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II Samuel 13-15 Listen
1 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom the son of David had a fair sister, whose name was Tamar; and Amnon the son of David loved her.
2 And Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick for his sister Tamar; for she was a virgin; and Amnon thought it hard for him to do any thing to her.
3 But Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother: and Jonadab was a very subtil man.
4 And he said unto him, Why art thou, being the king’s son, lean from day to day? wilt thou not tell me? And Amnon said unto him, I love Tamar, my brother Absalom’s sister.
5 And Jonadab said unto him, Lay thee down on thy bed, and make thyself sick: and when thy father cometh to see thee, say unto him, I pray thee, let my sister Tamar come, and give me meat, and dress the meat in my sight, that I may see it, and eat it at her hand.
6 So Amnon lay down, and made himself sick: and when the king was come to see him, Amnon said unto the king, I pray thee, let Tamar my sister come, and make me a couple of cakes in my sight, that I may eat at her hand.
7 Then David sent home to Tamar, saying, Go now to thy brother Amnon’s house, and dress him meat.
8 So Tamar went to her brother Amnon’s house; and he was laid down. And she took flour, and kneaded it, and made cakes in his sight, and did bake the cakes.
9 And she took a pan, and poured them out before him; but he refused to eat. And Amnon said, Have out all men from me. And they went out every man from him.
10 And Amnon said unto Tamar, Bring the meat into the chamber, that I may eat of thine hand. And Tamar took the cakes which she had made, and brought them into the chamber to Amnon her brother.
11 And when she had brought them unto him to eat, he took hold of her, and said unto her, Come lie with me, my sister.
12 And she answered him, Nay, my brother, do not force me; for no such thing ought to be done in Israel: do not thou this folly.
13 And I, whither shall I cause my shame to go? and as for thee, thou shalt be as one of the fools in Israel. Now therefore, I pray thee, speak unto the king; for he will not withhold me from thee.
14 Howbeit he would not hearken unto her voice: but, being stronger than she, forced her, and lay with her.
15 Then Amnon hated her exceedingly; so that the hatred wherewith he hated her was greater than the love wherewith he had loved her. And Amnon said unto her, Arise, be gone.
16 And she said unto him, There is no cause: this evil in sending me away is greater than the other that thou didst unto me. But he would not hearken unto her.
17 Then he called his servant that ministered unto him, and said, Put now this woman out from me, and bolt the door after her.
18 And she had a garment of divers colours upon her: for with such robes were the king’s daughters that were virgins apparelled. Then his servant brought her out, and bolted the door after her.
19 And Tamar put ashes on her head, and rent her garment of divers colours that was on her, and laid her hand on her head, and went on crying.
20 And Absalom her brother said unto her, Hath Amnon thy brother been with thee? but hold now thy peace, my sister: he is thy brother; regard not this thing. So Tamar remained desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.
21 But when king David heard of all these things, he was very wroth.
22 And Absalom spake unto his brother Amnon neither good nor bad: for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had forced his sister Tamar.
This is a story of over-indulged, spoiled royalty children. While Amnon and Tamar had different mothers, they had the same father, King David. Amnon, with the counsel of his cousin, literally plots the rape of his half sister. Nathan had prophesied this consequence for David after his sin with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of Uriah (II Samuel 12:10-12, see notes); this is just the beginning. To make it worse, Amnon declines to do the honorable thing after the rape - even attempting to implicate Tamar as the one at fault, thus devastating Tamar; she subsequently moves into the home of her brother, Absalom. Even though David found out about the transgression (verse 21), it is not recorded that he took any kind of corrective action in the matter toward Amnon. It should be noted that, according to the Law of Moses, Amnon's punishment should have been quite severe (Leviticus 18:9, 29 - see notes; Leviticus 20:17, see notes). David's failure to punish Amnon in any way may have contributed to Absalom's bitterness. Amnon was the eldest son of David; he was, as such, number one in line to ascend to the Davidic throne. This may have weighed heavily in David's mind, influencing his failure to take decisive, corrective action against Amnon. Well...Nathan said there would be days like this, but the worst is yet to come.
