David and Absalom are "Reconciled"
2 Sam. 14:1-33
The episode before us actually starts back with the story of David and Bathsheba. Because David had committed adultery with Bathsheba and had murdered her husband, Nathan informed David that the sword would never leave his house. Immediately following that episode, Ammon, Davidís eldest son, raped Tamar, his half-sister. At his point David made a major mistake. According to the Mosaic Law, Ammon should have been forced to pay a dowry and marry Tamar; for whatever reason, though, David refused to bring justice down upon Ammon. Unknown to David, this inaction created hostility between Absalom and David. Two years after the rape, Absalom, Tamarís full brother and Ammonís half-brother, exacted revenge by executing Ammon. Absalom had every right to execute this justice since he was the nearest kin to Tamar (this being in conjunction with Levitical law). After he killed Ammon, Absalom feared David's wrath and therefore fled to the region just southeast of the Sea of Galilee, in the land of Geshur, the kingdom of his maternal grandfather. Once more injustice prevailed in Davidís kingdom because, instead of treating Absalom as an outcast and pariah, David should have expressed gratitude to Absalom for carrying out the justice he had failed to execute. A full 3 years passed before the events in chapter 14 unfold.
JOAB PLOTS TO RECONCILE DAVID AND ABSALOM (14:1-24)
Before we look at verse one, we need to remember that whereas Godís Word is inerrant and infallible, menís translations of the Word are not. God did not speak in the King James language or in the 20th-century American dialect. He communicated through the Hebrew/Aramaic and Greek languages. Two words in verse 1 have received some considerable attention: ďDavid was inclined towards Absalom. Two of the greatest commentators on the OT, Keil and Delitsch, authoritatively claim that this is a mistranslation of the Hebrew. The Hebrew words translated ďinclined towardsĒ elsewhere always mean ďinclined against.Ē Moreover, as context will later show, David was not excited about reconciling with Absalom. Joab did not try to reconcile the 2 because David was yearning for Absalom but because David was precisely not yearning for Absalom.
Why then would Joab try to reconcile the two? Most likely it is because Joab felt that Absalom would be the next king of Israel and he wanted to get in good with the future king while he had the opportunity. (When David is on his deathbed, Joab actually takes the lead in crowning Adonijah king of Israel over against Solomon; he wanted to be the kingmaker.) Joab had good reasons for this. First, Absalom was second in line to the throne. Originally Ammon was first in line with Absalom third; with Ammon dead, though, Absalom moved up one step. Second and more importantly, Absalom was popular with the people. Apparently, he was not only charismatic, he was handsome. Later the author of 2 Samuel (14:25-27) will claim that Absalom was good looking from the foot to the top of the head. He even had a gorgeous head of hair. Joab most likely is betting the bank that Absalom is going to succeed David after he dies. (Little does Joab realize that Absalom does not want to wait that long, something Joab would never support because of his loyalty to David.)
Joab does not approach David up front about his desire to reconcile the 2. Instead, he arranges to have a woman from Tekoa (which was just 2 hours south of Jerusalem and also the birthplace of Amos the prophet) to pose as a widow who is in dire need of the kingís assistance. The woman claims that she had 2 sons. One day the 2 sons were out in the field, when an argument erupted between them and one of the sons killed the other one. According to the Law of Moses, the next of kin to the one slain had both the right and responsibility to bring justice upon the son who committed murder, Well, thatís all and good; however, if that son is put to death, the only one really to suffer will be the woman because she will be a widow and childless. Moreover, her property will be given to the nearest kin who is not her husband or son; plus the name of her husband will forever be wiped off the face of the earth. More than justice is at stake here. The widow herself is at stake. David is moved and informs her that he will issue a judgment. The woman, though, is not satisfied. She does not want just any judgment. She wants her son to be assured of his life. When she persists, David relents and promises that ďnot one hair of his head will touch the ground.Ē (This is a touch of irony because later when Absalom is killed in battle, not one hair of his head touches the ground.)
The woman then applies the moral of her story to Davidís situation. She claims that several parallels exist between the story she weaves and Davidís situation. First, in each instance one son has killed another son. In Davidís situation his son Absalom killed his other son, Amnon. Second, in both situations more than just the son will be affected by his execution. According to her not only will she be affected with the execution of her remaining son, the nation of Israel itself will be affected by Absalomís exile and possible eventual execution. With exile or the death of Absalom, Israel will lose the heir to the throne. Finally, if justice is not served in her situation because of other considerations, then justice should not be served in Davidís situation because of other considerations.
