2 Samuel 15:1-20:22 – Rebellion against David


2 Samuel 15:1-20:22


Absalom, impatient to become king himself, gathers support and foments rebellion against his father, David, forcing him to flee Jerusalem. David is emotionally torn between preserving his throne and preserving the life of his rebellious son. Upon David’s return to Jerusalem, Sheba revolts.


Chapters 15-20 are best understood as the result of David’s sin in the matter of Bathsheba and Uriah. Though his reasons for doing so are obscure, David’s flight from the city and his later return provide necessary structural clues for this long segment that consists largely of meetings, encounters, and discussions between an array of characters:

A Absalom rebels against David (15:1-12)
B David flees (15:13-31)
C David meets with loyal Hushai (15:32-37)
D David meets with Mephibosheth’s servant (16:1-4)
E David meets with Shimei (16:5-14)
F Hushai versus Ahithophel (16:15-17:14)
X Hushai’s plan (17:15-29)
F′ David versus Absalom (18:1-19:15)
E′ David meets with Shimei (19:16-23)
D′ David meets with Mephibosheth (19:24-30)
C′ David meets with loyal Barzillai (19:31-38)
B′ David returns (19:39-43)
A′ Sheba rebels against David (20:1-22)

All this, of course, is seen as the inevitable working out of the consequences of David’s sin against Bathsheba and Uriah. Earlier consequences had included the rape of his daughter by his son, that son’s murder by his half-brother who became totally alienated from his father as a result. The meager reconciliation between father and son did not last as Absalom’s utter revolt drives much of these chapters and divides the nation as much as it divides David in his conflicted roles as father and king.