. 10), as we will see more about in our next point, it would leave
the impression that Absalom was returning the throne to the city of Hebron. All of this
reflects a practice of evil men. They love to open sores, revive grudges and jealousies,
and fuel discontent and complaining. They can hold ill feelings forever, they will fight
legitimate change, and they are ever digging up evil to help their cause. Absalom’s kind
is still around. It is generally the spirit of unions, political groups, church dissidents, and
people who are forever complaining about not getting their rights.
The media for Absalom. “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” (2 Samuel 15:10). Absalom saw to it that he had a news media that would
report the progress of his conspiracy. This would also help the conspiracy to continue to
progress. His news media was the “spies” mentioned in this verse. These “spies” were
not spying out David’s kingdom but in this case these “spies” were Absalom’s publicity
personnel. They would report the news as Absalom wanted it reported. At a given signal
(“as soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet”), they would all announce that “Absalom
reigneth in Hebron.” This announcement, of course, was a lie. But the concerted
announcement being made throughout the land would have a very persuasive effect for
Absalom’s cause. Our liberal news media does this all the time. In concert they push the
liberal agenda as though it was truth. The fact that it is not truth does not bother them,
for what does the news media care about truth? They have an agenda to promote, and it
is not truth, and they will not let truth stand in the way. Gossipers and church
troublemakers operate the same way. They are skilled at spreading their falsehoods
throughout society and the church. These falsehoods make it sound like their Absalom
complaints and interests “reigneth” throughout society or the church to the exclusion of
any other complaints or interests. But all that these announcements do is mislead and
The multitude with Absalom. “And with Absalom went two hundred men out of
Jerusalem, that were called [invited]; and they went in their simplicity [innocency], and
they knew not any thing [about the planned revolt]. And Absalom sent for Ahithophel
the Gilonite, David’s counsellor . . . the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased
continually with Absalom” (2 Samuel 15:11,12). This multitude gathering around
Absalom reflected the great progress Absalom’s conspiracy was making in the nation.
We note three parts to this multitude that followed Absalom in his conspiracy against
David. They are the innocently called, the intriguing counsellor, and the increasing
First, the innocently called. Absalom invited “two hundred” (2 Samuel 15:11) men
from Jerusalem to accompany him to Hebron. These men “knew not any thing” (Ibid.)
about the conspiracy. Absalom was simply using them to give a fair appearance of his
importance and support. Two hundred men would look impressive in Hebron and would
indicate that Absalom’s support in Jerusalem must be sizeable and impressive. Not
telling these men of the conspiratorial agenda would help keep the men from refusing to
join Absalom. Many unsuspecting folk are often likewise beguiled and used by
politicians. Furthermore, the prestige and honor of being invited by the evil politician to
some special doings is often too much for these people to turn down even though they
may have some doubts about the character of the politician. Prestige and honor ensnare
Second, the intriguing counsellor. How interesting and significant that Absalom
should invite Ahithophel to come as his counsellor. Absalom was very shrewd in this
choice of counsellor for two reasons—Ahithophel’s reputation and relatives. In
reputation Ahithophel was known as a very sagacious counsellor (“the counsel of
Ahithophel . . . was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God” [2 Samuel 16:23]).
This would certainly add prestige and esteem to Absalom’s conspiracy. In relatives
Ahithophel, as we noted in previous chapters, was the grandfather of Bathsheba (cp. 2
Samuel 11:3 with 23:34)). Hence, Ahithophel would have a strong incentive to turn
against the man (David) who did such a dastardly deed to his granddaughter. This
situation made Ahithophel a ready supporter of Absalom, and it was another case of
chickens coming home to roost for David. In mercy, God caused Absalom to reject
Ahithophel’s expert counsel (which if followed would have destroyed David and his
followers); but that does not change the fact that our sin will come back to haunt us
again and again. Our sin reaches out into many places, and sooner or later the pay-back
Third, the increasing crowd. Absalom’s crowd “increased continually” (2 Samuel
15:12). The continual increase in his crowd helped to make “the conspiracy . . . strong”
(Ibid.). Numbers always give a movement strength in the eyes of men. If something has
numbers, people often flock on the bandwagon without checking out the movement to
see if it is legitimate. Many religious movements have awed people because of the
numbers. But a check of the doctrine and morality of the movement will often reveal the
evil of the movement. However, it is frequently very hard to show people that a
movement is bad when the movement has numbers; for popularity is a powerful
persuader. But while numbers gives strength to a movement, they do not give validity to
it. Only character gives validity to a movement.
B. THE PREPARATIONS FOR THE ABANDONING
With Absalom’s conspiracy becoming “strong” (2 Samuel 15:12) and ready to march to
Jerusalem, David was eventually forced to deal with the problem by abandoning
Jerusalem. Here we look at the preparations of David for the abandoning of Jerusalem to
escape bloodshed. These were certainly sad and tragic times for David. The glory of his
reign had been greatly diminished by his sin, and now it would be diminished even more
in his having to abandon the glorious capital city of Jerusalem.
To examine the preparations regarding the abandoning of Jerusalem, we will look at
the announcement of the conspiracy, the advisory for the courtiers, the avowal of the
courtiers, the arrangement for the concubines, the assembling of the crowd, and the
analogy of Christ.
1. The Announcement of the Conspiracy
“There came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after
Absalom” (2 Samuel 15:13). This announcement about Absalom’s conspiracy was
another stinging blow of chastisement for David. God had predicted through the prophet
Nathan that “I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house” (2 Samuel 12:11),
and the messenger announcing that “the hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom”
confirmed that fact. The remembering of Nathan’s message by David here would only
make the chastisement sting that much more.
David is learning that the price of his sin is great. Sin, of course, never advertises the
full price. Like many advertisements today, the full price is not advertised. The taxes
(which are often considerable), shipping costs, insurance, maintenance, and a host of
other fees and expenses that are part of the price never show up on the advertisement.
Sin not only makes you buy a ticket to get into the game, but it makes you buy a ticket to
get out of the game, and the ticket to get out of the game is infinitely greater in cost than
the cheap price of the ticket to get into the game.
2. The Advisory for the Courtiers
“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” (2 Samuel 15:14). We note the speed and solicitude expressed in this advisory
for fleeing Jerusalem.
The speed. David urges his servants to “make speed” to “flee” from Jerusalem.