David perceives that he has been set up. He asks her if Joab has set her up to this. When she replies he has, David proceeds to pronounce that Absalom will be permitted to return to Jerusalem. The 3-year exile is over; however, and this is a big however, David stipulates that Absalom can return on the condition that he never see David's face again. That unfortunately is not reconciliation. Joab then heads for Geshur and fetches Absalom who takes up residence in Jerusalemóthe last place David needs him to be.
COMPLETE "REONCILIATION" (14:28-33)
After 2 years have passed during which David and Absalom never met, Absalom tires of the situation and attempts to connect once more with his father. Absalom approaches Joab who lives next door to Absalom; Joab, though, rejects all of Absalomís overtures. Apparently, Joab realizes that David is not interested in reconciling with his son and therefore decides not to risk his own relationship with David by pressing for full reconciliation with Absalom. In his despair, Absalom sets Joabís neighboring fields on fire.
When Joab approaches Absalom and demands to know why he set his fields on fire, Absalom replies that this was the only way he could get Joabís attention since Joab had rejected all previous attempts at communication. Joab relents and approaches David on Absalomís behalf. David, this time, agrees to full reconciliation with Absalom, forgiving him for Amnonís death. How ironic. David should have asked for Absalomís forgiveness; instead he condescendingly forgives Absalom. (Although the text does not say this, the context demands it.) Itís too late though; the damage has already been done. Absalom has been so affected by Tamarís rape that he even names his daughter Tamar. David has failed at the highest levels in his role as father. If David thought he had had problems before, he was sadly mistaken. Absalom will now exact his full revenge upon David for spurning him, for refusing to defend Tamar, and for 5 years of exile and recrimination. David has set into motion a chain of events which will culminate in the darkest moments of his life.
THE NEED FOR FORGIVENESS
Many of us are in the situation of both having parents and being parents. Whatever else this story is about, it is primarily about the tragedy of a broken relationship between a parent and a child. Whereas we will zero in on the relationship between a father and his son, so much of what is said here can also be said of a relationship between any child and parent.
Many of us as parents need to appreciate the force which exists between the child and the parent. The best way to do that is to project the relationship we had with our parents upon our relationship with our children. We need to remember how bad we felt as children whenever we disappointed our parents. We need to remember how we cowered whenever we got the evil eye or a whipping from them. The way we felt at such times is the same way our children feel whenever we say an unkind word to them or spank them without discovering what really happened.
Whatever else is true about our relationship with our children (and with our parents), forgiveness should be a major element in that relationship. There are times when we need to forgive our children, and there are times we need their forgiveness. No one can disappoint apparent like a child (as in Absalomís case), while no one can disappoint a child as a parent can (as in Davidís case). Refusing to seek forgiveness and reconciliation is not only important, it is essential for the Christian.
FORGIVENESS IS THE LIFESTYLE OF THE CHRISTIAN (Mat. 18:21-22)
Peter approaches Jesus and asks Him how often one person should forgive another. ďSeven times enough?Ē he asks. Surely that is being more than gracious towards the malefactor. ďNot so,Ē Jesus replies. ďThe person should forgive another 70 x 7.Ē In other words, the genuine Christian lives a life of grace. Whenever the Christian is wrong, he has already forgiven that other person. That other person may not seek forgiveness and reconciliation; however, the broken relationship is not to be due to the Christian being unwilling to forgive. It is only to be due to the one who refuses to accept the forgiveness.
Now this does not mean that the offender escapes all consequences. For example, if somebody murders somebody else, the victimís family may forgive the murderer; however, the state has the responsibility to press charges and execute justice. Itís just that the victims do not seek revenge, not even in their hearts. Vengeance belongs to the Lord and to Him alone.
Moreover, if a child does something wrong, the parent is not to forgive and let the child go away without any consequences; that child may need to be grounded so that he or she can understand the gravity of their sin. I donít ground my children to punish them but to help them understand they did wrong and that ultimately they are harming themselves. Consequences are Godís way to help us understand the damaging nature of sin.
The Christian who sins and repents should receive forgiveness from the church. That person may need to step down from a position of responsibility and leadership for a period of time; however, the church is to treat hat person as a brother/sister and not as an enemy. One reason that person is disciplined is that the world may see that the church is serious about righteousness. After a period of discipline, that person should be able to step back into roles of major responsibilities. The person who does not repent, though, needs to be taken to the woodshed. That is the major meaning of Mat. 18:15-20. When it comes to non-Christians persecuting Christians, the Christians should never retaliate. It is up to the Lord to deal with that person. (Be very careful in the way you apply verses about retaliation and non-retaliation in the Bible. You may be applying them to the wrong situations and create a terrible mess.)
