Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2 Samuel 17:15-18:18

15 Hushai told Zadok and Abiathar, the priests, “Ahithophel has advised Absalom and the elders of Israel to do such and such, but I have advised them to do so and so. 16 Now send a message at once and tell David, ‘Do not spend the night at the fords in the wilderness; cross over without fail, or the king and all the people with him will be swallowed up.’”
17 Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel. A female servant was to go and inform them, and they were to go and tell King David, for they could not risk being seen entering the city. 18 But a young man saw them and told Absalom. So the two of them left at once and went to the house of a man in Bahurim. He had a well in his courtyard, and they climbed down into it. 19 His wife took a covering and spread it out over the opening of the well and scattered grain over it. No one knew anything about it.
20 When Absalom’s men came to the woman at the house, they asked, “Where are Ahimaaz and Jonathan?”
The woman answered them, “They crossed over the brook.” The men searched but found no one, so they returned to Jerusalem.
21 After they had gone, the two climbed out of the well and went to inform King David. They said to him, “Set out and cross the river at once; Ahithophel has advised such and such against you.” 22 So David and all the people with him set out and crossed the Jordan. By daybreak, no one was left who had not crossed the Jordan.
23 When Ahithophel saw that his advice had not been followed, he saddled his donkey and set out for his house in his hometown. He put his house in order and then hanged himself. So he died and was buried in his father’s tomb.
24 David went to Mahanaim, and Absalom crossed the Jordan with all the men of Israel. 25 Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army in place of Joab. Amasa was the son of Jether, an Ishmaelite who had married Abigal, the daughter of Nahash and sister of Zeruiah the mother of Joab. 26 The Israelites and Absalom camped in the land of Gilead.
27 When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim 28 brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery. They also brought wheat and barley, flour and roasted grain, beans and lentils, 29 honey and curds, sheep, and cheese from cows’ milk for David and his people to eat. For they said, “The people have become exhausted and hungry and thirsty in the wilderness.”
18:1 David mustered the men who were with him and appointed over them commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds. 2 David sent out his troops, a third under the command of Joab, a third under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and a third under Ittai the Gittite. The king told the troops, “I myself will surely march out with you.”
3 But the men said, “You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.”
4 The king answered, “I will do whatever seems best to you.”
So the king stood beside the gate while all his men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands. 5 The king commanded Joab, Abishai and Ittai, “Be gentle with the young man Absalom for my sake.” And all the troops heard the king giving orders concerning Absalom to each of the commanders.
6 David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel, and the battle took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 There Israel’s troops were routed by David’s men, and the casualties that day were great—twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread out over the whole countryside, and the forest swallowed up more men that day than the sword.
9 Now Absalom happened to meet David’s men. He was riding his mule, and as the mule went under the thick branches of a large oak, Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree. He was left hanging in midair, while the mule he was riding kept on going.
10 When one of the men saw what had happened, he told Joab, “I just saw Absalom hanging in an oak tree.”
11 Joab said to the man who had told him this, “What! You saw him? Why didn’t you strike him to the ground right there? Then I would have had to give you ten shekels of silver and a warrior’s belt.”
12 But the man replied, “Even if a thousand shekels were weighed out into my hands, I would not lay a hand on the king’s son. In our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘Protect the young man Absalom for my sake’ 13 And if I had put my life in jeopardy—and nothing is hidden from the king—you would have kept your distance from me.”
14 Joab said, “I’m not going to wait like this for you.” So he took three javelins in his hand and plunged them into Absalom’s heart while Absalom was still alive in the oak tree. 15 And ten of Joab’s armor-bearers surrounded Absalom, struck him and killed him.
16 Then Joab sounded the trumpet, and the troops stopped pursuing Israel, for Joab halted them. 17 They took Absalom, threw him into a big pit in the forest and piled up a large heap of rocks over him. Meanwhile, all the Israelites fled to their homes.
18 During his lifetime Absalom had taken a pillar and erected it in the King’s Valley as a monument to himself, for he thought, “I have no son to carry on the memory of my name.” He named the pillar after himself, and it is called Absalom’s Monument to this day.

Points of Interest
  • ‘Do not spend the night at the fords in the wilderness’--Hushai seems to be a little uncertain as to whose advice, Ahithophel’s or his, will ultimately prevail. Just to be safe, David should put a little space between Absalom and him.
  • ‘Jonathan and Ahimaaz were staying at En Rogel’--these are the sons of the two priests. David’s people have set up a little communication network to get news to David without arousing suspicion: Hushai goes to the Tabernacle, ostensibly to make a sacrifice but really to pass a message to Abiathar and Zadok; the priests send a servant on ‘an errand’ out of town; she passes the message along to Jonathan and Ahimaaz; they carry it to David. Despite the precautions, they almost get caught.
  • ‘He put his house in order and then hanged himself’--once David crosses the Jordan, Ahithophel knows the game is over. He doesn’t need to stick around to see the end.
