2 Samuel 15:1-37
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.…
The Bible resembles a portrait gallery adorned with the faces of remarkable historic men, where every variety of feature and every type of character may be found. An imaginative person, visiting such a gallery, and gazing at the silent faces which look down upon him from the walls, until lost in the thoughts and reflections awakened by them, may fancy at length that they are alive. As we study the characters of the people there portrayed, we recognise in them permanent, types of different classes. As such they live again to us. We have known such persons; they have lived in our time; they have acted anew the parts, and displayed the qualities which of old distinguished or disgraced them. They reappear in every age. It is this typical character of the Bible that gives such value to this ancient book. In reading it, we forget that it. is an old book. It seems a new book, from exhibiting the latest phases of human conduct, from setting before us moral qualities and actions which we recognise as familiar, and, connecting with them timely lessons for our instruction and warning. Such reflections are awakened by the perusal of the story of Absalom. It is a typical story, and he was a typical character and representative of what is called the fast young man.
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.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.