2 Samuel 14:1 – 15:6 Justice & Equity
2 Samuel 14:1 – 15:6
25 Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel. He was flawless from head to foot. 26 He cut his hair only once a year, and then only because it was so heavy. When he weighed it out, it came to five pounds! 27 He had three sons and one daughter. His daughter’s name was Tamar, and she was very beautiful.
28 Absalom lived in Jerusalem for two years, but he never got to see the king. 29 Then Absalom sent for Joab to ask him to intercede for him, but Joab refused to come. Absalom sent for him a second time, but again Joab refused to come. 30 So Absalom said to his servants, “Go and set fire to Joab’s barley field, the field next to mine.” So they set his field on fire, as Absalom had commanded. 31 Then Joab came to Absalom at his house and demanded, “Why did your servants set my field on fire?” 32 And Absalom replied, “Because I wanted you to ask the king why he brought me back from Geshur if he didn’t intend to see me. I might as well have stayed there. Let me see the king; if he finds me guilty of anything, then let him kill me.”
33 So Joab told the king what Absalom had said. Then at last David summoned Absalom, who came and bowed low before the king, and the king kissed him.
1 After this, Absalom bought a chariot and horses, and he hired fifty bodyguards to run ahead of him. 2 He got up early every morning and went out to the gate of the city. When people brought a case to the king for judgment, Absalom would ask where in Israel they were from, and they would tell him their tribe. 3 Then Absalom would say, “You’ve really got a strong case here! It’s too bad the king doesn’t have anyone to hear it. 4 I wish I were the judge. Then everyone could bring their cases to me for judgment, and I would give them justice!” 5 When people tried to bow before him, Absalom wouldn’t let them. Instead, he took them by the hand and kissed them. 6 Absalom did this with everyone who came to the king for judgment, and so he stole the hearts of all the people of Israel.
Absalom capitalizes on the deficiencies of his father’s administration of justice that have created much grievances among the people. David’s neglect in the important matters of justice has given Absalom a window of opportunity to steal the hearts of a considerable proportion of his subjects. In today’s passage, we see the importance of administrating justice and equity which are foundations of a secure society. We also see in Absalom despite his giftedness, David’s shortcomings in bringing up his son in the ways of God.
Now Absalom was praised as the most handsome man in all Israel – Absalom’s physical and cognitive assets are no doubt impressive. He is described as the most handsome of all Israel, witty, stealthy and savvy in dealing with people. In addition, he is credited with three sons and one daughter named Tamar who is exceptionally well endowed. It is not hard to notice that Absalom’s giftedness also hints at the dark side that goes with it. Absalom’s majestic mane depicts his princely glory, which ironically contributes to his death (see 2 Samuel 18:9).
Let me see the king; if he finds me guilty of anything, then let him kill me – After two years, Absalom is frustrated at his limbo existence having been repeatedly refused meeting with the king. Absalom reaches out to Joab only to find his once trusty ally now toeing the official policy of keeping him at bay. When conventional methods fail to obtain Joab’s attention, he sets his field on fire. Joab’s persistence to see the king finally pays off, when he appears willing to face his crime and accept his punishment. In the same vein, Absalom probably guessed right that David had undertaken not to apply the full the extent of the law.
Absalom did this with everyone who came to the king for judgment, and so he stole the hearts of all the people of Israel – Absalom’s restoration in the presence of the king allows him access to the courts and exposure to tribal elders. Absalom wastes no time and openly pursues his ambition of unseating his father from the throne. He prepares his ground of rebellion by capitalizing on the alleged defects of the David’s administration of justice. When distressed citizens come seeking justice from the king, Absalom would intercept them at the gate. And with professed solicitude insinuates that the king is too busy or to even provide lesser judges to hear them. He purported that if he is the chief judge, he would tend to everyone impartially and give them justice. Many aggrieved citizens would find Absalom’s accessibility and gesture welcoming, having dispensed with the formality of bowing to royalties; he further encouraged them by kissing them.
Leaders must do all to ensure harmony in the community by administrating justice and equity for all. David has been putting much of his efforts on destroying Israel’s enemies and conquering territories. But his neglect in matters of administrating justice and in addressing tribal rivalry back home is allowing cracks to form in the society. So much so, even David’s own tribesmen from Judah begin to divert their allegiance to his rebel son.
We see many families and organizations that may appear polished on the outside but are rived with strife and crumbling on the inside. Hence, leaders must understand the importance of justice and equity in relation to the wellbeing of their organization. Some are of the view that if the rich and powerful are well settled, the rest can go under the carpet. We often see the rich given preferential status, and where the abuse of power become rampant, underdogs will arise (rightly or wrongly) to do justice. On the other hand, we see continual growth and harmony in societies where the rights of the weak are protected and equal opportunities are given to all regardless of their background. Justice simply means upholding the law without prejudice and giving the helpless a voice. Equity translates to actively helping the poor transcend their circumstances by training them, and giving them opportunities, space and time to progress.
- When it comes to resolving conflicts, do you favor those who are closer to you?
- Do you judge and mete out punishment based on the law alone without prejudice?
- Do you take advantage of foreign workers by paying them less for the same job done by a local?
- Do you judge people by their potential and attitudes or by their immediate usefulness? Equity is about training and enabling the less capable to progress and prosper.
- Do you put your interests as more important than the interests of your subordinates?
- Do you treat those who are more gifted with preferential favor above those who a less endowed?
Parents must seek above all to build character in their children. However, in a highly competitive society, the burden leans towards building (academic) capabilities above character for fear that their children may fall behind. They think that academic excellence is the sure way to secure their children’s future. At the same time, they do not have a consistent strategy and process that builds character apart from an occasional correction. Consequently, children grow up thinking that capability and money is the key to abundant living. The result: an emergence of a highly competitive and self-centered generation whose focus is material pursuits for personal comfort without regard for those who are marginalized.
It is regrettable that parents must shoulder most of the blame, after all children have been brought up taking the center stage for most of their lives. Moreover, they have never seen their parents laboring for the welfare of people outside of themselves. Absalom is a case in point. Though well endowed in everyway, he grew up becoming his father’s nightmare.
How do parents build character in their children? As children learn by observation, parents inculcate character into their children by living the example. David’s moral failings as well as his inaction surrounding Amnon’s crime against Tamar contributed Absalom’s worldview. In highly affluent societies, parents see their primary responsibility as financial providers and spend much time working to upkeep their lavish lifestyle. Hence, they compensate their absence by dotting on their children toys and other material things. The result is a generation that is highly materialistic and self-centered and many will in time become their parent’s nightmare.
What values must children acquire and how do parents set the right example?
- The fear of God and respect for the law. Parents must set the example by putting the worship of God as their highest priority and respect the laws of the country. They must always revere their own parents in all manner of speech, taking care of their physical and emotional needs.
- Empathy for those who are marginalized. Parents must build into their weekly schedule a time to serve those who are poor and marginalized.
- Perseverance and diligence. Children emulate the manner their parents take on challenges and respond to failures and disappointments.
- Humility. Always be ready to admit one’s mistakes and learn from anyone regardless of their age or degree of accomplishment.
Dear Lord, give me wisdom and clarity of mind to administer justice and equity among the people. Use me to lift up those who are diligent and excellent in spirit by giving them opportunities to progress and to prosper. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.