2 Samuel 18,19
Sermon: ABSALOM, MY SON, MY SON

(c) Copyright 2006 Rev. Bill Versteeg


Absalom’s Death (NIV)
2 Samuel 18,19

David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 David sent the troops out—a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, “I myself will surely march out with you.”

3 But the men said, “You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.”

4 The king answered, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”

So the king stood beside the gate while all the men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. 5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.

6 The army marched into the field to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There the army of Israel was defeated by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest claimed more lives that day than the sword.

9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s head got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.

10 When one of the men saw this, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”

11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.”

12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lift my hand against the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy —and nothing is hidden from the king—you would have kept your distance from me.”

14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.

16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes.

18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.
David Mourns

19 Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok said, “Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has delivered him from the hand of his enemies.”

20 “You are not the one to take the news today,” Joab told him. “You may take the news another time, but you must not do so today, because the king’s son is dead.”

21 Then Joab said to a Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” The Cushite bowed down before Joab and ran off.

22 Ahimaaz son of Zadok again said to Joab, “Come what may, please let me run behind the Cushite.”

But Joab replied, “My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.”

23 He said, “Come what may, I want to run.”

So Joab said, “Run!” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain and outran the Cushite.

24 While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates, the watchman went up to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked out, he saw a man running alone. 25 The watchman called out to the king and reported it.

The king said, “If he is alone, he must have good news.” And the man came closer and closer.

26 Then the watchman saw another man running, and he called down to the gatekeeper, “Look, another man running alone!”

The king said, “He must be bringing good news, too.”

27 The watchman said, “It seems to me that the first one runs like Ahimaaz son of Zadok.”
“He’s a good man,” the king said. “He comes with good news.”

28 Then Ahimaaz called out to the king, “All is well!” He bowed down before the king with his face to the ground and said, “Praise be to the LORD your God! He has delivered up the men who lifted their hands against my lord the king.”

29 The king asked, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.”

30 The king said, “Stand aside and wait here.” So he stepped aside and stood there.

31 Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The LORD has delivered you today from all who rose up against you.”

32 The king asked the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

The Cushite replied, “May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.”

33 The king was shaken. He went up to the room over the gateway and wept. As he went, he said: “O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you—O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Chapter 19
Joab was told, “The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” 2 And for the whole army the victory that day was turned into mourning, because on that day the troops heard it said, “The king is grieving for his son.” 3 The men stole into the city that day as men steal in who are ashamed when they flee from battle. 4 The king covered his face and cried aloud, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”


Brothers and Sisters in Christ.
Years earlier, David, the man after God's own heart, fell into sin with Bathsheba by taking her to be his wife and murdering Uriah. The prophet Nathan came to David with a harsh judgment - Even though David had repented of his abuse of power, even though his sins were forgiven, the sword would never leave his household. The consequences of his sin took years to work out. This is an illustration of the familial consequence of sin - the father’s sin and its consequence past onto his children. David was the father who experienced the pain of seeing the his life dynamics work itself out painfully in his children.

David had at least 19 sons according I Chronicles 3:14. Of those sons, his favourite sons were his first sons.

Ammon David's first born son was special to him. He was destined for the throne of David - therefore favoured by all. But before he got to the throne, he raped his half sister Tamar, who happened to be Absalom’s true sister. Absalom burned with anger against Ammon. Two years later, when he finally got the chance, Absalom had Ammon killed at a party.
The next son was Kileab, otherwise called Daniel. From the very little we know of him, we can only assume he died in his youth probably from natural causes.

So David had his fair share of tragedy. Its no wonder that he came to value Absalom more and more. After Absalom murdered Ammon, it would have only been right for David to take Absalom's life, instead he exiled him outside of the country in the land of Geshure. But it was only about three years before David's yearning for Absalom was so strong that he forgave him and under Joab's encouragement, welcomed him back to Jerusalem.

Commentators are quick to point out David's errors and sins in the whole process. As David had taken a women that was not rightfully his, so his first son Ammon had taken a women that was not rightfully his. As David had abused his power and murdered Uriah, so Absalom choose to be a vigilante rather than seek justice and so he murdered Ammon.
But there is more than just the consequences of sin in this passage. David was the King, the worker of justice in the land. When it came to his son, his desire for his son, his love was so overpowering that when it came to Absalom, he watered down justice and let him return.
Not long after his return, Absalom started scheming on how he could take over the throne.

We don't know all his motivations especially since he was next in line for the throne anyways, having killed Ammon. One possible motivation may have had to do with his mother, Maacah, daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur. David had married her for political reasons - a marriage with a potential enemy, and Absalom’s mother may have seen this as an opportunity to rid the country of David once and for all, or maybe his mothers family set him up to it while he was exiled in Geshure. Scriptures do not give to us a motivation.

