TRAITORS, TREASON AND TREACHERY
A Psalm of David, when he fled from Absalom his son:
"LORD, how are they increased that trouble me! many are they that rise up against me. Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But thou, O LORD, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head. I cried unto the LORD with my voice, and he heard me out of his holy hill. Selah. I laid me down and slept; I awaked; for the LORD sustained me. I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people that have set themselves against me round about. Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God: for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone; thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly. Salvation belongeth unto the LORD: thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah" (Psalms 3).
The revolt against David
Not only was David's own son Absalom a traitor, but he was joined by Sheba and Shimei, men who wanted to further their own agenda's. Add to these deceptive characters, Ziba, a servant of Mephibosheth, whose goal was to have the kingdom of King Saul. These men owed their livelyhood to the king, and yet they thumbed their noses at him and his protection.
What is a traitor? Why throughout history were they punishable by death in any country in the world? Treason is a crime which undermines the offender's government. It is disloyalty by virtue of subversive behavior. It is a deliberate betrayal. It is treachery against the authorities set up by God.
Treason has usually been punishable by death even in modern times, although recently some traitors have been allowed to leave the country which they betray and never come back. The US Constitution (1791) states, "No person shall be convicted of Treason unless on the Testimony of two Witnesses to the same overt Act, or on Confession in open court." (Notice the allusion to Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; 2 Corinthians 13:1; 1 Timothy 5:19; Hebrews 10:28.)
Other common words for treason are: breach of promise, breach of trust, breach of faith, disloyalty, apostasy, faithlessness and betrayal. These are all words with which we are familiar. Have we not seen such actions in every walk of life?
When an unfaithful spouse betrays the other in the marriage vows and commits adultery against the mate, what should the punishment be? Under the Old Testament law, the adulterous mate would have been put to death at the mouth of two witnesses. Should we not take more seriously the crime of betrayal in any covenant? May God help us to see the seriousness of being treacherous and breaking our marriage contracts.
"Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously" (Malachi 2:14-16).
The name, Ahithophel, means "brother of foolishness." From studying the account in scripture, we know that Ahithophel was the real leader of the rebellion Absalom carried out against his father David. He is described as "the king's counselor," in a context connected with events some of which are dated in "the fortieth year of David" (1 Chronicles 27:33-34; also compare 26:31).
Ahithophel had a reputation for marvelous practical sagacity.
"And the counsel of Ahithophel, which he counseled in those days, was as if a man had inquired at the oracle of God: so was all the counsel of Ahithophel both with David and with Absalom" (2 Samuel 16:23).
He did not show keen intuitive judgment in joining the conspiracy but it is quite evident in his management of the affair. Ahithophel apparently believed his own popularity would bring success to Absalom's revolt. Possibly sensing a chance to rise to power himself, Ahithophel advised Absalom to take David's concubines and defile them on the roof top of the palace itself -- an act equivalent to claiming the throne.
"Then said Absalom to Ahithophel, Give counsel among you what we shall do. And Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Go in unto thy father's concubines, which he hath left to keep the house; and all Israel shall hear that thou art abhorred of thy father: then shall the hands of all that are with thee be strong" (2 Samuel 16:20-21).
Ahithophel also advised Absalom to pursue and kill David, who had fled Jerusalem. According to the record, the hearts of the people were fully with David. Absalom's only chance of success in usurping the kingdom was by the method of surprise and stampede, which Ahithophel proposed. There had to be a crisis in which everybody would join Absalom because everybody thought that everybody else had done so. Naturally a state of public confusion could last only a few days. But if, during that time, David could be killed, Absalom might claim the throne by virtue of his personal popularity.
The first part of the program was carried out with wonderful success.
"And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David's counselor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom" (2 Samuel 15:12).
"And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness" (2 Samuel 15:31).
But when it came to the second part, Ahithophel's practical wisdom was blocked by Hushai's counsel.