Urgency is very prominent in David’s advisory to his courtiers. Time was a premium
here. Absalom’s conspiracy was progressing rapidly, and he and his group were headed
for Jerusalem. David was quite defenseless in Jerusalem, for he had no standing army in
the city that could defend it against Absalom’s forces. David did not have time to gather
his forces together in Jerusalem before Absalom got to Jerusalem. Both Ahithophel and
Hushai, who were giving Absalom counsel, knew that David was unprotected at the
beginning of his abandonment of Jerusalem; and Ahithophel gave advice that would
capitalize on that fact (2 Samuel 17:1,2). The urgency here readily applies to the Gospel.
The lost sinner’s situation is precarious like David’s situation in Jerusalem. As David
and his followers needed to “make speed” to escape doom in Jerusalem, so the lost
sinner needs to hasten to Christ for soul salvation to escape the eternal doom of sin.
The solicitude. “Lest he overtake us suddenly . . . and smite the city with the edge of
the sword” (2 Samuel 15:14). David was certainly a different character than Absalom.
Absalom did not sincerely care about the people’s needs, he was primarily interested in
himself. But David was concerned about the innocent ones in Jerusalem. If he stayed in
Jerusalem, it would result in a battle that could bring untold harm to the inhabitants of
the city as well as to him and his servants. David would prefer to leave Jerusalem, as
humbling as that was, to having many of the inhabitants of Jerusalem suffer.
This solicitude for the safety and well-being of the inhabitants of Jerusalem puts to
shame the Israelites who let Absalom capture their hearts. David was the one who was
looking out for them, but they foolishly let themselves be taken in by Absalom’s looks
and trickery rather than follow David. Many are like that today regarding Christ, the
church, and their Christian friends. They get taken up by the world and then turn from
Christ, the church, and their Christian friends—the ones who really care for them. They
will learn the hard way who are really their friends.
3. The Avowal of the Courtiers
“And the king’s servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do
whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint” (2 Samuel 15:15). This great avowal of
David’s servants showed great dedication to David. Their dedication to his service is
seen in their readiness and willingness to obey David’s orders.
Their readiness. It is true that “ready” is in italics in the translated text (as can be
seen in most copies of the Bible) which means it is not in the Hebrew text but was added
by the translators. But though it was not part of the literal Hebrew text, it is so strongly
implied and understood that it is appropriately appended. The quick answer of the
servants to do whatever David ordered indicated they were ready to serve at a moment’s
notice. Servants were to always be ready for the master’s orders. In the palace, servants
stood around the king ready to do his bidding. Readiness was an understood condition of
the servant. If he was not ready, he could not serve. God’s people need to remember this
fact if they intend to do much in the service of God. Too often God’s people are not
ready to serve. They have not prepared themselves spiritually or in other ways to serve
the Lord. They have not prayed or studied the Word of God or cleaned up their conduct
or gotten their priorities in order. Hence, they are of little use to God because they have
not prepared themselves. If you want to be called of God to His service, busy yourself
getting adequately prepared to serve Him. God always uses those prepared to serve. If
you are a dedicated follower of Christ, you will be ready to serve Him at all times.
Their willingness. No matter what the command was, these servants were willing to
obey. Also, no matter what the circumstances were, they were willing to obey. David’s
command here came during most difficult times. But that did not hinder their willingness
to serve him. The truly dedicated servant of God will also be this way. He will obey
every command no matter what it is, and he will obey God whatever the situation may
be. The obedience of the truly dedicated servant is unconditional. If we are going to be a
dedicated follower and servant of Christ, we must be willing to obey all His
commandments at all times.
4. The Arrangement for the Concubines
“And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house” (2
Samuel 15:16). The action here regarding David’s harem, though it seems almost
incidental, is anything but that. It is an important providential experience that provided
the fulfillment of some predicted chastisement for David. God through the prophet
Nathan had predicted that “I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto
thy neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives [concubines were considered wives then] in
the sight of this sun” (2 Samuel 12:11). As we will see later in this chapter of our book,
this prophecy was fulfilled when “Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the
sight of all Israel” (2 Samuel 16:22). So in leaving these concubines in Jerusalem, David
helped fulfill Nathan’s prophecy. And how instructive to read that it was Ahithophel, the
grandfather of Bathsheba the woman David so wickedly defiled, that counselled
Absalom to “Go in unto thy father’s concubines, which he hath left to keep the house” (2
Samuel 16:21). David’s sin keeps coming back to haunt him in detail after detail. Not
only did he reap what he had sown in regards to Ahithophel and his relationship to
Bathsheba, but he also reaped what he had sown in regards to making Uriah an unwitting
accomplice of his death; for in ordering the concubines to remain in Jerusalem, David
contributed unwittingly to their being defiled by Absalom. How true is the Scripture
which says, “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7), and one
always reaps much more than he sows. David certainly did in his chastisement.
5. The Assembling of the Crowd
“And the king went forth, and all his household . . . and all the people after him, and
tarried in a place that was far off” (2 Samuel 15:16,17). Here we have the assembling of
the crowd that was going to follow David as he abandoned Jerusalem. David would get
the group together to organize them for their trip away from Jerusalem. The goal was to
move to the other side of the Jordan River where the group would be better protected
from Absalom. The group eventually moved to “Mahanaim” (2 Samuel 17:24) where
David set up camp and from where he sent out his troops to fight against Absalom’s
army when Absalom attacked. Mahanaim was about fifty miles northeast of Jerusalem
on the east side of the Jordan. This place was where Jacob met up with “the angels of
God” (Genesis 32:1) and also where Abner set up Ishbosheth (2 Samuel 2:8,9) as king in
Saul’s place in a short-lived government before David ruled over all of Israel.
In this assembling of the crowd that would follow David to Mahanaim, we note the
place of the assembling and the people in the assembly.
The place of the assembling. Our text says David and his people “tarried in a place
that was far off” (2 Samuel 15:17). The Hebrew word translated “far off” can also be
translated “the house of the distance” (Keil), or “the far house” (F. C. Cook). Cook says
it was “probably . . . the last house in the suburbs” of Jerusalem. Keil believes it “is
probably a proper name [Bethömerhak] given to a house in the neighborhood of the
city.” Whatever the place was, it was obviously a prominent landmark of some sort that
would make it a good reference point for David to use as a “rendezvous for his
followers” (Blaikie). “Here David halted his household until all were assembled, and
arrangements were made for their journey. Here, too, the bodyguard [v. 18] would
gather” (R. P. Smith). Getting all the followers together and organized would help
minimize confusion and panic and promote a successful abandoning of Jerusalem. A
suitable location was needed for this rendezvous, and Bethömerhak was the chosen
place. David still possessed administrative skills and knew how to organize and control a
group of people in an efficient and effective way. Confusion and disorderliness are not
marks of spirituality but indicate delinquency.
