Friends and Enemies

II Samuel 15-17

Alan Lewis
Elon, North Carolina
February 2022

We have been studying the life of King David.  He is experiencing some of the darkest days of his life.  In the last few chapters, his own son is trying to overthrow his governemnt and kill him.  David finds out who his real friends are in these chapters.

He also found out that some of the people that he thought were his friends were actually his enemies.  Today, we want to talk about friendship.  We want to look at some characteristics of good friends and some characteristics of bad friends.

Characteristics of Real Friends

1. Real friends are faithful

The king set out, with his entire household following him; but he left ten concubines to take care of the palace. 17 So the king set out, with all the people following him, and they halted at the edge of the city. 18 All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and Pelethites; and all the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.

19 The king said to Ittai the Gittite, “Why should you come along with us? Go back and stay with King Absalom. You are a foreigner, an exile from your homeland. 20 You came only yesterday. And today shall I make you wander about with us, when I do not know where I am going? Go back, and take your people with you. May the Lord show you kindness and faithfulness.”

21 But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

22 David said to Ittai, “Go ahead, march on.” So Ittai the Gittite marched on with all his men and the families that were with him. (II Samuel 15:16-22 NIV).

This brings us to a man named Ittai.  No one would call him their favorite Bible character.  Most people do not know him very well.   What do we know about him?  We know three things about him.

One, he was a FOREIGNER.  He was not even Jewish.  He was a Gentile. He came to Israel and brought his whole family with him.  We would call him an immigrant. Ittai was a Philistine. He was a Gittite.  Gittites were people who lived in Gath.  Gath was Goliath’s hometown.

Two, he was a FIGHTER.   Ittai was one of David’s best fighters.  He was part of David’s mighty men (2 Samuel 23:29; 1 Chronicles 11:31).  He was a military man.  He had six hundred Philistine soldiers under him.  He was a leader of a mercenary group of fighters from Gath.

Three, he was FAITHFUL.  He was one of David’s friends.  He arrived on the scene and David told him to go home.  David was now on the run.  David does not know where he is going.  He does not want to subject Ittai to that kind of life.

But Ittai replied to the king, “As surely as the Lord lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.”

He promised to stay with David no matter what happened, whether he lived or died.  He made an oath, a double oath to stay with him, no matter what.  We need to be just as faithful, just as devoted and just as committed to the Son of David

David rewarded Ittai for his faithfulness.  He promoted him.  He made this Philistine immigrant one of his top generals.  He entrusted him with one third of his army to fight the forces of Absalom (II Samuel 18:2).

2. Real friends are generous

27 When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim 28 brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, 29 honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.” (II Samuel 17:27-29 NIV

Here is a second sign of a true friend.  True friends are generous.  It mentions three friends who helped David during this time.  They helped him when he was hungry.  They helped him when he was thirsty.  They helped him when he was exhausted and did not have a bed to sleep on.

They provided food and even a bed to sleep on in the wilderness.  One of these friends was a foreigner.  Shobi was an Ammonite.  David went to war with the Ammonites.  This one became his friend.  One of these friends was old.

31 Barzillai the Gileadite also came down from Rogelim to cross the Jordan with the king and to send him on his way from there. 32 Now Barzillai was very old, eighty years of age. He had provided for the king during his stay in Mahanaim, for he was a very wealthy man. (II Samuel 19:31-32 NIV)

Barzillai sounds like the name of a WWF fighter.  It sounds like someone who is big, strong and muscular.  In reality, he was old, weak and frail.  He was eighty years old.  You are never too old to serve the kingdom.  Barzillai was eighty and serving.  He brought what he had and gave it to the king.

Some of us are generous and some of us are stingy.  Proverbs 11:24-25 says, “One person gives freely, yet gains even more; another withholds unduly, but comes to poverty. 25 A generous person will prosper; whoever refreshes others will be refreshed.”

3. Real friends are self-sacrificial

David had another friend who helped David in another way.  His name was Hushai.  He was probably an older man, because David told him to go back into the city so he would not a burden to them.  He was a Gentile.  He is called Hushai the Arkite.  He was not even ethnically Jewish, but he did something amazing.  What he did saved David’s life.

