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The Pulpit Commentaries The Pulpit Commentaries
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
commentaries/ eng/ tpc/ 2-samuel-13.html. 1897.
Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 13". The Pulpit Commentary. https://studylight.org/
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2 Samuel 13:1
After this. This phrase, as we have seen on 2 Samuel 10:1, has little chronological force, but the date of the sad event which formed the second stage in David's punishment can be settled with considerable certainty. Tamar was the daughter of Maacah, a princess of Geshur, and David's marriage with her, while still at Hebron, is mentioned as a proof of his growing power, and consequently some time must have elapsed after his appointment as king before this alliance took place. As Absalom was apparently older than Tamar, if she were now fifteen or sixteen years of age. David would have been king of all Israel at least thirteen or fourteen years, and would have reached the summit of his glory. His wars would be over, Rabbah captured, and his empire firmly established. For twenty more years he must sit upon his throne, but as a culprit, and bear the many sorrows resulting from his sin. Amnon was David's firstborn, the son of Ahinoam of Jezreel; and probably he would never have committed his shameless crime had not David's own sin loosed the bonds of parental authority. As it was, he hesitated, but was encouraged to it by his cousin, who was too subtle a man not to weigh David's character well before coming to the conclusion that Amnon might safely gratify his lusts. The name Tamar means "palm tree," and both she and Absalom were remarkable for their personal beauty.
2 Samuel 13:2
Amnon was so vexed, that he fell sick. The Hebrew literally is, and it was narrow to Amnon, even to becoming sick. To an Oriental a feeling of narrowness means distress, while in joy there is a sense of largeness and expansion. Our words for distress have lost this picturesque force. That Amnon thought it hard does not mean that he had any feeling for his sister's disgrace, but that he knew that his attempt was difficult. He did not see how he could get Tamar into his power, and feared the consequences. The wives had each her own dwelling, and the daughters were kept in strict seclusion.
2 Samuel 13:3
Jonadab, the son of Shimeah. He is called Shammah in 1 Samuel 16:9, and is there described as Jesse's third son. A brother of Jonadab, named Jonathan, is mentioned in 2 Samuel 21:21 as a valiant soldier who slew one of the Philistine giants. Subtil is not used in a bad sense, but means clever, ready in devising means.
2 Samuel 13:4
Why art thou, being the king's son, lean? The Hebrew is, Why, O son of the king, dost thou pine away morning by morning? There was probably a gathering of friends every morning at the young prince's house, and his cousin, attending this levee, noticed Amnon's melancholy, and, having forced a confession from him, is unscrupulous enough to suggest a plan that would make Tamar her brother's victim.
2 Samuel 13:5
When thy father cometh to see thee. While the daughters lived in Oriental seclusion in the dwellings of their mothers, the sons seem to have had separate apartments assigned them in the palace. And David evidently was an affectionate father, who even went to the abodes of his sons in a loving and unceremonious way, to see how they fared. But Jonadab abused the king's affection, and made it the very means of removing the obstacles in the way of his daughter's disgrace. And like the whole tribe of flatterers and time servers, he employed his cleverness to gratify his patron's momentary passion, indifferent to the miserable consequences which must inevitably follow. For the least punishment which Amnon would have to bear would be exclusion from the succession to the crown, besides disgrace and his father's anger. Absalom, who was three or four years younger than Ashen, he despised, and counted for nothing.
2 Samuel 13:9
She took a pan. Many of the words are difficult because, being the names of ordinary domestic articles, they do not occur in literature. A man may be a good French scholar, and yet find it difficult in France to ask for things in common use. Here the Syriac is probably right in understanding, not a pan, but the delicacy Tamar had been cooking. In 2 Samuel 13:8 the word rendered "flour" is certainly "dough," and is so rendered in the Revised Version. The cakes were a kind of pancake, fitted to tempt the appetite of a sickly person. The picture is a very interesting one: the palace parcelled out into separate dwellings; the king kindly visiting all; the girls on friendly terms with their brothers, yet not allowed to go to their rooms without special permission; and finally Tamar's skill in cookery—an accomplishment by no means despised in an Oriental menage, or thought unworthy of a king's daughter.
2 Samuel 13:12
Do not force me; literally, do not humble me. It is to be regretted that the word should be changed, as it bears testimony to the nobleness of the Hebrew women, who regarded their chastity as their crown of honour. The word folly is used in the sense of unchastity in Genesis 34:7 and elsewhere, and it is noteworthy that the Jews thus connected crime with stupidity. Vain, that is, empty persons were the criminal part of the population (Judges 9:4), and to call a man "a fool" was to attribute to him every possible kind of wickedness (Matthew 5:22). The thought which lay at the root of this view of sin was that Israel was a peculiar people, sanctified to God's service; and all unholiness, therefore, was not merely criminal in itself, but a proof that the guilty person was incapable of rightly estimating his privileges. Tamar urges this upon her "empty" brother, and then pathetically dwells upon their mutual shame, and, finding all in vain, she even suggests that the king might permit their marriage. Such marriages, between half-brothers and half-sisters were strictly forbidden, as tending to loosen the bends of family purity (Le Genesis 18:9; Deuteronomy 27:22); but possibly the Levitical code was occasionally violated, or Tamar may have suggested it in the hope of escaping immediate violence.
2 Samuel 13:15
Anmon hated her exceedingly. Ashen had not really ever loved Tamar; his passion had been mere animal desire, which, by a well known psychological law, when gratified turned to hatred. Had he possessed any dignity of character or self-respect, he would have resisted this double wrong to one so near to him, and whom he had so terribly disgraced; but he can only remember the indignant words she had spoken—her comparison of him to "the fools in Israel," and her obstinate resistance to his wishes. With coarse violence he orders her away; and when, humbled and heartbroken, she begs for milder treatment, he adds insult to the wrong, and bids his manservant push her out, am! belt the door after her. By such an order the manservant and all Amnon's people would be led to believe that she was the guilty person, and Ashen the victim of her enticements.
2 Samuel 13:16
There is no cause. This is certainly not a possible translation of the Hebrew, which is probably corrupt; and though Tamar's words may have been broken and hysterical, we cannot suppose that the narrator intended to represent her sobs. The text is rendered by Philippsohn, "And she said to him respecting the evil deed, Greater is this than the other." Similarly Cahen renders it, "au sujet de ce mal." Flat as this is, no better rendering is possible; but the Vatican copy of the Septuagint has a reading which suggests the line of probable emendation: "Nay, my brother, this evil is greater than the other." It was greater because it east the reproach upon her, refused her the solace of his affection, and made her feel that she had been humbled, not because he loved her, but for mere phantasy. He has had his will, and, careless of her sorrow, he scuds her contemptuously away, indifferent to the wrong he has done her, and piqued and mortified at her indignant resistance. However much we may disapprove of Absalom's conduct, Amnon richly deserved his punishment.
2 Samuel 13:18
A garment of divers colours. This was probably a long tunic with sleeves, so woven as for the colours to form patterns like those of the Scottish tartans (see on Genesis 37:3). The next sentence is probably a note, which has crept from the margin into the text, and which literally is, "For so king's daughters, while unmarried, wore over mantles" (me'ils; see note on 1 Samuel 2:19). Both the Authorized Version and the Revised Version so render as if the coloured chetoneth and the me'il were the same; but the meaning of the note rather is to guard against the supposition that the princess, while wearing the close-fitting long tunic with sleeves, had dispensed with the comely mantle. It is, indeed, possible that, while busy in cooking, she had laid the me'il by, and now rushed away without it. But it was the tunic with its bright colours which made both Amnon's servitor and also the people aware that she was one of the king's daughters.
2 Samuel 13:19
Tamar put ashes. There was no concealment of her wrong, but, thrust out of the inner chamber into which Amnon had enticed her (2 Samuel 13:10), she cast ashes upon her head from the very fire which she had just used in cooking, and, rending her garment, hastened away with her hand on her head, and with cries of lamentation. If David had foreseen this sad sight when giving way to his passion for Bathsheba, he would have felt that sin is indeed "folly," and that its pleasure is followed by shame and bitter anguish.
2 Samuel 13:20
Hath Amnon? The Hebrew has Aminon, a diminutive, which some authorities regard as expressive of contempt. More probably it is an accidental variety of spelling. Hold now thy peace. We must not suppose that Absalom did not comfort his sister, and make her conscious of his love. He was, in fact, so indignant at her treatment as to have purposed the sternest vengeance. But this he concealed from her, and counselled patience, net merely because she would have dissuaded him from a course so full of danger to himself, but because it was the duty of both to wait and see what course David would take. Where polygamy is permitted, it is the duty especially of the brothers to defend their sisters' honour (Genesis 34:31). But David was both her father and the chief magistrate; and, moreover, he had been made an instrument in his daughter's wrong. They must be patient, and only if David failed in his duty would Absalom's turn come. Meanwhile, Tamar dwelt in his house desolate, as one whose honour and happiness had been laid waste.
2 Samuel 13:21
David … was very wroth. The legal punishment for Amnon's crime was "the being cut off in the sight of the people" (Le 2 Samuel 20:17). But how could David, who had himself committed crimes for which death was the appointed penalty, carry out the law against his firstborn for following his example? Still, he might have done more than merely give Amnon words of reproof. Eli had done as much, and been punished with the death of his sons for his neglect of duty (1 Samuel 2:34). The sin of David's son had been even more heartless than theirs; and could David hope to escape the like penalty? It would have been wise to have given proof that his repentance included the suppression of the crime to which his previous conduct had given encouragement. But David was a man whose conduct was generally governed by his feelings. He was a creature of warm and often generous impulse, but his character lacked the steadiness of thoughtful and consistent purpose.
2 Samuel 13:22
Absalom spake …neither good nor bad. (On this phrase, see Genesis 24:50; Genesis 31:24.) Absalom's outward demeanour was one of utter indifference, concealing a cruel determination. It is strange how unlike the son was to the father.
