We continue today with the story of Absalom’s seizure of power from David. Ahithophel had just advised Absalom to make a statement through a horrible act (see 16:21). Here, Ahothophel continues with his advice. He tells Absalom to let him lead 12,000 soldiers to pursue David and kill him while he is “weary and discouraged” (17:1-2). In God’s providence, Absalom seeks Hushai’s advice before acting (v. 5). Hushai, of course, gives Absalom reasons not to take Ahithophel’s advice (vv. 7-10). Hushai advises Absalom to take a course of action that will take far more time (vv. 11-13). And in God’s sovereignty, Absalom chooses Hushai’s advice (v. 14).
Hushai then tells the priests (v. 15 – see 15:35) who were to tell a woman who would leave the city and tell the priest’s sons (see 15:36) waiting to bring news to David (v. 17). David still has plenty of allies left in Jerusalem. The men are found out by Absalom and must hide (v. 18), but the woman sends Absalom’s men on a wild goose chase (v. 20), allowing Jonathan and Ahimaaz to complete their mission (v. 21). And David is able to escape (v. 22). His ploy of leaving Hushai in Jerusalem worked (see 15:32-37).
In verse 23, Ahithophel takes his own life in light of the events. It is likely that he knew his advice would bring Absalom victory, but that the course of action Absalom was taking on Hushai’s advice would end in defeat. Ahithophel was sure to be put to death if David defeated Absalom. The chapter ends with more of David’s allies – this time Ammonites – providing for him (vv. 27-29).
Psalm 4 is believed to have been written by David while on the run from Absalom. It begins with a cry to God to provide for David like He has in the past (4:1). David is again being persecuted though he has done no wrong. His honor has been turned by dishonest men into shame (v. 2). But David knows that God is for him (v. 3). In verses 4-5, David is committing to trust God to judge justly. There are some who would say God has abandoned them in such circumstance (v. 6), but David has more joy in God than in earthly treasures (v. 7). Though he is pursued and his life is in danger because of evil men, David will not be anxious, because the Lord is his protector (v. 8). What a Psalm of faith!
Psalm 5 is also believed to have been written by David while fleeing from Absalom. David begins with a cry for God to hear his prayer (5:1-2). David knows that God is with him and providentially watches him, even as he waits for Him (v. 3) Because God cannot have sin in His presence (v. 4), the wicked will never enter his presence (v. 5). In verse 6, David may be describing Absalom: deceitful and bloodthirsty. But while the wicked will never enter God’s presence, David knows that because of God’s hesed (חֶ֫סֶד), he will enter into His presence.
David prays for God to lead him in righteousness – to not let him be like those who seek his life (v. 8). He again laments the deceit of these men and asserts that their sin will lead to their destruction (v. 9). Their throat being an open grave is another (very poetic!) way to speak of their deceit. This is quoted by Paul in Romans 3:13 as describing all men in our natural state. All deserve the judgment David’s enemies will endure, which he prays for in verse 10. In contrast, those like David who take refuge in God will “ever sing for joy” because of God’s provision and protection (v. 11). God will punish the wicked, but will bless the righteous and protect them (v. 12). David is again faithfully trusting in God to judge justly.