Week 22, May 30-June 3
2 Samuel 13-23
Amnon fakes an illness to draw his half-sister in. Amnon raped Tamar. Her full-brother, Absalom, takes her into his house to protect her. In telling her not to take it to heart, he seems to be saying that she should not seek her own vengeance. Absalom will dirty his own hands by murdering Amnon. Absalom gets Amnon drunk and isolated, and Absalom orders his servants to kill Amnon.
This is an instance where we need to be careful about interpreting another’s actions, and how evil begets evil. Clearly, Amnon was a wicked man who sinned grievously. Tamar is clearly innocent. This story harkens back to a couple of others. Judah, in Genesis 38, slept with his daughter-in-law, who was also named Tamar. He was the instigator there. And when Dinah was raped, her brothers avenged that sin.
The fact remains that we don’t know why David did not intervene and do something, at least reactively. Theories about, but they are still theories. David had his own sexual sin in his past, which might both make him take it more seriously and still have him struggle with addressing it with Amnon. Either way, Absalom did not think David did enough and took matters in to his own hands. We’re not hold the exact reason why Absalom fled afterward, but he did. He hid from David for three years.
Joab acts in a similar way to the prophet Nathan and sends a woman to tell a tall-tale about a servant who harmed another. The point is that David should seek out Absalom and make peace. David does that, but he does not permit Absalom to live in the palace. After two more years, to get Joab’s attention after being ignored, Absalom sets Joab’s field on fire. Absalom wants to see his father but knows he can’t barge in to the throne room. Joab relents, asks for an audience with David, and David and Absalom make amends.
We start to see who Absalom really is. He’s a schemer. He starts building a coup against his father, trying to make himself king. His followers grow in number, even some high officials and priests. He wins the hearts of the people by making it appear his father is uncaring and does not offer judges for the people.
Once word gets back to David, he knows that he must act swiftly. It’s not that he’s doing it for his own glory, but he knows that there is a divine plan in place. Most of the time, when the king left the city, the ark went with him. But he hopes for a quick battle and sends the ark back to Jerusalem. God will decide between David and Absalom.
David does have his detractors. One of Saul’s living sons, Shimei, hates David, presumably for believing David took the throne without God’s blessing and plan. Even as Shimei is throwing rocks at David and his men while hurling curses and insults, David does not care for his own safety or reputation. If God sent Shimei, then let him curse. David’s own son hates him and wants him dead, so what is one more man?
Absalom’s main goal is to humiliate his father before killing him and becoming king. While David is out of the palace, Absalom sleeps with his father’s concubines in public, all at the behest of one of David’s most trusted advisors. But when it comes to doing battle with his father, Absalom gets some conflicting advice. We’re told in chapter 17 that God has brought this about to destroy Absalom.
Double cross! David is told through some messengers about Absalom’s new plan, at the advice of his treacherous advisor Hushai, to gather all of Israel against David and his mighty men.
The fight is about to begin. David organizes his army and orders them to take it easy on Absalom for his sake. While Absalom is riding toward the battle through the forest, he basically gets clotheslined by a tree. He’s hanging there in the tree, suspended in some manner by his head or his neck. He’s helpless. One good soldier sees him and refuses to kill him because of David’s order. But once Joab finds out about Absalom’s helpless condition, he finds ten men who will help him kill Absalom. They then hide Absalom’s body in the forest.
When David receives the news of Absalom’s death, he is broken. Joab feels somewhat betrayed by David, because he saved David’s life from Absalom. He tells David that if everyone else was dead except Absalom, David would be happy. He needs to go out and address the people to calm their concerns.
But the struggle never ends for David. People always need something from him, or they think David has wronged them in some way. He tries to appease several people, but still a man named Sheba tries to undermine David’s divine right to kingship. He may have had may faults, but Joab is as loyal as they come. He regularly stands up for David and is willing to get his hands dirty to protect him. A wise woman stops Joab and confronts him about his behavior. Once he explains that he’s looking for Sheba, she promises that she’ll throw his head over the wall to Joab. Leave to a wise, old woman to take care of business and put an end to things.
In a blast to the past, the Gibeonites reappear. They were the people who tricked the Israelites as they entered the promised land. The Israelites made a covenant with the Gibeonites that they would not destroy them if they Gibeonites served the Israelites. That arrangement had worked well, but Saul wanted to destroy the Gibeonites and remove them from Israel. David receives a word from God that the current famine was because of Saul’s breaking of that promise.
David approaches the Gibeonites to ask how he can make things right. They don’t want money, but they will take seven of Saul’s sons to hang them in public. David obliged, and seven of Saul’s sons died, except Mephibosheth, whom David had promised to protect. This is another instance of description, not prescription. There was no command from God to kill seven of Saul’s sons. What are we to make of the relent of the famine because of David’s actions?
