2 Samuel Chapter 15

2 SAMUEL CHAPTER 15

Absalom’s Revolt

      • Some time later, Absalom got himself a chariot, horses, and 50 men to run ahead of him. Now Absalom used to get up early in the morning and stand beside the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came by with a dispute to bring before the king for judgment, Absalom would call out to him and say, “What city are you from?” The person would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would reply, “Look, your claims are good and right, but the king hasn’t designated anyone to hear you.” Then Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then anyone who has a dispute could come to me and I would make sure that they receive justice.”

        • Guzik notes, “This was Absalom the politician, sensing what the people wanted and knowing how to give them the image of it.”

        • Regarding the 50 runners, ESV Archaeology Study Bible explains, “The runners…were a group of young men who ran before the king’s chariots as escorts in parades and local ceremonies. This same group also served as palace and temple guards…”

        • Guzik continues, “Ancient kings were more than the heads of government, they were also the ‘supreme court’ of their kingdom. If someone believed that a local court did not give them justice, they then appealed to the court of the king, where the king or a representative of the king heard their case…Absalom stirred up dissatisfaction with David’s government and campaigned against David by promising to provide justice that David (supposedly) denied the people…Absalom had reason to be disillusioned with David’s administration of justice. When Amnon raped Tamar, David did nothing. When Absalom did something about it, David banished Absalom and kept him at a distance even when he came back.”

        • ESV Study Bible points out, “Absalom’s statement must have been somewhat of an exaggeration, for the widow of Tekoa got a hearing, and if it were known that there was no chance of a hearing, people would not have come…Since Absalom’s conduct was public (‘beside the way of the gate,’ v. 2), news of what he was doing must have quickly reached David, but he did nothing to stop it…”

      • When someone would approach Absalom to bow down to him in homage, Absalom would extend his hand, embrace him, and kiss him. Absalom did this to all the Israelites who came to the king for justice. This is how Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.

        • Guzik provides this summary:

        • Absalom’s cunning campaign worked. He became more popular and more trusted than David…He carefully cultivated an exciting, enticing image (chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him). He worked hard (Absalom would rise early). He knew where to position himself (beside the way to the gate). He looked for troubled people (anyone who had a lawsuit). He reached out to troubled people (Absalom would call to him). He took a personal interest in the troubled person (What city are you from?). He sympathized with the person (your case is good and right). He never attacked David directly (no deputy of the king to hear you). He left the troubled person more troubled (no deputy of the king to hear you). Without directly attacking David, Absalom promised to do better. (Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.) Absalom’s clever approach made him able to subvert and divide David’s kingdom without saying any specific thing that could condemn him.”

      • At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go to Hebron to fulfill a vow I made to Yahweh. While your servant was living in Geshur of Aram I made a vow saying, ‘If Yahweh will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem I will worship Yahweh in Hebron.’” The king answered, “Go in peace.” So he went to Hebron.

        • Depending on what Bible translation you’re reading you may notice that there is a discrepancy in the number of years that passed before Absalom made this request to David. NET Bible’s text critical notes say, “The MT has here ‘forty,’ but this is presumably a scribal error for ‘four.’ The context will not tolerate a period of forty years prior to the rebellion of Absalom. The Lucianic Greek recension (…tessara etē), the Syriac Peshitta (ʾarbaʿ sanin), and Vulgate (post quattuor autem annos) in fact have the expected reading ‘four years.’ Most English translations follow the versions in reading ‘four’ here, although some (e.g. KJV, ASV, NASB, NKJV), following the MT, read ‘forty.’”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds that a reading of 40 years, “ …would put Absalom’s uprising in David’s last year as king and create many chronological difficulties with events that happened afterward…The Greek and Syriac reading is much more likely.”

        • The same source continues, “Unlike the freewill offering of devotion and gratitude that a worshiper promised to God, this type of offering was to fulfill a promise to God (see Gen 28:20-22; Judg 11:30-31; 1 Sam 1:11)…”

      • Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, shout, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron!’” Now 200 men had gone with Absalom from Jerusalem as invited guests. However, they were innocent and unaware of what he was planning. While he was offering sacrifices, Absalom sent for David’s adviser, Ahithophel the Gilonite, to come from his city of Giloh. The conspiracy gained strength and Absalom’s following continued to increase.

