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Weekly Prompts for Thinking Through Scripture Covering 2 Samuel 13:23 – 2 Samuel 16:23

Refresher: After God has set David up for success, and after David verily enjoys a season of success, he spots bathing Bathsheba and things quickly go south. As a punishment for adultery, deception, and murder, God tells David that his house would suffer – the sword wouldn’t be removed from it. That judgment begins to be realized when Amnon, a son of David, sexually violates his half-sister Tamar, whose brother is Absalom. After the violation, Amnon is disgusted, David is “very angry.” And Absalom… well, there’s hardly words for how he feels.

Day One

Read 2 Samuel 13: 23-39

· V. 23 – “After two full years” – Like David after he was anointed by Samuel until he became king, Absalom is also able to patiently wait for his opportunity. But patience used toward much different ends! Patience is another virtue that can just as easily be put into the service of vice.

· V. 24 – Some real chicanery going on here. By first inviting David to the sheepshearing party, Absalom dispels any possible suggestion that he’s coming after Amnon. Which, of course, is exactly what he’s doing. We’ve seen this kind of throwing off the scent in another context, and recently. (2 Samuel 11:6ff).

· V. 30 – A 3000-year-old lesson: be skeptical about initial reports, which tend to be more dramatic than the reality (although here the reality was still tragic).

· V. 32 – “determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar” – it seems that Amnon’s act against Tamar was an open secret in the court. If so, that adds a layer of foreboding to David’s question above in v. 26. So, even though there hadn’t been acts of violence in David’s house these last two years, the sword was hovering around the house (2 Samuel 12:10).

· V. 34 – Hmm: Why does the narrator view the other, still-alive sons of David coming down the road through the eyes of the young watchman? How does that perspective contribute to the scene?

Day Two

Read 2 Samuel 14: 1-17

· V. 1 – Recently I commented that Joab isn’t a man of principle, but of passion. Well, I stand by the first observation, but want to add that he’s a man of passion *and* pragmatism. He regularly either reacts in rage or, in non-volatile situations, does whatever it takes – honesty be darned – to keep things humming. Seeing Joab force the point with David/Absalom through the Tekoan “actress,” one isn’t convinced that he cares about his king. Rather, as is true in other scenes he’s in, Joab simply wants the Throne to be focused and strong. Big picture application: God has regularly advanced his kingdom and cause through those who are less than purehearted.

· V. 7 – “quench my coal” – or *throw water over my life-fire*. That is, with both of her sons dead, this woman will lack the means to provide for her own life. As with Nathan’s accusation to David, here again we see the strategy of employing a story rather than a logical argument in order to expose a failing.

· V. 13 – “Planned such a thing against the people of God” – I’m unsure what the exact charge is here: EITHER 1) by keeping Absalom in exile David perpetuates instability in government, which of course negatively affects the nation; OR 2) David is setting a bad precedent for the nation by not retrieving/pardoning his son.

· V. 14a – “Like water spilled on the ground…” – You have to admit, ancient Near-east imagery is tough to beat. Death is inevitable, and as irreversible as trying to re-gather water that’s been spilled onto dirt.

· V. 14b – “But God will not take away life” – surely this isn’t absolutely true! Evidently, she means that God won’t end life out of cruelty, but rather (further into her sentence) He provides avenues of repair and restoration so that life can go on. In other words, even in dealing with his flesh and blood, David hasn’t followed God’s example of charity and pardon.

· VV. 4-17 – Look at all the Tekoan woman’s references to God, and you’ll perceive that Joab knew what it took to move David: To get to David, let him see his actions in the light of the Almighty. Can you be similarly convinced?

Day Three

Read 2 Samuel 14: 18-33

· V.21 – Instead of being enraged by Joab’s manipulation, David allows himself to yield to it. Why? Because it’s pretty typical for fathers to want to be as liberal as possible with their sons. And where does this fatherly tendency come from?

· V. 24 – Why do you think Absalom wasn’t permitted into David’s presence? Was this an emotional decision? Political decision? Was it principled? Was it wise? Good?

· V. 25 – Tale as old as time: people allow themselves to be compelled by the charisma or beauty of some wannabe leader. If anything, the age of video has only exacerbated this tendency. (I sometimes lie awake haunted by the probability that all my pastoral success is only because of my rakish good looks.) Anyway, and seriously, work at paying attention to substance and not being suckered by delivery. This discernment entails being open to awkwardness, ugliness, the gauche, the superficially unpleasing.

· V. 27 – “name was Tamar” – Understood, Absalom.

· V. 30 – “set it on fire” – this kind of bold, decisive act characterized Absalom, and also strangely reminds us of his father David. So again we’ll note that Absalom was in some ways like his father, but missing David’s God-ward-ness.

