The Cry for a Dead Child 

Second Samuel 18–19

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • June 14, In the year of our Lord, 2015


  1. Second Samuel 18.1–4 – Worth Ten Thousand

    1 And David numbered the people who were with him, and set captains of thousands and captains of hundreds over them. 2 Then David sent out one third of the people under the hand of Joab, one third under the hand of Abishai the son of Zeruiah, Joab’s brother, and one third under the hand of Ittai the Gittite. And the king said to the people, “I also will surely go out with you myself.” 3 But the people answered, “You shall not go out! For if we flee away, they will not care about us; nor if half of us die, will they care about us. But you are worth ten thousand of us now. For you are now more help to us in the city.” 4 Then the king said to them, “Whatever seems best to you I will do.” So the king stood beside the gate, and all the people went out by hundreds and by thousands.

    1. Thousands followed David.
      1. He put a third of the people under Joab,
      2. a third under Abishai, and
      3. a third under Ittai,
        1. which shows just how loyal this Philistine
        2. had made himself to David.
    2. David also wanted to go with the people, but
      1. they quickly put an end to those plans, because
      2. he was the target, worth 10,000 of them.
  2. Second Samuel 18.5 – Deal Gently with My Son

    5 Now the king had commanded Joab, Abishai, and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains orders concerning Absalom.

    1. Did you hear the words David spoke to the captains about his son?
      1. Absalom had killed his half-brother, the son of David.
      2. Absalom now sought the kingdom, which meant killing his father.
        1. Yet, David had the heart of God, and
        2. does not our God do this very thing with the world?
    2. Everyone heard David give this command.
  3. Second Samuel 18.6–8 – Twenty Thousand Die

    6 So the people went out into the field of battle against Israel. And the battle was in the woods of Ephraim. 7 The people of Israel were overthrown there before the servants of David, and a great slaughter of twenty thousand took place there that day. 8 For the battle there was scattered over the face of the whole countryside, and the woods devoured more people that day than the sword devoured.

    1. What was Absalom thinking?
      1. He was fighting David!
      2. David had his best men in charge.
    2. For Absalom’s vanity, 20,000 men died!
  4. Second Samuel 18.9–16 – Should Have Gotten a Haircut

    9 Then Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode on a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on. 10 Now a certain man saw it and told Joab, and said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree!” 11 So Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! And why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.” 12 But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying, ‘Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’ 13 Otherwise I would have dealt falsely against my own life. For there is nothing hidden from the king, and you yourself would have set yourself against me.” 14 Then Joab said, “I cannot linger with you.” And he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through Absalom’s heart, while he was still alive in the midst of the terebinth tree. 15 And ten young men who bore Joab’s armor surrounded Absalom, and struck and killed him. 16 So Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing Israel. For Joab held back the people.

    1. During the chase by David’s army and
      1. the fleeing of Absalom’s army,
      2. David’s army found Absalom.
    2. As Absalom rode on his mule,
      1. trying to get away quickly,
      2. his head, probably because of his abundant hair,
        1. got stuck in a tree, but
        2. the mule continued to run.
    3. One of David’s men ran and told Joab,
      1. who rebuked the man for not killing Absalom,
      2. saying he would have given the man 10 shekels of silver, but
        1. the man said that even if he received 1000 shekels of silver,
        2. he would not have harmed the king’s son, because
          1. he heard what David said, and
          2. the man knew that Joab would have set himself against him.
    4. Joab, irritated, took three spears, and
      1. thrust them through the heart of Absalom, his cousin, and
      2. ten men of Joab’s also struck Absalom.
  5. Second Samuel 18.17–18 – Absalom’s Monument

    17 And they took Absalom and cast him into a large pit in the woods, and laid a very large heap of stones over him. Then all Israel fled, everyone to his tent. 18 Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up a pillar for himself, which is in the King’s Valley. For he said, “I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name. And to this day it is called Absalom’s Monument.

    1. They buried Absalom and
      1. everyone went home.
    2. Absalom had set up a monument for himself,
      1. since he had no son to carry on his legacy, and
      2. he called the pillar after his own name.
  6. Second Samuel 18.19–23 – Eager to Report the News

    19 Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Let me run now and take the news to the king, how the Lord has avenged him of his enemies.” 20 And Joab said to him, “You shall not take the news this day, for you shall take the news another day. But today you shall take no news, because the king’s son is dead.” 21 Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” So the Cushite bowed himself to Joab and ran. 22 And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “But whatever happens, please let me also run after the Cushite.” So Joab said, “Why will you run, my son, since you have no news ready?” 23 “But whatever happens,” he said, “let me run.” So he said to him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain, and outran the Cushite.

