We're firmly into Prophet Elijah and King Ahab territory. Mostly recently, Israel was attacked by Syria and God took a very personal interest in King Ahab, assisting for His own name's Sake. While Ahab was partially obedient to his nation's benefit, he was also partially wrong....continue reading "I Kings 21: God’s Amazing (and Surprising) Grace"
Just as a brief reminder of how we arrived here. Israel split into two after Solomon. In the north, the nation that held onto the name Israel, was the rebellious half. It's first leader, Jeroboam, had a covenant with God; but promptly began to ignore by making idols, adding new worship centers and festivals to keep people from going to Judah. He then went off the deep end and started a full blown false religion.
This was followed by his son, just as wicked, but only ruling for a fraction of the time and replaced by his assassin, Baasha, ending the Jeroboam dynasty with a count of 2. Baasha's dynasty also held a two count, as his drunk son was assassinated, while getting drunk, by one of his military's leaders, Zimri.
Zimri lasts seven days and is replaced by Omri. That brings us up to speed....continue reading "I Kings 16 – 18: Ahab and Elijah"
I'm reading through the early days of the divided kingdom, currently the events on the 10 northern tribes, lead by Jeroboam. Who was recently visited by a Man of God with a severe prophesy. Needless to say, he ignored it....continue reading "I Kings 14: Jeroboam and Rehoboam"
I'm back into the narrative portion of the story of Israel and it's final days as a united kingdom. Or more precisely, it's first days divided. There are now two parallel story lines running. Today I'm going to be following Jeroboam after his decidedly evil tour into idolatry- taking his tribes with him....continue reading "I Kings 13: God Warns Jeroboam"
As the united monarchy of Israel is ending, following the lives of David and Solomon, I am taking a detour to look at their other books in the Bible, starting with the Psalms.
In an attempt to try and keep some sort of context, and hopefully be able to draw more meaning and application, I will be looking at them in batches, organized in my chronological bible, then cross referenced with my NASB translation and supplemented by my Wiersbe commentary.
First up, Psalm 1 and the Wisdom Psalms....continue reading "Intro to Psalms, Wisdom Psalms, and Psalm 1"
Solomon accomplished what he was assigned to do and then, seemingly, spent the rest of his life attending to himself. I don't get the feeling this is going to end well for him....continue reading "I Kings 11"
So far, the author, Ezra, has given us the general genealogies from Adam to David to the exile. Then the narrow genealogies of 10 of the 12 tribes. Then a detailed genealogy of Saul.
Now we begin with the death of Saul leading to the anointing of David....continue reading "I Chronicles 10"
As David wept, the people who had been celebrating the victory, turned to mourning the death of the King's son. They slinked back into the city quietly while David sobbed aloud. They were ashamed for breaking the king's heart and their victory became a loss.
Joab shows up and gives the king and absolute tongue thrashing. He points out that all of David's caterwauling shows those who fought to save the king, his family, and his throne, that the dead son meant more to him. And if Absalom had lived and they all died, David would be happier. Joab actually says that David has covered his people in shame.
Then Joab takes it up a notch and command David to go out and speak kindly to the servants who fought for him. He threatens David that if he does not, no man will stay and David will suffer more than he did for his whole life combined.
David does get up and go out to the gate. When people heard they assembled before him.
Meanwhile, those who tried to kill David and his followers returned home. People were quarreling over how to move forward. they seem to acknowledge David's situation and the fact that they had anointed Absalom and he was now dead. They wanted the elders to invite David back; but the elders had been in the front of the line with Absalom and were hesitant to bring back the man they had acted against.
v. 11 David sent word that they should invite him back and not fear. He emphasized that were all family- bone and flesh. He would keep Amasa as the head of the army- to show that the rebel army would be accepted, and to punish Joab for killing Absalom, most likely.
The Journey Home
v.15 David headed toward home as far as the Jordan. Then his people from Judah met him and brought him across the river.
v. 16 The sleazy Bejaminite (Shimei) who heckled and threw rocks at David as he fled suddenly decides to show up with the supporters from Judah. Another thousand Benjamintes came to help and bring all of the household back across the Jordan. Shimei fell down and begged that David not take it personally that he cursed and tried to stone David.
v.21 Abishai, as always, suggested that Shimei be put to death for cursing God's anointed. David answers and calls him an adversary for stirring up trouble when David is coming back and trying to reconcile. He swears not to kill Shimei for his treachery.
v.24 Oh...and then then continuing sad story of Mephibosheth (Saul's grandson via Jonathan). When last we heard, David was fleeing and Mephibosheth's servant (Saul's previous servant) had brought gifts to engraciate himself with David; but lied and said that Mephibosheth stayed behind in revolt to claim back the kingdom.
