2 Samuel 18:17
They took Absalom, cast him into a large pit in the forest, and piled a huge mound of stones over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled, each to his home.
Absalom: a Character StudyJ. O. Keen, D. D.2 Samuel 18:1-17
Bush WarfareSunday Companion2 Samuel 18:1-17
David and AbsalomR. E. Faulkner.2 Samuel 18:1-17
The Battle and its IssueH. E. Stone.2 Samuel 18:1-17
The Fatal FightC. Ness.2 Samuel 18:1-17
The End of AbsalomB. Dale 2 Samuel 18:14-18

2 Samuel 18:14-18. - (THE WOOD OF EPHRAIM.)
After a long course of flagrant and persistent wickedness, Absalom (at the age of twenty-seven) met his deserved doom. There is not in all history a more signal instance of retribution. In it we see punishment following crime, in the way of natural consequence, and corresponding with it in the manner of its infliction. The sinner reaps as he sows.

"But Justice hastes t' avenge each impious deed:
Some in day's clear and open light;
Some in the dusky evening's twilight shads;
Or, by delay more furious made,
Some in the dreary gloom of night."

(AEsehylus.) Absalom was -

I. ARRESTED BY DIVINE JUSTICE, IN THE PERVERSITY OF HIS WAY. (Vers. 9, 10.) When the battle went against him he sought to escape. Possibly he met with some of David's soldiers, who durst not "touch" him (ver. 12); "but though they let him go, yet God met with him, and put a stop to his flight" (Patrick). His eagerness and impetuosity, his tall form, his long hair, "the king's mule" on which he rode, all contributed to the result. Entangled by the tresses of his hair, and fastened by his neck in a forked bough, he was left hanging "between heaven and earth" (Deuteronomy 21:23); "rejected as a traitor by both." None of his companions in crime remained with him, but all left him alone to his fate. "A man whom the Divine vengeance is pursuing does not escape" (S. Schmid). Insensate trees, dumb animals, apparently trivial and accidental circumstances, the devices and efforts of the transgressor, are so ordered that he shall not go unpunished (Proverbs 11:19, 31; Proverbs 13:21; Proverbs 22:5; Proverbs 28:17, 18).

II. EXECUTED BY HUMAN VIOLENCE, SIMILAR TO HIS OWN. (Vers. 14, 15.) As he had slain Amnon (2 Samuel 13:28, 29), so was he slain by Joab. "He that was a solicitor for the king's favour (2 Samuel 14:1, 2, 33) is his executioner against the king's charge" (Hall); influenced partly by zeal for the king's interest and the public good, partly by revenge for private injury (2 Samuel 14:30), and jealousy for his own position (2 Samuel 3:27; 2 Samuel 19:10). He shared the resentment felt by his men against Absalom; was an instrument by which the wrath of Heaven was inflicted; and perhaps deemed himself justified in becoming such, because of the excessive fondness and blamable weakness of David toward his son; but herein he punished disobedience by disobedience, exhibited a pitiless severity and daring presumption, incurred the king's displeasure (2 Samuel 19:13), involved himself in deeper crime (1 Kings 2:5), and ultimately in a violent death (1 Kings 2:32).

III. BURIED IN A SHAMEFUL GRAVE, in contrast with the splendid monument which "in his lifetime he had taken and reared up for himself," etc. (ver. 18). "He had thought that he would be there, some time or other, buried as king; but he is now buried as an outlawed evil doer, as an outcast from among men. Till this hour that grave speaks to us with a loud awakening voice. Violations of the commandment, 'Honour thy father and thy mother,' for the most part, indeed, escape the judgment of human authorities; but the Almighty has reserved it to himself to inflict punishment with his own hand, and for the most part even on this side eternity, as he has promised for this world also a gracious reward to those who keep it holy, according to the promise annexed to the commandment, 'that it may go well wire thee'" (Krumreacher). "The great pit in the wood," with "a very great heap of stones laid upon him" - this was the end of his ambitious career (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23; Joshua 7:26; Joshua 8:29). The site both of his grave and of the "marble pillar in the king's dale, two furlongs distant from Jerusalem" (Josephus), has been for ages unknown; and even the monolith in the valley of the Kidron (probably of the Herodian age, but associated with his name) is "unto this day" regarded with scorn by the passer by, as he casts another stone, and mutters a curse upon his memory. "Shame shall be the promotion of fools" (Proverbs 3:35; Proverbs 30:17). "Hear this, ye glorious fools, that care not to perpetuate any memory of yourselves to the world, but of ill-deserving greatness. The best of this affectation is vanity; the worst infamy and dishonour; whereas the memory of the just shall be blessed, and, if his humility shall refuse an epitaph and choose to hide himself under the bare earth, God himself shall engrave his name upon the pillar of eternity" (Hall). - D.