  • ‘David went to Mahanaim’--Mahanaim was Ish-Bosheth’s capital. I guess, from the fact that both Ish-Bosheth and David choose it as a base, that it must be strategically located for defense, for gathering forces, or both.
  • ‘Absalom had appointed Amasa over the army’--Amasa is a cousin of Joab and Absalom and a nephew of David.
  • ‘Shobi son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Makir son of Ammiel from Lo Debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim’--now that he has a base of operations, David’s loyalists begin to gather him. Interestingly, one of these significant allies is from Rabbah, the town that David just conquered not so long ago (March 7th, 2 Samuel 12:15-31).
  • ‘brought bedding and bowls and articles of pottery’--David’s men left town in a hurry with no supplies or equipment. These allies are helping David gather the necessary provisions from scratch.
  • ‘It would be better now for you to give us support from the city’--as it turns out, the fearsome warrior who eats giants for lunch (see yesterday’s passage) doesn’t even participate in the fighting. His generals think it would be too risky. Battle is unpredictable, and if some accident were to happen to David, the whole thing would be over. It’s best just to keep him safe.
  • ‘Be gentle with the young man Absalom’--Absalom may be a usurper, but he’s also still David’s son.
  • ‘David’s army marched out of the city to fight Israel’--perversely, David ends up having to fight against his own national army. When it gets down to the fighting, Israel’s army is no match for the ad hoc forces David is able to gather. Maybe it’s a matter of experience and training, David having retained the loyalty of the most battle-hardened troops. Maybe Israel’s army doesn’t have their hearts fully in it, fighting against their own king as they are. Maybe God favors David. Maybe all of the above.
  • ‘Absalom’s hair got caught in the tree’--Absalom is known for his flowing mane (2 Samuel 14:25-26). Embarrassingly, his beautiful head of hair proves to be his downfall.
  • ‘I would not lay a hand on the king’s son’--this guy has been paying attention. The man who grieved the deaths of Saul and Abner and Ish-Bosheth, and executed the purported killers of Saul and Ish-Bosheth, is unlikely to be happy with the one who kills his own son, rebel though his son may be.
  • ‘I’m not going to wait like this for you’--basically, ‘Look, I don’t have time to argue with you.’ Joab has shown before that he is going to do what he thinks is necessary, come what may.
  • ‘Then Joab sounded the trumpet’--Joab’s decision to kill Absalom is not completely heartless. He’s trying to save lives. He suspects that if Absalom were dead, the rebellion would crumble; and he’d like to kill as few of his own army’s soldiers as possible.
  • ‘threw him into a big pit in the forest’--Joab may be, from his perspective, simply doing what needs to be done. But he can’t be too proud of it, if he’s trying to hide the evidence of it in the forest.
  • ‘He named the pillar after himself’--it strikes me as somewhat less than completely dignified that Absalom commissioned a statue of himself. I think for the monument to have its desired effect it really needs to have been someone else’s idea. Poor Absalom so wants to be remembered--and is so afraid that he won’t be--that he throws his own party. His fears aren’t unfounded, though; in the end, the only trace of him left is indeed the ridiculous sculpture he built for himself. Sadly, he may be better off that way. What could he be remembered for, exactly? Killing his brother? Starting a civil war against his father? Apparently, the only thing truly remarkable about him is his hair--and even that betrays him in the end.
Taking it Home
  • For you: Today’s psalm is Psalm 62.
Psalm 62
1 Truly my soul finds rest in God;
my salvation comes from him.
2 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
3 How long will you assault me?
Would all of you throw me down—
this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
4 Surely they intend to topple me
from my lofty place;
they take delight in lies.
With their mouths they bless,
but in their hearts they curse.
5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
9 Surely the lowborn are but a breath,
the highborn are but a lie.
If weighed on a balance, they are nothing;
together they are only a breath.
10 Do not trust in extortion
or put vain hope in stolen goods;
though your riches increase,
do not set your heart on them.
11 One thing God has spoken,
two things I have heard:
“Power belongs to you, God,
12 and with you, Lord, is unfailing love”;
and, “You reward everyone
according to what they have done.”
  • For your six: Pray for your six’s relationships with their family members. David and Absalom aren’t exactly the picture of a wonderful father-son relationship, and, as we see, that causes more than a few problems for the both of them. Pray that your six’s families would be sources of support and blessing and not conflict.
  • For our church: I’m impressed by David’s ability to lead and delegate well. He is remarkably able to organize his impromptu army and march them into battle quickly and effectively. Ask God to give our church the same kind of efficient, organized system of getting things done. Ask God to somehow give us supernatural help in all the coordination that has to happen here week in and week out. If you are part of a Sunday team, a small group, or some other program or ministry, pray for the leaders who have been appointed to oversee that area.
  • For families: Ask everyone in your family to share about things they do to help make your home and family run well. Talk about why these things are important. Pray for each person and for what they contribute to your household. If there are areas that are not running well right now, talk about those too, and ask for God’s input on how they could run better.