Thursday, June 19, 2014

Absalom (part 21)

Returning to the text of Absalom’s story, Hushai, after gaining Absalom’s ear, passes along to David the news of both his and Ahithophel’s advice, along with Absalom’s response to that advice.  Knowing his own history and reflecting upon his previous time in exile, this must have been somewhat heartening for David.  Obviously, there would be a level of sadness, in that he now learns that his son thinks that it is a good idea to have him dispatched from existence, but there would be a level of encouragement because he could see this as a sign of his God’s favor returning upon him. 

David could reflect upon the fact that he did not raise his hand against Saul, and that he had been ultimately rewarded for his restraint.  He could think about the fact that Saul came out after him, and though Saul’s efforts at striking David down proved unsuccessful, Saul’s efforts also proved to be less than beneficial.  In this unwarranted plan to attack David without provocation, as (according to the narrative on offer), David has not actively said or done anything to defeat what he feels might very well be the work of the Creator God, Absalom has now turned oppressor. 

Absalom is no longer Moses, but rather Saul.  He is no longer rescuing the people from subjugation, but he is instead attempting to subjugate his father who is also now his subject.  Yes, David and the men with him are now Absalom’s subjects, and therefore it is incumbent upon Absalom to secure blessings for them.  This is quite difficult to do if one is plotting to bring death to said subjects.  

With Absalom’s approval of Hushai’s plan, events begin to unfold rather quickly.  David is advised to move quickly, lest he be caught, and he does so along with all his people.  Ahithophel, who appears to be sensing oncoming defeat in addition to having his advice ignored in favor of that of Hushai, kills himself.  David and those with him have crossed the Jordan River, symbolically leaving the land of Israel, and going to Mahanaim (2 Samuel 17:24a).  Following the plan, “Absalom and all the men of Israel had crossed the Jordan River” (17:24b) as well. 

One may be predisposed to read by that quickly, but perhaps such should not be the case.  Crossing the Jordan was of tremendous significance in the history of Israel.  Following the exodus and Israel’s time in the wilderness, the crossing of the Jordan meant that they had crossed over into the land of the Creator God’s promise.  It was, in a sense, the completion of the exodus, though the exodus would never truly complete, as exodus would prove to be an ongoing process of deliverance, rescue, redemption, and salvation, which must be worked out diligently. 

Even after Israel crossed into their promised land, they still had to take the land, drive out its occupants, and crush the rampant idolatry (which they would fail to do).  In the days of John the Baptist, baptism in the Jordan River was a clear signal of a new exodus movement and a submission to the claims of the coming kingdom of their God, just as baptism in this day is a sign of departure from exile into a life of exodus (a constant entering into the Creator God’s mission and purpose) and submission to the covenant God’s King, that being Jesus the Messiah.  David, already in a self-imposed exile from Jerusalem and his throne, crosses the Jordan as he flees Absalom, who is now, unfortunately, intent upon killing his father. 

This does carry some meaning for David, though it carries far greater meaning for Absalom.  After crossing the Jordan River in his pursuit of his father, as he leads the men of Israel in this pursuit and as he goes forth to violently raise his hand against his father, he is going into another exile.  With this exile, and with what it is going to mean for him, his father is now being rescued from subjugation and delivered from his oppressor.  By this, Absalom has reversed the exodus that he has experienced.  He has completely reversed the Moses-oriented narrative that he had created for himself.  

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