2 Samuel 13:23
Absalom had sheep shearers in Baal-hazor. The sheep shearing was a usual occasion for feasting and holiday keeping (see 1 Samuel 25:2, 1 Samuel 25:8). Baal-hazor was apparently the name of Absalom's estate, situated near the town Ephraim (2 Chronicles 13:19), which, according to Eusebius, lay about eight miles north of Jerusalem. As Ephraim was near the wilderness of Judah, it was probably the same town as that to which our Lord withdrew (John 11:54). The phrase beside, literally, near, Ephraim, shows that it must be the town, and not the tribal territory, which is here meant. Two full years; Hebrew, years of days.
2 Samuel 13:25
But blessed him. These words, in the courtly language of the East, not only mean that David parted from Absalom with kindly feelings and good wishes, but that he made him a rich present (see note on 1 Samuel 25:27, where the same word occurs; and observe the nature of Abigail's blessing described there). David's court had evidently become lavish, when thus a visit from him to his son's farm would be too costly for the young prince's means; but had he so increased his present as to have made it reasonable for himself and his chief officers to go, Absalom must have deferred his crime. As it was, the invitation put David off his guard, and, forgetting the fatal consequences of his good nature in permitting Tamar's visit to Amnon, he allowed his sons to go to the festival. Nor must we blame him for his compliance. He had probably at first been full of anxiety as to the course Absalom might pursue, but his silence and forbearance made him suppose that Tamar's wrong had not caused her brother any deep sorrow. Himself a man of warm feelings, he had expected an immediate outburst of anger, but such stern rancour persevered in for so long a time with such feline calmness of manner was beyond the range of his suspicions; and the invitation, first to himself and then to all his sons, made him suppose that Absalom had nothing but affectionate feelings toward them all.
2 Samuel 13:28
Smite Amnon. The order was given before the banquet began, and every arrangement made to render the attack successful. Though Tamar's wrong was the mainspring of Absalom's conduct, yet neither he nor his men would forget that Amnon stood between him and the crown; and Amnon, entirely off his guard, never very wise at his best, and with his senses made dull by wine, seems to have fallen an easy prey. And as soon as the murder was committed, the rest of the king's sons, though all had attendants with them, fled in dismay, not knowing what might be the extent of Absalom's purpose. It is said that they fled on mules, this being the first place in which this animal is mentioned, as the word so translated in Genesis 36:24 really means "hot springs," and is so translated in the Revised Version. The breeding of hybrids was forbidden in Le Genesis 19:19, and probably they were procured, as were horses, by trade. Up to this time the ass had been used for riding; but now David had a favourite mule (1 Kings 1:33), and Solomon received mules as tribute (1 Kings 10:25). Horses seem to have been used chiefly for chariots.
2 Samuel 13:30
Tidings came. Some of the servants seem to have fled immediately that the attack was made, and in their terror reported, not what had really happened, but what they assumed was Absalom's purpose. It shows, however, how thoroughly Absalom had dissembled when thus they entirely forgot that he had a grudge against Amnon. And David, in utter misery, tears his robes, and throws himself prostrate on the ground, while his courtiers, with rent garments, stand speechless round him. But the guilty Jonadab guesses more correctly the truth. He had probably watched Absalom closely, and distrusted his silence. Nothing, perhaps, had happened to justify his suspicions, but as soon as the tidings came he divined the real meaning. And, wicked as he was, he could never have supposed that Amnon would turn upon the woman he had wronged, and insult and disgrace her. He probably imagined that Amnon really loved her, and that the matter would be patched up. But when the wretched youth acted so shamelessly, Jonadab probably felt sure that Absalom would sooner or later take his revenge.
2 Samuel 13:32
By the appointment; literally, for upon the mouth of Absalom it was laid from the day he humbled Tamar his sister, "Mouth" is not the word we should have expected here, and the Syriac instead has "mind," and the Chaldee "heart." But the mouth often expresses determination, and Jonadab may have noticed Absalom looking at his brother with compressed lips. More probably, however, it is a colloquial phrase, with no special application to Absalom; and the Syriac gives the true sense.
2 Samuel 13:34
But Absalom fled. These words break the form of the narrative, but complete the sense. They briefly state that Jonadab was right; for, so far from molesting any of the rest of the king's sons, Absalom had no other thought than for his own safety. He had avenged his sister, but had at present no other sinister design. It was David's method of treating him which drove this youth, with a nature fit for treachery, into schemes of rebellion. The way of the hillside behind him. This may mean "from the west," as, in taking the points of the compass, the Hebrews looked to the east, which would thus be "before them." Compare "the backside of the desert," that is, "the western side," in Exodus 3:1; and "the Syrians before and the Philistines behind," that is, on the east and west (Isaiah 9:12). But the versions differ so strangely in their renderings that they could scarcely have been made from our present text.
2 Samuel 13:36
The king also and all his servants wept very sore. The narrative sets very clearly before us the great terror of the king, who at first supposes that all his sons are murdered; there is then suspense while Jonadab suggests that one only has been sacrificed to private vengeance; then quickly comes the watchman's report of the appearance of much people rapidly descending the hillside, and this is followed by the hasty rush of the fugitives into his presence, and the terrible certainty that one son has, with long premeditated malice, murdered his brother. And as he wept, David, we may feel sure, thought of Uriah, murdered because of his own base passions, whereas Amnon had brought death upon himself by following, alas! the example of his own father. He would think, too, of the words of his sentence, that "the sword should never depart from his house." It had claimed one victim, and who could now stop the outburst of angry passions in a family which previously had dwelt in kindly friendship? Probably, too, he reproached himself for not punishing Amnon. Had he done so with sufficient severity to have satisfied Absalom, he would have saved the life of his firstborn, and not have driven his second son into terrible crime. He had not done so because his own sins had tied his hands. Yes; David had good reason for weeping sore.
2 Samuel 13:37, 2 Samuel 13:38
So Absalom fled. The triple repetition of these words, and the fragmentary style, make it probable that we have hero an abridgment of a longer narrative. So in 2 Samuel 13:35 the words probably are a summary of a more circumstantial account of Absalom's doings after his young men had slain Amnon. (On Talmai and Geshur, see notes on 2 Samuel 3:3.)
2 Samuel 13:39
And (the soul of) king David longed to go forth unto Absalom. This translation has the support of the Jewish Targum, and, as the verb is feminine, the insertion of the added word is possible, though the sense seems to require "anger" instead of "the soul." But the versions all give the verb its ordinary meaning of "ceasing," and, though there is something harsh in taking it impersonally, yet their authority is too great for us to say that such a mode of rendering it must be wrong. And if the grammar be difficult, the sense put upon the words by the versions is excellent. Literally they are, As to King David, there. was a ceasing to go forth after Absalom; for he was comforted, etc. At first he had demanded of Talmai the surrender of the offender, and, when Talmai refused, David tried other means; but in time, when his grief for Amnon was assuaged, he desisted from his efforts. But even so it required much subtlety on Joab's part to obtain Absalom's recall, which would scarcely have been the case if David's soul was longing for his son's return; and, even after his coming, David long maintained an unfriendly attitude. Amnon was his firstborn, and evidently dearly loved, but David's culpable leniency had borne bitter fruit. And again he acts without thoughtful sense of justice, and though at first he would have given Absalom merited punishment, yet gradually paternal feeling resumed its sway, unhappily only to be miserably abused.
2 Samuel 13:1-22
The firstfruits of iniquity.
The facts are:
1. Amnon entertains an improper affection for his half-sister Tamar, and meditates evil.
2. Making known his secret passion to Jonadab, he is prompted to a device for securing a personal interview with her.
3. The king, visiting Amnon in his pretended sickness, kindly arranges that Tamar should wait upon him with special focal in his chamber.
4. Seizing an opportunity in the absence of attendants, he accomplishes his purpose in defiance of her protests and pretexts.
5. By a sudden revulsion of feeling, he now hates her, and causes her to be driven away in disgrace.
6. Her trouble becoming known to the king and to Absalom, the one is very wroth and does nothing, and the other conceals his cherished hatred and revenge. The rather long account given of the base sin of Amnon is no doubt intended to show how the chastisements pronounced by Nathan (2 Samuel 12:10, 2 Samuel 12:11) were brought about. In this way the spiritual character of the narrative shines through all the details, which in themselves seem worthy of being forever lost in oblivion. It is in connection with the evil, and often through the evil, of life that the righteousness of God is historically revealed. Those who object to such passages as these in the Bible know not the principle on which it, as a book, is constructed. It is not the deeds that are the object of thought and instruction, but the fulfilment of the righteous judgments of God, brought to pass in the fact and consequences of their occurrence. In the deeds here recorded we have a graphic description of the firstfruits of the dreadful sin of David.
I. ALL SIN SOONER OR LATER BEARS FRUIT IN HUMAN SOCIETY. "Sin" is a term descriptive of the moral quality of thought or action. It is a demonstrable fact in the sphere of mind and life, that every distinct thought and mental act, to say nothing of the outward expression of it, is a power or force contributed towards a modification of the existing forces at work in the world. No mental life is the same after a given thought has been formed as it would have been had some other been in its place. The law of dynamics, by which every wave of motion produces an effect forever, holds good in the mental and moral sphere. Sin is a wave of evil, a force in an oblique direction, or as a seed to germinate and reproduce its kind. David's dreadful deed could not but be an instance of this inevitable law. Other counter-influences of good might arise, but they would not annihilate the fact of the evil influence, and social life would not be the same as it would have been in case his energy had all gone in the line of good, and the energy of the counteraction had been, not counteractive, but supplementary to the force of his unbroken holy life. It is an awful fact that the universe, after sin, is a changed place, and that the trace of the curse in some form, though not necessarily active, will ever be found in the thought and constitution of society.
