David’s tragic troubles begin — 2 Samuel 13-15

Yesterday’s reading included this significant predictive punishment for David, “‘Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife’” (2 Samuel 12:10, NAS95). Starting in 2 Samuel 13, the dominoes start to fall…

But before we actually get started on application and meditation texts, I thought that a few textual notes might be useful to you as you read today’s reading.

  • Tamar’s plea to Amnon (13:13) to ask David for her hand was, in fact, not legal. Tamar probably knew this, but this proposition was probably her only play for an escape.
  • Why did Absalom go to Geshur? Absalom was a double prince — David had married the daughter of the king of Geshur, Talmai; therefore, when Absalom had to run, he ran to his grandfather’s house in Geshur, modern day Golan Heights.
  • If the text confuses you about David’s feelings toward the exiled Absalom, that’s OK, because David appears to have had confused feelings toward Absalom. Although David longed to go out to Absalom, he had to be convinced to let him return from Geshur, and  David didn’t allow him into his presence for about 2 years after Absalom returned. Once David sees him again, however, David kisses him. We shouldn’t find this too surprising, we often feel this way about loved ones, especially loved ones who’ve done something really bad. David’s problem was and our problem can be letting our emotions direct what we should be doing.
    • The parable Joab gave to the widow of Tekoa is a fairly complex one but here is a little simplification:
      • Israel is like the widow herself
      • Absalom is like the widow’s son
      • And David is the family who wants to punish the son
    • Essentially, the point that Joab hoped to make with David is that Israel will fall with Absalom as heir to the throne. The reasoning is a little flawed, but it was enough to convince David to call Absalom back from exile.
  • 15:7 says in the New American Standard Bible translation that at the end of 40 years tried to pull off a coup d’état. A number of ancient versions say 4 years, and it fits the story’s sense better. The NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV, BBE, and Keil and Delitzsch  among others translate “4”.
  • Interesting side note: during the days of David’s reign there was no Temple or temple mount, and the place of the Tabernacle and worship was what is now called the Mount of Olives (15:32).

Missed opportunities — David missed a opportunity to avert a major tragedy in his life and in the history of Israel by neglecting justice in his family. Now, of course, it could be strongly argued that this was a punishment from God in fulfillment of 2 Samuel 12:10. But it’s also obvious that David sort of invited this trouble on himself. If David had punished Amnon properly, Absalom would probably not have murdered Amnon, probably not had the need flee to Geshur, and attempted a coup d’état out of what appears to have been fueled by anger over the whole event. The message for us? Parents or anyone in authority, you cannot just wish bad situations away. Sticking your head in the sand hoping that it will all blow over is not a good leadership tactic. It will lead to feelings frustration, sometimes outrage, and almost certainly rebellion.

But you know, there are more what-ifs to consider here. What would have happened if Absalom had stayed in Geshur? Did Joab’s kindly intended attempt at reconciliation only make things worse? What had happened with Amnon and Tamar was utterly wrong, but Absalom’s solution was flatly wrong; and Joab’s well-meant but ultimately enabling efforts to reconcile David and Absalom where there was no repentance was a mistake. Take warning, then, when you try to make peace that you don’t make matters worse by giving any party a “pass” on making things really right.

Or better yet, what would have happened if David had not committed adultery with Bathsheba? Would Amnon have had a better example set for him? Was it neglect of moral teaching, discipline, or good example that made Amnon think that such an heinous act could ever be OK? David was certainly not responsible for Amnon’s sin in the technical sense, but Jesus teaches us, “A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.” Luke 6:40, NAS95. Parent, teacher, preacher, elder, beware.

See you tomorrow, Lord willing.

About parklinscomb

I'm a minister for the Rock Hill church of Christ in Frisco TX (rhcoc.org) where I've worked since 2020. I'm a big fan of my family, archaeology, the Bible, and the Lord's church.
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