Category Archives: Suffering

2 Samuel 18:18-19:8

A King’s Lament

Discussion Question

What makes good news good? Can you remember some news you received that brought you joy? Why did it do that?

Background (Context)

David, the king of Israel, had a rebel son named Absalom. This son was aiming to kill David in order to take and keep his throne. David’s will was for his son to be treated gently on the battlefield. Against David’s wishes, Joab and his men killed Absalom and so rid the king of the one who was raising his hand against the king. There was nobody left to grieve for Absalom. But David had been blessed by many people who were faithful to him and were willing to die for him.

Read 2 Samuel 18:19-19:8

Link to the passage at BibleGateway…

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Who will take the good news to David? (19-23)
  • Hoping for good news (24-27)
  • The good news is delivered (28-32)
  • Grief over the news (33-19:8)

Who will take the good news to David? (19-23)

“Now Ahimaaz son of Zadok…” Remember Zadok was one of the priests who attend to the ark and Ahimaaz is his son who sent the message of Absalom’s plans to David. He risked his life to get that news to David.

“Let me run and take the news to the king that the LORD has vindicated him by delivering him from the hand of his enemies.” Ahimaaz was eager to be the one to bring the news to the king. It was good news. The threat to the kingdom is over and the LORD has brought deliverance from the enemy. The language created by Ahimaaz is like the Psalms of David when he has been rescued from his enemies (See Psalm 18!). We shall have singing and praise in the land because the LORD is good.

“…you must not [take the news] today, because the king’s son is dead.” The news is good but this is about the King’s son. The good news that Ahimaaz is excited to give includes the tragic news that David’s son is dead. Joab was a smart man and he knew that this would be awkward news to deliver to the king.

“Then Joab said to the Cushite, ‘Go, tell the king what you have seen’.” Joab sends a foreigner rather than the son of a priest. A prudent choice given Joab does not know how David will react. His instruction was to tell the king what he has seen. There is no spin or lies but go and let the king know what has happened.

“My son, why do you want to go? You don’t have any news that will bring you a reward.” Great question. Why does Ahimaaz need to go? He was part of the adventure when he set out in Chapter 17 to bring news to David. Now that the battle is over, he wants to close the deal with the message. He won’t take no for an answer. He is so excited by the outcome of David’s victory that he must go and tell David! He loves this good news.

“Ahimaaz … outran the Cushite.” He was finally let go by Joab and told to run! So he ran and he ran in a direction that saved him time and got him there first. Two people are racing to bring news of the victory to David. Both carry the same message. One is sent by order and the second is allowed to go because of his enthusiasm. We may believe that the Cushite is now wasting his energy. Or we wonder what plan does Ahimaaz have? Is he wise or foolish?

Hoping for good news (24-27)

“While David was sitting between the inner and outer gates…” We find David staying back in Mahanaam as his troops had advised him to do but not in the comfort of his house. He is anxious to know what is going to happen and also, perhaps, ready to protect the city if things go pear-shaped (2 Samuel 18:3). A watchman is in a position to give the king warning of any coming news or threat.

“If he is alone, he must have good news.” I am not sure where this wisdom comes from. This book called 2 Samuel opened with a single messenger coming to David with a mixed report. How one person running is any indication of good news, I’m not completely sure. It could be exciting news of victory or anxious news of warning. While this could be a true statement, I feel that David is full of wishful thinking. He wants to hear good news. But what he expects that good news to be is unclear. Either his troops are safe or Absalom is safe – David somehow hopes for both to be true.

“And the runner came closer and closer.” There’s a Monty Python scene where two knights at the entrance of a castle watch Sir Lancelot approach them running from a distance. Probably my favourite scene from “The Holy Grail”. Enough said.

“He must be bringing good news, too.” Where is David getting this logic? Surely he just wants things to turn out well and is hoping. Note well the phrase, ‘good news’, as we get closer to the meaning of this story.

The good news is delivered (28-32)

“All is well!…Praise be to the LORD your God! He has delivered up those who lifted their hands against my lord the king.” This is the same essence of the message that Ahimaaz said he would bring to the king. It really is good news. God has won the victory and the people of God who are for God have been delivered. This is a report of deliverance, redemption, salvation! All is well because God wins.

“The king asked, ‘Is the young man Absalom safe?’” We see that this is at the forefront of David’s mind and the news is incomplete until he hears what has become of his son. We remember that he had commanded the three leaders of all his troops to be gentle with Absalom. But Absalom had been decidedly killed and discarded by Joab.