Another word of caution here. Discipline should be administered evenhandedly. Simply because you have a high position in the church and community does not mean you are exempt from discipline. Everyone who has done wrong is subject o discipline.
THE BASIS FOR A FORGIVING NATURE (Matt. 18:23-35)
Following His response to Peter, Jesus tells the parable of the forgiving Master to explain the reason that Christians should be forgiving. One day a master called all His servants to give an account of their business transactions with His estate. When He discovers that one servant owes Him billions and billions of dollars (equivalent to $150 billion dollars in 2010ís currency), He is enraged and demands that the servant pay back the debt. The man, though, is unable to pay back such a huge debt and begs for the Masterís forgiveness. When the Master sees the pitiable condition of the slave, He pardons him completely of all his debts.
The slave, leaving the presence of the Master, runs into a fellow slave who owes him a few thousand dollars (~$17k. in todayís currency). He grabs the slave by the throat and begins to choke him, demanding that he repay every last red cent he owes him. (How many of us grab others by the throat emotionally and try to squeeze the very life out of a person who has hurt us?) When the second slave begs for forgiveness, the first slave refuses to forgive him and throws him into debtorsí prison. The slaveís fellow slaves are distressed at the turn of events and inform their Mast of what their fellow slave has done. The Master is enraged at this conduct. Beloved, He is ENRAGED! He hauls the slave before Him and chastises him for his conduct. He does not even give the slave a chance to account for his behavior because He is so angry. How could the slave refuse to forgive somebody else a mere pittance when He forgave that slave so much?
The same applies to Christians. God has forgiven us so much that the only appropriate response we should have is to forgive others. Those nails in Jesusí hands and feet are due to our sins, not just to somebody elseís. We may not think our sins so bad; however, God thought them bad enough that He said Jesus had to die to remove them from us! Isaiah 53:6 says that the Lord laid the iniquity of us all upon Him. When we fail to forgive others, we demonstrate that we donít really believe our sins are all that bad. In our perverted sense of right and wrong, our sins were just mistakes and not sins. The Master instructs the guards to take the first slave and throw him into prison until he has paid back every last red cent (which because of the size of the debt will be eternity.)
EXAMPLE OF PARENTAL RECONCILIATION
Probably one of the best examples of reconciliation ever filmed is in the movie East of Eden. For the longest I had heard about how dynamic James Dean was in his movies. In 1989 I picked up this movie to check out his acting. I could not believe what I saw. It was one of the most dynamic performances I have ever seen. The story revolves around a tyrannical, puritanical father who loves one son, Aaron, but despises his other son, Cal (played by Dean). No matter how hard Cal tries, he cannot please his father. Apparently the mother had been unable to please the father also. The father has led the boys to believe that the mother has died and gone to heaven. Cal discovers, though, that she is alive and an angel of a different color than white. She is the madam of a brothel. (Now both Cal and Aaron love the same woman, Abra.)
When the father loses his shirt in a business venture, Cal takes it upon himself to rescue his father financially, hoping that his father will for once love him. At the beginning of WW1, he sows some beans, nurtures them, and sells them at a huge profit. On the night of his fatherís birthday party, both sons present he father gifts. Naturally, Aaronís gift pleases the father, while the father is repulsed by Calís gift. The father simply could not accept any gift gained upon the woes of others. Cal is devastated by this final rejection. He weeps and hangs onto his father, pleading for acceptance while receiving nothing but scorn and rejection.
Cal goes outside and, in a chilling scene, informs Aaron that their mother is not dead but alive and well. He then drags Aaron to the brothel and thrusts him into the arms of their twisted mother. Aaron is so traumatized by the event that he runs away from home and joins the war. Upon hearing this, his father suffers a stroke, while Cal lapses into extreme self-loathing and hatred. An entire family has been destroyed, all because of a fatherís rejection and scorn.
Whereas a fatherís rejection and scorn can destroy a family, his love and acceptance can heal that same family. During the last scene, Cal is weeping uncontrollably at his fatherís bedside. The nurse assigned for the fatherís care is irritating, getting on everybodyís nerves. Cal screams at her to get out of the room. The father being nearly comatose is unable to respond to Cal. Cal leaves the room in a mess. The young lady, Abra, approaches the bedside and begs with the father to forgive Cal. She tells him that this is Calís last chance, that if he does not forgive Cal, then Cal will never become a man.
Upon Abraís insistence, Cal reenters the room. The father begins to mutter something which Cal cannot hear. Cal puts his ear up to his fatherís lips. As the father speaks, the hurt in Calís face drains away. Cal looks up: ďHe told me to get rid of the nurse. He wants me to take care of him.Ē With those few words full reconciliation fills the room and Cal finally finds the peace he has been searching for all his life.