ABSALOM’S REBELLION

[2 Samuel:15:1-17]; [2 Samuel:18:1-33]; [Psalms:3:1-8]

Lesson No.: 
241
Class: 
Junior
Memory Verse: 

“I laid me down and slept;  I awaked;  for the LORD sustained me” (Psalm 3:5).

Notes: 

A Handsome Prince
David ruled all the kingdom of Israel with great success for many years, but there were times of sadness during his reign. One great tragedy in his life happened when his own son, Absalom, revolted against him and tried to take the kingdom for himself.

The handsome crown prince had always been admired by the Israelites, so it was not hard for him to win their hearts. He would ride through the streets of Jerusalem with his followers in chariots drawn by fine horses, and many servants running ahead to clear the way and to announce his coming. No doubt great crowds would gather to watch him pass, and would wave their arms and shout to him: “Long live the prince!”

But this popularity was not enough for Absalom. He wanted to be king and to receive all the glory that went with such an office. He was the eldest of David’s living children, and next in line of succession to the throne, but he may have felt that God was going to appoint someone else to be the next king, or he may have been impatient while waiting for his father to die. So Absalom began to plan to take the throne from King David.

The Plot
In the early days it had been the custom for the judges and elders of Israel to sit in the gates of their cities and towns to hear all the troubles and problems of their people. In this way they could get acquainted with their subjects, and settle the differences so there would be harmony among them. It was this position that Absalom now took for himself. Whenever people would come to the city to see the king, Absalom would meet them at the gate and ask them to tell him their troubles. He would be very sympathetic, and agree that the complainer was in the right.

Absalom was a real politician and knew how to work on the emotions of the people. He made the Israelites feel that they were being neglected by the king, and he almost wept when he said: “Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man which hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice!” Those who would bow to him, he would even kiss. People love attention, and in this way Absalom won the hearts of the people away from his father to himself.

Revolt
Years went by until the day came that Absalom felt he was strong enough to overthrow his father’s government. One day he went to David and told him he must go to Hebron to pay a vow. His father did not suspect his treachery, and told him to go in peace.

When Absalom left Jerusalem he took with him 200 men, and also sent spies throughout all the land of Israel to tell them that the time had come for a revolution. When they would hear the sound of the trumpet they would know that Absalom was ruler in Israel. As an added precaution, Absalom had taken with him Ahithophel, King David’s chief adviser. Ahithophel had been a man of God, and the words he spoke were God-directed. In spite of Absalom’s sinful heart he still wanted God’s help in his rebellion.

Absalom’s plans all seemed to work out just right for him, and a great army gathered to him at Hebron, and prepared to fight against David in Jerusalem.

David’s Flight
David was heartbroken when he learned what his beloved son had done. One of his own family had deceived him and turned against him!

David knew he would not be safe in Jerusalem, so he gathered his many servants about him, and prepared to evacuate. And who do you suppose went with him? Not the Israelites for whom he had done so much, but the Pelethites and Cherethites, men of the Philistines, and the Gittites who had but recently come to Jerusalem. David told their leader, Ittai that he and his people should not risk their lives to help him but Ittai answered, “As the LORD liveth, and as my lord the king liveth surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.” His words remind us of what Ruth, the Mosbitess told her mother-in-law: “Whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodges”, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God” [Ruth:1:16]).

The Jews’ Rejection
God had called the nation of Israel to be His own peculiar people. But they refused to serve Him, and the Gentiles found that salvation was open also to them. Many of them appreciated it and came to the Lord. Ruth had been a Gentile; so were these Philistines who stood by David. They received the blessing of God for standing by His people.

When the Jews rejected Christ, He wept over Jerusalem. Why had they not accepted the message of salvation He came to bring? If they could only understand the judgment that awaited them, surely they would cry unto Him to be saved! But instead, they crucified Him.

It was at the foot of that same mountain, where David now walked that Jesus later poured out His soul in agony on that last night, for His faithless people. David and his followers walked barefooted, with heads bowed, weeping as they went. They had been rejected by their own people!

