This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along wit a headline from world news:
PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN MAMMAL REVEALED
2 Samuel 15:19-37
New English Translation (NET)
19 Then the king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you come with us? Go back and stay with the new king, for you are a foreigner and an exile from your own country. 20 It seems like you arrived just yesterday. Today should I make you wander around by going with us? I go where I must go. But as for you, go back and take your men with you. May genuine loyal love protect you!”
21 But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king is, whether dead or alive, there I will be as well!” 22 So David said to Ittai, “Come along then.” So Ittai the Gittite went along, accompanied by all his men and all the dependents who were with him.
23 All the land was weeping loudly as all these people were leaving. As the king was crossing over the Kidron Valley, all the people were leaving on the road that leads to the desert. 24 Zadok and all the Levites who were with him were carrying the ark of the covenant of God. When they positioned the ark of God, Abiathar offered sacrifices until all the people had finished leaving the city.
25 Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back to the city. If I find favor in the Lord’s sight he will bring me back and enable me to see both it and his dwelling place again. 26 However, if he should say, ‘I do not take pleasure in you,’ then he will deal with me in a way that he considers appropriate.”
27 The king said to Zadok the priest, “Are you a seer? Go back to the city in peace! Your son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan may go with you and Abiathar. 28 Look, I will be waiting at the fords of the desert until word from you reaches me.” 29 So Zadok and Abiathar took the ark of God back to Jerusalem and remained there.
30 As David was going up the Mount of Olives, he was weeping as he went; his head was covered and his feet were bare. All the people who were with him also had their heads covered and were weeping as they went up. 31 Now David had been told, “Ahithophel has sided with the conspirators who are with Absalom. So David prayed, “Make the advice of Ahithophel foolish, O Lord!”
32 When David reached the summit, where he used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite met him with his clothes torn and dirt on his head. 33 David said to him, “If you leave with me you will be a burden to me. 34 But you will be able to counter the advice of Ahithophel if you go back to the city and say to Absalom, ‘I will be your servant, O king! Previously I was your father’s servant, and now I will be your servant.’ 35 Zadok and Abiathar the priests will be there with you. Everything you hear in the king’s palace you must tell Zadok and Abiathar the priests. 36 Furthermore, their two sons are there with them, Zadok’s son Ahimaaz and Abiathar’s son Jonathan. You must send them to me with any information you hear.”
37 So David’s friend Hushai arrived in the city, just as Absalom was entering Jerusalem.
As soon as David is threatened and humiliated he recovers two things:
1. His big-hearted generosity, as witness his words to Ittai.
2. His cunning, as witness his arrangements with Abiathar and Hushai.
When all the trappings of power are removed from him he demonstrates the nobility of his character and his trust that if he acts skilfully, he can leave the outcome in the hands of God. The weeping of the people and their king is intended by the author to display the human cost of politics, as well as the loyal love between David and the people of Jerusalem. They are not simply contenders in a power struggle.
Nevertheless, it IS a power struggle and the author is shrewd at delineating the strengths and weaknesses of both sides. He will show how power with complacency can be overcome by weakness with skill. For the author, the humility of David leaves space for “God to make foolish the advice of Ahithophel,” (although God does this through the intervention of Hushai) whereas the arrogance of Absalom leaves no space for Ahithophel’s wisdom.
As a person sometimes given to arrogance, I know at first hand the truth of this portrayal.