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “The phrase the tribes of Israel sometimes refers to all of Israel, and at other times refers to Israel as opposed to Judah. Here, it refers to all of Israel, including Judah. It is clear that Judah participated in the rebellion. Absalom raises his revolt in Hebron, and his named associates- Ahithophel of Giloh (15:12; see Josh 15:51) and Amasa, David’s nephew (2 Sam 17:25)- are both from Judah. Furthermore, in 19:11 David asks why the elders of Judah are reluctant to bring him back. In chs 15-18, ‘Israel’ usually means ‘Absalom’s side,’ while David’s side is referred to as ‘David’s servants’ or ‘the army.’”

        • Guzik writes, “Absalom wisely knew that he needed others to endorse – or at least to appear to endorse – his government. He counted on these two hundred men who were not against David to at least be silent and therefore give the impression that they were for Absalom.”

        • On Ahithophel, Guzik remarks, “Absalom’s government gained more prestige when one of David’s top aides defected to his side. This genuinely hurt David; he described his feelings in Psalm 41: Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me (Psalm 41:9)…Ahithophel was renowned for his wisdom and wise counsel (2 Samuel 16:23). Even wise men can take their side with divisive and destructive leaders. In Ahithophel’s case it was probably prompted by a sense of personal hurt and bitterness because of what David did to Ahithophel’s granddaughter Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3 and 23:34).”

David Flees Jerusalem

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “This section describes David’s flight from Jerusalem to the Jordan River. Psalm 3 is said to have been composed in response to this occasion. David flees Jerusalem, lest the city be destroyed. On the say he meets a loyal band of foreigners, the priests Abiathar and Zadok, his friend Hushai, Mephibosheth’s servant Ziba, and the Benjaminite Shimei.”

      • A messenger came to David and reported, “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.” Then David said to his servants who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come on, let’s flee. Otherwise we’ll never escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately or he will quickly catch up with us, bring disaster upon us, and attack the city with the sword.” The king’s servants said to him, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king decides.”

      • So the king and his entire household set out, with the exception of 10 concubines whom he left behind to look after the house. The king and all his people set out on foot. They paused at the last house to let all his men pass by him, all the Kerethites, all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, 600 men who had accompanied him from Gath passed in front of the king.

        • ESV Study Bible notes, “The Cherethites (rendered ‘Kerethites’ above) and Pelethites are David’s bodyguard (8:18).

        • Guzik adds, “David thought – and had reason to think – that these ten woman could be safely left behind. He felt he needed someone to look after the house…Sadly, this also tells us that David had at least ten concubines. A concubine was essentially a legal mistress. In addition to David’s many wives, this shows that David was a man who sometimes indulged his passions instead of restraining them in a godly way.”

      • The king asked Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you go with us? Go back and stay with the king since you are both a foreigner and an exile from your homeland. You came only yesterday. Should I make you wander around with us today when I don’t know where I’m going? Go back and take your kinsmen with you. May Yahweh show you kindness and faithfulness.”

        • Guzik explains, “As David watched the procession of his faithful supporters, Ittai the Gittite caught his eye. David couldn’t understand why this newly arrived foreigner took the risk of such open loyalty to David…In calling Absalom the king, David showed that he would not cling to the throne. At that moment it seemed that Absalom would succeed, so David called him the king and left it unto the LORD.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Ittai, a Philistine from Gath, was associated with Gibeah in Benjamin (23:29; 1 Chr 11:31); the Philistines had established a garrison in Gibeah at the beginning of Saul’s career (1 Sam 10:5; 13:3).”

      • But Ittai answered the king, “As surely as Yahweh lives and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king is, whether it means life or death, your servant will be there also.” So David said to Ittai, “Go ahead, march on.” So Ittai the Gittite marched passed with all his men and the families that were with them.

      • Everyone in the countryside wept loudly as all the people passed by. The king crossed over the Kidron Valley and all the people passed on toward the wilderness. Zadok was there also, and all the Levites with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. They set the ark of God down, and Abiathar went up until all the people had finished leaving the city.

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible notes, “The Kidron Valley, east of Jerusalem, separated the City of David from the Mount of Olives.”

