Friday, June 13, 2014

Absalom (part 16)

Everything was going well for Absalom.  He had taken the throne.  He had secured the support of one of his father’s chief advisors.  His efforts at fostering a sense of justice and peace through brotherhood with the people seemed to have been effective, as Absalom had “won the loyalty of the citizens of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:6b).  The narrative of exile and exodus that he had been creating for himself had paid off, as “the people were starting to side with Absalom” (15:12b).  Even his father had been told that “The men of Israel are loyal to Absalom!” (15:13b). 

Due to this loyalty and support, Absalom entered Jerusalem peacefully (15:37b), apparently encountering no resistance.  To go with all of this, Hushai the Arkite, another one of his father’s servants, came to Absalom in Jerusalem and said “I will be loyal to the one whom the Lord, these people, and all the men of Israel have chosen.  Moreover, whom should I serve?  Should it not be his son?  Just as I served your father, so I will serve you” (16:18b). 
Now, Absalom did not know that Hushai had attempted to go with David, and had gone back to Jerusalem at David’s request for the expressed purpose of countering the advice that Ahithophel would provide to Absalom (15:34).  So as far as Absalom would have been concerned, these words from Hushai, that were actually words of deception that were put in Hushai’s mouth by David, were simply further evidence that his plan had been successful, and that the God of Israel was favoring him in his efforts. 

As one reads through this story (which seems to have a place of importance in the life of David and the history of Israel), it would be easy to conclude that even David himself seems to have been resigned to the possibility that Absalom’s exodus to kingship, and his own exile from the throne, was part of the Creator God’s will, as again, the promise to David was that he would have a dynasty on the throne.  The rule of Absalom most certainly fit within that framework.  To go along with that, David would have been none too surprised that this was part of his God’s judgment upon him for his failures as king (Uriah, Amnon).  Witness to this is that he has taken only mild measures to retain his position, involving Zadok, Abiathar, and Hushai in that effort. 

Thinking about this for a moment, when David employs Zadok and Abiathar (along with their sons) as spies, it is a bit of a perversion of their role (as priests) to represent the people before their God.  Nevertheless, this resignation is partly indicated (among other things that have already been explored) by the fact that David sends the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem, and his saying “If I find favor in the Lord’s sight He will bring me back and enable me to both see it and His dwelling place again” (15:25b).  That was said together with “However, if He should say, ‘I do not take pleasure in you,’ then He will deal with me in a way that He considers appropriate” (15:26).  Additionally, the words that David spoke in the wake of being cursed and assaulted (rocks thrown) by Shimei, only points to his understanding that all of this might very well have been his God’s will. 

So as was said, everything was going swimmingly for Absalom.  He had led his peaceful insurrection, and it has been accomplished by winning the hearts of the people.  In essence, according to the historic narrative of Israel, he was Moses and he was leading Israel in a new exodus movement with the Lord of Israel on his and their side.  Indeed, Absalom, if he would have been so inclined, could have stood before the people and said “just as the Lord fought for Israel in Egypt, rescuing a people by the acts of His mighty hand, so He has again fought for Absalom and Israel, delivering me to the throne of His people, by the singular working of His powerful, saving might.” 

Reinforcing such a thought, he has now even heard it said, by one of his father’s trusted servants, that he (Absalom) was anointed by both Israel’s Lord and the people.  To that point, any such mention of anointing (in the mold of Saul and David) had been completely absent from the narrative.  Upon this, his revolution was complete.  Absalom was king.  The covenant God was going to fulfill the promises to David through him.  Then, in the midst of this, the tide turned.  Everything changed.  Events began to unfold that would unravel Absalom’s victory.        

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