II. THE IMMEDIATE ACTION OF CONSPICUOUS SIN IS TO WEAKEN THE RESTRAINTS ON EXISTING EVIL TENDENCIES. There are always in the human heart propensities urgent for activity, and they are kept back very much by reason of the force of goodness in the good, as well as by the natural action of conscience. There can be no question that Amnon was, like many, prone to the lusts of the flesh, and that the fact of David's fall had lessened the restraints upon him. The secrecy encouraged by Jonadab might well be stimulated by the previous secrecy of David in his sin, so far as it was known to his family. The influence of David's sin on the mind of Joab could not fail to render court life more corrupt in its springs; for it is a mournful fact that, while we by our sins set a new force for evil at work which gives momentum to those already active, we do not convey to society the blessedness which subsequently may come to us in a free pardon. A notorious sin in high stations is the foster parent of kindred sins. A parent by his known sin sheds influences around his children that tend to develop the worst elements of their nature. It is fuel to fire.
III. THOSE WHO HAVE COMMITTED OPEN SINS MUST ESPECIALLY FEEL THE PAIN OF WITNESSING THE FRUIT OF THEIR DEEDS. The enlarging family of David offered wider scope for the ill effects of his conduct to work upon. The addition of Bathsheba to the harem under the peculiar circumstances could not but awaken jealousies, and among the various children loosen the bonds of restraint on the lower tendencies of life. He who had so cleverly sought to cover sin in the case of Uriah and his wife, could not detect the secret plot covered by the sickness of his son, whom he with paternal kindness visited and comforted (2 Samuel 13:6). The iniquity thus coming to maturity at last came to his knowledge in a form little suspected. Its distinctly incestuous character, and the cool cunning with which it was prepared for and perpetrated, must have given intense pain to David, apart from the evil of the act, inasmuch as it would forcibly remind him of days and nights of scheming to accomplish a horrid crime, and compel him to see that the son has learnt too well to imitate the deeds of the father. The mere sincere his recent penitence, and the more perfect his restoration to God's favour, the more keen the anguish that now would fill his spirit; for he would see and feel as a holy reconciled man only can. A similar experience is that of parents who witness in their sons, it may be, bolder forms of the sin to which they were once the victims. There are such in Christian society. Their peace with God may be real through the merits of Christ, but their pathway is beclouded by a terrible sorrow. The terrible evils of sin in this life, even to the good! Bitter is the firstfruit!
IV. THOSE WHO HAVE COMMITTED OPEN SIN ARE PARALYZED IN THEIR ACTION TOWARDS SINS OF THE SAME CHARACTER. It is said that when David learnt the full facts of Amnon's conduct towards Tamar, he "was very wroth" (2 Samuel 13:21). No doubt. Every kind and holy feeling of the restored man would be outraged by this vile conduct. But it is significant that nothing further is said. No action of a legal character was taken. The sentence of the Mosaic Law was not enforced. The remembrance of his own sin unfitted him to deal with Amnon as was due. Direct action on his part for his punishment would, he thought, be met by the reproach of his own deeds. "Physician, heal thyself," had a paralyzing meaning for him. The reference to Absalom nourishing revenge till occasion offered is an historical set off to David's inactivity. There is nothing unusual in David's conduct. It is repeated every day. The liar's tongue is deprived of its power in reproving lies in others. The deceiver in business affairs cannot with energy and force warn others against fraud. Men who have openly indulged in the lusts of the flesh speak with bated breath and act with indecision when public questions concerning the suppression and punishment of licentiousness are discussed. They may be sincere in their expression of pain, and be intensely angry if any of their offspring fall into vile ways, but they are conscious of a secret force checking the action which otherwise would have been taken. None can speak and act on moral questions as the pure. Our Saviour's words on all moral subjects carry with them the force of his unsullied life. Herein is an example for teachers and taught.
1. There should be an avoidance of all customs in society that in any way tend to strengthen, and give occasion for the development of, the baser feelings of human nature. Oriental harems may have their counterparts in certain usages of Western life. Whatever weakens the feelings of purity and chastity is a positive evil.
2. Care should be taken to avoid the company and services of men clever in evil. There are Jonadabs in society, whose services are ready, but are fraught with woe.
3. The man who can make use of the kindly sympathies of others in order to encompass their ruin is already far gone towards perdition; and inasmuch as there are many such still in society, men who abuse the tenderest affections for lustful ends, their persons should be abhorred and shunned by all Christian people.
4. The selfishness and cruelty of sin is a universal quality (2 Samuel 13:15-17), and as such it deserves the utmost detestation. All sin is self against God and God's holy order. The adulterer in his lust, the defrauder in his deceit, the extortioner in his greed, the rebellious son in his disobedience, know this too well. Their deeds are damage to the universe for sake of self.
5. There is always being treasured up somewhere retribution for those who seem to escape the punishment due to their sin. Absalom's self-control (2 Samuel 13:22) is suggestive of restraint on the forces which at last cannot but overwhelm the wicked with destruction (2 Peter 2:3; Jud 2 Peter 1:15).
2 Samuel 13:23-39
The facts are:
1. Absalom, holding a sheep shearing festival at Baal-hazor, invites the king and his sons.
2. The king, declining to go on account of being unnecessarily burdensome, gets rid of Absalom's entreaty, and bestows on him a parting blessing.
3. After some persuasion, Absalom obtains permission for all the king's sons to accompany him.
4. During the festivities the servants of Absalom, in obedience to their master, smite Amnon, whereupon all the other of the king's sons flee.
5. A false report having reached the king that all his sons were slain, he gives vent to his grief in most distressing form, until Jonadab, who was in the secret of the affair, informs him of the actual facts of the case.
6. Absalom flees, and the rest of the sons return home, and join their father in lamentation over the event.
7. During Absalom's exile for three years, David, while recovering from his grief over Amnon, was in a mind to go out after him, were it possible.
The words of the prophet were being swiftly and terribly fulfilled in the experience of the king. His own crimes of adultery and murder by stealth were now bearing retributive fruit in his own family in the form of adultery and murder, with the increment of incest. That these young men acted as free agents and were responsible for their deeds makes no difference to the fact that, in relation to the previous conduct of their father, it was a terrible retribution in the order of providence. God does chastise his people with the human rod. The blessed covenant made with the chosen one was not broken—his soul was delivered from the mouth of destruction (Psalms 89:33-36); but a harvest of evil had to be reaped in the place where the dreadful seed had been sown—in the family. Never, perhaps, has this family trouble been paralleled in the experience of good men; but though its precise features are mercifully exceptional, we may see mirrored in this family trouble elements of evil found in some form or other in other domestic circles.
I. JEALOUSIES AND HATREDS CONSEQUENT ON DEEDS OF WRONG. There were signs of ill feeling in this home sprung from an Oriental harem, before the vile deed of Amnon was perpetrated; but this act developed and intensified whatever feeling of that character was in existence. In the most imperfect and unhappy homes a positive deed of wrong to a member of the family is sure to be resented by some other member whose temperament or sympathies flow in a certain direction. The world does not see the acts of harshness and even cruelty sometimes done within the sphere of home; these acts are the parents of a brood of ill feelings, which rankle and burn, waiting for occasion to vent their force on some marked object of hatred. And as the love of home is the tenderest and sweetest of all loves, so, when it is lost, there rises in its place the bitterest and most irreconcilable of hates. The best wine makes the sourest vinegar.
II. PARENTS CRITICIZED. Reading between the lines of this piece of domestic history, we can see that the past conduct of David was not only known, so far at least as Bathsheba was concerned, but that it had not escaped the critical observation of his sons. How could it? A father's domestic conduct is in open light to his children, and, although natural reverence may sway their bearing toward him, they cannot help making critical observations on anything that undermines the respect due. A really pious son would have wept in solitude over the father's sin, and have tenderly covered his shame; but the base tendencies of such young men as Amnon, and the pride of an Absalom, would only have given keenness to the critical spirit. It is a sad prophecy of trouble when children begin to criticize a parent's conduct, and it is moral ruin in a home when a father does deeds which his children, even with their slight knowledge of things, cannot but deplore. Once break down respect for moral conduct, and the home is open to the invasion of numberless ills.
III. PARENTS' APPREHENSION. There is always some room for apprehension in connection with domestic life; for the powers of evil are active, and the best guarded home may be occasionally invaded from without by a foul spirit. But, as a rule, where prudence in management is combined with correctness of conduct and a spirit of true practical godliness, confidence is in the ascendant. The blessing of God is on the abode of the faithful. In David's house at this time, consequent on the influence of his recent sin and the crime of Amnon, there was evident fear in the father's heart (2 Samuel 13:26, 2 Samuel 13:27). He had secret reasons for not going or wishing Amnon to go to the feast. Fears of business failures, and of possible changes in domestic material comforts, are common and not to be altogether avoided, yet they may carry with them no secret sting; but anticipations of possible moral disasters and complications in the home life are of all things most fearful burdens to bear, and their gravity is the greater when they are felt to be connected with one's own misconduct. Fathers and mothers should take care that they lay no foundation for painful apprehensions concerning the conduct of their children in deeds of their own performance.
IV. DEVELOPMENTS OF SUPPRESSED ANIMOSITIES. The spirit of David was evidently troubled by observing the strained relations between his sons Amnon and Absalom. The probability is that they were not on terms of familiarity, and seldom visited each other. The ill feeling created by the ruin of his sister had been secretly but steadily cherished for two years, and the treasured revenge at last broke forth in the murder at the festival of sheep shearing. It is the pain of a father still sometimes to witness the development in violent and distressing forms of passions which he either, through loss of personal influence, could not or would not seek to remove or tone down. The first part of the prophet's prediction had now been fulfilled two years; the other part was on its way, and only awaited the maturity of the forces that were being secretly gathered. When domestic troubles, having a root in moral evil, begin in a home, it is hard to say how long it will be before the powers of evil assume a portentous development. David was fearful, but he scarcely looked for such an issue of a family festival. Literally, in this, as in other cases, sin when it is finished brought forth death (James 1:15). The harvest came after the sowing and germinating of the seed.
