2 Samuel 18
-We see the certainty of battle between a rebellious son and his exiled father as this chapter opens up. David is numbering his people who were with him and assigning commanders over thousands and hundreds in their respective regiments. One third were under the command of Joab, one third were under the command of his brother Abishai, and the other third were under Ittai the Gittite. David resolved to go out with them into battle, but the people persuaded him to stay back and help them from the city. They reasoned that King David was worth 10,000 of them and he should be in a safer environment than the battlefield in this dilemma. David consented to their wishes and stood beside the gate as all the people went out by hundreds and thousands. He charged Joab, Abishai, and Ittai to deal gently with Absalom, his son. All the people heard his charge concerning Absalom, and then they went out into the field against Israel. The battle took place in the forest of Ephraim, and the Israelites siding with Absalom were soundly defeated before the servants of David. The text describes the slaughter as “great” with some 20,000 men of Israel killed in action. The violent battle spread over the whole countryside, and the menacing forest that they fought in actually devoured more people that day than the sword (2 Samuel 18:1-8).
-Now Absalom happened to meet the servants of David because Absalom’s mule went under a thicket and Absalom’s heavy hair (see 2 Samuel 14:25-26) got caught up in the branches of a great oak, and he was suspended in the air between heaven and earth as the mule kept running. A certain man loyal to David saw him there and reported this to Joab. Joab, pumped up with the adrenaline of war, wondered aloud why this certain man had not struck the usurper that was causing all of this conflict. He told the man that indeed he would have given him ten pieces of silver and a belt for his heroic actions if he would have killed Absalom. But the man had remembered his king’s charge, “Even if I should receive a thousand pieces of silver in my hand, I would not put out my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king charged you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Protect for me the young man Absalom!’ Otherwise, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” Joab, still full of animosity and vengeance retorted, “I will not waste time here with you.” He immediately took three spears in his hand and thrust them through the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the midst of the oak. Then 10 young men who carried Joab’s armor joined in and struck Absalom killing him off. After that, Joab blew the trumpet of return and the people came back from pursuing Israel “for Joab had restrained the people.” They took Absalom and cast him into a deep pit in the forest and erected over him a very great heap of stones. Upon this action, defeated and embarrassed, the rest of the Israelites involved in the attempted coup returned to their respective tents. This section ends with a unique aside, which is still observable in the Kidron Valley (or as the Word calls it, the King’s Valley) to this day. Absalom had erected a pillar for himself to preserve his name, and it became known as “Absalom’s Monument (2 Samuel 18:9-18).” A picture of what it looks like
now is below.
-Ahimaaz, the son of the priest Zadok, wanted to run and bring the news of the LORD’s freeing of David from his enemies. But Joab told him that he was not the man to carry this kind of news since this was the king’s son, and Joab knew of David’s love for Absalom. Joab instead commissioned a Cushite (an ancient civilization south of Egypt in Africa) to go and tell the king what he had seen. The Cushite bowed to Joab and departed on a run. Soon after, Ahimaaz, begged once again to be the man that runs to the king with this news no matter what would happen. Joab saw that he would have no reward for carrying this news of the death of Absalom, but he eventually consented and let Ahimaaz take off with his message of victory. Ahimaaz ran by the way of the plain and passed up the Cushite on his way to the king. Meanwhile, David was sitting between the two gates of the city, and his watchman had gone up to the roof of the gate by the wall to observe. He caught a glimpse of a man running by himself, and the king knew this meant good news. Then the watchman saw another man running by himself, and David knew this too meant good news. The first runner was soon to be perceived by the watchman as Ahimaaz due to the way that he ran, which lead the king to respond, “This is a good man and comes with good news.” Upon arrival, Ahimaaz proclaimed, “All is well.” Then he prostrated himself before the king in honor and respect with his face to the ground. He continued, “Blessed is the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who lifted their hands against my lord the king.” But the king wanted to know about his son, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” Ahimaaz responded by saying that he saw a great tumult but could not discern exactly what happened. This is when the Cushite arrived pronouncing to let the king hear good news of the LORD’s freeing from all those who had risen up against him. Once again, David asked about his son, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “Let the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be as that young man!” Realizing his son’s demise, the king was deeply moved with grief and went up to the chamber over the gate and wept. As he walked he mourned, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son (2 Samuel 18:19-33)!”
-*Application* We should see from this episode the results of defiance and rebellion, both from a son, a commander, and a king. The son’s insurgence caused a war with many lives lost over virtually nothing. The commander, Joab, caused incredible grief on the part of the king because he did not obey his clear instructions. Of course all of this grief and loss happened because of David’s infidelities that tore apart his life and family. This was a sin against Almighty God. By the LORD’s decree, there are always consequences for disobedience. While He forgives and restores in His lovingkindness, we still can certainly make a mess of things when we don’t fully follow God’s decrees and commands as well as those in authority over us on this earth.
Verse to Memorize: 2 Samuel 18:14