Then a messenger came to David and reported, "The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom."
2 Samuel 13:30, 31.) If the tale were not true, it was only too likely to have been true. A touch of the same recklessness and desperation comes out in the manner in which he jogged the drowsy memory of Joab (2 Samuel 14:23.) It was by the intervention of Joab that Absalom was called back to Jerusalem from his three years' banishment in Syria. It was on Joab's intercession that he relied for an entire reconciliation with the king, who for two years after his return, refused to see his face. Joab may have been doing his best, or he may not. In any case he did not move fast enough for the imperious prince. He sends for Joab, therefore; but, Joab having no good tidings to give him, will not come. He sends a second time, and still Joab will not come. Whereupon he sends servants into Joab's farm to fire his standing barley, and so compels the old warrior to wait upon him, and to listen to his complaint that he would rather die than continue to live such a life as his. But, of course, it, was in his long-planned and artfully prepared rebellion against his father and king that all that was vehement, self-willed, unrestrained in the man found full vent. With Absalom's tragic end the bolt of retribution flew right home. And yet the pity of it! For, had Absalom been reared as hardily and piously as David was, in the home and on the hills of Bethlehem; had he been snubbed, laughed at, kept down, as David was, by a band of tall, stalwart brothers; had he, like David, been tried by stroke on stroke of adversity and undeserved reproach through all the opening years of manhood, there seems little reason to doubt that he might have been no worse a man morally than his father was; or, at least, no room to doubt that, by such a severe and pious training in duty and obedience, he might have been saved from the crimes by which his life was stained, and from the shame by which his memory is oppressed. In him, too, the spiritual man might have conquered the natural man at the last, and stilled and controlled the fever of his blood. As it is, we can but use his name "to point a moral," for we can hardly add "and to adorn a tale." And that moral is, of course, the immense danger of suffering the animal man in us to overget the spiritual man. The bias of our blood and temperament may not jump with his; our training may have been better than his; our faults, our passions, our gifts, may not resemble his; and certainly we arc not, most of us. tempted to an indolent self-indulgence and self-will by a splendour of personal beauty and charm which makes it hard for any one to resist us. And yet .no one who knows himself will doubt that the brute is strong in him; that he, too, has inherited cravings, passions, lusts, which must be subdued if he is to be saved from sins as fatal, if not as flagrant, as those of Absalom. And the flesh is not to be subdued and starved in any of us save as we feed and cherish the spirit. We can only overcome evil as we follow after that which is good. But if we seek to subdue the flesh by nourishing the spirit, whether in ourselves or in our children, He who makes large allowance for us all will largely and effectively help us all.
1. Leaving the palace, on receiving news from Hebron (after the harvest and vintage, 2 Samuel 16:1; 2 Samuel 17:28; Psalm 4:7).
2. At "the Far House" (Beth-hammerhak), on the outskirts of the city (ver. 17); and at "the olive tree in (on the road to) the wilderness of Judah" (LXX.); the procession formed; Ittai the Gittite.
3. Passing over the Kidron; the signal of flight; loud and general wailing (ver. 23).
4. Commencement of the ascent of Mount Olivet; Zadok and Abiathar (vers. 24-29).
5. Ascending the mountain amidst loud wailing (ver. 30); tidings concerning Ahithophel (ver. 31).
6. At the top (about noonday), "where God was worshipped" (ver. 32); Hushai the Archite (vers. 32-37).
7. Descending, on the other side; Ziba, with refreshments (ch. 16:1-4).
8. At Bahurim; Shimei (ch. 16:5-13).
9. Coming "weary" (or, to "Ayephim") (2 Samuel 16:14); to the fords (Authorized Version, "plains") of the wilderness, or passages of the wilderness leading to the Jordan; and resting there for the night.
