2 Samuel 18:6–15 (ESV)
6 So the army went out into the field against Israel, and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. 7 And the men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the loss there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. 8 The battle spread over the face of all the country, and the forest devoured more people that day than the sword.
9 And Absalom happened to meet the servants of David. Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and his head caught fast in the oak, and he was suspended between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on. 10 And a certain man saw it and told Joab, “Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.” 11 Joab said to the man who told him, “What, you saw him! Why then did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.” 12 But the man said to Joab, “Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not reach out my hand against the king’s son, for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, ‘For my sake protect the young man Absalom.’ 13 On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.” 14 Joab said, “I will not waste time like this with you.” And he took three javelins in his hand and thrust them into the heart of Absalom while he was still alive in the oak. 15 And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him.
As the battle between Absalom and his men against David’s men transpired, we read of an odd event. Absalom’s head became stuck in a tree. One of the men saw that Absalom was stuck and reported it to Joab, the commander of David’s army. What follows is a contrast in two men.
The man who discovered Absalom did not dare to raise his hand to harm him. King David had made it clear that he did not want Absalom harmed and this man was loyal to his king. Even with the temptation of great reward, he would not harm Absalom. On the other hand, Joab had no such interest in what David had commanded. He decided that everyone would be better off without Absalom around. Instead of listening to the instruction of David, he killed Absalom as he hung in the tree.
I have heard many praise Absalom for this event. They conclude that David was in the wrong and Joab was protecting him from his foolish decisions regarding Absalom. However, if our interpretation of yesterday’s passage was correct and David’s love for his son reflects God’s love for us, then we cannot now think that Joab knew better than David and was right in killing Absalom. I believe that what we see here is a contrast between a man who desires to honor his king and another who will not submit to his king because he thinks he knows better. In this contrast we see how mankind responds to the true King.
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