Rebellion of Absalom
chapter is based on 2 Samuel 13 to 19.]
shall restore fourfold," had been David's unwitting sentence upon
himself, on listening to the prophet Nathan's parable; and according to
his own sentence he was to be judged. Four of his sons must fall, and the
loss of each would be a result of the father's sin.
crime of Amnon, the first-born, was permitted by David to pass unpunished
and unrebuked. The law pronounced death upon the adulterer, and the
unnatural crime of Amnon made him doubly guilty. But David, self-condemned
for his own sin, failed to bring the offender to justice. For two full
years Absalom, the natural protector of the sister so foully wronged,
concealed his purpose of revenge, but only to strike more surely at the
last. At a feast of the king's sons the drunken, incestuous Amnon was
slain by his brother's command.
judgment had been meted out to David. The terrible message was carried to
him, "Absalom hath slain all the king's sons, and there is not one of
them left. Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the
earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent." The
king's sons, returning in alarm to Jerusalem, revealed to their father the
truth; Amnon alone had been slain; and they "lifted up their voice
and wept: and the king also and all his servants wept very sore." But
Absalom fled to Talmai, the king of Geshur, his mother's father.
sons of David, Amnon had been left to selfish indulgence. He had sought to
gratify every thought of his heart, regardless of the requirements of God.
Notwithstanding his great sin, God had borne long with him. For two years
he had been granted opportunity for repentance; but he continued in sin,
and with his guilt upon him, he was cut down by death, to await the awful
tribunal of the judgment.
neglected the duty of punishing the crime of Amnon, and because of the
unfaithfulness of the king and father and the impenitence of the son, the
Lord permitted events to take their natural course, and did not restrain
Absalom. When parents or rulers neglect the duty of punishing iniquity,
God Himself will take the case in hand. His restraining power will be in a
measure removed from the agencies of evil, so that a train of
circumstances will arise which will punish sin with sin.
results of David's unjust indulgence toward Amnon were not ended, for it
was here that Absalom's alienation from his father began. After he fled to
Geshur, David, feeling that the crime of his son demanded some punishment,
refused him permission to return. And this had a tendency to increase
rather than to lessen the inextricable evils in which the king had come to
be involved. Absalom, energetic, ambitious, and unprincipled, shut out by
his exile from participation in the affairs of the kingdom, soon gave
himself up to dangerous scheming.
At the close
of two years Joab determined to effect a reconciliation between the father
and his son. And with this object in view he secured the services of a
woman of Tekoah, reputed for wisdom. Instructed by Joab, the woman
represented herself to David as a widow whose two sons had been her only
comfort and support. In a quarrel one of these had slain the other, and
now all the relatives of the family demanded that the survivor should be
given up to the avenger of blood. "And so," said the mother,
"they shall quench my coal which is left, and shall not leave to my
husband neither name nor remainder upon the earth." The king's
feelings were touched by this appeal, and he assured the woman of the
royal protection for her son.
from him repeated promises for the young man's safety, she entreated the
king's forbearance, declaring that he had spoken as one at fault, in that
he did not fetch home again his banished. "For," she said,
"we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which
cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person; ye doth He
devise means, that His banished be not expelled from Him." This
tender and touching portrayal of the love of God toward the sinner--coming
as it did from Joab, the rude soldier--is a striking evidence of the
familiarity of the Israelites with the great truths of redemption. The
king, feeling his own need of God's mercy, could not resist
To Joab the command was given, "Go therefore, bring the young man
permitted to return to Jerusalem, but not to appear at court or to meet
his father. David had begun to see the evil effects of his indulgence
toward his children; and tenderly as he loved this beautiful and gifted
son, he felt it necessary, as a lesson both to Absalom and to the people,
that abhorrence for such a crime should be manifested. Absalom lived two
years in his own house, but banished from the court. His sister dwelt with
him, and her presence kept alive the memory of the irreparable wrong she
had suffered. In the popular estimation the prince was a hero rather than
an offender. And having this advantage, he set himself to gain the hearts
of the people. His personal appearance was such as to win the admiration
of all beholders. "In all Israel there was none to be so much praised
as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of
his head there was no blemish in him." It was not wise for the king
to leave a man of Absalom's character--ambitious, impulsive, and
passionate--to brood for two years over supposed grievances. And David's
action in permitting him to return to Jerusalem, and yet refusing to admit
him to his presence, enlisted in his behalf the sympathies of the people.