10. Crossing the river (after midnight), on the arrival of Ahimaaz and Jonathan with news from Jerusalem (2 Samuel 17:21, 22); and marching onward "by the morning light" toward Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24, 27-29). "There is no single day in the Jewish history of which so elaborate an account remains as of this memorable flight" (Stanley). It was probably the morning after Absalom's revolt when news came from Hebron. Of all the "evil tidings" that David ever received (2 Samuel 13:21, 30), none were more unexpected or alarming. He must determine at once whether to face the gathering storm or flee before it. With something of his former decision he chose the latter course; his servants (state officers, attendants, soldiers) declared themselves ready to do his bidding; and "he went forth and all his household" (wives, sons, daughters), "all the people" ("servants," LXX.) "after him," etc. At first, no doubt, struck with consternation, he yet speedily regained his composure (Psalm 112:12); and came to his decision not from abject fear, or personal cowardice (2 Samuel 18:2), but (as others should do in similar critical and perilous positions) from motives of -
I. PIETY; or humble submission to the chastisement of God. Lest he "bring evil upon us;" or "drive over us the evil" or calamity which now threatens, and in which David sees the fulfilment of predicted judgment (2 Samuel 12:10, 11).
1. He discerns therein the operation of Divine justice on account of his sin (2 Samuel 16:11). Trouble and danger bring sin to remembrance; and those who remember their sin are quick to perceive the chastening hand of God where others see only the wrathful hand of man. In the view of faith, wicked men are instruments employed by the supreme and righteous Judge. Resentment toward them is thereby moderated, the sense of sin deepened, and suffering borne in a different manner. "Wherefore doth a living man complain?" etc. (Lamentations 3:39; Micah 7:9).
2. He is persuaded of the folly of resistance to the Divine power. Such resistance can be of no avail against the Almighty; it ought not to be attempted; and it can only result in defeat and ruin (as in the case of Saul). If he should remain and defend the city, David had no inward assurance, as in former conflicts, that God would be with him. He rather felt that in resisting Absalom at this moment he would be resisting God. He did not even deem it needful to consult the oracle (ver. 24).
3. He acquiesces without murmuring in the Divine will (ver. 26), "accepts the punishment of his iniquity" (Leviticus 26:41), and patiently endures the wrath of man, knowing that it is subject to Divine control. When a hurricane sweeps over the land, the things that cannot bend are broken; but those that bow beneath it are preserved, and rise up again when it has passed by. "Humble yourselves," etc. (James 4:10).
4. He hopes for deliverance in the Divine mercy (ver. 25; 2 Samuel 16:12). "But as for me, I trust in thee" (Psalm 55:23). Herein lay the secret of David's passivity, tranquillity, and forbearance during his flight.
II. POLICY; or prudent counsel against the assaults of the wicked. Piety without policy is too simple to be safe.
1. He does not presume upon the protection of God, without, on his part, exercising proper caution and energy. A good man's submission to Divine chastisement does not require that he should always remain in the way of danger or voluntarily invite human hostility and cruelty. "When they persecute you in this city, flee ye into another" (Matthew 10:23).
2. He does not undertake an enterprise rashly, or without adequate means of success. David probably deemed the number of his "servants" present with him in Jerusalem insufficient for the defence of the city. If, indeed, he had the assurance of Divine help, he might have thought otherwise (ch. 5:19). "His departure was an admirable means of testing the real strength of both parties" (Ewald).
3. He does not place an undue confidence in man. "David was perhaps afraid that Jerusalem might fall into Absalom's power through treachery" (Keil). "Beware of men" (Matthew 10:17; John 2:24; Psalm 118:8, 9).
4. He makes use of the means which are most likely to ensure safety and success. "A prudent man foreseeth the evil, and hideth himself" (Proverbs 22:3). If there must be conflict, delay appeared to him desirable; it would afford time for his faithful adherents to assemble; and, in the open field, the tried valour and discipline of his veterans would give them an advantage. Pious men are not unfrequently deficient in prudence (Luke 16:8); since, however, they are sometimes beset by ravening wolves, it is necessary that they should be "wise as serpents" (Matthew 10:16), taking care nevertheless to avoid guile, and to be "harmless as doves." "When he was reviled," etc. (1 Peter 2:23).
III. PITY; or generous concern for the preservation of the imperilled. Foreseeing the misery and bloodshed likely to ensue from awaiting the attack of Absalom, he sought by flight not merely to save his own life, but chiefly:
1. To secure the safety of his helpless household, and aid the escape of his faithful followers (vers. 19, 20).
2. To spare the city the horrors of a siege. "He preferred the safety of the people to his own; and was thus also a figure of him who said, in the garden of Gethsemane, 'If ye seek me, let these go their way '" (Wordsworth).