Bad boys don't deserve to live (II Samuel 13:23-33)
23 And it came to pass after two full years, that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baalhazor, which is beside Ephraim: and Absalom invited all the king’s sons.
24 And Absalom came to the king, and said, Behold now, thy servant hath sheepshearers; let the king, I beseech thee, and his servants go with thy servant.
25 And the king said to Absalom, Nay, my son, let us not all now go, lest we be chargeable unto thee. And he pressed him: howbeit he would not go, but blessed him.
26 Then said Absalom, If not, I pray thee, let my brother Amnon go with us. And the king said unto him, Why should he go with thee?
27 But Absalom pressed him, that he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him.
28 Now Absalom had commanded his servants, saying, Mark ye now when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say unto you, Smite Amnon; then kill him, fear not: have not I commanded you? be courageous, and be valiant.
29 And the servants of Absalom did unto Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and every man gat him up upon his mule, and fled.
30 And it came to pass, while they were in the way, that tidings came to David, saying, Absalom hath slain all the king’s sons, and there is not one of them left.
31 Then the king arose, and tare his garments, and lay on the earth; and all his servants stood by with their clothes rent.
32 And Jonadab, the son of Shimeah David’s brother, answered and said, Let not my lord suppose that they have slain all the young men the king’s sons; for Amnon only is dead: for by the appointment of Absalom this hath been determined from the day that he forced his sister Tamar.
33 Now therefore let not my lord the king take the thing to his heart, to think that all the king’s sons are dead: for Amnon only is dead.
Absalom, even after two years, just won't let the issue pass; in his mind, Amnon deserves to die. He invites the men of the royal household to his sheep-shearers' festival in another city. David himself declines the invitation, but finally allows all his sons to attend. After Amnon is drunk, Absalom has him killed. When David gets word of the incident, he thinks all of his sons have been killed, but David's nephew (Jonadab) apparently knew about the murder plot and sets the record straight, pointing out that for two years Amnon should have been looking over his shoulder; Jonadab told David that he felt certain only Amnon was dead. He was correct. Incidentally, Jonadab was the cunning nephew who had helped Amnon plot the rape of Tamar in the first place. How's that for playing both sides against the middle?
34 But Absalom fled. And the young man that kept the watch lifted up his eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came much people by the way of the hill side behind him.
35 And Jonadab said unto the king, Behold, the king’s sons come: as thy servant said, so it is.
36 And it came to pass, as soon as he had made an end of speaking, that, behold, the king’s sons came, and lifted up their voice and wept: and the king also and all his servants wept very sore.
37 But Absalom fled, and went to Talmai, the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son every day.
38 So Absalom fled, and went to Geshur, and was there three years.
39 And the soul of king David longed to go forth unto Absalom: for he was comforted concerning Amnon, seeing he was dead.
Realizing that it's not a good idea to stick around after killing your half brother, Absalom takes off for Geshur (way north) where he seeks refuge from David. That was a safe haven for Absalom because the ruler of the area was his mother's (Maacah) father, Talmai (II Samuel 3:3, see notes). He spends three long years in this exile. Finally, David has stopped mourning for Amnon and misses Absalom.
David is tricked into receiving Absalom back (II Samuel 14)
1 Now Joab the son of Zeruiah perceived that the king’s heart was toward Absalom.
2 And Joab sent to Tekoah, and fetched thence a wise woman, and said unto her, I pray thee, feign thyself to be a mourner, and put on now mourning apparel, and anoint not thyself with oil, but be as a woman that had a long time mourned for the dead:
3 And come to the king, and speak on this manner unto him. So Joab put the words in her mouth.
4 And when the woman of Tekoah spake to the king, she fell on her face to the ground, and did obeisance, and said, Help, O king.
5 And the king said unto her, What aileth thee? And she answered, I am indeed a widow woman, and mine husband is dead.
6 And thy handmaid had two sons, and they two strove together in the field, and there was none to part them, but the one smote the other, and slew him.
