Having made this crossing of the Jordan (leaving the Promised Land), Absalom will never cross back. It is not insignificant that Absalom’s crossing of the Jordan coincides with blessings beginning to come David’s way. It is reported that “When David came to Mahanaim,” men came to him and “brought bedding, basins, and pottery utensils. They also brought food for David and all who were with him, including wheat, barley, flour, roasted grain, beans, lentils, honey, curds, flocks, and cheese” (2 Samuel 17:27a,28-29a).
Remarkably (or perhaps not so remarkably), this provision of food and supplies for David and the people with him sounds like what is to be found in the twenty-eighth chapter of Deuteronomy. There, along with the copious listing of curses that will come upon the covenant God’s people for failure to adhere to the terms of the covenant, one also finds the promise of blessings. It is written: “If you indeed obey the Lord your God and are careful to observe all His commandments… the Lord your God will elevate you above all the nations of the earth. All these blessings will come to you in abundance if you obey the Lord your God: You will be blessed in the city and blessed in the field. Your children will be blessed, as well as the produce of your soil, the offspring of your livestock, the calves of your herds, and the lambs of your flocks. Your basket and your mixing bowl will be blessed. You will be blessed when you come in and blessed when you go out” (28:1-6). One can almost certainly imagine David reflecting upon these promised blessings as he receives the items that are being brought to him at Mahanaim.
If he is thinking in such ways, then it is at this point that he knows that his God has turned things in his favor, that truly he is still the anointed one of Israel, and that Absalom should not have raised his hand (or contemplated raising his hand) against him. After contemplating the blessings related to sustenance, David could go on to consider what follows in Deuteronomy, which is “The Lord will cause your enemies who attack you to be struck down before you; they will attack you from one direction but flee from you in seven different directions… The Lord will designate you as His holy people just as He promised you… Then all the peoples of the earth will see that you belong to the Lord, and they will respect you” (28:7,9-10). It is after he receives the gifts that, for him, could serve to indicate the return of the Creator God’s favor and to remind him of the anointing and promise of his God that had been placed upon his life and his rule, that “David assembled the army that was with him. He appointed leaders of thousands and leaders of hundreds. David then sent out the army” (18:1-2a).
David knew that Israel’s God was going to be with him and that his return to the throne was now but a foregone conclusion. With full knowledge that the change of events was instigated by Absalom’s agreement to unnecessarily raise his hand in violence against his father, when David sends out the army he says “For my sake deal gently with the young man Absalom” (18:5b). This, of course, does not happen, as Joab, David’s general (who has no fear of reprisal from David for a variety of reasons), has Absalom executed at the first opportunity to do so, which presented itself relatively quickly. In fact, Absalom was struck down in the very first military engagement of his kingship, which is extraordinarily telling. As was said before, once Absalom crossed the Jordan, thus departing from his exodus and going into exile, he would never cross back. The only thing that was waiting for him on the other side was the completion of the curses of exile, which was death---dragged into the subjugation of creation’s great and foreign power.