3. To save the life of his rebellious son (2 Samuel 18:12); for which he would have given his own (2 Samuel 18:33).
4. To prevent the miseries of civil war (2 Samuel 2:26; 2 Samuel 3:1), and promote the welfare of the divided and misguided people. If collision could be now avoided, it might perchance be altogether averted (ver. 25), or at least occur with less injurious consequences. He was willing to sacrifice himself for the good of the "sheep" (2 Samuel 5:2; 2 Samuel 24:17). "Let thy blessing be upon thy people" (Psalm 3:8). His piety was honoured, his policy justified, his pity succeeded by renewed attachment (2 Samuel 19:14), and, in all, the overruling providence of God was displayed. He left Jerusalem in humiliation and grief; he returned (three months afterwards) in triumph (2 Samuel 19:39, 40). Having practically resigned his sceptre to God, from whom he received it, God gave it back into his hands. "As David falls away from Jehovah to be more firmly bound to him, so Israel turns away from David to be (as the close of the history shows) more devoutly attached to him. The prelude to this first clearing up of the relations between king and people is given in the conduct of the faithful band who stand firmly by David in the general defection" (Baumgarten). - D.
Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.
I. IT TEACHES THE VANITY OF PERSONAL BEAUTY AND OUTWARD SHOW APART FROM MORAL WORTH. In the pictures of Hogarth, and other painters of society, we find that such superior beauty is the common heritage of the fast young man. It has been called a "fatal dower." It is so regarded because it is apt to make the possessor the petted darling of parents and friends, and liable to be spoiled by the thoughtless admiration and flattery lavished upon him. Thus an exaggerated estimate is placed upon mere physical charms. Beauty of face and form is set above the higher excellence of character, whereby vanity and frivolity of mind are engendered, and amiability of disposition and goodness of heart sacrificed. But there is truth in the homely adage that "Handsome is who handsome does," and all beauty which is not united with fair doing is only a poor sham.
II. The story of Absalom reveals THE TYPE OF CHARACTER THAT IS MOST DANGEROUS AND DREADFUL. His was not an impulsive nature, hurried away by gusts of passion into sin. There is much allowance to be made for such hot-tempered spirits. The misdemeanours of which they are guilty are not, as a rule. so reprehensible as those which are perpetrated by their authors in cold blood. They are more likely than the latter to be only escapades from virtue — exceptions to a course that is ordinarily straightforward and well-meaning. Absalom's wickedness was deliberate and studied. His character is evinced in the way he avenged the outrage done by Amnon to his sister.
III. This fast young man, of desperate type, becomes AN INTRIGUING POLITICIAN. Absalom is the earliest specimen on record, we believe, of a finished demagogue. As we consider the subtle arts by which he courted popularity and wound himself into the favour of men — his attendance at the gate, where the king's judgment seat was, his affability and condescension towards the people who brought causes for adjudication, and his pretended sympathy for their grievances on account of the delay of justice, we seem to have come upon the original model after which the modern opposition candidate has shaped himself It agrees with the character to be forever arraigning those in power for neglect of duty and malfeasance in office, and to promise a complete reformation in case the party of the critic is entrusted with the conduct of affairs. When the outs are in, and the ins are out, all wrong shall be righted, and the millennium will come. So Absalom laboured to make the flattered people believe.
IV. Another aspect in which Absalom appears is that of A WAYWARD, UNDUTIFUL SON. The fast young man causes agonising heartache to his aged father or distressed mother. In the eyes of the Jews, with their traditions of the patriarchal period and its form of government, where the father was both priest and ruler of his household, such a child was a monster of depravity, worthy only of death. Hence the emphasis put upon the fifth commandment, "the first commandment with promise;" hence the sternness of their legislation with respect to unfilial conduct, and the fearful denunciation their proverbs utter against it. "The eye that mocketh at his father," says Agur, "and despiseth to obey his mother, the ravens of the valley shall pick it out, and the young eagles shall eat it."
V. The story of Absalom contains another lesson, without which it would be incomplete, namely, the lesson of SIN'S RETRIBUTION. It is a striking example of the declaration: "As righteousness tendeth to life, so he that pursueth evil, pursueth it to his own death." The last act of the tragedy is short and impressive. David and his adherents stayed not in their flight until they found shelter behind the walls of Mahanaim, in the land of Gilead. There opportunity was given to recover from panic, and organise their strength; and thither Absalom and his forces leisurely pursued them.
(A. H. Charlton.)