memory ever before him of his own transgression of the law of God, David
seemed morally paralyzed; he was weak and irresolute, when before his sin
he had been courageous and decided. His influence with the people had been
weakened. And all this favored the designs of his unnatural son.
influence of Joab, Absalom was again admitted to his father's presence;
but though there was an outward reconciliation, he continued his ambitious
scheming. He now assumed an almost royal state, having chariots and
horses, and fifty men to run before him. And while the king was more and
more inclined to desire retirement and solitude, Absalom sedulously
courted the popular favor.
of David's listlessness and irresolution extended to his subordinates;
negligence and delay characterized the administration of justice. Absalom
artfully turned every cause of dissatisfaction to his own advantage. Day
by day this man of noble mien might be seen at the gate of the city, where
a crowd of suppliants waited to present their wrongs for redness. Absalom
mingled with them and listened to their grievances, expressing sympathy
with their sufferings and regret at the inefficiency of the government.
Having thus listened to the story of a man of Israel, the prince would
reply, "Thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed
of the king to hear thee;" adding, "O that I were made judge in
the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me,
and I would do him justice! And it was so, that when any man came nigh to
him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed
the artful insinuations of the prince, discontent with the government was
fast spreading. The praise of Absalom was on the lips of all. He was
generally regarded as heir to the kingdom; the people looked upon him with
pride as worthy of this high station, and a desire was kindled that he
might occupy the throne. "So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of
Israel." Yet the king, blinded by affection for his son, suspected
nothing. The princely state which Absalom had assumed, was regarded by
David as intended to do honor to his court--as an expression of joy at the
The minds of
the people being prepared for what was to follow, Absalom secretly sent
picked men throughout the tribes, to concert measures for a revolt. And
now the cloak of religious devotion was assumed to conceal his traitorous
designs. A vow made long before while he was in exile must be paid in
Hebron. Absalom said to the king, "I pray thee, let me go and pay my
vow, which I have vowed unto the Lord, in Hebron. For thy servant vowed a
vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the Lord shall bring me
again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the Lord." The fond
father, comforted with this evidence of piety in his son, dismissed him
with his blessing. The conspiracy was now fully matured. Absalom's
crowning act of hypocrisy was designed not only to blind the king but to
establish the confidence of the people, and thus to lead them on to
rebellion against the king whom God had chosen.
forth for Hebron, and there went with him "two hundred men out of
Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they
knew not anything." These men went with Absalom, little thinking that
their love for the son was leading them into rebellion against the father.
Upon arriving at Hebron, Absalom immediately summoned Ahithophel, one of
chief counselors of David, a man in high repute for wisdom, whose
opinion was thought to be as safe and wise as that of an oracle. Ahithophel joined the conspirators, and his support made the cause of
Absalom appear certain of success, attracting to his standard many
influential men from all parts of the land. As the trumpet of revolt was
sounded, the prince's spies throughout the country spread the tidings that
Absalom was king, and many of the people gathered to him.
alarm was carried to Jerusalem, to the king. David was suddenly aroused,
to see rebellion breaking out close beside his throne. His own son--the
son whom he had loved and trusted--had been planning to seize his crown
and doubtless to take his life. In his great peril David shook off the
depression that had so long rested upon him, and with the spirit of his
earlier years he prepared to meet this terrible emergency. Absalom was
mustering his forces at Hebron, only twenty miles away. The rebels would
soon be at the gates of Jerusalem.
