II Samuel 15
(vs. 1-12) The facts are:
1. Absalom sets up a large domestic establishment with a semblance of royalty.
2. Rising early in the morning of each day, he is first to meet the suitors for
judgment at the gate of the city, and seizes the occasion for insinuating that
there is defect in the king’s provision for the administration of justice.
3. He also professes to manifest sympathy with suitors by expressing the
wish that he were in a position to do them justice, and gives outward evidence
of his concern for them by taking each one by the hand and kissing him.
4. These plans being in progress, he next asks permission of David to go to
made to God while in exile; and David granting his request, he sets out for
5. Meanwhile he sends
might simultaneously make the announcement, “Absalom
advances his cause among the people. The narrative gives us in brief form
the scheme, the principles, the methods, and early form of Absalom’s
conspiracy. He knew his own mind, and was set on the overthrow of his
father’s authority, from sheer vanity and lust of power. The outline of his
method was clearly defined:
Ø to win over the people by criticizing the king’s administration, and
gratifying them by a showy establishment, professed zeal for justice, and
marked personal attentions;
Ø to secure a good center for proclaiming his authority, and this by a
hypocritical profession of religion which required him to go there;
Ø by scattering agents through the land, and gaining to his side the king’s
most sagacious adviser (Ahithophel). There is not one relieving feature to
the dark picture of pride, ingratitude, filial alienation, low cunning, and
religious hypocrisy. It is, however, our province to extract good out of evil,
and in the early stages of Absalom’s rebellion we may see illustrations of
the shady side of human nature, which, if noted and applied to conduct,
may warn against often-recurring evils, and put us on our guard against the
same tendencies in other departments of life.
1 “And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots
and horses, and fifty men to run before him.” After this. The Hebrew is a
more precise phrase than that on which we have commented on ch.10:1 and 13:1,
and implies that Absalom began his devices soon after obtaining his liberty.
Chariots and horses; Hebrew, a chariot and horses; that is, a chariot for state
occasions, in which Absalom rode, while fifty footmen ran at his side.
Probably his grandfather Talmai practiced similar magnificence at Geshur.
foot, who will keep up with horses or elephants for an incredible distance.
2 “And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate:
and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to
the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of
what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes
and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.
4 Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land,
that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me,
and I would do him justice! 5 And it was so, that when any man came
nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him,
and kissed him.” The way of the gate. The gate would be that of the royal
palace, where the king gave audience and administered justice. At the gate
of the city the elders were the judges, and, though the higher authority of
the king may have weakened the action of this citizen court, yet passages
such as Isaiah 50:2 and Jeremiah 5:28 imply, not only its continued existence,
but also that it retained much importance. Probably all causes between citizens
were tried by it, just as causes in the country were tried by the mishpachah
(see note on ch. 14:7); but with an appeal in weighty matters to the king.
It is a mistake to suppose that David altogether neglected his judicial functions.
On the contrary, the woman of Tekoah obtained an audience, as a matter of
course; and Absalom would not have risen up thus early unless David had
also taken his seat in the early morning on the royal divan to administer justice.
It was the suitors on their way to the king whom Absalom accosted, and made
believe that he would be more careful in his duties than his father, and that
he would have decided every suit in favor of the person to whom he was
talking, whereas really one side alone can gain the cause. Still, we may well
believe that, guilty himself of adultery and murder, and with his two eider sons
stained with such terrible crimes, David’s administration of justice had
become half-hearted. And thus his sin again found him out, and brought
stern punishment. For Absalom used this weakness against his father, and,
intercepting the suitors on their way, would ask their city and tribe, and
listen to their complaint, and assure them of the goodness of their cause,
and lament that, as the king could not hear all causes easily himself, he did
not appoint others to aid him in his duties. It was delay and procrastination
of which Absalom complained; and as many of the litigants had probably
come day after day, and not succeeded in getting a hearing, they were
already in ill humor and prepared to find fault. Now, as David possessed
great powers of organization, we may well believe that he would have
taken measures for the adequate administration of law had it not been for
the moral malady which enfeebled his will. In the appointment of
Jehoshaphat and Seraiah (ch. 8:16-17) he had made a beginning,
but soon his hands grew feeble, and he did no more.
6 “And on this manner did Absalom to all
for judgment: so
Absalom stole the hearts of the men of
Absalom stole the hearts. By professing anxiety to devote himself to the
hearing and deciding of the people’s causes, by flattering each one with
the assurance that his case was so good that it needed only a hearing to
be decided in his favor, and by his friendliness, made the more charming
and irresistible by his personal beauty, he won the love of the people
almost without their knowing how devoted they had become to him.
7 “And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the
king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed
unto the LORD, in
abode at Geshur
unto him, Go in
peace. So he arose, and went to
After forty years. As Absalom was born
was made king (ch.3:3), and as David’s whole reign lasted only
forty years and six months, the reading “forty” is evidently incorrect.
Suggestions, such, for instance, as that the forty years are to be reckoned
from the desire of the Israelites to have a king, or from the anointing of
David by Samuel, are merely methods of evading a difficulty. The Syriac,
however, and the Vulgate — except the Codex Amiatinus, which reads
“forty,” supported by Josephus and some manuscripts have “four years,”
which would give ample, yet not too long, time for the growth of
Absalom’s popularity, and of dissatisfaction at David’s tardy administration
of justice. In
birthplace, and also because it was on the road to Geshur (I Samuel 27:8),
whither flight might be necessary should the enterprise fail. He
hoped also to win to his cause some of the powerful tribe
it generally was the mainstay of David’s throne. Local sacrifices were still
customary (see note on I Samuel 16:2), and the visit of the king’s son
for such a purpose would be celebrated by a general holiday and much
suspicion were the results of a noble-minded generosity. And besides, there
was no state police ever on the watch, and ready to put an unfavourable
construction on all that was done; and probably David was even pleased at
his son’s popularity, and took his professions as proof that he would be a
just and wise ruler on succeeding to his father’s place. Perhaps, too, he was
glad at this indication of religious feeling on Absalom’s part; for a father is
sure to look on the better side of his son’s acts. he had been tardy enough
in fulfilling his vow, but it seemed to David that conscience had at last
prevailed, and that right was to be done.
Absalom’s Pious Vow (vs. 7-9)
David and his ministers must have been singularly blind and negligent to
have allowed Absalom so far to have prepared the way for the revolution
he contemplated as he must have done before asking permission to go to
have known his son better than to have so readily believed that he was
likely to have made a pious vow, and to be burdened in conscience by its
long non-fulfillment, especially as he had allowed four years (v. 7, not
“forty”) to elapse before taking steps for its fulfillment. But David’s foolish
fondness prepared him to be easily imposed upon by favorite children.
The purport of the pretended vow appears from what follows. It was to
sacrificial services at
his home and
reconciliation with his father.
was the place of his birth and early life, where he would have many friends;
and the first capital of the kingdom, where many may have been still
David on account of his transfer of the court to
Sacrificial services were chosen as furnishing a plausible pretext for a large
gathering of leading men who either were already disaffected, or, if going
to the festival
(like the two hundred from
simplicity,” knowing nothing, might be won over by Absalom’s
representations. In his representations to his father we have a glaring
Ø Their nature. They are imitations of real piety; and the closer the
imitation the more likely are they to deceive and be successful in their
object. Hypocrites are actors of a part, and the more skilful the actor the
stronger the impression of reality. What more natural than the vow
Absalom said he had made, and the language in which he describes it? A
good Hebrew prince, banished from home and kingdom, and with his
prospects for the future darkened thereby, might well have longed to
return, prayed to God to restore him, and vowed that, if his prayer were
answered, he would make some singular demonstration of his gratitude.
Absalom most likely lied when he said he had so vowed, as well as offered
the sacrifices only as a cloak of wickedness. The counterfeit, however,
illustrates the genuine; and in this case suggests that in great trouble we
should seek relief and deliverance from God; that earnest prayer may be
accompanied by promises of special acts of thanksgiving, and that, when
deliverance comes, we should scrupulously perform the vows we have
uttered (see Psalm 66:13, et seq.).
Ø The motives from which they proceed. These are as various as the
objects which men pursue, and the attainment of which they think may be
furthered by the appearance of piety. In Absalom the ultimate aim was the
throne; the intermediate were the concealment from David of his purposes,
the obtaining of leave of absence from
assembling his partisans and others around him, and maturing his plans
with them, before striking the decisive blow. Hypocrites sometimes pretend
to piety in order to conceal their wickedness and practice it without
suspicion; sometimes with a view to gain (Matthew 23:14); sometimes
to obtain credit for virtues they do not possess (Acts 5:1-8), and secure
praise from men (Matthew 6:2). In times of persecution the object may
be to avoid penalties; and any measure of favor shown to the professors
of a particular creed, or of disability imposed on others, is a direct incentive
to hypocrisy. How much do they promote hypocrisy amongst the poor who
administer their charity in the form of “doles” given away after public
worship, or carefully limited to those who attend particular religious
services! Again, the hypocrite may pretend to a religion he does not
possess, in order to obtain customers in his business from religious people,
or to ingratiate himself with his piously disposed fellow citizens, in order to
obtain a seat in the town council, or in parliament, or other position in
public life. How many large gifts to churches and chapels might be thus
accounted for! Or the motive may be to secure the favor of parents,
uncles, or aunts, with a view to a good place in their wills. Or, again, the
forms of religion may be kept up because it is the habit of respectable
society, without any real attachment to religion. Nor must we omit another
motive. Piety may be seen to be necessary to secure deliverance from hell
and admission to heaven; and, in total ignorance of the nature of piety, its
forms may be adopted with that view. But this is rather formalism than
deliberate hypocrisy. The two run into each other. It follows that hypocrisy
is a sin most likely to be committed where real religion is prevalent and
honored. Absalom would not have pretended to piety if his father had not
been religious; and when and where religion is disregarded, no one would
think of professing it from unworthy motives. Though, to be sure, the
general prevalence of formal religion may present the same temptation as
that of real godliness. When, however, ungodliness and vice prevail in the
neighborhood or the circle in which a man moves, he may pretend to be
worse than he is from motives similar to those which induce others to
pretend to be better than they are.
Ø They evince such knowledge of the nature, grounds, and obligations
of piety as enhances the guilt of their impiety.
Ø They insult God. By offering Him what is worthless as if it were
precious; and treating Him as if He were unable to distinguish
between the real and the unreal, or did not care, so long as His
creatures pay homage to Him, whether it be with the heart or not.
Ø They deceive and defraud men. Imposing upon them with a mere
appearance of goodness; inducing them to honor what is detestable
and reward the unworthy; and diverting from genuine goodness its
due notice and reward.
Ø They seriously injure those who are guilty of them. They eat like a
canker into the moral nature. A single act of hypocrisy affects injuriously
the whole character, and throws suspicion on all that looks good.
Habitual hypocrisy tends to destroy the possibility of sincere goodness,
and to render salvation impossible.
Ø They deserve and ensure “the greater damnation” (Matthew 23:14).
It is impossible that the imposition can last or ultimately be successful.
It will be exploded, exposed, and punished in THE GREAT DAY
OF REVELATION AND JUDGMENT! (I Corinthians 4:5).
10 “But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of
As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say,
“those who go hither and thither,” and, as the object of such journeying would
usually be. to gather information, the right translation often is “spies.” Here
there was no such purpose, nor were they to report to Absalom, but to disperse
themselves everywhere, and, when the signal was given at
were to endeavor to gather the people to Absalom’s standard. Some
simple minded commentators wonder how one trumpet could be heard
throughout the land. It was heard only at
proclamation would rapidly spread; and, though the rumor might be
vague and confused, yet these emissaries, fully acquainted beforehand with
its meaning, would turn it to Absalom’s advantage, and urge the people to
confirm the choice, made, as they would affirm, by the whole tribe of
following at first; and usually a good deal of vigor and even force is
necessary to make men take part in a revolt. But as the numbers swell,
adherents readily flock in to what seems to be the winning side.
11 “And with Absalom went two hundred men out of
were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not
any thing.” Two hundred men. These, doubtless, were courtiers and men
of rank, who were so accustomed to Absalom’s love of display, that, when
called, that is, invited, they would go without suspicion. To Absalom their
attendance was most important, not only because, being compromised,
many would join him, and even all of them for a time be forced to yield
obedience, but because they would make the people of
that Absalom had a powerful body of supporters at
possible that at
because David had left their tribe to choose a capital elsewhere, and
because he did not show them any decided preference over the other tribes,
whose good will he would rightly seek to conciliate. The existence of much
jealousy between Judah and the ten tribes is plain from ch.19:41-43.