The people in the assembly. We look at three parts of this assembly. They are the
family, the followers, and the fugitive.
First, the family. “And the king went forth, and all his household after him” (2
Samuel 15:16). The hardship through which his family would have to go because of this
abandoning of Jerusalem would be great. They have a rough journey of some fifty miles
to make, and many of them will make it on foot. David’s sins of the past brought much
trouble to other homes; now his own home is greatly troubled in chastisement.
Second, the followers. “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” (2 Samuel 15:18). David had an interesting
group of followers. They included Israelites and non-Israelites. In the group of followers
were his servants whose dedication and loyalty were great (2 Samuel 15:15) as well as
others who had stood by David even before he became king (the “six hundred men who
came after him from Gath”). All of these people had seen in David the right man to
follow and had cast their lot with him in a permanent way. They shared David’s glory,
but they would also share David’s groanings. This loyalty is needed in the church—the
church needs people who will stand for Christ regardless of what Christ’s esteem is in
Third, the fugitive. Scripture especially singles out one man in this group, which
gathered near Jerusalem to follow David, and gives additional and inspirational comment
on him. The man was “Ittai a Gittite” (v. 19). We note four instructive aspects about
Ittai. They concern his plight, proving, profession, and promotion.
Ittai’s plight. His plight was a rough one. He was a foreigner—“stranger” (2 Samuel
15:19) who was a fugitive from his country—“also an exile” (Ibid.) which means he was
cast out of his country. As a fugitive, he cast his lot with David which was a wise move.
But now, though he had only been a follower of David for a short time—“thou camest
but yesterday [a figure of speech here meaning just recently, not the preceding day]” (2
Samuel 15:20)—he also becomes a fugitive of the revolting group led by Absalom. How
often this is the experience of new converts. Once they turn to Christ, they discover they
will be rejected by one group after another. Living the Christian life is not easy, but it is
the best life no matter how rough it is on this earth, for eternity is part (the major part) of
this Christian experience, too.
Ittai’s proving. David really tested Ittai’s loyalty. David said to Ittai, “Wherefore
goest thou also with us? Return to thy place, and abide with the king [new king,
Absalom] . . . 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” (2 Samuel
15:19,20). David would not force Ittai to accompany David in this abandoning of
Jerusalem. The suffering was going to be great, and David told Ittai to “return” back to
Jerusalem. This was a test for Ittai that would really prove how strong his loyalty was.
David did not want any half-hearted dedication at this critical juncture of his life. This
test represents the testing folk receive who would follow and serve Jesus Christ. All who
would serve Him will be tested regarding their loyalty to Him. They will be confronted
by such tests as difficult times, material loss, clever excuses, and the persuasion of
friends all to check and reveal the extent of their commitment to Christ.
Ittai’s profession. “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” (2 Samuel 15:21). Ittai’s profession of loyalty was very gallant. His reply to David
was similar to the reply given to David by David’s servants (2 Samuel 15:15). This
wonderful statement of commitment and dedication also sounds like the one made by
Ruth to Naomi. “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for
whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be
my people, and thy God my God. Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried;
the LORD do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me” (Ruth
1:16,17). This is the only kind of dedication that is worthy in following Christ. But it is a
dedication and commitment which is seldom seen in professing Christians, however.
Ittai’s promotion. Ittai’s loyalty to David was rewarded later when the battle against
Absalom occurred, for Ittai was promoted to a high position in the army. He was put in
charge of one-third of the army (2 Samuel 18:2). That this was quite a promotion is
evident in the fact that Joab and Joab’s brother Abishai also had one-third of the army. If
you want to obtain rank in the army of Christ, you must also demonstrate great loyalty.
Some want to have high rank in His service, but they certainly do not want to manifest
the loyalty of Ittai. Those who wonder why God does not seem to use them much will
find one reason right here—they are deficient in loyalty.
6. The Analogy of Christ
In David’s abandoning of Jerusalem, there is an analogy with Christ in some
significant ways. We list five of them here for our study. They concern his road,
rejection, replacement, retinue, and reproach in following him.
First, his road. David leaving Jerusalem under hostile conditions and traveling the
road he did (crossing Kidron and ascending Mount Olivet—which road we will see more
about shortly) portrays the road Christ took the night before the crucifixion. On that
night Christ left Jerusalem and crossed the Kidron and went to Gethsemane (Olivet)
where He prayed (David also worshiped here when abandoning Jerusalem, see 2 Samuel
Second, his rejection. David was rejected by the Israelites who were his own people,
for “the hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom” (2 Samuel 15:13). In like manner,
Christ was rejected by “his own” (John 1:11).
Third, his replacement. Absalom, who was not a good man, replaced David as the
choice of the people. In like manner, Barabbas who was not a good man, was preferred
above Christ (Mark 15:7–12). Good men must not be surprised if evil men are preferred
above them. If this world preferred wretched Barabbas to the blessed Son of God, we
must not be surprised if the world prefers evil men to us.
Fourth, his retinue. In his rejection, David had Gentiles following him (2 Samuel
15:18). In the analogy of Christ, it portrays the fact that when Israel rejected Christ,
many Gentiles turned to Him.
Fifth, his reproach. Following David in his rejection was a very rugged experience.
Following Christ can also be the same. Note especially here that the followers of David
suffered outside the gate of Jerusalem. This certainly portrays what is said of Christ’s
followers. “Wherefore Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood,
suffered without the gate. Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing
his reproach” (Hebrews 13:12,13).
C. THE PATHWAY IN THE ABANDONING
When David left Jerusalem, his pathway led east and north. As we noted earlier, he
eventually ended up at Mahanaim a town east of the Jordan about fifty miles northeast of
Jerusalem. We note here three of places mentioned in Scripture which were part of
David’s early pathway from Jerusalem to Mahanaim. They are Kidron, Olivet, and
Bahurim. Significant incidences occurred at each of these places which we will examine
in our study of the pathway of David when he abandoned of Jerusalem.
“The king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed
over” (2 Samuel 15:23). The Kidron brook lay in the deep ravine or valley on the east
side of Jerusalem between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. It was a winter stream
(now called the Wadi Sitti Maryam). During the summer it is generally a dry bed. Later
in Old Testament Scripture it will be associated with waste and refuse which meant this
brook was not an idyllic, sweet-smelling stream.
Here we look at five things concerning Kidron in regards to its association with
David’s abandoning of Jerusalem. They are the sobbing sound, the spiritual supporters,
the sacred symbol, the saintly submission, and the special spies.