32 When David arrived at the summit, where people used to worship God, Hushai the Arkite was there to meet him, his robe torn and dust on his head. 33 David said to him, “If you go with me, you will be a burden to me. 34 But if you return to the city and say to Absalom, ‘Your Majesty, I will be your servant; I was your father’s servant in the past, but now I will be your servant,’ then you can help me by frustrating Ahithophel’s advice.

35 Won’t the priests Zadok and Abiathar be there with you? Tell them anything you hear in the king’s palace. 36 Their two sons, Ahimaaz son of Zadok and Jonathan son of Abiathar, are there with them. Send them to me with anything you hear.” 37 So Hushai, David’s confidant, arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city. (II Samuel 15:32-37 NIV).

What did Hushai do?  He became a spy.  He became a double agent.  He became the biblical James Bond.  He went to the side of the enemy to gather intelligence for David.  He pretended to be on Absalom’s side, but he actually supported David.

Moses sent twelve spies into the land of Canaan to gather intelligence for forty days.  Now, David sends Hushai into Jerusalem as an inside man to get intelligence and he had a communication system.

Hushai was to get information and get it to Zadok and Abiathar, the priests.  They got the information to a servant girl who got it to their two sons, who relayed the information back to David.

It was risky.  It was dangerous.  He could have been killed.  Love is willing to lay down its life for its friends.  Jesus said, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13 NIV).

What happened to him.  He goes to Jerusalem.  Sees Absalom.  Absalom gets advice from Ahithophel.  He tells Absalom two things to do.

The first thing he told him to do was to rape David’s ten concubines and he did it.  It was also his way of taking the throne.  It would also be one way to get back at David for what he did to Uriah’s wife, his granddaughter.

The first thing he told him to do was to attack David immediately.  “Get him tonight.  Strike while the iron is hot.  He is weak.  He is on the run.  Take quick decisive action.  It would only take twelve thousand men.”  Ahithophel said that he would kill David himself, but Hushai was in the room and Absalom asked him for a second opinion.

What was Hushai’s Plan?  His plan was not to attack now, but to attack later.  He said that David is a fighter.  He is a man of war.  He is a survivor.  He is used to running from Saul.  He said to wait to you can get an entire army of people fighting him with you leading the army and you will crush him, and you will get the glory.

Everyone in the room like Hushai’s Plan.  It sounded better.  It appealed to Absalom’s pride.  It was in answer to David’s prayer.  David prayed, “Lord, turn Ahithophel’s counsel into foolishness” (II Samuel 15:31 NIV).

There’s another reason he chose Hushai’s Plan.  It was part of the providence of God.  God planned to bring disaster on Absalom.  For the Lord had determined to frustrate the good advice of Ahithophel in order to bring disaster on Absalom (II Samuel 17:14 NIV)

We have seen three good friends.  Now let’s look at three bad friends.  We see them in II Samuel 16 & 17.  Their names are Ziba, Shimei and Ahithophel.  They are three types of people you might encounter in your own life.  They may claim to be friends, but they are false friends.

Characteristics of False Friends

1. False friends are deceivers

When David had gone a short distance beyond the summit, there was Ziba, the steward of Mephibosheth, waiting to meet him. He had a string of donkeys saddled and loaded with two hundred loaves of bread, a hundred cakes of raisins, a hundred cakes of figs and a skin of wine.

2 The king asked Ziba, “Why have you brought these?” Ziba answered, “The donkeys are for the king’s household to ride on, the bread and fruit are for the men to eat, and the wine is to refresh those who become exhausted in the wilderness.”

3 The king then asked, “Where is your master’s grandson?” Ziba said to him, “He is staying in Jerusalem, because he thinks, ‘Today the Israelites will restore to me my grandfather’s kingdom.’” 4 Then the king said to Ziba, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.” (II Samuel 16:1-4 NIV)

Beware of a friend who is not truthful to you.  In II Samuel 16, we see a man named Ziba.  Ziba was Mephibosheth’s servant.  He meets David, bows before him.  He brings him all kinds of food – break, raisins, figs and wine.  There was nothing wrong with that.  Then, he completely lies about Mephibosheth.

