2 Samuel 17 and 18: A Strategy that Appeals to Pride Leads to Death

Have you ever noticed in a movie when the camera focuses in on a certain object that gets left behind? That means that object is going to play a major role in the story down the line. Remember back in 2 Samuel 14, the description of the length of Absalom’s hair? You may have thought, what does that have to do with anything? Believe it or not, it comes into play in these next chapters. Now, I have a feeling his hair wasn’t straight as it is depicted in the drawing at the top, from Free Bible Images. I think it was curlier and bushier. In any rate, as we will see, a strategy that appeals to pride, leads to death. Let’s dig in….

2 Samuel 17

Now Ahithophel (Bathsheba’s grandfather) urged Absalom, “Let me choose 12,000 men to start out after David tonight. I will catch up with him while he is weary and discouraged. He and his troops will panic, and everyone will run away. Then I will kill only the king, and I will bring all the people back to you as a bride returns to her husband. After all, it is only one man’s life that you seek. Then you will be at peace with all the people.” This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel.

Hushai Counters Ahithophel’s Advice

But then Absalom said, “Bring in Hushai the Arkite. Let’s see what he thinks about this.” When Hushai arrived, Absalom told him what Ahithophel had said. Then he asked, “What is your opinion? Should we follow Ahithophel’s advice? If not, what do you suggest?”

“Well,” Hushai replied to Absalom, “this time Ahithophel has made a mistake. You know your father and his men; they are mighty warriors. Right now they are as enraged as a mother bear who has been robbed of her cubs. And remember that your father is an experienced man of war. He won’t be spending the night among the troops. He has probably already hidden in some pit or cave. And when he comes out and attacks and a few of your men fall, there will be panic among your troops, and the word will spread that Absalom’s men are being slaughtered. 10 Then even the bravest soldiers, though they have the heart of a lion, will be paralyzed with fear. For all Israel knows what a mighty warrior your father is and how courageous his men are.

11 “I recommend that you mobilize the entire army of Israel, bringing them from as far away as Dan in the north and Beersheba in the south. That way you will have an army as numerous as the sand on the seashore. And I advise that you personally lead the troops. 12 When we find David, we’ll fall on him like dew that falls on the ground. Then neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. 13 And if David were to escape into some town, you will have all Israel there at your command. Then we can take ropes and drag the walls of the town into the nearest valley until every stone is torn down.”

14 Then Absalom and all the men of Israel said, “Hushai’s advice is better than Ahithophel’s.” For the Lord had determined to defeat the counsel of Ahithophel, which really was the better plan, so that he could bring disaster on Absalom!

Hushai Warns David to Escape

15 Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, what Ahithophel had said to Absalom and the elders of Israel and what he himself had advised instead. 16 “Quick!” he told them. “Find David and urge him not to stay at the shallows of the Jordan River tonight. He must go across at once into the wilderness beyond. Otherwise he will die and his entire army with him.”

17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz had been staying at En-rogel so as not to be seen entering and leaving the city. Arrangements had been made for a servant girl to bring them the message they were to take to King David. 18 But a boy spotted them at En-rogel, and he told Absalom about it. So they quickly escaped to Bahurim, where a man hid them down inside a well in his courtyard. 19 The man’s wife put a cloth over the top of the well and scattered grain on it to dry in the sun; so no one suspected they were there.

20 When Absalom’s men arrived, they asked her, “Have you seen Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”

The woman replied, “They were here, but they crossed over the brook.” Absalom’s men looked for them without success and returned to Jerusalem.

21 Then the two men crawled out of the well and hurried on to King David. “Quick!” they told him, “cross the Jordan tonight!” And they told him how Ahithophel had advised that he be captured and killed. 22 So David and all the people with him went across the Jordan River during the night, and they were all on the other bank before dawn.

23 When Ahithophel realized that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey, went to his hometown, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself. He died there and was buried in the family tomb.

24 David soon arrived at Mahanaim. By now, Absalom had mobilized the entire army of Israel and was leading his troops across the Jordan River. 25 Absalom had appointed Amasa as commander of his army, replacing Joab, who had been commander under David. (Amasa was Joab’s cousin. His father was Jether, an Ishmaelite (Descendants of Ishmael, Abraham’s other son). His mother, Abigail daughter of Nahash, was the sister of Joab’s mother, Zeruiah.) 26 Absalom and the Israelite army set up camp in the land of Gilead.

27 When David arrived at Mahanaim, he was warmly greeted by Shobi son of Nahash, who came from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and by Makir son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and by Barzillai of Gilead from Rogelim. 28 They brought sleeping mats, cooking pots, serving bowls, wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans, lentils, 29 honey, butter, sheep, goats, and cheese for David and those who were with him. For they said, “You must all be very hungry and tired and thirsty after your long march through the wilderness.”

2 Samuel 17 NLT

David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains to lead them. He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”

But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us, and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”

“If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands.

