2 Samuel 17
by Pastor David Groendyk
The tide begins to turn in this rebellion attempt. It would be easy to chalk up Absalom’s slow demise to strategic military mistakes, but we know better. Behind all the maneuvering, God is in control.
In verses 1–14, the duo of Absalom and Ahithophel are looking to solidify their victory over David. Ahithophel has the bright idea to pursue after David while he’s on his heels, and it actually appears as though this would have been the right choice for Absalom. However, God has other ideas. As opposed to the previous chapter, Absalom does not immediately take Ahithophel’s word for it but decides to get a second opinion. And wouldn’t you know it? That second opinion comes from David’s inside man. Here we have a case of God’s quiet, divine intervention. Ahithophel’s counsel normally had been regarded as the very words of God (2 Sam. 16:23), but for some reason on this day Absalom had second thoughts. Of course, we know that God has been in control the whole time. Even David himself had planned for an event like this (2 Sam. 5:34). But notice in what a seemingly small and insignificant way the Lord intervenes. All he does is put an innocent thought in Absalom’s head, even a thought that by most standards would be considered wise! “In an abundance of counselors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14). The Lord, however, had ordained on this day to defeat Ahithophel (v. 14) and begin the overthrow of Absalom. Ralph Davis summarizes the lesson for us well: “More often than not that is the manner of God’s work. His scepter is unseen, his sovereignty hidden behind the conversations and decisions and activities and crises of our lives. We see only grocery lines and diaper changes and school assignments; but through and over and behind it all Yahweh rules. He is not absent but neither is he obvious.” Never lose faith in the Lord’s reign and rule. Through the struggles and monotony and overwhelming things in life, God is still there at work.
The Lord’s quiet sovereignty and intervention continue throughout the rest of this chapter as David is provided for in every way he needs, and while I believe the Lord’s quiet sovereignty is the main lesson from the whole of this chapter, there is also a fascinating connection to Jesus in verse 23. A close friend of God’s anointed king hangs himself after betraying his friend and king. Does that sound familiar? Ahithophel must certainly have been one of David’s closest friends and part of his inner circle given the fact that his counsel was like God’s own words. And remember in the early stages of this coup, it was specifically pointed out both to us as readers and to David that Ahithophel had also left him (2 Sam. 15:12, 31). The betrayal surely hit David hard. Some commentators have suggested that Psalm 41 was written by David after this coup attempt by Absalom. Psalm 41:9 says, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (Psalm 55:12–14 is another interesting parallel.) This verse is quoted once in the New Testament. It’s in John 13:18 where Jesus is at the Last Supper with his disciples and speaks plainly of Judas betraying him. Just as Ahithophel will see his own doom written on the wall when his counsel is forsaken and so hang himself, so does Judas recognize his own error and hang himself in despair after betraying Jesus. But even though both Ahithophel’s and Judas’ betrayals led to great evils being done against God’s anointed, both were overthrown and defeated in the end, and both were used to an even greater end that led to God’s glory. God is always the victorious one, and he is always actively working to defeat every last one of our enemies until that final day (1 Cor. 15:25–26).