12 “And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor,
from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the
conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with
Absalom. 13 And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts
of the men of
The desertion of David by Ahithophel is in every way remarkable, even if he
were Bathsheba’s grandfather (see note on ch. 11:3). For he was far too subtle a
man to have joined the conspiracy unless he had felt reasonably sure that it
would be successful. Successful it would have been had his advice been
followed; but so correctly did he estimate the result if David were allowed
time to gather his friends, that, when his counsel was rejected, he withdrew
immediately to Giloh, and committed suicide. Still if the revolt had been
successful, it would have involved, if not the death of Bathsheba, yet
certainly that of her sons, and the exclusion of Ahithophel’s great-grandchildren
from the throne. In Psalm 41., written at this time, we learn what were David’s
feelings when he heard the news of this conspiracy, and Ahithophel is the
familiar friend, in whom he had trusted, and who had eaten at his table,
but now raised up his heel to kick at him. In John 13:18 the words are quoted
of Judas Iscariot, of whom Ahithophel was a type in his treachery and in his
death by his own hand. The translation, “sent for Ahithophel,” cannot be
maintained. The Hebrew is “sent Ahithophel,” but for what purpose or on
what embassy is not mentioned. As thus something must have dropped out
of the Hebrew text, it possibly may be the preposition “for,” as this gives a
good sense. For Giloh, Ahithophel’s town, was situated a few miles to the
there secretly for Absalom for some time. As David’s counselor, his proper
place of residence would have been
kept so secret that he had been able to get away without suspicion. He is
now summoned to Absalom’s side, and his presence there brings in so
many adherents that a rapid march on
their power. The Revised Version is right in translating, namely, those
which he had vowed, and which were the reason given for his
The Rebellion of Absalom (vs. 1-12)
About twelve years had elapsed since David’s fall into sin. One of its
effects was the rebellion of Absalom. The history of this event — most
critical for the theocratic monarchy, and “revealing the thoughts of many
— sheds a clear light upon the
know all the people; the natural manners and vivid outbursts of feeling
make the scene stand out with a kind of homely poetry.” In it we discern
the presence and influence of:
1. Divine chastisement, announced by the prophet (ch. 12:10),
“The sword shall never depart from thine house,” etc. Forgiveness of sin
does not annul its natural consequences. Such consequences are sure,
however they may appear to be delayed; and, though inflicted by the hand
of man, they do not less really proceed from the hand of God. Already
David had experienced the effects of his transgression in his family; he
must now experience them, on a larger scale, in his kingdom.
2. Defective administration of judgment by the king (v. 3); due, not so
much to advancing age (over sixty), as to timidity, irresolution, and want
of energy, consequent on what had taken place; and “a tendency to shrink
into private life, with a preference for such duties as preparing materials for
the future temple rather than those of active government;” perhaps also to
serious illness, brought on by trouble of heart, and partially incapacitating
him from performing the increasing duties of his office (Psalm 38, 39, 41, 55).
3. Prevalent dissatisfaction among the people. His sin “broke the powerful
spell which had hitherto bound the whole nation to the name of David”
(Ewald). “The imperfections and defects of his internal administration of
the kingdom, when the time of his brilliant victories was past, became more
and more perceptible to the people, and furnished occasion for
dissatisfaction with his government” (Keil). “His pious actions, his
attention to the public ordinances of worship, perhaps even his psalms, had
for the time lost their credit and their sacredness. Not every one was
capable of estimating aright the repentance of the fallen man, and his
humiliation before the Almighty. It was almost forgotten that he was king
by the grace of God” (Krummacher). “The infirm condition of the king, his
eminent godliness and opposition to popular feelings, and the distance of
age that now separated him from the sympathies of the younger portion of
people” (Blaikie); some discontent in his own tribe of
“the still lingering hopes of the house of Saul and of the tribe of Benjamin
(ch. 16:3, 8); and the deep-rooted feeling of Ephraim and the northern tribes
ripe for insurrection.
4. Private animosity on the part of its leaders:
account of the dishonor done to his house;
account of some neglect or discourtesy shown toward him.
“These four years (v. 7) were for David a time of increasing care and anxiety,
for that which was planned cannot have remained altogether concealed from
him; but he had neither the courage nor the strength to smother the evil
undertaking in the germ” (Delitzsch, in Psalm 41.). The course of Absalom
(now twenty-seven years of age) was marked by:
natural desire of preeminence; unhallowed love of power and glory (as in
the case of Adonijah, his brother, I Kings 1:5), the bait by which Satan
seeks to allure men to a false worship (Matthew 4:9; I Samuel 15:1-9).
(And Christ, who was in all points tempted as we are and yet without sin,
overcame and gave us the example on how to overcome Satan in all these
shenanigans – ibid. v. 10 - CY – 2018)
“He showed him in a jewell’d wreath
All crowns the earth bestows;
But not the rankling thorns beneath,
That pierce the wearer’s brows.”
Absalom’s ambition was peculiarly culpable; because of his:
Ø Self-conceit; his selfish, proud, and false estimate of his own worth. He
was “the representative of vain glory and self-conceit (Wordsworth).
Those are commonly most ambitious of preferment that are least fit for it”
Ø Covetousness; the object of his desire for belongings to another, and
unattainable save by injustice. It is not likely that he wished simply to
share the sovereignty of
Ø Disaffection and unnatural envy toward his father.
Ø Disloyalty toward the king.
Ø Rebellion against God, the supreme King of Israel, by whose ordinance
David had been appointed. He had, apparently, “no spark of religious
principle in his breast.”
Ø Self-will; indisposition to submit to the will of Jehovah, to defer to the
nomination of the king, or to wait for his decease. He resolved to
anticipate all, and have his own way. “He that destroys self-will, destroys
Ø Suspicion and jealousy of his brother. “It is our impression that David
already knew that Solomon was, by the Lord’s appointment, to be his
successor to the throne. In the promise made to David through Nathan, it
was clearly indicated that a son not yet born was to sit upon his throne, and
when Solomon was born he could not but understand that this applied to
him. If he had any doubt of this, it must have been removed by his
knowledge that the ‘Lord loved him,’ and had, through Nathan, bestowed
upon him the new name of Jedidiah (ch. 12:24-25). It is even probable
that he had, tong before the present time, if not from the first, received those
more distinct intimations of the Lord’s will in this matter, which he mentions
in I Chronicles 28:5-7 .... As the intimations we have traced were long before
afforded, it is likely that the pledge (I Kings 1:17) which was founded on
them had not been so long delayed” (Kitto, ‘Daily Bible Illust.’). “Absalom
was a bold, valiant, revengeful, haughty, enterprising, magnificent, eloquent,
and popular prince; he was also rich, ambitious, and vain of his personal
accomplishments; and, after the death of Amnon and his reconciliation
with his father, he saw no hindrance in his way to the throne. He despised
Solomon because of the meanness of his birth and his tender years. He was
himself of the blood royal, not only by his father, but also by his mother;
and doubtless in his own apprehension of sufficient age, authority, and
wisdom to sustain the weight of government. He seemed to stand nearest
to the throne; but his sin was that he sought it during his father’s lifetime,
and endeavored to dethrone him in order to sit in his stead” (Calmer).
“O sacred hunger of ambitious minds,
And impotent desire of men to reign!
Whom neither dread of God, that devils binds,
Nor laws of men, that common weals contain,
Nor bands of nature, that wild beasts restrain,
Can keep from outrage and from doing wrong,
Where they may hope a kingdom to obtain:
No faith so firm, no trust can be so strong,
No love so lasting then, that may endure long.”
(‘The Faerie Queene,’ canto 12.)
of the men of
has since adopted. “David won their hearts by noble deeds of generosity, as
well as by deeds of prowess;” but Absalom stole them by:
Ø Subtlety and guile.
Ø Ostentation; affecting royal state. “Absalom prepared him chariots,”
etc. (v. 1; ch. 13:23, 27; I Samuel 8:4-22):
Ø Diligence in attending to public affairs. “Absalom rose up early,” etc.
(v. 2). “Those who least understand the duties and could least endure
the burdens of authority are commonly most desirous of it; but when
ambition prompts, the most self-indulgent assume the appearance of
diligence, and the most haughty that of friendliness and condescension;
and while men aspire to the pinnacle of earthly grandeur, they, for the
time, pay the most abject court to the meanest of the mob!” (Scott).
Ø Courtesy and pretended sympathy. “Absalom called unto him, and
said, Of what city art thou?” etc.; “He put forth his hand, and took
him, and kissed him” (v. 6).
“And then I stole all courtesy from heaven,
And dressed myself in such humility,
That I did pluck allegiance from men’s hearts,
Loud shouts and salutations from their mouths,
Even in. the presence of the crowned king.”
(‘King Henry IV.,’ Part 1. act 3. sc. 2.)
Ø Flattery. “Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right”
Ø Depreciation of the existing, adminstration, and insinuation of the
king’s incapability and neglect. “But there is no man deputed of the
king to hear thee.”
Ø Fair and lavish promises, and holding out the prospect of a golden age
under his reign. “And Absalom said, Oh that I were made judge in the
land!” etc. (v. 4). It is not to be wondered at that, by such arts as these,
aided by his ready speech and attractive person and manners, he turned
the hearts of the people, already prepared for change, from their rightful
monarch. “After thus flattering the people, and ingratiating himself into
their favor during four years, he decides upon the execution of his
cunningly devised project” (Ewald). “The success of this godless rebel
shows a lack of true theocratic feeling in the mass of the people, who,
in abandoning the king’s government, were guilty of opposition to the
government of God” (Erdmann).
Ø The selection of the place,
accounts, especially as the chief city of
calculated upon. “There may have been many persons there who had been
displeased by the removal of the court to
from the earliest times to independence and pre-eminence,
proudly apart under David even after Saul’s death, and now probably
offered some opposition to the growing unity of the kingdom” (Ewald).
Ø The profession of a religious purpose — the fulfillment of a vow
(vs. 7-8; I Samuel 1:11). “With a subtle refinement of hypocrisy, he
pretended that his thank offering was for his return to
(Plumptre). “No villainy can be termed complete which is not disguised
under the mask of religion, especially at those times when the profession
of godliness is treated with general respect.”
Ø The obtaining of the king’s sanction: “Go in peace” (v. 9); thereby
disarming suspicion and winning confidence.
Ø The dispatch of emissaries through all the tribes, to prepare for the
simultaneous proclamation, “Absalom reigneth in
Ø The securing of the presence of numerous
depriving the king of their aid, and making them unwittingly adherents
of Absalom (v. 11).
Ø The gaining of the open support of Ahithophel, whose secret counsel
had doubtless been long before afforded (vs. 12, 31). He was “the sinews
of Absalom’s cause” (Blunt). “While the sacrifices were proceeding,
Absalom sent for him from Giloh, and the presence of this influential
personage appears to have caused the final outbreak of a conspiracy which
had been carefully prepared, and which immediately spread with amazing
rapidity, and pouring like a wild mountain torrent from the ancient capital
of Judah, soon threatened to flood the whole country” (Ewald).
disastrously defeated. “And the conspiracy was strong,” etc.
Its success was:
Ø Great, swift, surprising. A few hours later,
Ø Temporary. The prosperity of the wicked is but for a moment.
Ø Followed by signal retribution, whilst itself employed as an instrument
thereof, by Divine providence, whose ways, though mysterious, are always
just and right. The death of Absalom (ch. 18:14) was “the end of
a bitter family history, whose every sorrow was linked to the father’s
blame.” The people who shared his crime shared his punishment. The
fatal spark of tribal enmity kindled under his influence, though quenched
for the moment, soon burst forth again, and ultimately destroyed the
unity, independence, and strength of the nation.
The Shady Side of Human Nature (vs. 1-12)
REBELLION. Rebellion against existing authority may perhaps be right
under special circumstances. People do not exist for governments, but
governments for the people; and it is possible that the rights of the people
may be so utterly trodden upon that it is the duty of self preservation to
rebel. Even parental authority must be resisted when it comes into direct
collision with conscience and with Christ (Matthew 10:33-38). But
rebellion is wicked when, as in this case, it springs from a blending of:
Ø dislike of constituted authority, and
Ø lust for power.
This may characterize rebellion originating in an individual or in a restless
people. Talk of oppression, justice, kindness and consideration for the
oppressed, may be but a cloak for;
Ø a selfish aversion to restraint and
Ø a love of self-will. (this may be illustrated in contemporary society
with the argument over immigration on the southern border of the
illegal immigrants – CY – July 14, 2018)
Even where there is justification for resistance to an evil rule, it is wicked
to have recourse to:
Ø hypocrisy, and
Ø low cunning to accomplish the end in view.
