“A flattering mouth worketh ruin.”
THE chastisements of God fell very heavily upon David from the time of his great sin, even to the end of his life. His children became the source of his trials. Amnon fell into the foulest sin, and Absalom his brother slew him on account of it. Absalom having obtained forgiveness for the murder, returned to the court and commenced at once to plot against his own father, who loved him far too well. In his attempts to undermine his father’s authority he acted very cunningly, using every art to win popular applause.
2 Samuel 15:1–12
1 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. (Outward pomp often catches the attention of the populace, and therefore Absalom added to the attraction of his own handsome person the unusual magnificence of chariots and running footmen.)
2, 3 And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.
4 Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!
5 And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.
Absalom’s ambition led him to take great pains to appear affable and attentive to all. He was early at the palace gate and spoke with all suitors, being “hail-fellow well met” with them all. He flattered each one that his cause was good, and pretended to regret that justice was much neglected; and applicants were kept waiting. If he were king, matters would be seen to at once, and no one should have to complain of delay or injustice. Everybody said “What a courteous prince! What a just and careful ruler Absalom would be!”
6 And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
The hearts of the people were not won, but stolen, for the vain young prince deceived them. While pretending such zeal for their welfare, he was only advancing his own traitorous schemes.
7, 8 And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the Lord, in Hebron. For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the Lord shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord.
To crown all his other deceit, Absalom pretended to be exceedingly devout, and declared that he must make a pilgrimage to Hebron, in order to keep a holy vow which he had made in the days of his exile. He is a bad man indeed who uses religion as a stalking horse for his base ambition.
9 And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron.
10, 11 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron. And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.
These persons accompanied Absalom to join with him in his devotions, and out of respect for the king’s son; but they were not in the secret of the plot. Absalom, however, used their presence for his own ends, by making the common people believe that these honourable men had left David and gone over to his rebel son.
12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.
Ahithophel was the intimate friend as well as the counsellor of David; but he appears to have selfishly gone over to the faction of the young prince, because he judged it to be stronger than the party of the king. Thus David was brought into sore distress, his friends were forsaking him, his enemy was growing stronger and aiming to dethrone him; and worst of all, that enemy was his favourite son. What mists and black days befell David after he so sadly swerved from the way of holiness.
C. H. Spurgeon, The Interpreter: Spurgeon’s Devotional Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1964), 286.