David’s story could quite easily be made into a dramatic soap opera. If you have time, go back and read chapters 13 and 14 to learn how Absalom became estranged from his father, David, for revenge on a heinous act against his sister. Here, Absalom becomes angry because David refuses to see him. The handsome, shrewd Absalom orchestrates a plot to win over the hearts of Israel and in a brash move, he declares himself king in the presence of many who would follow him. David flees to save his own life and Absalom becomes king of Israel.
This whole scene reminds me of many family gatherings held due to weddings or funerals. Both seem to draw out family members who are honorable and pleasant, and also family members who are rude, selfish, disrespectful, and generally unpleasant to be around. It’s a strange phenomenon that families that grew up together often become so very different from one another. For some reason, unpleasant people become simply intolerable when they are family.
David probably could have rallied enough followers to defeat and kill Absalom. But Absalom was family. Killing him just didn’t seem like an option at the time. We too, are bound by our families. It is nearly impossible to maintain perfect autonomy when it comes to family. Their embarrassing behavior is our humiliation. Their celebrations are our joys. For better or for worse, we are bound to our family members. Maybe we can find ways to love them all, despite their failings.
2 Samuel 15:1-17
After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run ahead of him. Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the road into the gate; and when anyone brought a suit before the king for judgment, Absalom would call out and say, “From what city are you?” When the person said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” Absalom would say, “See, your claims are good and right; but there is no one deputed by the king to hear you.” Absalom said moreover, “If only I were judge in the land! Then all who had a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give them justice.” Whenever people came near to do obeisance to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of them, and kiss them. Thus Absalom did to every Israelite who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.
At the end of four years Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go to Hebron and pay the vow that I have made to the Lord. For your servant made a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram: If the Lord will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will worship the Lord in Hebron.” The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he got up, and went to Hebron. But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then shout: Absalom has become king at Hebron!” Two hundred men from Jerusalem went with Absalom; they were invited guests, and they went in their innocence, knowing nothing of the matter. While Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh. The conspiracy grew in strength, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.
A messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom.” Then David said to all his officials who were with him at Jerusalem, “Get up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Hurry, or he will soon overtake us, and bring disaster down upon us, and attack the city with the edge of the sword.” The king’s officials said to the king, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king decides.” So the king left, followed by all his household, except ten concubines whom he left behind to look after the house. The king left, followed by all the people; and they stopped at the last house.