“Ahimaaz answered, “I saw great confusion just as Joab was about to send the king’s servant and me, your servant, but I don’t know what it was.” Some have argued that Ahimaaz is not hiding the truth at this point but is speaking what he truly knew. I only mention that for the reader to ponder but I cannot make sense of Verse 20 if Ahimaaz doesn’t know the answer to David’s question. Absalom, the king’s son, is dead and Ahimaaz knows that. Why hide this truth? I suggest because Ahimaaz wants the good news to only contain good news for all. He is not willing to deliver the whole truth to the king. He knows that the Cushite is behind and will give the bad news. We are given this distinction of two messages: one that is half the story and the other which is complete. Both messengers are delivering the ‘good news’ but only one has the complete story. Ahimaaz wants to be a messenger with only good things to say.

“The king said, ‘Stand aside and wait here.’” We are reminded that the king is most concerned about the news of Absalom. The news that God has delivered his men and his kingdom has not sparked joy in David’s heart. He is anxious for his son. Ahimaaz has not received the thank you and joy that he had hoped for.

“The the Cushite arrived and said, ‘My lord the king, hear the good news!…’” The news that he gives the king is closer matched to Ahimaaz’ planned message of Verse 19. Again, the good news is that God has given victory and vindicated David – restored his kingdom. Those who rose up against David have been defeated – that is good news.

“Is the young man Absalom safe?” David wants to know how this news played out for Absalom.

“May the enemies of my lord the king and all who rise up to harm you be like that young man.” The Cushite’s answer is not direct but it is clear. Absalom has received what all the enemies of the king ought to get. Absalom was the head of all those who rose up against the king and God has delivered the king from his enemies. This means the enemy being removed – killed. The good news includes justice delivered. That is the whole news. The Cushite is the gospel messenger who gives the whole story of the good news. God has one and evil is destroyed. People who are against God and His people are judged and the sentence delivered.

Grief over the news (33-19:8)

“The king was shaken” His son is dead and his fears have been realised. This is David’s emotional response to the news and we must allow him his humanity which we just cannot predict of ourselves. Pragmatics and logic just don’t fix the way we respond to bad news. 

“He went up to the room over the gateway and wept.” The place where he wept will add to the problem of his response as we continue. All those arriving back from battle through that gate will hear the king weeping loudly over this news.

“O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom, my son, my son!” You can’t miss the grief in this sentence. And all the troops will get this message as they arrive home. His love for his son was real. He had failed to guide and protect his son – to discipline and mould this rebellious son – but he loved him. And in this very emotional Verse we also see the path forward for rebellious sinners in the bible: If only I had died instead of you. This is how God will ultimately deliver the kingdom from the enemy – he will die for the enemy! Mark 10:45; Romans 5:6-11. But that is for Jesus to accomplish. We may pick up that the king’s son had to die in order for victory to be won. While that is a true statement, it seems too thin to point to Jesus – the Son who died for us. Absalom was a rebel. David’s desire in grief to die in the sinner’s place is the strong link to the gospel.

“Joab was told, ‘The king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.’” The story of David and Joab has been a contrast between two hearts. David is described as gentle (NIV: weak) and Joab described as hard (NIV: strong). David’s desire to be gentle with Absalom may or may not be a righteous one. It is unclear. Is he thinking like a man of God or like the father of a wayward son? Is it a bit of both? But Joab decided to disobey the king and he killed Absalom. He performed justice on the rebel child. Only Jesus is able to react in perfection to all of this complexity. He is able to weep for the sinner and die for him. He is able to set the prisoner free and preach hell to those who will not come to the kingdom. But in 2 Samuel, we have the king and Joab. Both are right and both are imperfect.

“Then Joab went into the house to the king and said…” Verses 5-7 contain a very heated rebuke from Joab to the king. This is not a time for Joab to comfort the king for his loss because the king is not being a king to his people right now. Verse 6 is perhaps a step too far to say that David hates those who love him but this is Joab’s reaction. David’s men have risked their lives to save and David only cares about the man who was prepared to kill David and all his family. This seems unjust, unfair, unloving, uncaring, selfish and wrong – especially for the king.

It takes my mind to the Psalms of crying out to God – ‘How long O LORD?’ The Psalms that report that the wicked are getting everything and the righteous are getting beaten and mocked. Where is your justice God? Where is the side of the ‘good news’ that reports that evil has been punished?

“So the king got up and took his seat in the gateway…” Absalom had gone to the gate of the city to head of the people from the country and tell them that the king is too busy. Well, now the king is not too busy and he is ready to be seen by all of his people. He is ready to be their king.

“Meanwhile, the Israelites had fled to their homes.” These were the Israelites who had backed Absalom. The story sets us up for the new problem: what will happen to Israel, who had deserted David. And will David be king over all Israel again?

