Friday, May 30, 2014

Absalom (part 2)

Adam, of course, represents all of humanity.  Though humanity was in exile, one can rest assured that the Creator God longed to have a relationship with the beings that He had created in and as His own image in and for the world, as He was most assuredly bound together with His creation.  The Scriptural narrative insists that the Creator God longed to see humanity and the whole of His once good creation restored to goodness and right relationship with Him.  This is evident because the Creator God would eventually summon Abraham so as to put in motion His project of putting things right in the world. 

Yes, just as David longed to go to Absalom, so too did the God of creation yearn for a restoration.  David was said to have been eventually consoled over the death of Amnon.  However, he did not take action based upon this consolation, nor upon his desire to be with his exiled son.  Likewise, the Creator God, desirous of consolation over the death that entered into His world and which had come upon mankind, and desirous of mending that broken relationship so as to recover what had been lost, entered into history in order to do something about it.  The Creator God wanted to bring exodus to creation’s exile. 

Joab, the general of David’s army, sees the pain of his king, seems to understand the exile that both he and his son are experiencing (albeit in different ways), and makes an attempt at intercession.  He “realized that the king longed to see Absalom” (2 Samuel 14:1b).  Thus he sends a widow with a story of pain and heartache to the king, which evokes the response that Joab desired to hear, as his plan seems to be coming to fruition.  The woman continues speaking to David, and speaking on behalf of Joab (who has knowledge of the king’s grieving over Absalom and his desire to see him because he has been consoled from the death of Amnon), she makes reference to the Absalom situation, inquiring why “the king has not brought back the one he has banished” (14:13b). 

Now, this is the first time the text speaks of banishment.  As far as is known to this point, Absalom has fled.  There is no textual indication he was banished by the king.  Rather, it would appear to be the case that  he has fled willingly.  However, this use of “banished” actually points out David’s ability to take actions to set things right.  His lack of doing so, because of the very fact that David desired to see Absalom but did not make any moves to bring this to pass, was akin to an ongoing act of banishment. 

Again, this should cause an observer to perform a thoughtful consideration of the Genesis narrative, in that the Creator God banished humanity from that for which it had been created, but without prodding on the part of anybody else (like Joab), the same God also moved to end the banishment and restore the relationship that had been broken.  In this, David falls well short of the divine ideal with which he is charged as the representative of the Creator’s covenant people.  With Joab’s influence, exerted through the woman that he has sent to speak to David and after calling Joab to see him, David eventually gets the point and tells his general to “bring back the young man Absalom” (14:21b).  With this, David makes a move to end Absalom’s exile, beginning to grant him an exodus (as the Israel story is seen in Absalom). 

“So Joab got up and went to Geshur and brought Absalom back to Jerusalem.  But the king said, ‘Let him go over to his own house.  He may not see my face.’  So Absalom went over to his own house; he did not see the king’s face” (14:23-24).  As can be seen, this is the beginning of an exodus for Absalom.  However, his exodus is incomplete.  There is still a measure of exile in his return, as he is not allowed to see the face of the king.  The broken relationship is not fully mended.  Indeed, this is similar to the experience of Israel as a whole.  

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