2 SAMUEL 13, 14 and 15
Nathan’s prophecy of the punishment imposed by God on King David starts to be fulfilled in the next three chapters. First, Amnon, David’s eldest son, became obsessed with his half-sister, Tamar who was stunningly beautiful. We see later that it was a lustful obsession, rather than real love. This lust made him physically ill. And the last thing that a young man in that position needs is a scheming uncle who encourages his nephew to act on his sexual desires – but David’s brother, Jonadab, clearly lacked a moral compass. So Amnon plotted to get Tamar to visit her so-called sick half-brother in his bedroom and he raped her. The acid test of Amnon’s true affections towards Tamar was revealed by the instant change in his feelings afterwards; now he hated her, demonstrating that it was not genuine love. Lust is nothing more than an appetite that, once satisfied, disappears. Love is a passionate mutual affection that grows deeper and more intense as the relationship progresses.
Absalom, her full brother, was white with rage when he discovered what Amnon had done. His first action was to hush up his sister’s disgrace, but immediately he laid plans to get revenge upon his half-brother. He wasn’t over-hasty, though, since he did wait two years before he put his plan into action – presumably to allow his father to bring Amnon to justice, which David did not do. David may have felt that he had lost the moral high ground already, having stolen another man’s wife! Sin does indeed cloud a person’s judgment.
Therefore, Absalom put his plan into action and invited all his brothers to a big feast, readying his trusted servants to kill Amnon upon his command. The wine flowed, the party rocked, and it was all too easy to do the deed; after that, the blood flowed! At a stroke, Absalom had gained revenge and elevated himself to first in line to the throne. The rest of the King’s sons, fearing for their lives, mounted their royal mules and fled (we see that the mule was the royal mode of transport of choice in those days; perhaps this is why Jesus chose it for his entry into Jerusalem). And Absalom also fled in the opposite direction, staying in exile for three years.
The following chapter is almost a repeat of Nathan’s attempt to get David to confess to adultery; this time, it is a ruse to get David to agree to bring Absalom back from exile – presumably because Joab considered Absalom a greater threat to the throne whilst away from David’s court, than if he were physically present and able to be kept under observation. David was clearly a sucker for hard-luck stories, and he instinctively took the line of forgiveness – which is no bad thing, since 14:14 tells us that the Lord is too! (Have a read of it.) Finally, Absalom is recalled, but not to the King’s presence. Eventually, he is reinstated to the King’s favour – although without any apparent repentance on his part.
Absalom repaid his father’s grace by plotting to take the throne himself. Firstly, he ingratiated himself with all the people by taking their side in any possible dispute that they have with the king, regardless of the merits of the case. True leaders, such as David, could not afford to court popularity as a substitute for justice, and inevitably this disappointed many people – that is the price of honest leadership. The same is noticeable in churches today; those people who are backslidden or disaffected with the leadership have an uncanny way of gathering together in friendships and speaking critically of their leaders. It is a simple matter for unscrupulous usurpers to play the ‘popularity card’ and to start to woo those disaffected people away from true church leadership and discipline. It always ends in tears, though!
Eventually, David was forced to flee as Absalom gained a huge following. He left the Ark and the High Priests back in their rightful places in Jerusalem, not wanting to use God as his political pawn. And he placed a spy in Absalom’s camp – as we shall see shortly!