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The Good News of the deliverance of God includes the news that the enemy has been defeated. The good news is about justice and righteousness. The only way that the good news is good for the enemy is when their guilt is taken away. Ahimaaz only wanted to share the happy news of the good news. David focused on the grief of the good news. In the end, the Good News is that there is a King in heaven who has died instead of us, that all need to hear that he is waiting to call home all sinners, but those who will not repent and bow before him will be denied the Kingdom of Heaven. Our King is with us and ‘at the gate’ ready to welcome us and hear our prayer. The victory is won. Jesus is the King.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The 2 ways to live message that excludes justice. The gospel message goes further than saying that God is real and that Jesus loves you. It says that if you do not respond then you remain condemned (John 3:18, 36). Our God is for us. But this is only news to rejoice in for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8 is an amazing chapter in the new testament – well worth reading regularly! But it is about the joy of our relationship in Christ – not just knowledge of God. For salvation to be true for us, we must have obedience to the great exchange at the cross. We must understand that the cross means punishment dealt out on the Son when it should have been me (or you).  Justice has been met in the Son of God. For all who do not believe and do not receive Jesus as their LORD, are not received as children of God but will remain outside of his protection. So, how can we include a dash of pepper to our talk of Jesus to those outside the kingdom?

Topic B: Good grief. David’s sorrow is plain to see in 18:33 to 19:4. Too many of his children (one is enough) have died. David knew sorrow. And he was not a man too tough to express his feelings as many of them are written in the psalms. To make it harder, his grief was for his son who had rebelled and not died under the banner of love and faithfulness. How can we find joy in times like that?! It’s tragic that people are not flocking to the Kingdom of God before it is too late. Psalm 2:10-12 gives us our number one mission in life: serve the LORD with fear. The loss of our loved ones who have not understood the love of God ought to remind us to remain in his love and serve him with fear. We leave the departed in His hands – He is good and will do what is just.

2 Samuel 15:1-16:14 The King betrayed

Discussion Question

As we observe the powers of this world gain strength (politically, commercially, wealth etc), how does it affect your commitment to Jesus?

Background (Context)

David taught us much about the kingdom of God which looks for faith rather than beauty. It looks for faithfulness rather than force. Then David’s sin with Bathsheba happened in Chapter 11 and we’ve watched the wonder of David’s partnership with God digress to a limping image of inaction.

Chapter 15 is different. Absalom becomes a background character after his initial acts of political spin and we will watch David portray something of the kingdom of God again.

Mephibosheth appears again in the story along with Ziba, his carer. The former was a grandson of Saul who was lame in both feet but was blessed by David, eating at his table.

We have learned back in Chapter 3 that Hebron was an important spiritual place for Israel. Another piece of background info is the description of Absalom in Chapter 14 as a beautiful man without blemish, with amazing hair and that the people loved him. He had ordered the death of his older brother, Amnon. Now, it seems, Absalom is the next in line to be king. At the end of Chapter 14, we read of Absalom and David being reconciled.

Read 2 Samuel 15-16:14

Read 2 Samuel 15 online here

Read 2 Samuel 16:1-14 online here

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Absalom’s political campaign (1-12)
  • The King walks the streets of Jerusalem (13-37)
  • The King’s hope (16:1-14)

Absalom’s political campaign (1-12)

“If only I were appointed judge in the land!” Absalom is a politician. A man who orchestrates devotion from the people. His play is to win the backing of Israel so that they will love him more than David. He builds his own entourage. He greets people at the gate and spins the truth to sound like the king has no time for his people. Except that we only read a chapter ago that David listened to a woman from a southern town in great detail. Lastly, Absalom recalls back to the days of the judges when there was action to resolve issues – neglecting the fact that the people of Israel wanted to end the days of the judges and move forward to having a king like the other nations. Absalom was playing a political game to weaken his father’s kingdom and make people feel like they needed him.

“…so he stole the hearts of the people of Israel.” Not only did he undermine his father’s kingdom and offer much to the people of Israel (more than he could really deliver) – but he showed much charisma. None of this ‘bow down and worship’ nonsense! No need to show honour and submission before this ‘man of the people’. Forget what you have known about the old days and welcome in a new age of Absalom!

“…Absalom said to the king, “Let me go to Hebron and fulfill a vow I made to the LORD.” His third move is to hint to the king that he is a reformed man of God. The story he gives the king about an oath does not seem credible. Nothing so far hints that this is a real story and the chapter will unfold to show that this is a big scheme to evoke spontaneous allegiance to Absalom as king. But we can imagine that the king’s heart is softened by this gesture of authentic worship. He gives the appearance of godliness.

“The king said to him, ‘Go in peace.’” That will be the last thing that David says to his son. Absalom wishes no peace on his father’s house. Absalom will force David to escape the palace and become a fugitive again like the days of King Saul.

