Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Absalom (part 7)

It would not be difficult to imagine that, along with the telling of his own story of what he considered to be poor treatment at the hands of his father, that Absalom also “went public” with the Bathsheba incident in order to continue the efforts towards painting his father as an oppressive ruler in the mold of a Pharaoh that needed to be defeated by Israel’s God, doing so through the agency of another Moses. 

After receiving the approval of his father to go to Hebron to offer the aforementioned sacrifice, “Absalom sent spies through all the tribes of Israel” (2 Samuel 15:10a).   Here again there is another allusion to Moses and the exodus of Israel, in that Moses sent spies into the promised land.  Yes, it has become readily apparent that Absalom wanted to be seen as a great deliverer within Israel, raised up by their God to liberate from oppression and servitude.  This sending of spies would play very well into the narrative that he was attempting to create.  Not only that, but this sending of spies might also very well cause the people to remember the other famous sending of spies, which would have been to Jericho before that city was defeated.  This, of course, would invoke thoughts of Israel’s great general Joshua, and the people’s actual entering into and conquering of the promised land under his leadership. 

Remember, Absalom has been quite patient.  It has been at least four years since his coming before the king, at least six years since his return to Jerusalem, at least nine years since his flight to Geshur, and at least eleven years since his brother raped his sister.  With such a patient demeanor on display, without a doubt he must also have been considered as an astute observer of the people and of Israel’s history. 

His time spent at the gates, as he was gaining the respect of the people, would have put him in a position to ascertain what types of symbols and symbolism would resonate with the people when the time came for him to lead another exodus of sorts.  If such was his mindset, then part of his interaction with the people---if he was indeed positioning himself as a Moses/Joshua type of leader, with his increasingly out-of-touch father as a new Pharaoh---would have been an insistence that, under David, Israel was in something of another exile (or at least heading that way), with all of the curses of exile that would be sure to follow if the people failed to rally around him and support his leadership, while encouraging others to do the same.  So the spies were sent through the land and instructed “When you hear the sound of the horn, you may assume that Absalom rules in Hebron” (15:10b). 

The breadth of Absalom’s influence is further demonstrated in that he “sent for Ahithophel the Gileonite, David’s adviser, to come from his city, Giloh” (15:12b).  Ahithophel was a highly respected adviser to David, and if he has been convinced that Absalom is the one to follow, then one can well understand the words that followed, which report that “The conspiracy was gaining momentum, and the people were starting to side with Absalom” (15:12c). 

What was it about Absalom that attracted the people to him and away from David?  Was it because “in all Israel everyone acknowledged that there was no man as handsome as Absalom,” and that “From the sole of his feet to the top of his head he was perfect in appearance” (14:25)?  While this is an “attractive” option, it is unlikely.  David himself, when first introduced into the Scriptural narrative, is said to have “attractive eyes and a handsome appearance” (1 Samuel 16:12b).  When Saul is introduced as king of Israel, he is described as standing “head and shoulders above them all” (1 Samuel 10:23b).  Further, Samuel says, “Do you see the one whom the Lord has chosen?  Indeed, there is no one like him among all the people!” (10:24b)  

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