When A Leader Fails (2 Samuel 14-15) 

Scripture reading – 2 Samuel 14-15

Because today’s Scripture reading entails two long chapters, I will limit the devotional to an overview of 2 Samuel 14-15.

The saga and division between David the king of Israel, and his third born son, Absalom, continues in 2 Samuel 14. After murdering his brother Amnon, Absalom had sought refuge in Geshur, the birthplace of his mother. Three years of exile passed, and David made no attempt to seek justice for his son, Amnon, nor to restore his fellowship with Absalom (13:38-39).

A Plot to bring Absalom to Jerusalem (2 Samuel 14)

Joab, one of David’s trusted counselors and a mighty warrior, understood David’s longing for Absalom (13:39), and he set in motion circumstances that would move the king to invite his son to return to Jerusalem (14:1). The details of Joab’s plan, and the parable he conveyed to a woman to impart to the king, are recorded in 2 Samuel 14:2-17. The woman feigned herself to be a mourner and spun the tale of her two sons, lamenting one son had killed the other. With this, David’s heart was moved to impart grace, and spare her son from death, the penalty that the law demanded (14:10-11).

The king, having given his verdict, soon realized the parallel of the woman’s story with his own life, and his failure to show grace and restore Absalom (14:12-17). David saw through the tale, and supposed it was Joab who had brought about his verdict to forgive a murderous son (14:18-20). David then directed Joab to go to Geshur, and invite Absalom to return to Jerusalem, but with the provision he would not be welcomed in the king’s court (14:21-24). Ever soft in dealing with the sins of his household, David’s failure to confront Absalom, and his refusal to receive him, provoked in his son’s heart a resentment that would not be appeased.

David, not perceiving the heart of his son was against him, allowed Absalom to go about Jerusalem unimpeded, and he began to win the affection of Israel to himself. Absalom is described as physically handsome (“there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty”), and “there was no blemish in him” (14:25). Known for the thickness of his long, flowing hair, Absalom and his family came to be much praised in Israel (14:26-28).

Two years passed and Absalom was not summoned to stand before the king, and his appeals to Joab to intervene for him failed (14:28-29). Frustrated with Joab’s failure, Absalom ordered his fields to be destroyed by fire, getting the attention of his father’s trusted counselor (14:30-32). Joab appealed to David, who received Absalom (14:33).

Absalom’s Rebellion (15:1-7)

Though received by his father, Absalom’s bitterness, and heart of rebellion was not satisfied. Giving himself the visage of a powerful oriental king (15:1), he began a plot to undermine his father, and deflect their affections to himself (15:2-6). Though his son was actively undermining his reign, David followed a familiar pattern, and did nothing until Absalom had “stole(n) the hearts of the men of Israel (15:6).

2 Samuel 15:7 states, “it came to pass after forty years,” but scholars cannot account for that number of years, nor for the beginning of those years. Certainly, forty years had not passed from Absalom’s return to Jerusalem, and I will leave that date as one only known to God.

Absalom’s Insurrection and David’s Flight (15:7-37)

Absalom’s rebellion was followed by enough men of Israel, that David was forced to flee the city with his loyal servants, and his family (with the exception of ten concubines who remained in the palace, 15:16). Accompanying the king were his mercenary bodyguards, to whom we were introduced in 2 Samuel 8:16-18.

David seeing the Ark of God carried by the priests, instructed it be returned to its place in Jerusalem (15:24-29), because he had faith he would one day return to his throne (15:25).

Ascending the Mount of Olives, David was able to look back on the city of Jerusalem, and he and all those with him wept and mourned what had befallen the king and the city (15:30).

David learned that Ahithophel, the grandfather of Bathsheba, had joined Absalom in the insurrection, and he prayed, “O Lord, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness” (15:31). Soon after, David was joined by a loyal friend and servant, Hushai the Archite, whom the king commanded to return to Jerusalem, join himself to Absalom, and thwart the counsel of Ahithophel (15:32-34). At the risk of his life, Hushai obeyed the king’s command, and returned to Absalom’s court as a spy (15:35-37).

Closing thoughts – Our study of this tragic time in David’s life will continue tomorrow. Once again, we have been reminded of the terrible toll of sin, and the inevitable consequences that follow when a leader fails to be just, and allows others to go unchecked in their sin and rebellion.

Indeed, there will always be a, “Pay Day, Some Day!!

Copyright 2021 – Travis D. Smith