palace David looked out upon his capital--"beautiful for situation,
the joy of the whole earth, . . . the city of the great King." Psalm
48:2. He shuddered at the thought of exposing it to carnage and
devastation. Should he call to his help the subjects still loyal to his
throne, and make a stand to hold his capital? Should he permit Jerusalem
to be deluged with blood? His decision was taken. The horrors of war
should not fall upon the chosen city. He would leave Jerusalem, and then
test the fidelity of his people, giving them an opportunity to rally to
his support. In this great crisis it was his duty to God and to his people
to maintain the authority with which Heaven had invested him. The issue of
the conflict he would trust with God.
and sorrow David passed out of the gate of Jerusalem--driven from his
throne, from his palace, from the ark of God, by the insurrection of his
cherished son. The people followed in long, sad procession, like a funeral
train. David's bodyguard of Cherethites, Pelethites, and six hundred
Gittites from Gath, under the command of Ittai, accompanied the king. But
David, with characteristic unselfishness, could not consent that these
strangers who had sought his protection should be involved in his
calamity. He expressed surprise that they should be ready to make this
sacrifice for him. Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite,
"Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy
place, and abide
with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile. Whereas thou
camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us?
seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy
and truth be with thee."
answered, "As the Lord liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely
in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even
there also will thy servant be." These men had been converted from
paganism to the worship of Jehovah, and nobly they now proved their
fidelity to their God and their king. David, with grateful heart, accepted
their devotion to his apparently sinking cause, and all passed over the
brook Kidron on the way toward the wilderness.
procession halted. A company clad in holy vestments was approaching.
"And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the
ark of the covenant of God." The followers of David looked upon this
as a happy omen. The presence of that sacred symbol was to them a pledge
of their deliverance and ultimate victory. It would inspire the people
with courage to rally to the king. Its absence from Jerusalem would bring
terror to the adherents of Absalom.
At sight of
the ark joy and hope for a brief moment thrilled the heart of David. But
soon other thoughts came to him. As the appointed ruler of God's heritage
he was under solemn responsibility. Not personal interests, but the glory
of God and the good of his people, were to be uppermost in the mind of
Israel's king. God, who dwelt between the cherubim, had said of Jerusalem,
"This is My rest" (Psalm 132:14); and without divine authority
neither priest nor king had a right to remove therefrom the symbol of His
presence. And David knew that his heart and life must be in harmony with
the divine precepts, else the ark would be the means of disaster rather
than of success. His great sin was ever before him. He recognized in this
conspiracy the just judgment of God. The sword that was not to depart from
his house had been unsheathed. He knew not what the result of the struggle
might be. It was not for him to remove from the capital of the nation the
sacred statutes which embodied the will of their divine Sovereign, which
were the constitution of the realm and the foundation of its prosperity.
Zadok, "Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find
favor in the eyes of the Lord, He will bring me again, and show me both it
and His habitation: but if He thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold,
here am I, let Him do to me as seemeth good unto Him."
"Art not thou a seer?"--a man appointed of God to instruct the
people. "Return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you,
Ahimaaz thy son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar. See, I will tarry in
the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify
me." In the city the priests might do him good service by learning
the movements and purposes of the rebels, and secretly communicating them
to the king by their sons, Ahimaaz and Jonathan.
priests turned back toward Jerusalem a deeper shadow fell upon the
departing throng. Their king a fugitive, themselves outcasts, forsaken
even by the ark of God--the future was dark with terror and foreboding.