1. We may serve ourselves, strengthen our position, advance our temporal interests, when we are truly serving others, But when we are doing them disservice, encouraging them, helping them, to evil, we are our own enemies as well as theirs. We have something higher than temporal interests to think of. Gold is far from everything. In the protest of conscience how the fine gold becomes dim! And when conscience is seared, and the heat dead to all sensibility, at what a cost has anything, how-ever desired by men, been secured.
2. We truly befriend ourselves by unselfishly serving others. And this we can do as we make everything a Divine service. Sometimes we may seem on the vanquished side, like true-hearted Ittai, staunch to David in his flight, but the end will justify us. To be on the side of honesty, truth, purity, is ever at the last to be on the side that wins. So he who forgets himself in doing the things right in the sight of God will be vindicated in the sight of the world as "good and faithful servant," as having "well done" for himself as well as others.
II. IN ABSALOM WE SEE HOW THE MOTIVE DETERMINES THE VALUE OF CONDUCT. This appears in his bearing towards Amnon. Similarly with Absalom's conduct when seeking to ingratiate himself with the people. The animating motive of what we do should be tested by us. Could we read others as God reads us, could we "look at the heart" as He does, with what rejection would we meet much that is now welcomed by us! But if we cannot appraise the lives of others by their motives, and if they cannot thus appraise ours, there is One ever thus testing us. There is One who pierces every mask of hypocrisy. There is One who looks through our outward appearance of truth, purity, devotion, and sees whether there is a corresponding inward reality. With Him the motive makes the act.
III. IN ABSALOM WE SEE TO WHAT CRUEL LENGTHS UNCHECKED AMBITION WILL LEAD A MAN. That was his ruling passion; the explanation, I think, of his long-delayed stroke at Amnon. Ambition goaded Absalom from crime to crime till lie had wrapped the land in the horrors of civil war — of all wars the most prolific in misery — and nerved him to assail a father's life that he might, over his dead body, step up into the throne. It win not do for us to say that in all this there is no beacon to us. There are many thrones. Some of us, it may be, eager to get into one — to be over others; kings and queens of influence in our little kingdom. There can be ambition in a cottage as well as in a court. There may be wretched envy, the evil eyeing of an imagined rival, the wicked gladness that hears, and that with pretended reluctance retails the disparaging slander; the sty persistence that insinuates itself, or the rough resolution that tramples its way into the petty throne. God save us from such ambition! In His kingdom the thrones are for the lowly.
IV. IN DAVID WE SEE THE THREATENED PUNISHMENT FOR HIS SIN. Penitent for his great wickedness in the matter of Uriah, his life had been spared, but the sword was not to depart from his house. Sin has broken him, even forgiven sin. A thing to be remembered. He may never have been wisely firm enough in the training of his children. But that feel transgression of his loosened the filial bond that bound his children to obedience, and encouraged them to crimes that laid his kingly head in the dust. Sin finds men out, even godly men. "Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap." He who sows to the flesh, though he be a David, shall of the flesh reap corruption. Well, then, for us to "stand in awe and sin not."
V. IN THE DARKNESS OF CALAMITY THE BETTER DAVID SHINES TO US. In the bowed, barefooted man weeping his way across the Kedron, and up Olivet, it is a king we see. It is David again. A Divine permission he recognises in all that is befalling him. He has no superstitious trust in the ark — let Zadok and Abiathar carry it back to Jerusalem. In God was his trust. "Let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him." So on — one of the most pathetic figures of all history — goes weeping David-on towards the plains of the wilderness. And as he passes out of our sight do you not hear such words as these? Sorrow by sin! Peace by pardon! Blessed is the man whose transgression is forgiven! "Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted."
(G. J. Coster.)
(S. Cox, D. D.)
I. ABSALOM PERVERTED HIS NATURAL ADVANTAGES. He was a gifted and handsome young man; he came of a well-favoured stock, and he was its flower. He had a fine head of hair; he paid strict attention to it. It became a matter of national interest when Absalom cut his hair. He had a sheep-farm. We do not know the particulars of his clip of wool; but the weight of his annual poll of hair is carefully noted as two hundred shekels, or more than three pounds. The hair of Absalom represents all natural advantages. For personal gifts play an important part in securing success in this world.
