Lectionary Year B
August 10, 2003
II Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33

Step V: Distillation

A. Summary of Salient Features

(JFC) The "theological 'center of gravity'" might come in David's grievously wishing that he had died instead of his son Absalom; that image could be seen as a remote prefiguring of Christ's atonement for human sinfulness. It is expressed literally to Absalom, yet Absalom in the timeless time after his life has ended and therefore God is in on the exchange of hopes and grief. Or, is that too far a stretch? Then how 'bout some theology in David's loving care for his son in battle even though he is on the enemy side of the battle lines? That's unconditionally innate love, God's kind of love. These are the major elements in this pericope leaving the minor concerns to be how Absalom died, who actually killed him and how and when and where, the two messengers back to David with some of the news, re: Absalom's death and the message itself announcing his demise.

B. Smoother Translation

(JFC) 5 And the King commanded Joab and Abisha and Ittai saying, "Do be careful for the lad Absalom". All the people heard this command to the officials concerning this matter of Absalom. 6 And went out the troops into the field to meet Israel and it was in the forest Ephraim. 7 And were smitten/stricken there the Israelite troops before the servants/army of David and it happened there the slaughter great in that day twenty thousand. 8 And it happened there that the battle was scattered over the face of all the earth and the forest made to devour the soldiers on but not as much as the sword that devoured that day. 9 And Absalom encountered/met before the faces of the servants of David and Absalom was riding on a mule and the mule came under the network of some branches of a Terebinth Tree and his head got caught in the Terebinth and it was stuck in between the heavens and the earth and the mule went on under him. 15 And came around/surrounded ten servants carrying weapons/utensils of Joab's and they struck/smote Absalom and they killed him. 31 And behold the Cushite/Ethiopian came and said, "We have good news, Master our King, Yahweh was branding for judging/governing those Yahweh today on account of all those having risen up against you. 32 And said the King unto the Cushite/Ethiopian, "Peace to the lad, Absalom?" And the Cushite/Ethiopean said, "It will have been unto the lad as with those being enemies of my lord the King and all those who have arisen against you for evil." 33 And commanded the King unto Joab unto Abishi and Ittai and saying that the boy to lay charge, Absalom, my son Absalom I am wishing to go out/to die rather than my son Absalom my son my kindred.

C. Hermeneutical Bridge

(JFC) Henri Nouwen writes in Our Greatest Gift, "A good death is a death in solidarity with others. To prepare ourselves for a good death, we must develop or deepen this sense of solidarity. If we live toward death as toward an event that separates us from people death cannot be other than a sad and sorrowful event. But if we grow in our awareness that our mortality, more than anything else, will lead us into solidarity with others, then death cannot become a celebration of our unity with the human race. Instead of separating us from others; instead of being sorrowful, it can give rise to new joy; instead of simply ending life, it can begin something new." Absalom had separated himself from David who had no choice but to grieve accordingly and extensively. Some thought David over indulged in grieving. They then rejoined David with his troops and people, we can hope, in solidarity to be developed and deepened.

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