“…as soon as you hear the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’” This town, as we saw back in Chapter 2, was a spiritually significant one to Israel. Abraham had lived there and received promises from God there. David was sent there to be anointed king over Judah. It is the perfect location from Absalom to orchestrate a coup. Make no mistake. Everything is being choreographed by Absalom. The people are being manipulated to forget that they anointed David as their king and that David had won many battles for the people. The people of God will be mislead by the clever actions of Absalom.

“While Absalom was offering sacrifices…the conspiracy gained strength…” How can one give honour to God and at the same time spin lies throughout the land. Absalom cannot be trusted. “With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings…Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.” James 3:9-10. Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of religion that offers something to God but comes out of a man with hatred in his heart (Matthew 15:1-19 esp, Verse 8-9).

The King walks the streets of Jerusalem (13-37)

“We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin us and put the city to the sword.” David’s escape was not about saving his own skin but for the protection of the city and his people.

“The king set out, with his entire household following him…” Watch and listen for the imagery of this story now. David has been betrayed and is leaving the city and his faithful ones of his household will all follow him. The story has created an enemy of the kingdom – someone who everyone is easily trusting – but a small few who are named as the household of David. They will walk with him out of the city. Let’s keep listening for more clues about who this will remind us of (hint: it’s Jesus).

“…he left ten concubines to take care of the palace.” The fact that he had concubines is not good but it is not new information to us (see Chapter 5). Leaving them behind will end badly for them in Chapter 16) But it seems that David had ideas that he would return to the city again and he left them there. How they took care of the palace is unclear – but the palace was not left totally empty.

“…they halted at the edge of the city. All his men marched past him, along with all the Kerethites and the Pelethites; and al the six hundred Gittites who had accompanied him from Gath marched before the king.” King David was God’s King. The Messiah. The ancestors of Abraham were being manipulated to follow a false and lying betrayer while the entourage of the Messiah consisted of people from surrounding nations as well as some of the King’s own. They are the true Israel.

“Ittai [the Gittite] replied to the king, ‘As surely as the LORD lives, and as my lord the king lives, wherever my lord the king may be, whether it means life or death, there will your servant be.’” This is the true statement of a believer. We do not follow who looks to be winning but we follow the true king.

Verse 23: “The whole countryside wept aloud as all the people passed by. The king also crossed the Kidron Valley, and all the people moved on toward the wilderness.” Before you read my words, go and re-read Verse 23 and see what you can see…. The king, the Messiah, the chosen one of God has been betrayed by a smooth talking conspirator and he is walking away from Jerusalem, the city of God. This is a sad, sad day. The Kidron Valley lies between Jerusalem and the Mount of Olives. The reputation of this valley will increase in the Old Testament with the place that you throw unholy things (1 Ki 2:37; 2 Ki 23:12; 2 Ch 15:16; 29:16; 30:14; Jer 31:40). The only reference to it in the New Testament is in John 18:1. Jesus will one day walk the same road that David walked on this day. He too will be the rejected Messiah. Jesus will take on the place of the unholy and represent the sinners as he goes to the Mount of Olives. The final piece of sorrow is in the King leading the faithful back into the wilderness. They were leaving the promised land that God had blessed them with and headed back to the place of testing. No home. No Jerusalem. But they had the King.

“If I find favour in the LORD’s eyes, he will bring me back…” David is once again putting his faith in the LORD to deliver him, as we loved seeing him do in the past. He is no longer the inactive and passive, stand back and do nothing, kind of king. He is now the Messiah who lays down his life in the hope that God will raise him up again! Yes, I am reading the resurrection out of this. The point of the ark staying in Jerusalem instead of staying with the king is about David’s submission to God. David will be restored as King as God intends him when David is returned to Jerusalem – brought back to God’s presence. It is not God who is being expelled from the city, but David is willing to go and will wait for God’s reply. Meanwhile, he walks through the valley.

“But David continued up the Mount of Olives, weeping as he went; his head was covered and he was barefoot.” We see a king as vulnerable as a king can be. Weeping. Barefoot. Head lowered and hidden. At the point that Jesus went to the cross, we see his weakness too. Weeping and weak but allowing his betrayers to get what they want and putting his faith in God.

“…David prayed…” He prayed on the Mount of Olives. The prayer concern was not for the death of his son but for his council to be foolishness. He wanted the schemes of the evil one to be confused. The answer to the prayer occurred, in part, before he reached the end of his ‘prayer-walk’. He met Hushai who would become the confusing council in the house of Absalom. God’s prayers often do get answered quickly. And when they are answered, they are often as practical as that. Our partnership with God in prayer is exactly that: partnership. We pray for our concerns and that our concerns would match God’s concerns and that our actions will go hand in hand with God’s responses. We talk to God. We trust God. We walk with God. We do not simply take things into our own hands, nor do we pray and then leave it solely with Him. Our walk with God is a partnership, with him always in the lead.

