So had the Lord destroyed the opposition and delivered His servant. The danger of his perishing by the sword of his enemies had thus been removed. However, there is yet another aspect of the salvation that was sent him that must not be overlooked. In the words of Ahimaaz, the priest (), the Lord had judged him from the hands of his enemies. This is a side to the gracious working of God in behalf of His servant that must be seen.
As was explained, looking at his past gross sins, the enemies concluded that David was the vilest of men, an accursed one, whose portion was with the damned. And as was shown with the Scriptures, all his confessions of sin and tears of contrition could not make them to change their minds about him. All it proved to them was that he was a consummate hypocrite. For they wanted him wicked.
But his enemies could not stop here. If he was that kind of man, he must still be walking in all manner of wickedness in secret, behind the closed doors of his palace. That this was the view they took of him is again plain from his Psalms. “I was a reproach,” he was accustomed to complain, “among all mine enemies, but especially among mine friends, and a fear to my acquaintance; they that did see me without fled from me. I am forgotten as a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel. For I have heard the slander of many: fear was on every side: while they too counsel together against me, they devised to take my life” (). “False witnesses did rise up; they laid to my charge things that I knew not…in mine adversity they rejoiced, and gathered themselves together: yea the abjects gathered themselves together against me, and I knew it not; they did tear me and ceased not: with hypocritical mockers in the feasts, they gnashed upon me with their teeth” ( ). “Mine enemies speak evil of me, when shall he die and his name perish? And if he (the enemy) come to see me (came to see David in his distress), he speaketh vanity (his expressions of sympathy were mockery): his heart gathereth iniquity to itself (the enemy perverted his words into evil); when he goeth out of (my) house, he telleth it. All that hate me whisper together against me: against me do they devise hurt” ( ).
But in answer to his cry the Lord took the side of
His reviled, persecuted and slandered servant. The defeat of Absalom shamed his enemies and silenced them. It put them in the wrong and David in the right. It declared as well as words could that he was righteous in Christ, and thus holy and blameless before God in love, that his penitence was genuine, that God delighted in him accordingly, would raise him up from the dust of death unto which He had brought him, would restore him to his throne, so that it would again be given him to behold the beauties of the Lord in His holy temple as king in Zion.
So had the Lord judged His servant indeed, openly pronounced him just in the audience of angels, men, and devils, and judged him, mark you well, from the hand of his enemies. This has reference to their destruction by which gracious working the Lord manifested that he was just and his enemies guilty and condemned before Him, in His court, and according to His unerring judgment and verdict.
As has already been shown with the Scriptures, these events and experiences in the life of David, king In Zion, were predictive as shadows of things to come. In their totality they may be likened to a glass through which we see, darkly, the realities of the gospel. We see Christ suffering and dying for the sins of His people outside the gate of the holy city, overcoming by the travail of His soul all their foes—sin, Satan, hell, death and the grave—and consecrating thereby a new and living way to the sanctuary and the Father, raised from the dead and exalted at the Father’s right hand in the highest heavens, and His reviled and persecuted people, set in heavenly places with Him, at His second coming raised up by Him from the dead unto life everlasting, and by the destruction of the adversary and final passing away of this world openly justified in the ears of angels, devils and men.
That David himself as enlightened by the Spirit of prophecy had understanding of this is plain from the final section of his Psalm (). Having
cried to the Lord to save him from the dogs that had encompassed him, and from the assembly of the wicked by which he was enclosed (ver. 16), and having voiced his firm conviction that the Lord would hearken unto his cry and send deliverance (ver. 24), he concluded his prayer with a prophecy to which he prefixed a short hymn of praise:
My praise shall be of thee in the great congregation: I will pay my vows before them that fear him.
The meek shall eat and be satisfied: they shall praise the Lord that seek him: your heart shall live forever.
All the ends of the world shall remember and turn unto the Lord: and all the kindreds of the nations shall worship before thee.
