May 15



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II Samuel 16-20

We are in the Nation Stream today and will discover what happens to the battle between King David and Prince Absalom. We are reading from the Common English Bible this week.

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Commentary by Dr. Drake Travis

Lord, you preserved David through these difficult years, and we are comforted by your preservation of the King.  We also gain reassurance knowing that you do the same for us.  Amen.

We are in the heart of David’s troublesome years. I think the Absalom factor cut David the deepest. Absalom was not in line for the throne, though there may have been generational priority over Solomon. I mean, really, Solomon was the son of Bathsheba – a wife obtained through illicit processes but… Be that as it may, David’s affections for his womEn [plural] had created a sequence of events that birthed chaos and pained David the rest of his days.  So here we are in the thick of the skirmish caused by his “pretty-boy” son who felt he deserved even more than was due him.  A strong motif today is seen in how David treats each and every-one.

16 – The revelation of loyalties v.s. disaffections, the treachery and the intrigue of today’s reading unfolds as a very high stakes, life and death chess game. We never can tell what each person’s next move is going to be.  David is still enroute fleeing Jerusalem -namely Absalom; his rebel son, when he encounters Mephibosheth’s aid; Ziba. M- was Saul’s grandson whom David was endeared to and took him in. David still honors them despite the national tension. Then Shimei appears. He was a relative of Saul’s.  Shimei is a agitated soul and curses David. This was extremely foolish since David is guarded by warriors who could kill Shimei at any moment. Oddly enough David halts any possible retaliation and lets Shimei yap away. This seems to reveal that DAvid is still feeling guilty –> Seriously, the king being treated this way (and musing about it being God’s doing) just isn’t right. But all things considered, David is being overly gracious these days. Remember, David’s attitude toward Absalom is basically, “oh well, let him be King now…” (huh!?)
Next Ahithophel reveals how far gone he is by advising Absalom to violate his father’s concubines on rooftop in view of all the people.  Absalom obliges. It’s like Jerusalem has gone crazy.
17 – Ahithophel then advises that 12K soldiers go hunt down David to scatter the soldiers and isolate David for the kill. Absalom [who’s gone amok] loves the plan. Hushai intercepts (at God’s prompting) and advises to pull in all Israel “against” David so that David and Co. can annihiliate Absalom’s support. Hushai then goes completely stealth to spirit away and warn David of what’s coming. Ahithophel learns his advice wasn’t followed, so he goes home and hangs himself.  Gee, where did anyone think this turncoat rebel would end up?
Meanwhile refreshment and comfort is provided to David’s men so they are ready for battle.
18 – David snaps back into warrior-mode. He organized matters brilliantly under his command (On their departure he gives comment about Absalom – that puzzles his men more than anything) –> and off they ride into the battle! David’s victory is swift and decisive as 20,000 of Absalom’s loyalists (Israelites) are killed. Absalom, fleeing on a mule (not exactly a valiant picture!) gets himself killed/hung by his neck in a tree.  Joab learns of Absalom hanging in a tree unable to get free and he thrusts him through with three javelins (today’s translation of “sticks” is a trifle weak). This rebellion ends. The victory is grand though grievous for David as his son was killed. He leaves his men in a bit of a lurch as he mourns Absalom’s death in a rather protracted (and pathetic) manner. The victory, for him was an internal conflict that he couldn’t resolve.
19 – General Joab’s heated monologue of exhortation snaps David out of his mourning.  It seems Joab is perhaps more into David and the Kingdom than David is. A rally cry arises and David is called to return and resume as King of Israel. During the return Shimei comes forward for his sappy apology while falling prostrate before David.  David’s graciousness was more than Shimei deserved for cursing the King [back in ch. 16.]  During the journey back to Jerusalem we see David handling many interactions that show his regal character in forgiving Shimei, Interacting tenderly and wisely with Mephibosheth and Ziba, being grateful to Barzillai and Chimham (“KIM-ham”). We see a tussle/argument break out between Israel -the conglomerate of the 10 tribes of the north and Judah -the chief tribe of the south.  It’s a virtual harbinger of what is going to happen two generations later when, upon Solomon’s death, the north splits away.
20 – Well, we’re all heading back to Jerusalem and the rebellion is over, riiiight?  No, Sheba, a Benjamite rallied Israel against David and they followed Sheba against David! David acted quickly, put Amasa on task to assemble Judah to stop this rebellion.  Amasa took too long in the process and who [sensing divided loyalty!], who steps forward to ante-up and kill Amasa and roust the army? Joab!  He was quite-the-Patton we could say [during WWII] or Sherman [during the Civil War]. He was doggedly Patriotic and loyal to David; almost more “Davidic” that King David was! He pursued Sheba, like a cheetah after a gazelle, to where he was ditching out in Abel [“Ah-BELL”]. And Joab did not stop until Sheba’s head was thrown over the wall and landed amid Joab’s army.  The intervention of a wise woman in Abel was what ended sparing bloodshed on both sides and the city of Abel Beth Maacah [“m’-AH-cuh”] being razed-to-rubble.  Wow, what a read!

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