The sobbing sound. “And all the country wept with a loud voice” (2 Samuel 15:23).
David’s loyal group of followers trekking away from Jerusalem was not a happy group.
Their sobs echoed off the hills as they “wept with a loud voice.” There was plenty for
them to be sobbing about, too. We list five reasons why they wept and why society
weeps in every age. They are failure in choice, in chastity, in courting, in chastening, and
First, failure in choice. One cause for this sobbing was that much of Israel had made
a terrible choice regarding a king. They rejected David in favor of Absalom. They chose
a politician over a statesman, folly over wisdom, the untried over the proven, and the
ungodly over the godly. Nations are still doing this. Our nation is destroying itself by
doing this in election after election. People do it frequently in choosing marriage
partners. Souls are also doing this by rejecting Christ for the pleasures of the world. But
when we choose the flesh instead of the faith, we choose grief instead of gladness.
Second, failure in chastity. This sobbing would not have occurred had David not
sinned with Bathsheba. But he committed adultery, and tears are always the result of
immorality. Throw chastity out the window and crying will come in the window. Great
sorrow always follows sex sins. The world sanctions and advocates immorality then
wonders why there is so much sadness. They have not learned yet that the less chastity in
the land, the more crying in the land.
Third, failure in courting. Another reason for the sobbing here is David’s marriage to
Maachah, the mother of Absalom. This was a bad marriage, for Maachah was not an
Israelite but the “daughter of Talma1 King of Geshur” (2 Samuel 3:3). The Israelites
were forbidden to marry outside God’s people (Deuteronomy 7:3). Many tears have been
shed because a Christian has married an unbeliever. The unbeliever may have been
beautiful or handsome and had money and charisma; but when we practice the unequal
yoke with unbelievers, remorse will be the experience instead of rejoicing.
Fourth, failure in chastening. If David had chastened Absalom properly, this sobbing
would have been prevented. But David was like lenient parents in that David did not
punish Absalom properly for his evil. He did nothing when Absalom murdered Amnon,
and later he again did nothing when Absalom burned Joab’s field. Absalom was a
spoiled child. And spoiled children produce sorrow. When parents pace the floor at night
weeping in sorrow because of their children’s evil, it is often because they did not
chasten them as they ought. Lack of discipline will bring lack of delight.
Fifth, failure in courts. David as king represented the courts that are to judge
criminals. He miserably failed to do justice regarding Absalom’s murder. He should
have executed Absalom, but he did nothing. So tears come as a result. Leniency in the
courtroom does not bring laughter to the land but lamentation to the land. Proper
punishment of the criminal is necessary for pleasure in the country. Let the criminal off
easy and you will cut short your cheer and increase your crying.
The spiritual supporters. “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” (2 Samuel 15:24). Among
those going with David when he abandoned Jerusalem were the Levities. This gave
David much spiritual support. We note the approval of David and the accommodation by
David from this support.
First, the approval of David. It spoke well for David that the priests preferred him
above Absalom. It reflected well on David’s relationship with God which was a contrast
to Absalom’s relationship with God. It is not how many approve you but who approves
you. When the godly support you, it honors you greatly whether you have a big crowd or
not. Better to have a few supporting you and have them be the godly ones than have a
large crowd without the godly. True approval does not come from popularity but from
Second, the accommodation by David. That the priests should come to David’s
support is not surprising, for David had readily and honorably accommodated the priests
in his administration. Regardless of his faults, David had always demonstrated great
respect for the priests and what they represented. Hence, in his darkest hour, they do not
forsake him. Matthew Henry said, “Those who are friends of the ark in prosperity will
find it a friend and help in adversity.” This was not the experience of Saul, however; for
when Saul came to his darkest hour, God deserted him and rightly so; for Saul had
deserted God long before. Saul had slain the priests in a terrible, bloody massacre at Nob
(1 Samuel 22:18,19) and in general showed little respect for the priesthood in his time as
king. If you want God’s help in time of trouble, you need to be careful to give God honor
in times of blessing.
The sacred symbol. “And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into
the city; if I shall find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and show
me both it, and his habitation” (2 Samuel 15:25). When the Levites came to David, they
brought the ark with them. This was the most sacred symbol of Israel’s faith. It
represented the presence of God (Exodus 25:22). David’s response to their bringing the
ark was twofold: it involved his denial of the ark and his desire of the ark.
First, the denial of the ark. David would not allow the ark to go with him. He denied
himself that privilege. So he ordered the Levites to “Carry back the ark of God into the
city.” David denied himself that privilege not because he was not spiritual but because
he was spiritual. David was very concerned about the safety of this sacred symbol. And
he had a very good precedence for his concern; for during one of the wars with the
Philistines, when Samuel was young, the ark had been taken to battle as a good-luck
charm but was captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). David would not let any such
harm come to the ark again. How commendable. He was more concerned about the
safety of the ark than he was about his own safety. Though in great trouble, he was still
concerned about preserving God’s honor in the ark. He would willingly give up personal
advantages in order that God’s honor not be jeopardized by harm coming to the ark.
How seldom is that attitude seen. Generally it is just the other way around with most
folks today. As an example, if financial trouble comes, God is often the first One cut
from their budget instead of the last.
Second, the desire for the ark. “If I shall find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will
bring me again, and show me both it, and his habitation” (2 Samuel 15:25). David’s
desire for the ark and for God’s sanctuary were so great that he considered it a great
favor from God if he should view them again. This attitude of David reveals that David
considered his greatest blessings and favors and privileges to be spiritual. When Saul
was chasing David, we saw this same attitude in David. He complained that Saul’s
seeking of David caused David to be away from the place of worship (1 Samuel 26:19).
David did not complain about material hardship and other temporal things, but he
complained about missing the place of worship. That attitude is a mark of true and great
The saintly submission. “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” (2 Samuel 15:26). This statement reflects
noble submission to the will of God. This is not fatalism, but it is a demonstration of
great faith. It is faith that believes God knows best and will do best. It is a faith that will
submit to the will of God without complaining. When one hears about faith, it is seldom
about faith in God’s wisdom. It is more common to hear about faith in God’s power. We
are often exhorted to trust God’s power for deliverance—and that is a good message
indeed. But we need to be exhorted just as earnestly to trust God’s wisdom. God knows
best and will order our lives according to His wisdom. But it is hard for man to accept
that fact to the extent that he will submit to trials without complaint as David did here.
Sometimes when bad times come, people ask, “Why me?” Of course, when good times
come, people never ask, “Why me?” Faith in God’s wisdom will never ask “Why me?”
in bad times.