“So Hushai, David’s confidant, arrived at Jerusalem as Absalom was entering the city.” The end of Chapter 15 highlights how narrowly David escaped the city before Absalom arrived. David had reached the summit of the Mount of Olives and, by the time Hushai descended back to Jerusalem, Absalom was arriving. David would be out of site of the city and on his way, but just in time. This is the reverse image of Jesus entering Jerusalem in Luke as he got to the summit and saw Jerusalem in his view – then he wept.

The King’s hope (16:1-14)

The king’s hope is that God will find favour in the LORD’s eyes and be brought back to see his dwelling place again (15:25). This hope is shown in the next two episodes with Ziba (1-4) and with Shimei (5-14).

“The king asked Ziba, ‘Why have you brought these?’” Ziba was the steward of Saul who was then given charge over Saul’s property on behalf of Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth (Shebby). What we read in Verses 1-4 is a contrived story that makes Ziba look amazing and Shebby look bad. It maps a bit with Absalom’s lies to get the country behind him instead of David. Both Ziba and David seem to believe that the kingdom still belongs to David. What Ziba wants is for the deeds to his master Saul’s property. The support for this is found later when we hear from Shebby that Ziba had tricked him (2 Samuel 19:24-30).

“As he cursed, Shimei said, ‘Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul…” Shimei does not stop cursing David. We must understand that he starts and then does not let up. His accusation against David is about bloodshed and so, this man has concluded that because of the many deaths David has made in battle (see the second half of 1 Samuel) that God has caught up on this. He is unlikely referring to Uriah since he mentions all the blood shed in Saul’s household. So, here is a man who has seen the king exiled and believes it is right in the eyes of the LORD. We may say that this man cannot fathom God’s will also including times of suffering and misfortune for His greater good. Shimei will ask for forgiveness in Chapter 19 when David is restored by God.

“Then Abishai…said to the king, ‘Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king?’” Abishai’s method of dealing with this (verbal and physical attacks) is to slay the man down. David took off the head of Goliath for mocking the people of God and therefore God. Why not the same approach with this ‘dead dog’ (that language ought to remind us of Goliath). But David’s response is to maintain that God will do what is right with David. Abishai will have some dejavu in Chapter 19.

“If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’” David does have reason to feel that God has taken the kingdom away from him and needs this time of exile. Not only did he have Uriah put to death (a deed that God has forgiven and dealt with) but he watched as his eldest sons commited adultery and then murder. How is even David to know if this man is not a prophet, speaking the very message of God? He then explains himself well in Verses 11-12. Note particulary David’s hope that God will restore his covenant blessing – a promise that David’s throne would go on forever.

“The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself.” The walk to the destination, the fords in the wilderness (15:28), was made more exhausting by fact that Shimei son of Gera was throwing stones and dirt out over the head of David and all around him. Those who followed David had to endure what David endured. If he is cursed, then they would be too. No student is better than their teacher or servant better than their master. When they finally arrived, David refreshed himself. He had arrived and was only to wait now. Will David’s hope to be restored by God come to fruition. The kingdom is in God’s hands.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The chosen one of Israel has been rejected by the descendants of Abraham who have been mislead by a want-to-be king. Although Absalom has the appearance of godliness, he wishes to fool everyone to submitting to him and giving him the kingdom that does not yet belong to him. David’s exile is one that foreshadows the exile of the Messiah to the cross. He walks the same path through the valley and the motive is both the same and also enlightening – the Messiah commits his hands into God’s will for the outcome. He goes out for the benefit of his followers. But his followers all share in the same suffering. David is back.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: Moving forward while leaving it to God. David prayed and then acted on solving his own prayer. David also hear the warnings about Absalom and retreated in wisdom, all the while trusting in God for the outcome. His walk with God is exactly that: a walk. He does not walk alone and he does not sit still in faith. He uses both his leg muscles and his faith muscles. I’ll pass on here four things I saw recently as healthy coping practices of the godly. 1) work together with God as partner. 2) Do what you can and put the rest in God’s hand. 3) Look to God for strength, support and guidance. 4) Ask others for prayer. These four interweave and overlap in practice but I see David demonstrating all of these as he walked through the valley, praying and making wise decisions as he went – all the while knowing that God has got this.

Topic B: Beware of those who appear to have God’s interests at heart. Absalom and Ziba both gave the appearance of generosity and kindness and a heart for God, while always they were just working out an inheritance for themselves that was not theirs to have (at least not yet). Read 2 Timothy 3:1-9. How do you compare this description with Absalom? How can we watch for people like this and how should we respond? 

