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2 Samuel 15 Part 5 – Hebron

March 17, 2011 Leave a comment

Hebron and the anointed 15:7-12

             It is curious that Absalom goes to Hebron[1] as this is a city of refuge where the fugitive may flee. The repetition of Absalom’s ‘vowing a vow’ in 15:7-8 begs the question: What did Absalom promise? It is most likely that the phrase recalls Jacob’s own experience of exile and the vow he made to God when he was at Bethel (Gen 28:20-22). Jacob’s vow is conditional upon returning to his father’s house in peace and when Jacob is finally reunited with his father, Isaac, that reunion occurs at Hebron (Gen 35:27).[2] It was to the city of Hebron that the LORD instructed David to go after the death of Saul (2:1). Hebron was where David was first recognized as king by his own tribe, Judah.

Absalom’s visit to Hebron raises a further question for both Judah and Israel which gains its impetus from the judgment issue. Who has the anointing of the Lord? The father or the son; Absalom or David? After all, if it was at Hebron that David was anointed by the tribe of Judah (2:1-7), then why might that not be the case for Absalom now? When the trumpet sounds and the people declare that Absalom is king at Hebron (15:10), the identity of the Lord’s anointed is brought into question.[3] In his prophetic rebuke of King David, Nathan had stated that it was the Lord who both anointed David as the king over Israel and delivered David out of the hand of Saul (12:7). The announcement of the conspiracy brings David’s identity into question and under attack. Is he the anointed one? Or is Absalom the anointed one? Who is the Lord’s anointed? With whom does the future of the kingdom of Israel lie – father or son?

Similar questions dominated the narrative of Samuel during the reign of King Saul. Although Saul had been anointed as the king and had reigned over Israel for forty years, from the time of his own anointing by Samuel, David knew that he himself was the anointed one who was destined to rule Israel. That had been his messianic secret which he had held on to by faith and that knowledge was first vindicated at Hebron. The fact that Absalom’s proclamation as king is made in Hebron (15:10) raises most sharply the question for David himself: is there a messianic secret of which he has been unaware?[4] Is he blind to the truth like Saul was? And if so, how is he to respond to that? How was David to know whether or not the same scenario was now unfolding for him as occurred with the first King of Israel?

There was little which would give David assurance that his throne was secure. But there were some significant indicators from which a man of wisdom might gain hope. The first factor was that David had not been anointed king in Hebron until Saul had died. David’s own rise to the throne was always with the utmost respect for Saul as the Lord’s anointed.[5] Absalom appears to be moving prematurely especially if the mark of the anointed is to wait on the LORD, which was the lesson to be drawn from the failure of Saul in 1 Samuel 13. Second, David has the word of the prophet Nathan that he, himself, is the anointed of the LORD – a word spoken even after his fall from grace (12:7). ‘You are the man!’ was the stinging rebuke of Nathan and before the Lord on the Mount of Olives that is all that David will be. The man who has nothing but the word of promise – that he is the anointed one.


[1] The significance of Hebron will be discussed with respect to the later examination of 2 Samuel 14. That chapter refers to ‘the avenger of blood’ (14:11) which is a subject closely connected to a city like Hebron. As Hebron was a city of refuge, the departure of Absalom from that city’s boundaries was most dangerous in light of the warning of Numbers 35:25-28. Absalom’s ancestor, Talmai, has the same name as one of the giants of renown of Hebron may indicate another connection of his family with that city (Num 13:22 and Jdg 1:10).

[2] The time reference in 15:7 is ominous in light of the warning of delaying fulfillment of one’s vows to God in Deut 23:21-23.

[3] This perspective is not expressed explicitly until 2 Samuel 19:10.

[4] The phrase ‘Messianic secret’ is often used with respect to commentary on the Gospel of Mark, however, the Markan secrecy theme has clear parallels with the rise of David to the throne especially during his flight from Saul in 1 Samuel.

[5] See for example 1 Samuel 26:23.

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Categories: 2 Samuel 15, Absalom, David, Hebron