James Gray - Concise Bible Commentary
And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.2 Samuel 13:1-18:33
O, ABSALOM, MY SON, MY SON!
LUST, MURDER AND DECEIT (2 Samuel 13)
In the preceding lesson judgments were foretold as coming on David, and we are entering on that part of his career when the prediction is fulfilled in earnest.
The foulness of this chapter we would not dwell upon more than we can help. Tamar of course, while sister to Absalom, was half-sister to Amnon, the two young men being sons of David by different wives.
“A garment of divers colours” (2 Samuel 13:18) might be rendered “a long garment with sleeves.”
“Geshur,” whither Absalom fled, was in the north near Syria and the country of his maternal ancestors (2 Samuel 3:3), for no refuge could have been given him in Israel (Numbers 35:21).
A STRATEGEM WELL MEANT (2 Samuel 14)
Joab could not be charged with lack of love and loyalty to his king, as the story of this chapter shows. He knows the struggle in David’s heart between his love for his son and his desire to respect the law in the case of murderers. Therefore he concocts the scheme of this woman so the king is brought to see that there may be a higher justice in ignoring a lower one.
As Absalom was the light of Israel in the sense that on the death of Amnon he was heir to the kingdom, David would be doing nothing more in pardoning him than he had agreed to do in the case of this widow’s son (2 Samuel 14:13-17). But David’s action was wrong nevertheless. See Genesis 9:6, Deuteronomy 18:18, etc.
Let not the beautiful words of 2 Samuel 14:14 escape attention. How they suggest the love of God for us in Jesus Christ! He was the means devised that we might not be banished from His presence.
LOVE ILL-REQUITED (2 Samuel 15)
Absalom had rather be free in Geshur than a prisoner in Jerusalem, and Joab is forced, after two years, to make an effort to bring him and his father together, which succeeds (2 Samuel 14:21-33).
But Absalom is as mean in spirit as he is noble in appearance. His father has reigned too long to suit him and, availing himself of certain causes of complaint, and using the arts of the demagog, he raises a formidable insurrection to put himself on the throne (2 Samuel 15:1-12).
The word “forty” (2 Samuel 15:7) is thought to be an error, and some versions have “four.” With the reference to Ahithophel (2 Samuel 15:12), compare Psalms 41, 55, and for the further experience of David, see Psalms 3.
The foreigners named in verses 18-22 were doubtless special guards David kept about him since the days of his exile among the Philistines.
The rest of the chapter is a striking illustration of how David combined piety with statesmanlike leadership. He was still “behaving himself wisely” as in the days of his youth.
KISSING THE ROD THAT SMITES (2 Samuel 16-17)
Ziba was a liar seeking favor with the king he foresaw would return to power (2 Samuel 16:1-4), and Shimei a cowardly avenger of his supposed wrongs who imagines David’s days are numbered. Nursing his wrath a long while, now at a safe distance he displays it (2 Samuel 16:5-14). But David kisses the rod that smites him. He sees the hand of God in it all and worships His will (2 Samuel 16:10-12). Happy the penitent in such a case who can exclaim with Elizabeth Prentiss:
Let sorrow do its work, Send grief and pain; Sweet are Thy messengers, Sweet their refrain, When they can sing with me, More love, O Christ, to Thee, More love to Thee.
Ahithophel, highly esteemed as a counselor, recommends (2 Samuel 16:20-23) that which to Absalom would be like burning his bridges behind him and which would compel every man in Israel to determine whose side he was on. There could be no reconciliation between father and son after this indignity.
The contents of chapter 17 carry their explanation on their face. Ahithophel’s counsel is wise to seize David’s person before he can gather a formidable army (2 Samuel 17:1-4), but the Lord defeats it through Hushai (2 Samuel 17:5-14). (Compare 1 Chronicles 1:27-28). Hushai doubts whether his counsel will be taken, which explains his efforts to get the news to David (2 Samuel 17:15-22); but Ahitho-phel, finding that it is taken, commits suicide foreseeing David’s victory and his retribution as the result (2 Samuel 17:23).
HOW FATHERS LOVE (2 Samuel 18)
The praises of a mother’s love are often sung, but this chapter teaches us that a father’s can be just as passionate and unreasoning (2 Samuel 18:5). Joab’s act (2 Samuel 18:14-15) seems to have been justified by all the circumstances, for there could be no peace in Israel and Absalom alive. His death spared many lives. The manner of his burial, expressing loathing and abhorrence of him (2 Samuel 18:17), was different from what he had expected for himself (2 Samuel 18:18).
The heartrending cry of David (2 Samuel 18:33) seems to pierce all space from that day to this, and we hear it ringing in our ears even now.
1. Have you refreshed your mind on the Levitical law concerning murder?
2. Can you quote 2 Samuel 14:14?
3. How does Absalom bring Joab to terms?
4. Memorize Psalms 3.
5. How does this experience in David’s life bring out his piety?
6. Have you examined 1 Corinthians 1:27-28?
7. What lessons, if any, does this lesson present to you?