In times of turbulence and agitation it is important that men scrutinize the
secret motives of their actions. As a rule, injustice in rulers can be best
resisted by the calm, sober protest and passive resistance of conscientious
men. (Contrast the non-violent methods and commitment to decency of
the Civil Rights Movement led by Martin Luther King in the early 1960’s
with the indecent and vulgar movements of today that are associated with
abortion, women’s rights, gay and lesbian concerns, immigration and protests
of political leaders; i.e. the
this being July 14, 2018 – CY) Faith in God, and in the force of
true principles, with patient persistence, will in the end accomplish more
than can be secured by violence; and where injustice exists only in the
imagination of the restless, and the evils of life spring from their own habits
and practices, then rebellion is one of the greatest crimes of which man is
capable. (This was written circa 150 years ago – Below is a synopsis of
THE PULPIT COMMENTARY from which this was taken. My goal is to
get as much of it on my website at www.adultbibleclass.com. as I can in my
lifetime. It is public domain – when I add something to it, I do it in parenthesis
as in this entry and put the year – CY – 2018)
One of the largest and best-selling homiletical commentary sets of its kind.
Directed by editors Joseph Exell and Henry Donald Maurice Spence-Jones,
The Pulpit Commentary drew from over 100 authors over a 30 year span to
assemble this conservative and trustworthy homiletical commentary set.
A favorite of pastors for nearly 100 years, The Pulpit Commentary offers
you ideas and insight on "How to Preach It" throughout the entire Bible.
This in-depth commentary brings together three key elements for better
preaching: Exposition-with thorough verse-by-verse commentary of
every verse in the Bible. Homiletics-with the "framework" or the
"big picture" of the text. Homilies-with four to six sermons sample
sermons from various authors.
In addition, this set also adds detailed information on biblical customs as
well as historical and geographical information, and translations of key
Hebrew and Greek words to help you add spice to your sermon.
All in all, The Pulpit Commentary has over 22,000 pages and 95,000 entries
from a total of 23 volumes. It is a go-to commentary for any preacher or teacher
of God's Word.
About the Editors
Rev. Joseph S. Exell, M.A., served as the Editor of Clerical World,
The Homiletical Quarterly and the Monthly Interpreter. Exell was also the
editor for several large commentary sets like The Men of the Bible,
The Pulpit Commentary, Preacher's Homiletic Library and
The Biblical Illustrator.
Maurice Spence-Jones was born in
1864. He was ordered deacon in 1865 and ordained as a priest is the following
year. He was professor of English literature and lecturer in Hebrew at St. David's
College, Lampeter, Wales from 1865-1870. He was rector of St. Mary-de-Crypt
Saints and St. Owen,
in 1892 and 1903. In 1906 he was elected professor of ancient history in the
Commentary (48 vols.,
Rev. J. S. Exell, to which he himself contributed the section on Luke, 2 vols.,
1889, and edited and translated the Didache 1885. He passed away in 1917
after authoring numerous individual titles.
(If desired, you can go to http://www.biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit
and click on scripture desired. After the exposition comes up, for
homiletics go to the top and click on Commentaries and from the
the list choose Pulpit Homiletics. All is self-explanatory. Since
1963, I have had the twenty-three  volume set in hard copy,
plus the same on one CD since 2006. CY – 2018)
a man lies primarily in the main principles and passions that are deep down
in his nature, and which in course of years shape SHAPE HIS OUTWARD
CONDUCT! Absalom’s real character was in existence long before it came
out to the eye of the public in the form of rebellion against his father’s
authority. Probably David discerned its incipient form, and hence his extreme
slowness in recalling him to a position of prominence. The setting up by
Absalom of a large princely establishment, with chariots and horses and
runners, was really an incidental revelation in palpable form of a character
internally maturing. It was a sign to such men as David and Nathan of what
they had believed to exist — a vain, proud, ostentatious spirit. So in course
of time men generally do something in their domestic arrangements or
business developments which, if the world will only read aright, brings into
public view tendencies and tastes which hitherto have been kept under
restraint. Our visible acts and creations are the successive revelations of
our condition. Jesus said, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,
murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.
These are the things that defile a man:....” (Matthew 15:19-20) A man’s
dress, his handwriting, his domestic establishment, his bearing before the
public, his mode of transacting business, is a manifestation of the hidden
man — the indicator of the elements entering into the permanent character.
The outward aspects of a man’s life may be studied with a view to a
knowledge of the habits and tastes of his mind. (For the “hidden man”
see I Peter 3:1-12 – CY - 2018)
tendencies of Absalom were somewhat pronounced when he set up his
pretentious establishment, but by his own act those tendencies were placed
in the midst of circumstances eminently calculated to strengthen and
develop them further. The heart of man can devise things out of its own
tastes and propensities which become at once food on which those tastes
and propensities grow to further power. A man of pleasure out of his own
desires creates occupations and pursuits which become the nourishers of
the passion for pleasure. The same holds of dreadful vices and blessed
virtues. There is a self-promotive power in the forces that dwell within our
moral nature. Intellectual and physical forces are not so recuperative of
themselves by means of what they create as are the moral. We are to
ponder the path of our feet, for every step increases the momentum in the
road, be it good or bad.
Absalom set his heart on being King of Israel. The vision of a throne and a
submissive people had great attractions for him. The princely
establishment, with chariots and horsemen, was only the first installment of
a splendor soon to be won. Like all such men, he had unlimited
confidence in himself. He could administer justice! He could win the people
and hold them in subjection! And yet this vanity, this low cunning, this love
of outward show, and mean lying flattery of the people, disqualified him
for ruling as a king. Morally speaking, he was a handsome fool, and knew
it not. The lust for power is common, and often very strong in men. As
manifested in bad men, it is an abnormal development of a love of mastery
over what is not self. The possession of power over man is safe and good
only when there coexist with it justice, generosity, considerateness, and
EVIL. Absalom was no longer a true son. No man could have entered on
such a scheme and have devised such means unless he had lost all true
natural affection. To find fault with a father’s administration, to expose a
father to ridicule, to seek to alienate men from attachment to a father, and,
in short, crush a father’s hopes and life’s work, could only proceed from a
heart utterly alienated. And such a father! Weak and erring as David in a
notable instance had been, he was the most generous, and magnanimous of
men, and had brought peace and
plenty and honor to
crime was one of the basest ever recorded. And all alienation from a true
father’s heart is utterly base and deserving the strongest detestation. There
is hope for sons when they still cherish love and reverence for parents;
none when these are gone. Every feeling, and act, and companionship, and
habit which tend towards this awful separation of heart, should be shunned
as men shun THE
ROAD TO DEATH! And yet this is THE
OF THE HUMAN HEART IN RELATION TO GOD! The gulf is awful;
and NOTHING BUT A NEW CREATION WILL LEAD TO RECON-
CILIATION (John 3:5; Romans 8:7).
strong in men whose country has been associated in memory with great
deeds. To care for one’s land and people, to be more concerned for the
maintenance of justice and adjustment of the claims of the poor than for the
form and personnel of government, — this is always commendable; and so
much is this virtue esteemed that it is assumed by Absalom for his own
purposes. We cannot believe in the patriotism of any man who shuts his
heart against a good father. Civil virtues cannot make amends for the
absence of the domestic and primary virtues. It is easy to prate about
justice and the oppressed, and to speak smoothly to the populace; to keep
the heart pure, loving, true toward man and God, is not so easy. There is
much pseudo-patriotism in political life. Men claim virtues they do not
possess, and use the claim for gaining an influence that else would be
father to be a pious man, and therefore seeks to accomplish his purpose by
a profession of piety. The heartless son finds no difficulty in taking the holy
name of God in vain, and concocting a tissue of lies. To the populace he
can be a critic of the government; to the pious king he can be a devout
man, intent on keeping sacred vows. No clearer proof of A SATANIC
SPIRIT than when men dare to lay hold of the most sacred things
and use them for vile and selfish purposes. Righteous, indeed, was the
indignation of Christ against such “hypocrites.” “Woe” from the lips of
love came upon them. Manifold are the forms and degrees in which this
Ø worship in order to be respectable,
Ø to profess religion for the sake of trade,
Ø to utter pious phrases in order to win popular applause,
are but the less repulsive forms of the very crime of Absalom. How
abominable such persons must appear in the sight of THE ALL
In consequence of the immense work thrown on an absolute monarch,
the growing complications of a flourishing state, and the incompetence
of subordinates, there would necessarily arise many difficulties in the
administration of the affairs of the kingdom. In all lands people have to
wait for justice when others are being served. But the evil heart of
Absalom showed itself in using whatever incidental delays arose as
an occasion of promoting his own wicked schemes. There is too much of
this in the world. The rich have often taken advantage of the ignorance and
helplessness of the poor to secure ends otherwise unattainable. In political
life it is a maxim to seize the hour of weakness for a party triumph. It is the
devil’s opportunity with feeble souls to render more sure THEIR
DESTRUCTION! Trouble in state, Church, or family affords opportunity
for testing the qualities of men. Love or hate, sympathy or antagonism, will
thereby be revealed. (Adversity will either make you better or bitter! –
I saw the quote on a
calendar put out by Joe B. Hall once upon a time – CY – 2018)
Bitter or better,
Which one do you choose, I ask?
Do you choose to make or break,
Life’s challenges and tasks?
Will I be bitter or better?
Is a question we all must ask.
It’s a choice for everyone,
An eternal test to pass.
(Deborah Finneran – 2007)
There comes a time when roads must part,
A decision needs to be made what will you feed your heart,
Every day the temptation to ultimately chain,
All your past hurt, disappointment and familiar pain,
Screams its plea in many directions,
Only Gods love can break through to your personal resurrection,
For the path towards bitterness leads to the grave,
And the journey towards forgiveness is what will eventually save,
The highway draped with bitter thorns,
Will always leave your soul feeling forlorn,
The street dressed in mercy and infinite compassion,
Will bring you to the fields of eternal satisfaction,
Choose better before bitter,
For the bitter,
Become the quitters.
BY: Sabina Nicole
How different to others the blessed Saviour in presence of human
people’s hearts were won to Absalom. It seems a great triumph to win the
hearts of multitudes; it is an indication of great power on the part of the
conqueror or of fickleness on the part of the conquered. But in this, as in
many instances, the conquest was a revelation of shallow thinking on the
one side and basest cunning on the other. There is in most men a soil for
receiving the seeds of discontent from the hand of a deft sower. People are
easily caught by flatteries and personal attention. A visible parade of
splendor dazzles and pleases the crowd, who think modest, quiet bearing
a sign of mediocrity. The dash and careless promises of a young and
handsome man excite the imagination, and raise up pictures of great
possibilities. The mass of men do not think; they feel, and are led by the
clever orator who can stir up their feelings. It is not always a credit to “go
with the multitude,” and fall in with an order of things because it is
popular. (“Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil:” Exodus 23:2
- I would say that an example of the masses who do not think, cited
above – can be found in Progressive led demostrations of the last
few years or few days [London/Edinburgh – as cited above] and I doubt
very seriously they have ever heard of the command God gave in Exodus
23:2, or if they have, it never crosses their minds when engaged in such
vulgar exhibitions, as many of these demonstrations are? CY – 2018)
The vox populi (the voice of the people) maxim is often false. Of One
it was once true, “Of the people there was none with Him.” (Isaiah 63:3)
He was “despised and rejected of men.” (ibid. ch. 53:3)
It is not necessary to endeavor to trace resemblance in all details between
antagonism to the mortal king in
immortal King in
the authority of Him whose right it is to reign (Ezekiel 21:27). Fashion,
wealth, power of speech, wit, and alliances with wise Ahithophels, continue
to undermine and eventually overthrow the influence of Christ over the
hearts of men. The “gates of hell” take counsel against the Lord and
His Anointed. (Psalm 2:2) Another seat of supreme influence is being
set up as a substitute for that occupied by the Anointed One, and “spies”
are abroad seeking to create doubt and distrust in the hearts of the faithful.
As we read the account of Absalom’s ingratitude, daring, and baseness,
and feel for his deeds the utmost detestation, so holy beings who look on
the endeavor to destroy THE AUTHORITY OF CHRIST OVER MEN
cannot but regard the deed as the basest, most daring, and at the same
time most fatal to the perpetrators, EVER ATTEMPTED! The wicked
may seem to triumph, but THEIR END IS DESTUCTION!
14 “And David said unto all his servants that were with him at
Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from
Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and
bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.”
Arise, and let us flee. The rebellion of Absalom, and David’s
humiliating flight, bring out all the better parts of the king’s character, and
set him once again before us as a man after God’s own heart. For this
period is richly illustrated by the psalms which were written under the
pressure of this great affliction, and which are marked by firm confidence
in God, and an assured sense of the Divine nearness and protection.
but it inspired no fear: “As for me, thou up. holdest me in mine integrity,
and settest me before thy face forever” (v. 12). It was a firm faith which
prompted such words.
and his dwelling will be in God’s tabernacle forever.
from Absalom his son.”
stricken feelings when the news reached him, his longing to escape from
the turmoil of life, and flee into the wilderness and be at rest; and his grief
at his desertion by men in whose company he had worshipped in the house
of God. Upon this follows an outburst of vehement indignation, made the
more bitter by the sense of the treachery whereby he had been duped into
connivance with Absalom’s plans (v. 21); but amidst it all his confidence
was unshaken that if he cast his burden upon God, “He would sustain him,
and never suffer the righteous to be moved.”
and the inconstancy of men;
anguish of mind was being assuaged, and a calm confidence was taking
its place. Everywhere in all of them David speaks as one who had now
given all his heart to God.
that David should have withdrawn so hurriedly from a city so strong as
few Cherethites and Pelethites could have made no head against the nation.
