Thus perished the instigators of rebellion in Israel. Ahithophel had died by his own hand. The princely Absalom, whose glorious beauty had been the pride of Israel, had been cut down in the vigour of his youth, his dead body thrust into a pit, and covered with a heap of stones, in token of everlasting reproach.
During his lifetime Absalom had reared for himself a costly monument in the king’s dale, but the only memorial which marked his grave was that heap of stones in the wilderness. The leader of the rebellion being slain, Joab by the sound of the trumpet recalled his army from the pursuit of the fleeing host, and messengers were at once dispatched to bear the tidings to the king.
The watchman upon the city wall, looking out toward the battlefield, discovered a man running alone. Soon a second came in sight. As the first drew nearer, the watchman said to me who was waiting beside the gate,
2Sa 18:27 “I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.” And I said, “He is a good man, and comes with good news.”
“And Ahimaaz called, and said to me, All is well. And he fell to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed be the Lord thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against my lord the king.” To my eager inquiry, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” Ahimaaz returned an evasive answer.
The second messenger came, crying, “There is good news, my lord the king! For the LORD has avenged you this day of all those who rose against you.” Again from my lips came the absorbing question, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
Unable to conceal the heavy tidings, the herald answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man!” It was enough. I questioned no further, but with bowed head I “went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as I went I cried bitterly, “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!”
The victorious army, returning from the field, approached the city, their shouts of triumph awaking the echoes of the hills. But as they entered the city gate the shout died away, their banners drooped in their hands, and with downcast gaze they advanced more like those who had suffered defeat than like conquerors.
For I was not waiting to bid them welcome, but from the chamber above the gate my wailing cry was heard, “O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
And Joab was told, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.”
2Sa 19:2 So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, “The king is grieved for his son.”
2Sa 19:3 And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle.
“Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines,
2Sa 19:6 in that you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well.
2Sa 19:7 Now therefore, arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants. For I swear by the LORD, if you do not go out, not one will stay with you this night. And that will be worse for you than all the evil that has befallen you from your youth until now.”
Harsh and even cruel as was the reproof to the heart-stricken king, I did not resent it. Seeing that my general was right, I went down to the gate, and with words of courage and commendation greeted brave soldiers as they march.
2Sa 19:8 Then the king arose and sat in the gate. And they told all the people, saying, “There is the king, sitting in the gate.” So all the people came before the king. For everyone of Israel had fled to his tent.
This chapter is based on 2 Samuel 24; 1 Kings 1; 1 Chronicles 21; 28; 29.
The overthrow of Absalom did not at once bring peace to my kingdom. So large a part of the nation had joined in revolt that I would not return to my capital and resume my authority without an invitation from the tribes.
In the confusion that followed Absalom’s defeat there was no prompt and decided action to recall t me, and when at last Judah undertook to bring me back, the jealousy of the other tribes was roused, and a counter-revolution followed. This, however, was speedily quelled, and peace returned to Israel.
My history affords one of the most impressive testimonies ever given to the dangers that threaten the soul from power and riches and worldly honour—those things that are most eagerly desired among men. Few have ever passed through an experience better adapted to prepare them for enduring such a test.
My early life as a shepherd, with its lessons of humility, of patient toil, and of tender care for his flocks; the communion with nature in the solitude of the hills, developing my genius for music and poetry, and directing my thoughts to the Creator.
The long discipline of my wilderness life, calling into exercise courage, fortitude, patience, and faith in God, had been appointed by the Lord as a preparation for the throne of Israel. I had enjoyed precious experiences of the love of God, and had been richly endowed with His Spirit.
In the history of Saul, I had seen the utter worthlessness of mere human wisdom. And yet worldly success and honour so weakened my character that I was repeatedly overcome by the tempter.
Intercourse with heathen peoples led to a desire to follow their national customs and kindled ambition for worldly greatness. As the people of God, Israel was to be honoured; but as
They cared rather for their standing among other nations. This spirit could not fail to invite temptation. With a view to extending my conquests among foreign nations, I determined to increase my army by requiring military service from all who were of proper age.