V. A FATHER'S DEEDS THE JUSTIFICATION OF EVIL. The bitterest element in David's domestic trouble was not simply the death of an incestuous son, sad as the death of a firstborn always is, but the knowledge that his own conduct was, in the mind of Absalom, the justification of the murder. Absalom seems to have reasoned thus: "Amnon has done a guilty deed worthy of death; no severe punishment has been inflicted on him by my father, perhaps because of his own previous adultery with Bathsheba, or because this is his firstborn; shame has been brought by this crime on the entire family as the brother of the disgraced and ruined woman, I am her legitimate avenger in the failure of law; and as the injury has been an open one in the centre of the family life, the doom shall be open, in the presence, if possible, of father and brothers." If David was the man of discernment now as formerly, he could scarcely have failed to see that there was something like this current of thought in the mind of his son Absalom, and that it formed a specious justification of his daring deed. Rightly or wrongly, some do reason in defence of their rash and evil deeds, and it is the most serious element of the domestic trouble when the foundation of their reasoning is found in the deeds or neglect of their parents. The devil encourages those who do wrong to get all possible support from the actions of those professing to be good.
VI. A FOMENTER OF MISCHIEF AND EVIL. One of the troubles in David's homo life was the presence of an influential double-faced man, who, being in the secrets, entered as adviser into the schemes of some of the family, and was instrumental in promoting incest, and then, on his own showing, knew that it was a settled thing to murder the incestuous man (2Sa 13:3-5; cf. 2 Samuel 13:32, 2 Samuel 13:33). This cunning man, who had not the courage or honesty to tell David of the design of Absalom, was a moral plague in David's family connection. It is an instance of how much evil may come to a home by cultivating the friendship and intimacy of unprincipled or cowardly relatives. Alas! for the home (and there are such in our country) that is invaded by the pestilential influence of men who trample under their feet chastity, love, and, if need be, life itself! There are vipers and dragons in the world still (Matthew 3:7; cf. Psalms 91:13).
1. We see the wonderful contrast in domestic life where piety is maintained in unfading beauty. Instead of jealousies and hatreds, parents blamed by sons and full of fear, evil feelings maturing into developed deeds of violence and cruelty, justified by reference to parental conduct, and stimulated or connived at by base friends, we shall see love and consideration, reverence for parents, confidence in children, generous sentiments ripening into holy deeds, encouragement for kind actions found in parental example, and friendships formed conducive to peace and harmony.
2. We learn the danger of deliberately nourishing feelings of revenge even when wrong has been done. It is for God to vindicate his own justice (Romans 12:9). Just sentiments of anger may, unless guard be kept over them, burn into more questionable forms.
3. The festive scenes of wicked men should be avoided, because of the evil communications which corrupt good manners, and the possible incidental evils arising therefrom.
4. When men are known to be proud and imperious and revengeful, they are likely to be credited with more evil than they have really done (2 Samuel 13:30); hence avoid such a spirit.
5. It is a shame to a man to be in the secrets of those intent on evil (2 Samuel 13:3-5; cf. 2 Samuel 13:32); and, though such may escape punishment in human society, God will visit their sins on their own head.
6. Rulers and parents who show an unwise partiality (2 Samuel 13:21, 2 Samuel 13:22) in not adequately chastising evil doers, only defer the day of trouble and increase its sorrows (2 Samuel 13:36).
Lost and exiled.
The closing verses of this chapter are very obscure in their construction and meaning. The sense most probable, and which we here proceed upon, is that Absalom's asylum with the King of Geshur was a reason why David did not follow after him with a view to his apprehension and chastisement, and that while at first he mourned for Amnon every day, he was in process of time able to bear up under his loss. The calamity brought on by his own sins (2 Samuel 12:9-12) had now culminated in one son lost and another in exile.
I. THERE IS A NATURAL PROGRESSION IN THE TROUBLES CONSEQUENT ON SIN. The first temporal human trouble attendant on David's sin was dislike and aversion of his other wives, and this small beginning was followed by his being put under the power of Joab (2 Samuel 11:6, 2 Samuel 11:18-21), his exposure to others, the incest of his children, the loss of influence by refraining from duty (2 Samuel 13:21, 2 Samuel 13:22), and now it came to a climax in the firstborn being in his grave, and the second son being banished as an exile. It is an evil and a bitter thing to sin against God, the more so according to the station and privileges of the sinner. A firstborn lost! A young man cut down with, so far as we can see, the vilest sins unforgiven on his head! The flower of the family, the man of spirit, and avenger in daring way of a sister's wrong, in a foreign land, finding refuge from a father's wrath with the heathen! Fathers and mothers, lead the lesson well, and seek for grace to be in the home pure and wise and loving, like unto the holy Saviour.
II. THERE IS SHEER HELPLESSNESS IN FACE OF THE ACCUMULATED CALAMITIES CONSEQUENT ON SIN. David could only mourn over the lost one. And what bitterness in the mourning! The dire chain of moral causes ending in that wretched death could not be broken; for an inscrutable and just Providence had welded them to the first adulterous link of his own manufacture. Whatever anger was cherished against the brother assassin, and whatever desire to vindicate the law against him, policy and other considerations prevented his going out after him to drag him from the asylum afforded by another king. It was a time of correction in righteousness when the hitter but wholesome lessons of his life were to be taken to heart. It is fortunate if men, having by a succession of faults and sins brought themselves face to face with hard unalterable facts, apply their hearts with all earnestness to God for his sanctifying grace.
III. THE DISCHARGE OF THE DUTIES OF LIFE BECOMES INCREASINGLY DIFFICULT WHEN THE JOYS OF HOME LIFE ARE DESTROYED. Though dwelling in distinct abodes in Jerusalem, the royal family had a common home life, and, under hallowed influences, this might have been to David a source of strength in the administration of affairs. Now, however, the joy of his heart was gone. Energy was spent in sorrowful memories and thoughts concerning the possible future efforts of the ambitious and now reckless exile, which otherwise would have gone in the direction of cheerful daily work for the nation. Fears of yet further troubles, and passionate desire to remove the public reproach of letting crime in his house go by default, were not helpful to calm effort for public good. Many a man loses energy for business consequent on the loss of domestic joys. Home is the proper place for weary men to find refreshment after toil, and cheer for new endeavours. We may truly pity the man whose domestic troubles come in such form as to impair his strength for the battle of life. If he has not the grace of God in his heart, it is not surprising if he yields to temptation and seeks relief in sinful pleasures.
HOMILIES BY B. DALE
2 Samuel 13:1-33
The crime of Amnon.
The chastisements which David experienced came upon him chiefly through his family. The misconduct of his sons was largely due to his own "in the matter of Uriah," and his defective discipline (lSa 2 Samuel 3:13; 1 Kings 1:6) in connection with polygamy (2 Samuel 3:1-5). "This institution is the absolutely irrepressible source of numberless evils of this description. It ever furnishes a ready stimulus to unbounded sensual desire in the sovereign, and, should he be exalted above it, is likely to introduce a dissolute life among the very different children of different mothers, by bringing the pleasures of sense so prominently and so early before their eyes. The subsequent troubles with Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah were all connected with this fundamental wrong; and on the same thread hung many of the evils which were felt under David's successors" (Ewald). "Having grown up without strict paternal discipline, simply under the care of their different mothers, who were jealous of one another, his sons fancied that they might gratify their own fleshly lusts, and carry out their own ambitious plans" (Keil). Amnon his eldest son was now about twenty years of age. "His character and conduct were doubtless affected by the fact that he was the firstborn son, and of a mother apparently not of the noblest birth." In him (regarded as a warning especially to young men) we notice—
I. IMPURE AFFECTION, springing up in the heart, and not repressed, but fondly cherished. His passion was contrary to the Divine Law, not merely because the object of it was his half-sister (2 Samuel 13:13), but also because of its licentious nature (Matthew 5:28). His subsequent conduct indicates that it was not
"True love, that ever shows itself as clear
In kindness as loose appetite in wrong."
It is not improbable, from his ready entertainment of it, and the question of Absalom (2 Samuel 13:20), that already he had given himself to unrestrained indulgence of his passions. When once "reason by lust is swayed," the heart becomes a congenial soil for all unholy affections. And the only sure safeguard is to "keep the heart with all diligence;" by giving no place to an impure thought, avoiding every incentive to "fleshly lusts, which war against the soul," the exercise of habitual self-denial, and prayer for Divine grace (Matthew 5:29; Matthew 15:19).
II. INWARD MISERY, proceeding from restless passion and fretful discontent at hindrances and restraints in the way of its gratification (2 Samuel 13:2). It is well that such hindrances and restraints exist (in Divine Law, public opinion, providential circumstances); for they afford opportunity for reflection, conviction of its sinful nature, and the adoption of all proper means whereby it may be overcome. Where it is still cherished, its strength increases and its force is felt more powerfully, as that of a river appears when a rock opposes its progress (Romans 7:7). "There is no peace to the wicked." "Amnon here neglected, indeed, the right means; viz. in time to have resisted his affections and not to have given way unto them; to have given himself to abstinence and some honest exercises which might have occupied his mind; then by some lawful matrimonial love to have overcome his unlawful lust; and to have prayed unto God for grace" (Willet).
III. DELIBERATE DISSIMULATION, displayed in crafty devices, adopted in accordance with evil suggestion, in order to selfish indulgence. He who suffers a sinful desire to reign within him is peculiarly susceptible to temptation, and readily yields to it; sometimes pursues a course of guile, and takes advantage of affection, kindness, and unsuspecting confidence. "The seducer is brother to the murderer." Blinded and infatuated, he resorts to the most subtle and contemptible expedients. And, alas! he too often succeeds.