Probably, too, the fortifications of the city were incomplete (Psalm 51:18);
even if in good order, yet, cooped up in
left the whole country in Absalom’s power, and finally, after a
long blockade, he must have been driven by famine to surrender. Away
attempt would gather, and every day as it passed would make men reflect
more and more upon what David had done for them, and the more steady
and thoughtful of them would finally decide in his favor. There would be,
moreover, the secret conviction that David, with such men round him as
Joab and Abishai, if free to take his own course, would be more than a
match for Absalom and his larger numbers. This was what Ahithophel
foresaw, and was so convinced that, if David were not crushed at once, he
would gain the day, that he did not even wait to see, but destroyed himself.
Abarbanel thinks that the wish of the people had never been for more than
the association of Absalom with David on the throne, according to what he
had himself suggested (v. 4); and that there was a great revulsion of
feeling when they saw that they must choose absolutely between father
and son, and that whoever lost the crown must lose his life as well.
though others ascribe it to Jeremiah. Parts of it are singularly applicable to the
circumstances of David’s flight, as where the psalmist speaks of Jehovah as
his Fortress in contrast with
shut me up into the hands of the enemy, but hast set my feet in a large
space,” as though “the net which the conspirators had privily laid for him”
had been the design to coop him up within the walls of the city, There are
touching words, too, of distress at the slander and reproach breaking forth
on every side, and at the completeness of his fall, so that whereas but a few
days before he had been a king, now “he was clean forgotten, as a dead
man out of mind; and east aside as though he were now of no more
account than the shards of a broken vessel.” (v. 12) But, with the calm
strength of faith he adds, “My times are in thy hand” (v. 15); “Thou shalt
hide all who trust in thee in the secret of thy presence” (v. 20); “Oh, then,
love Jehovah, and be of good courage! for He shall strengthen the heart
of all whose hope is fixed on Him.” (vs. 23-24)
15 “And the king’s servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are
ready to do whatsoever my Lord the king shall appoint.
16 And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the
king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house.”
The king’s servants. These were the officers of David’s court
and household, numerous enough to hamper his movements, but not
enough to protect him. All David’s wives, moreover, went, and his
children, and some of his concubines (ch. 19:5), ten, however,
being left in charge of the palace.
17 “And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in
a place that was far off.” And tarried in a place that was far off; Revised
Version, in Beth-merhak. “The Far House” — so we may translate this proper
name — was probably not a dwelling, but a pavilion overlooking the Kidron
valley; and here David halted his household until all were assembled, and
arrangements made for their journey. Here, too, the bodyguard would
gather, and they would cross the Kidron only when everything was ready
for their orderly progress. Confusion at such a time would breed a panic
and invite an attack.
18 “And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites,
and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which
came after him from
All the Gittites, air hundred men which came after him
the persons meant; but while they were styled Gibborim, the “mighties,”
for honour’s sake, because of their prowess, they probably were popularly
called David’s Gittites, because they were the six hundred men who had
formed his little army when he sought refuge with Achish, King of Gath
(l Samuel 27:2; 30:9). They were not Philistines, but Israelites of desperate
fortune (ibid. ch. 22:2); and it is a proof of David’s great ability, and
of the moral influence of his character, that he was successful, not only in
controlling them and maintaining discipline, but also in forming them into
as noble a set of heroes as ever existed, and who were faithful to him in all
his fortunes. To their number belonged the thirty-seven champions enumerated
in ch. 23., and possibly the title “Gibborim” strictly belonged to
them only. As they are still called “the six hundred,” it is probable that the
corps was maintained at this number by new appointments, and that they
had special privileges which made their position very desirable. Certainly
David would never forget men who had shared all his fortunes, and been so
true and so useful to him; and it is evident, from Hushai’s counsel (ch. 17:8),
that Absalom feared their resolute valor, and hesitated to attack without
overwhelming numbers. Thenius compares these veterans to
Napoleon’s Old Guard.
David’s Flight from
“Arise! and let us flee” (v. 14).
1. Leaving the palace, on receiving news from
and vintage, ch. 16:1; 17:28; Psalm 4:7).
2. At “the Far House” (Beth-hammerhak), on the outskirts of the city
17); and at “the olive tree in (on the road to) the wilderness of
(Septuagint); the procession formed; Ittai the Gittite.
3. Passing over the Kidron; the signal of flight; loud and general wailing (v. 23).
4. Commencement of the ascent of
5. Ascending the mountain amidst loud wailing (v. 30); tidings concerning
Ahithophel (v. 31).
6. At the top (about noonday), “where God was worshipped” (v. 32);
Hushai the Archite (vs. 32-37).
7. Descending, on the other side; Ziba, with refreshments (ch. 16:1-4).
8. At Bahurim; Shimei (ibid. vs. 5-13).
9. Coming “weary” (or, to “Ayephim”) (ibid. v. 14); to the fords
(Authorized Version, “plains”) of the wilderness, or passages of the
leading to the
10. Crossing the river (after midnight), on the arrival of Ahimaaz and
with news from
marching onward “by the morning light” toward Mahanaim (ibid. vs. 24, 27-29).
“There is no single day in the Jewish history of which so
an account remains as of this memorable flight” (
probably the morning after Absalom’s revolt when news came from
none were more unexpected or alarming. He must determine at
once whether to face the gathering storm or flee before it. With something
of his former decision he chose the latter course; his servants (state
officers, attendants, soldiers) declared themselves ready to do his bidding;
and “he went forth and all his household” (wives, sons, daughters), “all the
people” (“servants,” Septuagint) “after him,” etc. At first, no doubt, struck
with consternation (feelings of unexpected anxiety), he yet speedily regained
his composure; and came to his decision not from abject fear, or personal
cowardice (ch. 18:2), but (as others should do in similar critical and perilous
positions) from motives of:
“bring evil upon us;” or “drive over us the evil” or calamity which now
threatens, and in which David sees the fulfillment of predicted judgment
Ø He discerns therein the operation of Divine justice on account of his sin
(ch. 16:11). Trouble and danger bring sin to remembrance; and
those who remember their sin are quick to perceive the chastening hand of
God where others see only the wrathful hand of man. In the view of faith,
wicked men are instruments employed by the supreme and righteous Judge.
Resentment toward them is thereby moderated, the sense of sin deepened,
and suffering borne in a different manner. “Wherefore doth a living man
complain?” etc. (Lamentations 3:39; Micah 7:9).
Ø He is persuaded of the folly of resistance to the Divine power. Such
resistance can be of no avail against the Almighty; it ought not to be
attempted; and it can only result in defeat and ruin (as in the case of Saul).
If he should remain and defend the city, David had no inward assurance, as
in former conflicts, that God would be with him. He rather felt that in
resisting Absalom at this moment he would be resisting God. He did not
even deem it needful to consult the oracle (v. 24).
Ø He acquiesces without murmuring in the Divine will (v. 26), “accepts
the punishment of his iniquity” (Leviticus 26:41-42), and patiently endures
the wrath of man, knowing that it is subject to Divine control. When a
hurricane sweeps over the land, the things that cannot bend are broken; but
those that bow beneath it are preserved, and rise up again when it has
passed by. “Humble yourselves,” etc. (James 4:10).
Ø He hopes for deliverance in the Divine mercy (v. 25; ch. 16:12). “But as
for me, I trust in thee” (Psalm 55:23). Herein lay the secret of David’s
passivity, tranquillity, and forbearance during his flight.
without policy is too simple to be safe.
Ø He does not presume upon the protection of God, without, on his part,
exercising proper caution and energy. A good man’s submission to Divine
chastisement does not require that he should always remain in the way of
danger or voluntarily invite human hostility and cruelty. “When they
persecute you in this city, flee ye into another” (Matthew 10:23).
Ø He does not undertake an enterprise rashly, or without adequate means
of success. David probably deemed the number of his “servants” present
with him in
had the assurance of Divine help, he might have thought otherwise
(ch. 5:19). “His departure was an admirable means of testing the real
strength of both parties” (Ewald).
Ø He does not place an undue confidence in man. “David was perhaps
(Keil). “Beware of men” (Matthew 10:17; John 2:24; Psalm 118:8-9).
4. He makes use of the means which are most likely to ensure safety and
success. “A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself”
(Proverbs 22:3). If there must be conflict, delay appeared to him
desirable; it would afford time for his faithful adherents to assemble; and,
in the open field, the tried valor and discipline of his veterans would give
them an advantage. Pious men are not unfrequently deficient in prudence
(Luke 16:8); since, however, they are sometimes beset by ravening
wolves, it is necessary that they should be “wise as serpents” (Matthew
10:16), taking care nevertheless to avoid guile, and to be “harmless as
doves.” “When he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered,
he threatened not; but committed Himself to Him that judgeth
righetously.” (I Peter 2:23).
Foreseeing the misery and bloodshed likely to ensue from awaiting the
attack of Absalom, he sought by flight not merely to save his own life, but
Ø To secure the safety of his helpless household, and aid the escape of his
faithful followers (vs. 19-20).
Ø To spare the city the horrors of a siege. “He preferred the safety of the
people to his own; and was thus also a figure of him who said, in the
John 18:8 (Wordsworth).
Ø To save the life of his rebellious son (ch. 18:12); for which he
would have given his own (ibid. v. 33).
Ø To prevent the miseries of civil war (ch. 2:26; 3:1), and promote the
welfare of the divided and misguided people. If collision could
be now avoided, it might perchance be altogether averted (v. 25), or at
least occur with less injurious consequences. He was willing to sacrifice
himself for the good of the “sheep” (ch. 5:2; 24:17). “Let thy
blessing be upon thy people” (Psalm 3:8). His piety was honored, his
policy justified, his pity succeeded by renewed attachment (ch. 19:14),
and, IN ALL THE OVERULING
(three months afterwards) in triumph (ch. 19:39-40). Having practically
resigned his sceptre to God, from whom he received it, God gave it back
into his hands. “As David falls away from Jehovah to be more firmly
bound to Him, so
the history shows) more devoutly attached to him. The prelude to this
first clearing up of the relations between king and people is given in
the conduct of the faithful band who stand firmly by David in the
19 “Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also
with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a
stranger, and also an exile. 20 Whereas thou camest but yesterday,
should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither
I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with
thee. 21 And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and
as my Lord the king liveth, surely in what place my Lord the king be.”
Ittai the Gittite. Ittai was not one of the six hundred, though
was an Ittai among them, a Benjamite. He was a citizen of
had lately come (“yesterday,” see v. 20), with all his household of slaves
and dependents, his clan, Hebrew, his taf — translated in v. 22 his “little
ones.” He had evidently been a person of importance in his own country,
whence he had been driven, perhaps by political troubles, and was now,
therefore, an exile and a foreigner (Authorized Version, “stranger”) at
Abishai (ch. 18:2), he must also have been a general of recognized military skill.
was thus not personally interested in the government of
had only lately come thither, David recommends him to return… and abide with
the king, that is, with the de facto king, Absalom. But so great was the fascination
which David exercised upon those around him, that this foreigner boldly threw in
his lot with him, and accompanied him in his flight. Return to thy place. This is a
very daring transposition, as the Hebrew is, Return and abide with the
king; for thou art a foreigner, and also an exile art thou to thy place. The
Revised Version gives the same sense as the Authorized, though it shows
more respect to the grammar. But the Septuagint, Syriac, and Vulgate, by
“his own place” understand
exile as to thy own place,” or having a different reading. The Hebrew then
proceeds, Yesterday was thy coming, and shall 1 today make thee wander
to go with us, seeing I go whither I go? that is, I go I know not whither.
Return thou, and take back thy brethren — in mercy and truth. This gives
a very good sense, but the Septuagint and Vulgate have a different reading:
“Take back thy brethren with thee, and the Lord shew thee mercy and
truth.” The Syriac gives the genera] sense of the Hebrew, rendering, “Take
back thy brethren well.”
A Farewell Blessing (v. 20)
“Mercy and truth be with thee.” Times of adversity are testing times. They
try and make manifest the character both of the sufferer and of his friends.
The base and the noble in men, their selfishness and their disinterestedness,
their faithlessness and their fidelity, are revealed and heightened. David
never appeared in better light (in all but, perhaps, courage) than at the
fearful crisis when his son was usurping his throne and ready to take his
life, and he himself became for a time an exile from home and metropolis
and sanctuary; and while some of his servants made manifest their inherent
baseness, the virtues of others shone forth in new luster. The conversation
between David and Ittai illustrates these remarks. It is a contest of
nobleness, in which both appear to great advantage. The words of the text
were intended by David as a farewell. Ittai would not, however, accept
them as such, but persisted in accompanying him whithersoever he might
go. They contain a prayer suitable for all in addressing their friends in
parting, or indeed at any time. “Mercy and truth” are, of course, those of
God. “May God exercise towards thee His mercy and truth.”
