Story of the Chosen People - Helene Guerber

Absalom in Disgrace

Bathsheba and David were slightly comforted for the loss of their first child by the birth of another son, whom they called Solomon, which means "peace." They gave him this name because the wars were just ended, and a peace had begun which David hoped would last a very long while.

He was mistaken, however. The peace did not last; for God wished to punish David for his sins, and especially for having caused the death of Uriah; so he stirred up great troubles for the king. Even Davidís many children now quarreled together, and one of them, Amnon, insulted Tamar, his half-sister.

This young prince was not bad by nature, but, unfortunately, he liked to associate with bad companions. They soon taught him to be as wicked and mean as themselves, and after he had wronged his stepsister, they encouraged him to turn her out of the house and into the street.

Tamar was weeping bitterly when her brother Absalom found her, and when he heard how shamefully she had been treated, he took her into his own house, and vowed that he would avenge her.

Although Absalom was now always seeking for a chance to punish Amnon, he had to wait a very long while before he could do so. At the end of two years, however, he made a great feast, to which he invited all the kingís sons.

Amnon came with the other guests, and sat with them at meat, little thinking that his end was so near. But in the middle of the feast, Absalomís servants suddenly fell upon him and killed him, before he could make an attempt to defend himself. The other princes, seeing Amnon fall, rushed out of the room, and, mounting their mules, rode quickly away, lest the same fate should overtake them.

Absalom had at last avenged his sister Tamar, but, fearing Davidís displeasure, he did not dare return to court; so he went to live elsewhere during the next three years. The king, who had always treated Absalom as a favorite, secretly longed to see him, but did not like to recall him, because he had done wrong and because there was danger that the people might injure him. Joab, the general of the army, felt sure that David was very anxious to forgive his son, yet hardly knew how to do so, and at last he sent an old woman to see the king and tell him this story:

"I am a poor woman, a widow, and I had two sons. They were a great comfort to me; but, unfortunately, while working out in the fields one day, they began to quarrel and soon came to blows. As no one was there to stop them, they fought until one was killed by accident.

"All my relatives are so angry at the only son I now have left, that they wish to kill him to avenge his brother; and thus they would leave me all alone in the world."

The king, touched by the poor womanís sorrow, bade her weep no more. He promised that her son should be allowed to come home, and that no one would dare to do him any harm.

Then the woman confessed to the king that the story she had told him was not true, and also that she had spoken by Joabís order. But she had made the king understand that, provided he were willing to forgive his son Absalom, no one would dare to oppose him.

David now saw that the wisest plan would be to send for Absalom, who, therefore, came back to Jerusalem to live. But although Absalom had thus been recalled by his father, David refused to see him, and the young man began to make many friends among the people who did not like the king.

One of these men, the kingís own counselor, secretly advised Absalom to try to become king in his fatherís stead, and encouraged the prince to form a plot which resulted in forcing David to flee from Jerusalem in great haste.

David fled from his capital, followed by a small band of devoted men, and the Levites came after him with the Ark of God. But David soon bade the priests carry it back into the city, saying that, if the Lord wished, he would yet be brought back to Jerusalem, where he would again see the Ark.

As David passed along, weeping, he was soon overtaken by another faithful servant, Hushai. In obedience to the kingís orders, this man went back to Jerusalem, and pretended to join Absalom, only in order to discover and defeat all the princeís plans. A little further on, the king was met by Shimei, a member of Saulís house, who stoned and insulted him. David bore this harsh treatment with humility, and would not allow his servant to punish Shimei. He sadly said that it was the just punishment of his many sins.

While David was thus fleeing, Absalom triumphantly entered Jerusalem, where he graciously accepted the services of Hushai, and settled himself comfortably in his fatherís palace.