"And David went up by the ascent of Mount Olivet, and wept as he went
up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people
that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as
they went up. And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the
conspirators with Absalom." Again David was forced to recognize in
his calamities the results of his own sin. The defection of Ahithophel,
the ablest and most wily of political leaders, was prompted by revenge for
the family disgrace involved in the wrong to Bathsheba, who was his
David said, O Lord, I pray Thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into
foolishness." Upon reaching the top of the mount, the king bowed in
prayer, casting upon God the burden of his soul and humbly supplicating
divine mercy. His prayer seemed to be at once answered. Hushai the Archite,
a wise and able counselor, who had proved himself a faithful friend to
David, now came to him with his robes rent and with earth upon his head,
to cast in his fortunes with the dethroned and fugitive king. David saw,
as by a divine enlightenment, that this man, faithful and truehearted, was
the one needed to serve the interests of the king in the councils at the
capital. At David's request Hushai returned to Jerusalem to offer his
services to Absalom and defeat the crafty counsel of Ahithophel.
gleam of light in the darkness, the king and his followers pursued their
way down the eastern slope of Olivet, through a rocky and desolate waste,
through wild ravines, and along stony and precipitous paths, toward the
Jordan. "And when King David came to Bahurim, behold, thence came out
a man of the family of the house of Saul, whose name was Shimei, the son
of Gera: he came forth, and cursed still as he came. And he cast stones at
David, and at all the servants of King David: and all the people and all
the mighty men were on his right hand and on his left. And thus said
Shimei when he cursed, Come out, come out, thou bloody man, and thou man
of Belial. The Lord hath returned upon thee all the blood of the house of
Saul, in whose stead thou hast reigned; and the Lord hath delivered the
kingdom into the hand of Absalom thy son: and, behold, thou art taken in
thy mischief, because thou art a bloody man."
prosperity Shimei had not shown by word or act that he was not a loyal
subject. But in the affliction of the king this Benjamite revealed his
true character. He had honored David upon his throne, but he cursed him in
his humiliation. Base and selfish, he looked upon others as of the same
character as himself, and, inspired by Satan, he wreaked his hatred upon
him whom God had chastened. The spirit that leads man to triumph over, to
revile or distress, one who is in affliction is the spirit of Satan.
accusations against David were utterly false--a baseless and malignant
slander. David had not been guilty of wrong toward Saul or his house. When
Saul was wholly in his power, and he could have slain him, he merely cut
the skirt of his robe, and he reproached himself for showing even this
disrespect for the Lord's anointed.
sacred regard for human life, striking evidence had been given, even while
he himself was hunted like a beast of prey. One day while he was hidden in
the cave of Adullam, his thoughts turning back to the untroubled freedom
of his boyhood life, the fugitive exclaimed, "Oh that one would give
me drink of the water of the well of Bethlehem, which is by the
gate!" 2 Samuel 23:13-17. Bethlehem was at that time in the hands of
the Philistines; but three mighty men of David's band broke through the
guard, and brought of the water of Bethlehem to their master. David could
not drink it. "Be it far from me," he
cried; "is not this
the blood of the men that went in jeopardy of their lives?" And he
reverently poured out the water as an offering to God. David had been a
man of war, much of his life had been spent amid scenes of violence; but
of all who have passed through such an ordeal, few indeed have been so
little affected by its hardening, demoralizing influence as was David.
nephew, Abishai, one of the bravest of his captains, could not listen
patiently to Shimei's insulting words. "Why," he exclaimed,
"should this dead dog curse my lord the king? let me go over, I pray
thee, and take off his head." But the king forbade him.
"Behold," he said, "my son . . . seeketh my life: how much
more now may this Benjamite do it? let him alone, and let him curse; for
the Lord hath bidden him. It may be that the Lord will look on mine
affliction, and that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this
was uttering bitter and humiliating truths to David. While his faithful
subjects wondered at his sudden reverse of fortune, it was no mystery to
the king. He had often had forebodings of an hour like this. He had
wondered that God had so long borne with his sins, and had delayed the
merited retribution. And now in his hurried and sorrowful flight, his feet
bare, his royal robes changed for sackcloth, the lamentations of his
followers awaking the echoes of the hills, he thought of his loved
capital--of the place which had been the scene of his sin-- and as he
remembered the goodness and long-suffering of God, he was not altogether
without hope. He felt that the Lord would still deal with him in mercy.
