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rebellion. George Adam Smith's His
THE LESSON IN LITERATURE. torical Geography, p. 335, has an interesting note on the race and on the place of Shakespeare's King Lear, on ingratithe battle.
tude to a parent. Dryden made use of William M. Taylor's David is full and the events of this period as the basis of good. Alexander Whyte's Bible Char- his political poem on the court of acters, Absalom,” is brilliant, but too Charles II., entitled Absalom and Ahithhard on David. Gallaher's Pilgrimage ophel. of Adam and David gives to the story a Mrs. Sigourney's poem, “ Tomb of lifelike vividness. (This, as well as Absalom.” Longfellow's Poems, “ The some of the other books, may only be Chamber Over the Gate," on David's found in second-hand book stores, or in mourning for Absalom. N. P. Willis's some libraries.)
2 Sam. 12:9. Wherefore hast thou despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in his sight? thou hast killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and hast taken his wife to be thy wife, and hast slain him with the sword of the children of Ammon.
10. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from thine house; because thou hast despised me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife.
I. THE DOUBLE SIN OF DAVID, 2 Sam. 11, 12. (It is not necessary to spend any great amount of time here on this topic. It will be briefly considered again in the following lesson.) “ These verses record the dark tragedy which cast a shadow
over David's life when he was at the height of his power in the kingdom. No longer going out to battle with his army he remained at Jerusalem and came more and more under the demoralizing influence of his harem. The story of his temptation, and the deliberate murder of Uriah in his effort to cover his sin and gain the end he sought reveals the low moral depths to which he had fallen. In doing as he did he was acting in accordance with the common practice of kings of his time, but not according to the light he had received. He knew he was doing wrong and when the prophet Nathan appeared before him with his message of judgment, he broke down completely, acknowledging his sin and the justice of the judgment upon him.”
II. THE YOUTH OF ABSALOM, 2 Sam. 13, 14. “ Absalom was the son of Maacah, the daughter of Talmai, the king of Geshur. He was born soon after David became king over all Israel. He was renowned for the beauty of his personal appearance (2 Sam. 14 : 25, 26) and for his marvellous head of hair. He must
have been exceedingly attractive, with a From an old print. jolly, reckless good-nature, but vain, David's Sorrow,
crafty, and ambitious.' Influences under which He Grew up to Manhood. (1) His mother was the daughter of a heathen king, and without doubt she brought many heathen influences with her. (2) He grew up under the evil influences of polygamy. “ All round David's palace courts were the separate dwellings of his wives, each woman bringing up her own family; the children as they grew up to manhood or womanhood scarcely knowing whether to regard each other as brethren or as strangers.” The whole
atmosphere was impure and sensual. A young prince, amid court flatterers and self-indulgence, was in great moral danger. (3) During his early life David was so busy conquering his enemies, and organizing and developing his kingdom that he could give but small attention to the training of his growing family. (4) “ Just as he was reaching the susceptible, perilous years of dawning manhood the dreadful example of his father's sin was set before him, and we can well imagine how the scandal of the court defiled his young imaginations.”
(5) On the other hand, the boys knew their father's noble character, his bitter repentance, his love for his children. The greatest part by far of his father's life and example was on the side of virtue, courage, religion, and patriotism.
His Exile. Absalom killed his older half-brother Amnon for his crime against his sister Tamar, and fled to his maternal grandfather at Geshur. David mourned for his beautiful but wayward boy. After three years of exile Joab, David's general, perceiving this, sent a woman to the king with a fictitious but ingenious story, which showed David his conduct as in a mirror. He restored Absalom to Jerusalem, but for two years more he refused to see his son.
III. ABSALOM THE REBEL, 2 Sam. 15-17. No one can reach the heart of this tragedy unless he reads carefully, more than once, the four chapters (15-18) which tell the whole story with dramatic interest and power. It is very modern at heart ; and if we strip off the orientalisms of the picture, it will read like a condensed modern novel or drama.
The wayward son.
The aged father's love.
The bitter grief of the father.
The Motives. David's treatment of his son was neither right nor politic. It was not right; for, on the one hand, if Absalom had committed a crime, he ought to have been punished for it; and on the other, if there was ground for his recall from banishment, there was also ground for receiving him at court. It was not politic; for it could not but put Absalom into a position of antagonism to his father, and the fretting impatience of these two years was but the bitter bud out of which at length ripened rebellion.” — W. M. Taylor.
David was drawing near the end of life, and Absalom would try not so much to take his father's kingdom from him, as to ensure that he himself should be the suc
“ Under divine counsel, arrangements were already in progress for the succession of his brother Solomon.” — W. J. Beecher. Morally and religiously there was a strong antagonism between father and son. Absalom, the restless, active young man, ambitious and unscrupulous, determined to take possession of the kingdom before it was too late.
Conditions Favorable to a Change of Government, 1. It was a time of general peace throughout the wide empire. For all restless, warlike spirits an opportunity was given for internal dissension, fault-finding, and opposition.