The special spies. “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. See I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there
come word from you . . . Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to
Jerusalem; and they tarried there” (2 Samuel 15:27–29). David made a wise move here.
Zadok and Abiathar in their task as priests in Jerusalem could observe Absalom’s actions
without suspicion and then inform David of Absalom’s doings. And David could trust
these men, for they had certainly proven their loyalty in bringing the ark and themselves
to be part of David’s group. They had demonstrated in a very strong way that even
though David was now being rejected, they still were supportive of him. Their fidelity
was impeccable. Hence, their proven high loyalty qualified them for the important task
of spying for David. The same is true with God. The more im-portant the task, the higher
the qualification for the task. Carnal church members, however, do not seem to
understand this fact or want to understand it; for they are the first to complain if the
church insists on high qualification for important church office.
“And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet” (2 Samuel 15:30). After
crossing the Kidron, the path from Jerusalem next led up the Mount of Olives, this is a
small spot on the earth, but it is a very significant spot on the earth especially in regards
to Christ. Christ taught His disciples here (Matthew 24–25); Gethsemane is located here
(Matthew 26:30,36); the ascension occurred here (Acts 1:9,12); and Christ will come
back to earth there at which time the mount will cleave in two (Zechariah 14:4). In
regards to David’s experiences at this location in his abandoning Jerusalem, we will look
at the feelings, foe, faith, friend, and faking of David.
The feelings of David. “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” (2
Samuel 15:30). In this verse about David’s feelings, we have the sorrow of David, the
sympathy for David, and the submission of David.
First, the sorrow of David. We noted from the Kidron experiences some reasons for
the great sorrow which David experienced in abandoning Jerusalem. Failure in choice,
chastity, courting, chastening, and the court all contributed to this sorrow. Sin produces
sorrow, and in this chapter of Scripture this truth is repeatedly seen just as it is
repeatedly seen in life’s experiences.
Some typology is seen here in David’s sorrow in this particular location, for it was
also in this same Mount of Olives that Christ sorrowed. He said to His disciples on the
night before the crucifixion as they were in the mount at Gethsemane, “My soul is
exceedingly sorrowful” (Matthew 26:38). Also the writer of Hebrews describes Christ
praying here as “he . . . offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and
tears” (Hebrews 5:7) There is, however, a contrast in the sorrow experienced by David
and Christ at Olivet. David sorrowed for his own sins, but Christ sorrowed for the sins of
Second, the sympathy for David. Our text says that David did not weep alone, for his
followers also were “weeping.” David’s followers were with him with their hearts. They
would “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans
12:15). Likewise true followers of Christ will rejoice when Christ is honored and sorrow
when He is not. The poor character of professing Christians’ dedication is all too quickly
revealed in the lack of sorrowing over the dishonoring of Christ in our society today.
These folk are more likely to cry over a ball game than over the fact that Christ is
blasphemed. There is also some typology regarding Christ in the sympathy at Olivet as
there was in David’s sorrowing at Olivet—Christ disciples, like David’s supporters,
sorrowed here at Olivet when their Leader sorrowed (Luke 22:45).
Third, the submission of David. David’s appearance is very sad here as he ascended
the mount, for our text said he “had his head covered, and he went barefoot” (2 Samuel
15:30). Blaikie said, “The covered head and bare feet were tokens of humiliation. They
were a humble confession on the king’s part that the affliction which had befallen him
was well deserved by him.” David saw in this tragic and humiliating abandoning of
Jerusalem punishment for his adulterous sin with Bathsheba. David was truly repentant
of his sin. His humility showed that he submitted readily to his chastisement. Those who
are truly repentant will not castigate God when troubles come but will acknowledge the
fact that these troubles are their just desert for their sin.
The foe of David. “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” (2 Samuel 15:31). We note the reason for the foe and the reaction about the
First, the reason for the foe. Earlier in this chapter we saw why Ahithophel would
want to desert David for Absalom. We note it again here. Ahithophel was the
grandfather of Bathsheba. Thus David’s defiling of Bathsheba would not go over well
with Ahithophel as anyone should be able to understand. He would find Absalom a
ready situation to gain revenge upon David which reminds us that sin always comes
home to haunt us.
Second, the reaction about the foe. “I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into
foolishness.” David’s reaction to this disconcerting information about Ahithophel was a
wise reaction—he prayed. This is the way to respond to bad news. How much more
successful would we handle our troubles if we met them with prayer. Sometimes that is
about all the response we can make to our troubles, but that does not handicap us. It is a
prayerless response that really handicaps us in time of trouble.
The faith of David. “And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the
mount, where he worshiped God” (2 Samuel 15:32). David did not let sorrow and
troubles stop his worship. So many do, however. Stopping worship in time of sorrow and
trouble is the worst time to stop worship. If there is a time above other times when you
need to be in church worshiping, it is when things are going bad. Yet, that is when most
folk stay home. Matthew Henry said, “Weeping must not hinder worshiping but quicken
it.” Worship helps us overcome our problems; lack of worship does just the opposite.
The friend of David. “Behold, Hushai, the Archite came to meet him with his coat
rent, and earth upon his head . . . So Hushai David’s friend came into the city” (2 Samuel
15:32, 37). A lot of suspense and drama is building up in this narrative. The Bible does
not have to take a back seat to any novel for this sort of thing. Here another incident
occurs which eventually provides much intrigue and suspense in the story of Absalom’s
revolt against David. Hushai, a friend of David and also a counsellor, comes to join
David’s supporters at the mount of Olives. David immediately recognizes in him
someone who can help to “defeat the counsel of Ahithophel” (2 Samuel 15:34). So he
sends Hushai back to Absalom to feign himself as a friend of Absalom to give Absalom
counsel that will counter Ahithophel’s counsel. His great effectiveness in counting
Ahithophel’s counsel will be seen in a later study (2 Samuel 17).
This arrangement by David does not commend David, for it requires outright lying (2
Samuel 15:34). These lying schemes were a common practice then and still are today,
but that does not justify them. Neither are they justified by the fact that God overruled
them to bring about good for David. Good results do not justify evil means. Such results
show the grace of God, but they never sanction the guile of man. However, many folk
think that if things work out well, then the lying or other sins involved in the case are
justified. That thinking is “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness’ (Jude 1:4).
It makes God look weak. It makes it look like God cannot accomplish some things
unless He employs evil methods. But a God of Truth does not need lying in order to
accomplish His work. Neither will lying stand in the way of His desired action.
