When David gives Avshalom leave to ״אשלם את נדרי אשר נדרתי לה׳ בחברון״, Avshalom does three things:
The first is to signal his co-conspirators throughout the country (we haven’t seen them, but they clearly exist) that they will soon hear the call to war. That’s what the shofar fundamentally is:
The second is to invite מאתים איש מירושלם. They explicitly are לא ידעו כל דבר; they are not co-conspirators. What are they doing here? Avshalom is fulfilling a נדר that involves זבחו את הזבחים, offering שלמים (the term זבח and קרבן שלמים are used interchangeably in the Torah), offerings that have the blood sprinkled and the fat burned on the altar, but are eaten by the people. We’ve noted that חז״ל connected this to Avshalom’s hair:
The rest of the קרבן שלמים is eaten by the נזיר himself. But there’s a time limit:
And that’s a lot of meat:
I don’t have enough family or friends to finish 50+ pounds of meat in 2 days. So I have to share.
So maybe this is an explanation for the pasuk about Avshalom’s hair:
We pointed out that 200 shekels is about 2 kilograms. That’s a lot more than a full head of hair:
So maybe the 200 shekels was the amount he spent on his hair-cutting party. That’s a lot of sheep:
So Avshalom has had a huge annual affair in Chevron, and David would not be suspicious if he invited some of the Jerusalem elite. But this time, Avshalom has a different plan.
(and maybe the מאתים שקלים are a hint to the מאתים איש, though I think that’s too cute)
So Avshalom has these 200 ראשי סנהדריות at a perfectly innocuous קרבן שלמים party when he sudden announces מלך אבשלום בחברון. They are stuck. Will David believe them that they are הלכים לתמם ולא ידעו כל דבר? He’s only authorized 2 of them to come. The rest must be part of Avshalom’s conspiracy. So Avshalom has just neutralized David’s political support.
The third thing that Avshalom does is calls Achitophel. We’ve looked at Achitophel in detail before, since he is the grandfather of Bat Sheva. He was the chief military advisor to David until he realized the enormity of what David had done to his granddaughter. Avshalom now has the military strength, the political strength and the strategic advice that will allow him to topple his father.
And Achitophel, it would seem, has been the power behind the throne (or the attempt at the throne) the whole time:
David realizes that he is in trouble and flees with whoever is still loyal.
David is leaving but not in a panic. He goes in stages, collecting his people first from the palace (ויצא המלך וכל ביתו) then to the outskirts of the city (בית המרחק) with his people from all of Jerusalem (ויצא המלך וכל העם).
The עשר נשים פלגשים is a little bit of foreshadowing.
We’ve seen the כרתי ופלתי before:
As we said before, it’s not clear what that means.
The Targum assumes they were a military force: the archers and slingers:
Some assume they are names of families or nations:
But that doesn’t help us (it may have been obvious to contemporary readers); why those families? What did they do?
The gemara assumes that they are part of the civil administration of David; what it calls the Sanhedrin:
I could go either way, and would argue that both are correct. David’s administration may well have been made up of his closest companions from his days as a warrior; we will see this in פרק כג when we see the list of הגברים אשר לדוד that חז״ל understand to be תלמידי חכמים as well.
And the other military force that stays with David are the גתים. This reminds us that some 30+ years ago, David was a Philistine general.
So at least some of his Philistine companions stayed loyal to him, and moved with him to Jerusalem.
And as he looks at his band of supporters, he realizes that he has finally lost the מלכות:
And them David crosses the Kidron, leaving Jerusalem for the wilderness to the east. Even though we learned that היה לב איש ישראל אחרי אבשלום, he still has many supporters including the supporters he values most:
צדוק was the כהן in the משכן:
And אביתר was David’s כהן גדול in Chevron and then in Jerusalem, with ארון. The מצודת דוד points out that אביתר isn’t in the list of David’s admisistration in פרק ח, because their history together goes back even farther:
What does David do with the ארון that is about to go into exile with him? We shall see.
There is a פרק תהילים that explicits deals with David’s state of mind at this time:
And we’ve mentioned before that even the תהילים that have an explicit historical כותרת do not deal explicitly with those historic events; they are more expressions of feelings that were evoked by those events. The psalmist translated those feelings into universally-applicable poetry.
The gemara has a problem with the emotion being expressed:
And there are other ways of looking at the happiness expressed by “מזמור”.
All of these approaches see David expressing his satisfaction with the sense of closure. 15 years later, the consequences of the Bat Sheva affair are coming to a climax. It’s been hanging over his head; so many of his children have suffered or died; he has suffered. This, David feels, will be the end, one way or another.
רבים does not mean numerically, but “the great”, those with authority.
And this stich ends with סלה, "”hold that thought“. It’s not wrong. G-d is אלקים, and justice will be served. But David will not give up.
While אין ישועתה לו באלקים, ואתה ה׳, ”but you are not only אלקים, you are ה׳“.
כבוד is often in תהילים used in the sense of soul, צלם אלוקים, but here is parallel to מרים ראשי: honor. Not only will I not be killed, but I will retain my honor. I will return to previous status.
And it’s not really the מלכות that he hopes to return to. Nathan has told him that he will lose that, and he can’t claim to deserve to get it back. What he wants to return to is קולי אל ה׳ אקרא; he wants to be the נעים זמירות ישראל again. And his faith in ה׳'s חסד and צדק lets him sleep at nights.
The midrash connects כבודי (meaning soul) to הקיצותי:
So David concludes with his sense of calm acceptance:
The idea is not that David wants his enemies dead; he wants them humiliated, unable to plot against him. While he says of himself מרים ראשי, those סביב עלי will get הכית לחי:
And he concludes with the message that makes this one of those שהיו מזמרים בהם בבית המקדש: