2 Samuel 18 Commentary
by Hank Workman
It’s absolutely insane.
“Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.”2 Samuel 18:5
Are you kidding me?! After everything Absalom had done to his father? How he had acted in treason against him? How in the humiliation of having sex with his concubines on the rooftop mocking his father’s integrity? How he was out to kill his own father in this war he declared?
I’ve always struggled with this aspect of David. Just being honest here. I’ve just never understood it. But where I’ve settled is the severe mercy he continued to give toward this wayward son of his. It’s remarkable, truly. It is, in Bishop Hall’s words, “an ill-placed love.”
And yes, there are probably many reasons why David would feel the way he did. Maybe it was regret as to where things had gone. Maybe he looked back at his poor parenting and had he stopped or disciplined this charismatic, proud child earlier it would not have happened. And yes, maybe he reflected upon his own sin with Bathsheba and how this was a direct line of consequence from that as God predicted. There are many factors that play into it I’m sure. But in the end, it was his son. He loved him.
It reminds me of the severe mercy Jesus Christ has offered to us. In all our wayward, stubborn behavior; in all our sinful decisions and actions – He offers mercy again and again. This true King Redeemer prayed for those who had thrown him up on a tree, drove nails through his hands and feet, pierced his side after beating him mercilessly.
This incredible King of Glory who had laid out the plan of God for all people and yet the religious and holier than thou’s could not handle and brought about the earthly demise of the Christ – his words were the same. As Bishop Hall stated, “For these murderers, he pled, “Father Forgive them… deal gently with them for my sake.”
How powerful. How humbling. How beautiful He says these same things over and over again for us who have lost our way, who bring shame to the glory of Jesus Christ – “Father forgive them… deal gently with them for my sake.”
Amen and Amen.
2 Samuel 18 Commentary
by Brad Boyles
This is a difficult chapter to absorb. On one hand, justice was served and the rightful king of Israel was restored. On the other hand, a loving father grieves the loss of his rebellious son.
This civil war would take place in the woods of Ephraim. Some scholars have debated whether David intentionally set up this location for the battle. An unpredictable, woodsy environment would give an advantage to the gritty, persistent warrior. In other words, sheer numbers would not matter if the men fighting couldn’t navigate the tricky terrain. Scripture tells us the forest claimed many that day.
“Then David’s forces marched into the field to engage Israel in battle, which took place in the forest of Ephraim. 7 The people of Israel were defeated by David’s soldiers, and the slaughter there was vast that day—20,000 casualties. 8 The battle spread over the entire region, and that day the forest claimed more people than the sword.”2 Samuel 18:6-8 HCSB
It is difficult to know if this meant that the conditions were overwhelming to the soldiers or if there was divine intervention from God. It is certainly possible that God allowed for the forest to supernaturally swallow up David’s enemies. Either way, the lesson to be learned is that God had a plan and He was in control. Even when it seemed that Absalom had the kingdom locked down, God was unraveling his life one thread at a time.
There’s a reason why Scripture tells us that David offered his instructions regarding Absalom in front of all the people. He wanted his commanders to feel the accountability of the entire nation if they chose to go against his orders. It would be Joab, known for his impulsive decisions, who would intentionally go against David’s orders and thrust three spears through the heart of Absalom.
It is ironic that the symbol of Absalom’s vanity (his incredible hair) was the very stumbling block leading to his death. Many assume his hair got stuck in the trees (though Scripture doesn’t actually say that). We do know that he was tangled and suspended in mid-air when Joab found him and this leads to the second irony.
Absalom became a casualty of his own mantra. He lived like a rebel and it would be a rebellious act (from Joab) which claimed his life. In short, Absalom lived by the sword and died by the sword. David was devastated. Even with being such a rebel, to David, he was still his son. The incredible grace and love that David offered to Absalom is a testament to the radical love of our Father. He grieves and mourns over His children.