Thursday, June 5, 2014

Absalom (part 9)

Sometimes there is a tendency to forget that these stories in the Bible are being told about people that were very much flesh and blood individuals.  These were not idealized characters that wore black or white hats.  These were real people with which all who read this study share a common humanity.  They had thoughts that are not recorded by the Biblical authors, insecurities, and doubts about their place and role in the Creator God’s mission in the world, with these occurring right alongside all of the problems and concerns of life lived in what would have to be described as less than comfortable conditions.  So even though conditions change and mindsets change, and even though the Christ-event and its results have had a singularly massive effect on the world for the last two thousand years (as a transformative force unlike the world has ever known), human nature remains unchanged.  This fact is what allows for a sensitivity and attunement to culture and custom by those that approach the Biblical narrative, so as to be able to enter these stories and to read them for all that they are worth. 

Getting back to the light in which Absalom might be hoping that these events are seen, and remaining aware of not only the narrative structure of the Bible that constantly points to themes of exile and exodus, but also that Israel was always especially cognizant of the story of the exodus under the leadership of Moses, a fearful King David can be found saying “Go immediately, or else he will quickly overtake us and bring disaster on us and kill the city’s residents with the sword” (2 Samuel 15:14b). 

If Absalom is indeed painting David as a new Pharaoh, and if the author is mindful of that, then David’s order is quite interesting.  It returns a reader to chapter twelve of Exodus, following the plague which brought the death of the firstborn (remember, all of these events concerning Absalom are ultimately connected with the death of Amnon, David’s firstborn).  There, in fear of what might happen next to his people and his land, “Pharaoh summoned Moses and Aaron in the night and said, ‘Get up, get out from among my people, both you and the Israelites!  Go, serve the Lord as you have requested!  Also, take your flocks and herds, just as you have requested, and leave.  But bless me also’.” (12:31-32)  In addition, it is there reported that “The Egyptians were urging the people on, in order to send them out of the land quickly, for they were saying, ‘We are all dead!’” (12:33) 

Though they are not identical, the words of David have a strange affinity with the words of Pharaoh and the Egyptians.  Regardless of the non-identical words, they can be said to share a nature and the point would seem to be clear.  What is going to follow is an exile and an exodus.  In Leviticus and Deuteronomy, both of which build upon the foundation of the Exodus narrative, the Creator God will promise His people that the curses that will fall upon them for violating His commandments would be similar to the plagues that He brought upon Egypt.  So Egypt, by retrojection, has already experienced something like exile (though they are not the Creator God’s people). 

Furthermore, owing to what would take place at the sea, the plague of death (exile) would be further visited upon the Egyptians.  The exodus to follow, of course, would be that of Israel.  With David and Absalom, exile and exodus were also coming.  David was going to leave Jerusalem in a self-imposed exile, as it seemed that his power over the Creator God’s people had been broken in a way that was not at all unlike that of Pharaoh.  Absalom, at the head of a loyal populace, was exodus-ing his own long exile and heading for the throne, which he may very well have seen (embodying the Israel story) as his promised land.  

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