The Coup - de - ta was set was planned. Absalom went to worship at Hebron, and from there he gathered for himself counsel to dethrone his own father. The battle came to a head, under the imaginative bad advice of Hushai, an advisor originally to David. In The forests of Ephraim some 20,000 men lost their lives, but David's men, the more experienced fighters, got the upper hand. As the story is recorded, Absalom in the thick of battle got his hair caught on a branch while riding his mule. Hanging there defenceless, he became the victim of Joab's javelin even though David had instructed his men to "Be gentle with the young men Absalom, for my sake."

Two messengers came running to tell the aging David the news of his son. Ahimaaz, the swifter of the two, upon seeing the concern on David's face was unwilling to give him the whole painful truth. But the Cushite, when he arrived announced the triumph in Absalom's death.

David had one response. He went up to his room above the gate and the sense of the original language is that he shock or he convulsed in his grief as he cried out words that are possible some of the saddest and best known laments in history and literature.

"O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!
If only I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"

They are the words of a father, a parent in deep pain and anguish because a son turned against him and against God for eternity. It's a pain so intense it was difficult of many to understand. Obviously Joab didn't, and the bulk of David's army didn't. They had won a victory and they wanted recognition. It's the kind of pain that some of us here this morning can understand, if we have a child who has turned away from us and from the Lord, we can taste but a part of the pain that David had.

For David, the pain had obviously a variety of sources. One was very simply a Father's love for his son. In effect, to preserve his own throne, he had taken the life of his very own son. Certainly his throne was not worth it. What had happened to the earlier days when Saul wanted his life and David simply depended on the Lord to give him the throne in his own time. Now the one whom he would willingly give his life for was dead at his own hands. The loss was a loss of part of himself, his emptiness was an aching void which no longer could be filled with "Absalom, his son."

For David, the grief was also because of dashed hopes. Absalom was a son with such promise. He was one of the best warriors in Israel. His stature, strength and shear physical health was the envy of many. He had political wits, he had it all, and so much of Israel really liked him. David had dreams about the son who would follow him - a glorious son, a warrior in his footsteps, a King of glory and renown. David's desire was to bless him with every blessing and riches he had. But now none of them would come true. Absalom was dead and so were all of David's hopes when he cried "Absalom, my son, my son."

David's pain was also the pain of regret. For those of us who have lost our children to the world, we have enough struggles with self doubt: "If only I had done this or that differently," even though we know that young people are responsible and make their own decisions based on a whole variety of factors, many of which have little or nothing to do with us as parents. But for David it was different. Absalom’s death were the words of the prophet Nathan coming true. Was that affair with Bathsheba worth all of this? If only he had gone to war that day, now Absalom had to pay for it. And those times he went soft on Absalom, not insisting on an appropriate justice; did David himself as a parent create this rebellious character, that would murder, even as he himself had murdered to get his own way? David saw that his own sin had its part in destroying his own son and certainly when he cried "Absalom, my son, my son" he saw the blood on his own hands.

Maybe some of us here can relate all to well this morning. As we reflect on this passage, God, the author of this story understands our pain. He understands the pain of losing children to Satan and sin, he understands the pain of losing children to death, even eternal death. With your groans he groans, your tears he understands, your sleepless nights of concern have equally been his who never slumbers. And even though God might seem far away, he is nearer to you in your pain than you might be able to imagine.

Listen to the cries of God for his children throughout the scriptures. (Slides 18-21)
Jeremiah 9:1,2 “Oh that my head were a spring of water and my eyes a fountain of tears. I would weep day and night for the slain of my people. O that I had in the desert a lodging place for travelers so that I might leave my people and go away from them for they are all adulterers, a crowd of unfaithful people.

Hosea 11 “When Israel was a child I loved him and out of Egypt I called my son, but the more I called Israel the further they went from me...How can I give you up Ephraim, How can I hand you over Israel...

Or Jesus weeping over Jerusalem in Matt 23 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather you children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!"

And Paul's words in Romans 9 for his Jewish brothers “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel."

As we listen to these other passages in scripture, we discover that these words were God’s words for a son, for his people, for our sons and daughters, for us. And that is why there is something wonderful in this cry of David. Even at one of the lowest points in his life, these his words were God’s words, a picture of the grace that would come to us through Jesus Christ.

"O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom!
If only I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!"

What David as King would not do, God as King did. He worked justice where justice had to be done.  What David as Father could not do, God in Jesus did, instead of just crying “Oh my son, my daughter, Oh my son, my daughter, if only I had died instead of you.” Jesus in love did die instead of you. He died instead of us on a cross at Calvary bearing upon himself the fullness of the curse of our sins.
 


(NIV) Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright (C) 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.

Back to Sermon Index Page


Let me know if this message was helpful.