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2 Samuel 15 Part 2

In the first segment of this study of 2 Samuel 15 we proposed that this chapter develops the theme that the ability to make right judgments has an integral connection with the location of one’s faith. Implicit through the chapter are many questions.

Is David a faithful servant of the LORD? The Absalom conspiracy creates a crisis which probes the fidelity of David to Yahweh and examines the suitability of David to remain as the king of Israel. Can the kingdom continue to be entrusted to the judgments of David? Is David a trustworthy steward to serve as the king of Israel?[1] The answers uncovered in the flight from the city reveal that David’s faith is in the LORD and the LORD alone. He seeks salvation from no one else and in nothing else, his decisions and actions form one, united plea: ‘LORD, save me!’ Psalm 20 is attributed to David and may well express a direct commentary on this day of peril as he finds his reign under its fiercest attack.

 ‘Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God. They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright. O LORD, save the king! May he answer us when we call.’[2]

From the opening reference to Absalom’s chariot and horses, 2 Samuel 15 poses a vital question for David regarding the location of his heart. Where does his heart reside? In what does he trust? In a chapter which revolves around questions of trust and friendship, the fundamental question facing David is whether he believes the LORD can be relied upon in this time of urgent need. Does David turn to the LORD and believe that the LORD is his friend? The desperation of his plight allows no room for pretence or hypocrisy. In the crisis, David’s heart is fully exposed. The actions, decisions and prayer of David in 2 Samuel 15 confirm David’s heartfelt desire for the LORD’s righteous judgment above all else. It is the desire which is worthy of the servant of the kingdom of Israel whose distinguishing marks are steadfast love and faithfulness (15:20). Most importantly, from the LORD’s perspective, David’s response in the crisis provides criteria to make a sound judgment as to whether it is wise for David to be counted as a trustworthy friend of Yahweh, the King of Israel.


[1] The term steward is not used in 2 Sam 15, however, the appearance of the steward Ziba in 2 Sam 16 will raise the issue of what it is to be a true servant to one’s master. The crisis of a steward’s dismissal is the theme of Luke 16:1-9 which is followed by warnings about faithful service. The apostle Paul expresses the essence of what it is to be a faithful steward in 2 Timothy 1:12: ‘I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.’

[2] Psalm 20:7-9. The word translated ‘trust’ in Ps 20:7 is the verb zakar ‘ to remember’. It is also used in Ps 20:3. In 2 Samuel this verb is used on three occasions: 14:11, 18:18 and 19:19.

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2 Samuel 15 Part 1 – A Chariot and Horses

Introduction               Chariot and horses – the mark of the king?

‘After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses…’ (2 Samuel 15:1)

2 Samuel 15 opens with Absalom, the king’s son, who was restored to his father’s favour in the previous chapter, acquiring ‘a chariot and horses’. It is no small matter for Absalom to have fifty men running before him and his new acquisitions, for it is the very action of the king of Israel as prophesied by Samuel when Israel first sought for a king.[1]  While Absalom has gained the accoutrements of his era indicative of royalty, the drive and direction of the rest of 2 Samuel 15 will be to describe the loss and absence of any such symbols of royal prerogative for his father, King David. The chariot and horses serve not only to indicate Absalom’s power but are suggestive of where Absalom’s trust lies. By contrast, they also allude to a key question implicit through the chapter, namely, where does David place his confidence? There are no chariots or horses for David when he flees from Jerusalem, indeed his ascent up the Mount of Olives is not only on foot, his feet are bare (15:30). He has no royal trappings in which to find security. The flight from Jerusalem exposes his complete lack of any material comfort or tangible support. The Absalom crisis poses most starkly the predicament for David as to where – in what or in whom – he might place his trust. Many possibilities lie open before David as he receives the news of his son’s conspiracy. What is he to do now? The king’s wisdom, or lack thereof, is revealed in the judgments he makes during this period of turmoil which threatens total calamity for him and the future of his reign.

The crisis has its roots in the complaint of Absalom who challenges and questions the reliability of the king as a judge for the men of Israel (15:1-6). The news of the son’s rebellion brings an intensely personal significance for the king in his judgment capabilities (15:13-14). From this moment, every judgment of the king is a decision affecting his own well-being and salvation. In addition, those who choose to remain loyal to King David despite the circumstances also find that their own security is intimately connected to the king’s judgments. A decision to remain with David is an expression not only of loyalty but also of confidence in David’s wisdom and in his ability to make the right call. Their choice intensifies for David the question of whether their confidence is well-founded, for choosing to remain a friend of the king in this precarious time involves huge personal sacrifice. Is it a wise option to remain loyal to David at this time? Most critical of all is the penetrating analysis the crisis demands of David himself and the foundations of his throne. In what has David placed his trust? What security is there for the future of the Davidic reign?

The dramatic news of the Absalom conspiracy forces David to make decisive judgments even as his own faith is being tested to the utmost limit. Does this king of Israel have a secure foundation, anything trustworthy and reliable, which can stand up to the assault of the one who comes against him trusting in chariots and horses? In this respect, the purpose of 2 Samuel 15 is to expose the fact that David’s confidence lies in nothing which is material or even visible. David does not seek refuge in the instruments of might and power of his age, nor is his security found in turning to the royal treasures or valued currencies of his day. Without such tangible and visible security, how then can David be assured of his capacity to make correct judgments? David only knows that complete assurance after his judgment calls are made. Despite this, the narrative reveals that his faith is expressed by a certitude which is entirely consistent with such  an assurance. This reflects the fact that David’s confidence in his capacity to judge rests on the faithfulness of the Lord to make the right judgment of his plight. In this way 2 Samuel 15 develops the theme that the ability to make right judgments has an integral connection with the location of one’s faith.


[1] ‘So Samuel told all the words of the LORD…He said, ‘These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: ‘he will take your sons and appoint them…to run before his chariots.’ ” (1 Sam 8:10-11).