[Thursday] 2 Sam 15:1-18
Absalom acts like royalty, with chariots and fifty runners before him. Absalom begins "campaigning", rising early to intercept complaintants before they see the king, filling their ears with promises of "if I were king I would take care of you!" He will give "everyone" what they want, he declares, then he "would take hold of them" (same words as Amnon's rape of Tamar) and "kiss their hands" (connected to David's kiss a few verses earlier). He "stole the hearts of the men of Israel" with nonsensical but appealing promises. Interestingly, the first use of the term leb / heart is Genesis 6:5,6 where God is grieved to His heart because the heart of humans is evil.
For four years Absalom does his work, unnoticed apparently. His father is a shell of the man he once was. In Hebron Absalom has his picked men proclaim "Absalom is king." The coupe begins and many innocents are in the crowd. The Scriptures do not provide a detailed account of David's reign, but the widespread strength of the conspiracy reflects significant dissatisfaction with him. Certainly enough that Absalom was considered a suitable alternative...
Outnumbered and at risk, David goes on the run. His new situation reflective of the times when Saul pursued him. All leave except ten concubines who are left behind to tend things. Perhaps this is a sign of confidence of a happy return? At any rate, it sets the stage for the prophecy of Nathan to be fulfilled, 'another man will lie with your wives in the sun' (2 Sam 12:11)
[Friday] As David leaves the city, his wits are about him. Ittai asks to come, but David tells the old man to stay behind; and Ittai pledges his everlasting faithfulness (eyes and ears inside). The priests Abiathar and Zadok appear carrying the ark. David pledges his faith in God and acceptance of the future as it unfolds (as God's will). David's unwillingness to try to "manipulate" God (taking the ark as protection) is a sign of his faith. No magic for him... However, the priests are also told to return so that they can communicate information to the fallen king.
David continues his journey, weeping and uncovered, up the Mount of Olives [Christian think on David's Heir, Jesus, and His own struggles in the same locale a millenium later]. More bad news as he learns that one of his advisors is now with Absalom. David prays for God to intervene and make the advice ineffective. Then he tells yet another faithful servant, Hushai this time, to remain behind. Hushai is tasked as the counter balance to Ahithophel (the betrayer). Note David acts so as to answer his own prayer. This is a sound principle as well. God provides but we must act so as to achieve our ends. There is no competition between us, we are to be in sync. (When praying blessings for others we should act to be a blessing for them as well. Ask God to reveal Himself to you, but pursue Him in spiritual disciplines!) The reading ends dramatically as Absalom and Hushai both enter the city; it is a preview of the fall of David's renegade son.
[Saturday] Chapter 16, Alter, following Polzin, notes the centrality of "head" in this writing. As David approaches the summit (head) of the hill he will suffer an violent verbal assault from a pro-Saul Benjaminite (Shimei; another reminder of the brewing political realities in the first Kingdom of Israel). Heads are uncovered, mourners pour dust on their heads and there is a threat to cut off Shimei's head. It is all tied together in the humiliation David, the "head" or leader---and culminates in the Absalom's head hanging in the tree!
Ziba comes bearing gifts (food and drink with some donkeys to ride) claiming that Mephibosheth has also turned on the king. [Recall he is the crippled son of Jonathan who called himself a "dead dog" in the face of David's kindness to him. "Dead dog" is what Shimei is called by David's right hand man who threatens his life; another verbal connector] It is unclear what truly happened, but (19:27) he will plead innocence of charge upon David's return. In real life, we know, we cannot always get the truth.
The fall of David is a reminder of the roller coaster ride of life. David is probably aware that his own bad choices and sin have come down upon him. He humbly accepts his fate. We are challenged to have a similar attitude in the face of our own misfortunes.