Topic C: Praise God for Jesus’ darkest hour. We must not forget what this passage ultimately points us to: the suffering servant who did not treat his divinity as something to be godless with. He humbled himself to the place of a convicted human and suffered death on the cross for our sake. He gave over his future into the Father’s hands. The link between Jesus’ walk and David’s walk is made clear in John 18:1-14 and there is a similar echo in the words of Jesus who told Peter to put his sword away. He did not go to the cross to save himself but to save us. He is the King that we need and our walk with Him, through the toughest of times, is worth it knowing that He is the King that God pulled out of the grave (Romans 8:11; Galatians 1:1).

2 Samuel 13 – A King’s Legacy

Discussion Question

“Godly parents have often been afflicted with wicked children; grace does not run in the blood, but corruption does.” Matthew Henry wrote this with regard to 2 Samuel 13. Discuss what you think he means.

Background (Context)

Sons in the bible. When the curse of sin was pronounced in Genesis 3, there was also hope in Verse 15. A child of Eve will crush the serpent’s head. It is a brief line full of mystery that is only fully understood when we see that Jesus is that offspring. But for a long while, Adam and Eve and their descendants that followed might have wondered who will be the offspring of Eve to overcome the power of Satan? The first choice for this was Abel and Cain. But Genesis Chapter 4 describes one brother killing the other. The bible continues to tease its readers over the question of ‘what will this son be like?’ In 1 Samuel, we meet the child of Hannah who proves to be a great prophet and judge in Israel named – Samuel. We then meet his sons and find that they were wicked sons. God had spoken to David in 2 Samuel 7 about promising for his throne to never be without a son of his on it. Our chapter this week speaks into this theme of sons and what they will do as part of God’s unfolding story of salvation.

Sons of David. 1 Chronicles 3 lists the sons that were born to David in Hebron before relocating his throne room to Jerusalem and then the sons and daughters born to him by Bathsheba in Jerusalem. In 2 Samuel 13 we are concerned with Amnon who is David’s firstborn son and so the likely heir to the throne. Also Absalom, Amnon’s half brother and Absalom’s sister Tamar.

2 Samuel 11 and 12 dealt with the details and aftermath of David’s sin with Bathsheba, Uriah’s wife. It all began with David wandering around his palace and turning a brief glance into a moment of desire. That desire became fully grown into sin. 2 Samuel 13 will tell the story of his first son Amnon and the similarity of the story is scary.

Read 2 Samuel 13

Read 2 Samuel 13 online here

What did you see? (Observation)


  • Part 1: the sin (1-22)
    • Amnon’s “love” (1-14)
    • Amnon’s hatred (15-22)
  • Part 2: the vengeance (23-39)
    • Absalom’s vengeance (23-29)
    • The King’s response (30-39)

Part 1: the sin (1-22)

Amnon’s “love” (1-14)

“In the course of time, Amnon…fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.” The story begins and introduces the problem straight away. Tamar is a half-sister of Amon. By the time the law of God is given to Moses, this is not acceptable (Leviticus 20:17; see also Ezekiel 22:11). But Amnon believes he is in love with Tamar when really he only desires her. Much like David had desired Bathsheba from his view of her bathing on the rooftop.

“Amnon became so obsessed with his sister Tamar that he made himself ill.” It’s difficult to imagine any obsession that is healthy and this one is far from it! This is a shut-down of any sober thought. He has fooled himself to thinking that Tamar is all that he needs and that life is not complete without her. Love-sickness is not so uncommon. It happens often amongst the young but not isolated to them. Grown-ups can get obsessed over people and things too. The need to have becomes greater than anything else. But to be sober-minded about all things is wise.

“She was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her.” This guy just sounds sex-crazed. I don’t even mean that to be humorous. His desire to have her is sexual. All he can see are the obstacles preventing him from doing ‘anything to her.’ As the story unfolds and we learn of his later hatred toward her, he is not obsessing over her personality but over her body. He sees her as an object. What a terrible thing to do – see others as merely objects. The New Testament gives us this advice: “Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.” (1 Timothy 5:1-2) He ought to have been slapped across the face and told to treat her as his sister with absolute purity. But his advisor gives terrible advice.

“…Jonadab son of Shimeah, David’s brother.” This relationship is described again in Verse 32. David’s brother’s son makes him Amnon’s cousin.

“…a very shrewd man…” This is a description of one’s intelligence and quick response to things. It is neither positive nor negative. It does not mean wise, but clever. Perhaps a description of someone who knows how to get what they want out of a situation. Jonadab seems to be a sort of snake in the garden character in this story – he only needs to nudge Amnon and Absalom for them to fall.

“Amnon said to [David], ‘I would like my sister Tamar…’” There is not much to explain from Verses 4 to 7 but to highlight David’s passive role in this event. Should he have known about Amnon’s obsession? He doesn’t hesitate in ordering Tamar to go to Amnon. Does he not perceive what is happening? Or does he just hope that things won’t go bad. The King’s intervention would have been helpful at this point of the story and may have saved his son’s life!