IV. WILFUL PERSISTENCY in wickedness, notwithstanding the strongest inducements to the contrary (2 Samuel 13:12, 2 Samuel 13:13). "It is enough to suppose that the king had a dispensing power, which was conceived to cover even extreme cases." When persuasive craft is employed in vain to entice into sin, and the slave of passion meets with another merciful check by the opposition of virtue and piety ("in Israel"), he is driven on to more brutal, though less diabolical methods of accomplishing his base designs. The dishonour done to the highest claims (of God, religion, his people), the disgrace incurred, the misery inflicted, should be sufficient to deter from "foolish and hurtful lusts;" but with him they are of no avail. "The unjust knoweth no shame" (Zephaniah 3:5; Isaiah 26:10). Then one evil passion is replaced by another.
"Sweet love, I see, changing his property,
Turns to the sourest and most deadly hate."
"He hated her, but did not hate his own sin. Thus he showed that the love he had professed to her was not love, but lust; that it was not of God, but of the evil one" (Wordsworth). "It is characteristic of human nature to hate whom you have injured" (Tacitus). "Such are the baits and allurements of sin, which have a pleasant taste at the first, but in the end bite like a serpent; therefore one saith that pleasures must be considered, not as they come, but as they go" (Wilier). "He feedeth on ashes," etc. (Isaiah 44:20). The victim of evil desire becomes an object of bitter aversion, is pitilessly thrust away, maliciously defamed, and thus more grievously wronged: the true picture of many a desolated life! "What men dignify with the name of love is commonly a base sensual inclination, entire selfishness, which triumphs over the conscience and the fear of God, and without pity consigns its object to irreparable disgrace and misery for the sake of a momentary gratification! How different from that love which the Law of God commands! yea, how contrary to it!" (Scott).
V. DELUSIVE SECURITY, arising from the persuasion that secret iniquity may escape retribution. The transgressor thinks, perhaps, that it cannot be proved, no one will venture to call him to account for it, and that it is not worse than other crimes that go unpunished. Whatever fears (2 Samuel 13:21) or suspicions he may at first entertain, are laid asleep by the lapse of time (2 Samuel 13:23). He is not led to repentance by the long suffering of Heaven, and he heeds not its wrath. But "judgment lingereth not," etc. (2 Peter 2:3).
VI. SUDDEN DESTRUCTION, inflicted by an unexpected hand (2 Samuel 13:20, 2 Samuel 13:28, 2 Samuel 13:32). Where public law fails to do justice, private hostility finds means to take vengeance. One sin produces another, and is punished by it; craft by craft, violence by violence, hatred by hatred. "The way of trangressors is hard" (Proverbs 13:15; Proverbs 6:15; Proverbs 29:1).—D.
2 Samuel 13:3
A false friend.
"And Jonadab was a very subtil man." Every virtue has its counterfeit. As there is a friendship which is true and beneficial, so there is what appears to be such but is false and injurious. Of the former we have an instance in David and Jonathan (1 Samuel 18:1-4), of the latter in Amnon and Jonadab (his cousin, a son of Shammah, 1 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 21:21), "one of those characters who in great houses pride themselves on being acquainted and on dealing with all the secrets of the family" (Stanley). In Jonadab, the daily companion of Amnon (2 Samuel 13:4), we see the kind of friend that should not be chosen.
1. He is distinguished for subtlety, not for virtue and piety. "In the choice of a friend, let him be virtuous; for vice is contagious, and there is no trusting of the sound and the sick together" (Seneca). "Friendship is nothing else but benevolence or charity, under some modifications, viz. that it be in a special manner intense, that it be mutual, and that it be manifest or mutually known. It cannot be but between good men, because an ill man cannot have any true charity, much less such an intense degree of it as is requisite to friendship" (J. Norris, 'Miscellanies'). A companion is sometimes chosen solely for his cleverness and insinuating address; but his superior intelligence (however desirable in itself), unless it be combined with moral excellence, enables him to do all the greater mischief (Jeremiah 4:22).
2. In professing concern for another's welfare he seeks only to serve his own interests; his own pleasure, gain, influence, and advancement (2 Samuel 13:4). True friendship is disinterested. Jonadab appears to have cared only for himself. Hence (to avoid getting himself into trouble) he gave no warning to others of what he foresaw (2 Samuel 13:32). "This young man, who probably desired to make himself of some importance as David's nephew, was clever enough to guess the truth from the first; but it is sad to think that his thought and his advice were never founded on anything but a knowledge of the devil in man" (Ewald).
3. When he is acquainted with the secret thoughts of another, he fails to give him faithful counsel. (2 Samuel 13:5.) Such acquaintance is often obtained by flattery—"thou a king's son"—and frequent questioning; but it is not followed, in the case of improper desires and purposes, by admonition. "No flatterer can be a true friend." "Had he been a true friend, he had bent all the forces of his dissuasion against the wicked motions of that sinful lust" (Hall). "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
4. Whilst he devises means for another's gratification, he smoothes his way to destruction. His aim is only to please. He advises what is agreeable, but what is morally wrong; and thus incites to sin; for which, with all its consequences, he is, in part, responsible. "In wise counsel two things must be considered that both the end be good, and the means honest and lawful. Jonadab's counsel failed in both." "The rapacious friend, the insincere friend, the friend who speaks only to please, and he who is a companion in vicious pleasures,—recognizing these four to be false friends, the wise man flies far from them, as he would from a road beset by danger" (Contemporary Review, 27.421). "A companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 1:10).—D.
2 Samuel 13:7
A princess; the daughter of David and Maacah (of Geshur), and sister of Absalom; distinguished for her beauty, modesty, domesticity, obedience (2 Samuel 13:8), tender heartedness, piety, and misfortunes. In her we see an illustration of (what has often occurred):
1. Purity pursued by licentious desire (2 Samuel 13:2).
2. Simplicity beset by wily designs (2 Samuel 13:5).
3. Kindness requited by selfish ingratitude (2 Samuel 13:9, 2 Samuel 13:10).
4. Confidence exposed to enticing persuasions and perilous temptation (2 Samuel 13:11).
5. Virtue overpowered by brutal violence (2 Samuel 13:14).
6. Innocence vilified by guilty aversion (2 Samuel 13:17). "So fair had she gone forth on what seemed her errand of mercy, so foully had she been driven back" (Edersheim). "Let no one ever expect better treatment from those who are capable of attempting their seduction; but it is better to suffer the greatest wrong than to commit the least sin" (Matthew Henry).
7. Sorrow assuaged by brotherly sympathy (2 Samuel 13:20).
8. Injury avenged with terrible severity (2 Samuel 13:28).—D.
2 Samuel 13:21
"And King David heard of all these things, and was very wroth;" but "he did not grieve the spirit of his son Amnon, because he loved him, for he was his firstborn" (LXX.). And he did not punish him (1 Samuel 3:13); which must be looked upon as—
I. AN OMISSION OF MANIFEST DUTY. If he had been only a father, he would have been bound to chastise his children for their misbehaviour; but, being also a king, he was under still stronger obligation to punish the guilty. To do this:
1. Properly belonged to the authority delegated to him.
2. Was expressly enjoined in the Divine Law (Le 2 Samuel 20:17).
3. Urgently demanded by the sense of justice.
4. Indispensably necessary to the protection of his subjects. "Kings, then, have not absolute power to do in their government what pleases them; their power is limited by God's Word; so that if they strike not where God has commanded to strike, they and their throne are criminal and guilty of the wickedness which abounds upon the face of the earth for lack of punishment" (John Knox).
II. UNWARRANTED BY ADEQUATE REASONS. In Israel (as in Persia and other Eastern countries) the king, as vicegerent of heaven, had a large discretionary power of dispensing with the penalties of the Law; but it behoved him to exercise it without partiality and on sufficient grounds. Although David's omission to punish is not expressly condemned, yet the consequences by which it was followed show that it took place (not, as some have supposed, on "principle," or because it was "impossible" for him to do otherwise, but) without such grounds.
1. The affection of a father. This, however, ought not to have prevented punishment by a father or judge; as it did, being inordinate and blamable, in Eli (1 Samuel 2:22, 1 Samuel 2:30).
2. The rank of the offender; the king's son, his firstborn, heir to the crown. But he was not above the law; nor less guilty than another of inferior position would have been. "God is no respecter of persons."
3. The transgression and forgiveness of the king himself. Nevertheless, whilst both may have exerted a pernicious influence, Amnon was responsible for his own conduct; and David's exemption (only from legal punishment) rested on grounds which did not exist in the case of his ungodly and impenitent son. The king's wrath proves his full conviction of Amnon's guilt and his moral abhorrence of its enormity: his failure to "grieve," or inflict suffering upon him, indicates his own weakness and dereliction of duty. "Punishment is an effort of man to find a more exact relation between sin and suffering than this world affords us. A duty is laid upon us to make this relationship of sin to suffering as real, and as natural, and as exact in proportion as it is possible to be made. This is the moral root of the whole doctrine of punishment. But if the adjustment of pain to vice be the main ground of punishment, it must be admitted that there are other ends which society has in view in its infliction. These secondary elements in punishment appear to be
(1) the reformation of the offender;
(2) the prevention of further offences by the offender;
(3) the repression of offences in others".
III. PRODUCTIVE OF DISASTROUS EFFECTS.
1. It does not appear to have produced any other effect on the offender than to confirm him in recklessness and fancied security. "Punishment connected with sin operates towards reform in two ways:
(1) by the association of ideas—the linking together of that from which our nature shrinks with that from which it ought to shrink, so that the temptation to sin recalls not only the pleasure of sin, but the pain of suffering;
(2) by the shock to the habits of thought and of practice which suffering produces, by the solution of continuity in the man's life which it causes, by the opportunity for reflection and thought which it thus affords" (Lord Justice Fry).