I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.
I. A MAN'S GLORY IS HIS DOOM. For although in a strict sense the custom does not fit with the fashion of the age, there are men to-day who, figuratively speaking, cannot cut their hair without weighing it. In plain language, there are men whose whole attention is directed to the contemplation of their endowments and the worship of their powers. And, just as with Absalom, these very endowment may lead to their destruction; they may be "in at the death."

1. New, in the first place, let the proposition be accepted that man must glory. By his very nature he attaches himself to something either external or personal to himself, in which he takes a lively interest and manifests a palpable pride. Every man is, more or less, what is vulgarly called a "Faddist." He takes hold of something, and makes it the centre of his existence, the object of his aims and desires. Or else that something lays hold of him, and keeps him a bondman to its service. It may be personal, or social, or municipal, or political, or religious, but there it is, embedded in the soul, or laying its grasp upon the mind. It comes out on any and every occasion. It is made manifest in the thought and in the life and in the work. And seldom indeed is its power found either to diminish or to die. Or, to vary the figure, each life has its Sun. And here, of course, the moral, the spiritual law, diverges from the natural, which knows of only one centre. Round this sun the life-planet circles, kept in place by its influence, partaking of its light, and reflecting its radiancy with more or less brilliance, according to what may be called the atmospheric conditions which prevail. Without that sun, the life falls from its place and loses its power. The sun's light may have a greater or a less intensity, its attraction have a greater or a less force. It may range from the lowest to the highest extreme. It may glimmer as a fad, or it may shine brightly as an ideal: but still it is there, necessary to all existence, indispensable to all true life. For we are all of us in a sense mirrors; very often, God knows, scored and imperfect and dull, but in some measure reflecting a borrowed glory, catching rays from the unknown and the infinite, and throwing them at very different angles upon the world. In short, the rays of one life — of various colours as they must ofttimes be — when gathered together will generally be found to have one common source. That is its glory, that is its sun.

II. DEATH LIES IN HUMAN GLORY. To reason from the particular to the general directly is not consistent with the canons of logic and the forms of thought. Because a thing happens in one case there are no grounds for declaring that it must happen in all. But if it can be shown by the evidence of illustration and instances that there are few, if any, exceptions, then we may, with some show of reason, claim recognition for the rule. What was said a little ago of the unit of humanity, man, supplies with equal truth to men in the mass. A living organisation, an aggregate of thinking men, is also a reflection of a glory. Here is a country whose glory has a human source. Two thousand years ago, looking from her seven hills across the subjugated lands Rome stood, the proud and pompous mistress of the world. Along her ringing thoroughfares there rolled the chariot of war. By Tibet's bank the sentry trod his everlasting round. President of the council of her gods sat Jupiter, the king of heaven, to whom the war-shout of the conqueror and the sacrifice of the sword ascended as a sweet savour. Tribe by tribe the inhabitants of the known world passed beneath the yoke, and power became the .one object in the national outlook. Raising it to the place of deity, they tendered it the honour and the praise. "Triumph! triumph!" was the cry that rent the Roman air. "Number the captives and measure their land! Ours is the brave heart, ours the mighty arm, and great indeed is our glory!" Ay! two thousand years ago. But the day of downfall was at hand. The oak caught Absalom by the hair. Into collision with the eternal oak of God's will and purpose came the blind and boastful glory of the Empire. "Thus far and no further" was the stern decree. And on swept the steed of History, leaving its Rome behind.

