A Short Reign with a Tragic End - 2 Samuel 18:1-19:8a
Prayer: Thank You Lord for watching over our lives, for being the one who protects and defends us. As we make mistakes you come along side and help us through, and as we face heartbreak you're there to pick up the pieces. Please keep us from letting our human emotions rule our lives and cause us grief, help us instead to seek your wisdom and guidance.
Quickly Form Groups:
1. In what circumstances have you known people to be blinded by emotion? What are the potential dangers?
In today's study we're going to see that David was not immune from being blinded by emotion. David is up against his adversary Absalom, but this adversary is also his son, and he loves his son... this sets David & his men up for all kinds of potential problems.
2 Samuel 18:1-3 - David gets the troops in order, organizing them under 3 trusted men. Two of the men are his nephews & have served loyally with him for an extended period - Joab & Abishai (brothers), the third is Ittai - the leader of the Gittite forces who was in exile from his homeland & only a recent immigrant to Israel (2 Samuel 15:18-22), but had proven his loyalty to David as well. David expresses his intent to join the battle, but his leaders convinced him it was too big a risk, and that he was needed to support their efforts from the city (Mahanaim). David was a brave & valiant warrior, but was getting older - he may not have physically been able to handle the battle anymore, but he was certainly still a master strategist.
2 Samuel 18:4-5 - David makes a point of publicly commanding his three leaders to be "gentle with" Absalom, he's asking them to protect his son - but in doing so is also asking them to protect their enemy. David loved his son, but his love for his son was looking like it might be his undoing. I don't know if you noticed, but there's no indication that David sought out God's advice regarding dealing with Absalom.
2 Samuel 18:6-8 - This is a strange description of a battle, it started in a field but ended up all over the countryside & in a forest. David's troops were victorious, they defeated the army of Israel which was not as well organized, trained, or prepared force - but certainly a much larger force. There were great casualties, and this civil war has cost the lives of 20,000 men of Israel - David's own people. Apparently the forest was a dangerous place to be in battle, and a place where it was easy to get lost & perhaps ambushed.
2 Samuel 18:9 - Absalom had been going through the forest, but was left dangling in a tree by his mule in the thick of the forest. How ironic that his head, known for its beautiful abundant hair, is caught in the branches. Absalom was literally left hanging, and couldn't get himself down.
2 Samuel 18:10-11 - One of the men reports to Joab that Absalom is caught in a tree. Joab must have put a price on Absalom's head, this certainly wasn't part of David's agreement with his men, but apparently whoever killed Absalom had been promised ten shekels of silver ( valued <$80 today) and a warrior's belt. I'm guessing that this price had been set before David's instructions to his leaders, instructions spoken in the hearing of the troops. Joab is Absalom's cousin & David's nephew, Joab had been fighting alongside David & serving David for a long time - he was a loyal and trusted general of David's army - so what gives? Perhaps Joab realized that David was acting foolishly & would endanger the kingdom if he allowed Absalom to live - we don't know his motivation, but we do know Joab was loyal to David's throne.
2 Samuel 18:12-13 - The soldier makes an interesting statement, he says he wouldn't kill Absalom if he were given a thousand sheckles of silver (worth about $7,280 in todays market - and of higher relative value then). He'd heard what David had said, he wasn't going to raise a hand against the king's son - doing so would be considered treasonous & he didn't believe Joab would defend him if he were identified as Absalom's killer.
2 Samuel 18:14-15 - Joab takes matters into his own hands, he impales Absalom with 3 javelins through the chest, and 10 of his trusted soldiers join him in making sure Absalom was good & dead. I don't know about you, but I sense anger & frustration on the part of Joab & his men because this seems to be overkill, they despise this prince who had been the cause of a great deal of trouble for David & his people.
2 Samuel 18:16-18 - Joab sounds the trumpet stopping the battle, indicating to all within hearing distance the the battle has been won, causing all of Absalom's forces to flee home. The treatment of Absalom's body shows their disdain for the man, they threw him in a pit in the forest & covered him with rocks - this is not the burial normally given a prince, and it may have been a way of making certain his grave wasn't marked.
Verse 18 mentions a monument that Absalom had set up in the King's valley. Absalom's burial is ironic in that it seems to mock the monument he'd erected for himself, he'd set up a pillar of stone for his name's sake & now he's buried under a pile of rocks. Absalom's reason for creating the monument was to be remembered, because he had no son to carry on his name. Absalom is remembered, but as a painful footnote rather than as an honored king. It is interesting that he had no sons, this would have been considered at the time to indicate that God's hand was against him since many sons were considered a blessing.
2 Samuel 18:19-23 - Ahimaaz wants to take the good news to David that the battle has been won, but Joab doesn't want him bringing the news to David - instead he chooses a foreigner, a Cushite, to do the job. Joab knew that though news that the battle had been won was good, news of Absalom's death would upset king David. David's reaction to the bearer of the bad news might be harmful, and I think Joab knew that Ahimaaz had been a faithful friend of David's & didn't want to risk his life. Also there seems to be an indication (further along in verse 27) that a friend wouldn't be sent with bad news. The Cushite takes off with the news, but Ahimaaz is insistent that he wants to go as well, so Joab allows him to run as well - and Ahimaaz knows his way & gets to David first - outrunning the Cushite.
2 Samuel 18:24-29 - King David is sitting at the gates, still in Mahanaim, when the watchman sees the runners coming. Because the runners are coming alone rather than together, and because the first runner is Ahimaaz, David assumes he's getting good news. Ahimaaz delivers the news, at least the good part of the news, that God has been on David's side & that they have been delivered from their enemies. That news is not enough for David, he's anxious for news about his son, and when asked directly about Absalom Ahimaaz avoids giving David a direct answer.
2 Samuel 18:30-33 - The Cushite also delivers the good news, but when asked directly about Absalom gives an answer that David dreads - telling him that his son, his enemy but still his son, is dead. David is shaken, he retreats & mourns, wishing that he could take his son's place. David is a father, yes this was his enemy, yes this was the enemy of his people, yes this was the man that was self-centered and would have been a terrible king, but this is his son...
2 Samuel 19:1-4 - Joab & the troops hear about David's reaction to the news & instead of enjoying their victory they begin to mourn for the sake of their king. The troops don't enter the city victoriously, instead they come in quietly, like men ashamed, because David is loudly grieving his son. This has to be disheartening for David's men, here they went to battle & risked their lives, and their king is not happy at their victory... this is a recipe for disaster.
2 Samuel 19:5-8a - Joab has had enough, he loves David & is loyal to David but he realizes that David is undermining himself - he is harming his own position as king by causing his troops to be humiliated. Joab obviously was someone who could hold David to account, because he goes boldly up to him & confronts him. David has a right to grieve, but not at the expense of the men who have risked their own lives for the sake of the lives of David & his family & his throne. Joab is able to get David's attention, and David gets himself back into his seat at the gate where he should be as their king. I don't think David knew that it was Joab & his men who had killed Absalom, at least not at this point in the narrative, but there is an indication in the next section that he may have eventually found out. Joab was faithful to David, and Joab was making certain that David remained firmly established as the king of Israel - even if it meant going against David's orders & even if it meant getting in David's face.
Closing Prayer: Lord I thank you for the Joab's in my life, the ones that are loyal to me but don't coddle me, the ones that call me to account, the ones that help me see the truth in my circumstances. Amen!
Quickly Form Groups Again:
2. Joab was in a tough spot when he went against the order of his king. When is it right to go against authorities?
3. Pray for each other.