II. ABSALOM HAD A PERVERSE ENERGY OF CHARACTER. He had persistency of purpose in a high degree — a masterful trait. He was calculating and deep. He was a tenacious man. Many men of fine powers fail through want of tenacity. The good man in the famous ode of Horace was tenacious of his purpose. So our bad man, Absalom, did not fail here. When Amnon wronged his sister Tamar he concealed his resentment for two years. He bided his time. When he determined to undermine David's throne he showed a like steadfastness of resolution. He rose promptly in the morning. David rose early to pray; Absalom rose early to plot. This course of patient, insidious plotting Absalom continued for months, perhaps for years, until he was known throughout the kingdom as the poor man's friend.
III. ABSALOM PERVERTED THE STUDY OF HUMAN NATURE. He studied the weaknesses of men. This is called by men of his base aims the study of men. The vices and the foibles are noted; the theory being that for one who would play effectively on this fine instrument what is especially necessary is a Wagnerian mastery of discords. The adventurer, the opposition politician, the quack doctor, the fortune-seeker, give themselves to men have succeeded as Absalom succeeded — in politics, in professional life, in Absalom's study of human weakness. Upon this knowledge their success depends.
IV. ABSALOM HAD UNLIMITED AND PERVERTED SELF-ASSURANCE. With all his shrewdness in measuring others, he had no proper sense of his own weaknesses. To scrutinise the weaknesses of others he closed, so to speak, one eye — that one whose outlook was upon his own heart. Exaggerated self-confidence is typical of this class of men. To the ordinary man with his misgiving and fear of himself it is surprising, dazzling. His own modesty prepares him to yield to the most audacious and preposterous claims of another. Perhaps the wonderful physician can work a cure of the incurable. He says he can. And what hair he hast Perhaps the politician can redress the evils of society which have baffled the wisest statesmen. He says he can. He is a remarkable-looking man. Perhaps one can be safely given a place of trust, though it would seem as if he can have had no experience to fit him for its delicate duties. He says he is competent. There is a degree, and, it is an amazing degree oftentimes, to which men will give confidence to bare pretension. Absalom's pretension was most shrewdly calculated.
V. ABSALOM PERVERTED THE CHOICE OF COUNSELLORS. He chose sagacious, but evil advisers; masterly, but unprincipled. Ahithophel was the oddest statesman in the nation. Absalom improved the opportunity. He sent for Ahithophel. The bad old man came to him — a man after his own heart. We must recognise the dangerous wisdom of the councils of this world. This wisdom is necessary to worldly success. If one heeds it, he greatly increases his prospects of accomplishing all worldly aims.
VI. ABSALOM PERVERTED THE USE OF RELIGION. It has been suggested here that when David rose early to pray he and Absalom may have met. It may be that the crafty prince first shared his father's devotions on the way to the gate. He saw the hold which religion had upon David and upon the nation. It would not answer for him to have the reputation of being irreligious; he must guard his religious standing. He made a religious excuse for visiting Hebron. It was a natural one. He had made a vow, he explained, while he was in Geshur in exile for the murder of Amnon. It was a nicely-calculated excuse. David believed in vows. He would look upon the handsome prince with heightened tenderness, touched by his manifest sensibility. Religion, in all times, is one of the readiest and most serviceable of cloaks. It especially serves the purposes of one who would win success in a religious community. Thus Satan comes among us disguised as an angel of light.
VII. ABSALOM STUDIOUSLY SECURED THE SUPPORT OF GOOD MEN, WITH THE SAME STEADY PERSEVERANCE. He valued them. They could help him. He wanted the approval of such men at large in the nation. He despised them. He wanted them only as tools. But he knew the value to his cause of having men of character associated with his followers. The rebellion triumphed without a blow. It war one of the best considered and most brilliant enterprises in history. Absalom seemed to be repaid for all his self-denial, his unsavoury wiles, his clever hypocrisy, his long patience. He had reached his goal. He was king. Many society. You may be tempted to cherish the low aim. But look at Absalom at the goal of his hopes, in the full flush of success! Even then who would take his place? What had he accomplished but the fatal perversion of a life capable of greatest things. Look into his heart, and try to conceive the thoughts which must have been there in the very exaltation of his triumph. Then look again upon that sombre background, the forest of Ephraim, the figure of a man dripping with blood from many wounds, hanging and swaying in the awful twilight in the terebinth tree, suspended by his beautiful hair. Ah! this, then, is a part of what Absalom was planning — that part of which he was all unconscious, but the inevitable end! Learn from this history how the noblest gifts may be perverted, industriously, painfully, fatally, to secure the false success. How are you using your life? your fine natural advantages? How are you treating the privileges of religion? Who are your chosen counsellors? For what aim of life are you fostering deep, tenacious, self-sacrificing purposes? What a man Absalom might have been with a right aim I What a man you may become if you set your heart on the one end worthy of a Son of God — to be a prince of the kingdom of tight; in love and loyalty and honour, to be one of the pillars of His temple.