Now, David finds Mephibosheth in a state of extreme grieve and mourning. He hadn't cared for his lame feet or any other basic hygiene. This was not a man revolting against the king, but a cripple who had been left behind and betrayed.
He came out from Jerusalem to meet the king and David asked why he hadn't fled with David. Mephibosheth told him about his servant's treachery when they were fleeing. He also explained that the servant has slandered him; but he trusted David to do whatever he thought was right. he points out that David had the right to kill everyone related to Saul and take the estate, so Mephibosheth had no claim now, especially since David had taken Mephibosheth into his own home and he didn't need the estate.
v. 29 So David proclaimed that Mephibosheth and Ziba (the servant) would split the estate. Mephibosheth said Ziba could have it all in celebration that the king had come home.
I wondered why David let Ziba keep half. It reminded me of Issac letting Jacob keep the firstborn blessing, even though it was earned by deceit. There seems to be some rule that your word must be upheld, even if earned by deceit. I would like to learn more about this.
But I also wondered if David felt genuinely indebted to Ziba for the provisions he brought when David needed it most.
Ryrie has three theories: David showed bad judgement, David wanted to avoid alienating Ziba, David didn't believe completely in Mephibosheth's innocence. So, none of these three align with the two I considered above. We'll see what Wiersbe has to say on the subject later.
v. 31 Apparently, while in Mahanaim, David was sustained by a wealthy old man named Barzillai. Barzillai came and met David at the Jordan and David asked him to come with him and promised to care for him in Jerusalem. But Barzillai pointed out that he was 80 years old and couldn't see, hear, or taste well anymore. He wanted to stay close to home and die near his ancestors.
But Barzillai did send his son or someone he was supportive of, Chimham. David promised to do whatever Chimham directed in repayment of Barzillai's generosity and support in David's time of need.
The Heart of the Matter: Reconciling for a Future
This seems like a key scene in David's journey. He was maneuvering between the past and the present in everyone one of these mini-dramas on the journey.
- First he tried to grieve his son, but ignoring what the people in his life had done to save him. past=Absalom and the sin that started all of this; present= grieving; future= Joab makes him choose his future- keep grieving the traitor and lose all of his supporters or suck it up and go congratulate all of those who will be in future supporters.
- Next, the people who, in his recent past, had been his enemies returned home and struggled as to what to do for a king. They ran the Lord's anointed king out of town and they anointed their own. Who was now dead. they needed to bring David back; but those who conspired against him hesitated. David helped everyone get from the past to the future together by appealing to the people of Israel and assuring the that they were all a family who would get past this.
- Then he started home and had to face some people who were still stuck in the way past, grieving Saul. They all seemed to enthusiastically want to come and help David back across the Jordan. Something had changed for them and they seemed to embrace the future with David as King. But the past came back in the form of Abishai, who wanted the Benjamite who cursed David to be slain. David once again navigated a past and the future. He had every right to stop and punish those who cursed him; but he saw the need to rebuild and restore as he retook the throne. He once again chose reconciliation.
- Then again with Mephibosheth, his past colliding with his future. He and Ziba and Mephibosheth had a long history and it had gotten even further confused in the fog of war. David asked Mephibosheth for an explanation, and Mephobosheth's poor state of being seemed to back his story that there was no treachery there. David pulled a Solomon 🙂 and split the baby. He gave each man half pf Saul's remaining estate.
- Finally, Brazillai was a generous provider in David's recent past, but refused to come with him into the future. Although, he did send an envoy. We'll have to see how that plays out in the future.
In all, the Jordan is once again such a strong symbol in the Bible. David crossing back to the Promise Land, wrestling with the past and making his way on a journey to the future. As usual, God is working through this at His own pace. Sometimes, especially when we are suffering, we want God to be a genie. Rub the bottle and get three wishes. But God tells the tale over time. He brings many characters into the journey and all of their tales intertwine. It's a tapestry and we are but threads. Pottery to the Potter. Servants of the king. The Lord loved David and was faithful to keep the covenant; but David made choices that forced the Lord to have to redeem David as part of being faithful to the covenant.
From the Jordan to Home
v. 40 Now the king went on to Gilgal, bringing Brazillai's envoy (son?) with him. By now, he had all of Judah and half of the rest of Israel accompanying him.
That's a strange thought. More than half of a nation journeying out to meet their king and bring him home. I wonder if this was a sign from God. that He moved in their hearts and brought them out to their king. Or a desire on their part to be a united nation once again under David? I guess it's not as hard to imagine when I remember the first time the Denver Broncos won a Super Bowl and HALF of the population of the state of Colorado poured into Denver for the welcome home celebration. If we can be that enthusiastic for a pro-sport team, how much more a people for their lost king's return.
