In today’s chapter we read how Absalom conspired against his father, David, and appointed himself as king in place of his father. And, in order to spare the people of Jerusalem from being attacked by Absalom, David fled from the city. And so, we read how he crossed the Kidron, which was a stream and which marked the edge of the city, and he climbed the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went.
This rebellion by Absalom is something which the prophet Nathan had foretold. Do you remember? God sent Nathan to confront David about his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah. And though the Lord was willing to spare David’s life, and let him live even though he deserved to die, God warned David that because of what he had done, his family would be spoiled by sword and by shame. And so, Amnon, one of his sons, attacked and abused Tamar, one of his daughters. Absalom then killed Amnon for what he had done to Tamar. And now Absalom conspired against his father and overthrew him as king. The Lord foretold that this would happen, because of what David had done. But it’s another reminder to us that in every generation there will be those who set themselves up against God’s Anointed King and his kingdom. And what we read here about David, who was God’s Anointed King at that time, foreshadows what would happen to the Lord Jesus Christ, who is God’s True Anointed King, So, let’s turn to this passage today to see how it foreshadows Christ the King and the opposition which he and all his people in every generation will suffer.
Conspiracy Part 1
In the previous chapter, we were told that Absalom was a handsome man with an impressive head of hair. In other words, he looked like a king. And he added to that image now by getting himself a chariot and some horses and by having these 50 men run ahead of him. Think of the way the Queen doesn’t appear on her own, but she’s always accompanied by servants and guards. Or think of the President of the USA who has those secret service men who run alongside his motorcade. Well, Absalom didn’t have a limousine, but he had a chariot and horses; and he had these men with him, like personal body guards. He was beginning to look more and more like a king.
But he also set about winning the hearts of the people. And so, he would go out early in the morning and stand by the side of the road outside the city. In those days, when someone had a dispute which couldn’t be sorted out locally, the person would bring their case to the king. Think of that story I told the children about the two women who went to see Solomon. They expected him to decide their case. Or think of the woman who visited David in the previous chapter. Her case was a made-up one, but still she was able to bring her case to David. However, Absalom now stood outside the city to intercept anyone who wanted to see the king about a dispute. Absalom would say to the person that their case is a valid case. He was saying to them: ‘If there was a judge to hear your case, of course you’d win. However, the problem is that there’s no one who will willing to hear your case. The king hasn’t appointed anyone.’
And do you see: he’s blaming the king. And, of course, we need to remember what happened in the last chapter and how that woman who pretended to be a widow was able to see the king and to put her case to him. That tells us that what Absalom was saying was not true. He’s telling lies about his father. But, of course, we’re used to this, aren’t we? We’re used to people telling lies in order to get ahead in the world. And then Absalom would say: ‘If only he were the judge, then everyone who has a complaint or a case would be heard by me. And I’d make sure that everyone with a case got justice.’ And again, we’re used to this, aren’t we? When someone is up for election, they’re full of promises and they re-assure all the voters that they will do a much better job then their opponents. So, vote for me.
And look at verse 5, where Absalom makes clear to everyone that he’s a man of the people. People would bow before him, because, after all, he’s the king’s son and he looks like a king and he’s got a chariot and horses and 50 men around him. Who wouldn’t bow down before him? However, Absalom would reach out his hand to them and take hold of whoever it was and he would kiss them. He’s a man of the people, shaking hands with everyone. And in verse 6 we’re told he did this with everyone who came to the king to ask for justice. And he stole their hearts. That is, he stole their hearts away from David. They had been taken in by Absalom and were convinced by what he said.
Conspiracy Part 1
And then in verses 7 to 12 we have the second part of his plan which happened in stages. Firstly, he asked permission from David to go to Hebron to fulfil a vow and offer sacrifices to the Lord. Hebron was the place where he was born. It was also the place where David first ruled as king. And so, there are royal associations in Hebron. Secondly, he sent messengers around the country to wait for the signal. And when the signal comes, they were to declare that Absalom is now king. Thirdly, Absalom had arranged for 200 men from Jerusalem to accompany him to Hebron. Verse 11 says they went quite innocently. In other words, they had no idea about Absalom’s intentions. However, their presence with Absalom in Hebron would give David the impression that they supported Absalom. Fourthly, he sent for Ahithophel, who had been David’s counsellor. So, this was a man who had been David’s advisor, a man David relied on. But Absalom brought him over to his side. And in verse 12 we’re told that the conspiracy gained strength and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.
Decision to flee
And in due course a messenger came to David with the news that the hearts of the men of Israel are now with Absalom. The Hebrew word for ‘men’ in this sentence is actually singular, not plural. And so, perhaps the messenger was saying that the Israelites ‘as one man’ have gone over to Absalom. That is, they’ve all gone over to his side.
