Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

The Death of Absalom

As Absalom lingered in Jerusalem to enjoy the pleasures of royalty, David had time to assemble an army on the other side of the Jordan, and to place it under the command of Joab and two other generals.

The king then called all three of these men into his presence, and, after giving them his general orders, he added: "Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom." Thus, you see, he still loved his rebellious son dearly, and was very anxious that Absalom should meet with no harm

The armies started out, and met Absalom in a great forest, where his host was defeated. The prince, seeing that the battle was lost, then fled in haste through the forest, until the mule which he rode carried him under the spreading branches of an oak tree.

Absalomís long, fluttering hair caught in the branches of this tree, and he hung there while his mule dashed on. The pursuers, headed by Joab, soon found Absalom, and, forgetful of the kingís charge, they killed him.

The news of the victory soon came to David, but all his joy was changed to grief when he heard that Absalom, his favorite son, was dead. The aged king "went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he wept, thus he said: 'O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!'"

The poor father continued mourning thus, until his captain Joab bade him rouse himself, and make an effort to win back his kingdom, unless he wished to lose the peopleís affection forever.

David, understanding the importance of this advice, then set aside his private sorrows, made a treaty with the rebels, and went back to Jerusalem in triumph. There Shimei was one of the first to come and ask his pardon for the stones and insults which he had hurled against him when he left Jerusalem in sorrow.

The joy of the kingís return to his capital was soon marred by a quarrel between the tribes of Benjamin and Judah, and by the jealousy of Joab and Amasa. This Amasa had just been appointed captain of the army, so he started out to fight the Benjamites.

Joab, who was unwilling to give up the command of the troops, now secretly followed Amasa, and, after killing him, headed the army as usual, and pursued the Benjamites to a city far to the north. There, seeing that they would not otherwise be able to escape from Joabís wrath, the people killed the rebel leader, and flung his head over the wall and into the camp.

As we have seen, David had already been punished for his sins by a three years' famine, and an exile from Jerusalem which lasted three months. He had sorely repented, but he soon fell into another sin as bad as the rest; for in spite of Godís command, he counted the Israelites so that he might glory in their numbers.

The punishment came almost as soon as the census was ended; for a prophet of the Lord came to David, bidding him choose among three evils the one he would rather endure, seven years of famine, three months of flight, or three days of pestilence. Having tested the first two punishments, and knowing full well what sufferings they had brought upon him and his people, David chose the last, as the least evil of the three. So the angel of destruction passed over the city, and in three days no less than seventy thousand people died of the plague.

By the advice of a prophet, David then built an altar upon the spot where the angel had stood, and there he offered up sacrifices, day and night, until the plague had ceased. It was upon this spot that the temple was built during the next reign, and from this time on David amassed a large treasure for that purpose.

Everybody knew that David wished Solomon to succeed him, but not all the people were satisfied with this choice. A. conspiracy was therefore formed to set another son on the throne in Solomonís stead as soon as David died.

The news of this plot came to the ears of the prophet Nathan, and of Bathsheba, who therefore coaxed David to have Solomon anointed as his successor during his lifetime. This ceremony took place in public, and in it the priest used the sacred oil which was kept in the tabernacle for this purpose only.

Having reigned forty years, secured a fine capital, amassed wealth enough for the future temple, anointed his successor, and given him good advice, David now died "full of days, riches, and honor; and Solomon, his son, reigned in his stead."