2 Samuel 18-19; Psalms 9, 96, 97

David’s sin with Bathsheba was no minor offense. The Lord reprimanded David telling him that because of his sin with Uriah’s wife, the sword would never depart from his house (2 Sam 12:10). David had to endure some of the most difficult days of his life when Absalom sought to kill him. Though David was eventually restored to the throne, his over-sensitivity at the loss of his son cracked an already fragile alliance between the north and the south. David was the only thread holding the two houses of Israel together and when neither was satisfied with his reaction to Absalom’s defeat, they quickly remembered old wounds. David’s lust for the woman bathing on the roof ultimately fractured the unity of God’s people.

In 2 Samuel 18, the author moved from the general to the specific, recording first David’s military success then the fate of Absalom. Knowing that Absalom had amassed troops from all Israel and that Absalom himself was planning to lead them against him (2 Sam 17:11-14), David “reviewed his troops and appointed commanders of hundreds and of thousands over them” (2 Sam 18:1). David intended to march out with the forces but when the military leaders exhorted David to stay in Jerusalem, the king heeded their advice. When David dispatched the troops, he made a final strategic command to his military leadership—a word which was heard by all the people: “Treat the young man Absalom gently for my sake” (2 Sam 18:5). As usual, David’s forces were triumphant over their foes.

During the battle, “the forest claimed more people than the sword” (2 Sam 18:8). The forest trapped Absalom by his hair. Joab was informed that Absalom was hanging from an oak tree. Despite the king’s order to protect Absalom, Joab killed him (2 Sam 18:14-15). When David was informed of Absalom’s death, “the king was deeply moved and went up to the gate chamber and wept…he cried, ‘My son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you, Absalom, my son, my son!’” (2 Sam 18:33).

David’s mourning was so severe that it nearly cost him the kingdom. David still had an opportunity to unify Israel and Judah and reestablish his rule over all the land. But David’s weeping over the loss of Absalom compromised his leadership. Weakened, David had to threaten the people of Judah to restore him to the throne (2 Sam 19:11-15). This provoked the people of Israel, because they had earlier sought to restore David but thought that the king had fled (2 Sam 19:8-10). David’s excessive mourning and delayed affirmation of the troops expanded the fissure between the north and the south, a division so severe that civil war would result (described in 2 Samuel 20). In the latter half of 2 Samuel 19, the author shined a spotlight on several individuals in the crowd who went to greet David as he prepared to cross the Jordan and reclaim the throne (2 Sam 19:16-39).

In Psalm 97, the author described the Lord’s reign over all the earth, a reality David knew and trusted in during his days of difficulty with Absalom. Even though Absalom had won over the hearts of the people of Israel (2 Sam 15:6), David knew that since God had made a covenant with him, he would be preserved and prosper (2 Sam 7:9-11). King David trusted in the Lord as his King. According to the word of the Psalmist, “the heavens proclaim His righteousness; all the peoples see His glory. All who serve carved images, those who boast in idols, will be put to shame. All the gods must worship Him” (Ps 97:6-7). This image of the Lord as the King of all nations and their gods implies that Israel’s God is the ruler of angels as well. A key feature of Israel’s religion is that the Lord rules the spiritual realm. The author to the Hebrews cited Ps 97:7 in Heb 1:6 to help his audience understand Jesus’ superiority to angels. Angels mediated the old covenant (Acts 7:38; Gal 3:19), but Jesus is God’s Son.