May 14. Treason and Unrest in Israel

II Sam. 15:1-16:14; Ps. 3:1-8; Ps. 7:1-17

Absalom, as the oldest surviving son was the heir apparent of David’s throne. In an attempt for an early takeover, he began to curry favor among the Israelites. He gathered up a detail of chariots, horses and fifty men to serve as his body guards. Absalom was a shrewd politician as he worked among the people stating how things would be better for them if he were able to judge for them. “So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.”

After setting up headquarters in Hebron, Absalom sent spies to the various tribes of Israel. They instructed the people to shout out at the sound of the trumpet, “Absalom reigns in Hebron!” His conspiracy continued to grow strong and increase in number. Even Ahithophel, David’s counselor defected to Absalom.

When David learned through a messenger that the men of Israel were with Absalom, he gathered his household and servants and fled from Jerusalem. That was in order to prevent possible war and devastation in the city. He also took his personal army of men who had been with him since he had been king. Ten of David’s concubines were left behind to care for the house.

The priests, Zadok and Abiathar had brought the ark of the covenant with them. However, David thought it best if they would return it to the city. He had faith that he would also return in time. Even in the midst of peril and turmoil, David took time to worship God as they came to the top of the Mount of Olives.

Hushai, one of David’s loyal men also came to join him, but he assigned him another responsibility. David had learned of the defection of Ahithophel and had prayed that God would turn his counsel into foolishness. Hushai was to pretend loyalty to Absalom while instead defeating Ahitophel’s counsel by spying for David.

With David’s retreat from the city, Absalom was able to move in as “king” without any bloodshed. The fighting would come later.

The revolt of Absalom provoked David to write a psalm of distress. He approached God with the lament that his enemies had increased and that many were denying that God could help him. David knew better. God had protected him before and that occasion would be no different. The faithful children of God can sleep in peace knowing of His protective hand. Their enemies will be defeated because, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”

As David was making his escape from Jerusalem, he met Ziba, the caretaker of Mephibosheth, the lame son of Jonathan, son of Saul. He stated that he was presenting David with the two donkeys and other provisions that he had for their journey. He also reported that Mephibosheth had declared that the house of Israel was being restored to his father’s house. That statement reopened the wounds between David and the house of Saul. David had cared for Mephibosheth as his own son, but then he gave all that belonged to Jonathan’s son to Ziba.

The tribes of Israel were somewhat loosely knit. Saul had been of the tribe of Benjamin and they had not fully accepted David as their king. They blamed him for Saul’s misfortunes. As David’s company traveled into Bahurim, they met Shimei, a Benjamite. He was cursing, kicking up dust and throwing stones at David. Instead of striking him, David allowed him to continue as he thought that God was permitting Shimei to punish him for his misdeeds.

David penned another psalm lamenting his life’s burdens. Even though Shimei is not mentioned, the words of Cush were similar and evoked the same reaction. He began by calling on God to save him from his enemies. In declaring his innocence of wrongdoing, he submitted himself to just punishment from a righteous God if he were truly guilty. God will punish the wicked. They prepare trouble for others, but in the end bring punishment upon their own heads. The poet ends with a declaration of praise to the Lord Most High.