Man is entirely dependent on the kindness of God both as a creature and as
a sinner. All in some degree are its objects; but in desiring that it may be
with any, we wish that they may enjoy it to the fullest extent, both in body
and soul, in time AND IN ETERNITY! It thus includes all manifestations
and exercises of DIVINE GRACE!
Ø Defending and preserving.
Ø Comforting and gladdening.
Ø Eternally saving.
That perfection of the Divine nature which assures us
that God will ever act in a manner true to Himself as He reveals Himself in
His Word, and to the promises He has given us. In desiring that the truth of
God may be with any, we pray that they may to the fullest extent
experience how trustworthy are the revelations He has made of Himself,
how faithfully His promises are fulfilled, how happy they are who confide
TOGETHER IN THE HOLY WRITINGS, ESPECIALLY
IN THE BOOK OF PSALMS. They exhibit the two aspects of the nature
of God with which we are chiefly concerned; and, taken comprehensively,
include His whole moral character. To desire, therefore, that they may be
with any one is to pray that God may be with him in the fullness of His
Being, as his God; that he may experience for himself all that He can be to
one of His creatures — His kindness in the utmost meaning of His faithful
representations; His truth, not in the accomplishment of His threatenings,
but in the amplest fulfillment of His gracious promises.
ARE EXERCISED FOR OUR GOOD. This often takes place when they
are not present to our consciousness. But the highest blessedness is to
enjoy their exercise in the full consciousness that it is the “mercy and truth”
of God that are blessing our lives. The crowning bliss is to enjoy their
uninterrupted exercise towards us, AND THAT FOREVER!
ENJOY ALL REAL GOOD, AND TO BE SURE OF ITS ENJOYMENT
FOREVER. Hence these words express all that the wisest, kindest, and
best can address to their friends in parting with them, or on birthdays, new
year’s days, etc. We cannot be so certain, that we are pronouncing a
blessing on them when we wish them health, wealth, long life, abundance
of friends, etc.
TRUTH” is to produce their own likeness in those with whom they dwell,
making them kind and loving, true and faithful. The possession and
cultivation of these qualities are a necessary part of the evidence that we
have experienced the Divine grace and faithfulness, and a necessary
condition of our continuing to enjoy them (see Proverbs 3:3-4).
Ittai an Example to Christians (v. 21)
It is interesting to find a Gentile, and he a Gittite, so attached to David, so
devoted in duty to him, and so honored as to have (ch. 18:2)
been entrusted with the command of one-third of the army in the battle
with Absalom and his forces. The proposal of David (vs. 19-20) was
generous and reasonable; but to Ittai’s loyal spirit was quite inadmissible.
He expresses his determination to cleave to David whether for life or for
death; and swears to do so by the life of God and the life of the king. His
devotedness presents an example to subjects and soldiers, to servants and
friends. His language is worthy of adoption by us in addressing our
glorious King, the Divine Son of David. It reminds us of the words of
Peter, when speaking for all the twelve (John 6:68) and when speaking
only for himself (John 13:37), and which expressed his genuine
determination, notwithstanding his subsequent fall. It reminds us also of the
Barnabas to the new converts at
purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord” (Acts 11:23) — an
exhortation which meets with a cordial response in every Christian’s heart.
His resolve, his vow, is to cleave unto Christ for life and death; to follow
Him whithersoever He may lead.
marvelous power of Christ to attract and attach to Himself the hearts of
men. David had a similar power, of an inferior kind and on a smaller scale.
Christ draws and influences, not only by His character and works, but by
His Spirit working directly in the heart. But regarded as springing from the
Christian’s heart, the resolve and vow are the result of:
Ø Faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, the Saviour and King of men.
Who has, therefore, a right to supreme homage and service (John 6:69).
Ø Ardent love to Him. In return for His love (II Corinthians 5:14-15);
and as the result of knowledge and experience, perception of His
Divine and human excellences, delight in His society and service.
Ø Desire and hope to make Him some suitable return for His love
and self-sacrifice, and the invaluable blessings He has secured and
conferred. The ardent Christian will pant for, and delight in, opportunities
for serving Christ at the cost of peril, loss, suffering, disgrace with the
world, or even sacrifice of life; and for showing his fidelity when others
Ø Conviction that safety, happiness, and life everlasting are to be found
only with Christ.
“Whither, ah! whither should I go,
A wretched wanderer from my Lord?
Can this dark world of sin and woe
One glimpse of happiness afford?
Depart from thee! ‘Tis death; ‘tis more —
‘Tis endless ruin, deep despair!”
Ø Memory of past vows. “I have sworn, and I will perform it” (Psalm
times of special devotion, or by words of endearment, or promise, or
lavish praise; but by:
Ø Bold confession of Christ before men. Wearing His uniform, marching
under His banner, acknowledging Him openly as King and Captain.
worship, at the Lord’s table, in social life, etc. Christ is in His Church;
they are His visible representatives; openly with them all should be
who wish to be “in what place their Lord the King may be.”
Ø Visiting constantly the places where Christ is specially to be found,
and avoiding those which He avoids. Frequenting the closet, the
sanctuary, the houses of poor, sick, and dying brethren. Avoiding
the haunts of dissipation and iniquity. Going nowhere where we
cannot think with satisfaction that Christ is near and approving.
Ø Active and zealous cooperation with Him. Doing, daring, enduring, in
promoting His kingdom and the welfare of mankind. “Always abounding in
the work of the Lord” (I Corinthians 15:58). “Enduring hardship, as a
good soldier of Jesus Christ” (II Timothy 2:3). Pressing eagerly to the
front with Christ where his battles are to be fought, as Ittai with David,
regardless of difficulties, danger, or death.
Ø Perseverance in all. Which is the crowning proof of the deep sincerity
of the determination.
Ø Now. Further opportunities of, calls to, and fitness for, service, suffering,
“What his guerdon here?
Many a sorrow, many a labor,
Many a tear.”
But with these, the manifested presence of Christ, and His smile and words
of approval; the pleasures which accompany the exercise of the powers in
the noblest possible employment, and those which arise from association
with the noblest of God’s creatures in earth and heaven.
Ø Hereafter. To be with Christ and share His glory and bliss evermore.
“Enter into the joy of thy Lord” (Matthew 25:21). “If we endure, we
shall also reign with Him” (II Timothy 2:12, Revised Version).
22 “And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite
passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.”
All the little ones; Hebrew, all the taf; in v. 20 called “his brethren,”
that is, all the relatives and dependents who had accompanied
him in his exile. Their presence with him proves that he had entirely broken
with the Philistines, and left his country for good. He may have taken this
step for religious reasons, though his swearing by Jehovah (v. 21) does
not prove it, as Achish did the same (I Samuel 29:6); or Ittai, after the
unpopular by becoming the ally of the conqueror, and so finally have
to leave the city, and find a home in
The Devotedness of Ittai (vs. 19-22)
“...As Jehovah 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
servant be.” (v. 21). In his flight
1. David experienced much alleviation of his trouble; as in his flight from
the court of Saul (nearly forty years before). He was not left alone
(I Samuel 22:1-2). His “servants” gathered round him, and professed their
readiness to follow him (v. 15). Halting with his household at “the Far
House,” he found himself accompanied by his bodyguard, the Cretans and
Philistines (under Benaiah, ch. 8:18); his six hundred veterans
(under Abishai, ch. 23:17-39) who had been with him in his early
and followed him from
“Gibborim,” I Samuel 23:13; 27:2; 30:9; here chps. 2:3; 5:6); and a
part at least of the regular soldiery — the host (under Joabm ibid. ch. 8:16;
18:1-2). His attention was arrested by the presence of Ittai the Gittite
from some unknown cause, had recently come from
brethren (kinsfolk) and children. “The Lord has the hearts of all men in his
hands, and if He be our friend, we shall not want friends” (Guild). “Our
foremost friends are sometimes raised up among persons from whom we
had the least expectations” (Scott).
2. He exhibited noble generosity in his conduct. “Wherefore goest thou
with us?” etc. (vs. 19-21). “This unexpected meeting with Ittai appeared
to the royal fugitive almost like a friendly greeting of his God, and dropped
the first soothing balsam drops into the painful wounds of his deeply
lacerated heart” (Krummacher). But David, now himself a wanderer, had
no desire to make the condition of this “stranger and exile” more homeless
and distressing by dragging him into his own misfortunes; released him
from whatever obligations of service he may have incurred; advised him to
offer his services to the new king; and expressed the wish, “Mercy and
truth [from God] be with thee” (ch. 2:6).
“I am a poor fallen man, unworthy now
To be thy lord and master; seek the king…
Neglect him not; make use now, and provide
For thine own future safety.”
(‘King Henry VIII.’)
3. He exerted a powerful attraction on his followers; as aforetime. His
language was really a pathetic appeal; not unlike that of Jesus, “Will ye also
go away?” etc. (John 6:66-69). “Ittai declared his resolution (with a
fervor which almost inevitably recalls a like profession made almost on
the same spot to the great Descendant of David, Matthew 26:35,
afterwards) to follow him in life and death” (
beautiful instance of loyal constancy and faithful devotion in a Philistine
soldier at a time of apostasy and defection. His truth and fidelity are
brought out in a stronger and clearer light by the contrast with the
treachery of Absalom, Ahithophel, and eventually of Joab and Abiathar”
(Wordsworth). He may be regarded, in his devotion to David, as a pattern
of devotion to Christ. It was:
and proved, by:
Ø The prospect of difficulties, privations, and perils in his service. These
are all known to the Lord, for He has Himself endured them; and He
forewarns His disciples of them (Luke 9:57-58; 14:25-33). He would
not have them follow Him from mere impulse.
Ø The promise of ease, safety, and advantage in other service; worldly
pleasure, treasure, power, honor, in devotion to the prince and “god of
Ø The example and influence of many persons; bound by stronger ties to
serve their rightful king; but forsaking their allegiance to Him, joining in
revolt against His authority, seeking His life, and heaping reproaches on His
head (ch. 16:11). “From that time many of his disciples went back,
and walked no more with Him.” (John 6:66; Mark 14:50; II Timothy 4:10;
II Peter 3:17).
Ø The peculiar circumstances in which he is placed, the special
inducements suggested thereby, and the favorable opportunities afforded
for the exercise of his freedom. There are times in which the Lord
(however much he values and desires his aid) does not urge him to
continue, but seems to do the opposite, and give him liberty, if he be
disposed, to depart. So he tests his disciples, sifts the false from the true,
and, though it cause the former to fall away, it makes the latter cling to him
more closely than ever. The decision between Christ and antichrist has to
be made, not only at first, but also often afterwards.
Son of David,” in:
Ø The deliberate preference of his service to any other. “Just as in the
great French Revolution, the famous Swiss Guard showed a brave, though
mercenary fidelity, so Ittai, having eaten of the king’s salt, determines that
where his lord the king is, in life or death, he will be.”
Ø The disinterested motives by which he is actuated (Ruth 1:16). Ittai
was not a mere mercenary, serving David for advantage (see Job 1:9). He
was influenced possibly by gratitude for the kind reception he met with on
imposed by friendship and previous engagements, by a conviction of the
rectitude of the king’s cause; certainly by admiration and affection for his
person. Hence he wished to be with him, to share his sufferings and to aid
in his defense. He was ready “to lay down his life for his sake.” An
intelligent, sincere, passionate love to the Person of Christ is essential to
His service. “Lovest thou me?”
Ø The open and solemn pledge of loyalty and fidelity. “As Jehovah liveth,”
etc, (I Samuel 29:6; II Samuel 4:9). Ittai was doubtless a convert to
the faith of
I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32;
Ø The practical, unconditional, whole hearted consecration of himself and
all he possessed to the king’s service. “And Ittai the Gittite passed over,
and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.” “Who then is
willing to consecrate himself this day unto the Lord?” (I Chronicles 29:5).
over” (v. 22), “with me” (Septuagint). If he said no more, his look and
manner would give peculiar significance to his words. The Lord testifies His
reception and approval of every devoted servant by:
Ø Giving him the assurance thereof in his heart.
Ø Fulfilling his desire to be with Him. “If any man serve me, let him
follow me.” (John 12:26).
Ø Appointing him to his post of duty, and making his way plain (John
Ø Exalting him to a position of responsibility and honor (ch. 18:2),
in which He aids the king in gaining a great victory, and shares the
joy of a great triumph. The latter, like the former life of this Philistine,
is wrapped in obscurity. But his devotion to “the Lord’s anointed”
shines like a star among the heathen, and condemns the luke-warmness,
selfishness, and unfaithfulness of many “who profess and call
“Lo: of those
Who call, ‘Christ! Christ!’ there shall be many found,
In judgment, further off from Him by far
Than such to whom His Name was never known.
