David and Absalom
In our previous installment concerning the life of David, as related to the “David and Bathsheba” episode, we read the sobering prophecy by Nathan. Some years later, this was exactly fulfilled, with David’s son, Absalom, being the major instrument.
“Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the Lord, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife. Thus saith the Lord, Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes, and give them unto thy neighbour, and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun” 2 Samuel 12:9-11
We read here of Absalom, a handsome, charismatic man, and his successful attempt to steal the hearts of the people as preparation to him taking the Throne from his father when the time was ripe …
“And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him. And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel. And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee” 2 Samuel 15:1-3.
But let’s go back to when Absalom was first mentioned, and the story from the outset is an ugly one with few coming out with much credit. David had many wives and children. One daughter was named Tamar, the sister of Absalom. Her step brother, Amnon, lusted after her and raped her. From what we read, David, was not only manipulated by his children but did little to discipline them. Absalom stored up hidden hatred toward Amnon and contrived a situation, using stealth and deceit, whereby he killed Amnon.
Absalom fled from David and after a period in exile was invited back home, but was not allowed to see his father for two more years, after which there was a degree of reconciliation. There appeared to be no remorse on Absalom’s part, although his action killing Amnon was in part due to David’s inaction. Absalom then began to make plans to take over as king and gathered many allies such that David had to flee for his life, all of which sparked a civil war, during which time Absalom was killed, despite David’s instructions that his life be spared. David was grief stricken: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son” 2 Samuel 18:32, but victory had been secured and it meant that David could be now restored to his throne, and he was.
There are a number of actors who played a part in this sorry tale; some we will consider later. Other than defending the honour of his sister, it is difficult to find redeeming features in Absalom, whose delusions of grandeur and selfish ambition led to his downfall and the distress of many. While we rightly look upon David as one of the good guys of the Bible, other than in the matter involving Uriah and Bathsheba, what happened then sowed the seeds as to what was to come. David was able to continue as the rightful king, but at a great cost – a daughter had been raped, lives lost in a civil war brought on by Absalom’s actions, David’s ten concubines sexually violated and two of his sons murdered. It was a time for his enemies to triumph for a season and for him to discover who his true friends truly were.
The Lord works in mysterious ways, for just prior to publishing this episode, a friend posted on his Facebook page concerning Psalm 38. While we cannot be certain of the circumstances concerning and the timing when this Psalm was written, it seemed to me that the events that were alluded to in the Psalm were consistent with what we know happened during this period of David’s life, when it came to his betrayal by friends, attacks by enemies and enduring trials and tribulations, part brought on by his own sin and folly. Yet he put his trust in the Lord, confident that God will help and not forsake him.