2 Samuel 18:1-15 Men’s wit and power can never overwrite God’s will
2 Samuel 18:1-15 Men’s wit and power can never overwrite God’s will
David now mustered the men who were with him and appointed generals and captains to lead them. 2 He sent the troops out in three groups, placing one group under Joab, one under Joab’s brother Abishai son of Zeruiah, and one under Ittai, the man from Gath. The king told his troops, “I am going out with you.”
3 But his men objected strongly. “You must not go,” they urged. “If we have to turn and run—and even if half of us die—it will make no difference to Absalom’s troops; they will be looking only for you. You are worth 10,000 of us, and it is better that you stay here in the town and send help if we need it.”
4 “If you think that’s the best plan, I’ll do it,” the king answered. So he stood alongside the gate of the town as all the troops marched out in groups of hundreds and of thousands. 5 And the king gave this command to Joab, Abishai, and Ittai: “For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.” And all the troops heard the king give this order to his commanders. 6 So the battle began in the forest of Ephraim, 7 and the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. There was a great slaughter that day, and 20,000 men laid down their lives. 8 The battle raged all across the countryside, and more men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword.
9 During the battle, Absalom happened to come upon some of David’s men. He tried to escape on his mule, but as he rode beneath the thick branches of a great tree, his hair got caught in the tree. His mule kept going and left him dangling in the air. 10 One of David’s men saw what had happened and told Joab, “I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree.” 11 “What?” Joab demanded. “You saw him there and didn’t kill him? I would have rewarded you with ten pieces of silver and a hero’s belt!”
12 “I would not kill the king’s son for even a thousand pieces of silver,” the man replied to Joab. “We all heard the king say to you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake, please spare young Absalom. ’ 13 And if I had betrayed the king by killing his son—and the king would certainly find out who did it—you yourself would be the first to abandon me.” 14 “Enough of this nonsense,” Joab said. Then he took three daggers and plunged them into Absalom’s heart as he dangled, still alive, in the great tree. 15 Ten of Joab’s young armor bearers then surrounded Absalom and killed him.
David’s men kept David out of the battle lest their leader and course be extinguished in one fell swoop. However, such consideration was never taken on the rebel side. Absalom went into battle and perished alongside with his course. David’s parting command to his troops to deal gently with Absalom does not do justice to the course his troops are taking. Hence, Joab takes it upon himself to do the right thing by killing the rebel prince. Today’s passage teaches us to discipline our children even-handedly lest they reap greater consequences on a later day. The passage also teaches us not to live by our own wit and power in disregard for God’s will, for that will only lead to destruction. For all the wit of Ahithophel, the charisma of Absalom and sheer numbers of the pan-Israelite army cannot overwrite God’s will concerning David’s rule over Israel.
I am going out with you – David, after mustering his troops into three groups with Joab in overall command makes a decision to go out to war with them. However, he later relents and heed the advice of keeping out of the battle. It is unwise to risk having David extinguished together with their cause in one fell swoop. The men’s advice for David to remain at the base makes good sense. Ahithophel’s strategy is also to keep Absalom out of the battle preferring to take on David by himself. However, Absalom’s ego would not keep him away from the action and that results in his untimely demise.
For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom – David stays in town awaiting the battle to start and for the return of the rebel prince. The king’s parting order concern Absalom, who is a rebel. But to David, his fatherly heart sees him as a youthful rebel: For my sake, deal gently with young Absalom.
More men died because of the forest than were killed by the sword – By divine providence, the Israelite troops were beaten back by David’s men. The text makes an observation that the great slaughter of 20,000 men is mainly attributed to the forest as opposed to direct combat. It is hard to imagine that the men perished because of the treachery of the terrain. It is more likely that nature is enlisted on the side of David by God. In the light of Joshua 10:11, “There were more who died from the hailstones than those whom the sons of Israel killed with the sword”, we see the battle at the forest of Ephraim as a supernatural intervention of God.
I saw Absalom dangling from a great tree – The way Absalom is caught by the locks of his hair in the tree branches when he tries to escape relates to the contribution of the forest on the side of David. One of David’s men goes to inform Joab what he saw but was rebuked for not killing Absalom. The informant refused for fear that he would not receive his backing when the matter was reported to David. The mention of the reward hints at the offer to go back and strike Absalom. Defying the king’s order, Joab goes off to finish the job by himself. He plunges three daggers into Absalom’s heart followed by his men whose task is to finish what their master has started. Joab schemed to have Absalom reinstated in the courts but he did not expect that Absalom would turn rebel prince. Absalom’s rebellion would make him worse than a traitor. To Joab, it does not do justice to incur the lives of so many men at last to spare and save one (albeit he is a prince) deserving of death.
If you spare a man from the discipline of the law, he will one day reap greater consequences.
Hence, a leader must be impartial in implementing the law regardless of who he is dealing with. Most people can act objectively and lawfully without prejudice if it does not involve their own flesh and blood. But when it comes to their own children, they could not apply the same yardstick even-handedly. Consequently, they spoil the child who will one day reap greater consequences. David could not deal justly with both his sons: Absalom and Amnon. Hence, both faced untimely deaths. The law is given both as a deterrent as well as a means of discipline. Discipline is an act of love turning a child back from error. Proverbs 13:24 says, “Those who spare the rod of discipline hate their children. Those who love their children care enough to discipline them.”
The power and the wit of men can never overwrite the will of God.
Many self-absorbed people think they could go against the will of God in the course of history. They supposed by their wit and power they could force things their way. Hence, they live life with utter disregard for the sovereign plans of God. Ahithophel and Absalom, a perfect combination of wit and charisma attempt to change the course of history by usurping David’s throne. Just when Absalom think by shear numbers he could overrun David’s men in the forest of Ephraim, the trees and nature came alive and slaughtered Absalom’s men by the thousands. While men have swords and spears, God has the whole of creation at His disposal. James says,
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. James 4:13-16
Therefore, we must never in our arrogance think we could achieve anything without regard to God’s opinion and permission. Instead, we must first understand what the will of God is before we put our plans to work. In the same vein, evil men cannot stop God’s will and blessings from coming into your life. Neither can they stop you from accomplishing God’s calling for you.
- Do you seek the will of God the first thing in the morning? Perhaps it is time you stop thinking that the day will work out nicely without seeking divine favor and mandate. Seeking God the first thing in the morning gives God the prerogative to direct us when He deems fit.
- Do you have a favorite child that you often dote on and who receives less discipline as compared to your other children? Do you also notice that this child is also more cocky and rebellious in nature? Perhaps, you should learn to deal with each child even-handedly and loving them all the same. By sparing a child his due discipline, you are setting him up for greater judgment at a later date.
Dear Lord, I seek to fulfill your will one day at a time. Speak to me clearly so that I would know what I should do for the day. Help me deal with each of my children, student and worker in an even-handed way. Give me wisdom to reward and to mete out discipline in a just and righteous manner. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.