God is Sovereign

A Character Study of Absalom
and Comment on the Upcoming Election

Absalom was David’s fifth son, the first being the child who died after his affair with Bathsheba, the second Solomon by Bathsheba, the third Amnon by Ahinoam, the fourth Chileab by Abigail, and fifth but not last, Absalom by Maacah. The first story of Absalom, who was an exceptionally handsome man (2Sam 14:25), involves his sister Tamar, who was also beautiful. Amnon, David’s first son beyond Bathsheba, raped Tamar (his half-sister). Absalom held his anger for two years but finally killed him because of his violation of Tamar. It might be argued that this also disposed of one heir to the throne—one who preceded Absalom. Though David’s heart mourned Amnon, he loved Absalom and would have forgiven the trespass (2Sam 13:9) yet the murdering son went into self-imposed exile where his heart became harder still. (There is some confusion as to whether Absalom may even have been “banished” {2Sam 14:13}). Joab, David’s nephew-general brought Absalom back from exile, though he was forced to live apart from King David and the court. Presumably, Absalom’s heart was further hardened toward David by this decree. His heart was hardened toward Joab, though bringing him back from exile was by Joab’s own design. Eventually, for Joab’s troubles and because he honored David’s ruling on Absalom, the difficult son burned Joab’s barley field.

Another Absalom story is either difficult to believe or David’s shekel weight was far less than typical. Absalom’s hair grew at a rapid rate and was markedly thick. At the end of each year, evidently because he just couldn’t keep his head up anymore, he had his hair cut off and it weighed over five pounds. (2Sam 14:26 says his hair weighed 200 shekels. A single shekel is 11.33981 grams…times 200 shekels equals 2,267.962 grams. A gram is .0353 ounces…times 2,267.962 grams equals 80.06 ounces or a little over five pounds of hair.) At first glance, this anecdote has no bearing on the Absalom tale. Yet it may go far in explaining what now seems like an ironic ending to Absalom’s life. It is obvious that Absalom was pleased with his appearance and importance. He was a handsome prince and he would charm or coerce his way in the kingdom. Indeed, once brought back into the king’s presence—again by Joab’s doing—Absalom fancied himself king. Every morning he would sit in the gate as an elder or ruler and judge disputes. The text insinuates that this was not by the decree of David but Absalom’s own presumption of his value to the people, since it was the king’s rulings that the people requested (2Sam 15:6).

This kingly pursuit was not enough for the prince. Next he appointed himself the king of Hebron (where Abraham bought a burial plot for Sarah for the price of two years of Absalom’s hair in silver), which put him in direct conflict with his father since Hebron was just to the south and west of Jerusalem. It was also at Hebron where David was anointed king and reigned for his first seven and a half years (2Sam 5:3-5). Absalom is clearly endeavoring to steal his father’s kingdom. It was working too since the people were turning their favor toward Absalom with such fervor that David was now forced to go into exile (2Sam 15:13-14). This cleared the way for Absalom to carry his “kingship” to Jerusalem, and he did, to the extent that he even took his father’s concubines as his own. There was no end to Absalom’s arrogance.

Next he hunted David (reminiscent of David’s early days with Saul, hiding in caves and pits {2Sam 17:9}) with the intent of quelling any question of who was king in Jerusalem. It was during this quest that Absalom was riding under a terebinth tree. One is left to assume the irony that it was his heavy, long, thick hair that was Absalom’s undoing by becoming tangled in the limbs, leaving him easy sport for jilted Joab. There, hanging in a tree, Absalom might have considered Deuteronomy 21:23. If he had, he would have thought of some way to blame his curse on the father who loved him. Absalom’s grand enterprise to overthrow a kingdom ended in shame—his own as well as David’s.

In light of the elections tomorrow, it is interesting to note that Christians ought to vote for the right candidate but all too often, we let our emotions get far out in front of us. We become Democrats and Republicans first and Christians second. To put it another way, we are US citizens first and children in the family of God second. Because I am a Christian and only secondly a citizen of the United States, I am trusting God with the election. He is sovereign. I don’t believe that means God controls who is going to win the elections tomorrow. But it does mean he will have his way, despite who gets into office.

Absalom may have been more popular with the people but God promised that throne to Absalom’s father. Good looks and smooth talking only go so far. But God is sovereign. He will have his way with the United States (even if that means God turns his back on us) no matter who goes to the oval office in January. So vote your conscience and trust in the Lord. And pray for God to heal our land (2Ch 7:14).

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