The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 72: The Rebellion of Absalom
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"He shall restore fourfold," had been David's unwitting
sentence upon himself, on listening to the prophet Nathan's
parable; and according to his own sentence he was to be judged.
Four of his sons must fall, and the loss of each would be a result
of the father's sin.
The shameful crime of Amnon, the first-born, was permitted
by David to pass unpunished and unrebuked. The law
pronounced death upon the adulterer, and the unnatural crime of
Amnon made him doubly guilty. But David, self-condemned for
his own sin, failed to bring the offender to justice. For two full
years Absalom, the natural protector of the sister so foully
wronged, concealed his purpose of revenge, but only to strike
more surely at the last. At a feast of the king's sons the drunken,
incestuous Amnon was slain by his brother's command.
Twofold judgment had been meted out to David. The terrible
message was carried to him, "Absalom hath slain all the
king's sons, and there is not one of them left. Then the king arose,
and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants
stood by with their clothes rent." The king's sons, returning in
alarm to Jerusalem, revealed to their father the truth; Amnon
alone had been slain; and they "lifted up their voice and wept:
and the king also and all his servants wept very sore." But
Absalom fled to Talmai, the king of Geshur, his mother's father.
Like other sons of David, Amnon had been left to selfish
indulgence. He had sought to gratify every thought of his heart,
regardless of the requirements of God. Notwithstanding his great
sin, God had borne long with him. For two years he had been
granted opportunity for repentance; but he continued in sin, and
with his guilt upon him, he was cut down by death, to await the
awful tribunal of the judgment. [p. 728]
David had neglected the duty of punishing the crime of Amnon,
and because of the unfaithfulness of the king and father
and the impenitence of the son, the Lord permitted events to take
their natural course, and did not restrain Absalom. When parents
or rulers neglect the duty of punishing iniquity, God Himself will
take the case in hand. His restraining power will be in a measure
removed from the agencies of evil, so that a train of circumstances
will arise which will punish sin with sin.
The evil results of David's unjust indulgence toward Amnon
were not ended, for it was here that Absalom's alienation from
his father began. After he fled to Geshur, David, feeling that the
crime of his son demanded some punishment, refused him permission
to return. And this had a tendency to increase rather than
to lessen the inextricable evils in which the king had come to be
involved. Absalom, energetic, ambitious, and unprincipled, shut
out by his exile from participation in the affairs of the kingdom,
soon gave himself up to dangerous scheming.
At the close of two years Joab determined to effect a
reconciliation between the father and his son. And with this object in
view he secured the services of a woman of Tekoah, reputed for
wisdom. Instructed by Joab, the woman represented herself to
David as a widow whose two sons had been her only comfort
and support. In a quarrel one of these had slain the other, and
now all the relatives of the family demanded that the survivor
should be given up to the avenger of blood. "And so," said the
mother, "they shall quench my coal which is left, and shall not
leave to my husband neither name nor remainder upon the
earth." The king's feelings were touched by this appeal, and he
assured the woman of the royal protection for her son.
After drawing from him repeated promises for the young
man's safety, she entreated the king's forbearance, declaring that
he had spoken as one at fault, in that he did not fetch home
again his banished. "For," she said, "we must needs die, and are
as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again;
neither doth God respect any person; ye doth He devise means,
that His banished be not expelled from Him." This tender and
touching portrayal of the love of God toward the sinner—coming
as it did from Joab, the rude soldier—is a striking evidence of the
familiarity of the Israelites with the great truths of redemption.
The king, feeling his own need of God's mercy, could not resist [p. 729] this appeal. To Joab the command was given, "Go therefore,
bring the young man Absalom again."
Absalom was permitted to return to Jerusalem, but not to
appear at court or to meet his father. David had begun to see
the evil effects of his indulgence toward his children; and tenderly
as he loved this beautiful and gifted son, he felt it necessary, as
a lesson both to Absalom and to the people, that abhorrence for
such a crime should be manifested. Absalom lived two years in
his own house, but banished from the court. His sister dwelt with
him, and her presence kept alive the memory of the irreparable
wrong she had suffered. In the popular estimation the prince
was a hero rather than an offender. And having this advantage,
he set himself to gain the hearts of the people. His personal
appearance was such as to win the admiration of all beholders. "In
all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for
his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head
there was no blemish in him." It was not wise for the king to
leave a man of Absalom's character—ambitious, impulsive, and
passionate—to brood for two years over supposed grievances. And
David's action in permitting him to return to Jerusalem, and yet
refusing to admit him to his presence, enlisted in his behalf the
sympathies of the people.
With the memory ever before him of his own transgression of
the law of God, David seemed morally paralyzed; he was weak
and irresolute, when before his sin he had been courageous and
decided. His influence with the people had been weakened. And
all this favored the designs of his unnatural son.
Through the influence of Joab, Absalom was again admitted
to his father's presence; but though there was an outward
reconciliation, he continued his ambitious scheming. He now assumed
an almost royal state, having chariots and horses, and fifty men
to run before him. And while the king was more and more inclined
to desire retirement and solitude, Absalom sedulously
courted the popular favor.
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