2 Samuel 18,19
(c) Copyright 2006 Rev. Bill Versteeg
Absalom’s Death (NIV)
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
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.
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.
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!
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)
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!
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.