Saturday, June 14, 2014

Absalom (part 17)

Absalom appears to be enjoying the Creator God’s favor upon his life and his kingship.  He has suffered in exile, and now he has been vindicated from that suffering.  He has been delivered to the kingship of the covenant people of the covenant God.  Much like Israel, it could be said that he had “taken the land.”  The demonstration of that ongoing Scriptural theme of exile and exodus has been well demonstrated, and above all things, it shows that he is not only now of kinship with Moses, but also Israel itself (from Egypt to the Promised Land), of Jacob (to Haran and back to Canaan), and Abraham (from Ur to Canaan, and from Egypt to Canaan).  It cannot be emphasized enough that he can consider himself to have been vindicated by his God, with evidence of such, following his long ordeal, that he is hailed as Israel’s king.  It must be further emphasized, quite strenuously, that his ascension to the throne (the completion of his personal exodus journey) has been accomplished without resort to military operations. 

As has been previously pointed out, he has not had to raise his hand against Israel’s anointed king.  The people can freely support him in good conscience, knowing full well that David appears to have abdicated willingly.  If indeed the Bathsheba/Uriah incident has been made public knowledge, which seems like a reasonable proposition because of Absalom’s actions with David’s concubines (wives) in sight of the people, that was meant to be a demonstration of the judgment pronounced against him by the Creator God through the prophet Nathan, then David’s peaceful abdication would have seemed altogether appropriate, with Absalom’s peaceful taking of power (in this context) completely understandable. 

Then, the unraveling begins.  Absalom quickly moves from the place of apparent favor and blessing of Israel’s God, with an implicit sanction of his kingship (because of his role in delivering prophesied and embarrassing judgment for David) with David slinking quietly away into the background, into the opposite situation.  Almost immediately upon becoming secure upon the throne, Absalom begins to see his station slipping from him.  To a point, he had been growing in favor with man (and apparently) with God, but this now turns.  Absalom starts to fall into the Creator God’s disfavor, and David begins to regain in favor. 

This can’t simply be because David had been anointed by God to replace Saul and lead the covenant people, as the Creator God is free to work through Absalom (according to the promise to David) to cause His people to be a light to the nations and to reflect His glory into the world, so there must be a signal reason why this takes place.  Did Absalom have his own Bathsheba situation?  Not as far as the Scriptures report.  Did he fail to execute justice as did David in the situation with Amnon and Tamar.  Again, not as far as is known.  So what was it?  Why is the Creator God’s blessing suddenly removed from him?  What is it that causes the people to slowly begin to turn from Absalom and reinstitute their support of David? 

The answer is found in the first few verses of the seventeenth chapter of the second book of Samuel.  What does this passage say?  There it is reported that, “Ahithophel said to Absalom, ‘Let me pick out twelve thousand men.  Then I will go and pursue David this very night.  When I catch up with him he will be exhausted and worn out.  I will rout him, and the entire army that is with him will flee.  I will kill only the king and will bring the entire army back to you.  In exchange for the life of the man you are seeking, you will get back everyone’.” (17:1-3a)  What was Absalom’s response to this?  In what should be a surprise, based on how things have gone and what has been accomplished to that point, it is said that “This seemed like a good idea to Absalom and to all the leaders of Israel” (17:4).  Though Absalom would also seek out further advice and eventually act upon advice contrary to what was offered by Ahithophel, the point is that this seemed like a good idea to Absalom. 

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