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Absalom slyly turns the hearts of the people from King David!
Through a series of events masterminded by Joab, and recorded in chapter 14, Absalom was permitted to return to Jerusalem. However, another two years elapsed before he was permitted to see his father. An interesting feature of Absalom was the fact that he was a physically perfect specimen of a man. In 14:252 we read that "in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him." Once a year, when he cut his hair, it was found to weigh two hundred shekels by the king's weight. We know that the spearhead of Goliath weighed six hundred shekels which has been determined to be fifteen pounds. The king's shekel may have been slightly different, but Absalom cut off approximately five pounds of hair every year. Absalom also had three sons and a beautiful daughter, Tamar, who also added to his standing as she seems to be 'the Princess Diana' of that day. Absalom may be likened to a 'New Saul - but with Style'- and David now became more like 'the Prince Charles' of his day, thanks to Absalom's very careful and deliberate scheme which he began to put into action.
After two years of house arrest, Absalom had had enough. He was angry and frustrated being under 'house arrest' and tried to pull rank, as the kings son, by summoning Joab, but was ignored. After a second attempt to gain an audience with Joab in his home, Absalom took more extreme measures and sent his servants out to set Joab's field (which adjoined his own field) ablaze. This certainly got Joab's attention! He was soon there to confront Absalom, but instead it was Absalom who confronted him. Why was he confined to quarters? If this is all there is for Absalom, he will be better off in Geshur, for there he is a free man. Absalom demanded to see the king's face. I believe this simple device to gain Joab's attention already shows how Absalom has developed as a man in his exile, and the words he speaks are most troubling: "And if there is iniquity in me, let him put me to death" (v324). How can Absalom speak this way? Does he really believe he is without guilt? Does he not think himself worthy of the death penalty? It would seem so and, if this is true, he once again reveals that he has no regard for God's law. He wanted the death penalty for Amnon, though the law did not require it, but he thinks the death penalty harsh and inappropriate for him, though he is a murderer under the law. This is a man who manifests absolutely no repentance.
Absalom was eventually allowed into his father's presence and we read (v332): "he came to the king, and bowed himself on his face to the ground before the king. and the king kissed Absalom." Unfortunately, no sooner was he back in royal favour, than he began to have ambitions toward the throne. Under the line of normal dynastic succession Amnon, the firstborn, was dead and we know nothing of Chiliab, who possibly did not survive to adulthood. Absalom, the third born, was therefore next in line. David was now past middle age and Absalom had doubtless convinced himself that he could do a better job of ruling the nation. He certainly coveted the power associated with the position and with selfish motivation and superhuman effort outside the Will of God, he began plotting to take the throne by force from his father, King David. Absalom was a thoroughly ungodly man. Had he succeeded in establishing himself as king, it would have been a disaster for Israel. He viewed the throne as a base of power and for personal glory. He was devoid of any degree of loyalty to David, either as his father or as his king. He planned his coup carefully and only the hand of God kept him from succeeding in it.
In those days there were obviously no billboards, radios, or television for aspiring politicians - which the activities of Absalom show him to be! Two activities for making personal aspirations known were popular: First, the person could hire professional runners to run ahead of his chariot. As they ran, they would loudly proclaim his name and his exploits. Hearing them, people would look from their windows and would soon associate his name with his face. This recognition was very helpful when it came time to muster popular support. To that end, Absalom hired fifty runners (2 Samuel 15:1) which also ensured that no avenger of Amnon would be able assassinate Absalom with so many 'bodyguards' around! They would also call out such phrases as "Absalom is great, here comes Prince Absalom." All heads would turn toward the handsome man with the full head of hair, riding behind the charioteer. There was probably no more dashing figure in all of Israel. As a charismatic, popular leader of men, he was unsurpassed.
Second, this would-be leader made himself known by always being in the city gate. The gate was the centre of political and social activity in the city. We know that Lot "sat in the gate of Sodom" in a place of political leadership (Genesis 19:1). It was at the gate of Bethlehem that Boaz negotiated the transaction in which he gained Ruth for his wife (Ruth 4:1). Likewise, it was at the gate that Absalom encountered all of those people who went in and out seeking justice from the king. Verse 22 says, "Absalom rose up early, and stood beside the way of the gate". Not only did Absalom promote himself during these encounters, he also poisoned their minds against King David and his advisers. He pretended to show personal interest in each person, inquiring as to where he was from and listening to his complaint. Then, he would totally agree with that person's view of his problem or claim (v3-42): And Absalom said unto him, See, thy matters are good and right, but there is no man deputed of the king to hear thee. And Absalom said moreover, Oh that I were made judge in the land, that every man who hath any suit or cause might come unto me, and I would do him justice! So, not only did Absalom come out looking good, he caused David to come out looking very bad. When Absalom tells the traveller that he is terribly sorry to inform him that the king has made no provisions for judging cases, he is telling a lie, for we just read about David hearing a "widow's" case and ruling in her favour (Chapter 14). Absalom laid it on 'thick' by telling the person that it is especially sad, because from what he has been told of the case, the judge would have ruled in their favour. They would have won their case, except for the fact that David had no one appointed to hear it. Since you just couldn't get justice with David on the throne, Absalom cunningly made it known that, if he were judging in Israel, he would see to it that such people were heard, and he would rule in their favour. One just couldn't get justice with David; but with Absalom it would be an entirely different matter. Not only is Absalom a liar in saying there is no one to hear their case, he is also a hypocrite. Just what kind of "justice" would he mete out? The kind of "justice" he delivered to Amnon? The kind of justice his own sister received? The kind of "justice" he himself got? Absalom is no friend of justice or of the oppressed. He just gets people to think he is their friend and, of course, it works! Absalom wins the hearts of the people and is now ready to make his move.
Absalom also played the 'common touch' card. When people recognized him as the prince, they would attempt to prostrate themselves before him according to the custom of the day. Absalom would stop each one, kissing him as one did an equal (v62): "And on this manner did Absalom to all Israel that came to the king for judgment". Absalom campaigned in this way for about four years. As he stood in the gate and filtered out those who were going to see the king, David eventually became insulated from the problems of the people, and verse 6 concludes: "so Absalom stole the hearts of the people."
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