May 16. Absalom Defeated and Dies; David Returns to Jerusalem

II Sam. 18:1-20:26

David had many followers. As he mustered his army, he placed Joab over a third; Abishai over another third; Ittai was captain over the other third of his soldiers and he, as their king would lead the complete army. The people persuaded him to remain in the city out of harm’s way. In his love for his son, David commanded his captains to, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.”

The battle between David’s army and the army of Israel was fierce. Twenty thousand men were slaughtered that day as Absalom’s army was overthrown. It has been said that Absalom’s massive hair locks were caught in the branches of a giant tree as his mule ran from beneath him leaving him hanging. However, Scripture states that, “his head caught in the terebinth” tree.

Joab was a ruthless man. He ignored David’s plea for the safety of his son. As Absalom swung helplessly from the tree, Joab thrust three spears through his heart and removed another enemy from the king. Absalom was dead. The battle was ended. With Absalom having no surviving son, David had no other obstacles to his resuming as king of Israel.

Upon being notified that there was good news, David did not ask about any details of the battle. His main concern was, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”

With the news of Absalom’s death, one of the saddest laments of the entire Bible is cried. “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” Perhaps as the father wept for his son, he realized the many lost opportunities that had been before him to bring his child up in the way that he should go.

The people went home with a feeling of defeat in the face of their victory because of their king’s lament over their defeated enemy. Joab confronted David over his actions and brought him back to reality.

There was confusion and hesitancy surrounding David’s return to Jerusalem. David was in a delicate position as he attempted to unify the Israelites. The tribe of Judah with Absalom had led the rebellion against him and they had not made any effort to bring him back as their king after Absalom’s death. He made two strategic moves to insure the desired unity. The priests, Zadok and Abiathar were sent to the elders of Judah to intercede for him. He also elevated Amasa, Absalom’s former army captain to the same position in his army in the place of Joab. Those moves secured the unity that he desired and King David returned to the capitol, Jerusalem.

Shimei, the Benjamite who had cursed David earlier as he was escaping from Absalom realized his perilous condition. In humility, he returned to the king, confessed his sin and begged for mercy. He received his pardon from the king.

Another matter came before David. During his flight from Absalom, Ziba, the servant of Jonathan’s son, Mephibosheth had reported the disloyalty of his master. He had convinced David to give him Mephibosheth’s property. After Mephibosheth had properly informed David of the deception, he was returned to his previous relationship with the king.

During David’s exile in Mahanaim, Barzillai had provided food and beds for him. As a reward, David proposed to care for him for his lifetime in Jerusalem. The aged man declined the invitation as he preferred to remain in his own city.

Even after David had resumed his kingdom in Jerusalem, there continued to be division among Judah and Israel. That division escalated as Sheba, a Benjamite declared that, “We have no share in David…” He led another rebellion against the king.

In organizing his defense against Sheba, Amasa failed to prepare in a timely manner. David sent Abishai, accompanied by Joab to prevent Sheba from escaping. As stated earlier, Joab was a ruthless man. Upon meeting with Amasa at Gibeon during the pursuit, Joab stabbed him to death thus eliminating another of his rivals for power. With Amasa being dead, Joab again resumed command of the army.

A woman of the city of Abel produced the head of Sheba. Joab blew the trumpet to withdraw from the city and returned to David having ended another rebellion against the king.