    1. Ahimaaz wanted to inform David of what happened to his enemies.
      1. However, Joab did not want Ahimaaz to go because
      2. it was not good news that the king’s son was dead.
    2. Joab sent a Cushite, a foreigner, instead to David.
      1. The Cushite bowed before Joab and
      2. ran to David with news of the defeat of Absalom and his rebellion.
    3. Ahimaaz again insisted on running to David with news of the battle.
      1. Joab questioned why he wanted to go.
      2. Ahimaaz insisted again and
        1. Joab let him go, and
        2. Ahimaaz took a different route and outran the Cushite.
  7. Second Samuel 18.24–32 – Hungry for News

    24 Now David was sitting between the two gates. And the watchman went up to the roof over the gate, to the wall, lifted his eyes and looked, and there was a man, running alone. 25 Then the watchman cried out and told the king. And the king said, “If he is alone, there is news in his mouth.” And he came rapidly and drew near. 26 Then the watchman saw another man running, and the watchman called to the gatekeeper and said, “There is another man, running alone!” And the king said, “He also brings news.” 27 So the watchman said, “I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.” And the king said, “He is a good man, and comes with good news.” 28 So Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “All is well!” Then he bowed down with his face to the earth before the king, and said, “Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king!” 29 The king said, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant and me your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about.” 30 And the king said, “Turn aside and stand here.” So he turned aside and stood still. 31 Just then the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “There is good news, my lord the king! For the Lord has avenged you this day of all those who rose against you.” 32 And the king said to the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” So the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man!”

    1. David sat eagerly by the gates of the city where he had located.
    2. The watchman saw a runner, and then
      1. another runner,
      2. identifying the first runner as Ahimaaz.
    3. Ahimaaz gave David good news of the victory, but
      1. claimed not to know what happened to Absalom.
      2. Listen: People reporting news do not always tell the whole story!
        1. Even a man friendly to David,
        2. did not tell the whole story.
          1. Ahimaaz did not tell a falsehood, but
          2. intentionally held back information to make himself look good.
    4. Then the Cushite showed up and
      1. announced that the Lord had avenged David of the rebels.
      2. When David asked whether Absalom was safe,
        1. the Cushite thought he delivered good news, and said
        2. that he desired that anyone who rises up against David
          1. would suffer the same fate
          2. as the young man Absalom.
  8. Second Samuel 18.33–19.4 – The Bitter Wail of a Grieved Parent

    33 Then the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept. And as he went, he said thus: “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” 1 And Joab was told, “Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.” 2 So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people. For the people heard it said that day, “The king is grieved for his son.” 3 And the people stole back into the city that day, as people who are ashamed steal away when they flee in battle. 4 But the king covered his face, and the king cried out with a loud voice, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

    1. David knew what that meant;
      1. his son was dead.
      2. Those of you who have lost children,
        1. know what or how David felt that day.
        2. Verse 33 says that he was deeply moved.
    2. Then he went up from where he was
      1. into a chamber above the gate and wept.
      2. As he made his way to the chamber—to be alone—he wept and
        1. see the love that the king had for his son.
        2. Listen to his wail and agony,

          33b “O my son Absalom—my son, my son Absalom—if only I had died in your place! O Absalom my son, my son!” (2Sa 18.33).
    3. News reached Joab that the king wept and mourned for his son.
      1. Then victory for Israel turned to mourning.
      2. All Israel heard of David’s deep grief.
        1. They all went back into the city,
        2. ashamed of what had happened.
    4. David’s grief did not stop,
      1. he covered his face,
      2. cried out loudly, saying in 19.4,

        “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”

  9. Second Samuel 19.5–7 – Joab Offers Advice

    5 Then Joab came into the house to the king, and said, “Today you have disgraced all your servants who today have saved your life, the lives of your sons and daughters, the lives of your wives and the lives of your concubines, 6 in that you love your enemies and hate your friends. For you have declared today that you regard neither princes nor servants; for today I perceive that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died today, then it would have pleased you well. 7 Now therefore, arise, go out and speak comfort to your servants. For I swear by the Lord, if you do not go out, not one will stay with you this night. And that will be worse for you than all the evil that has befallen you from your youth until now.”