The faking of David. As David got “a little past the top” (2 Samuel 16:1) of the
Mount of Olives, “Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him” (Ibid.). Ziba was the
servant of Saul whom David appointed over the affairs of Mephibosheth when David
befriended Mephibosheth (which we saw in an earlier study). Ziba along with his sons
were to take care of the farm land and other possessions of Mephibosheth because
Mephibosheth was handicapped (lame). To understand the nature of this meeting of Ziba
with David at Olivet, one must be aware of what later Scripture (2 Samuel 19:17, 24–30)
says about this meeting; for that is the key to discerning the evil of this meeting. The
later Scripture text will show us that this meeting of Ziba with David was a fake
performance by Ziba. It shows us that Ziba was a very covetous person and would use
David’s abandoning of Jerusalem to help himself materially. To further examine this
meeting on the Mount of Olives of Ziba and David, we note the provisions from Ziba,
the prevaricating by Ziba, the possessions for Ziba, and the pretentiousness of Ziba.
First, the provisions from Ziba. “Ziba . . . met him [David], with a couple of asses
saddled, and upon them two hundred loaves of bread, and an hundred bunches of raisins,
and an hundred of summer fruits, and a bottle of wine” (2 Samuel 16:1). These generous
provisions for David were given with an ulterior motive. Ziba wanted to gain
Mephibosheth’s property, as we will learn later; and these gifts were to make David
think Ziba was very loyal to David and also very liberal in giving to David. All of this
was fakery, however; for Ziba was not loyal to David. His loyalty was only to his own
avarice. Furthermore, his apparent liberality ceases to be his liberality when we realize
that these gifts came not from Ziba’s goods—for Ziba was only the chief servant of
Mephibosheth—but from Mephibosheth’s goods. Ziba was like our government. They
want to appear liberal in giving; but they are giving away our money, not their money!
Second, the prevaricating by Ziba. “And the king said, And where is thy master’s
son? And Ziba said unto the king, Behold, he abideth at Jerusalem; for he said, Today
shall the house of Israel restore me the kingdom of my father” (2 Samuel 16:3). This, as
we learn in the later Scripture text, was a blatant lie. Mephibosheth had no intentions of
rebelling against David but was in fact making plans to come follow David (2 Samuel
19:26). Instead of putting Mephibosheth on one of the saddled donkeys as Mephibosheth
wanted, Ziba put gifts on them for David. The slanderous report about Mephibosheth by
Ziba was not only a lie, but it was also ludicrous. Mephibosheth, enfeebled as he was,
could hardly stage an insurrection against David. Also the people were going after
Absalom, not Saul’s family. Mephibosheth would have to defeat that group as well as
David’s group. And what was he going to defeat them with? He had no following or
army. The slander was stupid, but Ziba’s covetousness limited his intelligence which
covetousness always does. David should have seen through this dumb deception. But
once again, as we have noted at other times, David’s sin dulled David’s discernment.
Ziba’s covetous action here remind us that covetous people are cruel people. They
care not who they trample on to get gain. They do not hesitate to profit from the
misfortune of others or to slander people to get gain. They will steal from those lying
helpless after accidents, raise prices after some disaster has hit a community, and take
advantage of one needing help who is away from home. They respect no one, and have
no compunction about their cruel conduct just so long as it leads to increasing their gain.
Third, the possessions for Ziba. “Then said the king to Ziba, Behold, thine are all that
pertained unto Mephibosheth” (2 Samuel 16:4). That is exactly what Ziba wanted. David
unwisely accepted Ziba’s word as true and gave him Mephibosheth’s property because
of the alleged disloyalty of Mephibosheth. Ziba will not be able to keep his evilly
obtained riches for long, however. Once David finds out the truth, there will be a
reckoning. Those who obtain riches through evil means are seldom able to enjoy them
for long. Do not envy any thief. No matter how they get their gain—whether they break
in through windows or doors or whether they manipulate laws and accounting books to
get gain—for the increase in their gain will increase their grief.
Fourth, the pretentiousness of Ziba. “And Ziba said, I humbly beseech thee that I
may find grace in thy sight, my lord, O king” (2 Samuel 16:4). What great hypocritical
respect this was for David by Ziba. Ziba makes it sound like he is so respectful of David.
But his respect is nothing but window dressing, for he had lied to David to gain
Mephibosheth’s property. Furthermore, this pretentious outpouring of respect for David
was not followed up by Ziba following David. He went back to Jerusalem! (cp. 2 Samuel
19:17). Ziba, the faker, was only talk. Like many church members, he could talk a real
dedicated line at church; but he did not walk what he talked. Ziba only used this show of
respect to gain material advantage. Many who go to church are the same way, they make
a fair show of piety only to gain customers for their business or gain votes in an election
or to obtain some other carnal gain.
After Olivet, the next location noted in our text on the path of David as he abandoned
Jerusalem was “Bahurim” (2 Samuel 16:5). Bahurim’s location has never been
pinpointed in our times, but we do know that it could not be too far from the Mount of
Olives and it was still on the west side of the Jordan (2 Samuel 17:21,22). We have met
up with Bahurim once before in Scripture. Its mention came regarding the return of
Michael, Saul’s daughter, to David as his wife. Phaltiel, the man who has unwisely
married Michael when Saul took her away from David, followed her to Bahurim where
he was told by Abner to leave her and go back home. Later we will meet up with
Bahurim again when Scripture (2 Samuel 17) reports that two messengers sent to David
had to hide in a well at Bahurim to escape Absalom’s men. Here we note four things
about David’s experience at Bahurim when he was abandoning Jerusalem. They are the
reproach at Bahurim, the resentment at Bahurim, the resignation at Bahurim, and the
refreshing after Bahurim.
The reproach at Bahurim. “And when king David came to Bahurim, behold, thence
came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of
Gera; he came forth, and cursed still as he came . . . and threw stones at him, and cast
dust” (2 Samuel 16:5, 13). The reproach of David here consisted of imprecation,
molestation, and vilification.
First, the imprecation. Shimei “came forth, and cursed still as he came . . . cursed . . .
cursed as he went” (2 Samuel 16:5, 7,13). Shimei had a foul mouth. In three verses
Scripture records his cursing. He cursed continually, for he cursed as “he came” and he
cursed “as he went.” Multitudes are like that today. Men, women, and even children
curse continually. Those who curse seem to feel that cursing gives them some “macho”
status and feeling. But all it does is expose their limited vocabulary and their poor
character. The fact that Scripture records three times in our text the cursing of Shimei
reminds us that God is always recording our words, and “every idle word that men shall
speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment. For by thy words thou
shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned” (Matthew 12:36,37).
Having to face God about our words ought to clean up the speech of every soul.
