2 Samuel 18:14-18
Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with you. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom…
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.
Parallel VersesKJV: Then said Joab, I may not tarry thus with thee. And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, while he was yet alive in the midst of the oak.