Relationships –David and Absalom

Sons were born to David in Hebron:
His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel;
his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel;
the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur;
the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith;
the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital;

  • 2 Samuel 3:2-4

In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.
Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill. She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.
Now Amnon had an adviser named Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother. Jonadab was a very shrewd man. He asked Amnon, “Why do you, the king’s son, look so haggard morning after morning? Won’t you tell me?”
Amnon said to him, “I’m in love with Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.”
“Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand.’”
So Amnon lay down and pretended to be ill. When the king came to see him, Amnon said to him, “I would like my sister Tamar to come and make some special bread in my sight, so I may eat from her hand.”
David sent word to Tamar at the palace: “Go to the house of your brother Amnon and prepare some food for him.”

But when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, “Come to bed with me, my sister.”
“No, my brother!” she said to him. “Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel! Don’t do this wicked thing. What about me? Where could I get rid of my disgrace? And what about you? You would be like one of the wicked fools in Israel. Please speak to the king; he will not keep me from being married to you.” But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than she, he raped her.
Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred. In fact, he hated her more than he had loved her. Amnon said to her, “Get up and get out!”
“No!” she said to him. “Sending me away would be a greater wrong than what you have already done to me.”
But he refused to listen to her. He called his personal servant and said, “Get this woman out of my sight and bolt the door after her.”

Her brother Absalom said to her, “Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you? Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” And Tamar lived in her brother Absalom’s house, a desolate woman.
When King David heard all this, he was furious. And Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar.
Two years later, when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king’s sons to come there. Absalom went to the king and said, “Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his attendants please join me?”
“No, my son,” the king replied. “All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go but gave him his blessing.
Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon come with us.”
The king asked him, “Why should he go with you?” But Absalom urged him, so he sent with him Amnon and the rest of the king’s sons.
Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave.” So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.
While they were on their way, the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons; not one of them is left.” The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his attendants stood by with their clothes torn.
But Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “My lord should not think that they killed all the princes; only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s express intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar. My lord the king should not be concerned about the report that all the king’s sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.”

Jonadab said to the king, “See, the king’s sons have come; it has happened just as your servant said.”
As he finished speaking, the king’s sons came in, wailing loudly. The king, too, and all his attendants wept very bitterly.
Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned many days for his son.
After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years. And King David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.

  • 2 Samuel 13:1-7, 11-17, 20-33. 36-39

Joab son of Zeruiah knew that the king’s heart longed for Absalom. So Joab sent someone to Tekoa and had a wise woman brought from there. He said to her, “Pretend you are in mourning. Dress in mourning clothes, and don’t use any cosmetic lotions. Act like a woman who has spent many days grieving for the dead. Then go to the king and speak these words to him.” And Joab put the words in her mouth.
When the woman from Tekoa went to the king, she fell with her face to the ground to pay him honor, and she said, “Help me, Your Majesty!”
The king asked her, “What is troubling you?”
She said, “I am a widow; my husband is dead. I your servant had two sons. They got into a fight with each other in the field, and no one was there to separate them. One struck the other and killed him.

The woman said, “Why then have you devised a thing like this against the people of God? When the king says this, does he not convict himself, for the king has not brought back his banished son? Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die. But that is not what God desires; rather, he devises ways so that a banished person does not remain banished from him.

Absalom lived two years in Jerusalem without seeing the king’s face. Then Absalom sent for Joab in order to send him to the king, but Joab refused to come to him. So he sent a second time, but he refused to come. Then he said to his servants, “Look, Joab’s field is next to mine, and he has barley there. Go and set it on fire.” So Absalom’s servants set the field on fire.
Then Joab did go to Absalom’s house, and he said to him, “Why have your servants set my field on fire?”
Absalom said to Joab, “Look, I sent word to you and said, ‘Come here so I can send you to the king to ask, “Why have I come from Geshur? It would be better for me if I were still there!”’ Now then, I want to see the king’s face, and if I am guilty of anything, let him put me to death.”
So Joab went to the king and told him this. Then the king summoned Absalom, and he came in and bowed down with his face to the ground before the king. And the king kissed Absalom.