wrongdoer has excused his own sin by pointing to David's fall, but how few
there are who manifest David's penitence and humility. How few would bear
reproof and retribution with the patience and fortitude that he
manifested. He had confessed his sin, and for years had sought to do his
duty as a faithful servant of God; he had labored for the upbuilding of
his kingdom, and under his rule it had attained to strength and prosperity
never reached before. He had gathered rich stores of material for the
building of the house of God, and now was all the labor of his life to be
swept away? Must the results of years of consecrated toil, the work of
genius and devotion and statesmanship, pass into the hands of his reckless
and traitorous son, who regarded not the honor of God nor the prosperity
Israel? How natural it would have seemed for David to murmur against
God in this great affliction!
But he saw in
his own sin the cause of his trouble. The words of the prophet Micah
breathe the spirit that inspired David's heart. "When I sit in
darkness, the Lord shall be a light unto me. I will bear the indignation
of the Lord, because I have sinned against Him, until He plead my cause,
and execute judgment for me." Micah 7:8, 9. And the Lord did not
forsake David. This chapter in his experience, when, under cruelest wrong
and insult, he shows himself to be humble, unselfish, generous, and
submissive, is one of the noblest in his whole experience. Never was the
ruler of Israel more truly great in the sight of heaven than at this hour
of his deepest outward humiliation.
permitted David to go on unrebuked in sin, and while transgressing the
divine precepts, to remain in peace and prosperity upon his throne, the
skeptic and infidel might have had some excuse for citing the history of
David as a reproach to the religion of the Bible. But in the experience
through which He caused David to pass, the Lord shows that He cannot
tolerate or excuse sin. And David's history enables us to see also the
great ends which God has in view in His dealings with sin; it enables us
to trace, even through darkest judgments, the working out of His purposes
of mercy and beneficence. He caused David to pass under the rod, but He
did not destroy him; the furnace is to purify, but not to consume. The
Lord says, "If they break My statutes, and keep not My commandments;
then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity
with stripes. Nevertheless My loving-kindness will I not utterly take from
him, nor suffer My faithfulness to fail." Psalm 89:31-33.
David left Jerusalem, Absalom and his army entered, and without a struggle
took possession of the stronghold of Israel. Hushai was among the first to
greet the new-crowned monarch, and the prince was surprised and gratified
at the accession of his father's old friend and counselor. Absalom was
confident of success. Thus far his schemes had prospered, and eager to
strengthen his throne and secure the confidence of the nation, he welcomed
Hushai to his court.
now surrounded by a large force, but it was mostly composed of men
untrained for war. As yet they had not
been brought into conflict. Ahithophel well knew that David's situation was far from hopeless. A large
part of the nation were still true to him; he was surrounded by tried
warriors, who were faithful to their king, and his army was commanded by
able and experienced generals. Ahithophel knew that after the first burst
of enthusiasm in favor of the new king, a reaction would come. Should the
rebellion fail, Absalom might be able to secure a reconciliation with his
father; then Ahithophel, as his chief counselor, would be held most guilty
for the rebellion; upon him the heaviest punishment would fall. To prevent
Absalom from retracing his steps, Ahithophel counseled him to an act that
in the eyes of the whole nation would make reconciliation impossible. With
hellish cunning this wily and unprincipled statesman urged Absalom to add
the crime of incest to that of rebellion. In the sight of all Israel he
was to take to himself his father's concubines, according to the custom of
oriental nations, thus declaring that he succeeded to his father's throne.
