2 Samuel 15:1–12: Absalom’s Conspiracy
I won’t link back to my posts on the previous passages (they don’t need to be read to get the context for this passage), but: having killed his brother Amnon in revenge for the rape of Tamar, Absalom is now living in Jerusalem and effectively cleared by King David of any wrongdoing in Amnon’s death1.
It’s clear, however, that Absalom is already looking ahead to the next step: he wants to be king, and he wants it now. That starts to become clear in the very first verse as he starts driving around in a chariot with fifty men running ahead of him, giving a definite show of power and—dare I say it?—royalty.
But he’s also doing something sneaky and underhanded to undermine his father: he gets in the habit of hanging out by the city gate, stopping anyone who’s going in to bring a complaint before the king, so that he can lie to them, telling them that the king isn’t interested in hearing their problems:
Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.” (verses 3–4)
It’s one of those cases where you can practically hear the italics in the passage: “If only I were appointed judge in the land!”
Based on these actions, the deferential way he treats everyone, and the fact that he keeps it up for four years, Absalom steals the hearts of the people (verse 6). When he’s ready to make his move he lies to his father, saying that he needs to go to Hebron to fulfill a vow he made to the LORD while he was isolated in Geshur, and David is supportive.
So he goes, bringing along two hundred people with him as guests—who don’t know about Absalom’s intentions, the passage is careful to point out—and sends secret messengers throughout the country, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” (verse 10). He also summons a man named Ahithophel, a counselor of his father’s, to come and join him.
As of the end of this passage it’s unclear to me if Absalom has actually proclaimed himself king or if that’s still coming—if those trumpets have actually sounded, yet—but we are told that “the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing” (verse 12).
For me personally, Absalom’s lie about people not being allowed to see the king is slightly ironic: I didn’t mention it in the post, but in the previous chapter it struck me how easy it was for the “wise woman” to get an audience with King David! Compare this with the book of Esther, where the rule of the day for her was that she—the queen—wasn’t allowed to see her husband the king unless specifically summoned. If she did, and he didn’t immediately pardon her, she’d be executed. But in David’s day, anyone could come in to see the king and get their case heard! Exactly what Absalom is accusing David of not allowing!
Always good to start a passage by saying little context is needed and then inserting a dozen names! 😉 ↩︎