THE STORY OF ABSALOM
(2 Samuel chapters 13-19)
by Wayne S. Walker
“Sons were born to David in Hebron: His firstborn was Amnon by Ahinoam the Jezreelitess; his second, Chileab, by Abigail the widow of Nabal the Carmelite; the third Absalom the son of Maachah, the daughter of Talmai, king of Geshur; the fourth, Adonijah the son of Higgith; the fifth, Shephatiah the son of Abital; and the sixth, Ithream, by David’s wife Eglah. These were born to David in Hebron” (2 Samuel 3:2-5).
David had other sons later, notably Solomon who succeeded him as king, but these six were born in Hebron. Of the six, we know a little bit more about three of them–Amnon, who violated his sister Tamar; Adonijah, who tried to seize the throne when David was old; and especially Absalom, who will be the subject of this study. We are going to look at the story of Absalom primarily in his relationship to David.
Absalom did not have a perfect father. David was a man after God’s own heart and is a great hero who demonstrated many good character traits as an example for us, but he was not sinless. We remember how he committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband Uriah killed in battle to cover it up. Notice what Nathan told David in 2 Sam. 12.10-11. “Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the LORD: Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of the sun.” This does not mean that God would specifically cause this to happen just to punish David, but that He simply foresaw what would occur as a result of David’s actions. David’s own misbehavior in this instance may well have been a factor in his son’s misbehavior.
David did repent. “So David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD’. And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die'” (2 Sam. 12:13). The outpouring of David’s penitent heart is found in Psalm 51. Yet, even though David received forgiveness, there were still consequences to his actions that he had to bear. “However, because by this deed you have given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also who is born to you shall surely die” (2 Sam. 12:14). A person may repent of a lifetime of alcohol abuse, but he may still experience many bodily and mental infirmities as a result. A person can be forgiven for murder, but he will still have to serve his sentence in jail or even suffer execution. A person may repent and be forgiven of homosexuality, but if he has AIDS he will likely die from it.
Parents certainly have a responsibility to their children. We are to take the words of God and “teach them diligently to your children” (Deut. 6.6-7). We must “train up a child in the way he should go” (Prov. 22.6). We are told to “bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6.4). This may be one area in which David failed. At least concerning Adonijah, we read in 1 Ki. 1.6, “And his father had not rebuked him at any time by saying, ‘Why have you done so.'” When we fail in our duties as parents, for whatever reason, we can be forgiven, and we should certainly be thankful that forgiveness is available, but sometimes consequences still remain.
However, even though David’s own behavior may have influenced his son, Absalom still made his own choices and decisions. Indeed, there may have been various influences which pointed Absalom’s life in a certain direction and led him to think as he did, yet he chose his own path. He chose to allow hatred and anger to simmer in his heart that led to his murdering his brother Amnon (2 Sam. 13.19-29). He chose to undermine the king’s authority and gather around him a band of men to seize the throne from his father (2 Sam. 15.1-10). No one put a spear to his head and compelled him to do these things. He charted his own course.
The same thing is true for us. “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (Jas. 1.13-16). God did not make us so that we have to sin. The devil doesn’t force us to disobey God. If we think otherwise, we are deceived. You do not have to yield to temptation, but you can “resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas. 4.7).
Therefore Absalom was and everyone else is responsible for their own choices, and will be judged accordingly. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Cor. 5.10). Parents may point a child in the right way or in the wrong way, depending on how they raise him or her, and they will be responsible for what they have done, but the child ultimately has to make his own decisions and will be held accountable for them.
Absalom’s love from David
It is especially touching to note that in spite of Absalom’s rebellion, he was still loved by his father. Consider David’s reaction to Absalom’s death. “Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: ‘O my son Absalom–my son, my son Absalom–if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!'” (2 Sam. 18:33). Sometimes, our children may hurt us and bring heartache. We may not approve of what they do or endorse their actions, but we still love them, as David did.
I still remember a dear elderly brother in a congregation with which I labored some thirty years ago. He was trying to be just as faithful as he could be. However, many times he sat and told me how that when he was younger and his children were still at home, he was not faithful to God or interested in spiritual things. As a result, he did not take his children to church services regularly nor communicate to them the importance of being right with God. He himself eventually repented and came back to the Lord. He tried to talk to his children after that, but they would not listen. Yet, he still loved them and hoped that someday they would see the truth.
This kind of thing reminds us of God’s love for us. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (Jn. 3.16). God made us. All human beings can be thought of as His offspring by reason of creation. Yet we sin and we hurt Him. However, even though we are rebels, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5.8). Then, even after we become His spiritual children, we sometimes sin, yet He still loves us and calls us to come back, promising us that “if we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). He loves us so much that He does not want us to be lost but to come to or return to Him that we might have eternal life.
The story of Absalom is a sad story. It is sad for him, because he died in his sin, and that also should be a warning for us. “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thess. 1.7-9).
However, it is a sad story for David as well because he lost a son whom he loved. Unlike David, God is the perfect parent, yet so many of His children turn away–His children by creation who reject Him, and even some of His children by spiritual birth who go back into sin. Yet, another lesson that we can learn from this story is that no matter what we do, our God still loves us and has made all the provisions necessary for us to be saved. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3.9). What a wonderful love!
–taken from Expository Files (March, 2012; Vol. 19, No. 5; pp. 8-10); and Truth Magazine (September, 2012; Vol. LVI, No. 9; pp. 24-25)