And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders.

So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.

During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. 10 One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.”

11 “What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver and a hero’s belt!”

12 “I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom.’ 13 And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.”

14 “Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. 15 Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.

16 Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel. 17 They threw Absalom’s body into a deep pit in the forest and piled a great heap of stones over it. And all Israel fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to carry on my name.” He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day.

David Mourns Absalom’s Death

19 Then Zadok’s son Ahimaaz said, “Let me run to the king with the good news that the Lord has rescued him from his enemies.”

20 “No,” Joab told him, “it wouldn’t be good news to the king that his son is dead. You can be my messenger another time, but not today.”

21 Then Joab said to a man from Ethiopia, “Go tell the king what you have seen.” The man bowed and ran off.

22 But Ahimaaz continued to plead with Joab, “Whatever happens, please let me go, too.”

“Why should you go, my son?” Joab replied. “There will be no reward for your news.”

23 “Yes, but let me go anyway,” he begged.

Joab finally said, “All right, go ahead.” So Ahimaaz took the less demanding route by way of the plain and ran to Mahanaim ahead of the Ethiopian.

24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates of the town, the watchman climbed to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked, he saw a lone man running toward them. 25 He shouted the news down to David, and the king replied, “If he is alone, he has news.”

As the messenger came closer, 26 the watchman saw another man running toward them. He shouted down, “Here comes another one!”

The king replied, “He also will have news.”

27 “The first man runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok,” the watchman said.

“He is a good man and comes with good news,” the king replied.

28 Then Ahimaaz cried out to the king, “Everything is all right!” He bowed before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise to the Lord your God, who has handed over the rebels who dared to stand against my lord the king.”

29 “What about young Absalom?” the king demanded. “Is he all right?”

Ahimaaz replied, “When Joab told me to come, there was a lot of commotion. But I didn’t know what was happening.”

30 “Wait here,” the king told him. So Ahimaaz stepped aside.

31 Then the man from Ethiopia arrived and said, “I have good news for my lord the king. Today the Lord has rescued you from all those who rebelled against you.”

32 “What about young Absalom?” the king demanded. “Is he all right?”

And the Ethiopian replied, “May all of your enemies, my lord the king, both now and in the future, share the fate of that young man!”

33 The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son.”

2 Samuel 18 NLT

The Power of Free Will

  • One choice has the power to alter your life, either for the positive or for the negative.
  • Bitterness and hate blinds a person to everything good about people. Ahithophel was bitter, he hated David for what he did to his granddaughter. Yet, when his advice, centered in pride, was not accepted, he felt a failure. He could no longer face the world.
  • God knows your sin and he cares for you anyway. Even though David had sinned, he begged forgiveness. Absalom, did not.
  • Even still, sin has long-lasting repercussions.
  • Absalom should have gotten his hair cut before rebelling. Who’d have thunk it that the object of his vanity would be his downfall. Similar to Samson in a way.
  • Who do YOU trust for wise advice?

Some Wise Advice…

The majority of the Book of Proverbs was written by David’s son, Solomon. We get to his story next. However, it’s ironic that both David and Absalom could have used these words of wisdom…

Without wise leadership, a nation falls;
    there is safety in having many advisers.

Proverbs 11:14 NLT

We can make our own plans,
    but the Lord gives the right answer.

Proverbs 16:1 NLT

We can make our plans,
    but the Lord determines our steps.

Proverbs 16:9 NLT

You can make many plans,
    but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.

Proverbs 19:21 NLT

Those who plant injustice will harvest disaster,
    and their reign of terror will come to an end.

Proverbs 22:8 NLT

Pride leads to disgrace,
    but with humility comes wisdom.

Proverbs 11:2 NLT

Pride leads to conflict;
    those who take advice are wise.

Proverbs 13:10 NLT

Pride goes before destruction,
    and haughtiness before a fall.

Proverbs 16:18 NLT

Pride ends in humiliation,
    while humility brings honor.

Proverbs 29:23 NLT

The Book of Proverbs has 31 chapters. They are not arrange in any particular order. Some groupings make more sense than others. The point is, you should read the Book of Proverbs every month that has 31 days in it. Think of it as a refresher course on what leads to a good, solid, godly life. Just a suggestion.

YOU Have a Choice!

Heaven or Hell?

If you choose Heaven, you need Jesus. If you choose hell, you don’t need a thing or anyone to help you. You’re going there all by yourself. (BTW, there’s no such thing as purgatory!)

If you’re not sure if you’re saved or not, if you truly want to be born again and have the assurance of salvation, receive the Holy Spirit, and get a 1-way, non-stop ticket to Heaven after you die, or that you won’t be left behind at the Rapture, this is what you have to do…

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 in your life and surrender your life to Him.
  • Be Baptized — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift and Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

Top image by Sweet Publishing from FreeBibleImages.org, (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The King of My Heart



Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

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