Friday, February 15, 2013

CXV - II Samuel 17-18 - David defeats Absalom

In the last post we saw that David's son Absalom had revolted against his father king David.  {But let's remember that this whole situation was Amnon's fault.  He brutally raped Absalom's sister Tamar.  To make matters worse, and further provoking Absalom, Amnon was not held accountable for his horrible act.  Perhaps had Amnon been brought to justice, this whole mess might have been averted.  I have always believed that rape is the most horrible crime that could be committed by a man.  More horrible than murder.  In most instances, there is a reason for murder.  A bad reason most of the time, but nonetheless, a reason.  That reason could be greed, revenge, self-defense, war, or even romance.  But there is NEVER a reason for rape other than selfish evil lust.  I cannot imagine in the far reaches of my mind how a man can force himself on a female who is screaming in fear, crying, begging for him to stop.  Not only is he brutally forcing himself on a female, but he is sexually aroused while doing so.  This evil in such a man is immeasurable in my mind and should always be punished in the harshest of means.}
Absalom had now made his intentions known.  He wanted to take over the nation Israel and replace his father David as king.  David had made a hasty escape from Jerusalem, just before Absalom and his new army arrived in the capital city.  Our last post ended with Absalom disgracing his father by having sex with David's ten concubines on the roof of the royal palace, which fulfilled Nathan's prophecy in 12:11-12.

This brings us to chapter 17.  David's escape from Jersusalem presented Absalom with a dilemma.  The takeover of the nation no longer was a relatively simple matter of seizing the capital and capturing the king.  Instead of being hopelessly bottled up in Jerusalem, David was loose in the countryside with a small but staunchly loyal, highly mobile, combat-experienced army.  Absalom was aware of the fact that he would never be the king as long as David was still alive and had an army with him.  Clearly this demanded of Absalom a radical change in strategy and tactics that would have to be implemented before David had time to make his way into the wilderness beyond Jordan, where it would be almost impossible to overtake him.  Obviously David must be overtaken and defeated before he reached that point.  So Absalom called on his councilors to help him decide how best to accomplish this.  Absalom first turned to Ahithophel, who had been one of David's councelors.  Ahithophel's plan was explicit and practical:  Pursue David immediately with sufficient force to overwhelm him and bring all his people back to Jerusalem (17:1-4).  Absalom then sought the advice from Hushai.  {Remember Hushai?  He was David's councelor and friend who went over to Absalom's side as a spy for David, and who would keep David informed through the Levites Ahimaaz and Jonathan (15:32-37).}  Seeing how Ahithophel's plan was really very good and would place David in danger, Hushai proposed and elaborate, cumbersome, time-consuming alternative:  A nationwide draft of untrained men with whom Absalom himself would go into battle.  His army would be ovrwhelmingly large (however scantly trained).  Hushai's plan was enthusiastically accepted by Absalom and all of his councelors except Ahithophel.  (Ahithophel was publicly disgraced by the rejection of his plan and a short time later he committed suicide by hanging.)
Hushai immediately sent word to David about Absalom's plan.  Upon hearing this David crossed the Jordan to the wilderness beyond.  Having crossed the Jordan, David and his men established a base camp at Mahanaim, a fortified city in the highlands east of Gilead.  Absalom followed with his drafted army, pitched camp in Gilead and set out in search of David.  David's men, however, were in no shape for battle due to fatigue, hunger, and thirst.  In their haste to leave Jersusalem they were unable to compile the supplies necessary for an army on the run.  But God provided for David and his men throught the people in that area and beyond who brought to them all the food and supplies they would need.  David then organized his rested and well-nourished troops for battle.  {Important to note at this time that David selected the site and circumstances for battle.  Absalom and his advisors were not equal to David when it came to military preparedness.}  David split his army into three units led by three capable commanders, Joab, Joab's brother Abishai, and Ittai the Gittite.  Then David dispatched them into the wilderness to find and attack Absalom's army.  But David instructed them to deal "gently" with Absalom.

In the dense forest of Ephraim, David's battle-savy army quickly overtook and defeated Absalom's militia of raw recruits.  But Absalom was not dealt with as gently as David had instructed.  (18:6-18) Remember the most physically noteworthy characteristic of Absalom was his thick, heavy hair.  As he was on his horse, fleeing from David's soldiers through the thick forest, his hair got so tangled in the dense branches that he ended up hanging by his hair as his horse continued running without him.  Trapped and helpless in the limbs of the trees, he was killed by Joab and his armor-bearers.  This was a shameful way for a prince to die.  Absalom's burial was as shameful as his death.  Instead of being given a stately funeral, his body was dumped into a nearby pit and covered with a pile of stones.  {How sad.  This should never have been.}

Two runners brought word back to David in Mahanaim.  The first runner Ahimaaz reported that David's army was victorious.  When David asked about Absalom, Ahimaaz (fearful of giving the king bad news) said there was too much confusion in the victory celebration for him to have discerned the fate of Absalom.  Cushai (the second runner), reported to David and could only answer David's question indirectly, saying "may all of the king's enemies end up like Absalom".  This cast David into a deep depression.  He grieved and lamented Absalom's death, stating that he wished it had been himself who was dead instead of Absalom.  He grieved for Absalom long and hard, even more so than he grieved for Amnon.

As you know, I revere David as one of the greatest of patriarchs.  All of this that has happened in these last few chapters of II Samuel was a real shame.  Although I am saddened for David's sake right now, I must refer back to II Samuel 12:10 when God told him violence will never depart from David's house.  And 12:11 "out of your own house I am going to bring calamity on you".  Underlying in David's grief for Absalom must been his piercing remembrance of God's prophecy and punishment for his sin with Bathsheba.  Mingled with this must have been his bitter knowledge of his own failure as a father in his refusal to deal with his son Amnon for the rape of his daughter Tamar.

Next post:  David's return to power 

No comments:

Post a Comment