Sunday, June 1, 2014

Absalom (part 5)

It is not known how much time elapsed following Absalom’s obviously less than amicable reunion with his father, but “Some time later Absalom managed to acquire a chariot and horses, as well as fifty men to serve as his royal guard” (2 Samuel 15:1).  Slowly but surely, he was going to take up the mantle of kingship that he perceived, perhaps rightly, to have been abandoned by his father.  After all, he could justifiably reason, a man that will not serve justice within his own family to defend the honor of his own daughter and to punish an evil perpetrated by his son, certainly could not be relied upon to perform that task for an entire people. 

Much like was seen with Absalom’s patience with Amnon, having waited two full years between the rape of Tamar and the final delivery of the consequences for those actions, Absalom acted meticulously.  First, there were the royal trappings.  That would be the chariot and horses and a royal guard.  Next would be gaining the trust and respect of the people.  He probably did not imagine that such would be difficult, for if he saw the king as weak then surely the people did as well.  To effect this, “Absalom used to get up early and stand beside the road that led to the city gate.  Whenever anyone came by who had a complaint to bring to the king for arbitration, Absalom would call out to him” (15:2a), determine his city of origin, listen to his complaint, and respond by saying “Look, your claims are legitimate and appropriate.  But there is no representative of the king who will listen to you” (15:3b). 

The natural corollary to this would be for Absalom to say, “If only they would make me a judge in the land!  Then everyone who had a judicial complaint could come to me and I would make sure he receives a just settlement” (15:4).  Naturally, one would have to imagine that Absalom’s commiseration with the complainer would also include his own sharing of his story of injustice and exile because there was no one, and especially not the king, that was truly interested in promoting the cause of justice for the people. 

Absalom continued his efforts at building the respect and loyalty of the people, doing so through both sharing with them his own complaints with the king, while commiserating with them in their complaints.  For the people, these complaints may not have initially been against the king, but in the end, Absalom would be sure that such would be the case.  The increase in his support would have then been due to the mutual sympathy of two aggrieved parties.  It is inescapable to notice that, contrary to all of the deliverers and judges and kings that came before him, Absalom is attempting to gain a leadership position within Israel without being anointed to that position.  He is trying, like Moses, to kill the Egyptian guard in order to “rally the troops” around him.  This will have only succeeded on a short-term basis. 

Absalom also made it a point that he did not act like David.  It is possible that he thought that his father had been condescending towards him when he had had been summoned to the palace to finally appear before the king.  Absalom bowed before David as a sign of humility and respect, and David had merely kissed him.  He was a prodigal of sorts, returned from a distant land, and that was all his father could muster.  One might be tempted here to think of the New Testament parable and a son that had gone so far as to wish his own father dead, and there one also sees a son that was embraced, kissed, and re-seated in a position of honor, all at the hands of a loving and forgiving father.  

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