"Moreover Ahithophel said unto Absalom, Let me now choose out twelve thousand men, and I will arise and pursue after David this night: And I will come upon him while he is weary and weak handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only: And I will bring back all the people unto thee: the man whom thou seekest is as if all returned: so all the people shall be in peace. And the saying pleased Absalom well, and all the elders of Israel" (2 Samuel 17:1-4).
"And Ahithophel was the king's counselor: and Hushai the Archite was the king's companion" (1 Chronicles 27:33).
Absalom chose to listen to Hushai, who advised the prince not to pursue his father.
"And when Hushai was come to Absalom, Absalom spake unto him, saying, Ahithophel hath spoken after this manner: shall we do after his saying? if not; speak thou. And Hushai said unto Absalom, The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time" (2 Samuel 17:6-7).
"And Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite is better than the counsel of Ahithophel. For the LORD had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that the LORD might bring evil upon Absalom. Then said Hushai unto Zadok and to Abiathar the priests, Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of Israel; and thus and thus have I counseled" (2 Samuel 17:14-15).
When Absalom did not take Ahithophel's advice, Ahithophel knew that the rebellion was doomed. He saw clearly that Absalom had sacrificed his one opportunity for success, so he put his household in order and hanged himself to avoid participation in the shameful defeat which could not be averted.
"And when Ahithophel saw that his counsel was not followed, he saddled his ass, and arose, and gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his household in order, and hanged himself, and died, and was buried in the sepulchre of his father" (2 Samuel 17:23).
As Absalom was growing up, he must have been a delight to both his father and his mother. The scriptures say he had physical beauty and personal charisma far beyond anyone else in the kingdom.
"But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him. And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year's end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king's weight" (2 Samuel 14:25-26).
His mother was Maacah the daughter of Talmai king of Geshur (2 Samuel 3:3). What a delight it would be for any parent to envision the potential of such a child as Absalom. However, it appears that Absalom allowed himself to become proud of his ability or his appearance and that pride eventually destroyed him.
The first glimpse we have of Absalom is when he seeks vengeance for the defilement and rejection of his beautiful sister Tamar (2 Samuel 13:1-39). Another son of David had fallen in love with Tamar and longed for her so much that an evil friend arranged that he should entice her to commit fornication with him. Tamar was not to be enticed by such immorality, so Amnon forced her -- afterward casting her away with more vehement feelings of hatred than his first passion for her. Her life was ruined because she was no longer a virgin daughter of the king. The Mosaic Law would have provided punishment for her attacker if only Absalom had obeyed the law and let his father and the priests have time to do their work.
The law made clear that what had been done to Tamar was wrong (see Leviticus 18:9-11; compare with Leviticus 20:17), but what Amnon did was still not punishable by death because Tamar had not been betrothed to anyone. If he had done the right thing according to the law, he could have married her. No doubt King David as well as the whole nation of Israel were waiting to see whether Amnon would repent and marry the virgin whom he had defiled.
"But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her: then the man only that lay with her shall die: But unto the damsel thou shalt do nothing; there is in the damsel no sin worthy of death: for as when a man riseth against his neighbor, and slayeth him, even so is this matter: For he found her in the field, and the betrothed damsel cried, and there was none to save her. If a man find a damsel that is a virgin, which is not betrothed, and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found; Then the man that lay with her shall give unto the damsel's father fifty shekels of silver, and she shall be his wife; because he hath humbled her, he may not put her away all his days" (Deuteronomy 22:25-29).
When Amnon thrust her away after committing his evil act, Tamar tore her clothes and put ashes on her head to show her grief. She begged Amnon to cover the shame by making her his wife.
"And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee" (2 Samuel 13:13).
But Amnon did not do his duty by Tamar, nor did Absalom wait for the law to take its course. He took the law into his own hands and killed his brother. Afterward he fled to the protection of his maternal grandfather for the next three years.
"But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day. So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And the soul of King David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead" (2 Samuel 13:37-39).