And Absalom carried out the vile suggestion. Thus was fulfilled the word
of God to David by the prophet, "Behold, I will raise up evil against
thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes,
and give them unto thy neighbor. . . . For thou didst it secretly: but I
will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun." 2 Samuel
12:11, 12. Not that God prompted these acts of wickedness, but because of
David's sin He did not exercise His power to prevent them.
had been held in high esteem for his wisdom, but he was destitute of the
enlightenment which comes from God. "The fear of the Lord is the
beginning of wisdom" (Proverbs 9:10); and this, Ahithophel did not
possess, or he could hardly have based the success of treason upon the
crime of incest. Men of corrupt hearts plot wickedness, as if there were
no overruling Providence to cross their designs; but "He that sitteth
in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision."
Psalm 2:4. The Lord declares: "They would none of My counsel: they
despised all My reproof. Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their
own way, and be filled with their own devices. For the turning away of the
simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy
them." Proverbs 1:30-32.
succeeded in the plot for securing his own safety,
Ahithophel urged upon
Absalom the necessity of immediate action against David. "Let me now
choose out twelve thousand men," he said, "and I will arise and
pursue after David this night: and I will come upon him while he is weary
and weak-handed, and will make him afraid: and all the people that are
with him shall flee; and I will smite the king only: and I will bring back
all the people unto thee." This plan was approved by the king's
counselors. Had it been followed, David would surely have been slain,
unless the Lord had directly interposed to save him. But a wisdom higher
than that of the renowned Ahithophel was directing events. "The Lord
had appointed to defeat the good counsel of Ahithophel, to the intent that
the Lord might bring evil upon Absalom."
not been called to the council, and he would not intrude himself unasked,
lest suspicion should be drawn upon him as a spy; but after the assembly
had dispersed, Absalom, who had a high regard for the judgment of his
father's counselor, submitted to him the plan of Ahithophel. Hushai saw
that if the proposed plan were followed, David would be lost. And he said,
"The counsel that Ahithophel hath given is not good at this time.
For, said Hushai, thou knowest thy father and his men, that they be mighty
men, and they be chafed in their minds, as a bear robbed of her whelps in
the field: and thy father is a man of war, and will not lodge with the
people. Behold, he is hid now in some pit, or in some other place;"
he argued that, if Absalom's forces should pursue David, they would not
capture the king; and should they suffer a reverse, it would tend to
dishearten them and work great harm to Absalom's cause. "For,"
he said, "all Israel knoweth that thy father is a mighty man, and
they which be with him are valiant men." And he suggested a plan
attractive to a vain and selfish nature, fond of the show of power:
"I counsel that all Israel be generally gathered unto thee, from Dan
even to Beer-sheba, as the sand that is by the sea for multitude; and that
thou go to battle in thine own person. So shall we come upon him in some
place where he shall be found, and we will light upon him as the dew
falleth on the ground: and of him and of all the men that are with him
there shall not be left so much as one. Moreover, if he be gotten into a
city, then shall all Israel bring ropes to that city, and we will draw it
into the river, until there be not one small stone found there.
Absalom and all the men of Israel said, The counsel of Hushai the Archite
is better than the counsel of Ahithophel." But there was one who was
not deceived--one who clearly foresaw the result of this fatal mistake of
Absalom's. Ahithophel knew that the cause of the rebels was lost. And he
knew that whatever might be the fate of the prince, there was no hope for
the counselor who had instigated his greatest crimes. Ahithophel had
encouraged. Absalom in rebellion; he had counseled him to the most
abominable wickedness, to the dishonor of his father; he had advised the
slaying of David and had planned its accomplishment; he had cut off the
last possibility of his own reconciliation with the king; and now another
was preferred before him, even by Absalom. Jealous, angry, and desperate,
Ahithophel "gat him home to his house, to his city, and put his
household in order, and hanged himself, and died." Such was the
result of the wisdom of one, who, with all his high endowments, did not
make God his counselor. Satan allures men with flattering promises, but in
the end it will be found by every soul, that the "wages of sin is
death." Romans 6:23.
certain that his counsel would be followed by the fickle king, lost no
time in warning David to escape beyond Jordan without delay. To the
priests, who were to forward it by their sons, Hushai sent the message:
"Thus and thus did Ahithophel counsel Absalom and the elders of
Israel; and thus and thus have I counseled. Now therefore . . . lodge not
this night in the plains of the wilderness, but speedily pass over; lest
the king be swallowed up, and all the people that are with him."
