Wednesday, February 13, 2013

CXIV - II Samual Chapters 14-16 - David and Absalom

Up until the eleventh chapter of II Samuel, David's life was filled with successes, military victories, wise choices.  The life of a true man of God who obeyed God and was richly blessed by Him.  Then in chapter 11 we saw where David committed a series of sins, beginning with lusting after Uriah's wife Bathsheba.  After that, David's life became difficult, riddled with problems that should never have been.  His judgments and reactions to these new situations seem tentative and sometimes arbitrary.  These three chapters as I paraphrase the events will paint a slightly adjusted picture of the beloved David.  Let's continue to bear in mind that these tremendous patriarchs were human and that God has given them (and us) a free will to make our own decisions on a daily basis.

Three years had passed since Absalom deliberately murdered his half brother Amnan and fled for protection to his maternal grandfather, Talmai king of Geshur (13:38).  King David had long since reconciled himself to the death of his firstborn son Amnon, but took no pleasure in the exile of Absalom, also his son.  Instead, he brooded over Absalom day after day, missing him and longing to be with him.  Joab, general of the army, perceived with sympathetic understanding how strongly "the king's heart was toward Absalom," and devised and executed an ingenious plan to get Absalom back to Jerusalem (14:1-20).

However, Joab's plan was only partly successful.  David dispatched Joab to Geshur to bring Absalom home, but did not receive Absalom into his presence.  Instead, he banished him to his own home.  {A little pride here?  What do you think?}  Absalom lived there for two years virtually under house arrest.  Finally, through Joab, Absalom gained an audience with the king so that he might know where he stood with him:  Was he to be forgiven or executed for the murder of Amnon?  Absalom came humbly before David, who kissed him as a token of welcome and forgiveness (14:21-33).

Chapter 15 - Absalom was a very cunning and charismatic young man.  He immediately made the most of his restored princely status.  He acquired a royal escort:  "chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him".  Now take a moment and read vss 2-6.  Absalom actually began a campaign to steal the nation from his father David.  He stationed himself daily in the busiest and most frequented public place in Jerusalem, where he could see and be seen, hear and be heard.  And with all the expertise of a professional politician and public relations man, he implemented his covert campaign to sabotage his father's prestige and authority, and finally to take the kingdom from him by having himself nationally acclaimed king at Hebron.  {Quite a gutsy guy.  Agree?}

{This next part confuses me a bit.  I cannot understand why David was so fearful of Absalom, as Absalom's army was far inferior to David's.}  Vss 13-37  -  Hastily, David fled Jerusalem before the mounting wave of Absalom's rebellion, taking with him all his household except ten concubines whom he left as a token of his unsurrendered ownership of the palace.  With him also went his government officials and his troops, including his bodyguard of Philistine mercenaries (Cherethites and Pelethites) and a detachment of 600 men from Gath.  He told the priests Zadok and Abiathar and their sons to remain in Jerusalem as spies.  He asked his trusted friend and adviser Hushai to pretend loyalty to Absalom, and to infiltrate Absalom's counselors and send David word by the priests' sons of all he could see and hear in the palace.

Chapter 16  -  In this chapter Mephibosheth is reintroduced.  As a reminder, he is the crippled son of Jonathan and grandson of Saul.  David had provided very generously for Mephibosheth to honor his vow to Jonathan years earlier.  While David was fleeing he was told that Mephibosheth had remained in Jerusalem, expecting that the kingdom of his late grandfather Saul would be given to him.  In other words, Mephibosheth would become king of Israel since David was apparently abdicating his throne.  {Bear in mind, this is what David was TOLD by a third party.  Not necessarily what Mephibosheth THOUGHT or SAID.}  Later, Mephibosheth denied ever having said this (II Samual 19:24-30).  {I believe Mephibosheth never said it.  The Scripture has never portrayed him as such a man who would try to take advantage of David who had treated him so generously.}  David did not handle this information very objectively.  Then, to make matters worse for David, he was pelted with stones and curses by a man named Shimei, of the family of Saul, who shouted that the Lord had allowed Absalom to take the kingdom from David because David had stolen Israel from Saul.  David could have had that man killed, but instead he allowed the man to continue cursing him and pelting him with stones.  {What could be going through David's mind right about now?  How could things have gone from so good to so bad?  clue: chapter 11}

So David had scarcely escaped Jerusalem when Absalom and his supporters arrived from Hebron and entered the city.  Accepting Hushai's professed transfer of loyaly from David to himself (15:32-37), Absalom conferred with his counselors.  Ahithophel, one of David's counselors who had defected to Absalom, suggested a dramatic and significant act:  Absalom should lie publicly with the concubines David had left in the palace.  According to the custom of those times, this open and public taking of his father's concubines woud symbolize Absalom's taking of his father's kingdom.  Also, it would reassure Absalom's followers by widening beyond repair the growing chasm between Absalom and David.  (This would also fulfill Nathan's prophecy in 12:11-12 that the thing which David had done secretly to Uriah would be done openly to him.  Ouch!)

Next post:  Absalom's Death 

1 comment:

  1. Absalom must have had a larger following than it appears in the text. It does say in verse 13 that a messenger came and told David that the hearts of the men of Israel were with Absalom. I wonder too if David was embarrassed that it looked like his kingdom was being taken over by such a cunning individual. I don't know. These are interesting thoughts. Certainly Absalom didn't have the military following yet that David had.