He said that Mephibosheth “is staying in Jerusalem, because he thinks, ‘Today the Israelites will restore to me my grandfather’s kingdom.’” (II Samuel 16:3 NIV).  Ziba was a smooth talker.  He was a flatterer.  He was deceiver.

David fell into a trap.  He believed him.  He said, “All that belonged to Mephibosheth is now yours.” (II Samuel 16:4 NIV).  “That Mephibosheth must be a bad dude.”

What mistake did David make here?  He rushed to judgment.  He jumps to conclusions.  Don’t believe everything you hear.  Don’t believe all of the gossip you hear about people.

Get all of the facts before making a decision on something.  Always hear the other side.  Allow people who are accused of something a chance to defend themselves.  A basic principle of justice in America is called due process.  It is also biblical.

If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame. (Proverbs 18:13 ESV)

In a lawsuit the first to speak seems right, until someone comes forward and cross-examines. (Proverbs 18:17 NIV)

2. False friends are defamers

False friends are dishonest.  They say things that are not true.  They are defamatory.  They will try to ruin someone’s reputation and destroy their good name.  That is Shemei.

As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out. 6 He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. 7 As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! 8 The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!” (II Samuel 16:5-8 NIV)

We talked about Shimei last week.  Here was a man who hated David.  He is cursing David.  He is spewing all kinds of hate, all kinds of lies and half-truths to hurt someone.  He is throwing things at him.  There are many like him today that will kick you while you are down and while you are hurting.

There are many stone throwers in the media. They are bitter critics and are full of hatred and venom. This is the second type of person you may encounter. This time, David responded correctly.

Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to. 12 It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (II Samuel 16:11-12 NIV)

We could learn a lot from David here.  It is not the way we normally respond to criticism, especially unjust.  We usually lash back out at people.

When Jesus was reviled, He did NOT revile back. When they hurled their insults at him, he did NOT retaliate; when he suffered, he made NO threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly (I Peter 2:23 NIV).

3. False friends are deserters

False friends are temporary.  They do not stick around.  We have that problem today.  People leave their spouse.  There are plenty of deserters in the Bible.

People left Jesus.  They followed him for a while and then left him and he said to Peter, “Will you also go away? (John 6:67).

The Apostle Paul had people leave him.  Demas, because he loved this world, has deserted me and has gone to Thessalonica. (II Timothy 4:10 NIV)

People deserted Paul.  They deserted Jesus.  They also deserted King David as well.  His name was Ahithophel.  Who was he?  He was David’s Counselor (II Samuel 15:12).  He was David’s Advisor.

All political leaders rely on advisors to help them.  They all rely on policy experts.  The President of the US has a cabinet and senior White House advisors.  Leaders are only as good as the counsel they receive.  Ahithophel was King David’s chief advisor.

Now in those days the advice Ahithophel gave was like that of one who inquires of God. That was how both David AND Absalom regarded ALL of Ahithophel’s advice. (II Samuel 16:23 NIV)

Ahithophel was David’s best man.  He was his wisest counselor.  He had been with David for twenty year.  He was very well respected by both sides.  David respected him.  Absalom respected him.  That is like having someone that both Democrats and Republicans like.  Now, he leaves David and goes to the other side.

Ahithophel – The OT Judas

Ahithophel was the OT Judas.  Most don’t know this, but there are two Judas stories in the Bible.  There is one in the OT and one in the NT.  What did these two men, Judas and Ahithophel, have in common?

1) Both held high offices

Both held important positions.  Judas was an apostle of Jesus.  He got to travel around with Jesus for three years, hear all of his teaching and see his miracles firsthand. He was in charge of money.

Judas was the chief financial officer for the Apostles. Ahithophel was chief political advisor to King David.  He had an important political office, rather than an important religious office.

2) Both were traitors

There were many traitors in history.  In America, we always think of Benedict Arnold.  These are the two big traitors in the Bible, Judas and Ahithophel.  What Judas did was far worse than what Ahithophel did.

Ahithophel betrayed David.  Judas betrayed the Son of David.  Judas turned the perfect innocent Son of God over to wicked men to kill him and he did it for money.