The young men
were suspected and pursued, yet they succeeded in performing their
perilous mission. David, spent with toil and grief after that first day of
flight, received the message that he must cross the Jordan that night, for
his son was seeking his life.
What were the
feelings of the father and king, so cruelly wronged, in this terrible
peril? "A mighty valiant man," a man of war, a king, whose word
was law, betrayed by his son whom he had loved and indulged and unwisely
trusted, wronged and deserted by subjects bound to him by the strongest
ties of honor and fealty--in what words did David pour out the feelings of
his soul? In the hour of his darkest trial David's heart was stayed upon
God, and he sang:
how are they increased that trouble me!
Many are they that rise up against me.
Many there be which say of my soul,
There is no help for him in God.
But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me;
My glory, and the lifter up of mine head.
I cried unto the Lord with my voice,
And He heard me out of His holy hill.
I laid me down and slept;
I awaked; for the Lord sustained me.
I will not be afraid of ten thousands of people,
That have set themselves against me round about. . . .
Salvation belongeth unto the Lord:
Thy blessing is upon Thy people." Psalm 3:1-8.
David and all
his company--warriors and statesmen, old men and youth, the women and the
little children--in the darkness of night crossed the deep and
swift-flowing river. "By the morning light there lacked not one of
them that was not gone over Jordan."
David and his
forces fell back to Mahanaim, which had been the royal seat of Ishbosheth.
This was a strongly fortified city, surrounded by a mountainous district
favorable for retreat in case of war. The country was well-provisioned,
and the people were friendly to the cause of David. Here many adherents
joined him, while wealthy tribesmen brought abundant gifts of provision,
and other needed supplies.
counsel had achieved its object, gaining for David opportunity for escape;
but the rash and impetuous prince could not be long restrained, and he
soon set out in pursuit of his father. "And Absalom passed over
Jordan, he and all the men of Israel with him." Absalom made Amasa,
the son of David's sister Abigail, commander-in-chief of his forces. His
army was large, but it was undisciplined and poorly prepared to cope with
the tried soldiers of his father.
his forces into three battalions under the command of Joab, Abishai, and
Ittai the Gittite. It had been his purpose himself to lead his army in the
field; but against this the officers of the army, the counselors, and the
people vehemently protested. "Thou shalt not go forth," they
said: "for if we flee away, they will not care for us; neither if
half of us die, will they care for us: but thou art worth ten thousand of
now it is better that thou be ready to succour us out of the
city. And the king said unto them, What seemeth you best I will do."
2 Samuel 18:3, 4, R.V.
walls of the city the long lines of the rebel army were in full view. The
usurper was accompanied by a vast host, in comparison with which David's
force seemed but a handful. But as the king looked upon the opposing
forces, the thought uppermost in his mind was not of the crown and the
kingdom, nor of his own life, that depended upon the wage of battle. The
father's heart was filled with love and pity for his rebellious son. As
the army filed out from the city gates David encouraged his faithful
soldiers, bidding them go forth trusting that the God of Israel would give
them the victory. But even here he could not repress his love for Absalom.
As Joab, leading the first column, passed his king, the conqueror of a
hundred battlefields stooped his proud head to hear the monarch's last
message, as with trembling voice he said, "Deal gently for my sake
with the young man, even with Absalom." And Abishai and Ittai
received the same charge--"Deal gently for my sake with the
young man, even with Absalom." But the king's solicitude, seeming to
declare that Absalom was dearer to him than his kingdom, dearer even than
the subjects faithful to his throne, only increased the indignation of the
soldiers against the unnatural son.