To affect this, it became necessary to take a census of the population. It was pride and ambition that prompted this action of mine. The numbering of the people would show the contrast between the weakness of the kingdom when I ascended the throne and its strength and prosperity under my rule.
This would tend still further to foster the already too great self-confidence of both king and people. The Scripture says, “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.”
The prosperity of Israel under me had been due to the blessing of God rather than my ability or the strength of her armies. But the increasing of the military resources of the kingdom would give the impression to surrounding nations that Israel’s trust was in her armies, and not in the power of Jehovah.
Though the people of Israel were proud of their national greatness, they did not look with favour upon my plan for so greatly extending the military service. The proposed enrolment caused much dissatisfaction.
Consequently, it was thought necessary to employ the military officers in place of the priests and magistrates, who had formerly taken the census. The object of the undertaking was directly contrary to the principles of a theocracy.
Even Joab remonstrated, unscrupulous as he had heretofore shown himself. He said, “The Lord make His people a hundred times so many more as they be: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? why then doth my lord require this thing? why will he be a cause of trespass to Israel?
Nevertheless my word prevailed against Joab. Wherefore Joab departed, and went throughout all Israel, and came to Jerusalem. The numbering was not finished when I was convicted of my sin. Self-condemned, I said to God:
“I have sinned greatly in what I have done; but now, I pray, O LORD, take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have done very foolishly.”
The next morning a message was brought to me by the prophet Gad: 2Sa 24:12 “Go and tell David, ‘Thus says the LORD: “I offer you three things; choose one of them for yourself, that I may do it to you.” ‘ ” 2Sa 24:13 So Gad came to David and told him; and he said to him, “Shall seven years of famine come to you in your land? Or shall you flee three months before your enemies, while they pursue you? Or shall there be three days’ plague in your land? Now consider and see what answer I should take back to Him who sent me.”
2Sa 24:14 And David said to Gad, “I am in great distress. Please let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for His mercies are great; but do not let me fall into the hand of man.”
2Sa 24:15 So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel from the morning till the appointed time. From Dan to Beersheba seventy thousand men of the people died.
The land was smitten with pestilence, which destroyed seventy thousand in Israel. The scourge had not yet entered the capital, when “I lifted up my eyes, and saw the angel of the Lord stand between the earth and the heaven, having a drawn sword in his hand stretched out over Jerusalem.
Then David and the elders of Israel, who were clothed in sackcloth, fell upon their faces.” The king pleaded with God in behalf of Israel: “Is it not I that commanded the people to be numbered? even I it is that have sinned and done evil indeed; but as for these sheep, what have they done? let Thine hand, I pray Thee, O Lord my God, be on me, and on my father’s house; but not on Thy people, that they should be plagued.”
The taking of the census had caused disaffection among the people; yet they had themselves cherished the same sins that prompted my action. As the Lord through Absalom’s sin visited judgment upon me, so through my error he punished the sins of Israel.
The destroying angel had stayed his course outside Jerusalem. He stood upon Mount Moriah, “in the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.” Directed by the prophet, I went to the mountain, and there built an altar to the Lord, “and offered burnt offerings and peace offerings, and called upon the Lord; and He answered me from heaven by fire upon the altar of burnt offering.” “So the Lord was entreated for the land, and the plague was stayed from Israel.”
The spot upon which the altar was erected, henceforth ever to be regarded as holy ground, was tendered to the king by Ornan as a gift. But the king declined thus to receive it.
Then the king said to Araunah, “No, but I will surely buy it from you for a price; nor will I offer burnt offerings to the LORD my God with that which costs me nothing.” So David bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver.
This spot, memorable as the place where Abraham had built the altar to offer up his son, and now hallowed by this great deliverance, was afterward chosen as the site of the temple erected by Solomon.
The death of David