2. Here is a church whose glory, too, has a human source. Its Bible is the morality, the etiquette, the fashion of the age. Its teaching is laid on the basis of what is proper rather than what is right. Its creed runs thus — "I believe in well-cushioned pews, wealthy communicants, and a respectable record of missionary zeal, so long as that calls for no work of mine." Through the pillars and arches of its buildings there floats the breath of sweetest music, and the silver tones of "the snowy-banded, dilettante, delicate-handed priest." And from an aesthetic point all is sweet to hear and fair to see. But where is God in that church? Where is the "glory due unto His name?" Left out of account! It glories in its exclusiveness; in what it calls its culture, its high tone. But high tone and culture of that kind fall foul of the hard judgment of a stern world. The entanglement comes; and on goes religion heedless of its loss while enemies arrive with their darts of disestablishment and popular clamour to thrust into the useless body. In its glory there lies its death.

3. Here is an individual whose glory too, has a human source. He believes in himself to the exclusion of all else. He takes some attribute or characteristic of his own, and says, "This is what I am by the grace of my own endeavours." He owns allegiance to human nature, to the tendencies of the age, until, like Wolsey, he is forced to the bitter cry, "Had I but served my God with half the zeal I served my king, He would not in mine age have left me naked to mine enemies!" And not infrequently I should say this: "Show me that in which a man prides himself, and I shall know one thing at least that he is not." Let me take you back to the survey of that image of the sun; and let me ask you to observe one such as I have mentioned, whose sun has nothing but an earthly effulgence and a human light; who circles, for example, about pride, or riches, or merely worldly wisdom; who is content to live in the light of these, and to take the glory of his life from them. And there you have the most terrible of all spectacles, the most ghastly of all weird pictures — a heart without God. A world without its sun! A heart without God! A heart with nothing but its own cherished glory! And that very pride, these very riches, that very worldly wisdom brings him at last under the power of God. On goes eternity, and the wretched man is left behind to realise the truth of these awful words, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

III. LIFE LIES IN DIVINE GLORY. It is a far cry from the Jewish prince to the Gentile preacher, but pass with me to St. Paul. A man "of like passions with you," he, too, must glory in something; nor, humanly speaking, had he far to seek for a cause. "If I must glory," he says, "if I must have my one life-support, if I must look somewhere for a spiritual dynamic — then God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ah! there he finds the proper source, the real centre, the bright sun. From over Calvary's hill there steal the roseate rays of the Sun of Righteousness — and these he seeks to reflect. To glory in a cross — a cross! the badge of infamy — the stamp of shame! Now I see that St. Paul is in the right, that he knows whom he has believed. For in that cross I find the earnest of life eternal and undying love; through that cross I feel the power of God and the wisdom of God; from that cross I see a light that streams across the desert of life. Think of what it typifies and teaches; think of all which led up to it, and all to which it leads, and say, has it not glory sufficient for us to-day? It speaks of a self-renunciation; of a sacrifice solemn and significant, which, while it can never in itself be repeated, may still, thank God, be copied; and what though there be many a shortcoming and many a fault? Lay yourself down before it in heroic martyrdom: cast away the old, dull self: giving is getting with Jesus; and getting with Him is glory. Make it the centre of your spiritual existence; make your life a reflection of. Him who gives it at once its value and its power; and you can say to the worldling, in full assurance of faith — "Death worketh in you; but life in us."

(R. Barclay, M. A.)

I. ABSALOM WAS THE BELOVED CHILD OF HIS PARENTS. Exactly why he was the favourite son cannot, perhaps, be decided. All David's children were beautiful in person, though Absalom seems to have excelled them all in personal grace. It has been suggested that his mother was a queen, and so he seemed more royal than the rest of the princes.

II. ABSALOM WAS THE HOPE OF A PARTY IN THE NATION. The country, in his day, was unsettled. Judah had lost the supremacy it had gained during David's reign in Hebron, and was restless and jealous. David's neglects were telling on the country, producing discontent. And one great party was looking to Absalom, the affable and kingly son. By his blandishment he stole the hearts of the people, and, on the first favourable opportunity, the people bore him, with a sudden impulse, to the royal throne.

III. ABSALOM BORE SOME OF THE PENALTY OF HIS FATHER'S SINS. For the Divine penalties on transgressions come in part by consequences, which are sure to reach beyond the transgressor, and he is punished and wounded in the sufferings of others, often of those nearest and dearest to him. Absalom bore some of the penalty of David's sin by his wrong-doing.