Second, the molestation. Shimei’s attack was not words only, but he also “cast stones
at David, and at all the servants of king David . . . and cast dust” (2 Samuel 16:6, 13).
Cursing mouths eventually turn to cruel acts against God’s Anointed and His followers.
When the mouth is foul, the hands will soon become fierce in bruising, battering, and
bloodying God’s Anointed and God’s people. Persecution is still coming to those who
would follow God’s Anointed, Jesus Christ. All over the world there are Shimei people
and groups and nations who with their mouths curse Christ and His followers, and with
the hands beat, batter, and bloody the followers of Christ.
Third, the vilification. “And thus said Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out,
thou bloody man, and thou man of Belial. The LORD hath returned upon thee all the
blood of the house of Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the LORD hath
delivered the kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son; and, behold, thou art taken in
thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man” (2 Samuel 16:7,8). This vilification was
both wrong and right. It was wrong as far as what Shimei intended it to say; but,
unknown to Shimei, it was right in that some of what it said applied to David’s sins with
Bathsheba and Uriah. In the wrong aspect of this vilification, Shimei’s statements make
it look like David became king illegitimately though David was ordained of God to be
king long before Saul’s rule ended. There are always those who despise the will of God
and try to make it look like presumption and other evil things. But such accusations do
not negate the will of God; they simply show how the devil hates it. In the right aspect of
this vilification, David was indeed a “bloody man” (2 Samuel 16:7,8) because of his
adulterous sin with Bathsheba, and he was indeed having his sins “returned” (2 Samuel
16:8) for his adulterous evil. However, the fact that David is being chastened for his
adulterous sins does not justify Shimei’s comments, but it surely deeply pained David’s
heart as can be seen in his resignation to the comments which we will note shortly.
The resentment at Bahurim. “Then said Abishai the son of Zeruiah unto the king,
Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over, I pray thee, and take
off his head. And the king said . . . Let him alone, and let him curse; for the LORD hath
bidden him” (2 Samuel 16:9, 11). Shimei’s conduct was very resented by Abishag, one
of David followers. We note the devotion in the resentment, the desire in the resentment,
and the detaining of the resentment.
First, the devotion in the resentment. It ought to upset folk when people curse and act
unseemly. Especially ought it upset folk when God’s Anointed One is cursed. That
Abishai was really upset about Shimei’s cursing David shows that Abishai was really
devoted to David. If Abishai is not upset over this dishonoring of David, Abishai
becomes a suspect as a traitor of David. One wonders, therefore, about professing
Christians who seem to be little bothered by the attacks upon Christ made in our society
Second, the desire in the resentment. Abishai wanted to behead Shimei for his
cursing. If he had been permitted by David to do this, Abishai would have had no trouble
separating Shimei’s body from his head; for one time “Abishai . . . lifted up his spear
against three hundred, and slew them” (2 Samuel 23:18). Oh, the folly of Shimei in
cursing David. He is on the losing side and only beguiles and endangers himself in this
unseemly behavior as all do who curse Christ.
Third, the detaining of the resentment. David restrained Abishai’s desire for revenge
upon Shimei by forbidding his decapitating of Shimei. This was a very gracious act on
David’s part. Little did Shimei realize that the very man whom he was cursing and
vilifying with his lips and the one whom he was casting stones at was also the one who
was saving his life. Thus it is with mankind today. The One Whom they so attack is the
One Who is responsible for their greatest blessings.
This is the second time David had to restrain Abishai from taking violent action in
defense of David. Years earlier, Abishai had wanted to slay Saul. But David forbid it (1
Samuel 26:8,9). While some will criticize Abishai here, it is our experience that most
Christians never need to be restrained for being over zealous about opposing evil. To the
contrary, they have to be bribed, begged, and nearly beaten to get them excited enough
for God to oppose the enemy in just some small way let alone in a major way. Give
Abishai credit; he was zealous about putting down the enemy of God’s Anointed One.
We much prefer his kind to those who cannot get excited in God’s work. We have found
in God’s work that it is generally a lot easier restraining the over-zealous than it is
reviving the under-zealous.
The resignation at Bahurim. “Behold, my son, which came forth of my bowels,
seeketh my life; now much more now may this Benjamite do it? Let him alone, and let
him curse; for the LORD hath bidden him” (2 Samuel 16:11). The resignation in David’s
speech here reflects the fact that though he knows Shimei’s accusations are untrue and
do not merit the cursing, he also knows that his sins with Bathsheba and Uriah merit the
accusation and the cursing. It is the attitude of the true repentant which we have noted
earlier which shows up again in David’s actions. He knows that all of this evil coming to
him from Absalom’s conspiracy is justified chastening for his sin. This resignation is not
fatalism or is it being a quitter; but it is a resignation of a humble, penitent heart which
recognizes the sinfulness of his sins and the holiness of God. Would that more people
had this kind of attitude about their sins. What we generally see in people, however, is an
arrogance that waters down the sinfulness of their sin and complains that any trial in life
is unfair and could never be a chastisement for their sin. They are like Absalom who in
spite of his murder of Amnon and burning of Joab’s field could arrogantly say, “If there
be any iniquity in me” (2 Samuel 14:32), as though he had done no wrong in these
The refreshing after Bahurim. “And the king, and all the people that were with him,
came weary, and refreshed themselves there” (2 Samuel 16:14). The Hebrew word
translated “weary” can be taken as a name as well as a condition according to Keil and
others. As a name, it would indicate a specific place where David and his followers came
to be refreshed. As a condition, it indicates the need for the refreshing. Either way, the
lesson is that God refreshes and rejuvenates us after our battles in order to heal our
wounds from the past battles and to strengthen us for future battles. Even Christ had
these refreshing times when He was on the earth. As an example, after Christ spent forty
days in the wilderness battling Satan, Scripture says, “Angels came and ministered unto
him” (Matthew 4:11). The road can get pretty rough in the Christian experience, but God
has rest stops along the way to refresh us.
D. THE POLLUTION AFTER THE ABANDONING
After David left Jerusalem, Absalom moved in. The replacement of David by Absalom is
representative of life’s experiences. Generally in life when God’s man is forced out, be it
on Israel’s throne or in some church or other situation, the devil’s man moves in. When
Absalom, the devil’s man, got to Jerusalem, polluted conduct prevailed. We note it first
in the insincerity of Hushai and then second in the immorality of Absalom. Both these
men sinned by lying. Hushai sinned by lying with words; Absalom sinned by lying with
1. The Insincerity of Hushai
“Hushai said unto Absalom, God save the king, God save the king” (2 Samuel
16:16). In this insincerity of Hushai, we note the reasoning of Hushai, the reputation of
Hushai, and the reaping from Hushai.
