A key mark of difference between Absalom and David lies in these words: “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice” (v.2). Such an arrogant and self-righteous sigh was never borne on David’s lips, and yet we are presented time and time again with Absalom’s vengeful anger (2 Samuel 13:22, 28, 32), and the only spoken words are words which enforce silence (2 Samuel 13:20) – escalating to his pompous reply though David is already the king-judge. What grand arrogance and assumption to make in v.4, when David had just redeemed Absalom into his presence in chapter 14? Instead, Absalom led people astray, he beguiled those who came to the gate, just as the enemy has done in Genesis 3:13 – and so, Absalom in the pattern of Satan has begun to steal the hearts of the men of Israel by his words and by his physical appearance in v.5-6 (2 Samuel 14:25-26). So Absalom sowed the seeds of his seduction which will soon unravel the great expulsion of the Israelites from their city, the king also being expelled as a result of Satan’s prideful seduction. This conspiracy grew strong, the hearts of men no longer following David the true king of Israel, but following Absalom the wayward prince.
It is important to note that from v.14 onwards, David’s actions are not typical of what he has been consistently doing in 1 Samuel and in previous chapters. Instead, what we see is a king protecting his people; a king who still commands people’s love – “behold, your servants are ready to do whatever my lord the king decides” (v.15). Are these the words of a charmer? No – these are the words of a king who is being banished from his own kingdom, and yet the church has decided to go out into exile with him our Christ (1 Peter 1:17). Notice the parallel between v.16
(16) So the king went out, and all his household after him…
and Hebrews 13:13 –
Heb 13:13 Therefore let us go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.
Is not the church bearing the reproach of David in leaving the city? Yet, this way only the body of Absalom and the body of David are clearly identified; only in our baptism in Christ’s death (Romans 6:4) can we avoid the second death which the deceived Israelites would ultimately experience. And note the different groups of people who followed after David in v.18 – the Cherethites, Pelethites, Gittites. These were groups of mercenary men who had followed David prior to his throning as king of Israel; and even in his banishment, these people continue to stay loyal to him, just as we follow Christ be Him pre-incarnate, humiliated as the man of Nazareth, nailed to the cross, or even glorified in his ascension. These groups of people are represented ultimately in the man Ittai the Gittite, who is ‘an exile from [his] home’ (v.19), a Gittite being a man from Gath the hometown of Goliath. Yet, instead we find a man who is with David (Ittai meaning “with me”), this non-Israelite who replies with words of allegiance:
(21) But Ittai answered the king, “As the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king shall be, whether for death or for life, there also will your servant be.” (22) And David said to Ittai, “Go then, pass on.” So Ittai the Gittite passed on with all his men and all the little ones who were with him.
It is significant that we observe the solemnity of the entire affair and yet the ark of God does not go into banishment with Christ. Instead, the ark which represents the Father (c.f. Exodus 40) stays in the city as it is absolutely key for David to return upon the LORD’s favour (v.25). Canaan is still the Promised Land; Jerusalem is still the city of peace; and this world is not destroyed entirely in favour of another one. Instead, new creation is but a renewal of the old things (Luke 5:38): and there is thus no reason for the ark of God which bears the Ten Words and Aaron’s staff (Hebrew 9:4) to go into exile with Christ. Rather, Christ’s return is to symbolize the bringing of the true church, His true body, with Him back into the centre of the Promised Land when Absalom and his deceived body are uprooted (Job 21:18; Psalm 1:4) and that the meek (Psalm 37:11) worthless Israelite and non-Israelite mercenaries inherit the land. Despite the languish of David and his men, Zadok, Ahimaaz and Jonathan (v.27-28), all of the priestly line, are to remain in the city to intercede on the true Israel’s behalf – following the pattern of the Christ who, after his ascension, is currently the High Priest interceding on our behalf (Hebrews 9) in the third heavens.
This theme of David’s return to his rightful throne, implied through the LORD’s favour in v.25, is immediately prophesied in v.30 – in his ascension of the Mount of Olives, imitating the ascension of Christ in Acts 1:12 in the same place. Yet, the time is not yet – though the priestly intercession is already portrayed by Hushai the hasty messenger and friend of David (v.37), speaking to Zadok, Abiathar and their sons Ahimaaz and Jonathan who stand in the city as a firm reminder that David is to return to the city and not remain in banishment forever. And so the chapter ends with Absalom’s arrogant self-enthronement akin to the prideful Satanic cherub of Eden (Ezekiel 28), against the humiliation of David though the true bride goes with him (2 Samuel 17:3) and the false church remains in Israel.