    1. Then see who offers David advice—Joab!
    2. Joab actually told his uncle David that he disgraced
      1. his servants who fought for him,
        1. saving his life,
        2. the lives of his other children,
        3. the lives of his wives, and
        4. the lives of his concubines,
      2. claiming that David
        1. loved his enemies and
        2. hated his friends.
      3. Joab claimed that
        1. if Absalom had survived, and
        2. if all David’s servants had died,
          1. David would have been pleased.
          2. Therefore, Joab told David
            1. to go out and speak to the people,
            2. otherwise, he would lose everyone that night, and
              1. Joab added that everyone leaving
              2. would be worse than anything he had ever experienced.
  10. Second Samuel 19.8–14 – David Restores the Kingdom

    8 Then the king arose and sat in the gate. And they told all the people, saying, “There is the king, sitting in the gate.” So all the people came before the king. For everyone of Israel had fled to his tent. 9 Now all the people were in a dispute throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “The king saved us from the hand of our enemies, he delivered us from the hand of the Philistines, and now he has fled from the land because of Absalom. 10 But Absalom, whom we anointed over us, has died in battle. Now therefore, why do you say nothing about bringing back the king?” 11 So King David sent to Zadok and Abiathar the priests, saying, “Speak to the elders of Judah, saying, ‘Why are you the last to bring the king back to his house, since the words of all Israel have come to the king, to his very house? 12 You are my brethren, you are my bone and my flesh. Why then are you the last to bring back the king?’ 13 And say to Amasa, ‘Are you not my bone and my flesh? God do so to me, and more also, if you are not commander of the army before me continually in place of Joab.’” 14 So he swayed the hearts of all the men of Judah, just as the heart of one man, so that they sent this word to the king: “Return, you and all your servants!”

    1. David recognized that some of what Joab said was true.
      1. Therefore, he went to the gate.
      2. He needed to recognize that the people had sacrificed for him.
    2. Among the tribes of Israel a dispute had arisen.
      1. They saw that he saved them from their enemies.
      2. They spoke among themselves,
        1. asking why they had not brought the king back.
        2. David recognized what they did for him, but
          1. they also recognized what he had done for them.
    3. David then sent the priests to his own tribe, the tribe of Judah,
      1. asking why they were the last
      2. to bring him back.
    4. David also instructed the priests
      1. to speak to Amasa,
      2. that he was to replace Joab as commander of the army.
    5. These actions persuaded Judah and they worked to bring back their king.
  11. Second Samuel 19.15–40 – King Over Israel Again