The slaughtering of some of the Gibeonites is not mentioned in Scripture. It could be that the killing of Saul’s sons was permitted because of Saul doing something similar to innocent children in 1 Samuel 22, where he killed men, women, children, and infants. Even if it is hated on today, corporate responsibility is reality. And in all likelihood, Saul’s sons were active soldiers in Saul’s army. Their innocence is questionable to begin with.
Another war breaks out between Israel and Philistia. David is again fighting the giants of Gath. Gath was also the hometown of Goliath, and we’re told that many giants lived there. Not only were they giants, but they had 12 fingers and 12 toes. But even for all their supernumerary digits, they were no match for David and his mighty men.
2 Samuel 22 is a beautiful song of David’s love for God. He recounts much of his own history and the goodness of God to David. David is not an innocent man, but he has been pardoned of his sin by a good and gracious God. While David has not yet died, we are given his parting words in chapter 23.
The only sign that Jesus will give the people that he is the Son of God is his own resurrection. It is proper to call what Jesus did for Lazarus more of a resuscitation, because Lazarus would of course die again. It will be this moment that finally sets the religious leaders against Jesus (John 11:53).
Why did Jesus wait to go to Bethany to save Lazarus? Because seeing Jesus do this great miracle would certainly have a lasting impact on the faith of the disciples. Jesus arrives four days after Lazarus’s death. In speaking to his sisters, Martha makes clear that the resurrection was a key component of the Jewish faith. It was not something that the church invented.
Most importantly, when Martha confirms her belief in the resurrection, Jesus says that he himself is the resurrection. Jesus does not just offer eternal life; he is the essence of life. There is no life without Jesus Christ as your redeemer.
Mary, along with some others, bemoan that Jesus waited so long. Jesus made the blind see; couldn’t he have prevented this man’s death? Of course he could have. No matter what you do, there will always be those who don’t think it’s enough. No matter how many people Jesus healed, because he didn’t heal this particular person, he couldn’t possibly be doing the right thing. There is a way of approaching Jesus that only wants things from him, that only wants Jesus to make things better. But Jesus comes to offer himself (“I am the resurrection and the life”), not just your earthly desires.
Soon after, Jesus is preparing for the Passover and having a meal with Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. Mary, the same one who rebuked Jesus for not arriving earlier, now anoints Jesus’s feet with expensive oil. She used about a half liter, which is a big amount for just about anything. But she does not withhold anything she finds precious. Besides, while John records Mary anointing Jesus’s feet, Matthew and Mark record her anointing his head. So if she did both, and the various gospels simply summarize the event, then the amount no longer seems so strange. Judas, of course, thinks this is a waste. John clearly calls him a thief (12:6). He stole directly from the money bag the disciples shared.
A little halfway through John’s gospel, he records the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem, which is significantly earlier than the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). Each gospel shows Jesus as the victorious king, returning peacefully to his city. John even records the fulfillment of Zechariah 9:9, as the other gospels do. While there are considerable differences in the chronologies of the gospels, there share the same events is fantastic agreement.
As Jesus goes up into Jerusalem, Greeks, or Gentiles, are there, as well. This looks forward to Jesus being the savior of all men, both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus will not have the ministry directly to the Gentiles that the apostles will, but his death and resurrection will make it possible. These Gentiles approach the disciples because they want to see Jesus.
Jesus is fully God and fully man. He does not have a special third nature, and he does not behave as God or man at different times. He is always the portrayal of two natures existing side-by-side. So when Jesus says that his soul is troubled, we see his humanity simultaneously existing beside his divinity when he says that he will draw all people to himself.
Chapters 13-17 are a single unit where Jesus directly addresses the disciples intimately, culminating in the high priestly prayer of John 17. He begins by doing the lowliest act of all, that of washing another’s feet. He never receives that kindness in return. He says he did this to serve as an example (13:15). Christianity is a race to the bottom.
Immediately after the most humiliating act of service done before his crucifixion, he announces that he knows that one of his closest disciples will betray him. The disciple “whom Jesus loved” is nearly unanimously understood to be John. Peter, James, and John are known to be the “inner circle” of the disciples, or those who received the deepest instruction. The disciple whom Jesus loved cannot identify Peter since this disciple and Peter are together often. No one has really ever tried to Identify this disciple with James.
In keeping with the humiliation of the washing of feet, Jesus also tells his disciples that they love love each other as he has loved them. Others come before themselves. We serve God by serving others. In contrast to that command, Jesus also identifies Peter as one who would deny ever knowing him before the morning comes. Even the most devout of followers can have great falls. But great falls, great weaknesses, make room for the power of the great God to shine through.
Psalm 106: It is God’s provision that draws us to worship him.
Psalm 107: Wherever we find ourselves, the love of God finds us there.
Psalm 108: God will lead us to salvation.
Psalm 109: God will avenge his people from wicked men.
Psalm 110: The Messiah sits at the Father’s right hand.
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