2. On others, also, it was injurious; weakening respect for royal authority and public justice, causing the law to be despised, furnishing grounds for private revenge, leading to further impunity (2 Samuel 13:39; 2 Samuel 14:24, 2 Samuel 14:33), more daring crimes (2 Samuel 15:7; 2 Samuel 16:21), widespread disaffection and rebellion.
3. On the king himself. Further impairing his personal, moral, kingly energy, and accumulating "sorrow upon sorrow" (2 Samuel 13:31, 2 Samuel 13:37; 2 Samuel 15:13). It was another link in the chain of painful consequences resulting from his great transgression; naturally, slowly, effectually wrought out under the direction and control of the perfect justice of the supreme King; accomplishing a beneficent end, in purifying his heart, restoring him to God, averting his final condemnation, and teaching, warning, benefiting mankind. "The dark sin of which he had been guilty spoke of a character that had lust its self-control, its truthfulness, its generosity. His penitence was not able to undo all its consequences and to bring back the old energy and life. Over and above its direct results in alienating the hearts of his most trusted counsellors, and placing him at the mercy of a hard taskmaster, that dark hour left behind it the penalty of an enfeebled will, the cowardice of a hidden crime, the remorse which weeps for the past, yet cannot rouse itself to the duties of the present. He leaves the sin of Amnon unpunished in spite of the fearful promise it gave of a reign of brutal passion, 'because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.' Half suspecting, apparently, that Absalom had some scheme for revenging the wrong which he had failed to redress, he has no energy to stop its execution. He shrinks only from being present at a meeting the meaning and issues of which he does not comprehend, and yet dimly fears. When the exaggerated report is brought back that Absalom had slain all his brothers—sure sign, if it had been so, that he was claiming the throne, and marching to it through the blood of his kindred—David's attitude is that of passive, panic stricken submission". Who can say that he sinned with impunity? "Thenceforward the days of his years became full of evil, and if he lived (for the Lord caused death to pass from himself to the child by a vicarious dispensation), it was to be a king, with more than kingly sorrows, but with little of kingly power; to be banished by his son; bearded by his servant; betrayed by his friends; deserted by his people; bereaved of his children; and to feel all, all these bitter griefs, bound, as it were, by a chain of complicated cause and effect, to this one great, original transgression".
"It often falls, in course of common life,
That right long time is overborne of wrong;
Through avarice, or power, or guile, or strife,
That weakens her, and makes her party strong.
But justice, though her doom she do prolong,
Yet at the last she will her own cause right."
2 Samuel 13:22-29
The revenge of Absalom.
"Absalom hated Amnon." References:
1. Third son (Chileab, probably, being dead) of David, by Maacab, daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur; born at Hebron, his name ("father of peace") indicating, perhaps, the hope entertained at his birth (2 Samuel 3:1-5). "The young handsome hero must have been conspicuous among the soldiers of Israel, and taken his place among the sons of David, who were 'chief rulers.'"
2. Hatred (when about eighteen years old) and murder (after two years).
3. Flight to Geshur (2 Samuel 13:38) and residence there (three years).
4. Return (2 Samuel 14:23, 2 Samuel 14:24) and partial reconciliation (during two years); married about this time, and father of three sons (dying in infancy, 2 Samuel 14:27; 2 Samuel 18:18) and one daughter (Tamar, named after his sister).
5. Full reconciliation (2 Samuel 14:33; 2 Samuel 15:1-11) and preparation for revolt (four years).
6. Conspiracy in Hebron (2 Samuel 15:12, 2 Samuel 15:13).
7. Occupation of Jerusalem (2 Samuel 15:37; 2 Samuel 16:15-19), possession of the palace (2 Samuel 15:20-23), anointed king (2 Samuel 19:10), consultations (2 Samuel 17:1-14).
8. Pursuit of David, and defeat in battle (2 Samuel 17:24-26; 2 Samuel 18:1-8).
9. Slain by Joab (2 Samuel 18:9-18). 10. Lamented by David (2 Samuel 18:33; 2 Samuel 19:1-4). Revenge is sinful resentment. It is felt, on account of real or supposed injury, toward the person rather than the conduct of the offender; desires his suffering, not his improvement; and seeks it maliciously, deliberately, and unlawfully. "All pain occasioned to another in consequence of an offence or injury received from him, further than what is calculated to procure reparation or promote the just ends of punishment, is so much revenge" (Paley, 'Mot. Ph.'). It is "a kind of wild justice" (Bacon, 'Essays'). Of the spirit of revenge, which was embodied in Absalom, and too often finds a place in others, observe—
I. ITS SEEMING JUSTIFICATION; for he who indulges it commonly seeks to justify himself therein (2 Samuel 14:32), it may be, on account of:
1. The grievous wrong suffered, directly or in the person of another with whom he is closely connected. The more this is brooded over, the greater it appears and the more it incites to wrath.
2. The natural instinct of anger and retaliation, which is
"Far, far too dear to every mortal breast,
Sweet to the soul as honey to the taste."
But it must be directed, controlled, often completely repressed by justice and love. "The taking vengeance on a foe is honourable," it has been said, "rather than the being reconciled" (Aristotle, 'Rhetoric'). True wisdom teaches otherwise (1 Samuel 11:12, 1 Samuel 11:13; Proverbs 20:22; Proverbs 24:29).
3. The culpable failure of justice, on the part of the civil magistrate, "the minister of God," etc. (Romans 13:4). It may be a temptation to private vengeance; but it does not warrant any one in taking the law into his own hands; whilst by doing so he becomes a breaker of the law and justly liable to its penalty. "The revenge which he took for the foul wrong that his sister had suffered at the hands of Amnon did not shock the men of Israel as it shocks us. To him, by the feeling of all Oriental nations, belonged the special guardianship of her honour; and subtly as the punishment was inflicted, it was nothing more than the monstrous turpitude of the guilt deserved. Had David been true to his kingly calling, instead of passing the crime over with a weak sorrow and a yet weaker leniency, there would have been no occasion for the vengeance which Absalom felt himself bound to take. The two long years of waiting which followed on his revenge, must have been a time in which disappointment, irritation, bitterness against his father, were gaining, slowly but surely, the mastery over him" (Plumptre).
II. ITS SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS.
1. Enduring and implacable hatred (2 Samuel 13:23); a malicious purpose formed from the first (as his intimate companion read in his countenance, 2 Samuel 13:32), but concealed that it might be the more effectually accomplished when opportunity served. "A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well" (Bacon).
2. Subtle and deceitful scheming (2 Samuel 13:24, 2 Samuel 13:26); under pretence of kindness; and taking a base advantage of affection, consideration, and confidence. 2 Samuel 13:25 is "the first instance history offers of the ruinous cost of royal visits to those who are honoured with them" (Kitto).
3. Pitiless and treacherous cruelty (2 Samuel 13:28; 2 Samuel 11:13). Another instance of indulgence in intoxication (1 Samuel 25:36, 1 Samuel 25:37; 2 Samuel 11:13). "Absalom calls the execution of this base cruelty in his servants, courage and valour; being indeed but treacherous and cowardly murder; which shows that vices are ofttimes coloured with the name of virtues, as drunkenness is called good fellowship, avarice good husbandry, subtlety to deceive wisdom, and pride magnanimity" (Guild). It is not improbable that he wished to get rid of Amnon as an obstacle in the way to the throne. "The wild acts of Absalom's life may have been to some extent the results of maternal training; they were at least characteristic of the stock from which he sprang" (Smith, 'Dict.'). "From his father he inherited nothing but his regal pride" (Ewald). "He was a man who could scheme deeply, bide his time patiently, and then strike with decision and daring" (D. Macleod).
III. ITS EXCEEDING SINFULNESS.
1. Disbelief in the presence and justice of God, who, though man fails to punish, "will by no means clear the guilty."
2. Insensibility to his forbearance, which should teach the like (1 Samuel 24:13; Matthew 5:48).
3. Disobedience to the Divine Law, which is fulfilled in one word," etc. (Galatians 5:14), and to many special injunctions (Romans 12:9; Matthew 6:15).
4. Fruitfulness in wickedness and crime (1 John 3:15), with all their evil consequences to others and to a man himself (2 Samuel 13:36, 2 Samuel 13:37). "Absalom fled from man, who only could kill the body; but he could not fly from blood guiltiness and an accusing conscience, nor yet from the hand of God's justice, which did reach him afterwards" (Guild). "It was asked of the sage, 'In what one virtue are all the rest comprised?' 'Patience,' was his answer. 'And in what single vice are all others concentrated?' 'Vindictiveness'" (Rabbi Salomon Ibn Gabirol). "Whereas some may be apt to suspect that the patient bearing of one injury may invite another, I believe it will be found quite otherwise, that the revenging of one injury brings on another; the one is like the withdrawing of fuel or combustible matter, which will soon put out the fire, and the other is continually furnishing fresh fuel, mixed with oil and gunpowder and such inflaming materials as are apt to spread the fire of contention, but not to extinguish it".
CONCLUSION. How odious is the spirit of revenge! He who gives way to it might as well cherish a venomous serpent in his bosom. "Be not overcome of evil, hut overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21).—D.
2 Samuel 13:30-39
"And the king also and all his servants wept very sore" (2 Samuel 13:36). David's intense feeling appears in his affection (2 Samuel 13:6, 2 Samuel 13:25, 2 Samuel 13:39), his wrath (2 Samuel 13:21), and his grief (2 Samuel 13:31). The delight which a father finds in his children is seldom unalloyed. His sorrows, on their account, are—
I. OFTTIMES PECULIARLY SEVERE.
1. Their misbehaviour. "A 'house cross' is the heaviest of all earthly crosses. The gall which is mingled in our cup by those who are nearest to us surpasses all others in bitterness" (Krummacher).