The reasoning of Hushai. Absalom was understandably suspicious of Hushai’s show
of loyalty. But Hushai reasoned with Absalom that he was indeed going to follow
Absalom. His reasoning was very crafty and succeeded in beguiling Absalom. Hushai
reasoned that Absalom was the legitimate choice inasmuch as God chose him (2 Samuel
16:18), the people chose him (Ibid.), and Absalom inherited the throne as the son of
David (2 Samuel 16:19). There was only one problem in all of this reasoning—only one
third of it was true. God had not chosen Absalom and Absalom was not the heir to the
throne (there were at least two sons ahead of Absalom—Chileab if one followed the
chronology of birth, and Solomon if one followed God’s decree). The part about
Absalom being the people’s choice was true, however. Unfortunately, people have a
habit of choosing the wrong one for office. They do not choose God’s choice nor the
legal heir to the throne (today the illegal heir can sometimes be translated vote fraud).
The reputation of Hushai. Absalom twice called Hushai David’s “friend” (2 Samuel
16:17). In spite of Hushai’s deception here, we want to note the excellence of the
“friend” reputation. It is good to be a friend of God’s Anointed One. And it is good to be
such a friend that everyone knows it, even the enemies of God’s Anointed One (e.g.
Absalom). We need to be a friend of Christ. And we need to be such a good and obvious
friend that even the world knows it. The world should not have to ask if we are a
Christian. It should be obvious.
The reaping from Hushai. David was not the only one reaping what he sowed in this
conspiracy of Absalom. Absalom also reaped what he sowed. He had sowed deception in
order to murder Amnon, now he is reaping deception in his being deceived by Hushai.
And this deception will eventually result in Absalom’s death just as Absalom’s
deception resulted in Amnon’s death. So once again we see the important truth that “God
is not mocked; for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7).
2. The Immorality of Absalom
“Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do. And
Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father’s concubines, which he hath left to
keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father; then shall the
hands of all that are with thee be strong. So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of
the house; and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2
Samuel 16:20–22). To examine Absalom’s immoral conduct, we note the promoting of
the sin, the punishment from the sin, the promise about the sin, the publicness of the sin,
the participants in the sin, and the prediction about the sin.
The promoting of the sin. Ahithophel, whose reputation in giving counsel was “as if a
man had inquired at the oracle of God” (2 Samuel 16:23) was the one, no less, who
promoted this wicked immorality of Absalom with David’s concubines. Evil strives to be
promoted by sources, like Ahithophel, which are respected by society; for evil is never
so effectively promoted as when it is advocated by respectable sources. However, being
promoted by respectable sources does not change evil to good. Rather, it only makes evil
more beguiling to the innocent.
There are many respected counsellors like Ahithophel in the world today who
advocate a morality that is not godly. These counsellors of the world approve of sex
before marriage, affairs after marriage, divorce and remarriage, and homosexual
conduct. You do not have to go far to find foul counselling from people who are
esteemed highly in character and expertise. Many preachers, who claim to be
fundamental, Bible-believing preachers fall into this category, too, unfortunately. How
do we protect ourselves from this beguiling work of sin?—get into the Scriptures and
know what they say on the matter. Then if the counsel does not agree with Scripture,
reject the counsel. Never reject Scripture.
The punishment from the sin. This immorality of Absalom would be painful
chastening for David. But he had it coming. He had defiled another man’s wife, now he
has his wives defiled. And note that you reap more than you sow. David defiled one
woman; in return he has many of his women defiled.
The defiling of David’s concubines shows us the degraded position which women
experienced in those days of old. “They were slaves in the worst sense of the term, with
no right even to guard their virtue, or to protect their persons from the very worst of
men” (Blaikie). The feminist movement in our day is not the answer or the acceptable
alternative to this situation. The answer and alternative to this situation will be found in
Biblical morality and Biblical manners.
The promise about the sin. “Then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong”
(2 Samuel 16:21). Sin is always making outlandish promises to entice one to sin. Here is
one of those promises. Ahithophel told Absalom that this gross act of immorality would
make “the hands of all that are with thee be strong.” How preposterous! Immorality
never makes strong! It always weakens. It weakens the will, it weakens the body, it
weakens the mind, it weakens character, it weakens the home, it weakens the church, it
weakens the nation, and it weakens the military. The promises of sin are a cruel mirage
which ensnare many people in great tragedies and losses.
The publicness of the sin. “So they spread Absalom a tent upon the top of the house;
and Absalom went in unto his father’s concubines in the sight of all Israel” (2 Samuel
16:22). Absalom’s sin was public—pronouncedly so and unashamedly so. It is bad
enough to sin, but to do it shamelessly makes it even worse. He lacked shame for his sex
sins as so many do today. “Thou refusedst to be ashamed” (Jeremiah 3:3) describes
Absalom and also much of our society—especially does it describe the homosexuals
who flaunt and promote their sin in a such a despicable and nauseous way.
The participants in the sin. One thing we want to stress here is that this sin of
immorality committed in Jerusalem was done by royal people in a royal dwelling.
Immorality is not limited to skid row and the deadbeats of society. We often think that
high position is accompanied by high practice; but nothing could be farther from the
truth. High position often makes corrupt conduct easier to do. The morals of our nation’s
leaders are frequently pig-pen in character. President after president of our country has
lived immorally before and during their time in office. The White House and Governor’s
mansions in our country have often been made a brothel through the immorality of the
leaders who lived in them. The hotel and motel rooms of public officials are likewise a
place where immorality frequently occurs. And sad to say, the participants of immorality
are not limited to political leaders; but religious leaders are often no better. High office is
too often associated with low morals. But better to be low in society and high in morality
than to be high in society and low in morality.
The prediction about the sin. Nathan, as we noted earlier, prophesied this experience
for David. He said, “I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy
neighbor, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it
secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel” (2 Samuel 12:11,12). Nathan predicted
both the performing and the publicness of this immorality. God’s Word is certain. Much
time may go by without the judgments of God being fulfilled, but let not that cause you
to think that judgment will not come. Nathan’s prophecy was not fulfilled the next day
after he made it, but a number of years went by first. So it often is regarding God’s
judgments. Yet, men use the delay to deny the judgment. Peter spoke of this problem
when he said, “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking
after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? For since the
fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” (2
Peter 3:3,4). These folk who foolishly pervert delay in judgment will one day learn that
generally the longer the delay in the coming of judgment is, the more severe the
judgment will be.