When David’s men marched out to meet Absalom and his troops, David “stood alongside the gate of the town” (II Samuel 18:4b, NLT). David’s troops had insisted that he remain behind where he’d be safe, saying “You are worth 10,000 of us” (II Samuel 18:3b).
During the massive battle that “began in the forest of Ephraim… There was a great slaughter… and 20,000 men laid down their lives” (II Samuel 18:6, 7b). One of the casualties was David’s son Absalom. When “One of David’s men saw… Absalom dangling from a great tree” (II Samuel 18:9a, 10b), most likely caught by his hair, the young man reported this to Joab.
And even though David had told his commanders “Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: ‘For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom’” (II Samuel 18:5a), Joab “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” (II Samuel 18:14b-15).
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. Joab did the only thing he knew would keep David safe.
Absalom’s death ended the fighting, so runners were dispersed to take word to David: “While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates of the town, the watchman climbed to the roof of the gateway by the wall. As he looked, he saw a lone man running toward them. He shouted the news down to David, and the king replied, ‘If he is alone, he has news’" (II Samuel 18:24-25a).
“As the messenger came closer, the watchman saw another man running toward them. He shouted down, ‘Here comes another one!’” (II Samuel 18:25b-26a).
“Ahimaaz cried out to the king, ‘Everything is all right!’ He bowed before the king with his face to the ground and said, ‘Praise to the Lord your God, who has handed over the rebels who dared to stand against my lord the king’” (II Samuel 18:28).
“‘What about young Absalom?’ the king demanded. ‘Is he all right?’” (II Samuel 18:29a).
Ahimaaz didn’t want to be the one to bring bad news, so he sidestepped the question, replying: “When Joab told me to come, there was a lot of commotion’” (II Samuel 18:29b).
“Then the man from Ethiopia arrived and said, ‘I have good news for my lord the king. Today the Lord has rescued you from all those who rebelled against you’” (II Samuel 18:31).
Note the difference between Ahimaaz’s and the Ethiopian’s wording. While Ahimaaz announced their victory “over the rebels,” this unnamed Ethiopian declared victory over “all those who rebelled.” Don’t you know that word “all” struck terror in the heart of David?
“‘What about young Absalom?’ the king demanded. ‘Is he all right?’” (II Samuel 18:32a).
“And the Ethiopian replied, ‘May all of your enemies, my lord the king, both now and in the future, share the fate of that young man!’” (II Samuel 18:32b).
“The king was overcome with emotion. He went up to the room over the gateway and burst into tears. And as he went, he cried, ‘O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you! O Absalom, my son, my son’” (II Samuel 18:33).
Even though Absalom had sought to kill David, he was still David’s firstborn son and he loved him with all his heart. A child can break a parent’s heart over and over, but the parent keeps right on loving that wayward child. Our Heavenly Father’s heart breaks for His wayward children and He longs for the day they return to Him.
“While he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him” (Jesus speaking, Luke 15:20b).
Copyright © 2013
Judy Woodward Bates