Friday, June 6, 2014

Absalom (part 10)

“So the king and all the members of his royal court set out on foot” (2 Samuel 15:16a).  This is Israel’s exodus from Egypt, but applied in reverse.  It is the oppressive king that is fleeing, rather than the people.  This is the king of Israel, who represents the people, going into exile rather than leading them to and then in their promised land.  David, whether directly or indirectly, through the situation that he created by not dealing with Amnon, and by not dealing with Absalom, is delivering the people that are loyal to him into exile.  Their march is not one of exodus, in power and glory, but rather one of fear and shame.  Not all of the members of the royal household left Jerusalem however, as “the king left behind ten concubines to attend to the palace” (15:16b).  This becomes significant later on, as this allows for the fulfillment of a “prophecy” that had previously been given to David. 

Like Israel, but again in reverse, “The king and all the people set out on foot, pausing at a spot some distance away” (15:17).  This should cause a reflection upon Israel’s flight from Egypt, in that they paused at the Red Sea, and then again at the mountain of God.  It should also serve as a contrast to what it is that is happening with the two events.  Drawing attention to the fact that he knew that he was going into exile, “the king said to Ittai the Gittie, ‘Why should you come with us?  Go back and stay with the new king, for you are a foreigner and an exile from your own country… Today should I make you wander around by going with us?’” (15:19,20b) 

David asks Ittai, who already lives in a state of exile, why he wants to continue in exile.  H then uses the language of wandering, which present thoughts of Israel’s wandering in the wilderness after their faithless response to the call to enter the land of promise.  Ittai, however, refused to leave David, saying “As surely as the Lord lives and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king is, whether dead or alive, there I will be as well!” (15:21)  Clearly, not all is lost for David.  This response from Ittai seems to boost David’s spirits a bit.  Perhaps he began to think that if this man would not forsake him, then perhaps the Lord God of Israel had not completely forsaken him either. 

One must take note of a startling fact.  That fact is that the first mention of the Lord God of Israel in relation to David’s situation and in the midst of Absalom’s insurrection, comes from this foreigner Ittai who is living in exile.  It seems that David had forgotten about his Lord.  To make the point, the author does not have David mentioning his Lord since the twenty-second verse of chapter twelve, as he does so in connection with the death of the child that was born to he and Bathsheba.  As one can be sure that these books of Samuel are both historical and theological treatises, this mention of Israel’s God by Ittai is quite striking.  It seems to jar something within David. 

After this reminder of the Lord, it is said that “All the land was weeping loudly as all these people were leaving.  As the king was crossing over the Kidron valley, all the people were leaving on the road that leads to the desert” (15:23).  This is understandable.  Jerusalem, after all, is the capital of the country.  Many that lived there would have served the king in official government positions.  With David fleeing and a new king on the way, it would not be unreasonable for these people to believe themselves, at the least, as out of a job, and at the worst as liable to be put to death by Absalom so that he can appoint his own people into government positions---people that he can trust to be loyal to him and to serve him well.  Along with that, “Zadok and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the Ark of the Covenant of God” (15:24a).  For some reason, they were taking the Ark of the Covenant with them, as if somehow it was only David that could legitimate its presence there in Jerusalem, rather than the other way around, with the Ark serving to legitimate the rule of the Creator God’s people by its presence near the throne. 

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