Absalom Makes a Play for the Throne
“Absalom would say, ‘Oh that I were judge in the land! Then every man with a dispute or cause might come to me, and I would give him justice’ ” (v. 4).- 2 Samuel 15:1–17
In our study of 2 Samuel 14, we passed over a description of Absalom to which we must return as we begin today’s study. This description, found in verses 25–27, emphasizes Absalom’s handsomeness and lack of physical blemishes. This likely sounds familiar, and it should. In 1 Samuel 9:2, the author introduced us to Saul by noting his good looks, and we know that Saul turned out to be a disaster. That Absalom’s appearance is emphasized gives us a hint that this son of David will not end well. Again, it is not that being good looking is disqualifying for service in God’s kingdom. However, when that is the only good thing that can be said about a person, then there are significant problems. Matthew Henry rightly notes of Absalom that “nothing is said of his wisdom and piety. Though he was the son of such a devout father, we read nothing of his devotion.” Make no mistake, the author wants us to see Absalom as a new Saul-like figure.
We have already seen hints of the disaster that Absalom would be in his propensity for violent revenge and vandalism (2 Sam. 13:23–29; 14:28–33). In today’s passage, we read of how he instigated a coup that put David’s throne and life in jeopardy. First, Absalom started acting like a king. He went around town in a chariot, with horses and an entourage of fifty men (15:1). This would have gotten the citizens of Jerusalem to think about him in a kingly way. Continuing this charade, he sat at the city gate to hear disputes, declaring aloud that if he were king, he would certainly give justice to the plaintiffs. The hearts of the men of Israel were understandably warmed to him. They did not know if they would get justice from David, but they were sure they would get it from Absalom (vv. 2–6).
David had become so negligent that Absalom carried on like this for four years without any consequences (v. 7). The king even allowed him to go to Hebron, the very place Judah anointed him as ruler (vv. 8–9; see 2:1–4). It is obvious to us what Absalom was up to, but David’s discernment was severely lacking after his sin with Bathsheba and his unwillingness to deal rightly with Amnon (chs. 11–13). Finally, when Absalom had himself proclaimed king at Hebron, David fled Jerusalem lest he be killed by Absalom. His most loyal servants went with him, though he left ten of his concubines behind (15:10–17). As Nathan had said, a sword had invaded David’s house (12:10).
In many ways, it seems surprising that David could be so blind to the intent of his son. Yet if parents are not careful, they can overlook the actions of their children that reveal their motives. Parents should be asking the Lord for the wisdom necessary to understand their children, and others in the church should, as they are able, help parents not to overlook the misbehavior of their children.
Passages for Further Study