II Samuel 15 Part 3

23. And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people crossed over. The king himself also crossed over the Brook Kidron, and all the people crossed over toward the way of the wilderness.

The people weep with a loud voice as they pass over. The Hebrew reads that all the land wept, but this is the Hebrew figure of speech Metonymy, wherein one word is put for another, obviously-connected word. It was the people who were weeping, but the figure is that the land wept. They passed over Kidron, the boundary of Jerusalem, and none knew if they would ever be able to return.

Once the people have passed over, David too passes over the Brook Kidron. “Kidron” means “Dark,” referring perhaps to the fact that its waters were foamy and so one could not see into them. This is the first mention of this brook in Scripture. The Brook Kidron is also mentioned in Kings, Chronicles, and Jeremiah. It seems to have been a boundary east of Jerusalem. Once they have crossed this brook, all the people head down the road to the wilderness and exile.

24. There was Zadok also, and all the Levites with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God. And they set down the ark of God, and Abiathar went up until all the people had finished crossing over from the city.

Now Zadok (or Hebrew Tsadoq) the priest arrives. His name means “Righteous,” and he was the new high priest of the house of Eleazar, the oldest surviving son of Aaron, who had become a rival to Abiathar, the one surviving priest from the former high priestly line descended from Ithamar, Aaron’s younger son. Abiathar, the Hebrew ‘Ebyathar, represented the family of Eli, whom the LORD had cursed because of his attitude towards Him and his honoring of his wicked sons above the LORD. The LORD had promised back in I Samuel 2 that none of his descendants would live to old age until a rival priest arose and his line of descendants were eventually cast out of serving in the high priestly position. Now, as we saw back in II Samuel 8, this is starting to happen. Zadok has arisen as a rival priest to Eli’s line. Abiathar is still there, but he is in danger now of being supplanted, even as the LORD said. How this came about we are never told, but we do see the will of God starting to come to pass in this portion.

So Zadok, it seems the more honored of the two priests, arrives with all the Levites with him. They have not come alone, but bear with them, no doubt on its poles as the commandment was, the ark of the covenant of God. God here in Hebrew is ha-Elohim, “the God,” referring to the true God. They set down the ark at the Brook Kidron, and they stay there until all the people are out of the city.

What does it mean that Abiathar “went up”? This means he ascended. He clearly did not cross the brook ahead of the ark, since he is still on this side of Kidron in verse 29. Perhaps he acted as the lookout? At any rate, notice how Zadok is in command and apparently in charge of the ark, whereas Abiathar is only present.

25. Then the king said to Zadok, “Carry the ark of God back into the city. If I find favor in the eyes of the LORD, He will bring me back and show me both it and His dwelling place.

David now speaks to Zadok and orders him to return back into the city carrying the ark of God. David does not believe he has any right to bring the symbol of God’s presence with him into exile. He believes that if he finds favor in the eyes of Jehovah, he will bring him back to see it again, along with the tabernacle, His dwelling place.

“Favor” here means grace. David realizes his return, if it happens will not be because he deserved it. David was facing this exile because of his terrible sins with Bathsheba and Uriah. If David is ever brought back, it will be because he finds grace in the eyes of Jehovah. Indeed, this is the only reason we, once we have entered our rightful punishment of death for our sins, will ever be brought back again as well. Yet we too have found grace in the sight of the Lord through Jesus Christ, Who died for us!

26. But if He says thus: ‘I have no delight in you,’ here I am, let Him do to me as seems good to Him.”

Yet David says if Yahweh does not delight in him and thus never brings him back to his home and throne in Jerusalem, he is willing to accept it. He is here, and he is ready for whatever Yahweh brings. Let Him do as seems good to Him. This is true submission on the part of David. He well knows his guilt before Yahweh. Whatever Yahweh chooses to do, David is willing to accept.

Yet David will not presume on Yahweh to bring His ark with him into exile, as if he were trying to force His hand to bring him back and thus bring His ark back to its place. That is what the Israelites tried to do back in I Samuel 4, remember, when they brought the ark of God into their army camp in the hopes this would give them Yahweh’s favor so that they would win in their effort against the Philistines. This was done instead of them thinking and realizing that His favor was not on them because of their wicked actions. Yahweh had not gone along with their attempt to use His ark as a good luck charm. Instead, He had allowed His ark to fall into enemy hands, though He was well able to deal with it there.

David knows that the presence with him of the ark may exalt his cause and make him more sympathetic in the eyes of those who may still be on the fence among the people. To leave it behind is to let it fall into the hands of Absalom and grant him the advantage of any such sentiment. Yet for David to seek to use God’s ark like a lucky charm would be just as wrong now as it was for the Israelites in I Samuel 4. Thus David will do the right thing, and he will not make the same mistake that the former generation of Israelites had done. He knows that it is up to Yahweh to decide to grace him or not. But he will not bring His ark with him into the exile his sins brought upon him.