“…made the bread in his sight and baked it…” She is cooking just as she was asked to do. We cannot read between the lines. The passage does not imply any evil on her part.

“…he refused to eat.” Amnon gives Tamar the first clue that there is something wrong. Up until now she has been making him bread. Now she is to become aware of his intentions.

“Come to bed with me, my sister.” He calls her his sister and the reply from her is to call him her brother. They are not using their names but the relationship that makes this wrong even more wrong.

“No, my brother! Don’t force me! Such a thing should not be done in Israel!” This is not seduction, or two attracted people going where they both know they should not go. Leviticus 20:17.

“What about me…what about you…?” She is trying to be rational about all of this. After this fleeting act, there will be repercussions.

“Please speak to the king…” Tamar pleads with Amnon to include the king in this process. Rather than act as he wishes, he ought to ask for help. God’s law certainly forbade this marriage. Perhaps Tamar is clutching at straws now as she pleads with Amnon to rethink what he is doing. She is not dumbstruck with love/desire but is desperate for escape.

“…he refused to listen…he was stronger…he raped her.” Let nobody suggest that the bible encourages, excuses or implies a man forcing himself on a woman to be anywhere near acceptable (also a woman on a man). It is not. 1 Corinthians 7:3-5 talks of sex inside of marriage as the right place to experience this. To read 1 Corinthians 7 as forced sex is to be unkind to the message of the text. Sex inside of marriage is to be consenting – always. See also 1 Peter 3:7.

I think it ironic that this episode describes Amnon’s love for Tamar. Love is love, right? Well, no. This episode is about Amnon’s sin with Tamar. His lust. The cravings of his flesh which made himself ill and destroyed Tamar (and himself). What was called love is quickly exchanged for hatred.

Amnon’s hatred (15-22)

“Then Amnon hated her with intense hatred.” As passionately as he had ‘loved’ her, he now hates her. She was an object of lust initially and now she is an object of rejection. Even less of a person to him as she was before.

“Sending me away would be a greater wrong…” It was wrong enough what he did to her but now, by discarding her, he is leaving her with no future life (as it would play out in the Israel culture). This evil, she may learn to live with, but the penalty of being rejected by all because of something that she did not cause – that is perhaps greater. It is odd for us to consider living with a perpetrator as perhaps better. There is no silver lining here in this story. Sin is ugly. There are no dreams of a fairytale ending.

“But he refused to listen to her…” There is a mirror shape to this story. Verse 14 is at the center and what we read as we progress in the story is a reversal of what has previously happened. He refused to listen to her when she said, “No!” and now he refuses to listen to her again as she tries to reason with him. He will expel her out of his bedroom as aggressively as he lured her in.

“She was wearing an ornate robe…” The text tells us that this was a visual clue that she was a virgin daughter of the king. The language matches the coat that Joseph wore in Genesis 37:23.

“Her brother Absalom said to her, ‘Has that Amnon, your brother, been with you?’” It sounds like Absalom already despised Amnon. He didn’t need to ask any questions before deducing that this was Amnon’s doing. He had ‘been with’ her and Absalom knew it. Absalom was so aware of Amnon’s obsession, why wasn’t David clued into this?

“Be quiet for now, my sister; he is your brother. Don’t take this thing to heart.” It would be quite out of character, given how this chapter continues, that Absalom is saying: don’t sweat it, he’s your bro, let it go. That is not what this means. Rather, it will be difficult to move forward with this accusation because he is her brother, the son of the king and now Absalom is instructing her not to put this matter onto her own heart since he will deal with this. In the first instance, he takes her in to his household. The rest of the chapter unfolds what Absalom intends to do to take vengeance.

“When King David heard all this, he was furious.” One would hope that his fury would give way to action – to bring justice to this event. It does not. David does nothing. Absalom remains silent and never interacts with his brother. But there is anger.

Part 2: the vengeance (23-39)

Absalom’s vengeance (23-29)

“Two years later…” This tells us something very important about what happened immediately after this terrible evil…nothing. David, though furious, did nothing. Absalom remained furious but was biding his time. The time lapse of two years makes the point of inaction toward evil by the right people an important theme in this account. If only David had been more involved from the beginning!

“Absalom’s sheepshearers were at Baal Hazor…” What we get here is an occasion for a party. A shearers celebration was about to happen NNE of Jerusalem and Absalom will take this opportunity to invite all of the sons of David to the party. Is two years enough time to let troubled water run under the bridge? Perhaps that’s what Absalom wanted his brothers to think.

“All of us should not go; we would only be a burden to you.” David is being respectful and polite but there is still a reluctance in this story for David to be engaged in the action. David is also suspicious of Amnon’s invitation, surely there is no reason for David to think that Absalom has forgotten what happened. But if the king will not go, then perhaps his prince.

