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2 Samuel 15-17
Absalom had managed to maneuver his way back to Jerusalem after he killed his brother Amnon (see Tamar and Amnon), but he was hardly sorry for what he did. In fact, his ruthlessness was about to get far worse - he then set out to gain enough support from the people of Israel (see Royal Democracy) to overthrow his father King David and seize the throne for himself.
"Absalom said moreover, "Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice."
After four years of "campaigning," Absalom was ready for his "election." Absalom went to Hebron and had himself declared king (the choice of Hebron was highly symbolic; Hebron had been David's capital during the civil war with Saul's throne at Jerusalem - see Israelite Monarchy - The Civil War and David's Capital During The Civil War).
"And at the end of four years Absalom said to the king, "Pray let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed to The Lord, in Hebron. For your servant vowed a vow while I dwelt at Geshur in Aram, saying, 'If The Lord will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will offer worship to The Lord.'"
When David became aware of the coup, and how widespread it was, he fled Jerusalem with those who remained loyal to him.
"And a messenger came to David, saying, "The hearts of the men of Israel have gone after Absalom." Then David said to all his servants who were with him at Jerusalem, "Arise, and let us flee; or else there will be no escape for us from Absalom; go in haste, lest he overtake us quickly, and bring down evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword." (2 Samuel 15:13-14 RSV)
David still had the support of the Levites, or at least the high priesthood who had charge of The Ark Of The Covenant. When they attempted to accompany David, he sent them, and the Ark, back to Jerusalem.
"And all the country wept aloud as all the people passed by, and the king crossed the brook Kidron [see the Kidron Valley], and all the people passed on toward the wilderness.
The loyal royal advisor Hushai also tried to remain with David, but David told him to return and appear to support the rebel Absalom, for two purposes - to keep David informed of what Absalom was doing, and to feed Absalom as much bad advice as possible, to get him to make as many mistakes as possible (see Absalom's Advisors).
"When David came to the summit [see The Mount Of Olives], where God was worshiped, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent and earth upon his head.
2 Samuel Chapter 16
Although David retained support from some, many seemed to be rejoicing at David's overthrow. Among them was, it appeared, Jonathan's son Mephibosheth (see notes for 2 Samuel 9-11), although Mephibosheth later denied it when David regained the throne (2 Samuel 19:24-30).
"When David had passed a little beyond the summit, Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth met him, with a couple of asses saddled, bearing two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred bunches of raisins, a hundred of summer fruits, and a skin of wine." (2 Samuel 16:1 RSV)
Others from the house of Saul were also contemptuously celebrating David's fall; among them was Shimei the Benjamite who mocked the retreating king.
"When King David came to Bahurim, there came out a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son of Gera; and as he came he cursed continually. And he threw stones at David, and at all the servants of King David; and all the people and all the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And Shimei said as he cursed, "Begone, begone, you man of blood, you worthless fellow! The Lord has avenged upon you all the blood of the house of Saul, in whose place you have reigned; and The Lord has given the kingdom into the hand of your son Absalom. See, your ruin is on you; for you are a man of blood." (2 Samuel 16:5-8 RSV)
Hushai had returned to Jerusalem, and as instructed by David, feigned loyalty to Absalom. Absalom accepted Hushai, which would turn out to be his fatal mistake.
"Now Absalom and all the people, the men of Israel, came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel with him. And when Hushai the Archite, David's friend, came to Absalom, Hushai said to Absalom, "Long live the king! Long live the king!"
2 Samuel Chapter 17
Ahithophel advised Absalom to attack his father David as soon as possible, while he was disorganized and in retreat. That is what Absalom should have done for a military victory over David.
"Moreover Ahithophel said to Absalom, "Let me choose twelve thousand men, and I will set out and pursue David tonight. I will come upon him while he is weary and discouraged, and throw him into a panic; and all the people who are with him will flee. I will strike down the king only, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride comes home to her husband. You seek the life of only one man, and all the people will be at peace." And the advice pleased Absalom and all the elders of Israel." (2 Samuel 17:1-4 RSV)
But Hushai, who was still secretly loyal to David, discredited Ahithophel's sound military advice. Hushai instead advised Absalom not to attack David. Even though it was obvious that David was at his weakest at that point, Hushai convinced Absalom that David was his strongest at his weakest. Hushai also "advised" Absalom to leave (the safety of) his palace and accompany his troops into battle, later (after David had regrouped and prepared for battle, and where Absalom could be killed out in the open). Absalom took the bait.
"Then Hushai said to Absalom, "This time the counsel which Ahithophel has given is not good." Hushai said moreover, "You know that your father and his men are mighty men, and that they are enraged, like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field. Besides, your father is expert in war; he will not spend the night with the people. Behold, even now he has hidden himself in one of the pits, or in some other place. And when some of the people fall at the first attack, whoever hears it will say, 'There has been a slaughter among the people who follow Absalom.' Then even the valiant man, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will utterly melt with fear; for all Israel knows that your father is a mighty man, and that those who are with him are valiant men. But my counsel is that all Israel be gathered to you, from Dan to Beer-sheba, as the sand by the sea for multitude, and that you go to battle in person." (2 Samuel 17:7-11 RSV)
Fact Finder: What natural geological process created the Jordan Valley, through which the Jordan River flows? Why does that underlying movement make the land of Israel subject to the great earthquakes that are described in Bible History and Prophecy?