  • 2 Samuel 14:1-6, 13-14, 28-33

In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, “What town are you from?” He would answer, “Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.” Then Absalom would say to him, “Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.” And Absalom would add, “If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.”
Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.
At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the Lord. While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the Lord takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the Lord in Hebron.’”
The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he went to Hebron.
Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.
A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the people of Israel are with Absalom.”
Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin on us and put the city to the sword.”

  • 2 Samuel 15:1-14

Meanwhile, Absalom and all the men of Israel came to Jerusalem, and Ahithophel was with him. Then Hushai the Arkite, David’s confidant, went to Absalom and said to him, “Long live the king! Long live the king!”
Absalom said to Hushai, “So this is the love you show your friend? If he’s your friend, why didn’t you go with him?”
Hushai said to Absalom, “No, the one chosen by the Lord, by these people, and by all the men of Israel—his I will be, and I will remain with him. Furthermore, whom should I serve? Should I not serve the son? Just as I served your father, so I will serve you.”

  • 2 Samuel 16:15-19

David went to Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of Jether, an Ishmaelite who had married Abigail, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab. The Israelites and Absalom camped in the land of Gilead.

  • 2 Samuel 17:24-26

When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”
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.”
But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake.’ And if I had put my life in jeopardy—and nothing is hidden from the king—you would have kept your distance from me.”
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. And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.
Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 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.

The king said, “Stand aside and wait here.” So he stepped aside and stood there.
Then the Cushite arrived and said, “My lord the king, hear the good news! The Lord has vindicated you today by delivering you from the hand of all who rose up against you.”
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.”
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!”

  • 2 Samuel 18:10-17, 20-33

A Quote

[2 Samuel 15:1-6] ”Public hearings were always conducted early in the morning in a court held outside by the city gates. Absalom positioned himself there to win favor. Because King David was busy with other matters or with wars, and was also aging, many matters were left unresolved, building a deep feeling of resentment among the people. Absalom used that situation to undermine his father, by gratifying all he could with a favorable settlement and showing them all warm cordiality. Thus, he won the people to himself, without them knowing his wicked ambition.”

  • John MacArthur, John MacArthur Commentary

What Do We Know about their Relationship?

We know that David loved Absalom unconditionally.  Maybe David is showing how God loves us, even though we are yet sinners.  For David seems to unconditionally forgive Absalom.

After killing Amnon, or having him killed, every action taken by Absalom was self-serving.  He murdered an older brother, setting himself closer to the eldest son of the king.  He ran away, but was not repentant, seeking to save his own skin.  He burned down Joab’s field to get what he wanted, the kiss of forgiveness from his father.  Then he immediately sets to his master plan to usurp David’s throne.  And David was forgiving him through the entire problem.

Some of the text above was removed to try to shorten it a little.  Amnon was crazy about Tamar, but once he had raped her, she was no longer a virgin and Amnon hated her.  Absalom hated Amnon as a result of this escapade.  After Absalom had Amnon killed, he ran away.  Joab saw David moping, worried about Absalom.  He tricked David into giving absolution for a fictional son of a woman Joab had selected.  She challenged David, just as Nathan had done when David killed Uriah and took Uriah’s wife for himself.  But once Absalom was coaxed into returning, he refused Absalom an audience until Joab’s field was burned.  And then David’s instructions to Joab was not to harm Absalom after Absalom had rebelled, taking over as king.

What Can We Infer about their Relationship?

We can infer that David refused the audience with Absalom because David knew that he could not fail in forgiving his son.  Intellectually, David knew his son should pay for murdering Amnon, but he knew that once he saw Absalom, mercy and grace would be the only things on David’s mind.  We can also infer that Absalom knew his father and that is why the burning of Joab’s field was done.  Thus, Absalom got away with murder, and you can throw in getting away with arson also.  We might even infer that the blood-thirsty Joab got revenge for his burned field by killing Absalom.  Joab’s mind may have agreed upon Absalom being a loose cannon that would eventually destroy David, but the burned field was in his mind also.

