The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 72: The Rebellion of Absalom
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From the walls of the city the long lines of the rebel army
were in full view. The usurper was accompanied by a vast host,
in comparison with which David's force seemed but a handful.
But as the king looked upon the opposing forces, the thought
uppermost in his mind was not of the crown and the kingdom,
nor of his own life, that depended upon the wage of battle. The
father's heart was filled with love and pity for his rebellious son.
As the army filed out from the city gates David encouraged his
faithful soldiers, bidding them go forth trusting that the God of
Israel would give them the victory. But even here he could not
repress his love for Absalom. As Joab, leading the first column,
passed his king, the conqueror of a hundred battlefields stooped
his proud head to hear the monarch's last message, as with
trembling voice he said, "Deal gently for my sake with the young
man, even with Absalom." And Abishai and Ittai received the
same charge—"Deal gently for my sake with the young man,
even with Absalom." But the king's solicitude, seeming to declare
that Absalom was dearer to him than his kingdom, dearer
even than the subjects faithful to his throne, only increased the
indignation of the soldiers against the unnatural son.
The place of battle was a wood near the Jordan, in which the
great numbers of Absalom's army were only a disadvantage to
him. Among the thickets and marshes of the forest these
undisciplined troops became confused and unmanageable. And "the
people of Israel were slain before the servants of David, and
there was there a great slaughter that day of twenty thousand
men." Absalom, seeing that the day was lost, had turned to flee,
when his head was caught between the branches of a widespreading
tree, and his mule going out from under him, he was left
helplessly suspended, a prey to his enemies. In this condition he
was found by a soldier, who, for fear of displeasing the king,
spared Absalom, but reported to Joab what he had seen. Joab
was restrained by no scruples. He had befriended Absalom, having
twice secured his reconciliation with David, and the trust had
been shamelessly betrayed. But for the advantages gained by
Absalom through Joab's intercession, this rebellion, with all its
horrors, could never have occurred. Now it was in Joab's power [p. 744] at one blow to destroy the instigator of all this evil. "And he
took three darts in his hand, and thrust them through the heart
of Absalom. . . . And they took Absalom, and cast him into a
great pit in the wood, and laid a very great heap of stones upon
Thus perished the instigators of rebellion in Israel. Ahithophel
had died by his own hand. The princely Absalom, whose
glorious beauty had been the pride of Israel, had been cut down
in the vigor of his youth, his dead body thrust into a pit, and
covered with a heap of stones, in token of everlasting reproach.
During his lifetime Absalom had reared for himself a costly
monument in the king's dale, but the only memorial which
marked his grave was that heap of stones in the wilderness.
The leader of the rebellion being slain, Joab by the sound of
the trumpet recalled his army from the pursuit of the fleeing
host, and messengers were at once dispatched to bear the tidings
to the king.
The watchman upon the city wall, looking out toward the
battlefield, discovered a man running alone. Soon a second came
in sight. As the first drew nearer, the watchman said to the king,
who was waiting beside the gate, "Methinketh the running of the
foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok. And
the king said, He is a good man, and cometh with good tidings.
And Ahimaaz called, and said unto the king, All is well. And he
fell down to the earth upon his face before the king, and said,
Blessed be the Lord thy God, which hath delivered up the men
that lifted up their hand against my lord the king." To the king's
eager inquiry, "Is the young man Absalom safe?" Ahimaaz returned
an evasive answer.
The second messenger came, crying, "Tidings, my lord the
king: for the Lord hath avenged thee this day of all them that
rose up against thee." Again from the father's lips came the
absorbing question, "Is the young man Absalom safe?" Unable
to conceal the heavy tidings, the herald answered, "The enemies
of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee
hurt, be as that young man is." It was enough. David questioned
no further, but with bowed head he "went up to the chamber over
the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom!
my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O
Absalom, my son, my son!" [p. 745]
The victorious army, returning from the field, approached
the city, their shouts of triumph awaking the echoes of the hills.
But as they entered the city gate the shout died away, their
banners drooped in their hands, and with downcast gaze they
advanced more like those who had suffered defeat than like
conquerors. For the king was not waiting to bid them welcome,
but from the chamber above the gate his wailing cry was heard,
"O my son Absalom! my son, my son Absalom! would God I had
died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!"
"The victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the
people; for the people heard say that day how the king was
grieved for his son. And the people gat them by stealth that day
into the city, as people being ashamed steal away when they flee
Joab was filled with indignation. God had given them reason
for triumph and gladness; the greatest rebellion that had ever
been known in Israel had been crushed; and yet this great victory
was turned to mourning for him whose crime had cost the blood
of thousands of brave men. The rude, blunt captain pushed his
way into the presence of the king, and boldly said, "Thou hast
shamed this day the faces of all thy servants, which this day have
saved thy life, and the lives of thy sons and of thy daughters; . . .
in that thou lovest thine enemies, and hatest thy friends. For
thou hast declared this day, that thou regardest neither princes
nor servants: for this day I perceive, that if Absalom had lived,
and all we had died this day, then it had pleased thee well. Now
therefore arise, go forth, and speak comfortably unto thy servants:
for I swear by the Lord, if thou go not forth, there will not
tarry one with thee this night: and that will be worse unto thee
than all the evil that befell thee from thy youth until now."
Harsh and even cruel as was the reproof to the heart-stricken
king, David did not resent it. Seeing that his general was right,
he went down to the gate, and with words of courage and commendation
greeted his brave soldiers as they marched past him.
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