"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child!"
2. Their misfortune (2 Samuel 13:19).
3. Their disappointment of his hopes; his consternation, trembling anxieties, exaggerated fears (2 Samuel 13:30); his bereavement by death (2 Samuel 13:32) and by enforced exile through crime (2 Samuel 13:34); his son a fratricide, like Cain, alive yet dead. What a heavy burden of trouble was thus laid upon David! It is not surprising that it was followed by serious and protracted bodily affliction, favourable to the designs of his enemies and conducive to still deeper distress (2 Samuel 15:4, 2 Samuel 15:30), as several psalms seem to indicate (Psalms 38:1-22; Psalms 39:1-13; Psalms 41:1-13; Psalms 55:1-23.).
O Jehovah, rebuke me not in thine anger,
Nor chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
For thine arrows stick fast in me,
And thy hand presseth me sore," etc.
(Psalms 38:1, Psalms 38:2.)
II. SOMETIMES DUE TO HIS OWN FAULT.
1. His sinful example. Children are more ready to imitate their father's vices than his virtues.
2. His defective discipline. "David's failure in the government of his family was due in part to the excessive, even morbid, tenderness of his feelings towards his children, especially some of them. He may also have thought of his family circle as too exclusively a scene for relaxation and enjoyment; he may have forgotten that even there there is a call for much vigilance and self-denial" (Blaikie). "By this example we see that children whom their parents spare to correct will in the end be a grief unto them" (Wilier). "Chastisement without love is an outrage; no father is at liberty to plague or torture his child; but a love that cannot chastise is no love, and reaps a poor reward. A child that does not at the proper time feel the father's rod becomes at last a rod for his father" (Schlier). "Ofttimes the child whom the father loves most (as David did Amnon) becomes his greatest grief by too much indulgence" (Guild).
3. His culpable clemency in the case of a great crime (2 Samuel 13:21). Even if David did inflict some punishment on Amnon, as it has been supposed (Chandler), yet it was altogether inadequate to the offence. The sorrows of a father over the sins and sufferings of his children are intensified by the knowledge that they are, in some degree, the result of his own errors and transgressions. "A parent can have no sharper pang than the sight of his own sin reappearing in his child. David saw the ghastly reflection of his unbridled passion in his eldest son's foul crime (and even a gleam of it in his unhappy daughter) and of his murderous craft in his second son's bloody revenge" (Maclaren).
III. NOT WITHOUT MERCIFUL ALLEVIATION.
1. The occasion of trouble is less calamitous than it might have been; less than it was feared to be (2 Samuel 13:32).
2. Grief is assuaged by the lapse of time (2 Samuel 13:37, 2 Samuel 13:38).
3. It is vain to mourn over what is irreparable (2 Samuel 13:39; 2 Samuel 12:23; 2 Samuel 14:14).
4. These afflictions are chastisements from the heavenly Father's hand, and should be endured with patience and hope (Psalms 39:7, Psalms 39:9; Psalms 38:15).
5. They are mingled with tokens of Divine favour (2 Samuel 12:13, 2 Samuel 12:25; Psalms 41:1-3; Isaiah 27:8).
6. Their purpose is morally beneficial (Hebrews 12:11). "It may seem strange to say it, but it is most true, that the tears which flow from the eyelids of a man are as needful to the fruitfulness of his heart as the dews which descend from the eyelids of the morning are to the thirsty ground" (E. Irving).—D.
HOMILIES BY G. WOOD
2 Samuel 13:3
A diabolical friend: a homily for young men.
This chapter contains a dreadful story. The unnatural lust of Amnon, the vile counsels of Jonadab, the unsuspiciousness of the king, the confiding innocence of Tamar, her unavailing remonstrances and resistance, the hardened villainy of her half-brother, his hatred and cruel expulsion of his innocent victim, her bitter anguish and lamentations, the unjust leniency of David towards the offender (although "very wroth"), the vengeance so quietly prepared and so sternly executed by Absalom, the king's lamentations over the death of Amnon, his subsequent longing after the fugitive Absalom,—present a picture of horrible wickedness, of helpless misery, of weak negligence, of fierce and deadly revenge, which moves us with alternate detestation and pity, as well as wonder that so much depravity should have been found in the family of a man so godly and devout, until we remember the unfavourableness of polygamy to the right training of families, the foolish indulgence of David towards his children, and his own evil conduct, which weakened his authority. Passing by, however, all other particulars, let us consider awhile this statement, "Amnon had a friend, whose name was Jonadab … a very subtil man."
I. A KIND OF FRIENDSHIP TO BE ABHORRED AND AVOIDED. At first view the friendship of Jonadab and Amnon seems natural and proper. They were first cousins; Jonadab was a man of intelligence ("subtil," equivalent to "wise," not necessarily "subtle" in the bad sense); he "showed himself friendly" by noticing his friend's doleful appearance and inquiring the cause. Not until we observe the advice he gave, and see how it was accepted and followed, do we discover how base he was, how base they both were. Amnon's vileness appears, indeed, earlier, in his indulgence of a passion for his beautiful half-sister, and that so violent, while so seemingly hopeless, that it affected his health. A case, surely, calling for pity and sympathy! No wonder that his dear friend so feelingly inquired after his health, and employed his subtlety to find a remedy! They must have known each other very well for one to acknowledge so disreputable a cause of his ill looks, and the other to suggest so infamous a restorative. What a real friend would have advised is obvious. He would have urged Amnon, by every consideration of morality and religion, of regard for the honour of his family and nation, the happiness of his father, and the duty he owed to his sister, to conquer his guilty passion. But Amnon knew well that he was in no peril of being troubled with such counsel, or he would not have acknowledged his shameful lust. Observe, too, how utterly this pair of friends, like all their tribe, disregarded the ruin and misery which they were plotting for the innocent Tamar. They seem to have been tolerably sure that the offence would not be thought very serious by "society," and that the law would not be put in force by David. His own sins of a similar kind would give them confidence of impunity. Even after committing the foul crime, Amnon does not seem to have thought it necessary, for the sake either of safety or decency, to retire for at least a time from Jerusalem until the affair had "blown over." What a contrast between this friendship and that of David and Jonathan! Many such friends, alas! are to be found in the world; men who are counselling and aiding and hardening each other in licentiousness, whose delight is to ruin the innocent, and bring dishonour and misery on their families; and who are preparing each other for well-merited damnation. Yet their debauchery is overlooked by "society," especially if they be of high rank, while their victims receive no pity. It would be of little use to address such wretches, even if we could gain access to them. But we may warn young men who have not yet come under their deadly influence, but who may be in danger of doing so. For in all classes of society persons are to be found who, corrupt themselves, delight in corrupting others. Young men coming from the country to great cities, where at present they have no friends, are in peril, not only from prostitutes or sometimes from loose married women, but from men of the class referred to. These will test them by using double entendres, advancing to outspoken ribaldry and freer conversation about sexual indulgences. If discouraged, they will laugh at the "innocence" and "squeamishness" of the youth they would corrupt. If he at all encourage them, they will introduce him to indecent books, or offer themselves as guides to the places where he may safely indulge his passions. To an inexperienced youth, not yet well grounded in Christian principles, such approaches present very powerful temptations. The assault from without meets with auxiliaries within, in the awakening passions themselves, and in a curiosity "to see a little life." The manner in which such temptations are met at the beginning is likely to determine the character of the youth's whole future life. To yield is to be undone; to resist and conquer is to gain new strength for future conflict and victory. Let, then, those who are thus tempted shrink back from their tempter as from a viper. At the first indication of such depravity let them "cut" those who display it,, however related to them by blood, however agreeable as companions (the more agreeable the more dangerous), however able to help them in their worldly career. If their counsel be not followed, yet friendly association with them in any degree must exercise a debasing influence. It may not be possible to avoid them altogether; they may be employed in the same establishment, and indulge themselves in loose language in the hearing of their fellows; but let a loathing of them be cherished, and every practicable effort be made to silence and suppress them.
II. THE SUREST SAFEGUARDS AGAINST SUCH FRIENDSHIP.
1. Close and decided friendship with Christ. Begun early, cultivated diligently by daily communion with him in secret, through devout study of his Word, believing meditation, fervent prayer. Thus the heart will become filled with the purest and noblest affections, leaving no room for the vile; and thus will the youth become "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," and "be able to withstand in the evil day" (Ephesians 6:10, Ephesians 6:13).
2. Friendship with the best Christians. Union and communion with them in Church fellowship, in Divine ordinances, in Christian work, in social life and its pure enjoyments. Christian people should interest themselves in the young (especially young men from home), and welcome them to their confidence, their friendship, their homes. For the young must have friends; and if there be difficulty in associating with the good, they are in so much greater danger of contenting themselves with the evil or the doubtful. But if they form Christian friendships, these will be as an impassable barrier against the advances of such as would lead them astray.
3. Constant watchfulness and prayer. Against everything that, if indulged, would make the society of the wicked welcome. Guard the heart, for out of it springs the life (Proverbs 4:23). Seek of God a clean heart (Psalms 51:10). Suppress every impure thought and feeling (see Matthew 5:28), and every impulse to utter impure words (Ephesians 4:29; Ephesians 5:3). Let the psalmist's prayers (Psalms 141:3, Psalms 141:4; Psalms 139:23, Psalms 139:24) be yours. Ever cherish the thought, "Thou God scent me" (Genesis 16:13).
4. Consideration of the certain result of following evil counsellors. "A companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20). Amnon found it so. Let the young man think, when sinners entice him, "They are inviting me to misery, death, hell!"