For the kingdom is the Lord’s: and he is the governor among the nations.
All they that be fat upon the earth shall worship: all they that go down to the dust shall bow before him: and none shall keep his soul alive.
A seed shall serve him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation.
They shall come, and shall declare his righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that he hath done this.
The tidings of the defeat of the adversary had now to be reported to David. Ahimaaz the son of the high priest Zadok insisted that Joab authorize him to do the reporting. We remember this warrior priest. In cooperation with the two high priest and Jonathan the son of Abiathar he had kept even at the risk of his life the fleeing king informed as to the progress of the revolution in Jerusalem. For he was a good man. It seems that with heart and soul he was devoted to David and the cause of God that he represented. But he was hasty and impulsive and inclined to be unrealistic in his thinking. Nor as we shall see was his courage always equal to his zeal. The last time we met him on the pages of holy writ he was with David in the plains of the wilderness, whither he had hastened to tell the king how Ahithophel had advised, and to urge him to cross the Jordan with his people that same night. Instead of returning to Jerusalem, he had followed the king across the river to Mahanaim. Thence he had gone with David’s people to the battle, stayed with them when they recrossed the Jordan in pursuit of Absalom’s fleeing forces, as all the while keeping close to Joab, it must be.
Here we find him imploring Joab for permission to report to the king. He loved David and wanted so badly to be the one to gladden his heart with the good news that the Lord in His mercy had delivered him out of the hand of his enemies. The king would be overjoyed. He would be certain to respond to such tidings with a song of praise instantly. So Ahimaaz must have imagined. What he seemed to be overlooking is that the opposition destroyed included also Absalom, David’s own flesh, the one son that he could not stop loving and pitying, despite all that had happened, and that therefore, because of his anguish of soul at hearing the full truth, he might not be able to hear the Gospel that day. For the gospel it was, but a gospel as terrible as it was glorious particularly for David. But perhaps Ahimaaz had no son of his own, at least no wayward son of whom he had to believe that he had perished in his sins. It may be, too, that he wanted the news broken gently, and that he thought that a task so delicate couldn’t be entrusted to others.
Be this as it may, he was determined that Joab commission him to report to David.
And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said (to Joab), I will run by all means, and I will bear the king tidings, how that the Lord hath done him justice from the hands of his enemies. 19.
This then was to be the form of the words of the message as Ahimaaz was intending to communicate it. The report as thus formulated was gospel indeed. But it had one fault. It was too indefinite. It said nothing about Absalom, about the fact of his having been slain and of the dreadful way in which he had come to his end. And this was gospel, too. It was an element in the gospel that had to be told, no matter how much pain the hearing of it might cause David. So God willed, His gracious purpose being to sanctify him also through this suffering.
But it seems as if Ahimaaz wanted to spare him this grief, or at least cushion it by the glad tidings of victory. A great thing had happened. The Lord had openly taken the king’s side against the enemies. Let him think on that and praise God and refrain from anxiously inquiring after what became of that worthless, reprobated son of his. But was this not expecting too much from him?
Joab for some reason or other, or perhaps for a combination of reasons, was much opposed to authorizing Ahimaaz to report to the king. One of his reasons may have been that he imagined that the effect upon the king of the tidings that his command regarding Absalom had been disobeyed would be maddening, and that, being rather fond of Ahimaaz, he didn’t want him exposed to the king’s wrath. It may be, too, that he doubted whether the priest would have the heart and the courage to tell the king that Absalom was dead. Yet, according to Joab’s way of thinking, that was the one thing that the king had need of hearing. But, as we shall see presently, he may have had still another reason—the principal one—why he was opposed to commissioning the priest.
And said to him Joab, Not a man of tidings art thou this day. …Thou shalt bear tidings another day; but today not shalt thou bear tidings. …For the king’s son is dead. 20.
