Absalom, my son!: 2 Samuel 18.1–18 (21 September 2020)

Bible Society's Daily Reflections follow the M'Cheyne Bible reading plan, designed for those who want to read the whole Bible in one year. Each reflection focuses on one of its four daily chapters. Darllenwch rhain yn Gymraeg.



Lord, open my ears to hear what you have to say to me; open my heart to love your word, and open my mind to understand your truth.


Daily reflection: 2 Samuel 18

Absalom's rebellion comes to its dramatic conclusion. He is out-fought by David's army and defeated. Joab, David's commander, perhaps fearful that the king's affection for his son would compromise his effectiveness, persuades him not to take the field himself. Ignoring David's explicit command not to harm Absalom, he murders him. The slippery Ahimaaz, Zadok's son, wants the reward traditionally given to bringers of good news; he runs and tells David the battle is won, but leaves a Sudanese slave with the task – and perhaps the penalty – of telling him his son is dead.

Joab's calculation is that Absalom is better dead than alive. He has brought the kingdom to the verge of ruin and been responsible for countless deaths. Alive, he would continue to destabilise David's rule. However, David's grief for him is terrible (verse 33); he wishes he had died in Absalom's place.

This story is morally very difficult – and perhaps that's the point. It warns us not to seek easy answers to complex problems. Perhaps sometimes the head should overrule the heart. Perhaps sometimes rulers need to act harshly for the greater good, and Joab's decisive action was what the time required. Or – perhaps a rebel and a bad man could have been forgiven and restored. Perhaps justice can go with reconciliation. Perhaps love shouldn't be left out of political calculations. Either way, the Bible tells a gripping human story.



God, give me wisdom to navigate my way through the world. When I have to make difficult decisions, guide me in paths of righteousness; and keep me humble in the face of other people's choices.

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