And so, David takes the decision to flee. Now, you might recall that when King Saul was alive, Saul wanted to kill David. And so in those days, David was continually on the run. And — now that Saul was dead and David was king and had established himself in Jerusalem — no doubt David thought his days on the run were over. And yet here he was again, on the run. He needed to flee, not only for his own safety and the safety of his family, but also to keep the city safe, otherwise Absalom would come and besiege it and eventually — as David says in verse 14 — he would put the city to the sword. So, in order to avoid that kind of devastation and destruction, David fled. According to verse 16, he set out with his entire household. We’re told he left behind 10 concubines to take care of the palace. It’s not clear what he intended them to do, though one of the commentators suggests that he left them behind as a marker to make clear that the palace still belonged to him. However, every other member of his household left with David.
And the narrator records for us the route David and his household took as they left the city and the people who came out to support him. And we’ll look at both of those things now, starting with the route he took.
So, according to verse 23, he crossed the Kidron Valley, which was just to the east of the city and marked the outskirts of Jerusalem. Once you’ve crossed the Kidron, you’ve left the city behind. And we’re to imagine this scene: David and his household and those who followed him, were fleeing for their lives because David’s son had turned on David. And the whole countryside, all the people who witnessed this scene, wept aloud. Something terrible had happened and they wept in sorrow because of what had happened to their king and to their country.
And then jump to verse 30, which tells us that David climbed up the Mount of Olives. And we’re told that David was weeping. And his head was covered as a sign of sorrow and mourning. And his feet are bare to signify his humiliation. And all the people with David were also weeping and mourning. And look where they’re headed, according to verse 23. They’ve left behind the comfort of Jerusalem and they’re headed for the desolation of the desert.
So, that’s the route David took. Let’s now think about the people who supported him. According to verse 17, as he headed out of the city, David stopped to let the others with him go ahead of him. And so he was able to see who was on his side.
And firstly, there were the Che-re-thites and Pe-le-thites. They were foreigners who had become David’s bodyguards. And with them are 600 Git-tites. They were Philistines from Gath who had joined themselves to David. And it’s striking — isn’t it? — that whereas his own son and many of his own people had turned on David, these foreigners remained loyal to him. In fact, David spoke to one of them — this man It-tai — and suggested that they should remain in Jerusalem and stay with Absalom. Since they’re foreigners, aliens from another country, it would be better for them to side with the new king. But It-tai would not hear of it and he declared his loyalty to David in verse 21:
wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.
When it seems the whole world is against you, isn’t that the kind of thing you need to hear in order to reassure you that you’re not entirely on your own?
And then after these foreigners, we read in verse 24 about Zadok and Abiathar, who were priests, and the Levites, who helped the priests in the temple. And all of these men were prepared to follow David too. In fact, they’ve brought the ark of God with them. And they offered sacrifices to the Lord on David’s behalf. But David told them to take the ark of the God back into the city. You see, Jerusalem was the city which God had chosen for his dwelling place in those days. And so, the ark — which signified God’s throne — belonged in Jerusalem and should be kept there. So, take the ark back to Jerusalem. That was David’s message to the priests and the Levites. But it was also to David’s advantage for the priests to return to the city, because their sons could act as informants for him and gather intelligence on his behalf.
But then there’s some bad news. Can things get any worse for David? Well they can, because the news reaches David that Ahithophel had joined sides with Absalom. Ahithophel was first mentioned in verse 12, where we learned that he had been David’s counsellor. And David now learns that his counsellor, his advisor, one of his closest companions, has betrayed him. Well, what should we do whenever we hear bad news? We should pray, shouldn’t we? We should take it to the Lord. And that’s what David did, because he prayed to God, asking the Lord to turn Ahithophel’s advice into foolishness so that whatever advice he gives to Absalom will only be bad advice.
And following that piece of bad news, there’s one more thing to encourage David. This man, Hu-shai, appears. In verse 37 he’s described as David’s friend, which really means he was another counsellor or advisor. We’re told that his robe was torn and there was dust on his head: signs against of mourning. And this man wanted to go with David. Here’s another person who is prepared to go anywhere with the king. But David persuaded him to return to Jerusalem in order to frustrate Ahithophel’s advice and to keep David informed about what Absalom was up to. And so, the chapter ends with the news that Hu-shai returned to the city just as Absalom was entering it.
What do we have in this chapter? We have God’s Anointed King making his way across the Kidron Valley and up the Mount of Olives. And the reason he had to leave Jerusalem was because, though he was the true king, the true king had been rejected and replaced with another king. And on the Mount of Olives he learned that one of his closest companions has betrayed him.
These things foreshadow what would happen one day to King David’s Greater Son, who is Jesus Christ the King. He is the true King. And in fact, when the Lord Jesus first entered Jerusalem, the people hailed him as their king. They hailed him as their King. But things were very different a week later. Do you remember? After he celebrated the Passover Feast with his disciples, he got up and left the city, and crossed the Kidron Valley and he entered the Garden of Gethsemane, which was on the Mount of Olives. And there on the Mount of Olives, Judas, who was one of his closest companions, betrayed him with a kiss and handed him over to the guards who had come to arrest him. And he was taken away to be tried. And the crowds of people no longer hailed him as their king. They no longer wanted him to be their king, and they despised him and rejected him.
