Dispatch Two Hundred Twenty-Four

Posted: November 10, 2016 in Forty-Sixth Bundle
Tags: , , , ,

2 SAMUEL 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

The king ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom.

So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword.

Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.

15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.

31 Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” 32 The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.”

33  The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

Absalom was David’s third son by his wife Maacah, who was herself the daughter of a foreign king, Talmai of Geshur. Reputedly David’s favorite, Absalom had nonetheless conspired against his father for possession of the throne, managing to take control of the city of Hebron and setting his sights next on Jerusalem. For a while, David was on the run and hiding from Absalom’s rebel band, but then, after mustering his own army, he order the rebellion quashed.

“Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom,” David had instructed his commanders. But, in a fateful moment, Absalom’s hair got caught in the branches of a tree under which his mule was passing, and he hung there, the story tells us, “between heaven and earth.” And then, when the soldiers of David’s commander, Joab, happened upon the dangling traitor, they drew their swords and killed him on the spot.

David’s reaction to the news of Absalom’s murder is reminiscent of how he had handled the death of his enemy King Saul years before. His grief in both instances is testimony to his amazing ability to separate in his mind between the dignity of his human aggressors on the one hand and their malicious intentions on the other. Behind the mask of a terrorist and would-be assassin was the face of Absalom, his beloved son.

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