7 And, behold, the whole family is risen against thine handmaid, and they said, Deliver him that smote his brother, that we may kill him, for the life of his brother whom he slew; and we will destroy the heir also: and so they shall quench my coal which is left, and shall not leave to my husband neither name nor remainder upon the earth.
8 And the king said unto the woman, Go to thine house, and I will give charge concerning thee.
9 And the woman of Tekoah said unto the king, My lord, O king, the iniquity be on me, and on my father’s house: and the king and his throne be guiltless.
10 And the king said, Whosoever saith ought unto thee, bring him to me, and he shall not touch thee any more.
11 Then said she, I pray thee, let the king remember the LORD thy God, that thou wouldest not suffer the revengers of blood to destroy any more, lest they destroy my son. And he said, As the LORD liveth, there shall not one hair of thy son fall to the earth.
12 Then the woman said, Let thine handmaid, I pray thee, speak one word unto my lord the king. And he said, Say on.
13 And the woman said, Wherefore then hast thou thought such a thing against the people of God? for the king doth speak this thing as one which is faulty, in that the king doth not fetch home again his banished.
14 For we must needs die, and are as water spilt on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person: yet doth he devise means, that his banished be not expelled from him.
15 Now therefore that I am come to speak of this thing unto my lord the king, it is because the people have made me afraid: and thy handmaid said, I will now speak unto the king; it may be that the king will perform the request of his handmaid.
16 For the king will hear, to deliver his handmaid out of the hand of the man that would destroy me and my son together out of the inheritance of God.
17 Then thine handmaid said, The word of my lord the king shall now be comfortable: for as an angel of God, so is my lord the king to discern good and bad: therefore the LORD thy God will be with thee.
18 Then the king answered and said unto the woman, Hide not from me, I pray thee, the thing that I shall ask thee. And the woman said, Let my lord the king now speak.
19 And the king said, Is not the hand of Joab with thee in all this? And the woman answered and said, As thy soul liveth, my lord the king, none can turn to the right hand or to the left from ought that my lord the king hath spoken: for thy servant Joab, he bade me, and he put all these words in the mouth of thine handmaid:
20 To fetch about this form of speech hath thy servant Joab done this thing: and my lord is wise, according to the wisdom of an angel of God, to know all things that are in the earth.
21 And the king said unto Joab, Behold now, I have done this thing: go therefore, bring the young man Absalom again.
22 And Joab fell to the ground on his face, and bowed himself, and thanked the king: and Joab said, To day thy servant knoweth that I have found grace in thy sight, my lord, O king, in that the king hath fulfilled the request of his servant.
23 So Joab arose and went to Geshur, and brought Absalom to Jerusalem.
24 And the king said, Let him turn to his own house, and let him not see my face. So Absalom returned to his own house, and saw not the king’s face.
25 But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.
26 And when he polled his head, (for it was at every year’s end that he polled it: because the hair was heavy on him, therefore he polled it:) he weighed the hair of his head at two hundred shekels after the king’s weight.
27 And unto Absalom there were born three sons, and one daughter, whose name was Tamar: she was a woman of a fair countenance.
28 So Absalom dwelt two full years in Jerusalem, and saw not the king’s face.
29 Therefore Absalom sent for Joab, to have sent him to the king; but he would not come to him: and when he sent again the second time, he would not come.
30 Therefore he said unto his servants, See, Joab’s field is near mine, and he hath barley there; go and set it on fire. And Absalom’s servants set the field on fire.
31 Then Joab arose, and came to Absalom unto his house, and said unto him, Wherefore have thy servants set my field on fire?
32 And Absalom answered Joab, Behold, I sent unto thee, saying, Come hither, that I may send thee to the king, to say, Wherefore am I come from Geshur? it had been good for me to have been there still: now therefore let me see the king’s face; and if there be any iniquity in me, let him kill me.
33 So Joab came to the king, and told him: and when he had called for Absalom, he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king: and the king kissed Absalom.