        • Those comparing translations will notice that translators have difficulty with verse 24. What was going on with Abiathar? Did he go up? If so, what does that mean? Or, did he offer sacrifices? That seems to make more sense, but the reading isn’t very well supported. The following commentaries remark:

          • Pulpit Commentary says, “And Abiathar went up. This rendering, though confirmed by the versions, is very unintelligible. Whither did Abiathar go up? And moreover it is said that he continued going up until all David’s followers had passed out of the city. Another possible rendering is, ‘And Abiathar offered (sacrifices) until all the people had done passing out of the city.’ Passages quoted in proof that the verb may be so rendered without the addition of the word ‘sacrifice’ are 1 Samuel 2:28 and 2 Samuel 24:22; but in both these places the context makes the sense plain. Such a sacrifice would, of course, sanctify both king and people in their flight; but as none of the versions support this method of translating the text, it seems unsafe to adopt it, and the passage must remain obscure. On the one hand, it is unlikely that there would be time to offer sacrifices at so hasty a flight; but on the other hand, the removal of the ark was a solemn thing, which probably required some such religious ceremonial, and Cahen and other Jewish authorities translate, ‘Abiathar offered burnt offerings.’”

        • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges says, “The Ark halted, to allow the people who were still coming out of the city time to overtake the procession. Meanwhile Abiathar went on up the Mount of Olives, for some purpose which is not stated, possibly to watch the stream of people coming out of the city. He then returned to carry the Ark back. It seems best to suppose that the narrative goes back here, and that the Ark was not taken across the Kidron. Certainly it does not seem to have been carried up the Mount of Olives.”

      • Then the king instructed Zadok, “Take the ark of God back to the city. If I find favor in Yahweh’s sight, He will bring me back and allow me to see both the ark and the place where He dwells again. But, if He says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then here I am, let Him do with me what seems good to Him.”

        • Guzik writes, “David trusted in God, not in the ark of the covenant. He was willing to let the ark go back to Jerusalem and to put his fate in God’s hands…David’s humble and chastened spirit proved he knew God dealt with him righteously. David submitted to God with an active submission, not a passive one.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “…Sending the ark back to Jerusalem also provides cover for his spies Zadok and Abiathar.”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible adds, “Zadok was one of two priests who served David (8:17). He later anointed Solomon (1 Kgs 1:39) and became the high priest after Abiathar was deposed (1 Kgs 2:26-27).”

        • NLT Illustrated Study Bible includes this very interesting additional material on Zadok:

        • Zadok was an important transitional figure in the history of Israel’s priesthood. Since he seemingly appears out of nowhere in the narrative of 2 Samuel (8:17), some scholars suggest that he was not really born into the priestly family. However, there is no reason to doubt the biblical record that he was Aaron’s descendant (1 Chr 6:1-15, 50-53). Zadok’s descent is traced back to Eleazar, Aaron’s eldest son (1 Chr 6:5-8; 18:16; 24:3; Ezra 7:2-5). Zadok served alongside Abiathar, a descendant of Eli. Zadok and Abiathar were priests of Israel under King David (2 Sam 8:17; 20:25).”

          • When Absalom revolted against King David, both Zadok and Abiathar showed their loyalty to David by taking the Ark to him, fully prepared to share in his exile (15:24-29). Instead, David sent them to Jerusalem as his spies.”

        • Later, when David’s son Adonijah tried to seize the aged David’s throne with the support of Joab and Abiathar, Zadok wisely refrained from supporting him (1 Kgs 1:5-10). Abiathar, though, was banished (1 Kgs 2:26-27), fulfilling the prophecy that Eli’s family would be removed from the priesthood (1 Sam 2:27-36) and replaced by ‘a faithful priest who will serve me and do what I desire. I will establish his family, and they will be priests to my anointed kings forever’ (1 Sam 2:35).”

          • The loyal Zadok fulfilled this prophecy and became the sole high priest under Solomon (1 Kgs 2:35). Zadok’s descendants served as Israel’s priests throughout the monarchy and beyond. Azariah, chief priest in Hezekiah’s reign, was of Zadok’s line (2 Chr 31:10). During the exile, Ezekiel’s eschatological vision in the new Temple refers to Zadok’s priestly line (Ezek 40:46; 43:19; 44:15; 48:11). When the Jews later came under Seleucid domination in the early 100s BC, the high priesthood, by then regarded as a political appointment, was taken away from Zadok’s descendants. As a result of Ezekiel’s prophecies, Jewish groups such as the Qumran community continued to await the restoration of Zadok to the high priesthood. The NT teaches that the office of high priest now rests on Jesus Christ (Heb 9:11; 10:12-25).”

