After much plotting and planning, Absalom invited all his brothers to a big banquet during which Absalom had his half-brother Amnon murdered in retaliation for the rape of his sister Tamar (Amnon’s half-sister). David, who had doted on Amnon as his firstborn and heir to the throne, had done nothing to punish Amnon for his unthinkable deed, so Absalom had taken matters into his own hands.
When Amnon was murdered, “the other sons of the king jumped on their mules and fled” (II Samuel 13:29b, NLT). False rumors reached Jerusalem before they did: “Absalom has killed all the king’s sons” (II Samuel 13:30b).
But Jonadab, the very one who’d cooked up the plan for Amnon to take advantage of Tamar, flippantly announced to King David, “It was only Amnon!” (II Samuel 13:32a). So much for Jonadab’s sentiment about his cousin and friend.
“Meanwhile Absalom escaped. Then the watchman on the Jerusalem wall saw a great crowd coming down the hill on the road from the west. He ran to tell the king, ‘I see a crowd of people coming from the Horonaim road along the side of the hill’” (II Samuel 13:34).
“‘Look!’ Jonadab told the king. ‘There they are now! The king’s sons are coming, just as I said’” (II Samuel 13:35).
“They soon arrived, weeping and sobbing, and the king and all his servants wept bitterly with them. And David mourned many days for his son Amnon” (II Samuel 13:36-37a).
“Absalom fled to his grandfather, Talmai son of Ammihud, the king of Geshur. He stayed there in Geshur for three years” (II Samuel 13:37b-38).
“For three years” Absalom lived in exile in the land of his maternal grandfather, “the king of Geshur.” Why didn’t Absalom simply flee to one of the cities of refuge? The Lord had instructed Moses to establish these as “places of protection from a dead person’s relatives who want to avenge the death” (Numbers 35:12a). Because Absalom’s murder of Amnon had been intentional, and cities of refuge were for those who had “killed someone accidentally” (Numbers 35:11b).
David knew that Levitical law called for punishment if a “man violated his sister” (Leviticus 20:17b) and yet the Bible doesn’t tell us that David did so much as reprimand Amnon. Three years gave him a lot of time to think about how he had failed to do right by his daughter Tamar and to let go of his hurt and anger toward Absalom.
“King David, now reconciled to Amnon’s death, longed to be reunited with his son Absalom” (II Samuel 13:39).
David missed Absalom and wanted him back in his life. But just as he had let Amnon get away with his evil actions, he was willing to do the same thing with Absalom. David’s refusal to discipline Absalom was going to be costly.
“Don’t fail to discipline your children” (Proverbs 23:13a).
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates