From 2 Samuel 16-18
David gives an order that conflicts with the welfare of his kingdom. He is conflicted. For him the battle is personal, he doesn’t want his son Absalom to die. But his son is trying to take his nation.
This post is part of my bible in a year series.
Passage and Comments
Ziba the servant of Mephibosheth meets him on the road. He has supplies for David which David gratefully receives. When David asks about Mephibosheth, Ziba says he has stayed at Jerusalem to receive back the kingdom of his father. David buys Ziba’s story and gives all Mephibosheth owns to Ziba (2 Sam 16.1-4).
When David arrived at Bahurim, a man named Shimei (of Saul’s household) curses David and throws stones at him and his men. He says the LORD has avenged him for the destruction of Saul’s house. When one of his men offers to cut his head off, David stops him thinking the LORD may return good to him for tolerating the man’s behaviour. When David gets to the Jordan he refreshes himself (2 Sam 16.5-14).
Absalom enters Jerusalem and Hushai the Archite (David’s spy) introduces himself. Absalom questions his loyalty and accepts his response. Absalom asks his other counsellor what he should do. Ahithophel suggests he have sex with his father’s concubines in public. Absalom does this fulfilling Nathan’s prediction of the LORD’s punishment on David (2 Sam 16.15-23).
Absalom seeks the advice of Ahithophel and Hushai as to how he should kill David his father. Absalom follows Hushai’s advice that he wait and gather all his forces and then go into battle seeking David. Hushai then sends word to David about what Absalom will do. Ahithophel suicides because his advice was not followed. Some Ammonites provide for David and his men (2 Sam 17.1-29).
The passage I have chosen today goes through the battle between Davids forces and Absalom’s.
18 Then David mustered the men who were with him and set over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds.
2 And David sent out the army, one third under the command of Joab, one third under the command of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the command of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the men, “I myself will also go out with you.”
3 But the men said, “You shall not go out. For if we flee, they will not care about us. If half of us die, they will not care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us. Therefore it is better that you send us help from the city.”
4 The king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood at the side of the gate, while all the army marched out by hundreds and by thousands. (2 Sam 18.1-4)
The battle may be close and David’s men, concerned for his welfare, stop him from joining them in battle. David still has many men loyal to him. The remaining sons of Zeruiah, will be David’s generals. Note; Joab was the one who helped reconcile Absalom and David (2 Sam 14.28-33). Now he is trying to kill him.
5 And the king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders about Absalom. (2 Sam 18.5)
David gives an order that conflicts with the welfare of his kingdom. That is because he is conflicted. For him the battle is personal, he doesn’t want his son to die. But his son is trying to take his nation.
6 So the army went out into the field against Israel, and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 And the men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the loss there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread over the face of all the country, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword. (2 Sam 18.6-8)
Lots of men die. In the context of David’s life, the war has happened because of David’s infidelity with Bathsheba and murder of Uriah. These are the consequences a leaders sins. The forest takes more than the sword. The text is not specific. I assume people on both sides are dying because of the forest. How do they die? Perhaps they trip over. Perhaps the forest comes alive and devours them. The text implies it is the LORD’s doing. If both sides are taking losses due to the forest. This is the LORD’s judgment on both sides.
9 And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. (2 Sam 18.9)
Mules cannot run as fast as horses but they are more sure footed and have more endurance. I suspect mules can run faster than men and I’m sure that is important in battles. Nonetheless Absalom comically gets stuck in a tree. I strongly suspect his long hair was the cause. He is basically a sitting duck.
10 And a certain man saw it and told Joab, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” 11 Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.”
12 But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not reach out my hand against the king’s son, for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake protect the young man Absalom.’
13 On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” (2 Sam 18.10-13)
He is seen by the opposite side and the man tells Joab. Joab if anything is loyal, practical, and ruthless. The men would obey David’s command to spare Absalom. But Joab wouldn’t. Absalom is a dead man.
14 Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” And he took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak. 15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him. (2 Sam 18.14-15)
Im not sure how Absalom could have survived having three javelins thrust into his heart. I suspect heart = chest or stomach as the centre of someones being. Not the literal anatomic heart because one javelin would be enough. After the three javelins the men surround Absalom and put him out of his misery. This is actually a saving grace of the LORD. Had not Absalom been killed, many more men would have died.
16 Then Joab blew the trumpet, and the troops came back from pursuing Israel, for Joab restrained them.
17 And they took Absalom and threw him into a great pit in the forest and raised over him a very great heap of stones. And all Israel fled every one to his own home.
18 Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up for himself the pillar that is in the King’s Valley, for he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name, and it is called Absalom’s monument to this day. (2 Sam 18:16–18)
Blowing the trumpet signifies victory. When Joab blew the trumpet he claimed victory for his side and everyone knew Absalom was either dead or captured. Israel is routed and flees. Joab prevents his men chasing them down. He doesnt want to needlessly kill people from his own nation.
Absalom set up a monument for himself. Its sad and egotistical at the same time. Absalom has no children to continue his line and he makes this public. His sons must have died (cf. 2 Sam 14.27). Absalom feels the need to glorify himself.
David is keen to hear the outcome of the battle. Joab sends two messengers with slightly different news to David. Initially he is told they have won the battle, but he is given no news of Absalom. The second messenger comes and David is told of Absalom’s death. David is grieved to the heart and cries out for Absalom. When David’s men hear how he has responded, their victory is turned into mourning. Joab his general notes his effect on the men and he rebukes David for his actions. David goes out to the men and supports them (2 Sam 18.19-19.8).
Story of Israel
So begins the early stages of the inner turmoil within the kingdom. Judah and Israel will be at each others throats for a few hundred years now. But it will end in the exile. Assyria and Babylon will come in and take over these lands. Judah and Israel while still hostile to one another will no longer be able to fight one another because they have been defeated and conquered by other nations.
Story of Jesus
Absalom is not remembered in the New Testament. He died is a tree because he was guilty of trying to rule over the LORD’s anointed king. In the new testament though another died on a tree for quite different reasons. He was completely faithful to God. He was God’s anointed Christ. Peters gospel message describes the cross as a tree.
36 As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all),
37 you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: 38 how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. 39 And we are witnesses of all that he did both in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree, 40 but God raised him on the third day and made him to appear, 41 not to all the people but to us who had been chosen by God as witnesses, who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead.
42 And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:36–43)
Copyright © Joshua Washington and thescripturesays, 2014. All Rights Reserved.