David sent Joab to bring “Absalom back to Jerusalem. But the king gave this order: ‘Absalom may go to his own house, but he must never come into my presence.’ So Absalom did not see the king” (II Samuel 14:23b-24, NLT).
David’s actions showed that he had only partially forgiven Absalom. His silence showed that he wasn’t willing to even talk about their problems. I could name a whole lot of husbands and wives who live with spouses who also deal with conflicts by saying, “I don’t want to talk about it” – or worse yet, by giving their spouses the silent treatment. The silence becomes a wall that thickens with every passing day. And every passing day creates more pain.
This is where Absalom found himself. But like so many others who live with the brutality of partial forgiveness, Absalom went on with his life, possibly not even realizing how he was holding onto his pain and allowing it change him:
“Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds! He had three sons and one daughter. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she was very beautiful” (II Samuel 14:25-27).
Absalom was “the most handsome man in all Israel.” And he’d shown honor to his sister Tamar by naming his daughter after her. Absalom could have been so happy to be back home if only his father had acknowledged his existence.
However, “Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years” and still “he never got to see the king” (II Samuel 14:28). So Absalom decided to take action. He “Absalom sent for Joab to ask him to intercede for him, but Joab refused to come. Absalom sent for him a second time, but again Joab refused to come” (II Samuel 14:29).
Joab, I think, figured he’d done more than his part already to mend fences between Absalom and his father. But Absalom was determined to get Joab’s attention:
“So Absalom said to his servants, ‘Go and set fire to Joab’s barley field, the field next to mine.’ So they set his field on fire, as Absalom had commanded. Then Joab came to Absalom at his house and demanded, ‘Why did your servants set my field on fire?’” (II Samuel 14:30-31).
Joab, the one person who’d thought enough of Absalom to intercede for him in the first place, didn’t deserve to have his crops burned to the ground. Burning a person’s fields wasn’t the behavior of a decent human being. But three years of the silent treatment in Geshur and two more years in Jerusalem had made Absalom a bitter man. Yes, he had a choice. Yes, he could have let go of his pain and anger; but Absalom didn’t do that. And because he didn’t, he demanded and expected to have his way with Joab.
Absalom told Joab: “I wanted you to ask the king why he brought me back from Geshur if he didn’t intend to see me. I might as well have stayed there. Let me see the king; if he finds me guilty of anything, then let him kill me” (II Samuel 14:32).
“So Joab told the king what Absalom had said. Then at last David summoned Absalom, who came and bowed low before the king, and the king kissed him” (II Samuel 14:33).
Whether David was sincere or not at this point, it was a case of too little too late. Absalom had chosen the dark path of bitterness.
“Every time we inwardly submit to the strongholds of fear, bitterness and pride, we are bowing to the rulers of darkness. Each of these idols must be smashed, splintered, and obliterated from the landscape of our hearts.” (Francis Frangipane)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates