Signpost for Sunday 9th August, 2015: 2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33; Psalm 130; Ephesians 4:25-5:2; John 6:35, 41-51.
“O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”
Is this the most heart-rending passage in the First Testament? In all literature? To think that the hopeless grief of an ancient king can come down through the centuries and across languages and still resonate passionately with 21st century people. And to think that the son in question was a far from dutiful child: he was actively making war against his father!
Does this passage give us the beginning of a faint imagining of the love of God for us?
Maybe it could all have been avoided any way, if King David had dealt better with his own children. Amnon, the eldest son, plotted and planned, even involving his father in the scheme, and raped his half sister Tamar, dealing with her afterwards most callously. David did not punish him because he loved him – possibly remembering his own lust for Bathsheba. Had he done so, perhaps Absalom, Tamar’s full brother, would not have carried hatred for Amnon in his heart for two years before having him killed (once again taking advantage of David in his murderous plan. David seems to be somewhat gullible where his sons are concerned). If you kill the King’s eldest son, the likely heir to the throne, there is nothing for it but to flee into exile, which Absalom did.
David grieved for the death of Amnon; he grieved for Absalom in exile; he grieved over Absalom’s death; earlier he grieved poignantly over the death of his and Bathsheba’s baby son. He doesn’t appear to have grieved for the ruination and desolation of his daughter Tamar.