Finally, it is not only those who are unchaste, and the abettors of unchastity whose close acquaintance and counsel are to be avoided, but the irreligious and immoral in general; all who are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4, Revised Version); all who adopt, practice, and tempt to infidelity, sabbath breaking, intemperance, gambling, untruthfulness, dishonesty, or any other form of evil. "Be not deceived: evil company" of any kind "doth corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33, Revised Version).—G.W.
2 Samuel 13:12
Things that ought not to be done in Israel.
The plea of Tamar, "no such thing ought to be done in Israel," is interesting, as showing that the sentiment was prevalent amongst the Israelites, morally imperfect as they were, that they were not to be as the nations around them; that practices prevalent elsewhere were altogether out of keeping with their position and calling "It may be so elsewhere; but it must not be so in Israel." A similar sentiment as to what is statable and becoming is appealed to in the New Testament. Christians are exhorted to act "as becometh saints" (Ephesians 5:3; Romans 16:2), to "walk worthy of the Lord," "worthy of their vocation," etc. (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1).
I. THE GROUNDS OF SUCH A SENTIMENT. Why should the people of God regard themselves as under special obligations to live pure and holy lives?
1. The character of their God. "Ye shall be holy, for I am holy" was the language of God to Israel (Leviticus 11:44); and it was repeated to Christians (1 Peter 1:15, 1 Peter 1:16). The injunction could not have been addressed—cannot now—to the worshippers of other gods.
2. Their own consecration to God. Israel was separated by God from other people to be his own people, devoted to the practice of purity and righteousness (Le 2 Samuel 20:24, 2 Samuel 20:26). All their history, laws, and institutions had this for their aim, and were adapted to it. In like manner Christians are "called to be saints" (Romans 1:7), chosen of God, "that they should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Ephesians 1:4). The Son of God is called Jesus, because he came to "save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The purpose of his love and self-sacrifice for them is to "redeem them from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14, Revised Version). This aim is expressed by the rite by which they are consecrated to God and introduced into his kingdom—it is a baptism, a washing from uncleanness. For this they are united into a holy fellowship, with sacred ministries and services, and godly discipline; and all the inspired instructions and admonitions addressed to them, and expounded to them by their teachers, have manifestly the same end and tendency. With all and above all, the Spirit which dwells amongst them and gives life and reality to all their communion, worship, and service, is the Holy Spirit, and his work is to regenerate and sanctify their nature, and produce in them all goodness.
3. The wonders by which they have been redeemed and consecrated. Ancient Israel, by a long succession of supernatural revelations, marvellous miracles, and providential interpositions. The Church of Christ, by the incarnation of the Eternal Word, and all that followed in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, and the miraculous bestowment and works of the Holy Ghost. Yea, every true Christian is himself, as such, a product of the Spirit's supernatural power, being "born again," "born of the Spirit" (John 3:3, John 3:6). Thus it is that this "holy nation" is perpetuated in the earth.
4. Their privileges and hopes. "The children of Israel" were "a people near unto God" (Psalms 148:14). He was their "Portion;" they enjoyed his special presence, guidance, government, and defence. In a yet more emphatic sense Christians have God as their God, enjoy constant union and communion with him, and are assured of his love and sympathy, care and protection. Moreover, to them is given, more clearly and fully than to the Old Testament Church, the hope of eternal life. And what is this hope? It is that of seeing God and being like him (1 John 3:2), of becoming "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but …holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27), presented "faultless before the presence of his glory" (Jud 2 Samuel 1:24). It is to be admitted into the "New Jerusalem," into which nothing unholy can enter (Revelation 21:27). The condition of realizing this blessedness is purity of heart—that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord" (Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14). it is clear that in such a community nothing unholy "ought to be done," however common elsewhere. Such things are utterly inconsistent with their position, their knowledge, their professions, and their prospects.
II. THE CONDUCT WHICH THIS SENTIMENT CONDEMNS. We need not dwell on gross sensuality, such as that against which the words of the text were first used. They were appropriate then, because the standard of morality "in Israel" was so much higher in respect to such practices than in the surrounding nations. But the respectable part of general society in our time and country recognizes "no such thing" as Amnon proposed as lawful. And as to many other departments of morality, the moral standard of society has been elevated by the influence of Christianity. In using the words, therefore, we do well to think of practices which are permitted or at least thought tightly of by others, but which are nevertheless contrary to the precepts or spirit of our religion. Amongst these may be named:
1. Selfishness. Including covetousness, worldly ambition, illiberality, etc; with the disregard or violation of the claims and rights of others that are allied to them. These are common enough in Christian countries, but ought not to exist amongst Christian people, whose religion is a product of Divine love, whose great Leader and Master is the incarnation of love, who have received numberless precepts enjoining the love of others as of themselves, and have been assured that love is greater than faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13), much greater, then, than religious ceremonies, and ecclesiastical forms and observances. Covetousness in particular is closely associated in the New Testament with sensuality, as a vice not even to be named amongst Christians, and is declared to be idolatry (Ephesians 5:3, Ephesians 5:5; Col 3:5; 1 Corinthians 5:10, 1 Corinthians 5:11);
2. Pride. Whether of rank, or wealth, or intellect. Holy Scripture, in both Testaments, abounds in precepts and examples against pride. The Lord Jesus "humbled himself" in becoming man, and in the whole of his life on earth, and frequently enjoined humility on his disciples, and reproved every indication of a proud spirit in them. Common, therefore, as pride is in the world, "no such thing ought to be" in the Church.
3. Similar remarks may be made as to unkindness, the revengeful spirit, the unforgiving spirit, quarrelsomeness, uncharitableness, evil speaking, and the like.
4. To these may be added frivolity, gaiety—dissipation, a life of mere amusement, with no serious, worthy purpose or pursuit. These are not becoming in those who are enjoined to work out their salvation with fear and trembling; to be sober and vigilant because of the activity of Satan in seeking their destruction; to deny themselves, etc. (Php 2:12; 1 Peter 5:8; Luke 9:23).
5. Indifference to the spiritual welfare of others. The gospel brings into prominence the claims which men have upon Christians in this respect. Jesus very solemnly warns against "offending," others, even the least, by doing or saying what would lead them into sin or hinder their salvation (Matthew 18:6, Matthew 18:7). He repeatedly teaches his disciples that he gave them light in order that they might "shine before men," and so lead them to glorify God. St. Paul commends the Philippians for their "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel," and urges them to "strive" on its behalf (Philippians 1:5, Philippians 1:27, Revised Version). St. Peter enjoins that "as every man hath received the gift," he should use it for the good of others, in teaching and ministering (1 Peter 4:10, 1 Peter 4:11). And in general, the cause of Christ is committed to his disciples, that they may sustain and extend it both by active service and by pecuniary gifts. To the discharge of this duty by others we owe our own Christian privileges and character. If we disregard it, we display ingratitude, unfaithfulness to our Lord, insensibility to his great love to ourselves. Unconcern as to the salvation of men is natural enough in men of the world, but "no such thing ought to be" found amongst Christians.
Finally, in the absence of specific precepts, we may settle many a doubt as to our duty by considering whether the act or habit in question is suitable and becoming in those who profess themselves earnest disciples of Jesus Christ; whether it is in harmony with his spirit and character, and conducive, or at least not hostile, to our spiritual benefit, or that of others.—G.W.
2 Samuel 13:13
Fools in Israel.
Sad as was the case of the injured Tamar, that of her wicked brother was sadder still. She was outraged, but innocent; he was "as one of the fools in Israel."
I. WICKED MEN ARE "FOOLS." The term is often used in Holy Scripture as synonymous with "godless," "lawless," "sinful;" especially in the Book of Proverbs, where piety and holiness are designated "wisdom." The folly of sinners appears in that:
1. Their life is opposed to right reason. To wisdom, as recognizable by the intellect and moral sense, and as revealed in the Sacred Word. They reject the guidance of "the only wise God"—the Infinite and All-perfect Wisdom. This is true, not only of gross and brutal sinners like Amnon, but of the most refined and intellectual. Either they know not how to live, or, worse, will not live according to their knowledge. Of many in our day we may use the words of St. Paul (Romans 1:22), "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."
2. They act contrary to their own well being. They reject the greatest blessings for this life and the next; and choose for themselves degradation, destruction, and misery. They sell their souls for transient gain or pleasure, or surrender them to destruction because they are too proud to learn or to accept salvation as a free gift of God to the undeserving.
3. They are in many instances the subjects of strange and fatal delusions. Believing themselves Christians, though destitute of the most essential characteristics of Christ's true disciples; imagining themselves safe for eternity because of their devotion to ritual observances and dutiful submission to their priests, although they continue in their sins.
II. SUCH FOOLS ARE TO BE FOUND "IN ISRAEL." In the most enlightened communities; in Christian congregations; in the purest Churches.
III. FOOLS "IN ISRAEL" ARE THE WORST TOOLS. The most guilty, the most hopeless of the class. Because of:
1. The light which shines there. Revealing God, truth, duty, sin and holiness, life and death. They "rebel against the light" (Job 24:13), either by ignoring it, or hating and consciously rejecting it.
2. The influences enjoyed there. From the examples of good men; from the institutions and life of the Church; from the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit.
3. The privileges accessible there. The friendship of Christ and Christians; approach with assurance to the throne of grace in prayer for all needful Divine guidance and strength.
4. The convictions produced there. Living "in Israel," it is scarcely possible to escape impressions and convictions which especially bring wisdom within reach, and render continuance in folly and sin the more deplorable. They furnish opportunities of repentance and salvation which, being neglected, greatly increase guilt.
5. The heavier doom incurred there. By those, that is, to whom the advantages there enjoyed become occasions of greater sin. To them belong the "many stripes" (Luke 12:47) and the "sorer punishment" (Hebrews 10:29). Let each of us, then, be concerned not to be "as one of the fools in Israel."—G.W.