27. The king also said to Zadok the priest, “Are you not a seer? Return to the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz your son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.

David knows that Zadok the priest is also a seer, which as we learned from I Samuel was an older Israelite name for a prophet. Perhaps this had something to do with why he had been promoted to the priestly position above Abiathar. At any rate, David tells Zadok as a prophet to go back into the city in peace, in other words, with David’s goodwill and in unity of purpose with him.

Zadok is also to take with him back to the city his two sons. These are not both his descendants. One of them is Ahimaaz his own son. Ahimaaz, or ‘Acheyma’ats, means “My Brother is Anger,” and this was also the name of Saul’s father-in-law in I Samuel 14:50. We suggested there that children were often named a while after birth once their personality started to show, and such a child perhaps showed an angry temperament, particularly with his brother.

The other “son” of Zadok is actually Jonathan (Hebrew Yehonathan, Yahweh Has Given), Abiathar’s son. Why would a young man who was actually Abiathar’s son be called Zadok’s “son”? Remember that the Hebrew “son” meant representative. Thus Abiathar’s son is also Zadok’s representative. This is probably because Zadok was in charge of the priests, and so he could use either one of these young men as his own representative.

28. See, I will wait in the plains of the wilderness until word comes from you to inform me.”

David promises Zadok that he will wait in Arabah Ford in the wilderness for word to come from Zadok to inform him as to what is taking place in the city. Thus, David is setting up means for spying on his son Absalom and his conspirators. Though he is looking to the LORD ultimately for help and grace, knowing he cannot escape this situation without His aid, this does not mean that he is not still acting like a general and doing everything he can to help himself and his people survive this sad ordeal.

29. Therefore Zadok and Abiathar carried the ark of God back to Jerusalem. And they remained there.

Zadok and Abiathar obey this command and do as David said, carrying the ark of God back into Jerusalem. Then they remain there, waiting for Absalom and his conspirators to arrive in order to see what will become of them, and to await their chance to communicate a message to David.

30. So David went up by the Ascent of the Mount of Olives, and wept as he went up; and he had his head covered and went barefoot. And all the people who were with him covered their heads and went up, weeping as they went up.

Now that all his people have gone before him, David himself goes up by the ascent up of the Mount of Olives. This should be a familiar place to us, for this is the mount (or we might call it a high hill) near to Jerusalem where the Lord Jesus went at night while He was in Jerusalem for the Passover, and it was also the scene of His arrest by the wicked religious leaders of His day. At this time, it is by the ascent of this Mount that David makes his escape from Jerusalem.

As does goes, he goes weeping, with his head covered and barefoot. Bullinger in The Companion Bible suggests that covering the head was a sign of self-condemnation, whereas going barefoot was a sign of mourning. All through this passage it seems clear that David realizes this has come on him as punishment for his sins against the Lord in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. Therefore he acknowledges his own worthiness of this punishment time and again throughout this record. And it seems as the people see their king and leader David doing this, all the people with him decide to cover their heads too. Thus they follow their king’s example and go into this humiliating exile with this sign of condemnation on their heads.

31. Then someone told David, saying, “Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom.” And David said, “O LORD, I pray, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness!”

Now David receives a further report on the conspiracy against him. He learns that Ahithophel, his honored counsellor, the father of one of his mighty men, and the grandfather of Bathsheba, has joined the conspirators and is with Absalom. This must have been another blow to David, for we read in II Samuel 16:23 of how highly David honored Ahithophel’s counsel.

23. Now the advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one had inquired at the oracle of God. So was all the advice of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom.

We learn from this that both David and Absalom viewed Ahithophel’s counsel as being so good that one could not even question it, as if God Himself had given the counsel. And now this incredibly intelligent man has joined the conspiracy to overthrow and destroy David! How can he hope to stand against such a cunning adversary? David knows the only way, and turns to the only One Who can help him. He prays to Jehovah, his true and only help in trouble, and requests that He will turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness. This would be the opposite of the way Ahithophel’s advice had always been! Remember that his name means “My Brother is Folly,” though he had never lived down to this name. Now, David pleads with Jehovah to make Ahithophel’s counsel just that, and to make his name reflect his character in truth.

32. Now it happened when David had come to the top of the mountain, where he worshiped God—there was Hushai the Archite coming to meet him with his robe torn and dust on his head.

David comes to the top of the Mount of Olives, where he pauses to worship God. This seems a strange pause, for we wonder that he thought he had time to do this. Perhaps he did not stop all his train but only remained here himself, figuring that the speed of his people, burdened down with women and children as they were, was not so much that he could not catch up to them.