Joab intercedes in patching up the relationship between David and Absalom. He sends a woman to spin a tall tale about her sons and asks for a ruling by David. Come to think of it, didn't Nathan ask for a ruling from David on a fictional scenario back in II Samuel 12 (see notes). Perhaps David should start getting names and addresses of offended parties before making his hasty decrees. However, his ruling on this presented-as-true-yet-fictional scenario hits home for David; he sees through the story after his ruling though and realizes that Joab is behind the whole thing. A sucker for a sob story, David allows Absalom back from his exile where Absalom then lives for two years in his own house; David has nothing to do with him for these two years - not even so much as having him over for family dinners at the palace.
Though still not reconciled with his father, King David, Absalom was a popular, good-looking son of the king. Even his annual haircuts were noteworthy events (verses 25-26). In the process of time, Absalom grows impatient with David's cold shoulder and summons Joab to come intercede for him - twice; Joab declines to come. Absalom subsequently burns his field up to get his attention. Talk about some spoiled boys - David had them. Joab does subsequently speak to David, and David patches things up with Absalom. I got a bad feeling about where this father-son relationship is headed.
1 And it came to pass after this, that Absalom prepared him chariots and horses, and fifty men to run before him.
2 And Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate: and it was so, that when any man that had a controversy came to the king for judgment, then Absalom called unto him, and said, Of what city art thou? And he said, Thy servant is of one of the tribes of Israel.
3 And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right; but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee.
4 Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!
5 And it was so, that when any man came nigh to him to do him obeisance, he put forth his hand, and took him, and kissed him.
6 And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment: so Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.
7 And it came to pass after forty years, that Absalom said unto the king, I pray thee, let me go and pay my vow, which I have vowed unto the LORD, in Hebron.
8 For thy servant vowed a vow while I abode at Geshur in Syria, saying, If the LORD shall bring me again indeed to Jerusalem, then I will serve the LORD.
9 And the king said unto him, Go in peace. So he arose, and went to Hebron.
10 But Absalom sent spies throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, As soon as ye hear the sound of the trumpet, then ye shall say, Absalom reigneth in Hebron.
11 And with Absalom went two hundred men out of Jerusalem, that were called; and they went in their simplicity, and they knew not any thing.
12 And Absalom sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counsellor, from his city, even from Giloh, while he offered sacrifices. And the conspiracy was strong; for the people increased continually with Absalom.
Having Absalom back wasn't as good of an idea as David might have thought. Absalom uses the next few years hanging around the gate to the city looking for people on their way to see David for judgment, etc. He'd give them that warm, gushy kind of greeting and take care of their needs himself. Then Absalom tells David that he had made a vow that he must go to Hebron to fulfill; David permits him to go. Hey! That's Absalom's home town; he was born there. In reality, this is Absalom's big power move to the throne; he takes a small army of (unknowing) faithfuls with him to Hebron. He even sends back for David's counselor, Ahithophel, to participate in this rebellion with him. It appears that Ahithophel was in on the rebellion all along. Funny name, Ahithophel - in Hebrew it means "brother of foolishness." What was his mama thinking? Who wants a counselor whose name means "brother of foolishness?"
Incidentally, there's some confusion on the time frame in verse 7 where the KJV and NKJV read "after forty years," but virtually all other translations read "after four years." The change to "four" from "forty" is textually arbitrary. The Hebrew text (everyone agrees) plainly says "forty." It was changed to "four" by these translators because "forty" didn't seem correct. In reality, Absalom was probably 40 years old in verse 7 - thus, "after forty years." That being the case, this event takes place toward the end of David's reign.
13 And there came a messenger to David, saying, The hearts of the men of Israel are after Absalom.
14 And David said unto all his servants that were with him at Jerusalem, Arise, and let us flee; for we shall not else escape from Absalom: make speed to depart, lest he overtake us suddenly, and bring evil upon us, and smite the city with the edge of the sword.
15 And the king’s servants said unto the king, Behold, thy servants are ready to do whatsoever my lord the king shall appoint.
16 And the king went forth, and all his household after him. And the king left ten women, which were concubines, to keep the house.