(Monday, Club Sermons.)I. ABSALOM'S CONDUCT BEGAN IN THE EXERCISE OF THE BASEST INGRATITUDE. He assassinated Amnon at a banquet, and then fled to his grandfather's city Geshur for a refuge. There he remained for some years; the popular soldier Joab caused the woman of Tekoa to go to David with a parable and an entreaty; and the king reluctantly permitted his son to return to Jerusalem, but he would not meet him in the palace. That gave Absalom a chance again. And now we have two lessons to learn at once.
1. One is this: what a man sows he must also reap. David's boys divided up David's crimes between them, and repeated his guilt there under his own roof. That was an instance of sowing the wind and reaping the whirlwind. It is wise to remember that harvests are greater than seed.
2. The second lesson is, there is no. gain in discipline unless it leaves behind it a better heart. "Even after a shipwreck," the old philosopher Seneca remarks, "there are hosts who still wilt seek the sea." It is not for any man to say that affliction sanctifies; of itself it sours a heart which is not sanctified beforehand. And he has lost much who has lost a discipline at God's hand; he has had all the weary pain of it without any of the good; he has had the roughness of the ploughing without any of the fruit from the furrows.
II. THIS REBELLION DISCLOSED ITSELF IN THE MERE SHOW OF PERSONAL VANITY. That is the only significance of such gorgeousness of equipage, and a half a hundred men to run before this conceited creature Absalom's chariot. There is not a sign of patriotism in his course. So here we have another lesson to learn: all true leadership is taught by the discipline of endurance under fierce distress. It was with David as with Jesus Christ; he that is to be a Captain of salvation unto God's people must consent, as our Divine Saviour consented, to be made "perfect through suffering."
III. THIS OUTBREAK OF ABSALOM WAS CONDUCTED WITH THE HYPOCRISIES OF MALICIOUS DECEIT. How plausibly the man talked; how venomous were his insinuations; how false were his kisses; yet thus it was that he won the people's hearts and undermined his father's throne. The lesson that comes to us just here is: there can be no dependence on mere personal advantages unless they are put to a serviceable use. The record which is familiar to us all reminds us of the old commendations of Saul in the day when he came out before the people a head and shoulders above any one of those who cried "God save the king!" We have a kindling picture of Absalom's attractions of person and form. The old honest historian of the Greeks says with a creditable frankness that Themistocles was able to make his insipid son, Cleophantes, a good horseman, but he failed in every particular when he endeavoured to make him a good man. And that same failure has been reached a great many times since.
IV. THAT THIS INSURRECTION WAS RELENTLESSLY CONTINUED THROUGH A LONG PERIOD OF TIME. Not "forty years," surely, as one of the verses seem to say; such a chapter can be found neither in David's nor in Absalom's biography. It is impossible to put the reckoning anywhere. Josephus states the time, with the authority of the Syriac and the Arabic version behind him, as being four years instead of forty. And that is long enough certainly for an ungrateful son to continue mischievously to plot against his father is so villianous a way. There can be no value in a noble lineage unless the position is employed nobly. Absalom had nothing to do with the item of his birth; it would be a credit to him or a shame according to what he should do with it. Honour and wealth from no condition rise. The Bible makes short work with primogeniture; in almost every instance the chieftainship goes away from the sons earliest born. Later history is suggestive. Cleanthes lived by watering gardens; Pythagoras was the child of a silversmith; Euripides was brought up to help his brothers till the fields; Demosthenes was the son of a cutler; Virgil's father was a potter. There is no pretension more impertinent than that which is forcing itself forward on the merits of mere parentage and position:
V. THAT THIS WILD REBELLION IS CONSUMMATED AT LAST WITH A LIE IN THE NAME OF RELIGION. This was at once the meanest and the shrewdest of all Absalom's subterfuges. In order to cover his absence from suspicion, and put David off his guard in Jerusalem, he trumped up this pretext of an old vow. God sometimes leaves wicked people to the retribution of apparent success. Absalom comes to Jerusalem, is actually crowned as king, has a few military victories; then his downfall is swift and heavy; the triumph of traitors is short. In a part of one year is dissipated all the fortune of the four years the treacherous son had plotted against his father. Ahithophel closes his career with a suicide, and ere long the rebellion is ended; David sits in his throne and sings brighter songs even while he mourns in his heart.
