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Bible: What Does 2 Samuel 14-16 Teach Us About David, Absalom, and Conspiracies?
David Pardons Absalom
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2 Samuel 14
Discerning David's unhappiness, well-meaning Joab arranges for a Tekoan wise woman to consult with the king, masquerading as a long-grieving widow.
General Joab even spins a tale for her to tell David, hoping to persuade him to accept Absalom back (vv. 1-3).
Feigning great distress before the king, the woman relates her desperate, though fabricated, story to him (vv. 4-7).
[Her account deals with the death of one of her two sons, killed as he fought his brother over the inheritance.
Now the rest of the family wants her to hand over the heir for judgment. She, of course, asks David to protect her only son and her husband's name].
David assures her that he will handle the situation; in addition, he tells her that if anyone harasses her, she should let him know about it.
He pledges not to permit any more bloodshed (vv. 8-11).
Having laid the bait, the Tekoan now springs the trap.
She very cautiously accuses David of not following through on the similar kind of situation in his own family, where he has provided no protection for his banished one (vv. 12-13).
God would find a way to rescue a marked one from death (v. 14), and she wants to believe that David would also perform her request (vv. 15-17).
The king, discerning Joab's logic in the woman's argument, obtains a confession from his amazed maidservant that the general was behind it all (vv. 18-20).
Afterwards, he permits Joab to call Absalom back to Jerusalem, but with the restriction that the son must not see David's face (vv. 21-24).
The author then expends much energy describing Absalom's handsome appearance, especially his unblemished body and his long, heavy hair (vv. 25-26).
He also notes that Absalom has four children, one of whom he named Tamar (after his disgraced sister) [v. 27].
Weary of waiting for his father to welcome him back into full fellowship, Absalom twice seeks help from Joab, asking him to take a message to David (vv. 28-29).
Sadly, the general refuses to entertain his entreaties.
Miffed by this unresponsiveness, Absalom orders his servants to set Joab's barley fields on fire (v. 30).
This desperate action, of course, provokes a response from the general, as he angrily questions Absalom's reasoning (v. 31).
Feeling every bit an internal exile, the king's son tells his inquisitor that he desires to take his chances with seeing his father.
If David kills him, so be it; at this point in his life, Absalom believes that it is better for him to be dead than to be living in a place where he is not wanted (v. 32).
The son's boldness (and submission) pays off, for the king receives him with a kiss (v. 33).
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2 Samuel 15
Not long after David receives Absalom back into his “good graces,” the scheming son puts his takeover bid into motion.
First, he gathers to himself a modest contingent of military men (v. 1).
Then feeling confident, he works his “charm offensive” with the people and wins many to his allegiance, promising them timely justice in their legal suits (vv. 2-6).
[Absalom is a man of great charisma and ambition, to boot].
Four years later, Absalom asks David's permission to pay a long-standing vow to Yahweh for allowing him to return to Jerusalem from Syria (vv. 7-8).
[The Hebrew says "forty years,'' but this figure does not seem likely. It is a transcriptional error].
Unaware that his son's request is nothing but a deceitful ruse to assemble support throughout Israel to make himself ruler, the king gives it with his blessing (vv. 9-10).
In addition to convincing hundreds of unwitting followers, Absalom persuades Ahithophel, David's trusted counsel, to join his conspiracy in Hebron (vv. 11-12).
David must have known that something big was “afoot,” but he does not receive confirmation of Absalom's treason until a messenger reveals it to him (v. 13).
To escape annihilation, he quickly commands an immediate evacuation of his household and his loyal servants, but leaves ten concubines behind to look after things (vv. 14-16).
On the outskirts of the city, David pauses to consider his troops, especially his faithful six hundred Gittites from Gath (vv. 17-18).
Among the Gittites stands Ittai, whom the king encourages to return to his home with his brethren (vv. 19-20).
This warrior, a foreigner and an exile from his own land, swears complete allegiance to David (v. 21).
With great emotion, the king and his people cross over the Brook Kidron and head for the wilderness (vv. 22-23).
Seeing Zadok and Abiathar, David's priests, carrying the ark with them, the king commands their return to Jerusalem, hoping that Yahweh would look with favor upon him again (vv. 24-25).
David intends to wait for the prophet Zadok's word before turning toward home, if God so wills (vv. 26-29).
With loud lamentations, the king and his people ascend the Mount of Olives (v. 30).
There David learns the heartbreaking news about Ahithophel's defection, so he prays that God might make foolish his former counselor's advice to Absalom (v. 31; cf. Ps. 55:13, 14).
There also a grieving Hushai the Archite comes to follow him, but David dispatches him to Jerusalem to confuse the wisdom Absalom receives (vv. 32-34).
As Absalom's confidante, Hushai would also serve as David's spy and report his findings to Zadok and Abiathar who, in turn, would relay the news to the king via their sons (vv. 35-36). Hushai willingly obeys David's command (v. 37).
2 Samuel 16
Ziba, Mephibosheth's servant, meets David near the summit of the Mount of Olives with plentiful refreshments for him, his household, and his young men (vv. 1-2).
When the king inquires about Mephibosheth, Ziba answers (slanderously, as it turns out) that his master's (that is, Saul's) son waits in Jerusalem for Absalom to restore the kingdom to the house of Israel (v. 3; see 19:24-30).
Taking him at his word, David rewards Ziba with what the latter thought he always deserved: Mephibosheth's property (v. 3).
Smiling gleefully (on the inside, no doubt), Ziba "humbly" accepts it (v. 4).
At Bahurim, Shimei, Saul's former servant, comes out to David, cursing and hurling stones at him and his men (vv. 5-6).
Calling him a bloodthirsty rogue, Shimei claims that God is now chastising David for causing Saul's downfall (vv. 7-8).
While Abishai wants to relieve this abusive opponent of his head, King David responds coolly and with great wisdom, perceiving Shimei's anger as divinely directed (vv. 9-11).
Yet he still hopes for mercy from his God (v. 12).
Though Shimei continues to create a scene and put up a big fuss, David and his men ignore him and soon take their ease (vv. 13-14).
[How do you respond to accusations? What is an effective way for leaders to deal with naysayers?]
Absalom, Ahithophel, and Hushai
Meanwhile, Absalom and Ahithophel arrive in Jerusalem (v. 15).
First, the would-be king encounters a slavish Hushai (who appears as a vacillating sycophant to him), designating him a “friend” of David (vv. 16-17).
This schemer plays his part well enough to convince Absalom that he is now truly his servant, intimating that the wind in Israel had shifted (vv. 18-19).
Turning now to his counselor, Absalom asks what he should do next (v. 20).
Ahithophel, whose advice men regarded in those days as of divine origin, counsels that Absalom "go into" David's concubines in order to show everyone that he truly opposed his father (vv. 21, 23).
By erecting a tent on top of his house in plain sight of all in Israel, his friends make this offense even more odious (v. 22).
[By the way, Absalom's behavior also fulfills Nathan's prophecy (see 12:11)].
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