2 Samuel 16-17: Treachery
May 21, 2020
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
When you are betrayed, others sometimes rush to add to the betrayal. So it was with Mephibosheth who, despite the kindness done to him by David (2 Sam. 9), takes David’s betrayal as his opportunity to regain the kingdom that his father had lost (16:1-3). David recognizes the betrayal, and instead gives the property of Mephibosheth to Ziba (16:4), the servant who had informed him of Mephibosheth’s treachery. At this point it must seem as if David has little power to give anyone anything, yet the statement distances himself from one who has acted treasonably.
The house of Saul continues to bite back at David when Shimei—from the same family and lineage as Saul—takes this as his opportunity to curse David (16:5). He throws stones at David and shouts abuse at him as he goes along the road (16:6-8, 13). It’s said that you know who your friends are when you are in the hospital, but it’s probably truer that you know who your friends are by who stands next to you when others betray you. David, wisely, decides that, as God is sovereign, and as even this awful calamity—his own son seeking his life—is from the hand of God, so therefore Shimei’s actions must in some sense too be from God; therefore, he puts up with the abuse (16:11-12). Perhaps it is part of his display of repentance towards God—or at least it shows the humility he feels about the betrayal of his own son, triggered, he no doubt realizes, by his own adultery and murder related to Bathsheba previously.
Hushai, David’s friend, rushes to Jerusalem to represent David there (16:15-19). How different is Hushai’s action to that of the others! Ahithophel gives advice related to public relations. He tells Absalom to sleep publicly with David’s concubines (16:20-22). It is a statement of utter disdain for David’s legacy, and would ensure that people realized there could be no middle ground between Absalom and David. It is also a public rebuke for David’s adulterous liaison which began from a rooftop, too.
Ahithophel is considered to have given such good advice that his counsel is as if it were directly from God (16:23). He has the gift of wisdom, even though his worldly-wise Machiavellian counsel is not godly. He tells Absalom to go straight after David and hunt him down before David has the chance to gather an army around him (17:1-4). He must realize that David was still a popular figure and powerful man, and once he was on the run, Absalom must drive home his advantage immediately. Hushai, however, gives Absalom different advice (17:5-13). Instead, Absalom is to take his time, not rush, and gradually build a force that could defeat David. Therein lies foolishness: “strike while the iron is hot” is the old proverb, not wait until it has cooled down and hit it with a really big hammer! But because God is not for Absalom’s treachery, Hushai’s advice, really to protect his friend David (17:15-22), is heeded (17:14). Ahithophel realizes that the result of that course of action will be disaster, and so he goes home, puts his things in order, and hangs himself (17:23).
All in all, not a pretty story. Even in bad times, God is sovereign. And God can bring good out of evil. But sin, David’s sin against Bathsheba, is still plaguing his house. Rejoice and be glad that we have a great King, a better King, a true King, in whose kingdom there is no deceit or treachery, but we serve a King that we can trust forever.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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