17 And the king went forth, and all the people after him, and tarried in a place that was far off.
18 And all his servants passed on beside him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the Gittites, six hundred men which came after him from Gath, passed on before the king.
19 Then said the king to Ittai the Gittite, Wherefore goest thou also with us? return to thy place, and abide with the king: for thou art a stranger, and also an exile.
20 Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? seeing I go whither I may, return thou, and take back thy brethren: mercy and truth be with thee.
21 And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.
22 And David said to Ittai, Go and pass over. And Ittai the Gittite passed over, and all his men, and all the little ones that were with him.
23 And all the country wept with a loud voice, and all the people passed over: the king also himself passed over the brook Kidron, and all the people passed over, toward the way of the wilderness.
24 And lo Zadok also, and all the Levites were with him, bearing the ark of the covenant of God: and they set down the ark of God; and Abiathar went up, until all the people had done passing out of the city.
25 And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation:
26 But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.
27 The king said also unto Zadok the priest, Art not thou a seer? return into the city in peace, and your two sons with you, Ahimaaz thy son, and Jonathan the son of Abiathar.
28 See, I will tarry in the plain of the wilderness, until there come word from you to certify me.
29 Zadok therefore and Abiathar carried the ark of God again to Jerusalem: and they tarried there.
30 And David went up by the ascent of mount Olivet, and wept as he went up, and had his head covered, and he went barefoot: and all the people that was with him covered every man his head, and they went up, weeping as they went up.
31 And one told David, saying, Ahithophel is among the conspirators with Absalom. And David said, O LORD, I pray thee, turn the counsel of Ahithophel into foolishness.
32 And it came to pass, that when David was come to the top of the mount, where he worshipped God, behold, Hushai the Archite came to meet him with his coat rent, and earth upon his head:
33 Unto whom David said, If thou passest on with me, then thou shalt be a burden unto me:
34 But if thou return to the city, and say unto Absalom, I will be thy servant, O king; as I have been thy father’s servant hitherto, so will I now also be thy servant: then mayest thou for me defeat the counsel of Ahithophel.
35 And hast thou not there with thee Zadok and Abiathar the priests? therefore it shall be, that what thing soever thou shalt hear out of the king’s house, thou shalt tell it to Zadok and Abiathar the priests.
36 Behold, they have there with them their two sons, Ahimaaz Zadok’s son, and Jonathan Abiathar’s son; and by them ye shall send unto me every thing that ye can hear.
37 So Hushai David’s friend came into the city, and Absalom came into Jerusalem.
So, getting word that Absalom was preparing a power play for the throne which would, of necessity, result in David's death, David leaves Jerusalem with a bunch of followers before Absalom returns with his illegal army. Zadok and Abiathar, who were priests, even show up with David as he leaves bearing the Ark of the Covenant with them. David sends them and the Ark back to Jerusalem - don't want to have to worry about protecting that Ark while out in battle. One more item of interest - the concubines (10 of them)...David leaves them back at the palace to keep house. That's going to develop into a problem come II Samuel 16:15-23 (see notes) when Absalom takes them for his own.
Notice David's heart for the Lord in II Samuel 15:25-26:
And the king said unto Zadok, Carry back the ark of God into the city: if I shall find favour in the eyes of the LORD, he will bring me again, and shew me both it, and his habitation: But if he thus say, I have no delight in thee; behold, here am I, let him do to me as seemeth good unto him.
After leaving Jerusalem, David is met by another of his counselors, Hushai. David probably assumed that since Ahithophel had turned on him, maybe all his counselors had done the same - but not Hushai; he's here to help. David sends him back to Jerusalem as a spy and false counselor to Absalom. He'll get on the inside with Absalom's counselors and pass the information on to the boys of the two priests, Zadok and Abiathar, who will bring it back to David. Will Absalom fall for such a ploy? Sure!
So...what's wrong with this picture? Absalom is set up as the self-appointed ruler of Israel in Jerusalem while David is in hiding. Keep in mind, Nathan warned David that there would be days like this back in II Samuel 12:10-12 (see notes). Whoa! Forgiveness from sin isn't the same thing as immunity from prosecution!