VI. We mention A FEW REFLECTIONS CONCERNING THE DEATH WHICH THIS REBEL PRINCE DIED.
1. There is a limit beyond which patience, both human and Divine, cannot be expected to go. When the heart of this royal ingrate became fixed in his wickedness, the Lord simply withdrew from all interposition; so he was left to his fate; he died the rebel he had lived. Here is an inspired warning: "Some men's sins are Open beforehand, going before to judgment; and some men they follow after."
2. When a false leader falls, he drags down his favourites in the failure. The most interesting feature of this story has always been the immediateness with which the rebellion subsided when those darts went through Absalom's heart: What ultimately became of those who had perilled all their fortunes upon his success we are not informed. Their hopes failed; they had attributed many excellences to that young and beautiful prince; possibly they had not studied the future carefully, into the abysses of which they land now plunged. Hereafter they were outlaws and wanderers.
3. There can be no advantage in having "a fair chance" in life unless one hastens to improve it for the good of others. The fact is, we instinctively hold this man Absalom responsible all the more sternly because he had opportunities so fair and abused them so basely. His sin was the more heinous on account of his conspicuous position.
4. The hour of retribution is likely to be an hour of melancholy review. Confidence in the successful issue of evil purposes only deepens the humiliation of defeat. There is even to this day pointed out in the valley close by Jerusalem a lofty structure of stone called "Absalom's Tomb." The Scripture has given us a hint concerning its true origin, but not of its date: "Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's place." That particular structure is perhaps replaced by this: tradition says it is not a sepulchre, but a monument; and Josephus goes so far as to insist that it was called Absalom's Hand," and bore at its summit a hand as the symbol of power and victory.
(C. S. Robinson, D. D.)Ruth 4:1), and those who were charged with dispensing it held court early in the day. On the approach to the court an anxious litigant is greeted with frank courtesy by the handsome and stately Absalom, who with the deepest interest inquires about his residence and his business. Won by the affability of such a distinguished and exalted questioner, the man tells his place and his grievance. The hollow courtier has the same story for each. He reaches a verdict without the trouble of a hearing of the case or the appearance of the other side. The man is delighted. He is at rest. And when the simple provincial, in addition to such intelligent sympathy with his wrongs, found himself taken by the hand and kissed by the handsome pretender, he was sure to go back to his own town and say that David had become useless as a king and was neglecting his duties, and that things never would be right until Absalom, who was as wise as he was elegant, filled the throne. Alas, poor human natural It is the same to-day that it was in David's time. "Ambition," as a word, comes from the Roman politicians going about in their canvass for votes, fawning upon and flattering the people. English ladies of rank have gone and coaxed and caressed butchers whom they scorned to secure their votes for their husbands or their proteges. Members of legislatures have kissed the children and hobnobbed with their parents to make reputation among them. Doctors have sat as "friends" by the bedside of the wealthy, hinted their regrets that more vigorous measures were not adopted and more hopeful views taken by the physicians in attendance, only dropping their smooth generalities when the device succeeded and they were called into consultation, and regard for their reputation compelled them to agree with the rest. It is all in the same line with the policy of the mean, smooth-mannered traitor who (v. 6) "stole the hearts of the men of Israel." It took three years to carry out his schemes, make his party and arrange for his being proclaimed. So he made a pretence of going to Hebron, the old capital; which probably resented the loss of its prestige, where friends of his youth probably lived and could be counted upon, and where his father had been crowned. It is not needful to ask if his vow were a reality. He was now at his ease in lying, and could readily supply the details of v. 8. To keep up the show of things, Absalom offered sacrifices, in which all who partook were to be held as pledged to his support. Men of this sort will use religion for their own ends. History since the Reformation has many a sad case of rulers shaping their religious courses so as to secure popular sympathy. Meanwhile, and in order to