David's beautiful son did not follow the law, and thus he became a murderer. Who would ever have dreamed that a beautiful son whom David had loved could cause such grief? No doubt David wept for his soul. Not only would David want to be with this son, but most of all he also would want to see him obey the heavenly father in order to save his soul. No doubt David mourned more for the folly Absalom had committed than for his absence.
When our children go astray, nobody in the world grieves as much as we do. Nights and days are consumed with tears and thoughts of despair. There is never as much pain over a lost soul as there is for a son or daughter who goes astray.
The next time we see Absalom, is after Joab tricks David into bringing him back into the kingdom. Joab actually pulled a series of tricks to force David to be reconciled with Absalom whether he had repented or not. And once David had given his word (even though he had been deceived), he did not go back on it. David allowed Absalom to return to Jerusalem, where he was able to carry out his treacherous plans.
"And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. 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. 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! 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. 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. 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. And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron" (2 Samuel 15:1-9).
Finally, the day came when the situation was ripe for Absalom to carry out a coup to take the kingdom away from his father. Even though David had done nothing worthy of such treatment, nor was he an unrighteous king, Absalom obviously despised him and coveted his position. Perhaps it was envy. Maybe it was pride combined with jealousy, but whatever it was, Absalom was totally wrong to have the loathing for David that he had. Little did he know that God would kill him for his evil against his father.
"And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom. And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword. And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint. And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house" (2 Samuel 15:13-16).
Absalom is defeated
David mustered his men and sent out three groups to put down the rebellion. David commanded his soldiers not to harm Absalom. He obviously wanted to spare his life so that there could be time for him to repent. David loved Absalom deeply, and his love caused him to accept shame at Absalom's hand rather than retaliate. David could easily have put down the rebellion by having Absalom killed, but he would rather suffer wrong at his hand than to cause him to lose his soul in death. Finally, when the news of victory was brought to David, the first thing he asked was for the welfare of his traitorous son.
"And the king said unto Cushi, Is the young man Absalom safe? And Cushi answered, The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is. And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!" (2 Samuel 18:32-33).
The death of Absalom was no comfort to David, because he knew that Absalom was not in a right relationship with God. David would far rather have given up his own life and left Absalom to live, because in life there is hope. In Absalom's death, there was no hope for his repentance.
What does God think of a child who lifts his hand against his father or mother? For further study, read: Leviticus 20:9; Deuteronomy 5:16; 21:18-21; 27:16. Finally, consider the very plain New Testament teaching on the topic of respect for the parents God has given us.
"For God commanded, saying, Honor thy father and mother: and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death" (Matthew 15:4; Mark 7:10).
Sheba was a traitor, deserving to be punished by death. 2 Samuel, chapter 20 gives full details of his treachery, and from that reading we can know that such things were as common then as they are in the world today. Not only does this happen in governments, but it also happens in the church as well.
After Absalom had failed in his attempt to usurp the throne from David, Sheba must have felt that the "time was ripe" to gather the revolutionaries to himself. He thought to do what Absalom had failed to do. He must have reasoned that David was unfit to rule and that the majority of the people would want a new king, but his reasoning was flawed at best.
However, there was a wise woman of Abel, a city to which Sheba had fled, who saved her people. Joab and the men of David had begun to fight against this town because the people there were harboring a criminal (2 Samuel 20:15). A certain wise woman made an appeal to Joab (20:16, 17), which showed good diplomacy as well as loyalty to the kingdom of Israel (20:18, 19).
Joab’s reply to her was that their only interest in burning the city and killing its inhabitants was to bring the traitor harbored there to justice (20:20, 21). At that point she promised to throw down Sheba's head as proof of their loyalty (20:21). Notice what she did in her wisdom, and notice Joab’s response (20:22). Much bloodshed was avoided because this woman was brave enough to stand alone and be counted.
We would do well to follow her behavior in revealing the "traitors" in the church today. There are those who would destroy us from within and who would "take the kingdom" from the people of God. Can we save our "city?" Should we stand idly by while the traitors destroy the people of God?
Published in The Old Paths Archive