Saturday, March 24, 2012

2 Sam 13: 23-39

23 Two years later, when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor near the border of Ephraim, he invited all the king’s sons to come there. 24 Absalom went to the king and said, “Your servant has had shearers come. Will the king and his attendants please join me?”
25 “No, my son,” the king replied. “All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” Although Absalom urged him, he still refused to go but gave him his blessing.
26 Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon come with us.”
The king asked him, “Why should he go with you?” 27 But Absalom urged him, so he sent with him Amnon and the rest of the king’s sons.
28 Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Haven’t I given you this order? Be strong and brave.” 29 So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.
30 While they were on their way, the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons; not one of them is left.” 31 The king stood up, tore his clothes and lay down on the ground; and all his attendants stood by with their clothes torn.
32 But Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “My lord should not think that they killed all the princes; only Amnon is dead. This has been Absalom’s express intention ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar.33 My lord the king should not be concerned about the report that all the king’s sons are dead. Only Amnon is dead.”
34 Meanwhile, Absalom had fled.
Now the man standing watch looked up and saw many people on the road west of him, coming down the side of the hill. The watchman went and told the king, “I see men in the direction of Horonaim, on the side of the hill.”
35 Jonadab said to the king, “See, the king’s sons have come; it has happened just as your servant said.”
36 As he finished speaking, the king’s sons came in, wailing loudly. The king, too, and all his attendants wept very bitterly.
37 Absalom fled and went to Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. But King David mourned many days for his son.
38 After Absalom fled and went to Geshur, he stayed there three years. 39 And King David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.

Points of Interest
  • ‘Two years later’--I guess Absalom is a ‘Revenge is a dish best served cold’ kind of guy.
  • ‘when Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor’—this would be like the Thanksgiving holiday. It’s a chance to rest after a hard season’s labor, to celebrate a job well done, and to thank God for another abundant year.
  • ‘All of us should not go’--after inviting all of his brothers, Absalom goes on to invite the king, anticipating that David would decline. Rather like never having the President and Vice-President in the same airplane, David is avoiding having the entire royal family in one place, lest the nation be left leaderless in the case of some tragedy. He offers a more gracious excuse for declining, though, basically saying, ‘No, you and your brothers go on ahead and have your fun without me.’
  • ‘we would only be a burden to you’--when I was in high school, the President (it was Reagan) spoke at our school on a campaign stop. Not only on the day, but for a couple of weeks before, there was total chaos. The place was crawling with secret service agents, advance campaign staff, political advisors, White House staff, and reporters. A helipad was installed in our football practice field, and all of our landscaping was redone. It’s quite an undertaking to host a head of state.
  • ‘please let my brother Amnon come’--as the oldest son and therefore probably the Crown Prince, Amnon would be a part of the king’s retinue. Absalom is asking David to send Amnon as his representative.
  • ‘Why should he go with you?’--David seems a bit suspicious, but Absalom outlasts him in the ‘Why?/Why not?’ game.
  • ‘When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine’--Absalom wants them to strike when Amnon and those loyal to him would most have their guard down. This plan has the added benefit of being embarrassing. The last picture of Amnon would be as a drunken fool. Absalom wants Amnon not just to die, but to experience at least some of the shame he inflicted on Tamar.
  • ‘strong and brave’--I wouldn’t exactly call it an act of heroism to strike down a drunk man. Then again, they are about to kill a prince. Maybe it’s not so much the actual ‘fight’ as the aftermath they’re afraid of.
  • ‘all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled’--the rest of the princes, perhaps not aware of the private feud between Amnon and Absalom, think that Absalom is executing a palace coup. Step one would be eliminating all competition.
  • ‘not one of them is left’--while the princes scatter in a panic, rumors of this supposed coup make it to the palace.
  • ‘Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said … “Only Amnon is dead”’-- Jonadab certainly has a way of inserting himself into the middle of palace intrigue, doesn’t he? A confidant of Amnon in the last passage, he also seems to be well-informed about Absalom’s plans.
  • ‘ever since the day Amnon raped his sister Tamar’--note that he doesn’t say, alleged rape,’ or, ‘that thing between Amnon and Tamar.’ Regardless of what he’s said before, at least now Jonadab is calling it what it was.
  • ‘Meanwhile, Absalom had fled’--Amnon may very well have deserved to die. That doesn’t mean Absalom had the right to kill him. He has just assassinated the Crown Prince. This could spark wider feuding among the various parties and sub-families in the royal family, or even a civil war.
  • ‘Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur’--this is Absalom’s maternal grandfather. Like when David’s father Jesse went into exile in Moab, Absalom is seeking family protection outside of Israel.
  • ‘for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death’--David’s judgment of Absalom is softened by the fact that it was not, in the end, a coup, and by the fact that Amnon’s death wasn’t exactly unjustified. Plus, as time goes by, he simply misses Absalom. However, the fact remains that Absalom is a murderer and traitor. So, David can’t easily welcome him back.
Taking it Home
  • For you: David and his family perform a poor life decision hat trick: it’s not often you get murder, incest, and fratricide within one week’s Bible Guide passages. It seems like Absalom had a fairly sizeable number of friends, family members, and neighbors who would join him for his dinner party. Nothing ruins a good party, though, like murdering your brother in the middle of it. Absalom could have been enjoying a pretty rich relational world if only he weren’t so obsessed by Amnon. Who are the people you spend your time with? Are they at work? at church? in your neighborhood? in a sports league? Ask God to help you pay attention to them. Are there ways that you are distracted by one person or dynamic, such that you neglect all the others in your midst? Ask God to place you in a community of people who will uplift you, encourage you, and help you follow after him.
  • For your six: Since Jonadab knew about it, apparently Absalom had expressed his intention to kill Amnon. Maybe he said it sarcastically, or under his breath, or at an inappropriate time; somehow no one seemed to follow up. What are things your six often talk about? What are the comments they make repeatedly or topics they seem to bring up again and again? Ask God to help you pay attention to the things your six say--both the words they say and the meaning beneath those words.
  • For our church: Who knows what reconciliation between Absalom and Amnon would have looked like, or even if it were possible at all? These two feuding brothers paint yet another picture of the incredible mess of grief, misery and despair that results when two parties are at odds. Pray for God to bless our church with peace and reconciliation so that we could then actively play a part in creating peace and reconciliation in our cities, countries and the world. Forgive the Miss American pageant cliché, but ask God even for world peace--or, at least, that God would help us learn how to get along ourselves.
  • For families: Is there a time in your family when you purposefully connect and have time together? In today’s society, it’s easy to get distracted or try to multitask to get everything done, inadvertently not listening fully to others. Ask God for some time today to listen to each other--and to God--without distractions. Is there anything someone in your family has said recently that you have not followed up on? Consider finding time to do that today.