It didn’t take long for Nathan’s prophecy about my family to start coming true. Remember, the Lord had Nathan tell me that as a consequence of my sin with Bathsheba calamity would come out of my own household. (Warning: Content may not be appropriate for all ages!)
A Bible Study by Jack Kelley
It didn’t take long for Nathan’s prophecy about my family to start coming true. Remember, the Lord had Nathan tell me that as a consequence of my sin with Bathsheba calamity would come out of my own household. My wives would be unfaithful with one close to me, and my own children would rise up against me.
My oldest son was Amnon, born of Ahinoam, my second wife after Michal. (Michal was the daughter of Saul, promised to me after I killed Goliath. The Lord made Michal barren when she criticized my dancing before the Ark of the Covenant so we didn’t have any children together.)
Amnon fell in love with his half sister Tamar, my beautiful young daughter whose mother was Maacah, a Princess of the nearby principality of Geshur. Maacah also bore me a son, Absalom, who would later become a powerful enemy and contender for my throne. (My first six sons all had different mothers.)
Amnon was so taken with Tamar that it became an obsession with him, and he lived in fear that because she was his half sister, Tamar could never be his. Finally this fear nearly drove him insane and in a terrible act of desperation he pretended to be ill, telling me that only bread fed to him from Tamar’s hand could relieve his suffering. Knowing nothing of his feelings, I sent Tamar to his house, to prepare some bread for him and feed him. When she got there He lured her into his bedroom and wrestled her onto the bed. As she struggled to get away, she begged him to ask me for permission to marry her so as not destroy her life, but he wouldn’t listen. Being the stronger of the two, he pinned her down and raped her.
After he had finished, he felt nothing but contempt for her and ordered his servants to get her out of his house. But the damage had been done. Both of their lives were ruined. A woman so defiled was of no value in Israel, even if she was a king’s daughter, and it became Absalom’s responsibility as her brother to avenge her by bringing Amnon to justice.
Two years later he did just that, but in doing so violated the law himself. The punishment for rape was to marry the victim, thereby assuming responsibility for her for the rest of her life. (Deut. 22:28-29) But instead of that, Absalom invited Amnon to a celebration he gave at the shearing of his sheep, where he had his men surround Amnon and kill him. Then he fled for refuge to Geshur, his mother’s home, staying there for three years. I was soon reconciled to the fact of Amnon’s death, after all he had committed a serious crime, and had ruined the life of his own sister. But though I longed to see Absalom, out of anger I didn’t send for him.
Finally General Joab cooked up a scheme with a woman from Tekoa, a town a few miles south of Bethlehem, to bring me to my senses. He had her tell me a fictional story about her two sons who got into a fight, one killing the other. According to the Law, a close relative of the dead son’s family had the right to take the life of the living son as his Avenger of Blood. But since this woman was a widow, if her remaining son was killed there would be no heir to her dead husband’s estate, causing her husband’s name to vanish from Israel and his estate to go to the first son’s in-laws. (Widows were not in the line of inheritance in those days.) This was something we always tried to prevent, because the Lord’s gift of land to each family was intended to be perpetual. I was also convinced that her dead son’s in-laws were motivated more by the lure of the inheritance than by the need for justice, so I assured her that I would grant amnesty to her remaining son so her husband’s name and estate could be preserved.
Then she sprang the trap on me, showing how my own words had convicted me. My refusal to reconcile with Absalom had created the same divided loyalties among my family, and this time the inheritance of the nation could be at stake.
When I accused her of conspiring with Joab to set me up she readily agreed, laughingly declaring that no one could pull the wool over my eyes because I had the wisdom of an angel of God. She was a flatterer all right. However manipulative she was, there was one thing she said I had to agree with. “God does not take life away,” she said, “Instead He devises a way so that banished people need not remain estranged from Him.”
Truer words were never spoken. Look how far He went so you and I would not remain estranged from Him. Centuries later the Apostle Paul would write, For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19-20) Having written Psalm 22, I knew how that was going to happen. If God would go this far for His children, couldn’t I agree to let my son come home? Talk about being convicted.
I had Joab send word to Absalom that it was safe for him to return to Israel, but that I wasn’t ready to see him yet. (I guess I wasn’t as forgiving as I thought I was.) In fact for two years after Absalom returned, we never spoke until one day Absalom had his servants set Joab’s grain field afire to finally get his attention and persuade him to intercede with me. Joab convinced me to see Absalom, and when I did we hugged and kissed as a father and son should.
Even though Absalom was the logical choice to succeed me as king, he knew that by killing his brother Amnon he had disqualified himself in my eyes. So he devised a clever scheme to undermine my authority, hoping to be appointed by the people to replace me. For four years he rode out to the edge of the city each day and as he spotted people coming to Jerusalem to petition the King for justice, he approached them.
“Tell me your problem,” he would say. When they did he would explain that he thought their position was just, and if the King had appointed him judge he would find in their favor. But sad to say, the King had appointed no one in Jerusalem to bring them justice, and if they continued into the city the King would not see them. In this way he soon became the most popular man in Israel while I fell from favor.
When he thought he was popular enough, he asked me for permission to go to Hebron to fulfill a vow, and of course I gave him my blessing. He took 200 men with him and while there got the people to proclaim him as King! Then he got my counselor (Bathsheba’s grandfather) Ahithophel to side with him. After that, his popularity grew even more quickly and many more followed him.
When I found out about this, I remembered Nathan’s prophecy and my heart melted in fear. I gathered all the forces loyal to me and fled from the city, leaving only 10 of my concubines behind to tend the palace. While running from Jerusalem I prayed that the Lord would turn Ahithophel’s advice to folly.
When Absalom arrived at the palace, his counselors advised him to have sex with all 10 of my concubines in the sight of the people to demonstrate his power and to anger me. (As I’ve said earlier, a person having sex with a king’s concubine was saying that he intended to overthrow the king.) They set up a special tent in the city and brought the women out to him. Another of Nathan’s prophecies fulfilled! I didn’t become angry with Absalom because I had known this was going to happen as a consequence of my adultery with Bathsheba. As soon as he could, Absalom amassed a huge army from all over Israel and led them out to attack my forces as Ahithophel had advised, but the Lord showed us favor and we defeated them. Ahithophel’s advice on the battle’s strategy had been wrong as I prayed it would be.
When my men reported that they had sighted Absalom, I ordered them to be lenient with him when they caught him. He had a full head of thick curly hair. It was his pride and joy and he spent a lot of time making it look just right. While trying to escape through a forested area his beautiful hair became entangled in a low tree branch. His momentum bent the branch like a bow and when it snapped back he was yanked clean off his mount. My men were close behind and found him hanging by his hair in the tree with his feet off the ground and his arms flailing uselessly. In other circumstances it would have been almost comical, but here it turned out to be his downfall. Joab ran a javelin through his heart and the men finished killing him as he hung there.
I knew in my heart that it was my sin that had started this contention in my family, and I was therefore responsible for Absalom’s death. Counting Bathsheba’s baby, three of my sons were now dead because of it. My heart was heavy. Why couldn’t it have been me who died instead of him?
But what was done was done, and my job now was to put the nation back together, and regain the trust of those who had sided against me. As soon as they heard that Absalom was dead, many of them came out to the Jordan River to greet me and cross over into Israel with me, and their apologies were profuse and heart felt. They remembered that I was the one who had saved them from the Philistines and other enemies, and realized that I should be their King after all.
Unfortunately theirs was not a unanimous opinion among my detractors, and even before I could get back to Jerusalem there would be another revolt to put down. We’ll talk about that one next time. 05-26-05