Avshalom Can't Leave Well Enough AloneBy Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
You would think that Avshalom would be satisfied. He got his revenge on Amnon and, after five years, was finally reconciled with his father. But here his ambition got the better of him.
First, he got himself a chariot, horses and fifty runners, to make himself look important. Then, he sat himself at the gates of the palace. He asked people coming for court cases about their situations. When they told him their stories, he would say, “It’s so obvious you’re correct! If only someone would make me judge, I’d see to it that you got justice!” If anyone tried to bow before him, he would stop them, then kiss them. This made him appear humble, like one of the common folk. The Navi tells us that he “stole the hearts” of the people.
Avshalom went to David and requested permission to go offer sacrifices in Hebron. Permission granted, he rounded up 200 important guests to accompany him. He then sent agents to the various Tribes with instructions that, at the signal, they should announce that Avshalom was crowned king in Hebron. Achitofel, one of David’s advisors, joined Avshalom when he pulled his coup.
David got word that Avshalom had crowned himself. Knowing how popular Avshalom had become, David chose not to stay and turn Jerusalem into a battleground. Instead, he packed up his household and left town. Ten of his concubines remained behind at the palace. Among David’s followers was a contingent of supporters he made while living in Gath. He asked Itai, one of the men from Gath, why he should stay, since this wasn’t his battle. Itai replied that David is his king and he will stick by him.
The Leviim (Levites) were carrying the Ark. David sent them and the Kohanim (“priests”) back to Jerusalem. “If it pleases G-d,” David explained, “He will bring me back. If not, let Him do as He sees fit.”
Then David learned that Achitofel was part of the conspiracy against him. This distressed him greatly and he prayed that G-d should confuse the usually-sound advice of Achitofel. David then asked another of his advisors, a man named Chushai, to return to Jerusalem and to pretend to offer his services to Avshalom. This would give David a man on the inside, in addition to Tzadok and Evyasar, the Kohanim he had already dispatched. Anything of importance that Chushai discovered, he would send word to David by way of the Kohanim.