      • The king instructed Zadok the priest, “Look, go back to the city in peace. Your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan may go back with you and Abiathar. I’ll be waiting at the fords of the wilderness until word from you two reaches me.” So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and stayed there.

        • Verse 27 is another difficult one for translators. Whether or not we understand Zadok to be a prophet (as well as a priest) depends on how this verse is rendered. The KJV, NKJV, and NASB render the passage in such a way as to make Zadok a prophet (“seer”). Most other translations do not. After some research, my opinion is that the rendering that says that Zadok is a prophet is not supported, so I have sided with the Septuagint’s rendering here. My opinion is based on the following information:

          • NET Bible’s text critical notes, “The Greek tradition understands the Hebrew word as an imperative (‘see’). Most Greek mss have (idete); the Lucianic recension has (blepe). It could just as well be taken as a question: ‘Don’t you see what is happening?’ The present translation takes the word as a question, with the implication that Zadok is a priest and not a prophet (i.e., ‘seer’) and therefore unable to know what the future holds.”

        • Pulpit Commentary writes, “Art thou (not) a seer? Both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version evade the difficulty of this passage by inserting the word ‘not.’ It is one of the merits of the Revised Version that usually it does not take these liberties. But ‘Art thou a seer?’ is meaningless; and the attempts, moreover, to show that Zadok was a seer fail entirely in proof. The receiving revelations by Urim and Thummim was a priestly, and not a prophetic, function. Without altering the text, the words may be correctly translated, ‘Seest thou? This was probably a colloquial phrase, of which the Septuagint gives the sense by rendering it in the imperative, ‘See;’ while the Syriac, regarding it as an expletive, boldly omits it.”

        • Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, “An obscure expression variously explained. (1) Art thou a seer? The high-priest is supposed to be called a seer, because he received divine revelations by means of the Urim and Thummim; but there is no trace of such a use of the term elsewhere. (2) Dost thou see? i.e. understand: an untenable rendering. (3) The Vulg. gives different vowels to the consonants, and renders, O seer, return (4) The Sept. reads, See! thou shalt return, which requires but a small change in the Heb. text, and is probably the best solution of the difficulty.”

        • NIV Cultural Backgrounds Study Bible says, “As 17:16 indicates, the fords in question would have been at the Jordan River, almost 20 miles east of Jerusalem. David and his followers would undoubtedly be exhausted after covering that distance, and overnighting on the west side of the Jordan would serve the symbolic purpose of not abandoning the land entirely.”

      • But David was walking up the Mount of Olives barefoot and with his head covered, weeping as he went. All of the people with him had their heads covered also, and cried as they went up. Now David had been told, “Ahithophel has sided with the conspirators who are with Absalom.” And David said, “O Yahweh, please turn Ahithophel’s advice into foolishness.”

        • ESV Study Bible writes, “Going barefoot and with his head covered were signs of mourning (cf Est 6:12; Isa 20:2). David had many reasons to weep: his own misfortunes and the dangers he now faced; the troubles now facing Israel and his own family, for which he was partly responsible; and the dishonor that would surely come to God as a result of all this. Ahithophel was David’s trusted counselor (v 12; cf 16:23), but now he was among the conspirators. This led David to pray…His prayer was answered in the very next verse by the arrival of Hushai, who would prove invaluable to him (see 16:15-17:23…).”

      • When David reached the summit, where God was worshiped, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. David told him, “If you go on with me, you will be a burden to me. But, if you go back to the city and say to Absalom, ‘O king, I will be your servant. Just as I was your father’s servant in the past, I will now be your servant,’ then you will be able to help me by counteracting Ahithophel’s advice. Won’t the priests, Zadok and Abiathar, be there with you? Tell them everything you hear in the king’s house. Furthermore, their two sons are there with them, Zadok’s son Ahimaaz, and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. Send them to me with anything you hear.” So David’s friend Hushai arrived in Jerusalem just as Absalom was entering the city.

        • On “the summit, where God was worshiped…”Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges writes, “The tense indicates that an habitual practice is meant. It was no doubt one of the high places, which seem to have been recognised as legitimate sanctuaries until the Temple was built. Cp. 1 Samuel 7:17; 1 Samuel 9:13 note; 1 Kings 3:2-4.”

        • On the identity of Hushai the Arkite, NLT Illustrated Study Bible says, “An Arkite was possibly a non-Israelite from the region south of Bethel (Josh 16:2).”

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