Scriptures

Absalom

Introduction

How many of us watch the Oscar ceremonies? We watch enthralled as we wait to see who will receive, best actress award, best actor award, Best film, best director, etc, etc. Why do these people receive such acclaim in this day and age? What attributes make them so special? Is it really their acting abilities or is it their appearances and sexual appeal!

Often the best actors go unrecognised because they don’t generate the same visual appeal it just shows you how much stock we put on the superficial. If you were to go into greater depth into the lives of some of these people you would be surprised to learn of their pride and weaknesses, etc.

For example, Bing Crosby, Charlie Chaplin, Henry Fonda, Cary Grant’s lives, to name but a few, their public image is in no way a reflection of their private lives. Many were cruel and sadistic as they imagined themselves to be better than they were. Many are alcoholics, drug addicts, and it is because many find that their life has no substance and they are looking for a meaning to life. What sad people. Plenty of money but very little happiness.

For example, Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson both had doctors who fed their drug addictions which ultimately led to their early deaths. And these are the people that the majority of people look up to and treat as gods.

Absalom

The same applies to people in Biblical times. One of them being the subject of our lesson today Absalom, son of David. Absalom was the third son of David to Maacah daughter of Talmai King of Geshur. In those days, polygamy was the norm with many of the monarchs and was socially accepted although God specifically warned against it.

‘The war between the house of Saul and the house of David lasted a long time. David grew stronger and stronger, while the house of Saul grew weaker and weaker. Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; his second, Kileab the son of Abigail the widow of Nabal of Carmel; the third, Absalom the son of Maakah daughter of Talmai king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Haggith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream the son of David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron.’ 2 Samuel 3:1-5

They were all half-brothers born to different wives. All six sons were born in Hebron but moved at an early age to Jerusalem when their father David set up court there.

There was a great deal of rivalry and jealousy among these half-brothers as Absalom became one of his father’s favourites possibly because of His charming manners, his personal beauty, his insinuating ways, together with his love of pomp and royal pretensions, captivated the hearts of the people from the beginning.

Does this sound familiar?

‘In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, ‘What town are you from?’ He would answer, ‘Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.’ Then Absalom would say to him, ‘Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.’ And Absalom would add, ‘If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.’ Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him.’ 2 Samuel 15:1-5

He lived in great style, drove in a magnificent chariot and had fifty men run before him. Such magnificence produced the desired effect upon the hearts of the young aristocrats of the royal city. So therefore, he was using his appearance and his personality to win the people over, all superficial.

‘Three sons and a daughter were born to Absalom. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she became a beautiful woman.’ 2 Samuel 14:27

Little is known of Absalom’s family, but we read in 2 Samuel 14:27 that he had three sons and one daughter who was called after his Tamar. From the language in 2 Samuel 18:18 we can deduce that his sons had died.

‘During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, ‘I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.’ He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.’ 2 Samuel 18:18

Absalom’s older half-brother Amnon, David’s first born, despite the Biblical prohibition on sexual relations between half-brothers and sisters, Leviticus 18:11, Amnon had an overwhelming desire for Tamar. He acted on advice from his cousin, Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, to lure Tamar into his quarters by pretending to be sick and desiring her to cook a special meal for him.

While in his quarters, and ignoring her protests, he raped her, then, had her expelled from his house. King David was angry about the incident but couldn’t bring himself to punish his eldest son, while Absalom Amnon’s half-brother and Tamar’s full brother, nursed a bitter grudge against Amnon for the rape of his sister.

King David Does Nothing

To Maacah’s and Absalom’s horror, David did nothing. He was angry with his eldest son Amnon, but didn’t punish him in any way, or make any move to right the wrong done to Tamar. Maacah’s status as the daughter of a king, Tamar’s right to protection from her father, Absalom’s anger at the rape of his sister, none of these seemed to matter.

None of these things propelled David into taking action against the rapist, who remained David’s beloved firstborn. It has to be asked at this stage would David have treated an attack on one of his sons with the same disregard as he did the rape of his daughter?

This was a weakness in David that he failed to discipline his sons and believed they could do no wrong Maacah and Absalom realised that if they wanted justice, they would have to create it for themselves.

There was nothing they could do for the moment, since Amnon was aware of the danger they posed and kept himself surrounded by guards at all times. They would have to lure him into a trap. They bided their time for two years, giving the impression they had accepted David’s decision. Then Absalom invited all his brothers including Amnon to a sheep-shearing festival at Baal-Hazor, about 20 miles north of Jerusalem.