2. There was doubtless no little moral restraint upon corrupt practices and loose morals, against which a large number of the people rebelled, just as it is now in our large cities which try to enforce strict moral laws without requiring any personal reformation.
3. There was a growing dissatisfaction with the king. The business of the law courts, over which the king himself presided, had become too vast to be attended to by any one man. Appeals from inferior judges and cases brought directly to the king could not all receive a fair hearing.
4. David was very busy preparing materials and gathering money for a future temple. Nothing was visibly accomplished, yet the taxes were high. Some would consider David an old hypocrite," and ridicule him for it.
5. David would at his age necessarily be less active, less in the people's eye, doing less for the outward glory of the kingdom. It has been supposed by some that he was suffering from severe and repulsive illness, depressed in body and spirit (see Ps. 41 :8; 38: 1-10).
6. It is possible that the events of 2 Sam. 24 took place before this time. The enrolment would be unpopular, for it looked toward more taxes. The plague that followed would intensify the discontent.
The Unscrupulous Politician. Absalom did not plunge at once into open rebellion. He began by assuming a semi-regal magnificence to assert his rank as heirapparent. Riding by in his royal chariot, with 50 men running before him, he made a great impression on the people. His youth and beauty and courtesy made him
every inch a king." And as the people saw him they would say, “ That is something like a king ; but as for David, we might as well have no court, for anything we see of him.” — W. M. Taylor.
The dignity thus assumed rendered the more persuasive the blandishments by which he strove to seduce from their allegiance the suitors who repaired from all parts of the land to Jerusalem.
Every morning Absalom rose up early, and was ready by the gate to meet any one that had a controversy, or better“ suit" as in R. V. He did not wait to give the king time to attend to his case.
Absalom, greeting the suitor, “ Of what city art thou ? ” (Showing interest in him personally.)
The Suitor, From such and such a place (in one of the tribes of Israel).
Absalom. “ See, thy matters are good and right. You should win your case. But there is no official appointed to hear it. The King has neglected to provide for his people. Oh that I were judge in the land, then would I do justice to you all!”.
" And Absalom put forth his hand, and kissed him "; feigning humility and condescension as well as the desire for justice. This was before election ! He was an unscrupulous politician. The only way to judge such is to see what they do after election.
The Open Rebellion, 15:7-12. When Absalom felt that the time was ripe, and he had stolen the hearts of the people from David, he proceeded to carry out his more open plans. Verse 7 says "after forty years." It is not likely that he held his hand and continued this plotting for this length of time. Some think the time is counted from the beginning of David's reign ; but most regard it as a transcriber's error for four, a mistake very easily made when numbers were designated by letters often very similar, and the MSS. copied by hand. It is probable that it means that there was four years of this plotting.
Absalom asked the king for permission to go to Hebron to offer a sacrifice which he said he had vowed while at Geshur. This was the home of his boyhood, and the former capital. It was then a good place for rallying those discontented with David's reign.
He made four especial preparations for the revolt. First he sent secret emissaries even before he left for Hebron, to prepare all the disaffected ones for it. He could easily secure leaders in every place by promises of office or gifts to them when he became king.
Second, he so planned it that the first news that the people would have of the rebellion would be that it was an accomplished fact. Of course this impression that it was already a success would tend in the highest degree to make it so.
Third, he invited to the sacrificial feast, as his guests, two hundred men of distinction who knew absolutely nothing of the plan. “No doubt Absalom hoped that many of them, finding themselves thus compromised, and seeing the number of his supporters, would decide to join him ; or, failing this, they might be held as hostages.”
Fourth, he sent for David's wisest counsellor, a man of marvellous sagacity (2 Sam. 16:23). Absalom doubtless knew that he was disaffected with David ; perhaps from the dishonor done to Bathsheba, his granddaughter, perhaps from his perception of the growing discontent among the people. “ Ahithophel's name was in itself almost a guarantee of Absalom's success.
Absalom the King. At once after proclaiming himself king in Hebron Absalom started on his march to Jerusalem, gathering recruits rapidly as he went.
As soon as David learned of it he proposed and prepared to flee from Jerusalem and leave the city and the kingdom to his son. With 600 soldiers of the regular army, and a number of people who sympathized with David, he went as far as the plain of Jordan, where they encamped for the night, awaiting news from the city of Absalom's plans. Absalom reigned three months, and during that time not one good thing is re
2 Sam. 18:1. AND David numbered the people that were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them.
2. And David sent forth a third part of the people under the hand of Joab, and a third part under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab's brother, and a third part under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said unto the people, I will surely go forth with you myself also.
3. But the people answered, Thou shalt not go forth : for if we flee away, they will not care for us; neither if half of us die, will they care for us : but now thou art worth ten thousand of us: therefore now it is better that thou succour us out of the city.
4. And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do. And the king stood by the gate side, and all the people came out by hundreds and by thousands.
