This chapter is based on 2 Samuel 13-19.
“He shall restore fourfold,” had been David’s unwitting sentence upon himself, on listening to the prophet Nathan’s parable; and according to his own sentence he was to be judged. Four of his sons must fall, and the loss of each would be a result of the father’s sin.
The shameful crime of Amnon, the first-born, was permitted by me, David to pass unpunished and unrebuked. The law pronounced death upon the adulterer, and the unnatural crime of Amnon made him doubly guilty.
But I, David, self-condemned for my own sin, failed to bring the offender to justice. For two full years Absalom, the natural protector of the sister so foully wronged, concealed his purpose of revenge, but only to strike more surely at the last. At a feast of the king’s sons the drunken, incestuous Amnon was slain by his brother’s command.
Twofold judgment had been meted out to me, David. The terrible message was carried to me,
“2Sa 13:30 And it came to pass, while they were on the way, that news came to David, saying, “Absalom has killed all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left!”
2Sa 13:31 So the king arose and tore his garments and lay on the ground, and all his servants stood by with their clothes torn.
2Sa 13:32 Then Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, answered and said, “Let not my lord suppose they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for only Amnon is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar.
2Sa 13:33 Now therefore, let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king’s sons are dead. For only Amnon is dead.”
2Sa 13:34 Then Absalom fled. And the young man who was keeping watch lifted his eyes and looked, and there, many people were coming from the road on the hillside behind him.
2Sa 13:35 And Jonadab said to the king, “Look, the king’s sons are coming; as your servant said, so it is.”
2Sa 13:36 So it was, as soon as he had finished speaking, that the king’s sons indeed came, and they lifted up their voice and wept. Also the king and all his servants wept very bitterly.
2Sa 13:37 But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.
Like my other sons, Amnon had been left to selfish indulgence. He had sought to gratify every thought of his heart, regardless of the requirements of God. Notwithstanding his great sin, God had borne long with him.
For two years he had been granted opportunity for repentance; but he continued in sin, and with his guilt upon him, he was cut down by death, to await the awful tribunal of the judgment.
I, David had neglected the duty of punishing the crime of Amnon, and because of my unfaithfulness as his father and my impenitent son, the Lord permitted events to take their natural course, and did not restrain Absalom.
When parents or rulers neglect the duty of punishing iniquity, God Himself will take the case in hand. His restraining power will be in a measure removed from the agencies of evil, so that a train of circumstances will arise which will punish sin with sin.
The evil results of my unjust indulgence toward Amnon were not ended, for it was here that Absalom’s alienation from me, his father began. After he fled to Geshur, I, feeling that the crime of my son demanded some punishment, refused him permission to return.
And this tended to increase rather than to lessen the inextricable evils in which I had come to be involved. Absalom, energetic, ambitious, and unprincipled, shut out by his exile from participation in the affairs of the kingdom, soon gave himself up to dangerous scheming.
At the close of two years Joab determined to effect a reconciliation between me and my son. And with this object in view, he secured the services of a woman of Tekoa, reputed for wisdom. Instructed by Joab, the woman represented herself to me as a widow whose two sons had been her only comfort and support.
In a quarrel one of these had slain the other, and now all the relatives of the family demanded that the survivor should be given up to the avenger of blood. “And so,” said the mother, “they shall quench my coal which is left, and shall not leave to my husband neither name nor remainder upon the earth.”
My feelings were touched by this appeal, and I assured the woman of the royal protection for her son.
After drawing from me repeated promises for the young man’s safety, she entreated my forbearance declaring that I had spoken as one at fault, in that I did not fetch home again his banished son,. “For,” she said, “2Sa 14:14 For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him.
This tender and touching portrayal of the love of God toward the sinner—coming as it did from Joab, the rude soldier—is a striking evidence of the familiarity of the Israelites with the great truths of redemption. I, the king, feeling my own need of God’s mercy, could not resist this appeal. To Joab the command was given, “Go therefore, bring the young man Absalom again.”
