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The cunning political and military coup plotted by Absalom!
Finally, when Absalom knew that the time was right for action, he sought permission from King David to go on a religious pilgrimage to Hebron. His plan was to make his debut as king where David did, and where he was born, Hebron (2 Samuel 3:2-3), the chief city of his tribe of Judah. First, he had to find a way to get there without arousing David's curiosity or suspicion. He went to his father and told him that he had made a vow, while he was living in Geshur, that if God ever granted him the privilege of returning to Israel he would pay his vow to the Lord in Hebron. Now, he indicated, was the time to do so. David granted him permission to leave and, although he sent him away "in peace," it was most certainly not going to result in "peace."
Meanwhile, he had his followers so well organized that at the proper moment it could be proclaimed through the entire land (14:102): "Absalom reigneth in Hebron." By going back to David's early roots, he must have expected to recruit the same support that his father had in the earlier years. To further camouflage his intent, he took two hundred men from Jerusalem with him as invited guests. They were not his supporters but served to cloud his purpose, for verse 112 tells us: "they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing". Not that he lacked for supporters, which included even Ahithophel, David's closest private counselor. Verse 12 concludes, "the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom", but the loss of Ahithophel the Gilonite was an apparently serious blow, for he was considered to be a most gifted man and his counsel was rated in an extraordinary way (2 Samuel 16:234):
The advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one inquired of the word of God; so was all the advice of Ahithophel regarded by both David and Absalom.
We might, at first glance of the text, wonder how a man so apparently wise could choose to align himself with Absalom, until we remember the promises made to David by God and David's prayer in 2 Samuel15:31. But, while the loss of Ahithophel was seemingly a devastating loss for David's administration, it perhaps should not come as a great surprise, based upon the relationship of these two texts:
So David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, "Is this not Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?" (2 Samuel 11:34).
Eliphelet the son of Ahasbai, the son of the Maacathite, Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite (2 Samuel 23:344).
We learn from these two verses that Eliam was the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite, and that Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam. Therefore, Bathsheba was Ahithophel's granddaughter. This may explain why Ahithophel would desert David and side with his son, who intends to take over his father's throne, even if it required the taking of his father's life. Ahithophel may have felt toward David as Absalom felt toward Amnon. It is not impossible that, ever since the violent death of Uriah, Ahithophel had been looking for an opportunity for revenge and, with the rebellion of David's son, Absalom, his opportunity had arrived.8 Nevertheless, we learn later that God would make use of Ahithophel by exercising his counsel to bring about the fulfilment of prophecy (cf. 2 Samuel 12:11-12 and 2 Samuel 16:20-22), and He would thwart his counsel in order to save David from the hand of Absalom (2 Samuel 17:1-14).
Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, David finally received the message (v132): "The hearts of the men of lsrael are after Absalom." His immediate response was that retreat would be necessary. According to verse 142: David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword. David was surrounded by personal bodyguards and officials who were completely loyal. They assured him, "Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my Lord the king shall appoint." So he and his entourage and family left, leaving behind only ten concubines to look after the security of the palace. Shortly after David had left the city, weeping and mourning with every step, someone told him that Ahithophel, his counselor, was now among the conspirators with Absalom. His response was (15:314): "O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness."
(Continued on page 579)