Today we return to our narrative. David has just committed sin upon sin (2 Sam 11), and been cursed by God (2 Sam 12:10-12). We now begin to see the turmoil of the royal family begin. We are introduced to three of David’s children: Absalom, Tamar, and Amnon (13:1). The reason Tamar is introduced in relation to Absalom is that they shared a mother. Amnon, however, had a different mother. We see that David’s weakness for women and his multiple wives has laid the foundation for more sin. Amnon was “in love” with his half-sister. So he and his “friend” Jonadab hatch a scheme to get her alone with Amnon (vv. 4-6). As the plan plays out (vv. 7-14), we see that Tamar is not unwilling to be Amnon’s wife (v. 13). But Amnon is committed to fulfilling his sinful desire, and he rapes his half-sister (v. 14). God’s curse is playing out. Evil has arisen out of David’s own house (12:11).
As is the case with sinful sexual desire, it’s fulfillment serves to harm the sinner. Amnon’s “love” for Tamar is now gone and she becomes an object of hatred (v. 15). His rejection of her (sin upon sin!) serves to humiliates her worse than the sinful union (v. 16). When Absalom realizes what has happened between his half-brother and his sister – meaning Amnon’s sinful desire was not a secret! – he tells her not to blame herself (v. 20). We see that David is angry over the incident, but we are not told of any actions taken (v. 21).* David understands sexual sin, after all! And we see that Absalom hates Amnon for what he did (v. 22). Sin has set the stage for more sin, as it tends to do.
After two years, Absalom decides to take his revenge (vv. 23-29). He convinces David – who seems skeptical and suspicious (v. 26) – to let all his sons go to a feast Absalom is hosting (v. 27). Perhaps David doubted Absalom’s intentions and thought sending all his sons would protect Amnon. It doesn’t (v. 29). When news comes to David, it is over-dramatized and he is told all his sons have been killed (v. 30). This would indicate that Absalom was trying to seize power for himself. However, it was just revenge on Amnon (v. 32). Absalom’s power grab was still a few years away. God’s curse is playing out. Evil has arisen out of David’s own house (12:11).
The chapter ends by telling us Absalom has fled from the royal house (v. 34). David and his other sons mourn over what has happened (v. 36). The Hebrew in verse 39 can be translated as: “David longed to go out against Absalom,” as in David wanted to avenge Amnon, his firstborn. This seems to be a better translation based on Joab’s ploy in the following chapter.
Chapter 14 begins with Joab, as usual, doing what he thinks is best for David. He seeks to reconcile David and Absalom to end the strife within the royal family. So he comes up with his own ploy (in the fashion of the prophet Nathan – see 2 Sam 12:1-7) to show David the need for reconciliation (14:1-17). Note in verse 11 that David has the authority to make the avenger of blood relent in this murder case. It is this ability to “discern good and evil” that Joab is counting on for David to end the inter-family feud (v. 17). And after the ploy plays out, David recognizes that Joab is behind this (v. 19). So David relents of his desire for revenge (v. 21). But in verse 24 we see that David is not ready to see Absalom again.
In verse 25, we get a description of Absalom. He was as handsome as they come – almost perfect (v. 25). His long, flowing locks were unparalleled (v. 26 – his hair weighed five pounds!). He had beautiful children (v. 27). Indeed, from an earthly point of view, he had it all (just like Saul!). When Absalom wants to see the king, Joab will not help (v. 28), so Absalom forces him to pay attention by burning his barley fields (v. 30). We see Absalom’s selfish ambition start to break through. And Absalom comes back into the king’s presence (v. 33). All’s well that ends well. But this is not well…
Chapter 15 begins by describing Absalom’s subtle usurping of David’s power. As we just saw, David discerned good and evil for the nation of Israel (14:17). Here, we see that Absalom takes on that responsibility himself (15:1-6). It is implied that Absalom was more of a power-hungry, people-pleasing politician than a righteous arbiter (vv. 5-6). I mean, imagine living in a society where those with power just told people what they wanted to hear in order to gain their loyalty. Unimaginable! After four years of gaining the loyalty of the people, Absalom begins his power play. He invites some of David’s men and even his personal counselor (v. 12) to Hebron where he staged a mass commitment to him as king. The coup has begun. God’s curse is playing out. Evil has arisen out of David’s own house (12:11).
Upon hearing of the successful plot of his son, David is forced to flee for his life (vv. 13-17). When the Levites attempt to bring the Ark of God with David (v. 24), David tells them to bring it back to Jerusalem, trusting that God will bring him back to His presence (v. 25). David, now humbled by all that has happened because of his sin, once again is trusting God to judge justly. David hears that Ahithophel is with Absalom, and prays that God would turn his counsel into foolishness (v. 31). In verses 32-37, David engages in a little counter-intrigue by sending an ally to infiltrate Absalom’s court.
David showed kindness to one who deserved judgment. And David was rejected by the very one of his own house that he tried to restore. We have a shadow of the life of the greater Son of David, Who would be rejected by those who He came to save – the house of Israel – though they deserved judgment. The biggest difference? David’s suffering was because of his own sin. Christ’s was because of ours.
Psalm 3 is believed to have been written by David as he fled Jerusalem because of Absalom. David laments a new foe (3:1). Instead of Saul who persecuted him unjustly, this is his own son who is against him, and David’s own sin is the root of the problem (his inaction against Amnon when he sinned is not commented on, though that is the real reason this has happened). David knows that many have been carried away by Absalom’s lies and no longer believe God is with David (v. 2). But He is. God is still David’s protector (v. 3). He still hears David (v. 4). After all that God has sustained David through, he relies on Him alone for deliverance (vv. 5-6). He then prays that God would do just that (v. 7). David praises God for His salvation: of David, and of Israel (v. 8). This Psalm – and David’s renewed faith – are remarkable considering the circumstances David was in when he wrote this.
*Some manuscripts add: “But he would not punish his son Amnon, because he loved him, since he was his firstborn.”