2 Sam 17.1-29 gives the account of the beginning of the demise of Absalom, contrary to the advice of Ahitophel. David’s men are better warriors and David is going to lure Absalom and his army into the wilderness to fight. David knows the terrain better than Absalom and he is drawing Absalom to a place of his choosing. As a battle strategist, David is more experienced that Absalom.
Anitophel knows this and advises Absalom to go after David now to surprise him, while he is on the run. He wants to assemble twelve thousand men so that he can pursue David. Then he says “I will come upon him while he is weary and exhausted and will terrify him so that all the people who are with him will flee. Then I will strike down the king” (2 Sam 17.1-2). Notice he says “I will strike down the king.” He knew deep in his heart that David was still the king. He does not want David to settle in and prepare for a battle, and let David choose the terrain. This is a picture of the False Messiah making war on the saints (Rev 13.7). They can scatter David and his men now by pursuing a defeated enemy. This was good advice and it pleased Absalom and the elders of Israel.
Then Absalom calls in Hushai, who was not present, to see what he thought of the plan. He said the advice of Ahitophel was not good (even though it was). He knows David is not ready for a fight, but he must make Absalom believe that he was. Remember, Hushai was there to frustrate the counsel of Ahitophel. So he tells Absalom to remember his father and his men and that they were mighty warriors and experts in warfare and would be fierce, “like a bear robbed of her cubs in the field” (v 8). He tells Absalom that if he pursues David now he is walking into a trap and he wants Absalom to think that David is not as weak as everyone thinks. Hushai knows Absalom and he knows that he is not a good warrior, at least not as good as David. Hushai knows if they go after David now, Absalom would probably win, so does not want that.
Hushai wants to appeal to Absalom’s pride and vanity and says he should wait and gather a huge army and lead them personally into battle. Hushai knows he is no general and once David finds his place to fight, he will cut Absalom’s army to pieces. What David needs right now is time and Hushai is trying to give him that time. He tells Absalom that with such a huge army he can surround him wherever he is (v 12.13).
Absalom decides that the counsel of Hushai is better than the counsel of Ahitophel because it appealed to his pride. The Lord has ordained that the good counsel of Ahitophel had to be thwarted in order that the Lord might bring about the demise of Absalom (v 14). This answers David’s prayer in 2 Sam 15.31 and proves prayer is more powerful than intelligence. Absalom’s lust for power and glory will lead to his downfall. He tries to handle more than he is capable of, and he will be destroyed as a result. In this he is also like the False Messiah (Num 24.24; 2 Thes 2.3; Rev 19.20; Ezek 32.17-32). Hitler tried to do the same thing and nothing or nobody could stop him at first. Then there came a point when nothing went right because he would not listen to the good counsel of his generals. The power behind him was thwarted by the Lord. David knew that all of this was part of God’s chastening of him, but we also see that God did not abandon him.
Hushai relayed the battle plan to Zadok and to Abiathar, and they quickly relayed the message to David. They cautioned David to not spend the night at the fords of the wilderness, but to crossover. Hushai didn’t know if his counsel would be done because they might change their minds. So the message was sent to Jonathan and Ahimaaz (“my brother is anger”) by way of a maidservant, who were staying in En-rogel (“fountain of the fullers”), just southeast of the city, just below the junction of the Valley of Hinnom and the Kidron Valley, near Tophet. They will go to David. This is real spy-craft here.
However, someone saw Jonathan and Ahimaaz enter the city and told Absalom. So the two left and went to a man in Bachurim and hid in his well. A woman took the lid and placed it over the well so that nothing was known. When Absalom’s men came to the woman they asked where Ahimaaz and Jonathan were. She said they had already crossed over the Kidron, so they returned to Jerusalem. So David and those with him crossed over the Jordan (“death”) in darkness and not one was left behind. Yeshua “crossed over” death in darkness also and was resurrected (Mark 16.1-6; Matt 28.1). Others were resurrected with him and none were left behind (Matt 27.51-53).
Ahitophel knew he had lost the advantage now and that David would win the coming battle because they had waited. So, like Judas, he strangled himself and was given an honorable burial (v 23). Now David had enough time to get to one of his strongholds in the Valley of Sukkot called Mahanaim (“two camps”). This is the same Mahanaim mentioned in Gen 32.2-10 with Jacob, and it is a few hundred yards from Peniel where Jacob wrestled with the angel, about two miles from Sukkot (Gen 33.15-17). The Jewish people will flee to this area and all way south to Petra in the birth-pains (Isa 16; Rev 12).
But Absalom and all the men of Israel also pursued and was crossing the Jordan (v 24). Absalom set Amasa over the army in place of Joab. He is the son of Jithra the Israelite, also called Yether the Ishmaelite in 1 Chr 2.17. He was an Israelite but lived among the Ishmaelites. Amasa you will remember was David’s nephew and his mother was Abigail, David’s sister (2 Sam 17.25). He commanded the reserve army under David (2 Sam 20.4-5). Absalom and the army of Israel camped in Gilead.
When David got to Mahanaim supplies were brought to him and his people. They were hungry and had left Jerusalem in a hurry to go into the wilderness. They were also weary and tired. This is a picture of the words of Yeshua in Matt 24.15-20. The False Messiah will declare that he is “Jesus the Messiah” after the Abomination of Desolation is set up, and the Jews are to flee into the wilderness quickly, not even taking the time to get a coat. They will flee with no provisions and go into the wilderness fleeing from another “Absalom” and they will be given provisions by God (Rev 12.14).
We will pick up here as David gets ready for the battle in Part 16.