“Absalom the Rebel is Dead” (2 Samuel 16-18)

Daily reading assignment: 2 Samuel 16-18

2 Samuel 16 – David’s Flight from Jerusalem

The rebel son of David named Absalom set in motion events that would not only usurp his father’s throne, but also end in his own death.

As David fled the capital city and began ascending the Mount of Olives, he was met by Ziba, a servant of Mephibosheth, the surviving son of his late friend Jonathon, and the grandson of King Saul (16:1-3). Ziba proposed to David that his many kindnesses to Mephibosheth had been rewarded with betrayal and his master was plotting to ascend the throne in the king’s absence (16:3-4).

[Note – 2 Samuel 19:24-30 indicates that Mephibosheth later asserted his loyalty to David and contended the king had been misinformed by his servant Ziba. Rather than sort out the matter, David deferred and ordered the division of Mephibosheth’s land and possessions between him and Ziba].

Crossing the Mount of Olives and beginning his descent on the eastern slope, David encountered a foolish man named Shimei, a relative of King Saul. Adding to the king’s humiliation and sorrow, Shimei hurled both stones and curses at David (16:5-14).

Absalom was surrounded by men who had participated in his uprising, and among them was Ahithophel, one of David’s trusted counselors (believed by some scholars to have been the grandfather of Bathsheba). Ahithophel, evidencing a bitter spirit toward David, counseled Absalom to disgrace his father by going into the king’s harem and lying with his concubines (16:15-22).

2 Samuel 17 – The Revolution Unravels

Now David had wisely planted Hushai, a trusted friend, in Absalom’s court. Hushai was tasked, not only to act as a spy in the usurper’s household (15:23-37), but also to counter the counsel of Ahithophel (17:1-14).

Ahithophel knew that all was lost when his counsel was rejected and Absalom failed to pursue the king. Rather than suffer the indignity of falling into David’s hands, Ahithophel went home, set his affairs in order, and hanged himself (17:22-23).

2 Samuel 18 – The Culmination and Bitter End of Absalom

Mustering his mighty men and thousands of others who were confederate with him, David divided his army in thirds and prepared them for battle against Absalom (2 Samuel 18).  David, in spite of the great harm Absalom had committed against him, pleaded with his generals, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom” (18:5).

David’s army would be victorious; however, the battle took the lives of twenty thousand Israelites (18:6-8). Realizing the overthrow of his father had failed, Absalom fled the battle, and in spite of the king’s orders that his son would be spared, was slain by Joab (18:9-17).

When news of the victory reached David (18:18-28), rather than inquire into the welfare of his generals and army, David requested news of Absalom’s welfare, saying, “Is the young man Absalom safe” (18:32-33)

When he learned his son was dead, David wept saying, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son” (18:33).

Ahithophel, possibly the grandfather of Bathsheba, was dead.  Absalom was dead. Both men suffered the indignity of hanging on a tree, a sign that a man was accursed by God (Deuteronomy 21:22-23; Galatians 3:13).

David was inconsolable, his heart broken by the knowledge that his own sins had been the catalyst of the deaths of many, including his son.

What sorrows accompany familial sins! Let us all remember the sins and indiscretions of one sinner can prove calamitous to others, especially those whom we love and hold dearest.

Copyright 2020 – Travis D. Smith