Without another word to the priest, Joab turned to a servant of his standing by, the Cushite, the Ethiopian, whom he had on hand for just such a dreadful
task as this one happened to be and mandated him.
And Joab said to the Cushite, Go and tell the king what thou hast seen, and prostrated himself the Cushite before Joab and ran. 21.
So then, what Joab required of the Cushite is that he tell the king what he had seen. What had he seen? Doubtless Absalom’s dreadful end—his hanging on that great terebinth into which, in his mad flight, he had driven the mule upon which he was riding, and between the low hanging branches of which his head had become solidly wedged. Doubtless it was this that Joab wanted reported to the king, it being the unmistakable sign that this worthless son, whom the king had ordered spared, was cursed of God indeed—“cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree—and that there was nothing left for Joab to do but make an end of him right there and then. God had delivered the accused one into his hand. Could it then have been right for him to release Absalom from that tree and deliver him up to David alive? It must have been this to which Joab had reference in commanding the Cushite, “Tell the king what thou hast seen.” If so, the Cushite may have belonged to Joab’s armor bearers by whom Absalom was smitten until there could be no more doubt that he was dead. Of Absalom’s end the priest had not been an eye-witness. He knew that Absalom was dead. But judging from his report to the king, he was ignorant of the way in which the king’s son had met his death. In Joab’s eyes it must especially have disqualified him as reporter. Fox the task of bearing tidings to the king he wanted an eyewitness. He wanted the Cushite, this servant of his.
But Joab found that he still had Ahimaaz on his hands. The priest would not be put off. And he would keep at Joab until he consented.
Yet again Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, and he said to Joab, Be what may, I will run by all means, even I also, after the Cushite. 22a.
But Joab was unrelenting. He even pleaded with the priest.
And said Joab, To what purpose wilt thou run my son? For to thee there is no tidings finding.
So reads this last statement in the Hebrew. The commentators find it particularly perplexing. What does it mean? There are the following renderings: 1) “Seeing that thou hast no tidings ready” (Eng. King James Version). 2) Seeing that thou wilt have no reward for thy tidings” (Eng. A.V.) 3) Seeing that thou hast no tidings sufficing, that is, which commends itself as appropriate” (Bib. Com.). The statement has been translated in still other ways.
The context brings out clearly enough what Joab here meant to be telling the priest Principally this: that, seeing he was ignorant of the details of the way in which Absalom had come to his end, he had no message; and, besides, that he lacked courage and also perhaps that he shouldn’t want to expose himself to the king’s wrath. Not that Joab had a distaste for the priest. He rather liked him. He called him “my son”. The expression is always one of endearment. It was just that he didn’t think him qualified.
But Ahimaaz was adamant.
Be what may, I will run, was his retort. 23a.
“Be what may,” that is, let it be that the king’s son is dead. Think ye that I am daunted by the dreadfulness of such a tiding? Fearlessly I will report.
Joab lost patience with the priest. He was through arguing with him.
And said Joab, Run! 23b.
“Run,” that is, be gone, get thee away! Mark you, a bellow of just one word. Nevertheless, it was all that the priest had need of hearing to set him in instant motion. Perhaps without as much as saying adieu! he bolted out of Joab’s presence and ran—mark you, ran—by the way of the plain, overtook the Cushite and passed him. Why should he be making such haste! He wanted to be the first to bring tidings to the king. The Cushite seemed not to object. He allowed the priest to overrun him and keep his lead. Though a Cushite by birth, the man was a true Jew, judging from the form of the words of his tiding, also devoted to David and the cause of God, as well as Ahimaaz, but not like him, the overconfident type, but, judging from his deportment, a man thoughtful and self-possessed and endowed with more courage. Doubtless, the task assigned to him by his master weighed heavily on his soul. So, if Ahimaaz insisted on being the first to confront the king with the tiding of Absalom’s death, it was well with him.
And ran Ahimaaz by the way of the plain and passed the Cushite. 23c.