have him at the banquet, Absalom invites Ahithophel, a man of influence, whose adhesion would carry great weight, as he was David's counsellor. Absalom probably knew his feelings of discontent and dissatisfaction with David. Absalom's plans now seemed sure to succeed. "The conspiracy was strong." He had many friends throughout the tribes. The fascination of his personal approaches, the fair promises he had informally made, the relation he sustained to royalties already — all these things influenced the people, and his following "increased continually." Ill-news will commonly travel fast. "A messenger" — from some friend perhaps — to David announced the extent of the movement, no doubt with details of Absalom's plans as far as they were known or inferred. The afflicted king realised the danger, and at once decided upon flight. There were two good reasons for this: No preparation had been made for the defence of Jerusalem, and an attack on it would have been disastrous in the extreme. But such an assault would have been the natural and politic course of the rebels if David remained there and attempted to hold the city. It was both humane and politic to quit the capital. At the same time, the flight must be prompt and rapid, "lest he overtake us suddenly and bring evil upon us." This suggests the second reason: Flight gave time for the development of events and for calm reflection on the part of the people, This shrewd view was held, it will be noticed, by Ahithophel (2 Samuel 17:1, 2), and also by Hushai the Archite (2 Samuel 17:7-13). They looked at it simply as managers and political observers. The following points may be emphasised with profit: —
1. The home and the public welfare are inseparably linked. Samuel's sons took bribes and proved unfit for continuing the system of judges. David's family-life was not as it Ought to have been, anal murder, widespread rebellion and slaughter, with indescribable dishonour and disgrace and danger to the kingdom, are the results. The suffering, too, falls on the sinning family first of all.
2. Bad morals on the part of rulers relax the ties of obedience and make government contemptible. The plausibilities of the rebel son drew their force from real faults of David's administration. We may well pray for just and pure men in places of power.
3. But over and above these natural effects we have the just rule of Jehovah. David in his misery and penitence owns this. There is a difference between him and an enemy of God (2 Samuel 15:25, 26). Hence his language regarding the cursing of Shimei (2 Samuel 16:11).
4. The life of Absalom speaks to both parents and children, setting in a clear light the weakness, folly, and sin of unreasoning parental indulgence, and on the other hand the atrocious character of ingratitude, selfishness and disobedience on the part of a child. Vices go in groups. They deaden sensibilities; one prepares for another. The impure and lustful will be ready for dishonesty, violence, and unnatural crime.
(J. Hall, D. D.)
(J. R. Campbell.)
( C. H. Spurgeon.)
PeopleAbiathar, Absalom, Ahimaaz, Ahithophel, Aram, Arkite, Cherethites, David, Gittites, Hushai, Israelites, Ittai, Jonathan, Kerethites, Levites, Pelethites, Zadok
PlacesAram, Gath, Geshur, Giloh, Hebron, Jerusalem, Kidron, Mount of Olives
TopicsAbsalom, Ab'salom, David, Declaring, Heart, Hearts, Messenger, Reported, Saying, Tidings
Outline1. Absalom, by fair speeches and courtesies, steals the hearts of Israel.
7. By pretense of a vow, he obtains leave to go to Hebron
10. He makes there a great conspiracy
13. David upon the news flees from Jerusalem
19. Ittai will leave him
24. Zadok and Abiathar are sent back with the ark
30. David and his company go up mount Olivet weeping,
31. He curses Ahithophel's counsel
32. Hushai is sent back with instructions
Dictionary of Bible Themes2 Samuel 15:13
LibraryA Loyal Vow
'And the king's servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.'--2 SAMUEL xv. 15. We stand here at the darkest hour of King David's life. Bowed down by the consciousness of his past sin, and recognising in the rebellion of his favourite son the divine chastisement, his early courage and buoyant daring seem to have ebbed from him wholly. He is forsaken by the mass of his subjects, he is preparing to abandon Jerusalem, and to flee as an …
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture
Ittai of Gath
Pardoned Sin Punished
Loyal to the Core
The Will of God
A Light to Lighten the Gentiles
The Daily Walk with Others (iii. ).
And V the Kingdom Undivided and the Kingdom Divided
That Whereas the City of Jerusalem had Been Five Times Taken Formerly, this was the Second Time of Its Desolation. A Brief Account of Its History.
King of Kings and Lord of Lords
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