Ahithophel said to Absalom, “I would choose twelve thousand men and set out tonight in pursuit of David. I would attack him while he is weary and weak. I would strike him with terror, and then all the people with him will flee. I would strike down only the king and bring all the people back to you. The death of the man you seek will mean the return of all; all the people will be unharmed.” This plan seemed good to Absalom and to all the elders of Israel. But Absalom said, “Summon also Hushai the Arkite, so we can hear what he has to say as well.” When Hushai came to him, Absalom said, “Ahithophel has given this advice. Should we do what he says? If not, give us your opinion.” Hushai replied to Absalom, “The advice Ahithophel has given is not good this time. You know your father and his men; they are fighters, and as fierce as a wild bear robbed of her cubs. Besides, your father is an experienced fighter; he will not spend the night with the troops. Even now, he is hidden in a cave or some other place. If he should attack your troops first, whoever hears about it will say, ‘There has been a slaughter among the troops who follow Absalom.’ Then even the bravest soldier, whose heart is like the heart of a lion, will melt with fear, for all Israel knows that your father is a fighter and that those with him are brave. “So I advise you: Let all Israel, from Dan to Beersheba—as numerous as the sand on the seashore—be gathered to you, with you yourself leading them into battle. Then we will attack him wherever he may be found, and we will fall on him as dew settles on the ground. Neither he nor any of his men will be left alive. If he withdraws into a city, then all Israel will bring ropes to that city, and we will drag it down to the valley until not so much as a pebble is left.” – 2 Samuel 17:1-13
The intrigue runs deep and turbulent in this passage…plans within plans. Ahithophel is the spy that David sent from the top of the Mount of Olives to be his eyes and ears in the house of his son Absalom. Absalom, perhaps suspicious of Ahithophel, calls in two of his military leaders for advice. They give an alternative plan that involves attacking David with help from other tribes so that they can “fall on him like dew settles on the ground”.
Dew is an interesting substance. It is a physical manifestation of something in the air that we often cannot see (water vapor). This sort of “godly condensate” has been used to describe God’s presence and the provision many times in my walk with water in the bible. I do not ever remember it being used to describe a destructive force like the one in this passage.
Gideon used the presence or absence of dew to confirm that God would show up for him in his battle with the Midianites and others. The Israelites were given Manna, bread from Heaven, that arrived on the dew. God tells Joseph that He will bless the land with “precious dew from heaven“. In all these cases the dew arrives and moves a bit like the spirit of God. It is subtle, and seems to appear out of nowhere, to affect the lives of the people in the bible who are looking and listening carefully enough to see the “dew”.
In this instance the term dew has been commandeered by Absalom and his military leaders. They are “forcing the dew” rather than letting God determine where His “dew from heaven” will fall. In some ways David too is trying to “force the dew” by sending Ahithophel to spy on Absalom. Lest we become smug, I believe that as Christians we sometimes try to “force the dew”. This can take the form of pretend piety, legalistic liturgy, or alternate altars. Sometimes it is really difficult to sense the spirit of God moving in our midst. We are often looking for a more tangible God. We miss what God’s spirit is trying to tell us and we get out ahead of God and his plans in the process.
Prayer: God give me the patience to wait on your spirit rather than “force the dew”.