David’s Friend
As the exiles continued their journey into the wilderness they found along the way, here and there, a few who had not followed Absalom. Among them was Hushai, who was also a friend and adviser to David. David sent Hushai to the court of Absalom to act as a spy, and also to give false advice to Absalom. The news was to be brought to David by way of the priests who had remained in Jerusalem.

The Levites had wanted to follow David out of the city, and take along the Ark of God. But David had told them to return to the Tabernacle and remain there, for surely God would keep His Ark safe. And if this uprising was not David’s fault, God would bring him back in safety, too. But if David had sinned, and this trouble had come as punishment, he did not want the Ark of God to suffer with him.

David’s Trust
Through all these trying times, David kept his faith in God. It was at this time that he wrote Psalm 3. He was not afraid of the thousands who were going to battle against him; and in the midst of all the turmoil, treachery, and intrigue, he could say, “I laid me down and slept, I awaked for the LORD sustained me” [Psalms:3:5]).

Absalom in Jerusalem
As soon as Absalom heard that David had left the city, he and his armies moved into Jerusalem. There he made ready to follow his father into battle. Ahithophel advised that David and his men would be tired from the move, and now would be the time to strike and defeat them quickly.

Absalom also asked advice of Hushai. Here was Hushai’s opportunity to help his friend David. He reasoned that David and his men would be greatly aroused because of the mischief done them, and they would be fierce as a mother bear whose babies have been taken from her. And Absalom must surely know that his father was still a mighty warrior, and would not easily be defeated. Hushai advised Absalom to wait until David’s feelings had cooled, and in the meantime assemble a vast army from all the tribes of Israel to make the battle sure of victory. God had sent this advice to defeat Absalom’s armies, but Absalom took it, and did not immediately start out to fight David.

Ahithophel was so angry that his advice had been turned down, that he went home and set his house in order, and then committed suicide. He had been a man who had once listened to the wisdom of God, but after he turned his back upon the righteous cause and sold himself to sin, he became hopeless and went to a suicide’s grave. What a warning we should see in that: never to turn from God and backslide. We might never have another opportunity to repent. What a tragedy it would be to have once known the love of God, and then to be forever lost!

The Clash
David was still a skilful warrior, and he soon had his army organised into three companies, and they were ready for Absalom when he came. The field of battle was rugged country with dense forests. In the first day of battle 20,000 men perished, “and the wood devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.”

In the midst of battle Absalom became separated from his army, and as he rode along on his mule his head caught fast in the branches of a tree. The mule went on without him.

There was poor Absalom hanging in a tree, and one of the soldiers from David’s army saw him. He carried the news to his commander, Joab, and Joab asked why he had not killed Absalom. The soldier said that he had heard David plead with his men to be kind to Absalom, so he would not think of hurting him.

Joab, however, was not so thoughtful. He considered Absalom a revolter against the true government; and whether or not he was the king’s son, he should be destroyed. He took three darts and thrust them through the heart of Absalom, and he and his men cut him down and buried him in a pit. They piled a great heap of stones over the body.

Thus ended the revolution against David’s government, and the armies went home.

David’s Grief
News of the victory was carried to David by two runners. The first thing David asked was about the safety of Absalom. One of the runners answered: “The enemies of my lord the king, and all that rise against thee to do thee hurt, be as that young man is.” David understood that his son was dead, and he went to his room alone to mourn over him: “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

The people of Israel who had followed David felt very sad. They thought they were serving David faithfully by defending him against the traitor, and now it seemed they had done the wrong thing. Joab boldly went to David and warned him to show appreciation to the Israelites who had defended him, or they would all turn against him. David realised his responsibility to his people, and he put aside his personal feelings and went to sit in the gate of the city to comfort the people.

Absalom had been the son of the king, with every advantage in life. He had been rich and good-looking. He had known about God, and had had the favour of the people. But rather than use these gracious favours to help others, he selfishly thought only of himself. He dishonoured his father, disregarded God, and as a result went to the grave in shame, to be forever lost. “The wages of sin is death” [Romans:6:23]).

Questions: 

1. Who was Absalom?
2. Describe his looks and actions which caused people to love him.
3. What did Absalom desire?
4. How did he work out his scheme?
5. What did David do when he heard of the trouble?
6. How was Absalom captured and slain?
7. What are the wages of sin?