Gaebelein's Annotated Bible
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.5. Absalom’s Conspiracy and David’s Flight
1. Absalom steals the hearts of the men of Israel (2Samuel 15:1-6)
2. His conspiracy (2Samuel 15:7-12)
3. The flight of the king (2Samuel 15:13-37)
The beautiful prince gradually prepared for the great conspiracy of which we read now and which made of his own father the Lord’s anointed, an exile. Chariots and horses with fifty men to run before him won no doubt the admiration of the people. His evident interest in their welfare, kissing those who sought his presence and advice, endeared him still more to the men of Israel. To this must be added his open words, which must have quickly circulated among the people, “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.”
This continued for about four years. (“Forty” is incorrect. Ancient versions have “four years” which we take is the correct number. Others have suggested that the 40 years should be reckoned from David’s anointing (1Samuel 16:13). This, however, is unlikely.) During this time he stole the hearts of the men of Israel. All is now ripe for the great rebellion. He lies to his father about an alleged vow he had made at Geshur. The unsuspecting King said, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron. The signal is given at which all the tribes of Israel were to say, “Absalom reigneth in Hebron.” Then he sent for David’s counsellor, Ahitophel. He was away from Jerusalem at Giloh, a short distance from Hebron, which would seem that he also was in league with Absalom. Ahitophel (the brother of folly) was the grandfather of Bath-sheba. As his name so was his deed in joining the revolution, through which he may have thought of avenging the shame which had been put upon his family by David’s sin.
When David hears the news he said to his servants who were with him in Jerusalem, “Arise and let us flee.” Fear now takes hold on him. He feared for himself and for his city. Yet he passed through the deepest soul-exercise and clung to the Lord in all the chastisement which followed, stroke after stroke, upon him. The third Psalm gives the culmination of this. It bears the inscription, “A Psalm of David when he fled from Absalom his son.” In spite of his fears he trusted the Lord. “But Thou, Oh LORD, art a shield for me; my glory and the lifter up of mine head” (Psalm 3:3). It is claimed that Psalm 49 also refers to this period of his life. If that is correct then David was sick at the time of Absalom’s rebellion. Verse 9 in that Psalm would have a meaning in connection with Ahitophel, the traitor. John 13:18 makes it clear that Judas Iscariot is predicted; but Ahitophel is a type of Judas, like him he was a suicide. Another Psalm which was probably written during the rebellion of Absalom and which speaks of Ahitophel’s treachery is Psalm 55. The king and his household left the city and all the people after him. All the Cherethites and Pelethites (executioners and runners) and six hundred which came after him from Gath accompanied the King. And not all was bitterness. Ittai (with Jehovah) the Gittite, and his devotion to the King, must have greatly comforted David’s heart. He was a stranger and an exile, who had come but yesterday to David. He told him to return to abide with the king (that is, Absalom). Beautiful is his answer, which strongly reminds us of the blessed words of Ruth, the Moabitess (Ruth 1:16). What noble purpose he expresses! He wants to be with the king in life or in death. Grace has linked us even closer with our Lord. Ittai in his devotion and attachment to the king is a blessed type of those who are true to the Lord in the days of His rejection.
And there was much weeping as David passed over Kidron. Our Lord passed over that brook also to enter the garden (John 18:1) where He offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears. The ark had been carried along, but now the king directed Zadok to carry it back to the city. “if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me again, and show me both it and his habitation.” Beautiful it is to see that in all his great sorrow, conscious that it was the hand of the Lord which chastised him, in all his affliction he does not forget the Lord. He trusts in His mercy. Deep submission breathes in these words.
What a sight the weeping king, barefooted, his head covered, ascending Olivet! A type of Him who also ascended Olivet and wept (Luke 19:41). Then Hushai (hasty) met David. Alas! for the evidence of unbelief in the king, in planning to have Hushai return to the city and feign friendship for Absalom so as to defeat the counsel of Ahitophel.