“Strike Amnon down…kill him…Then all the king’s sons got up, mounted their mules and fled.” Amnon was the clear target and he was taken out. It shocked the other brothers though and they fled. After a two year coldness, Absalom struck down the guilty man in vengeance for his sister. He had taken her matter to his own heart and dealt with it. When David was doing nothing, Absalom did something.

The King’s response (30-39)

“…the report came to David: “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons…” This messenger may have been speedy with his message but was terrible with the facts. This is called efficiency over effectiveness! While the sons of David were riding mules, this guy may have had a stallion! But then there’s the fact that David so quickly believes this false news! Surely it reveals how fearful David was of the pent up anger in Absalom.

“But Jonadab…said…” While David was reacting to the devastating news that all of his sons have been killed by another of his sons, Jonadab speaks some truth to the king. But, hang on, how does he know what has happened!? We were told earlier that he was a shrewd man but how does he know what happened at a distant location even before the king’s sons had made it back to the palace? Surely this says that Jonadab knew of these plans all along. The news was reported that Absalom struck down the king’s sons but Jonadab mentions they. Jonadab then reveals that this plan has been Absalom’s intentions for two years now. Jonadab knew this but did not reveal it to the king!

“Now the man standing watch looked up…” This is simply a description of the watchman on guard. He spots the people at a distance. This is good timing because Jonadab may have wanted a distraction from the fact that he knew so much about all of this.

“…the king’s sons came in, wailing loudly, The king, too, and all his attendants wept very bitterly.” Clearly a devastating outcome for the family. What they failed to act on two years earlier has boiled up and been taken care of for them. Now the family is divided, the sons of David against David’s son, Absalom.

“Absalom fled and went to …the king of Geshur.” This was his kinsmen. Absalom’s mother was from there.

“But David mourned many days for his son.” David grieved over the loss of Amnon. Did he grieve for Absalom also? It is unclear.

“…David longed to go to Absalom, for he was consoled concerning Amnon’s death.” John Woodhouse has reason to question the translations of this verse and it is worth mentioning, however, all of the main translations do not support his observation. He states that David mourned for Amnon for the rest of his life (day after day), and this held the king back from marching out against Absalom, but he mourned over Amnon, because he was dead. His point is that David did not pursue Absalom because he continued to grieve.

What did we learn? (Meaning)

The King remained mostly inactive against the sins that were occurring under his roof by his children. This is not a satisfactory account of David. His sons demonstrate, not being better than David but being worse in terms of their sin. And the penalty for sin is overlooked until vengeance is taken by the third child. What we do not see in this story is a righteous king who takes all sin seriously and acts justly against the wicked.

Now what? (Application)

Topic A: The sorrow of expecting others to do any better with sin. It is a scary thing to say ‘like father like son’ when we recognise the sins of the father at first. David had fallen when he failed to be vigilent against sin in his own encounter with Uriah’s wife. It is foolish for us to think that the next generation will do any better than the last. The bible teaches us over and over that each generation fails to live righteous lives. In the passage today, we can learn about sabotaging sin when we stop obsessions from growing. We could learn about engaging in the life of others more so that we can steer one another correctly. And we can also learn that sin perpetuates. Our hope is not to fix the problem of sin ourselves but to give thanks and praise that God has fixed it and promised to cast all suggestion of sin out of the new heaven.

Topic B: God’s vengeance is promised. A well known sentence from the Old Testament is “vengeance is mine, says the LORD” (Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19; Hebrews 10:30). King David demonstrates what it is like for a king to not act on behalf of the victims of evil. But we worship the God who promises to repay evil. This is how we differ from Amnon. He felt it necessary to repay his step-brother but God instructs us to trust Him with regards to judgement. Romans 12:19 instructs us that because it is God’s to avenge, we ought to leave pay-backs to Him. Hebrews 10:30-39 take the promise of God’s vengeance to give us perseverance in the present. Be assured that ‘it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.’  But it will not simply be the evil people by our standard who will face judgment. It will be all those who do not listen and respond to the gospel of the Lord Jesus. “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord…’ (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Our God will avenge. We can be assured of that.

Topic C: The Son and the brother who did better than the history of all sons. All of the offspring of Eve failed to crush Satan’s head. The sons of David were frequently disappointing. Even the good kings that followed him failed to turn the hearts of Israel completely toward God. There is only One Son who we can all look to and admire, praise and worship because he is perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Jesus said, don’t simply avoid adultery, but destroy the idea of lust. He said go further than not murdering, and learn to love your enemies. Jesus satisfied all of these ‘impossible’ commands and then laid down his life so that we could be called his brother and be called sons of God (John 1:12).