What exactly did David do in worshiping God here? We cannot say, as the record does not tell us. Bullinger suggests that this was doubtless a high place where God was worshiped, and points out that Nob, where the Tabernacle once stood, was near Jerusalem as well. Whatever the case, David paused to worship here, recognizing once again that he would never make it out of this sad situation he was in unless he had God’s help.

As David worships God here, another friend of his comes to meet him named Hushai the Archite. This is the first time we read of this friend of David’s, though it appears they had some history together. Indeed, it is not necessary for God to tell us all of David’s friends, at least not before they become important to the story He is going to tell, as Hushai becomes here. Hushai means “Hasty,” and Archite means he was from Archi, meaning “Lengthy” or “Long.” This was a town in Ephraim on the border between that tribe and Benjamin. This Hushai as he comes is wearing a long tunic with sleeves, and he has rent this, a sign of agitation and grief at what has happened to his friend David. He also has earth on his head, another sign of mourning and humiliation.

33. David said to him, “If you go on with me, then you will become a burden to me.

Though David has paused in his flight to take the time to worship God on this mountain top, it is clear that during this time his mind has been racing as to what he can do about this latest disheartening news that the wise counsel of Ahithophel is at Absalom’s disposal. Now he sees his old friend Hushai, and this seems to give David an idea. He points out to Hushai that if he joins his company going into exile, he will not really be a help to him, but just another burden that will be on David’s mind and heart to take care of.

34. But if you return to the city, and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king; as I was your father’s servant previously, so I will now also be your servant,’ then you may defeat the counsel of Ahithophel for me.

From what David says here, it seems that Hushai’s strength was in his wisdom, not in his physical power or military ability. If he hopes to aid David, it will not be by standing beside him to fight in battle for him, but rather by using his reputation as one of David’s wise counsellors. Thus David suggests that he go back to the city and tell Absalom that he will be his servant, just as he had previously been David’s servant. If he does this, he may well be able to succeed in winning Absalom’s trust and gaining access to his counsels. Then, as David’s agent among the counsellors of Absalom, he can work to defeat Ahithophel’s good counsel with poor but clever-sounding counsel of his own.

In this way, David continues to set up a conspiracy of his own, carrying on in the setting up of a network of spies and agents in Jerusalem and among the men of Ahithophel. There is danger in this, of course, for Hushai. Absalom may not believe him, and who knows what he will do to him if he suspects him of being an agent for David? Yet David counts on Hushai’s love for him to motivate him to be willing to take this risk for him, as Hushai indeed will prove willing to do.

35. And do you not have Zadok and Abiathar the priests with you there? Therefore it will be that whatever you hear from the king’s house, you shall tell to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.

David also points him to Zadok and Abiathar, the two priests whom David has already sent back before Hushai as his agents and spies. These will be aligned with him in this attempt to thwart the plans of Absalom and the counsel of Ahithophel. When Hushai hears what the advice of Ahithophel is and what the counsels from the king’s house turn out to be, therefore, he can report what has been said and what the decisions of Absalom and his men are to these two men whom David has also sent back as his agents.

36. Indeed they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz, Zadok’s son, and Jonathan, Abiathar’s son; and by them you shall send me everything you hear.”

Zadok and Abiathar are no doubt too old to go chasing after David to bring him word, besides the fact that they need to stay at Jerusalem to take care of the ark, as David has tasked them to do. Yet they have two young men, their sons Ahimaaz Zadok’s son and Jonathan Abiathar’s son, whom they can send with information and a report from Hushai for David. He can send everything he hears in Absalom’s counsel to David through the means of these two young men.

Of course, this will result in still more danger for Hushai. If Absalom suspects him and learns at all that he has communicated with the priests and that their sons then left the city, Hushai will be revealed and probably executed. Yet again it is clear that Hushai, like many of those in David’s company, was willing to risk it all for their lord. May we too be as loyal and as willing to give it all for our Lord and Savior!

37. So Hushai, David’s friend, went into the city. And Absalom came into Jerusalem.

So David’s friend Hushai returns to the city on this mission given to him by David. Who exactly was this Hushai? This term, “David’s friend,” seems to mean something. He is called this here and in II Samuel 16:16. The only other time this Hebrew word re’eh is used, it is of the man Zabud the son of Nathan, who is called King Solomon’s friend in I Kings 4:5. Absalom calls David Hushai’s “friend” in II Samuel 16:17, but he uses the more typical Hebrew word rea’, which is often used for a friend, companion, or neighbor. This other word seems to mean more than this, and indicates a special closeness or relationship to David. This seems almost to have been an official position, as if Hushai were formally designated as the “companion to the king” or something along these lines. Whatever the case, it is clear that he was indeed a true friend of David, and acted as such in this case.

Now at last Absalom arrives at Jerusalem. He walks in unopposed, and it seems that he has won the first victory. Yet David has escaped at least, and the last chapter of this drama has not yet been written. We will see what happened next as we turn to consider the next chapter.