5. And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.
6. So the people went out into the field against Israel: and the battle was in the wood of Ephraim;
7. Where the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand men.
corded concerning him. He was as great a failure as a king as he was as a man, and for the same reason, - he was selfish. He wanted to be king for his own pleasure. He had no kingly aims or ideals.
A man selfish in his inmost soul can never attain true success. Selfishness ruins health, ruins conscience, ruins judgment. Selfishness fights against the selfish man himself.
Why Did David Flee instead of Defending Himself ? 1. He was unwilling to have a civil war, with all the horrors of a siege.
2. He loved his son so much that he could not, in his condition, weakened by age, make war with him.
3: The outbreak was sudden ; David was unprepared ; it was impossible for him to know whom to trust, or how wide the disaffection extended. Politically considered, David's action was the wisest that could be taken.” — Tuck.
Possibly, too, the remembrance of Nathan's prophecy (2 Sam. 12 : 10-12) tended to paralyze David's natural vigor." The consciousness of deserving all that might be sent upon him obscured his hope in God, and made him feeble and depressed.
David's flight revealed his true friends. Read the chapters for the interesting incidents of the time ; and Psalms 3 and 4, which are supposed to have been written by David to commemorate the occasion.
IV. THE DECISIVE BATTLE, 2 Sam. 18:1-18. Rejecting the shrewd advice of Ahithophel, and accepting that of Hushai, David's friend, who remained at Jerusalem for the purpose of misleading the enemy, Absalom waited till he could gather a great army with which to attack and overcome his father. This was fatal. Ahithophel felt so certain that Absalom's cause was now lost, and all his hopes were ruined, that he went out and committed suicide.
Apparently self-conceit was the reason why he followed Hushai's advice, for that wily enemy of his put before him a picture of himself at the head of an immense army, like a world-conqueror, and all the nation, as it were, singing " Hail to the Chief.'
But the delay gave David, and his two greatest generals who had both remained faithful to him time to collect an army from those who were still loyal ; and overcome the advantage gained by the apparent, immediate success.
The army of David was divided into three divisions under three able generals, for the purpose of surrounding the enemy, and preventing him from concentrating against one spot, and possibly breaking through and killing the king.
8. For the battle was there scattered over the face of all the country : and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.
9. And Absalom met the servants of David. And Absalom rode upon a mule, and the mule went under the thick boughs of a great oak, and his head caught hold of the oak, and he was taken up between the heaven and the earth; and the mule that was under him went away.
1o. And a certain man saw it, and told Joab, and said, Behold, I saw Absalom hanged in an oak.
II. And Joab said unto the man that told him, And, behold, thou sawest him, and why didst thou not smite him there to the ground? and I would have given thee ten shekels of silver, and a girdle.
12. And the man said unto Joab, Though I should receive a thousand shekels of silver in mine hand, yet would I not put forth mine hand against the king's son: for in our hearing the king charged thee and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Beware that none touch the young man Absalom.
13. Otherwise I should have wrought falsehood against mine own life: for there is no matter hid from the king, and thou thyself wouldest have set thyself against me.
14. 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.
15. And ten young men that bare Joab's armour compassed about and smote Absalom, and slew him.
The Defeat of Absalom's Troops. The battle was in a wooded district, with clumps here and there, especially on the hillsides, giving chances for ambush, and for accidents to those riding. It is said that the wood devoured more people than the sword devoured (v. 8). “We may fancy the three battalions of David making a vigorous onslaught on Absalom's troops as they advanced into the wooded country, and when they began to retreat through the woods, and got entangled in brushwood, or jammed together by thickset trees, discharging arrows at them, or falling on them with the sword, with most disastrous effect." - Blaikie.
The Death of Absalom. “Amidst this scattered fight Absalom was separated from his men, and as he fled from a party of the enemy, the mule on which he rode carried him beneath the low branches of a spreading terebinth and left him hanging by the head, probably from a forked bough."
The first man who found Absalom spared his life, according to the command given by the king at the beginning of the battle. But Joab knew that Absalom could not with safety be suffered to live, and that it would be difficult to rid the state of so foul a member at any time than now, when a just right to slay him had been earned in open battle.” — Kilto.
He therefore slew him, and cast his body into a pit near the place ; and a great heap of stones was cast upon him, either in detestation of his memory, or as a monument to distinguish the place.
V. THE TRAGEDY OF GRIEF, 2 Sam. 18 : 19–19 : 8. David was waiting for a report of the battle. He had made arrangements for two athletic young men to bring him the news. One of these was now seen running alone. If he were alone, it meant tidings, for if he had been a fugitive from a lost battle there would be others with him.
The first report was brought by Ahimaaz, a good man and a friend of David. He tried to soften the blow by reporting the victory, and not yet speaking the death of Absalom. David had no ears for the army, what he wanted was the news of his beloved son.
The second, official, report was made by Cushi, more exactly“ the Cushite," an Ethiopian slave, who “ blurts out, as if he were the bearer of good news, that which filled up the measure of David's woe.” “O my son Absalom ! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my