3) Both had some regrets

Both realized that they made a mistake.  The difference is that Judas felt bad about what he did and tried to give the thirty pieces of silver back.  Ahithophel did not feel bad for what he did.

Ahithophel felt bad that what he did didn’t work, and he would be caught and executed.  Judas was upset because his plan worked.  Ahithophel was upset because his plan did not work, and he knew that King David would survive.

4) Both commit suicide

When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb (II Samuel 17:23 NIV)

Ahithophel did not get depressed, find a gun and blow his brains out.  His suicide was not impulsive.  It was planned.  It was calculated.  He went home, set his house in order, wrote a will, and killed himself.

Why did he kill himself?  He was not just mad that his advice was not taken.  It was not just a case of wounded pride. He was upset because he knew that if his advice was not taken, Absalom would never become king.

Ahithophel also knew that, if Absalom did not win, he would be executed as a traitor, so he killed himself before David could do it to him.

Ahithophel was a very smart man.  He was a wise counselor.  Smart people sometimes do some really stupid things.  They do some really dumb things.  There is a difference between being smart and being wise.

You can be highly educated, have a high IQ, and not have any spiritual wisdom.  Suicide is never the answer to your problems.  God says to “CHOOSE LIFE” (Deuteronomy 30:19 NIV).  The Bible says, “Do yourself NO HARM” (Acts 16:28 NIV)

The question is, Why did Ahithophel become a traitor?  Why did he desert King David?  He did it because of unforgiveness.  He was motivated by revenge.  David committed adultery with Bathsheba.  Bathsheba was the daughter of Eliam (II Samuel 11:3).  Eliam, according to Scripture, was the son of Ahithophel (II Samuel 23:34).

Assuming that this was the same Eliam (as Jewish tradition says it was), it means that David raped Ahithophel’s granddaughter, and he probably never got over it.  He never forgave him.  This was his way to get back.

This story shows us the danger of bitterness.  It shows us the danger of unforgiveness.  Unforgiveness eats people alive.  Bitterness will eventually kill you.  It is like cancer to the soul.  It eats you from the inside.














David’s three false friends were the flatterer, the critic and the deserter.






3) Ahithophel – the Deserter (a Gilonite)





David’s Military Strategy

1. He chose the location of the battle.

By leaving Jerusalem, he saved it from a bloodbath.  A lot of innocent people would have been slaughtered.  David left the city and went out into the wilderness.  He went to the Forest of Ephraim to fight.

2. He chose the type of warfare fought.


4. He avoided the battle.

David wanted to go to war, but his military advisers told him to not fight, and he took their advice.

5. He had good military intelligence.

He had ground intelligence.  A spy on the inside told David what Absalom was doing.

Against overwhelming odds, David’s side wins but he faces one more tragedy.  His son dies in battle. David gave explicit orders for Absalom to be spared but Joab disobeyed those orders. Absalom is killed in the forest, thrown in a pit and is buried.  A pile of rocks was put on top of him.

You can visit something Absalom’s tomb in Israel today.  It is also called Absalom’s Pillars, but he is probably not buried there.  It is in the same area where he died, but that pillar was built a thousand years later.  We do not know where he is actually buried.


The battle of Ephraim forrest


PROBLEM: After Absalom was killed by Joab’s men, they took his body and threw it into a pit and covered him with a large stone. However, according to 2 Samuel 18:18, Absalom had erected his own tomb in the Kidron Valley. Where was Absalom buried?

The Mystery of “Absalom’s Tomb” – Part 1



3) David had work problems

David does not just have political problems; he has work problems.  He might lose his job.  He might be taken off the throne.  He faces a coup.

There is an attempt to overthrow his government.  Absalom crowned himself king in Hebron, the same place where David was once crowned king.

4) David had safety problems

He is not just down in the polls.  He has to flee the city.  In II Samuel 13, Absalom is forced to leave Jerusalem after he killed his brother.  In II Samuel 15, David is forced to leave the city.  It is nine years later, and now David is fleeing for his own safety.