But, of course, it was not so simple. The men of Israel were annoyed that the men of Judah had rushed ahead to bring the King across the Jordan. Apparently, it was not lost on any of them how strong that symbol was as well.
- Israel complained that Judah stole David.
- Judah defended themselves by reminding them that David was close family.
- Judah also pointed out that they hadn't taken anything from the king.
- Israel replied with, we are 10 tribes of the 12 and so we own him more.
- Israel claimed they were the ones who had pushed to bring David home.
- Judah's response to that was "harsher".
This is the end of Chapter 19, so I'll pause the action here to reflect on the last two chapter with the Wiersbe commentary in my next post. Then we'll conclude his journey home in Chapter 20.
I will add a thought to ponder. David is such a complex person. I feel like I would need to read this a hundred times to encapsulate it all. There were times when he fiercely abided by and defend the law and then time when he blatantly ignored God's law and time when he forgave others for doing the same. No one can be perfectly consistent over a lifetime (or even a day for most of us), but it is interesting to see in this person's life. To wonder how he could do the amazing and heroic things, only to watch him make such crazy mistakes.
I don't know what to make of it yet, it's just a topic I have floating around in the back of my head. the man who grieved cutting a piece of trim from Saul's robe then left and joined the Philistine army! The man who slayed the messenger of Saul's death murdered a man to cover up impregnating his wife. There were (relatively) small laws he kept to a "t", but huge laws he violated, seemingly without any regard.
Just to be clear, I am not judging, as I am riddled with my own sins and hypocrisies. It just stuns me to see it so clearly in others.
Maybe this is back to my earlier post- we want heroes and villains. We want our good guys bullet proof and our bad guys unlikable so we can cheer when they get their comeuppance. But humans aren't like that. Jesus is the only one who is perfect, without hypocrisy. He can save us. Wanting that from anyone else, even a type and shadow of Jesus, will leave you disappointed.
Absalom had claimed the kingdom; but to keep the kingdom he would need to hunt down and kill the real king, David. So he consulted with his two counselors, Ahithophel and Hushai, who was David's spy.
When someone first told David of Ahithophel's betrayal and alliance with Absalom David prayer that God would turn Ahithophel's counsel into foolishness. God answered that prayer.
Ahithophel's plan was good and he made himself the center of it. He would ride out at night, quickly while David was running and weary and murder him, bringing back David's followers and uniting the kingdom. Now that's a man with big plans and a big future for himself. But as wise as he was; he forgot the main thing in any plan-include God. Ahithophel's plan, as wise and "correct" as it was for meeting Absalom and his own goal, it didn't account for God's plan.
Hushai painted an elaborate portrait that Absalom couldn't resist. Absalom should bring all Israel together into a massive force, and he should lead it. He should spread out and attack all of David's men, leave no unloyal followers to come back to Jerusalem. If David's men got to a city, take it apart stone by stone. Magnificent. Mighty. Victory. You can just see Hushai working Absalom into a frenzy, forgetting that he had no military expertise or practical ability experience to execute this plan.
Once again, people strongly persuaded, even against their own interest...bu a story. Painted by a master storyteller.
Hushai sets the spy ring in motion to get the word to David. It reads like George Washington's spy ring in the US Revolutionary War. It would make a great movie. Wiersbe points out the parallel to the spies on the run in Joshua 2.
As to why Ahithophel hanged himself, Wiersbe has a simple explanation- Ahithopel was wise and did have tremendous understanding of the situation. Once he knew that his correct and wise advise had not been taken, he knew that he had backed the wrong king. He knew Absalom would fail and that would leave him a traitor in the old kingdom, not a ruler in the new one. Rather than all the shame and drama for his family, he put his affairs in order and took himself out.
We cannot ever think that that we have arrived in our faith. Sometimes smart people allow their intelligence to cause them to trust in their own thinking. He knew how wise he was. And once his need for vengeance against David become his goal, rather than serving the Lord, he lost his way. Since he was still smart, he still assumed everything he thought and did was wise. But his intelligence was a gift from God, and never his own. While it looked like it was still serving him and getting him the results he wanted...God had the final say.
Very, very convicting. They aren't our gifts. They are his gifts on loan to us to do His Good Will. When we try to use them outside of His will, it may look like things are going our way; but they won't. God's will will be done. With us helping or with us hanging from a tree.
Wiersbe points out several parallels between Ahithophel and Judas. He even has some references in the Psalms and the Gospel of John. I'll have to explore that another day. It looks interesting.
Also, Wiersbe point about Ahithophel was about ending well. Which is where I started to go above, but was inspired by God with what actually came out. So, I'd like to explore the idea of ending well, but for another day.
There is a rich vein of learning in this chapter!
The last section of the chapter is back to David's parallel experience. He hears from the spies and mobilizes his entourage to cross the Jordan. they arrive Mahanaim, the former capital of the 10 tribes when Saul's son was "king". Also where Jacob saw the army of angels to protect him.