· V. 33 – Toward an answer to our question from v. 24. Reading between the lines, one senses that David wants to be a tender father to Absalom, yet also suspects that his son will take advantage of any gesture of soft-heartedness. Fathers and sons! Scenes like this make us pine for a King without sin, who needs no one to tell him what is in people’s heart, who manages betrayal so masterfully that it ends up in the employ of God’s Kingdom.

Day Four

Read 2 Samuel 15:1-17

· V. 6 – “Stole the hearts of the men of Israel” – Leaders in all places inevitably will come across these Absaloms pulling their Absalom-ic moves. By “Absaloms,” we’re talking about smart and well-positioned people who will: 1) take marked interest in their peers’ problems (‘finally, someone’s paying attention to me!’); 2) use flattery widely and liberally; 3) subtly cast shade on the boss; 4) imagine out loud a better situation if only people would listen to them,the Absaloms; 5) dispense with reserve to create the impression that they’re loving and genuine. And all this sneakiness toward the end of dividing and conquering. Give these sneaks a wide berth.

· V.7 – “At the end of four years” – we’ve already remarked on Absalom’s biding-his-time patience, but…man.

· VV. 7-12 – Absalom’s plan relies heavily on groupthink, bandwagon-ing, the vague sense that something needs improving, smoke & mirrors, fuzzy signaling. And also relied on Ahithophel – who functioned like a talisman. That is, this important defector represented the idea that David was untrustworthy… look! those closest to him are bailing on him. Plus, remember how good-looking Absalom is! These ruses all seems quite modern.

Day Five

2 Samuel 15: 18 –29

· Big questions: Why does Absalom hate David? Why does the son want to destroy the father?

· V. 20 – “You came only yesterday” – almost surely not literally; the point is that Ittai and the 600 Gittites haven’t been with the king long enough so that he could expect them to be loyal.

· V. 21 – Ittai’s response to David’s gloomy goading for him to leave is remarkable. And because the narrator takes the time to spell out this response (presumably speaking for all the 600) to David, we can use it unto Christian purposes: I believe that this sentence is a pretty good unpacking of the compressed baptismal confession: “Jesus is Lord.” Thus, what should we expect of a person who has been regenerated by the Holy Spirit? Answer: Nothing less than a sentiment like Ittai’s – only in reference to King Jesus!

· V. 23 – “Crossed the brook Kidron” – can you think of another King who – as gloom descended – crossed this exact brook? I believe that within the bible’s overarching story this is an example of what the smart people call “foreshadowing.”

· VV. 24-29 – At the end of this paragraph, nothing has changed. And yet the narrator includes this scene to let us into the heart of David. What do you observe in this man? Really, answer the question: try to list three things about David this scene discloses.

Day Six

Read 2 Samuel 15: 30 – 16: 14

· V.31 – “Please turn the counsel…” – Note that this is the kind of thing one can ask of God. And notice how the prayer is answered practically in v. 35.

· VV. 1-4 – During a time of transition and crisis, there’s a lot of political movement. Gestures. Alignment. Surprises. But, as later events with Mephibosheth will prove, at these upheavals one should be careful not to come quickly to conclusions, especially to not put people in the “enemy” category prematurely. Certainly, don’t let one person speak for another – the probability of disingenuousness is sky high during these unstable times.

· V. 5ff – The house of Saul is still smarting from David’s ascendancy.

· V. 10 – David’s forbearance before Shimei’s derision is *probably* admirable but is also borne by despondency. He’s crushed. But then notice how he refers his situation to God (and again in v. 12). The difference between David and Absalom is that “God is in all of David’s thoughts.” He lives in reference to God (even when that renders his thoughts painful). He lives a God-ward life. “A man after [God’s] heart.”

· Sometimes, as people throw stones and curses toward you, the thing to do is put your head down and quietly walk on. With one important addendum: while the stones clatter around you, refer your wretchedness to God.

Day Seven

Read 2 Samuel 16: 15-23

· V. 17 – It’s an interesting word Absalom uses twice – “friend.” David was a king some of whose subjects were also friends. Remind you of another King?

· V. 19 – Hushai knows that if he obviously throws David under the bus, Absalom will suspect his sincerity. And so he carefully conveys the delicate message that his loyalty has always been to the institution (or perhaps more particularly to David’s line)… the particularly personage on the throne makes no difference to him. Well played Hushai!

· V. 21 – As long as history has been written, we know that during times of war rape has been put to use to symbolically subdue and dispirit the enemy. The sexual act was more than the act: it *meant* something. We’ll take away from this the truth that sex can never be reduced to simply the physical transaction: it is always imbued with deep meaning. CAUTION, CAUTION HANDLE WITH CARE!

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