What David went through foreshadowed the sorrow and suffering and the humiliation and the rejection of our Saviour. But, of course, the Saviour’s sorrow and suffering and humiliation and rejection was far, far worse than anything David suffered, because whereas David only had to flee the city for a while, the Saviour was taken out of the city and crucified. And when he suffered and died on the cross, he not only endured the hatred of an unbelieving world, who despised him and rejected him as their king, but he also suffered the wrath and curse of God. And he suffered the wrath and curse of God, not because he had done anything to deserve it, but because he was taking the place of his people. For their sake, and in their place, he suffered the wrath and curse of God, so that everyone who trusts in him as the only Saviour of the world receives forgiveness and peace with God and the free gift of eternal life. David was rejected as king and he had to flee from Jerusalem. But the Lord Jesus Christ was not only rejected as king, but he suffered and died in order to pay for the sins of his people.
So, the sorrow and suffering of David foreshadowed the sorrow and suffering of our Saviour; though our Saviour suffered, not for his own sins, but for the sins of his people. And did you notice, I wonder, in verses 25 and 26 how David willingly submitted himself to what was happening. If God wants me to return to the city, I will return. But if he’s not pleased with me, then let him do to me whatever seems good to him. He submitted himself to God’s will. And in that he foreshadowed the Saviour who was willing to suffer what he suffered. And he was willing to suffer what he suffered, and to be rejected as king, because there was no other way to deliver you from your sin and misery than for him to suffer the wrath and curse of God. Before the world was made, God decreed to save his people from their sin and misery and to give them eternal life in his presence. And there was only one way for God to save his people. And that one way was for God the Son to come to earth as one of us and to be rejected and to suffer at the hands of sinful men and women who hated him and to lay down his life on the cross to pay for the sins of his people. That was God’s plan. And when the time was right, God the Son willingly came down from heaven to earth to be punished in the place of his people and to die to give them life. And so, Christ the King willingly suffered these things for his people. He did not deserve any of it, but he yielded himself to his Father’s will and he suffered all these things, because there was no other way to save his people than for him to be rejected as king and to suffer the wrath and curse of God in our place.
And so, if you trust in him, if you’re relying on him for forgiveness and peace with God, then you can rejoice in the knowledge that he has paid for your sins in full, so that no matter what you have done wrong, Christ has paid for it. And you have peace with God. And you need not fear the coming day of judgment, but can look forward to coming into God’s presence one day to be with him forever and forever in glory.
But before we finish, notice one more thing. What happened in this chapter is one more reminder to us that in every generation there will be those who set themselves up against God’s Anointed King and his kingdom.
Back in the Garden of Eden, God spoke about the enmity — the bitter hatred and conflict — that would exist between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent. He meant that for the rest of time there would be this conflict in the world between those who belong to Christ and those who belong to Satan, between believers and unbelievers, between the church and the world. And almost right away we see the conflict in action when wicked Cain killed his righteous brother Abel. And then, in the book of Daniel, Daniel wrote about a king who would boast against the Lord and who will wear out and oppress God’s people. And this one king symbolised every ant-christian power in every generation that rises up to oppose and oppress God’s people. And then the Apostle Paul wrote about these things in his second letter to the Thessalonians where he wrote about the mystery of lawlessness which is at work in the world to persecute the church. And the Apostle John wrote about these things in the book of Revelation where he wrote about a great beast from the sea which was given power to make war against God’s people. Throughout the Bible, God’s people are taught that we’re to expect these things. An unbelieving world will hate and despise believers, because we belong to Christ the King. And they will do what they can to destroy God’s people. And so, what we have in 2 Samuel 15 is another example of that kind of thing, because here’s Absalom — who was a wicked man, a deceiver, a murderer, and a false king, a Satan-like figure — and he sets himself up as a rival to the true king and he wants to destroy the true king’s kingdom. This is a picture of what life is like, because the Devil will always be stirring up opposition and hatred to Christ and his church.
But what we also see in this chapter are those like the Che-re-thites and Pe-le-thites and the Git-tites and It-tai and the priests and the Levites and Hu-shai who were determined to remain loyal to the true king; and whether it meant life or death, they would remain his servants. And that’s the challenge for you. The world may hate you because you trust in the Saviour. The world may despise you because you love him. The world may mock you and they may persecute you. If they hated the Saviour, then they will hate you too. But you need to remain loyal to him. You need to stand firm in the faith. You need to be prepared to endure all kinds of suffering for him. You need to remain loyal and stand firm, because the Bible reveals to us that the outcome of this conflict has already been determined; and we already know who the victor will be. The Bible tells us plainly that victory belongs to Christ the King. And so, no matter what you face in this world, you must remain faithful to him, because if remain faithful and keep trusting in him and following him to the end, then you will live with him and reign with him in the new and better world to come.