Why would Absalom, left alive, be the end of David?  Joab had seen David forgive without ever disciplining the young man.  It was an often repeated cycle.

I am torn with whether Absalom had any moral high ground in hating Amnon for raping his sister or hating Amnon for that reason.  Maybe the hate was in hating Amnon rejecting her afterwards.  If hating due to the rape, there could be a bit of moral indignation and being protective of his sister.  If hating the rejection, then Amnon was rejecting Absalom also and Absalom’s hubris had no room for that type of behavior.  The latter fits the rest of the story, but with God inside me, I would hope that there was even the slightest kernel of goodness within Absalom and then lost after killing Amnon.

In What Ways Can We Fill in the Gaps about their Relationship?

What was Absalom like growing up?  His long hair showed a narcistic attitude, total vanity.  When Absalom openly displayed that vanity, it is no wonder that he thought himself above the law.  So these snippets, as an adult, are probably a long history of always getting away with whatever he felt like doing, and probably all with evil intent.

David, being a warrior and then king, was probably an absentee father.  When it came time to be a father, “parent” as a verb instead of a noun, David was laughable.  It was as if his sons were saying, “You were not there when I scraped my knee, why pretend to be a father now?”  This may be a harsh gap filling suggestion, but this story portrays David lost without any hope.  God saved the day.  The portion about Hushai was David’s camp giving Absalom one too many counselors, confusing his decision making, and leading to his demise.  But other than this one move, David was lost.

What Can We Learn from this Relationship?

Jesus said it.  Father will be against son, and son against father. Etc.

We are commanded to forgive lest we not be forgiven.  But that does not mean that the harming party will accept that forgiveness or even repent.  They might even take advantage of your propensity to forgive and harm you even more.  And when that is a direct family member, it hurts deeply.  Yet, God sees our sin and yet He forgives us.  He loves us.  But only those who have accepted Jesus, only those with a life-giving relationship with Jesus, will be saved.

It is not up to us to save our Absalom.  Our Absalom may not be salvageable.  But we must forgive.  We must pray.  But we do not, and must not, condone the sin.  When our Absalom demands that we love the sin, that becomes a spiritual battleline that we must never cross, no matter how painful it might be.

What Have We Learned thus far?

We have learned to:

  • Own our own mistakes and not blame others.
  • Be faithful to God, and worship properly, in the proper spirit.
  • Go to God in prayer, especially before any major decisions.
  • Do not show favoritism among family members, but always go to God.
  • Forgiveness is extremely important for none of us are perfect except for God.
  • Beyond physical love, there are other expressions of love, and respect is very important.
  • A relationship requires maintenance, nurturing, and an acceptance of the roles.
  • Be humble and listen to wise advice, and even wait when necessary.
  • At times, we must be bold and trust God, and we must obey.
  • And to love, love, and love.
  • Be trustworthy.  Trust is required.
  • And don’t worry.  God has this situation, and He has us in the palm of His hand.
  • And remember to forgive others and confess our sins.
  • And never go against what God instructs us to do.
  • And truly believe that God can show you mercy and accept the mercy offered.  Yet remember that it is indeed mercy.

A Closing Prayer

Lord,
We look to You for guidance.  Each of us reading this prayer may have an unrepentant “Absalom” in their family.  We may have done a poor job of discipline or maybe we have done everything right, but it is up to each individual to accept or reject You, oh, God, but as David mourned the death of Absalom, we mourn the spiritual death of some who may still be alive.  The saying goes that if there is breath, there is hope, but only You know if they have permanently closed that door.  Yet, as You love us and David loved Absalom, we ask again for You to save those loved ones who are lost.
In Thy Name we pray,
Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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