2 Samuel 15:1-37
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.…
After domestic broils and the violent death of Amnon in circumstances full of horror and disgrace, and after Absalom's banishment and return, this adroit and unscrupulous man, impelled by his own ambition, and having no idea of co-operation with Deity in the punishment of evil, sets about dethroning his own father and, if possible, possessing himself of the crown. When one thing is radically wrong, other Wrong things follow in the train of it. Like woes, sins cluster. The city-gate was the place for the administration of justice (Ruth 4:1), and those who were charged with dispensing it held court early in the day. On the approach to the court an anxious litigant is greeted with frank courtesy by the handsome and stately Absalom, who with the deepest interest inquires about his residence and his business. Won by the affability of such a distinguished and exalted questioner, the man tells his place and his grievance. The hollow courtier has the same story for each. He reaches a verdict without the trouble of a hearing of the case or the appearance of the other side. The man is delighted. He is at rest. And when the simple provincial, in addition to such intelligent sympathy with his wrongs, found himself taken by the hand and kissed by the handsome pretender, he was sure to go back to his own town and say that David had become useless as a king and was neglecting his duties, and that things never would be right until Absalom, who was as wise as he was elegant, filled the throne. Alas, poor human natural It is the same to-day that it was in David's time. "Ambition," as a word, comes from the Roman politicians going about in their canvass for votes, fawning upon and flattering the people. English ladies of rank have gone and coaxed and caressed butchers whom they scorned to secure their votes for their husbands or their proteges. Members of legislatures have kissed the children and hobnobbed with their parents to make reputation among them. Doctors have sat as "friends" by the bedside of the wealthy, hinted their regrets that more vigorous measures were not adopted and more hopeful views taken by the physicians in attendance, only dropping their smooth generalities when the device succeeded and they were called into consultation, and regard for their reputation compelled them to agree with the rest. It is all in the same line with the policy of the mean, smooth-mannered traitor who (v. 6) "stole the hearts of the men of Israel." It took three years to carry out his schemes, make his party and arrange for his being proclaimed. So he made a pretence of going to Hebron, the old capital; which probably resented the loss of its prestige, where friends of his youth probably lived and could be counted upon, and where his father had been crowned. It is not needful to ask if his vow were a reality. He was now at his ease in lying, and could readily supply the details of v. 8. To keep up the show of things, Absalom offered sacrifices, in which all who partook were to be held as pledged to his support. Men of this sort will use religion for their own ends. History since the Reformation has many a sad case of rulers shaping their religious courses so as to secure popular sympathy. Meanwhile, and in order to have him at the banquet, Absalom invites Ahithophel, a man of influence, whose adhesion would carry great weight, as he was David's counsellor. Absalom probably knew his feelings of discontent and dissatisfaction with David. Absalom's plans now seemed sure to succeed. "The conspiracy was strong." He had many friends throughout the tribes. The fascination of his personal approaches, the fair promises he had informally made, the relation he sustained to royalties already — all these things influenced the people, and his following "increased continually." Ill-news will commonly travel fast. "A messenger" — from some friend perhaps — to David announced the extent of the movement, no doubt with details of Absalom's plans as far as they were known or inferred. The afflicted king realised the danger, and at once decided upon flight. There were two good reasons for this: No preparation had been made for the defence of Jerusalem, and an attack on it would have been disastrous in the extreme. But such an assault would have been the natural and politic course of the rebels if David remained there and attempted to hold the city. It was both humane and politic to quit the capital. At the same time, the flight must be prompt and rapid, "lest he overtake us suddenly and bring evil upon us." This suggests the second reason: Flight gave time for the development of events and for calm reflection on the part of the people, This shrewd view was held, it will be noticed, by Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:1, 2), and also by Hushai the Archite (2 Samuel 17:7-13). They looked at it simply as managers and political observers. The following points may be emphasised with profit: —
1. The home and the public welfare are inseparably linked. Samuel's sons took bribes and proved unfit for continuing the system of judges. David's family-life was not as it Ought to have been, anal murder, widespread rebellion and slaughter, with indescribable dishonour and disgrace and danger to the kingdom, are the results. The suffering, too, falls on the sinning family first of all.
2. Bad morals on the part of rulers relax the ties of obedience and make government contemptible. The plausibilities of the rebel son drew their force from real faults of David's administration. We may well pray for just and pure men in places of power.
3. But over and above these natural effects we have the just rule of Jehovah. David in his misery and penitence owns this. There is a difference between him and an enemy of God (2 Samuel 15:25, 26). Hence his language regarding the cursing of Shimei (2 Samuel 16:11).
4. The life of Absalom speaks to both parents and children, setting in a clear light the weakness, folly, and sin of unreasoning parental indulgence, and on the other hand the atrocious character of ingratitude, selfishness and disobedience on the part of a child. Vices go in groups. They deaden sensibilities; one prepares for another. The impure and lustful will be ready for dishonesty, violence, and unnatural crime.
(J. Hall, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.