At the banquet that followed when Amnon was sufficiently befuddled with wine, Absalom’s servants bludgeoned and stabbed him to death. Maacah and Tamar would not have been present but would certainly have known of the plan, and perhaps Maacah was the one who engineered it.

Immediately after the murder Absalom fled north to Maacah’s homeland in Geshur, where he found refuge with his grandfather. It was not until three years later he was finally reinstated in his father’s favour and finally returned to Jerusalem.

The make believe of Hollywood can be seen in David as well as he lived in a superficial world of royalty. It’s all about saving face rather than dealing with the reality of the situation. Because he didn’t discipline his son the repercussions that came back on David were enormous. If David thought that was the end to the matter, he was sadly mistaken.

‘In the course of time, Absalom provided himself with a chariot and horses and with fifty men to run ahead of him. He would get up early and stand by the side of the road leading to the city gate. Whenever anyone came with a complaint to be placed before the king for a decision, Absalom would call out to him, ‘What town are you from?’ He would answer, ‘Your servant is from one of the tribes of Israel.’ Then Absalom would say to him, ‘Look, your claims are valid and proper, but there is no representative of the king to hear you.’ And Absalom would add, ‘If only I were appointed judge in the land! Then everyone who has a complaint or case could come to me and I would see that they receive justice.’ Also, whenever anyone approached him to bow down before him, Absalom would reach out his hand, take hold of him and kiss him. Absalom behaved in this way toward all the Israelites who came to the king asking for justice, and so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel. At the end of four years, Absalom said to the king, ‘Let me go to Hebron and fulfil a vow I made to the LORD. While your servant was living at Geshur in Aram, I made this vow: ‘If the LORD takes me back to Jerusalem, I will worship the LORD in Hebron.’ The king said to him, ‘Go in peace.’ So, he went to Hebron. Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, ‘As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’ Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so, the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing.’ 2 Samuel 15:1-12

Absalom starts building support for himself among the people by promising justice for all if only he was appointed judge in the land and by feigning humility by kissing those who approached him instead of expecting them defer to him. People were following him innocently, but Absalom had his own agenda for what he was doing, and these poor people didn’t realize it.

Absalom’s political strategy was to steal the hearts of the people with his good looks, grand entrances, apparent concern for justice and friendly embraces. Many were fooled and switched their allegiance. Later however, Absalom proved to be an evil ruler. After four years he decided to declare himself king raping his father’s concubines in full view of the people, before leaving for Hebron.

To sleep with any of the king’s wives or concubines was to make a claim to the throne. It was considered treason. All Israel and Judah flocked to his side. David and his former body guards, the Cherethites and Pelethites, who had followed him from Gath, found it expedient to flee.

David sent spies into Absalom’s court and managed to undermine the advice that was being given. Absalom was persuaded by one of David’s spies to postpone a fight with his father in favour of preparing for a major attack this giving David the time to prepare his own troops for the coming battle.

The Battle of Ephraim Wood

You can see Absalom’s Tomb in Kidron Valley which was discovered in the 1860’s. A fateful battle was fought in the Wood of Ephraim, the name suggests a locality west of the Jordan, and Absalom’s army was completely routed. Absalom himself was caught by his head in the boughs of an oak tree as the mule he was riding ran beneath it, an irony given that he was previously renowned for his abundant hair and handsome head.

He was discovered hanging there still alive by one of David’s men, who reported the matter to Joab, the king’s commander. Joab avenged David by fatally striking and killing Absalom, by the use of three spears, followed by a group of swordsmen, an act that caused David great sorrow.

Absalom was possibly in his mid to late thirties at this time. A young life snuffed out before his time through greed and avarice. David had given orders that the three commanders of his army were to deal gently with Absalom Joab was one of them. He did what David should have done.

What would have happened and where would history have taken them if he had done the king’s bidding and let him live?

Just as in Hollywood many of the great so-called stars have come to a sticky end. Amy Winehouse, drugs, Anthony Steele, destitute, Whitney Houston, drugs, Mel Gibson, chronic alcoholic, Elvis Presley bloated with drugs, Michael Jackson, destroyed with drugs that his doctor gave him. Basically, ordinary talented people who couldn’t handle fame and fortune.

Benny Hill lived like a pauper yet had thousands in the bank. Tony Hancock was a tortured soul. There was a lot of people in their lives who had their own agenda and Absalom had his own agenda as well.

 

DAILY BIBLE VERSE

"So Paul stayed for a year and a half, teaching them the word of God."

Acts 18:11

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