Christians like these the Ethiop shall condemn;
When that the two assemblages shall part —
One rich eternally, the other poor.”
(Dante, ‘Purg.,’ 19.)
23 “And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people
passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron,
and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.”
All the country wept. This general lamentation proves that
was not really unpopular in
Absalom had dazzled the people by his magnificence, and sought to win
favor by his gracious ways. By the country the inhabitants are meant, who
watched the king’s departure; while the people are David’s followers —
his retinue and attendants. The brook Kidron. This is a winter torrent, dry
during most of the year, but serving at the rainy seasons to carry off the
wild country on the east of the
after the defeat of Gilboa. To reach it he must pass by
through the Arabah (Jeremiah 39:4) to the ford of the
after crossing which he would be in comparative safety. Ahithophel would
have followed that very night, and have attacked before David had placed
the river between himself and his pursuers.
24“And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the
ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and
Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city.
25 And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the
city: if I shall find favor in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me
again, and shew me both it, and his habitation:” 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 I Samuel 2:28 and
here, ch. 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.”
26 “But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let
Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him.” Let Him do to me as seemeth
good unto Him. David’s answer is full, not only of devout resignation and trust
in God, but is remarkable also for the absence of superstition. He feels that God
will not judge him by any mere outward sign or privilege, but in truth and equity.
If he deserves condemnation, he will not escape it by carrying the ark about
with him. If, on the contrary, God accepts him, he will restore him to the
enjoyment of his spiritual privileges, and bring him back to worship at the
place which He has chosen for His dwelling. We must notice that he
addresses these words to Zadok, who had remained with the ark. This was
natural if Abiathar was occupied in offering, but hard to understand if he
had gone up, that is, in advance of the ark, to acquaint David with their
David’s Resignation to the Will of God (vv. 25-26)
David’s character shone most brightly amid the darkness of adversity — in
the early struggles and perils, and in these later ones. In these verses we see
his superiority to a superstitious dependence on the presence of the ark as
ensuring the presence and aid of God. He was thus much in advance of the
Israelites, elders and people alike, in the days of Eli (I Samuel 4:3-5).
We take the verses, however, as evidencing David’s profound submission
to the will of God, and illustrating the nature and excellence of godly
God. To the enjoyment of the Divine favor, or the experience of the
Divine displeasure. In particular:
Ø To defeat or victory in the contest with his unnatural son; and, as
results of one or the other:
Ø To the permanent loss or the regaining of his throne.
Ø To banishment from the ark and house of God or restoration to them.
This is specially referred to in v. 25. To death or life.
Ø It was not insensibility or indifference. How much he felt the position in
which he was placed is evident from his language here, and his tears and
other signs of mourning referred to in v. 30. Those who do not feel their
troubles cannot cherish resignation to them. Troubles which do not trouble
require no exercise of submission. Resignation may be most eminently
displayed by those who are most susceptible of suffering.
Ø It was not a stoical submission to the inevitable. This is better than vain
struggles and useless murmurs, but is not godly resignation.
Ø Nor did it involve abandonment of all prayer and effort to secure what
was felt to be desirable. David, while surrendering himself to the disposal
of the Most High, carefully planned and labored, and was prepared to
fight, that he might obtain the victory. Christian resignation is not fatalism.
Ø It was trustful, loving submission to whatever might prove to be the will
of God. David recognized the hand of God in his adversities, saw that the
issue of events would be according to the Divine appointment, and on this
account was prepared to acquiesce in it. “Let Him do to me as seemeth
good unto Him.”
Ø The rightful sovereignty of God. He does rule over all, whether we will
or no; and the recognition of His right to rule will much aid in producing
willing submission to His will. “You know, my dear,” said a poor man to
his wife, when they were mourning the loss of a peculiarly interesting and
affectionate child, “this family is God’s garden, and he has a right to come
into it and pluck any flower that pleases Him best.”
Ø His omnipotence. “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God”
(I Peter 5:6). Because He is almighty, Hhis will must be accomplished;
resistance is futile. At the same time, He is almighty to support, to bring
good out of evil, and to “exalt in due time” (ibid.).
Ø His wisdom and goodness. Which assure us that He does not act
according to arbitrary choice, but that what “seemeth good unto Him” is
really good; so that in submitting to Him we are acquiescing in our own
ultimate well being.
Ø Our sinfulness and unworthiness. David was doubtless aided in
resigning himself to the will of God by the memory of his heinous sins
(compare Judges 10:15; Nehemiah 9:33; Lamentations 1:18; 3:39;
Daniel 9:14; Micah 7:9). We deserve more suffering than is inflicted
upon us; we merit no good thing; the more readily, therefore, should we
resign ourselves to whatever may be appointed for us.
Ø The blessings enjoyed by us or assured to us. The memory of past
enjoyments, which tends to embitter present griefs, should nevertheless
awaken a gratitude which tends to reconcile us to them. “Shall we receive
good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” (Job 2:10).
The mercies still remaining to us, duly appreciated and acknowledged, will
have a similar beneficial effect. The way in which God has led us through
past difficulties should strengthen confidence in Him, and render us
willing to trust Him with our future. Specially, if we are Christians indeed,
let us keep in mind:
o The relation in which we stand towards God, as His children,
§ renewed; and
§ the childlike spirit which becomes us.
Ø The unspeakable blessings which as Christians we enjoy.
o peace with God,
o access to him,
o assurance of his fatherly pity and love,
o the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, with His special:
§ support, and
Ø The promises made to us:
o of all needful good (Psalm 84:11; Matthew 6:33);
o the cooperation of all things for our good (Romans 8:28);
o the Divine care, sympathy, and support (Psalm 55:22;
Hebrews 13:5-6); and
o final deliverance from all affliction, and
o enjoyment of eternal glory — glory far outweighing all
present trouble, and prepared for and increased through
its right endurance (Revelation 21:4; Romans 8:18;
II Corinthians 4:17-18).
Ø The cross of Christ illustrates and enhances all other motives. The love
of God in Christ assures us in the darkest hours that He is love, and His
ways are love. The sufferings of Jesus as our atoning Saviour make sure to
us all spiritual and ETERNAL BLESSINGS. His greater sufferings are
adapted to reconcile us to our so much lesser ones. In His resignation we have
the brightest and most powerful example, and reasons for imitation of it. As
our fellow Sufferer we know that He can, and are assured that He does,
sympathize with us; and that he is the better able to succor us.
“For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able
to succor them that are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)
Ø The benefits which flow from resignation.
o “The peace of God” (Philippians 4:7), and with it strength
to endure: power also to do whatever may be possible towards
o Evidence to our own consciousness that we are the children of God.
o Good influence over others. Proof to them of the worth of religion.
In conclusion, let us lay to heart that in any case we must suffer
affliction. The only question is how and with what results? Shall
we suffer in faith and hope and submission, and thus secure
Divine approval, support, and blessing? or shall we suffer
impatiently and rebelliously, thus adding to our sufferings,
and gaining no blessing from them? “Woe unto him that striveth
with his Maker!” (Isaiah 45:9).
27 “The king said also unto Zadok the priest, Art not thou a seer?
return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz
thy son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.” 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.
28 “See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come
word from you to certify me. 29 Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried
the ark of God again to
In the plain of the wilderness. The Revised Version has “at
the fords of the wilderness,” that is, it rightly keeps to the written Hebrew
text (the K’tib), while the Authorized Version adopts a conjecture of the
Massorites (the K’ri). This conjecture is the substitution of arboth for
abroth, and they have made the same alteration at ch. 17:16. But
the substitution is uncalled for and mischievous; for David would not halt
indefinitely in the plain, the Arabah (of which Arboth is the plural), but
would press on to the fords, where some delay must take place, and where
the king’s presence would be important in giving instructions for what was
by no means an easy operation (compare ch. 19:18). At the river,
moreover, David could be assailed only in front, where his “mighties”
would make a strong defense, while in the Arabah they might be
surrounded; and, encumbered as they were with women, their line must be
so extended as to be weakened. We find, too, in Judges 3:28 that the
it is expressly said that the fording of the river did not take place until
Jonathan and Ahimaaz came with their reports; and their words there, in
v. 21, show that David was on the bank when they arrived, with his
preparations so complete, that, in the next few hours, all his company were
safely carried over to the other side. Ahimaaz was a famous runner (see
ch. 18:27), and, if David was ready, the time gained by him upon
body of troops leaving
enabled the king to get his people across; but if he had still some miles to
march, with a number of women and children, Ahimaaz’s fleetness would
have been rendered useless.
“Carry back the ark of God to the city” (v. 25). Having crossed the
Kidron ravine amidst the loud wailing of the people, and halted for a
moment in the ascent of Olivet, David was met by Zadok (of the elder
branch of the Aaronic family), with the Levites, carrying the ark,
and by Abiathar (a descendant of Eli, of the younger branch). The former
come to him at
mighty of valor” (I Chronicles 12:28); the latter was a still older
friend of David (I Samuel 22:23), occupying the highest official
position (Zadok being his vicar only, or sagan, I Kings 2:27, 35;
I Chronicles 16:39), but not taking the most prominent part in active service,
and perhaps entertaining “jealousy of his rival” (Blunt). They doubtless
intended to render valuable service to the king by bringing the ark. Why,
then, did he send it back? Not from want of proper regard for it (v. 25,
latter part). He did not, indeed, put a superstitious confidence in it, like
Hophni and Phinehas. He esteemed and reverenced it as an appointed
symbol of the Divine presence and “favor,” and a valuable means of
Divine worship and service (I Samuel 4:11), just as highly as when he
conducted it in triumph to its resting place (ch. 6:16). But “he
would not use the ark as a charm; he had too much reverence for it to risk
his personal peril” (
and to His people, not to himself; considered, not only that it would be of
no advantage to him in present circumstances, but also that he was not
justified in removing it from the city and depriving the people of its
presence; that rather it was the will of God that he should himself be
deprived of it, at least for a season; and thus he honored God in adversity
as he had formerly done in prosperity. “David is always great in affliction.
His conduct throughout, his goodness, resignation, and patience, are
clearly evinced in all these trying scenes” (Kitto). Consider him as an
1. Spiritual insight. He perceived the true nature and worth of the ark; that
the symbol was distinct from the reality of the Divine favor, did not
necessarily ensure its possession, was not an essential condition of it; that
its value depended upon the relation of men to God (I Samuel 6:1-9).
Affliction often teaches us how to regard the outward privileges and
ordinances of religion. “He was contented at this time to forbear the
presence of the ark, having his confidence in God, and not relying
altogether upon the external sacrament” (Willet).
2. Deep humility. Having acted unworthily of the ark of the “testimony,”
and disobeyed the commandments of God, he deemed himself unworthy of
the honor of its presence. His deprivation of it was a just chastisement for
his misuse and abuse of it. “I am not worthy,” etc. (Genesis 32:10;
Luke 5:8; Matthew 8:8).
3. Holy affection toward the “habitation” of God (Psalm 26:8); toward
God Himself; and toward His people. Hence, although banished from the
ark of God, he desired that the God of the ark should still be honored by
others, and do them good. “Observe his disinterested self-sacrifice for the
good of the people. He would not punish his subjects for his son’s sins”
(Wordsworth). “It argues a good principle to be more concerned for the
prosperity than for our own, to prefer
joy, the success of the gospel and the flourishing of the Church above our
own wealth, credit, ease, safety, even when they are most at hazard”
(Matthew Henry). “Let thy Name be magnified forever” (ch. 7:26).
4. Lofty faith in the presence of God in all places, His superintendence of all
events, His acquaintance with all hearts, His righteousness and goodness,
favor, guidance, mercy, and truth (v. 20). It is “an instance of David’s
clear faith in the omnipresence of God and of his spiritual elevation from
the outward symbols of the sanctuary to the Divine essence that was
symbolized by them.” “Salvation belongeth unto the Lord,” etc. (Psalm
3:8; 4:3; 5:7).
5. Unquenchable hope. “If I find favor,” etc. (v. 25). So far from
despairing of God’s favor, he cherished the expectation of being delivered
all his troubles,” brought back to
and worshipping in His tabernacle with joy. “My hope is in thee” (Psalm
39:7; 42:5; 71:14).
6. Entire resignation, “And if He thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold,
here am I, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him” (v. 26; I Samuel 3:18;
here, ch. 12:15-23). “He besought God, as Alexander Severus told his soldiers
a generous and a wise man should; praying for the best things and bearing
whatever should befall” (Delany). “This marks strongly his subdued and
right spirit, partly induced, we doubt not, by the humility of his own conscious
transgressions. He fell; but it was the fall of the upright, and he rose again;
submitting himself meekly in the mean time to the will of God” (Chalmers).