The place of
battle was a wood near the Jordan, in which the great numbers of Absalom's
army were only a disadvantage to him. Among the thickets and marshes of
the forest these undisciplined troops became confused and unmanageable.
And "the people of Israel were slain before the servants of David,
and there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand
men." Absalom, seeing that the day was lost, had turned to flee, when
his head was caught between the branches of a widespreading tree, and his
mule going out from under him, he was left helplessly suspended, a prey to
his enemies. In this condition he was found by a soldier, who, for fear of
displeasing the king, spared Absalom, but reported to Joab what he had
seen. Joab was restrained by no scruples. He had befriended Absalom,
having twice secured his reconciliation with David, and the trust had been
shamelessly betrayed. But for the advantages gained by Absalom through
Joab's intercession, this rebellion, with all its horrors, could never
have occurred. Now it was in Joab's power
at one blow to destroy the
instigator of all this evil. "And he took three darts in his hand,
and thrust them through the heart of Absalom. . . . And they took Absalom,
and cast him into a great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of
stones upon him."
the instigators of rebellion in Israel. Ahithophel had died by his own
hand. The princely Absalom, whose glorious beauty had been the pride of
Israel, had been cut down in the vigor of his youth, his dead body thrust
into a pit, and covered with a heap of stones, in token of everlasting
reproach. During his lifetime Absalom had reared for himself a costly
monument in the king's dale, but the only memorial which marked his grave
was that heap of stones in the wilderness.
The leader of
the rebellion being slain, Joab by the sound of the trumpet recalled his
army from the pursuit of the fleeing host, and messengers were at once
dispatched to bear the tidings to the king.
upon the city wall, looking out toward the battlefield, discovered a man
running alone. Soon a second came in sight. As the first drew nearer, the
watchman said to the king, who was waiting beside the gate, "Methinketh
the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of
Zadok. And the king said, He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings.
And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well. And he fell down
to the earth upon his face before the king, and said, Blessed be the Lord
thy God, which hath delivered up the men that lifted up their hand against
my lord the king." To the king's eager inquiry, "Is the young
man Absalom safe?" Ahimaaz returned an evasive answer.
messenger came, crying, "Tidings, my lord the king: for the Lord hath
avenged thee this day of all them that rose up against thee." Again
from the father's lips came the absorbing question, "Is the young man
Absalom safe?" Unable to conceal the heavy tidings, the herald
answered, "The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against
thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is." It was enough. David
questioned no further, but with bowed head he "went up to the chamber
over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom!
my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son,
victorious army, returning from the field, approached the city, their
shouts of triumph awaking the echoes of the hills. But as they entered the
city gate the shout died away, their banners drooped in their hands, and
with downcast gaze they advanced more like those who had suffered defeat
than like conquerors. For the king was not waiting to bid them welcome,
but from the chamber above the gate his wailing cry was heard, "O my
son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O
Absalom, my son, my son!"
victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people; for the
people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son. And the
people gat them by stealth that day into the city, as people being ashamed
steal away when they flee in battle."
filled with indignation. God had given them reason for triumph and
gladness; the greatest rebellion that had ever been known in Israel had
been crushed; and yet this great victory was turned to mourning for him
whose crime had cost the blood of thousands of brave men. The rude, blunt
captain pushed his way into the presence of the king, and boldly said,
"Thou hast shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this
day have saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters; .
. . in that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For thou
hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes nor servants:
for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived, and all we had died
this day, then it had pleased thee well. Now therefore arise, go forth,
and speak comfortably unto thy servants: for I swear by the Lord, if thou
go not forth, there will not tarry one with thee this night: and that will
be worse unto thee than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until
even cruel as was the reproof to the heart-stricken king, David did not
resent it. Seeing that his general was right, he went down to the gate,
and with words of courage and commendation greeted his brave soldiers as
they marched past him.