David had friends bring provisions, and literally, God prepared a table for David as his enemies were approaching! (Psalm 23:5)
This was a full civil war. Absalom chose David's nephew (and Joab's cousin) as his military commander and made himself commander in chief (with no experience). So family against family all the way around.
Ahithophel's Plan (v 1-4)
Ahithophel's advice was to pursue David right away, that night.
- He would take 12,000 men and pursue that night (wasn't he an old man? Bathsheba's grandfather? Although I guess that had kids early)
- He counted on David being weary and exhausted (which we know was true.)
- He would frighten David and scatter everyone- leaving David alone.
- Then strike the king down while he was alone. It strikes me as interesting that he wanted to strike down the king while he was alone. No witnesses? Striking God's chosen king was punishable by death...
- Then he'll bring back all of those who fled (presumably so they would be a whole nation again)
- He then says that, in order to get everyone to return, depended on the 'the man you seek'. "Then the people will be at peace."
- This struck me as odd.
- I'm surprised they would want David's people back. It seems like they would want to destroy or send away anyone whose loyalty would always be for David. Maybe Ahithophel diluted himself into thinking Absalom should be the real king and that Absalom would be a better king than David. If so, he was very foolish for a wise man. Revenge will do that to the brain.
- Also, why did he need to say it at all. I guess it means we won't have peace until you strike the man you seek.
And then there is this doosy of a sentence: "So the plan pleased Absalom and all of the elders of Israel.
Ouch. The elders for the whole nation had been spun into this wretched plot. They should have learned their lesson from backing Saul and had David's back. Because they let Saul run around unchecked, he was chasing David instead of building up the nation from the rubble it had been. And now they were backing Absalom's play? Disgraceful. When God anoints a king, you back him all the way! Why on earth would they go against God again so soon.
And I've asked this before, but what was going on with David that he lost control of his household, then the whole capital city, and then the whole nation. One commentary said he was sick; but he was well enough to flee barefoot and climb a hill?
Having said all of that, I have to confess my own lifetime of struggling with authority. Which I never once took to be rebellion against God but against all of the imperfect leaders in my life. Until, in Self-Confrontation class, I was digging into a problem areas and found rebellion. And like it or not- that rebellion is against God. Sin is our way of telling Him that we don't think His plan or provision is enough.
And that's what the elders were doing. Our sick king (or whatever their excuse was) isn't good enough. We'll choose a different king. [with no consideration of God's provision or plan]. And they saw the covenant. They heard the plan...but figured they'd still get God's promises from the covenant- David or not...
Hushai's Plan (v 5-23)
The Absalom called for Hushai the Archite to hear his counsel. (Reminder that Hushai was David's friend, whom David had sent back to infiltrate Absalom's court and spy for David.)
Hushai stated that Aihthophel's plan was no good because Aihthophel had made the wrong assumption about David's condition. Even though Aihthophel was correct in David being weary; Hushai reminded them of how strong and cunning David could be. And since he was on the defense, he would be a bear separated from her cubs. He would have separated from the people and be ready to ambush the pursuers. If Absalom's first attempt led to a defeat, the people would hear about it and Absalom would lose face in his early reign.
The sad thing is, that Hushai's ploy worked because all of that had been true about David. He had been strong and mighty and an expert at warfare. All of that should have been true. But Ahithophel had a better sense of the actual situation.
Absalom and the elders chose Hushai's advice and, if I understand this correctly, he explains that the Lord must've given Ahithophel bad counsel in order to bring down Absalom. So Absalom thinks he has outwitted God?
So Hushai's deception bought David and his entourage time. David's intelligence ring got the plan to him and he immediately got everyone across the Jordan and out of quick reach.
When Ahithophel saw that his advice hadn't been taken, he went home, got his affairs in order and killed himself.
I was quite shocked to see this. After all of these years, I still get shocked when there is a rape or a suicide, or some other human tragedy. I continue to misjudge what the Bible is and how relevant it is.
And I'm surprised Ahithophel had such a permanent, reactionary response. I wonder why he didn't stay and continue to try and counsel Absalom. Unless he could see clearly from this first episode that God was not on his side and it was going to end badly either way? I'll be curious to see if the commentaries have any explanations.
Ryrie simply says that he realized his cause was lost.
That's so truly sad and awful. He was so bent on revenge that when it became appearant he wouldn't get it, he would rather die.
Absalom Leads the Charge (17: 24-29)
So David is on the move and Absalom has taken lead of the men of Israel. They are in hot pursuit and have also crossed the Jordan.
Absalom replaced Joab as leader of the army.
Someone brought David and his people provisions as they were hungry, weary, and thirsty in the wilderness.