After they had gone, the men came up out of the well, and went and told King David. They said to David, “Arise, and go quickly over the water, for thus and so has Ahithophel counseled against you.” Then David arose, and all the people who were with him, and they crossed the Jordan. By daybreak not one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.
When Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his donkey and went off home to his own city. He set his house in order and hanged himself, and he died and was buried in the tomb of his father.
Then David came to Mahanaim. And Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. Now Absalom had set Amasa over the army instead of Joab. Amasa was the son of a man named Ithra the Ishmaelite, who had married Abigal the daughter of Nahash, sister of Zeruiah, Joab’s mother. And Israel and Absalom encamped in the land of Gilead.
When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, “The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” – 2 Samuel 17:15-29 ESV
The will of God begins to reveal itself as the story unfolds. His divine strategy becomes increasingly clearer as each detail of the narrative takes place. David had sent Hushai, one of his counselors, back to Jerusalem, with instructions to act as his spy in the court of Absalom. Specifically, Hushai was to act as a counselor to Absalom, countering any advice given by Ahithophel, another one of David’s former counselors who had betrayed him. Hushai had done as David asked and had been able to refute the counsel given by Ahithophel. Had Hushai not been there, Absalom would have listened to the advice of Ahithophel and sent 12,000 men to hunt David down. David would have been severely outmanned, exhausted by his quick departure from Jerusalem, and burdened by the presence of many defenseless women and children. Had Hushai not been there to provide alternative counsel to Absalom, things could have turned out very badly for David. But God was in control. He gave Hushai the exact words to speak that would appeal to the ego of Absalom and do the most damage to the heart of Ahithophel.
Part of Hushai’s advice to Absalom was that he assemble a massive army in order to fight one epic battle with David, and that he personally lead this army. Hushai, under the divine inspiration of God, gave counsel that stroked the massive ego of Absalom and caused him to reject the counsel of Ahithophel. And Ahithophel took this rejection very hard. So much so, that he went out and hung himself. There are those who believe that he did not do so until after the battle between David and Absalom actually took place and he knew that his days were numbered. But the text does not indicate that kind of a delay. It would appear that Ahithophel had betrayed David so that he could be the one and only counselor to the new king. He had helped Absalom plan his coup. He had gone out of his way to ingratiate himself to David’s rebellious son, because he craved power and influence. And when Hushai showed up and proved himself capable of winning over Absalom’s favor, Ahithophel couldn’t take it. So, he killed himself. Once again, God was working behind the scenes, orchestrating events in such a way that the outcomes were in David’s favor.
Even when Hushai attempted to send news to David through their network of spies, and Absalom found out, God stepped in and provided protection Jonathan and Ahimaaz. They were able to find sanctuary in the house of someone favorable to David. And, when Absalom’s men could not locate them, they were able to escape and warn David of Absalom’s plans.
David would have time to prepare for the upcoming battle with Absalom, and one of the first things he had to do was to amass enough men to field an army of his own. But God was on his side and before David knew it, the necessary forces began to show up, unannounced and uninvited. The text lists the names of Shobi, Machir, and Barzillai. These three men come alongside David, providing him with food and support. David was not alone. These men brought David physical refreshment in the form of food, but more important than that, they brought him moral support. They offered him their friendship in one of the darkest moments of his life. God was letting David know that all was not lost. This seemingly bleak period of David’s life was going to have a bright outcome. David did not know what fate the next day held, but he was confident that God was with him. Sometimes, God reveals Himself to us in the little “miracles” of life. Hushai’s counsel had been accepted by Absalom. David’s spy network had worked and God had protected Jonathan and Ahimaaz, so that they could bring David news. Food and moral support had shown up unexpectedly, but at just the right time. And, as we will see in the very next chapter, many others would lend their support to David’s cause, allowing him to field an army that numbered in the thousands.
God was at work. He is not mentioned in this section of Scripture, but His presence and power can be felt. He is at work, unseen by human eyes, but clearly evident in the way the events unfold. You can almost sense the tide turning and the momentum shifting. Absalom has been on a role. Up until this point, everything had been going his way. He could do nothing wrong. He had taken the city of Jerusalem without a fight and stolen his father’s kingdom in a bloodless coup. He had the hearts of the people and the future looked bright. But he could not see the hand of God. He was oblivious to what God was doing and what God had in store for him. Little did he know that his co-conspirator and primary counselor had hung himself. And before long, Absalom would find himself hanging by his hair from a tree. Because the hand of God is greater than the armies of man.
You can make many plans, but the LORD’s purpose will prevail. – Proverbs 19:21 NLT
The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.