May 19, 2015.
Daily Reading: II Samuel 14-19.
Background: II Samuel 10-13.
Concepts and Connections.
Absalom’s return to Jerusalem: At the end of the last chapter, we find that Absalom fled to Geshur after he had killed Amnon his brother on account of his sister who was raped by Amnon. At first, David was greatly troubled because he though Absalom had killed all of his sons, but when he found out it was only Amnon who was killed, he was relieved. After he was comforted over Amnon, the king’s heart went out to his son Absalom, but it would seem that his moral conscious was keeping him from letting Absalom return to Jerusalem. This chapter picks up with Joab, the commander of David’s army, noticing that David longed for his son Absalom. Joab devised a crafty way of pointing out to the king that he should bring Absalom back (Joab never really shows too much of an outstanding character throughout his story in scripture) by choosing a wise woman to plead a fabricated case before the king that exemplified his situation and decisions (compare with Nathan’s rebuke in II Samuel 12). After hearing the case, the king makes a judgment that Joab knew he would, a judgment that is turned back on David when the woman speaks candidly to him about why she had told him her story. Suspecting that Joab had initiated all of this, he surprises the woman by revealing to her that he figured out Joab had told her to do this. Instead of getting mad at what would seem to be a big case of passive aggression, David turns to Joab and essentially says “okay.” He tells him to bring Absalom back to Jerusalem, probably because deep down he wanted to do that anyway, but he was not allowed to come into the king’s presence. Rather, he was to live in a separate house apart from David. For two years Absalom lived like this, without coming into the presence of the king. But he had other plans, and we can see a bit of insanity from the young man Absalom here at the end of the chapter, as he sets Joab’s fields on fire, deciding that that was the only way he could get his attention. Absalom wanted Joab to send him into the presence of the king. After his fields have been burned, Joab agrees to send Absalom to the king, perhaps because he knew he was a little crazy and wanted him out of his hair. Thus, Absalom and the king were reunited, for what would be but a brief moment of happiness.
Absalom’s conspiracy: The moment of reuniting at the end of the previous chapter might have been a happy occasion for David, but it seems that Absalom had a hidden agenda. As soon as he was allowed back into the king’s presence, he began a conspiracy to take over the throne. Absalom was a handsome man apparently with a lot of charisma, and he used his charm to steal the hearts of the people away from his father (one might say he was the first modern politician). He would stand beside the gate early in the morning to talk to anyone who had troubles that they felt like weren’t being addressed, and would say, “Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice.” This was his way of manipulating the hearts of the people so that they would be enamored with him. After a time in which he felt his operation had grown to the point that he could take over the kingdom, Absalom asks the king to send him to Hebron to pay a vow (which was a lie), and when he gave the signal to sound the trumpet, people that he planted throughout Israel shouted ‘Absalom is king at Hebron!’ Absalom’s conspiracy worked, though David didn’t really do much to fight back. Once it was told David what had happened, he took his men and fled, leaving his 10 concubines to keep the house. This could have been because he thought he was not strong enough to take on Absalom and his followers, or it could have stemmed from a soft spot for Absalom, which it seemed that the king had. Regardless of the reason, David fled (taking key people with him, those who were loyal to him) and Absalom assumed power. It is important to note here that Hushai the Archite
On the run again: It seems that David spent much of his life running from someone who was trying to kill him because of who he was. Earlier in his life, he was on the run from King Saul, who wanted to kill him out of jealousy (see I Samuel 23-24, 26). Now he was on the run from his own son who sought his life to take the throne. And now, even in the wilderness David gets some bad news (or at least what he would think was bad news, see chapter 19 for the rest of the story). Ziba, the servant of Mephibosheth comes to David and basically tells him that Mephibosheth has betrayed him, even after the kindness that David had shown to him (see II Samuel 9). All of this likely had a large emotional toll on David, as we can see from the story of Shimei, a man from the family of Saul, who came out to curse David. When David’s men asked if they could go cut his head off for continually cursing him, David told them no, for he might be sent from the Lord to curse him. It seems that David may have started to loose heart at this point, accepting that what was happening was punishment, or at the very least from the hand of God. There is also a hint here that David may have started to see through Joab and his brother Abishai and the bad influence they held, for he says “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah?” in what seems to be a bit of exasperation (see II Samuel 2). Meanwhile, in Jerusalem, Hushai the Architeby the council of Ahithophel, Absalom went into David’s concubines before all Israel, just as had been prophesied by Nathan at the rebuke of David for his sin with Bathsheba (see II Samuel 12:11-12). Things were at a definite low for David at this point in his life.