7. Practical wisdom. “Art thou a seer? return to the city,” etc. (vs. 27-29);
“Behold! return,” etc. (Septuagint). “The peculiar exercises of religion
ought to precede, but not to exclude, the use of every prudent means of
securing success in lawful undertakings” (Scott). When, in time of
adversity, we decline the aid of our friends in one form, because it seems to
us injudicious and improper, we should gladly avail ourselves of it in
another; knowing that by such instrumentality the help for which we look
to God is most commonly vouchsafed. “Among the few faithful amidst the
faithless, the first place belongs to the priests, whom loyalty and interest
alike bound to the throne. So they were ready if they had been permitted to
have carried even the ark to share the exile of the king. They will have their
loyalty crowned by seeing the ark, the tent of a once nomad worship,
by its flame a spiritual life, set up in
amongst them may see a temple rise, the scene of as noble a worship as the
world has yet known” (R. Williams).
David went up by the ascent of
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.” The ascent of
the ascent of the olive trees. The hill never was called Olivet, which is a
word formed from the Latin mons oliveti, the mount of the olive grove.
David had his head covered. This was a sign of grief among the Persians,
Egyptians, and Romans, as well as the Hebrews (for whom see Ezekiel 24:17),
it being originally a natural movement to conceal an outburst of tears. So we in
great sorrow bury our faces in our hands. In this mark of mourning all joined,
but David added the going barefoot as a sign of deeper humiliation.
to the Jewish Midrash, it was upon the
David composed the third psalm. More probably it was at the fords of the
short refreshing slumber, and while he was waiting for his two young
friends, that he comforted himself by this outpouring of his heart to God.
(vs. 13-30) The facts are:
1. David, being informed of the rising in favor of Absalom, calls upon his
to flee from
2. His servants being willing to go with him, he leads out his entire
household, with the exception of a few to take care of the house.
3. In his departure he is accompanied by his bodyguard, and the six
men which followed him from
4. Observing Ittai in the company, he suggests that, being a stranger and
exile, he should not risk his fortunes with his own; but, on receiving an
assurance that it was his deliberate desire so to do, he permits him to pass on.
5. The people of the district weep with a loud noise as he crosses the brook
Kidron, and passes on toward the wilderness.
6. The ark of the covenant being brought out into the procession, when the
people have passed the brook, David urges on Zadok that the ark be
conveyed back to the city, expressing his humble hope that it might please
God to allow him to see it once more, and, in any case, he submits to the
7. David requests Zadok and others with the ark to return to the city, and
to inform him in the wilderness should anything of great importance arise.
8. The king expresses his grief by passing up the
covered head and weeping, accompanied by a covered and weeping
Submission in the Day of Adversity (13-30)
of the narrative of David’s departure from
involved, as may be seen by comparing vs. 17, 19, 23, 30; but the actual
facts are clear enough. As soon as he became aware of the extent of the
rebellion, he resolved to leave the city, and we have a record of the fact
and the incidents accompanying it. The first and most obvious impression
produced on the mind of the reader is the prompt and quiet submission of
the king to the force of circumstances, not because he was of cowardly
spirit, but because he saw in what was happening the providence of God. If
we analyze the conduct and words of David in their relation to the great
fall and Nathan’s prophecy (ch. 12:9-13), we shall see the leading features
characterizing his submission, and in so doing we shall get a view of the main
characteristics of all true Christian submission in the day of adversity.
surrender of regal state, the broken spirit, the barefooted departure from
the seat of authority, and the tender references to God doing with him as
seemed him good (v. 26), all point to more than a forced submission to
mere military necessity. There may have been a deep inexpressible anguish
on account of filial ingratitude, and the father’s heart could not but weep in
silence over an erring lost child; but the remembrance of his own great sin,
and the words of the prophet of God, furnished the chief theme of
reflection; for the son’s ingratitude base as it was, had become the rod to
chastise for the errors of the past. A forgiven man does not the less think of
the sin as a disgrace and worthy of being branded as evil. Adversities come
to us all — happily, few know the sorrow of such filial ingratitude — and
the enlightened mind sees in them more than physical sequence. The
doctrine that every sorrow that falls is for a specific sin need not be held.
Yet all trouble is connected with the fact that sin is in the world, and a
consciousness of personal shortcomings makes us feel, when adversity in
home, estate, or health falls, that we deserve every pain that enters the
heart. There is no assertion of right to be free from the trouble; rather the
true heart says, “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed”
observer it might seem that it was a very unrighteous thing for the Supreme
Ruler to allow so wise and good a king to be set aside and humiliated by a
man so base and vain as Absalom, and many a man in his anguish might
question the equity which allowed such sorrow to fall upon him when he
had recovered from his special sins. David’s spirit was the reverse of this.
Not a word of complaint, not a murmur or a fret in trouble. During his long
exile, when death encompassed him about, and he had washed his hands in
innocency, and all the blame lay with Saul and Doeg the Edomite, he
trusted in the justice of God; and this confidence, won in the days of
comparative innocence, failed him not now, when, after his recovery from
a fall, the storm burst upon him with more terrible violence. He knew and
rested in the precious truth that the Lord reigned in righteousness and
brought correction to his servants for their good. Yes; this is the faith of
the faithful. Never do they, however terrible the disaster in this life, distrust
the righteousness of God. “Though he slay me, yet will I trust him,” was
true for Job and all of kindred spirit. (Job 13:15) Men who know not the
new life cannot understand this. It is the alphabet of religious experience
to all who are really born again and are accepted in Christ. None of these
things move them.
not yield to fretfulness and irresolution. He vacates his home, provides for
his house, goes out to a place of safety, and, by his discreet arrangement
with Zadok and Abiathar, keeps up means of connection with the city
(vs. 27-28). Utter prostration under calamity does not come where there
is the counteractive element of recognition of personal unworthiness and of
the righteousness of God. Whether this trouble would pass he knew not,
but as a wise man he adapted himself to the storm. As Jacob to his exile
(Genesis 28:10-22.), as Moses to his deprivation (Deuteronomy 3:25-27;
compare 34:1-6), so David makes the best of his position. Providential
chastisements are not designed to paralyze action; their benefit is secured
when, in a spirit of resignation and trust, we use our powers to bear them
and to mitigate their incidence (Hebrews 12:5-12). Adversity becomes
truly educational when we are stirred up to adjust our life to its conditions.
UNNECESSARILY DRAWN INTO OUR SORROWS. David’s removal
into the open country was partly from policy and partly from feelings of
kindness. He probably had suspicions, seeing that his trusty counselor had
been drawn over to Absalom (v. 12; compare Psalm 41:9; 55:10-14), that
Absalom had many friends in the city, and should he in concert with them
come suddenly upon him and his friends, multitudes would fall victims to
his malice. It was the same generous feeling that prompted him to suggest
that Ittai, not being a Hebrew, should not embroil himself in this sad
conflict, and so run a risk in case another king should reign. We see the
same David as in earlier years, ever mindful of others, and magnanimous to
the extreme. The dreadful sin had not destroyed his noble qualities, but had
given a sadly tender form to their expression. There are beautiful instances
in Christian life of this kindly consideration for others. Fathers and mothers
strive to shield their children from the woes which they may connect with
their own want of wisdom or goodness. The great Saviour Himself, in His
dire trouble, sought to shield his faithful followers (John 14:1, 27; 17:9-12;
voluntary sympathy and aid of the faithful bodyguard, and the six hundred
who had shared his fortunes prior and subsequent to his departure from
were greatly valued. In the adversities which
come for purposes of discipline there is the merciful admixture of some
provision to meet the pressing need of the hour — some human channel for
Divine sympathy and compassion to enter the heart. Submission to the
inscrutable will always includes a grateful recognition of this relief. The
love and presence of Ruth was as balm to the desolate heart of Naomi as
she mourned her forlorn condition (Ruth 1:14-18), imparted a sweet
gentleness to her, and enabled her to submit to the blow that had shattered
her early joys. David and she had herein a common experience.
INTERESTS OF RELIGION. It was very beautiful conduct on the part of
Zadok and Abiathar to bring out the ark of the covenant (v. 24), to form
a prominent object in the sad procession out of the city; it revealed a tender
consideration for the man who in his prosperity had associated his purest
joys and most glorious triumphs with that precious symbol of the Divine
presence. The ark could not but remind David of the mercy that endureth
forever, and its presence with him would be regarded as a pledge of
blessing in his wandering. But he desired the priests to take back the
treasure, and he, meekly bowing to the chastisement, would go out and
suffer the loss of the outward privileges of the sanctuary. The reason of
this no doubt was that, as he had been the means of procuring a permanent
place for the ark (ch. 6:17-19), and constituting
center of religious influence for the nation, he would not now undo that
work and serve his own personal advantage at the cost of the people.
No; the religious institutions should remain intact, the blessings of
worship and spiritual comfort should abide for
he a poor exile pine in solitude and peril for the “beauty of the Lord”
(Psalms 42:1-4; 43:1-2). How beautiful this tender care for the interests
of religion appears in true submission to adverse providences is known to
all acquainted with Christian biography. Not a deed, not a word, not a
is allowed that might be prejudicial to the
may come, hopes may be blasted, if only the Name that is above every
name be still honored.
INTERESTS INTO THE HANDS OF GOD. “If I shall find favor in the
eyes of the Lord, He will bring me again, and show me both it, and His
habitation. But if He thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here
I am, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him” (vs. 25-26). O blessed
trust! O sweet resignation! O modest yet unshaken hope! Truly the
discipline was already bearing precious fruit. The spiritual barrenness of
those hot days of prosperity (ch. 11.) was clean gone. The temporal
chastisement was in process, but the wandering child was a wanderer no
more. Enviable beyond expression is this surrender of all interests to the
wise and gracious hands of the covenant keeping God. Here comes out the
essence of the true submission in the season of adversity. “He will,” if he
“delight” in me! “Let Him do as seemeth Him good!” No self-will, no
boast of claim, no thought of shame; God is over all and can do all; all
is in His care, and what He does shall be deemed the best and kindest
and most just. Who does not see the purifying power of the grace of God?
Holy David once fallen!
Olives, on bare feet and weeping, bearing on his heart a terrible woe, and
full of pity for the people rejecting his authority, and at the same time
entirely submissive to the sovereign will that so ordains, reminds us of the
other King, greater, wiser, more holy, and bearing on His heart
the woes of many sins not His own, pacing the slopes of that same mount,
weeping bitter tears, lamenting for the rebellious people, bearing all for
others’ good, and submitting with unparalleled gentleness and trust to the
sovereign will that ordained that so He must suffer. (Matthew 26:36-56;
Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46)
Fidelity in Misfortune (vs. 13-30)
It is believed by many that more remarkable virtues are developed in
seasons of adversity than in those of prosperity. Their precise form will
depend on the individuals concerned and the stress of the time. The
conduct of the Gittites, and Ittai, and Zadok, and Abiathar is in pleasing
contrast with that of Ahithophel and his coconspirators. In these men we
may trace the characteristics of fidelity in misfortune.
probably been with David and shared in his trials prior to his departure
they had formed a sympathy for him based on true knowledge, and they
stood the test of the evil time. Of Ittai we do not know so much, but the
words of the man prove that he appreciated the real character of David in
spite of the slanders which such men as Ahithophel may have insinuated.
The priestly functions of Zadok and Abiathar account for their interest in
so devout a man as David. Their fidelity was not based on personal beauty,
vague promises, and outward splendor (vs. 1-6), but on intelligence and
the feeling which accompanies it in a pure heart. So Ruth was true to
Naomi (Ruth 1:16-17). Any promise of attachment not resting on this
foundation is worth nothing.
probably hours when the voice of temptation would come to allure them
from a course so perilous in appearance, to a course promising reputation,
wealth, and honor; for these men were of like passions with us all, and
had no love for poverty and exile in themselves. But they knew David’s
history, and when temptation to prefer the winning side came they would
nourish their vow by thinking of what he had been, how God had
befriended him before, and how he had risen from the fall which once was
his shame. It is something to be attached to a man with a good history.
When we have pledged ourselves to a just though suffering cause, we may
ward off many a temptation by allowing the reflective powers to work on
the antecedents of the cause to which we are pledged. Thus the early
Christians, by reflecting on Christ, His words and work, and all He had
been to them, could endorse the dying words of the aged Polycarp:
“Eighty-six years have I have served Him, and He has done me no wrong.
How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
The frank and magnanimous way in which David offered to release them
from all risks only drew out into stronger and more pronounced form the
attachment already cherished (vs. 19-21). Zadok could not but feel a
profounder regard for the king after hearing his words concerning the ark
(v. 25). There is something so noble in this frankness and magnanimity in
misfortune that a faithful heart recruits its strength by the very sight and
sound of the nobleness. Holy sentiments grow in exchange. There is no
sure bond between the wicked. Sin is morally a weakness. Holiness is a
trouble, these faithful ones were prepared to share in it. True affection is
not blind, as some would say; it sees, but it fears not. The faithful mind is
intent on being on the side of right and weakness, not on securing anything
for self. There are risks in adherence to a righteous cause in the day of
adversity. Christ points this out to His followers, and it is the sign of true
as distinguished from professional fidelity that it can bear and is determined
to bear whatever may come. The real clue to the determination is the
conviction that right is supreme in its claims, and that present suffering is
only an incident of a well-directed human existence (Matthew 10:16-18,
38; 20:22; Philippians 3:7-9).
David’s Tears on Olivet (v. 30)
1. What a scene of fallen greatness and bitter grief is here depicted! He
yesterday reigned in
is today a homeless fugitive (v. 20), toiling up the ascent of Olivet, in
deep humiliation and undisguised sorrow, with head covered (3:31-32; 19:4)
and feet bare; accompanied by stern warriors and tender women and children,
all, like himself, with covered heads “going and weeping.” It is “as one long
funeral procession of men wailing over the fall of all their hopes” (Plumptre).
2. What an instance of moral excellence and overcoming faith is here
afforded! “The greatness of David did not depend on his royal state; it was
within his lofty soul and inseparable from his commanding character”
(Milman). He is:
His suffering manifests his sincerity, his outward shame his inward worth;
and “out of the depths” of his trouble he rises to the loftiest elevation
(ch. 23:13-14; Psalm 130:1; 84:6; Hosea 2:15).
3. What an outline is here furnished of the ideal representation, given by
psalmist and prophet, of the suffering Servant of Jehovah (Psalm 22;
Isaiah 53), and fully realized in Him who, on the same spot, a thousand
years afterwards, wept over the sinning and perishing city! “And when he
was come near, He beheld the city, and wept over it.” (Luke 19:41-44;
account of his exile, privation, etc., as on account of:
Ø The grievous transgressions which he had formerly committed
(Psalm 39:12; 6:6), and which were now brought afresh to
remembrance. “My sin is ever before me.”
Ø The ungrateful treatment which he received, from his son whom he
tenderly loved (ch. 16:11), from his subjects whom he faithfully
served, from his adversaries who hated him “wrongfully” and “without a
cause” (Psalm 69:3-5). Neither his former transgressions nor his recent
defects justified rebellion against his authority as king. Indeed, his personal
piety and theocratic policy made him to many an object of hatred and
reproach; and in him the Divine King of Israel himself was despised.
(Psalm 5:10; 22:8; 42:3; 69:7, 9, 20). “Though David suffered
for his many sins, he had yet through penitence already obtained
forgiveness of sins. Thus he was the righteous sufferer, who could appeal
to God for the purity of his heart and the holiness of his cause” (Erdmann).
Ø The national calamity which he beheld — the distress of “all the people
that was with him” (v. 23), the distracted condition of the country, the
ruin which thousands would, bring upon themselves: filling him with
commiseration (I Samuel 15:35: Psalm 119:136):
Ø The Divine displeasure which he experienced against his sin and the sins
of the people; regarding this calamity as a sign thereof, enduring it in
common with them, and bearing it, as far as possible, in his own person
(ch. 24:17). “Behold, and see if there be any sorrow like unto my
sorrow,” etc. (Lamentations 1:12; Jeremiah 9:1). “When I fall I
shall arise,” etc. (Micah 7:8-9; Psalm 31:5).
Ø His relation to a sinful race, whose nature He assumed and among whom
He dwelt, “yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15); the suffering “which a pure and
holy nature must feel from the mere contiguity of evil; and the reflected and
borrowed shame and pain which noble natures feel for the sins of those
with whom they are closely connected” (Caird).
Ø His rejection by the world, WHICH HE CAME TO SAVE being
reproached, persecuted, betrayed, deserted, condemned, and crucified;
and thus made the victim of human wickedness. His righteousness and
love, His Divine dignity, as the Son of God, the King Messiah (ch. 7:16),
rendered his treatment peculiarly sinful, and reveals the sin of men in
its true light.
Ø His compassion for human misery — loss, suffering, bondage, death, in
the present and the future; the necessary fruit of human sin (Matthew
8:17; John 11:35; Luke 13:34-35).
Ø His endurance of DIVINE ABANDONMENT to the power of darkness
and death (Psalm 22:1; Luke 22:44; Mark 15:34; Hebrews 5:7).;
wherein (without the sense of personal guilt and remorse) He gathered into
His experience all the grief endured by the servants of God in all ages from
and for transgressors, and all the woes of humanity arising from alienation
from God; and whereby, in unfaltering trust and entire self devotion, He
fulfilled the Father’s will,
o overcame sin,
o death, and
o hell, and
“became unto all them that obey him the Author of eternal salvation.”
“The chastisement was laid upon him for our peace; and through his
stripes we were healed” (Isaiah 53:5, 10; Psalm 22:8, 16, 18, 24-31).
Christ must tread the path of sorrows (not only such as are natural, but
such as are spiritual and Divine), on account of:
Ø The manifold sins of which he has been guilty against the Lord
“We have not time to mourn. The worse for us.
He that lacks time to mourn lacks time to mend;
Eternity mourns that.”
(‘Philip van Artevelde.’)
Ø The evil effects wrought thereby in himself and others.
“Weep not for broad lands lost;
Weep not for fair hopes crost;
Weep not when limbs wax old;
Weep not when friends grow cold;
Weep not that death must part
Thine and the best loved heart;
Yet weep, weep all thou can —
Weep, weep, because thou art
A sin-defiled man.”
Ø The sinful opposition of men to Christ, His kingdom, and His people;
unbelief, enmity, and persecution; the effects of which he shares with
His Lord and for His sake (John 16:33; I Peter 4:13; Philippians 1:29;
Colossians 1:24). “For many walk, of whom I told you often, and
now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross
of Christ.” (Philippians 3:18).
Ø The miserable condition and gloomy prospects of the impenitent. He
mourns over them “with many tears” (Acts 20:19, 31) “in the tender
mercies of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:8), and is willing to undergo
the greatest sacrifice and suffering for their salvation (Romans 9:2-3).
“If we suffer we shall also reign with Him” (II Timothy 2:12).
(vs. 31-37) The facts are:
1. David, hearing that Ahithophel was among the conspirators, prays that
God would turn his counsel into foolishness.
2. On reaching the top of the
his desire to go with David into exile, but David declines his offer on
account of his infirmities.
3. On the other hand, David suggests that he can render him good service
by returning to the city and living as a servant of Absalom, and he advises
him to act in concert with Zadok and Abiathar.
4. Acting on this suggestion, Hushai returns to the city, and, some time
after, Absalom also enters. There passed a pang through the heart of David
as he heard of the treachery of his trusty counselor Ahithophel, bitter
because he had relied so much on this wise man’s honesty and sagacity,
and more bitter still as he remembered the cruel conspiracy which he once
entered into with Joab against the life of Uriah. Yet the forgiven and
renewed king, in the fullness of his anguish, was true to his revived religious
instincts in at once raising his heart to God with the prayer that he would
bring his own wisdom to bear so as to defeat the wisdom of this man.
31 “And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators
with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the
counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” And one told David. The Hebrew
literally is, and David told. But we cannot suppose that David had previously
known of Ahithophel’s defection. The text is evidently corrupt, and the
Authorized Version gives the right sense. On hearing of the defection of a
man so famous for practical sound judgment, David prays to God to frustrate
his counsel, and the opportunity for devising means for this end quickly follows.
The Counsel of Ahithophel (v. 31)
“Turn, I pray thee, the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness, O Jehovah.”
(References: vs. 12, 34; ch. 16:15, 20-23; 17:1-7, 15, 23; I Chronicles 27:33.)
counselor, Ahithophel the Gilonite, had gone over to Absalom. He was the wisest
success of the revolt. The effect which his defection produced upon David is evident
from the prayer (suggested probably by his name, “brother of a fool”) that forthwith
broke from his lips. As he continued his, journey, he, perhaps, reflected on the
former course of Ahithophel (the Old Testament Judas) in the light of
present knowledge, and indulged some such sentiments as are expressed in
Psalm 41., ‘The comfort of the afflicted and betrayed;’ Psalm 55, ‘Prayer
against a treacherous friend;’ Psalm 69., 109. Observe that:
“Also my friend [literally, ‘man of my peace’], whom I trusted,
Who did eat of my bread,
Hath lifted up his heel against me.”
(Psalm 41:9; John 13:18.)
“For it is not an enemy, etc.
But thou wast a man on an equality with me,
My companion and familiar friend,” etc.
The motives of Ahithophel are not expressly stated; but they were
Ø Dislike of the religious earnestness and theocratic policy of David.
Ø Ambition to be the sole adviser and prime minister of Absalom. “There
may have been jealousy of Joab, or the natural tendency to worship the
rising instead of the setting sun, or the impatience of a hypocrite at the
round of religious services in which he was compelled to bear a part,
affecting a devotion he did not feel, Psalm 55:13-14” (Plumptre).
Ø Revenge “for the dishonour done to his family in the person of
Bathsheba, which no subsequent marriage could repair or efface” (Delany).
“He was urged by the desire of punishing David’s greatest crime, if he
were not at the bottom of the movement. It is but reasonable to trace in the
conspiring Ahithophel one of the intricate methods by which the judicial
providence of God works out its own ends; suffering a great offender,
notwithstanding his penitence, to eat the fruit of his deeds; yet reserving for
treachery in time its reward” (R. Williams). “This text is a glass wherein
God’s justice is plainly to be seen. David had formerly forsaken Uriah, and
now God suffers Ahithophel to forsake David.
o Let us learn, when our friends forsake us, to enter into a serious
scrutiny with our own souls.
o The most politic heads have not always the most faithful hearts.
o False friends will forsake thee in times of adversity” (T. Fuller).
“My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook,” etc. (Job 6:15;
Jacox, ‘Stray Side-Lights on Scripture Texts’).
USES. “That oracular wisdom which made his house a kind of shrine
(ch. 16:23) seems to move the spirit of the sacred writer with an
immense talents, of which God gave him the use and the devil the
application.” His criminality appears not only in:
Ø his sanctioning and promoting rebellion against the authority of the
king; but also in
Ø his lawless and shameless advice against his honor (ibid. vs. 21-22),
whereby he sought to make reconciliation and compromise impossible
in the view of all, and to gratify his revenge in the most effective and
significant manner (ch. 11:2, 4, 11); becoming, consciously or
unconsciously, an instrument of retribution. “This cursed policy
showed him rather an oracle of the devil than of God” (Matthew Henry).
Ø His malicious and cruel proposal to take away David’s life (ch. 17:2).
None but a man devoid of all moral and religious principle could
have given such counsel. A powerful intellect is, alas! too often united
with a depraved heart. “It is often found true by experience that persons
of superior penetration and wisdom are of bad intentions; they see further
than other men, and are under a temptation to turn their minds to the
overreaching of others, and effecting mischief; their ability in
accomplishing wickedness is a snare and a temptation to them; they find
they can do it, and therefore are ready and willing to do it” (W. Jones,
of Nayland). “This man, while he was one of David’s deep counselors,
was one of David’s fools, that said in their hearts, ‘There is no God;’
else he could not have hoped to make good an evil with worse, to build
the success of treason upon incest.” “Oh the policy of this Machiavelli of
can use the worst evils well, and most justly make the sins of man his
“I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.” -“Either
infatuate him, that he may give foolish counsel; or, let his counsel be
rejected as foolish, or spoiled by the foolish execution of it”
I Corinthians 3:19). Of this David was persuaded from:
Ø His supreme and infinite wisdom, in comparison with which the highest
human wisdom is foolishness.
Ø His abundant and varied resources for the direction and control of men’s
purposes and actions, so that they are made of none effect, or turn out
contrary to what was intended and expected.
Ø His frequent and extraordinary interpositions for that end. History is full
of such instances (Acts 4:28). So are individual lives (I Samuel 23:24-28).
“Though Ahithophel spoke as an oracle of God (as we often see
statesmen wiser than priests), yet as he turned to treachery his counsel
turned to foolishness.”
TROUBLE, viz. sincere, believing, fervent prayer. “Call upon me,
in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.”
Ø However beset by the craft and power of his adversaries, he cannot be
deprived of this privilege, but has ACCESS TO GOD IN ALL
CIRCUMSTANCES, AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL PLACES! (v. 32).
“A Christian cannot always hear, or always read, or always communicate,
but he may pray continually.
o If he be on the top of a house with Peter, he may pray;
o if he he in the bottom of the ocean with Jonah, he may pray;
o if he be walking in the field with Isaac, he may pray when
no eye seeth him; (Genesis 24:63)
o if he be waiting at table with Nehemiah, he may pray when no
ear heareth him; (Nehemiah 1:4-11)