2nd Samuel was written, perhaps, by the king’s scribes. In this book Saul dies and David is anointed king over Judah and then Israel. The ark is brought to Jerusalem. In 2nd Samuel you’ll find the story of David and Bathsheba in chapter 11. It is a story of lust, love, honor and dishonor and in the end Bathsheba marries David and bears him a son. But we’re going to look at a different family story. Before you read 2nd Samuel 15: 1-12 there are a few things you need to know to understand this passage. There is a back story. Absalom, David’s son, is angry with his father for how he dealt with an earlier situation. Because David had children with many different women there are some interesting, to say the least, family dynamics. Absalom had a sister, Tamar, who was quite beautiful. His half-brother, Amnon, lusted after her until he finally raped her (read all of chapter 13). King David, though furious, did nothing to Amnon. Absalom plotted for two years until finally he killed Amnon in revenge then fled and stayed away for three years, banished. When he finally was allowed to return he went back to his own house, but could not let David see his face. This went on for two years until Absalom did something that resulted in his father accepting him again. Then came his conspiracy:
1 In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” 3 Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” 4 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.”
5 Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. 6 Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.
7 At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD. 8 While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the LORD takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the LORD in Hebron.’”
9 The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he went to Hebron.
10 Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” 11 Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. 12 While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.
Notice the impression Absalom created in verse 1. Can you imagine 50 men running in front of someone riding in a chariot drawn by several horses? Then he positioned himself at the best possible spot and reached out to the troubled people. He took a personal interest in them. See in verse 2 how he asked each one where he was from. Then he showed sympathy for their complaints and in verse 3 made an indirect attack on the King by saying that there was no representative there to help them. Like a politician he made the claim that he would do better than that if he were judge.
In verse 5 we learn what Absalom would do if anyone tried to bow to him. In this way, offering his hand and kissing the person, Absalom stole the hearts of the King’s subjects. Absalom patiently bides his time and when he is ready he tells the King that he is going to Hebron to fulfill a vow. David’s last words to his son are “Go in peace.” Unfortunately there won’t be peace. Here’s the rest of the story:
Absalom mounted an offensive and David and his troops fled. Through some subterfuge a plan was implemented that resulted in a massacre of Absalom’s followers (20,000 casualties). Absalom, while riding on a mule, got caught up in some thick oak branches. The mule kept going and Absalom was left hanging by his head. One of the King’s men, Joab, threw three javelins into his heart and ten more armor-bearers finished the kill. David, of course, was devastated. Remember, his last words to his son were to go in peace and that certainly didn’t happen.
Besides recording David’s sad words of grief over Absalom’s death (18:33), the book of 2nd Samuel also records David’s song of praise and his last words. The song of praise can be found in chapter 22.