Hushai’s counsel: As Absalom was deciding how to handle this situation with his father, so that he might take him out of the picture and have the kingdom to himself, he turns to Ahithophel for counsel, who’s counsel in those days was regarded as counsel with the word of God (see 16:23). Ahithophel tells Absalom that he should take 12,000 men and go down to attack David and his men now while he was discouraged, and only kill David and bring the rest of the men, along with all of Israel back so that they would all serve Absalom. This counsel seemed good in the eyes of the people, but Absalom decided to let Hushai have a chance to give counsel as well. Hushai’s counsel was much different than that of Ahithophel. He told Absalom that David was an experienced man of war, and that if they went down as Ahithophel’s counsel told them to do, it would fail and Israel would loos faith in Absalom. Rather, he counsels to wait and gather all Israel as one person to go an attack David. This gave David some more time, and an insiders look at what Absalom was about to do, as Hushai sent word to David what his counsel was once he saw that the people favored his counsel over Ahithophel’s. Ahithophel, when he saw that his counsel was not taken, went home and put his house in order and killed himself. David and his men crossed over the Jordan at the word of Hushai, but Absalom and the men of Israel were in pursuit. Amasa was set over the army of Israel as Joab was with David.
The fall of Absalom: The men of David went out to meet the men of Israel in battle after they had convinced David not to go with them, for he was the most valuable person in the battle, for the battle was basically over him. David choose to do what was best in the sight of his men, so he stayed back, but he gave one command for the battle: “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” All his men heard this command. The Lord was with David and his men, and they gained the upper hand against Absalom’s men. The forest is said to have claimed more lives than the sword on that day, pointing to the providence of God. As the battle grew hot, Absalom met some of the men of David, and in the process, his head got stuck in a tree so that he was unable to get loose. When David’s men saw this, they were unwilling to harm Absalom because of the command of David. When Joab heard that the men had seen Absalom trapped but had not killed him, however, he was mad. But the men were insistent that David had told them not to so they weren’t going to kill him. Joab took matters into his own hand, went and found Absalom still stuck in the tree and killed him. Then Joab blew the trumpet to draw back his troops, for the battle was over. When word came to David about Absalom, however, David was greatly distressed, crying out “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” Notice the stark difference between David’s reaction when Absalom dies compared to when his other child whom Bathsheba bore to him died after only living for seven days (see II Samuel 12:15-23). This is perhaps and indication that David knew which path Absalom was on for eternity.
David’s recovery: David’s road to recovery in the sight of all Israel has to be kickstarted by Joab here. David was still in great mourning for his son Absalom who had died in battle, and David’s mourning had caused his day of victory to be turned into a day of sorrow. Joab goes to David and gives him a piece of his mind, saying that the king has made it clear that he doesn’t care about his servants and that even if all of them were dead, yet Absalom, his enemy, were alive, the king would be happy. Thus Joab tells the king that he should go out immediately and sit at in the gate so that all the people may know that victory has been won for King David, and that they were his people. They needed to know that he cared. This is what David did, and though there was still much confusion in the land, slowly and surly Israel started to be reunited. David pardons Shimei for his cursing when David was fleeing from Absalom, and he finds out that Mephibosheth had been tricked by his servant Ziba, and that was the reason that he didn’t go out with Daivd, not because he was trying to assume the throne as Ziba had shown him. But this was not a day that people would be put to death in Israel, for it was a day of rejoicing. David unites Israel back with Judah by calling them back, and appointing Amasa as commander of his army in the place of Joab. He also blesses Barzillai the Gileadite who had helped him at the Jordan. Soon, both Israel and Judah would be fighting over who had more share in the king, which was at least a sign of acceptance for David. It had been a rough time, but it seemed that Israel had finally been reunited, save only a few minor bumps to come.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Psalm 57-59.
Praise the Lord.