He has to run for his life.  Absalom and his troops arrive and take over the palace in Jerusalem.  David has lost his home.  He has lost his job and he is worried about losing his life.  The king is barefoot.  His head is covered, and he is weeping

When Life Falls Apart

What did David do when life fell completely apart?  How did he respond?  David was in a bad situation and he did NOT know what God was going to do.  He was God’s anointed, and he did not know what God was going to do.  He says that several times.

It MAY BE that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.” (II Samuel 16:12 NIV)

25 Then the king said to Zadok, “Take the ark of God back into the city. IF I find favor in the Lord’s eyes, he will bring me back and let me see it and his dwelling place again. 26 But if he says, ‘I am not pleased with you,’ then I am ready; LET HIM DO TO ME WHATEVER SEEMS GOOD TO HIM. (II Samuel 15:25-26 NIV)

David trusts God.  He waits to see what He will do.  He submits to His will.  Notice what he does not do in this situation.  He does not do many things that people do today.

1) He does not blame God for his problems

When life falls apart, many people blame God.  They are mad at God.  That is a common reaction.  “God, why did you allow this to happen to me.  It is not fair.”  David does not have that reaction.  If anything, David blamed himself.  He knew that he was under divine discipline.  This was a consequence of his own sin.

When David committed adultery and murder, the Prophet Nathan said to him, “the sword will NEVER depart from your house, because you despised me and took the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your own” (II Samuel 12:10 NIV).

He also told him, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’” (II Samuel 12:11-12 NIV)

That was fulfilled in II Samuel 16.  Nathan said that someone was going to sleep with David’s own wives like he slept with Uriah’s wife, but he did not tell him that this person would be his own son Absalom.

God did not cause David’s problems.  He brought them on himself, but God did protect and provide for David in this situation.  He protected David.  He was not killed, and his side won in the civil war, even though the other side had far more troops.  God also supernaturally provided for David.

God not only provided for him.  He provided for him in the wilderness with not only food but a bed to sleep on.  We see that in II Samuel 16 and II Samuel 17.

2) He did not try to force God to act

David was in a bad situation.  He had to flee for his life.  He did not know what God was going to do.  He did not try to force God to act, like many Christians do today.  He was helpless but he had control of the ark of the covenant.

What he did not do is to take it with him into battle as a good luck charm.  The priests in I Samuel 4 took it into battle to try to help them win.  It didn’t work.  The high priest left with David, but he sent him back into Jerusalem with the ark (II Samuel 15).

3) He does not try to hide his emotions

If you read the Psalms, you see that David does not hide his emotions to God.  He pours out his heart to God.  We need to do the same thing.  We need to pour out our heart to God in prayer.  The Son of David did not hide his emotions either.  Jesus did not hide his emotions.  He wept at Lazarus’ tomb.

David does not hide his emotions.  He does not hide how he feels.  He does not pretend that things are great and put on a front.  He weeps for his son.  He leaves Jerusalem weeping.  His robe is torn.  He has dust on his head.

But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot. All the people with him covered their heads too and were weeping as they went up. (II Samuel 15:30 NIV)

After Absalom is killed, we see David mourning.  He is sobbing.  The day of victory was turned into a day of mourning (II Samuel 19:1).  David was weeping, not just over a son, but over a rebellious son, a traitorous son, a murderous son.  It is one of the most moving passages in Scripture.

The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!” (II Samuel 18:33 NIV)

David loved his son, even though he was completely rotten.  David is weeping over a son who wanted to kill him.  David even says that he wishes that he died in his place.  The coming Messiah, the Son of David, died die for his enemies.  The Good Shepherd gave his life for the sheep.

4) He did not retaliate against his enemies

His own son was trying to kill him, but David said, “If you ever catch him, go easy on him.”

The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders. (II Samuel 18:5 NIV)

In fact, when he left Jerusalem a man came up cursing him, calling him all kinds of names and throwing dirt on him.  He said, “God is repaying you for all of the blood you shed.”

Then Abishai said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head” (II Samuel 16:9 NIV) but David refused to do that.  He said, “Maybe there is some truth to what he is saying.”  We should try that sometime.  Listen to the words of our worst critics.  Listen to our enemies to see if there is any truth to what they say.

5) He did not try to do everything himself


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