Absalom was permitted to return to Jerusalem, but not to appear at court or to meet his father. I had begun to see the evil effects of my indulgence toward my children. Tenderly as loved this beautiful and gifted son, I felt it necessary, as a lesson both to Absalom and to the people, that abhorrence for such a crime should be manifested.
Absalom lived two years in his own house but banished from the court. His sister dwelt with him, and her presence kept alive the memory of the irreparable wrong she had suffered.
In the popular estimation the prince was a hero rather than an offender. And having this advantage, he set himself to gain the hearts of the people. His personal appearance was such as to win the admiration of all beholders.
“In all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.” It was not wise for me to leave a man of Absalom’s character—ambitious, impulsive, and passionate—to brood for two years over supposed grievances.
And my action in permitting him to return to Jerusalem, and yet refusing to admit him to my presence, enlisted in his behalf the sympathies of the people.
With the memory ever before me of my own transgression of the law of God, I seemed morally paralyzed. I was weak and irresolute, when before sin I had been courageous and decided. My influence with the people had been weakened. And all this, favoured the designs of unnatural son.
Through the influence of Joab, Absalom was again admitted to my presence; but though there was an outward reconciliation, he continued his ambitious scheming. He now assumed an almost royal state, having chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.
And while I was more and more inclined to desire retirement and solitude, Absalom sedulously courted the popular favour.
The influence of my listlessness and irresolution extended to my subordinates. Negligence and delay characterized the administration of justice. Absalom artfully turned every cause of dissatisfaction to his own advantage.
Day by day this man of noble mien might be seen at the gate of the city, where a crowd of suppliants waited to present their wrongs for redress. Absalom mingled with them and listened to their grievances, expressing sympathy with their sufferings and regret at the inefficiency of the government.
Having thus listened to the story of a man of Israel, the prince would reply,
2Sa 15:2 Now Absalom would rise early and stand beside the way to the gate. So it was, whenever anyone who had a lawsuit came to the king for a decision, that Absalom would call to him and say, “What city are you from?” And he would say, “Your servant is from such and such a tribe of Israel.”
2Sa 15:3 Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your case is good and right; but there is no deputy of the king to hear you.”
2Sa 15:4 Moreover Absalom would say, “Oh, that I were made judge in the land, and everyone who has any suit or cause would come to me; then I would give him justice.”
2Sa 15:5 And so it was, whenever anyone came near to bow down to him, that he would put out his hand and take him and kiss him.
2Sa 15:6 In this manner Absalom acted toward all Israel who came to the king for judgment. So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
Fomented by the artful insinuations of the prince, discontent with the government was fast spreading. The praise of Absalom was on the lips of all. He was generally regarded as heir to the kingdom; the people looked upon him with pride as worthy of this high station, and a desire was kindled that he might occupy the throne.
“So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” Yet, blinded by affection for my son, suspected nothing. The princely state which Absalom had assumed, was regarded by me as intended to do honour to my court—as an expression of joy at the reconciliation.
The minds of the people being prepared for what was to follow, Absalom secretly sent picked men throughout the tribes, to organise measures for a revolt. And now the cloak of religious devotion was assumed to conceal his traitorous designs.
A vow made long before while he was in exile must be paid in Hebron. Absalom told me, “”Please, let me go to Hebron and pay the vow which I made to the LORD. For your servant took a vow while I dwelt at Geshur in Syria, saying, ‘If the LORD indeed brings me back to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.’
I the fond father, comforted with this evidence of piety in my son, dismissed him with my blessing. Unbeknown to me, the conspiracy was now fully matured. Absalom’s crowning act of hypocrisy was designed not only to blind me but to establish the confidence of the people, and thus to lead them on to rebellion against me, the king whom God had chosen.
2Sa 15:9 And the king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he arose and went to Hebron.
2Sa 15:10 Then Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then you shall say, ‘Absalom reigns in Hebron!’ ”
2Sa 15:11 And with Absalom went two hundred men invited from Jerusalem, and they went along innocently and did not know anything.
2Sa 15:12 Then Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city—from Giloh—while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy grew strong, for the people with Absalom continually increased in number.
David had to flee from Absalom