18 July 2016

2 Samuel 15:13-31

"But Ittai answered the king, 'As the Lord lives, and as my Lord the king lives, wherever my Lord the king may be, whether for death or for life, there also your servant will be.'" (v. 21)

Psalm: Psalm 119:65-80


This chapter tells of Prince Absalom's rebellion against his father, King David. (You may find it helpful for read it from verse 1.) Absalom has been in exile from the court for three years following the set up of his elder brother Amnon's murder (see 2 Samuel 13). Amnon had raped their sister, Tamar, and Absalom had revenged her. He has returned and been publicly reconciled to his father the king. Now there is the long, patient lead up to his father's overthrow.

Absalom's political manoeuvres to steal "the hearts of the people" could come right of a news account of party politics today. With a strategy worked out over years he gradually undermined the people's confidence in King David's ability to govern effectively. He was devious and suggested himself as an alternative so that people would think they had thought of it themselves.

There may be nothing new in politics, but there is something new in this passage. David, ever the realist, removed his officials from the city of Jerusalem to avoid slaughter when he realised what Absalom was doing. He saw that a foreigner, Ittai, had also brought his households into this exile and told him to turn back and save himself. Ittai refused, giving his loyalty to David, the Lord's anointed.

Amidst all the bloodshed and conflict of this story there is a ray of hope: Ittai has a lesson to teach about what it is to follow God and God's anointed one. His is an example of great loyalty and faithfulness, despite his household not being in the Hebraic covenant. The message is not that God's anointed can do no wrong, but that the love of God is for all people despite our worst failures to live up to that promise.

The challenge for us today is to extend the scope of whom we think is 'in the club', remembering that God is for all. We will share the benefit of grace together, and the cost.

To Ponder

  • If you were in Ittai's shoes, would you have turned back?
  • Was it right that Ittai choose loyalty to David over safety for his "little ones"? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Dr Jennifer Smith

Revd Dr Jennifer Smith is a Methodist minister, and superintendent of the Ealing Trinity Circuit in the London District. Though resident in the UK since 1993, she is a US citizen and continues to observe US political and religious culture with interest.