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2 Samuel 15:7–12

And the conspiracy grew strong, for the people with Absalom continually increased in number (v. 12b).

When Absalom judges that the time is right, he launches his coup attempt. The New King James Version text says this happens “after forty years,” but other ancient manuscripts say “four,” probably meaning four years after David received Absalom back to the palace (14:33). After four years of currying public opinion and subtly undermining support for David’s government, Absalom is ready to act.

His first step is to request David’s permission to go to Hebron, the city where David was anointed as king of Judah and later of all Israel (2 Sam. 2:3–4; 5:3). Absalom claims that he wants to go there to fulfill a vow he says he made to God during his exile in Geshur. This may well be a lie designed to get him out from under David’s watchful eye. On the other hand, there may be a grain of truth here—perhaps Absalom did vow that he would overthrow his father. In any case, this apparent display of piety likely pleases David, and he quickly grants Absalom permission to go. It is ironic that he tells Absalom to “go in peace,” for peace is not what Absalom has in mind.

In preparation for the moment of truth, Absalom sends out “plants” across Israel. These undercover supporters are instructed to proclaim that “Absalom reigns in Hebron” when they receive a pre-arranged signal, giving the appearance of a nationwide groundswell for Absalom. Then, he extends invitations to two hundred leading men from Jerusalem to accompany him to Hebron, and they go willingly, unaware of what is afoot. The sly Absalom knows that when word of his coup attempt reaches Jerusalem, the fact that many leading citizens accompanied him to Hebron at his invitation will give the impression that they support his rebellion. Lastly, he extends one key invitation—to Ahithophel. The author of 2 Samuel tells us that Ahithophel’s counsel at one time carried great weight with David (16:23). However, Ahithophel responds to Absalom’s invitation from his hometown, Giloh, which suggests that he has been dismissed from David’s service. His later zeal to pursue David suggests that he bears a grudge against the king. It is possible that he is Bathsheba’s grandfather (11:3; 23:34), so he may resent David’s misuse of her.

With these careful preparations, Absalom’s conspiracy grows strong. In human terms, this is a very real threat to David’s reign.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

Few of us will ever be involved in governmental coup attempts. But it is not unusual to experience leadership battles in our local churches. There are times when pastors and elders need to leave, but all too often they are driven out for poor reasons. Stand behind your leaders faithfully unless the Gospel or the honor of Christ is at stake.

For Further Study
  • 1 Cor. 16:15–16
  • Gal. 2:11–13
  • Heb. 13:17

A Thief of Hearts

Abandoning the Holy City

Keep Reading Idoling Away the Hours

From the November 2003 Issue
Nov 2003 Issue