At his troops’ insistence, David stayed behind “as all the troops marched out” (II Samuel 18:4b, NLT) to battle. He told his commanders “Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: ‘For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom’” (II Samuel 18:5a).
“So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword” (II Samuel 18:6-8).
“More men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.” Thick low-hanging branches were a constant danger. Dense bushes and underbrush concealed cliffs, caves, pits and swamps. And if that weren’t enough already, some Bible scholars believe that wild animals in the forest took out many of the warriors. The “forest of Ephraim” was a treacherous place. But the conflict was about to reach its conclusion.
“During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, ‘I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree’” (II Samuel 18:9-10).
“‘What?’ Joab demanded. ‘You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver and a hero’s belt!’” (II Samuel 18:11). Joab had heard exactly what David asked of him, but he had no intentions of honoring that request. The other man did, however.
“‘I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,’ the man replied to Joab. ‘We all heard the king’” (II Samuel 18:12a).
“‘Enough of this nonsense,’ Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him. Then Joab blew the ram’s horn, and his men returned from chasing the army of Israel” (II Samuel 18:14-16).
Joab knew that as long as Absalom was allowed to live, he would be a danger to David. He also knew David’s track record on discipline. When he weighed these two factors together, he did the only thing he knew would keep David safe.
“During his lifetime, Absalom had built a monument to himself in the King’s Valley, for he said, ‘I have no son to carry on my name.’ He named the monument after himself, and it is known as Absalom’s Monument to this day” (II Samuel 18:18).
“Absalom had built a monument to himself.” Absalom’s entire life had been spent in self-centered self-indulgence. And what did it get him? A sorry end to a sorry life.
“It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels.” (Saint Augustine)
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates