2 Samuel 16:1–18:33                                                                                

Key Verse: 18:33


“The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!””


Last week’s message tells of the beginnings of troubles in David’s family. It is as though all the sin of David is reenacted in the lives of his children. David’s sin bore evil fruits in the lives of Amnon, Tamar and Absalom. In this way, David realizes the depth of his sins and resolved to accept God’s discipline. As such, he could learn the heart of God in this difficult time. Let us turn our attention to God’s word with a prayer that God humble our heart to receive his grace, open our eyes to see his truth and empower us to obey His will.


Part1. David Journeys to the Ford in the Desert (1-14)

To escape from Absalom, David and his people journey to the Ford in the desert. This journey would take David to the western bank of the River. Along the way David met two people. The man Ziba who brought some useful supplies and a man from the clan of Saul named Shemei who curses and abuses the king.


Ziba was Mephibosth’s steward, but he betrays his master to David for personal gains. He slanders his master with these words. “He is staying in Jerusalem,” he says, “because he thinks, “Today the house of Israel will give me back my grandfather’s kingdom.”” But why would Ziba take advantage of David’s predicament and Mephiboseth’s handicap? Why would he betray his master by slandering him to the king? David passes judgment on Mephiboseth immediately. Then the king said to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephiboseth is now yours. “I humbly bow,” Ziba said, “May I find favor in your eyes, my lord the king.” Sadly, David passed his judgment without listening to Mephiboseth’s part of the story. It would have been better if he waited to investigate this matter further.


David continued on his journey through a town called Bahurim, and there a man named Shemei came out cursing David and his men and pelting them with stones. David could easily command his men to stop and punish Shemie, but he didn’t do that. Instead, David accepted Shemei’s curses as God’s discipline. When Abisahai requested permission to kill Shemei, David constrained him. He told his men, “If he is cursing because the LORD said to him curse David,’ who can ask ‘why do you do this?” Sin brings shame, heart aches and curses. David’s sin against God with regards to Uriah the Hittite deserves a curse from the LORD. David came to terms with this sin. And said, “It may be the LORD will see my distress and repay me with good for the cursing I’m receiving today.” David’s hope is that, God’s discipline for him is ultimately redemptive. Indeed that is what it is. Gal 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” Our sins deserve its just punishments, but Jesus took our place. Because of Jesus we inherit a blessing instead of a curse. Because of Jesus we are not thrown out of the Kingdom of God. Thank Jesus who was cursed in our place on the tree. So David accepted God’s discipline, left Bahurim and journeyed towards the ford in the desert. They arrived at their destination exhausted and there refreshed themselves.


Part2. Hushai and Ahitophel Advise Absalom (16:15-17:14)

The story now focuses on what transpired in Jerusalem. When Absalom arrived at Jerusalem, Hushai the Arkite went to pay him homage. Though Absalom suspected his motives, he allowed him stay in the courts. Next, he summons Ahitophel and sought his counsel on how he could best establish himself as king. Ahitophel’s counsel comes in two parts. First, Absalom must publicly lie with his father’s concubines to cut off all hopes of reconciliation with his father. Ahitophel’s strategy is to burn all bridges. But in this way God words to David through Nathan the prophet were fulfilled. "This is what the LORD says: 'Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity upon you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will lie with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.' "


The second part of Ahitophel’s advice is seen in Ch. 17:1-3:


Ahithophel said to Absalom, "I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. 2 I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king 3 and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed."


Both David and Absalom had highly regarded Ahitophel’s advice. Ahitophel gave advice like that of one who inquires of God (16:23). But this time Ahitophel’s counsel is not godly. In this Bible passage, Ahitophel represents a worldly and godless counselor. His intention is to swiftly go after David – the LORD’s anointed with 12,000 men, track him down and eliminate him while Absalom is pre-occupied with his father’s wives in Jerusalem.


“This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.” But Absalom wanted a second opinion so he called Hushai the Arkite. We don’t know why Absalom summoned Hushai to hear his opinion. Maybe it was an attempt to test his loyalty. Maybe he honestly wanted a second opinion. Whatever the reason, this marks the beginning of David’s deliverance from Absalom’s conspiracy.


Unlike Ahitophel, Husahai spoke well of his friend David. He argues that Ahitophel greatly underestimated David and that David is not a mental weakling, but a tough seasoned warrior and an experienced fighter, so Ahitophel’s plan will not work. Wanting to delay Absalom and buy time for David’s escape, Hushai proposes to wait and gather more men – all Israel. Absalom and the elders of Israel adopted Hushai plan rather than that of Ahitophel. In this way, God frustrates Ahitophel’s advice with Hushai’s brilliant counter-advice. This plan gave David enough time to escape, it makes Ahitophel’s plan seem foolish (which is what David prayed for) and it bring about David’s deliverance and the defeat of his enemies.


Hushai is a good friend. He put his life on the line for David and his men. Won’t it be great to have friends like Hushai? Or rather would it not be better to be like Hushai to our friends? Similarly, Jesus came into this world. He came to enemy territory to help his friends. Through Jesus our good friend, God frustrated Satan’s schemes and worked out His good plan for our salvation.


Part3. David continues to Mahanaim (15-29)


Following his encounter with Absalom, Hushai sends words to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests to warn David about impending danger. David must urgently cross the Jordan River to safety on the eastern frontiers. “Now send message immediately and tell David, “Do not spend the night at the fords in the desert; cross over without fail, or the king and all the people with him will be swallowed up.”” Jonathan and Ahimaz were stationed at En Rogel where a servant girl from Jerusalem met them and delivered this news from the older priests. The younger priests were in turn to take the news to David at the ford. Unfortunately their cover was blown, so they hid in a well at Bahurim until it became safe to go and tell David.


After hearing the news from Jerusalem, David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan. In this way, God protected David and his kingdom from harm and David went to Mahanaim where God made provisions for him and the army through generous foreign allies – Shobi, Makir and Barzillai. These men cared for David in his time of need. God comforted David through loyal friends and foreign allies. God did not live David alone; God helped him and listened to his prayer when he was in trouble. God never leaves or forsake His servants. When we are in trouble, we can rest assured that God will make away out for us. Then let us press forward and resolve to do what is right.


Part4. David mourns Absalom death (18:1-33)


After David’s escape, Ahitophel recognizes the conspiracy would not succeed, so he saddled his donkey, left for his town; put his house in other and committed suicide. What a tragic end to a life so full of promise? (23) Now, Absalom is left without an advisor, and his conspiracy begins to crumble. Absalom replaced Joab with Amasa as head of Israel’s army. He and the army crossed the Jordan and camped in the land of Gilead. The stage was set for a show down between the two armies. The battle was fought in a place called the forest of Ephraim. Israel’s army depended on strength in numbers, while David’s servants depended on God.


The king commanded the army leaders to be gentle with his son Absalom for his sake. All the soldiers heard the king giving orders concerning his son. Why is David unwilling to kill the leader of this revolution? It is because David loves his rebellious son – Absalom! The army fights courageously for David, and Absalom’s forces suffer a great defeat, not only in the hands of David’s men, but even from the forest itself. Absalom’s men were not cut out for this kind of warfare. Twenty thousand men die in this battle. It was a great victory for David and a devastating defeat for Absalom who himself became one of the casualties of war. Look at 18:9:


Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of an oak, Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in mid air, while the mule he was riding kept going.


It seems as though Absalom’s long hair and beautiful head led to his downfall, but not only so, it is his sin and pride that led to his downfall. “Pride goes before destruction…” (Prov 16:18) the 5th Commandment says, Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Absalom did not only dishonor his father David, he also broke several other commandments. You shall not murder. (He killed his brother Amnon) You shall not commit adultery… (He committed adultery with his father’s concubines) you shall not covet your neighbor’s house. (He coveted his father’s throne and kingdom) You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…the point is Absalom disregarded the word of God. Breaking the word of God may seem trivial (and even enjoyable), but it carries with it grave consequences. It brings a curse and ultimately ends in death. The wages of sin is death… (Ro 6:23).


One of the men saw Absalom hanging from the tree and reported it to Joab. Joab wasted no time in killing Absalom with the help of 10 of his armor bearers. Joab killed Absalom against the King’s wishes. Then Joab sounded the trumpet and the troops stopped pursuing Israel for Joab halted them. In this way, Absalom and Ahitophel both died tragically for conspiring against God’s instituted authority.


How did David take the news about Absalom’s death? Joab knew that David loved Absalom. He also knew the death of Absalom would not be good news to David, though it is good news to everyone else. Two men brought the good news of victory to the king. Notice David’s question right after each man proclaimed victory. In verse 29 the King asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” It’s as if nothing else mattered to the king than for the safety of his rebellious son Absalom. David seemed to value his son Absalom above his kingdom. He asked the Cushite the same question in verse 32. “Is the young man Absalom safe?” Ahimaz evades this question; the Chusite on the other hand was not as discreet.


David did not take the news of Absalom’s death well. Let us read verse 33 together. “The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!”” Absalom’s death was a devastating blow and a sad end to a most beloved son. David loved Absalom to a fault even though Absalom does not deserve it. As David wept, his emphasis was O my son…O Absalom! If only I have died instead of you? David loved his son so much that he was willing to take his son’s death. As we read through 2 Samuel it becomes obvious that David represents Jesus. On the other hand, Absalom is a lost son who broke the heart of his father. But his father never gives up on him. His heart is unchanged even after all Absalom did to him. He is like the father in the parable of the lost son. The only difference here is that his son Absalom never came back though his father was waiting and watching for his return. Absalom is sadly lost to his father for all time. The thought of this crushes David’s heart as he went up weeping.


David shows us the heart of God. God endures much grief because of unrepentant sinners. God loves sinners – He really does. He hates to see sinners perish in Hell fire. There is rejoicing in heaven when even one sinner repents (Luke 15). God sent Jesus Christ into this world to save sinners at any cost. This is what the heart of God is like – it is patient, humble, gentle and loving toward sinners. It always protects, always trusts, it never fails because God is love. God is not vindictive, He is definitely not looking for a way to destroy and punish sinners, but rather like David, God is waiting at the city gates for all His rebellious sons and daughters to come back home. He wants to invite us to his heavenly kingdom where there is no sin, or sorrow, or pain or sickness. We will live with him forever and God will wipe away all our tears.


Do we want to live with our Father God in heaven forever? Then let us examine our hearts today. Let’s pray like the Psalmist – Search me Oh LORD and see if there is anything offensive in me. Whatever it may be – the sin of rebellion, ambition, idolatry, sexual immorality and the like. Let’s turn to God who offered his Son Jesus to pardon and forgive all our sins. Jesus already died for our sins; he does not need to die again. Our sins are paid. Like King David, all we need do is repent and turn to God because only people who repent and put their trust in Jesus can be truly saved. Those who persist in sin and refuse to repent will in the end invite judgment and be like Absalom for whom David wept, “if only I have died instead of you…”


18: 33

“The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!””