IV. AND ABSALOM MET WITH A TRAGIC END, A hasty ride through the woods; an overhanging bough; three smitings of the darts; rude hackings of the young men's swords; and a grave in a pit.

(R;. Tuck, B. A.)

As the ruined gambler for a crown rode recklessly on in his fear, he was swept out of the saddle by being caught by the low, spreading branches of a great terebinth tree, and the startled mule galloping away, was left hanging there, unable to lift his arms so as to haul himself up. It is from Josephus that we get the statement that Absalom was caught by his hair, which is probable enough, but the lesson does not describe how he was entangled. Perhaps his head was jammed between the forks of some great branch. At all events, there he dangled, half throttled, and utterly incapable of releasing himself. There is something of horror and ghastliness in so strange a fate, as if this criminal was too bad to die by a common death. But there is a deeper lesson in that figure swinging there, with his gay clothing all disordered. God has plenty of instruments to punish evil-doers. "Thousands at his bidding wait." There is no need for a miracle. He works through the natural operations of his creation. So all things are against the man who is against God, even as all work together for good to those who love Him, and, when He wills, the leafy beauty of the great tree shall be the gallows for the rebel Absalom. "The stars in their courses fought against Sisera." A frightened mule and an unconscious tree bring Absalom to his death. There are no accidents in the great scheme of things. God's foes have foes in every bush and every beast.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

The "Road to Ruin," taken by Absalom, may be illustrated by what is known of the Maelstrom, a famous whirlpool off the coast of Norway. The immense body of water forming it extends, in a circle, about thirteen miles in circumference. A great rock stands in the midst thereof, against which the tide, when ebbing, beats with inconceivable fury, instantly swallowing up all things coming within the sphere of its violence. No dexterity of steering or strength of rowing on the mariner's part can accomplish his escape. The most experienced sailor at the helm finds his ship beginning to move in a direction opposite to his efforts and intentions; the motion at first is slow and nearly imperceptible, but becomes every moment more rapid; the vessel goes round in circles, narrowing each time, until, dashed against the central rock, it is lost with all on board. Thus was Absalom borne onward in the ever-narrowing circle of vanity, self-indulgence, and cruel treachery, until he perished in the Maelstrom of Divine Retribution.

Abishai, Absalom, Ahimaaz, Cushi, David, Israelites, Ittai, Joab, Zadok, Zeruiah
King's Valley, Mahanaim
Absalom, Ab'salom, Absalom's, Big, Body, Cast, Deep, Erected, Fled, Flight, Forest, Heap, Hole, Home, Homes, Israelites, Laid, Large, Mass, Meanwhile, Piled, Pit, Raised, Rocks, Stones, Tent, Threw, Wood
1. David viewing the armies in their march gives them charge of Absalom
6. The Israelites are sorely smitten in the wood of ephraim
9. Absalom, hanging in an oak is slain by Joab, and cast into a pit
18. Absalom's place
19. Ahimaaz and Cushi bring tidings to David
33. David mourns for Absalom

Dictionary of Bible Themes
2 Samuel 18:17

     4257   pit
     4354   rock
     5241   burial
     5493   retribution

2 Samuel 18:1-17

     5087   David, reign of

2 Samuel 18:6-17

     4448   forests

The Wail of a Broken Heart
'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. 19. Then said Ahimaaz the son of Zadok, Let me now run, and bear the king tidings, how that the Lord hath avenged him of his enemies. 20. And Joab said unto him. Thou shalt not bear tidings this day, but thou shalt bear tidings another day; but
Alexander Maclaren—Expositions of Holy Scripture

The Church and the Young Man.
A Sermon Delivered on Sabbath Morning, November 4, 1866, In The First Presbyterian Church, Troy, At The Request of The Young Men's Christian Association. 2 Sam. xviii, 5. "And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai saying, deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom." There are few passages of Holy writ more beautiful or suggestive than this. Notwithstanding the astounding character of Absalom's rebellion; though the mind of the sovereign and father of his people is
Rev. Marvin R. Vincent.—Amusement: A Force in Christian Training

Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate,
John Edgar McFadyen—Introduction to the Old Testament

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