    15 Then the king returned and came to the Jordan. And Judah came to Gilgal, to go to meet the king, to escort the king across the Jordan. 16 And Shimei the son of Gera, a Benjamite, who was from Bahurim, hurried and came down with the men of Judah to meet King David. 17 There were a thousand men of Benjamin with him, and Ziba the servant of the house of Saul, and his fifteen sons and his twenty servants with him; and they went over the Jordan before the king. 18 Then a ferryboat went across to carry over the king’s household, and to do what he thought good. Now Shimei the son of Gera fell down before the king when he had crossed the Jordan. 19 Then he said to the king, “Do not let my lord impute iniquity to me, or remember what wrong your servant did on the day that my lord the king left Jerusalem, that the king should take it to heart. 20 For I, your servant, know that I have sinned. Therefore here I am, the first to come today of all the house of Joseph to go down to meet my lord the king.” 21 But Abishai the son of Zeruiah answered and said, “Shall not Shimei be put to death for this, because he cursed the Lord’s anointed?” 22 And David said, “What have I to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah, that you should be adversaries to me today? Shall any man be put to death today in Israel? For do I not know that today I am king over Israel?” 23 Therefore the king said to Shimei, “You shall not die.” And the king swore to him. 24 Now Mephibosheth the son of Saul came down to meet the king. And he had not cared for his feet, nor trimmed his mustache, nor washed his clothes, from the day the king departed until the day he returned in peace. 25 So it was, when he had come to Jerusalem to meet the king, that the king said to him, “Why did you not go with me, Mephibosheth?” 26 And he answered, “My lord, O king, my servant deceived me. For your servant said, ‘I will saddle a donkey for myself, that I may ride on it and go to the king,’ because your servant is lame. 27 And he has slandered your servant to my lord the king, but my lord the king is like the angel of God. Therefore do what is good in your eyes. 28 For all my father’s house were but dead men before my lord the king. Yet you set your servant among those who eat at your own table. Therefore what right have I still to cry out anymore to the king?” 29 So the king said to him, “Why do you speak anymore of your matters? I have said, ‘You and Ziba divide the land.’” 30 Then Mephibosheth said to the king, “Rather, let him take it all, inasmuch as my lord the king has come back in peace to his own house.” 31 And Barzillai the Gileadite came down from Rogelim and went across the Jordan with the king, to escort him across the Jordan. 32 Now Barzillai was a very aged man, eighty years old. And he had provided the king with supplies while he stayed at Mahanaim, for he was a very rich man. 33 And the king said to Barzillai, “Come across with me, and I will provide for you while you are with me in Jerusalem.” 34 But Barzillai said to the king, “How long have I to live, that I should go up with the king to Jerusalem? 35 I am today eighty years old. Can I discern between the good and bad? Can your servant taste what I eat or what I drink? Can I hear any longer the voice of singing men and singing women? Why then should your servant be a further burden to my lord the king? 36 Your servant will go a little way across the Jordan with the king. And why should the king repay me with such a reward? 37 Please let your servant turn back again, that I may die in my own city, near the grave of my father and mother. But here is your servant Chimham; let him cross over with my lord the king, and do for him what seems good to you.” 38 And the king answered, “Chimham shall cross over with me, and I will do for him what seems good to you. Now whatever you request of me, I will do for you.” 39 Then all the people went over the Jordan. And when the king had crossed over, the king kissed Barzillai and blessed him, and he returned to his own place. 40 Now the king went on to Gilgal, and Chimham went on with him. And all the people of Judah escorted the king, and also half the people of Israel.

    1. As David returned,
      1. Shimei, who had cursed David, thrown stones at him, and kick up the dust against David,
      2. came to meet the king with 1000 men!
        1. He begged for David not to remember what he had done.
        2. Now that he saw that David overcame the rebellion,
          1. Shimei wanted to be on David’s good side.
          2. Joab’s brother, Abishai, wanted to kill Shimei, but
            1. David stopped him.
    2. Then Mephibosheth appeared and
      1. had not taken care of himself.
      2. David questioned him,
        1. remembering what Mephibosheth’s servant, Ziba, had said,
        2. that Mephibosheth believed he would get the kingdom.
          1. However, he said that Ziba had slandered the son of Jonathan.
          2. Mephibosheth acknowledged David’s generosity toward him.
    3. Then David somewhat reversed an earlier decision
      1. that Ziba could have everything that belonged to Mephibosheth, and
      2. now they would divide all the land and possessions.
        1. However, in verse 30, Mephibosheth showed his innocence I believe,

          “Rather, let him take it all, inasmuch as my lord the king has come back in peace to his own house.”
        2. To me, that showed that his version of the story was correct,
          1. like the two harlots before Solomon,
          2. one of whom had accidentally rolled over on her son during the night, and
            1. switched babies with the other harlot, and
            2. Solomon said to cut the baby in half.
              1. The guilty mother said that was a good idea, but
              2. the true mother said to give the baby to the other woman.
                1. Solomon could then see who was the true mother.
    4. An 80-year old man escorted David to the Jordan, and
      1. David invited the man to join him in Jerusalem, but
      2. the man turned down the offer,
        1. wanting to stay in his home, but
        2. he offered his servant to David.
  12. Second Samuel 19.41–43 – Fighting Over David

    41 Just then all the men of Israel came to the king, and said to the king, “Why have our brethren, the men of Judah, stolen you away and brought the king, his household, and all David’s men with him across the Jordan?” 42 So all the men of Judah answered the men of Israel, “Because the king is a close relative of ours. Why then are you angry over this matter? Have we ever eaten at the king’s expense? Or has he given us any gift?” 43 And the men of Israel answered the men of Judah, and said, “We have ten shares in the king; therefore we also have more right to David than you. Why then do you despise us—were we not the first to advise bringing back our king?” Yet the words of the men of Judah were fiercer than the words of the men of Israel.

    1. The other tribes of Israel objected to Judah
      1. bringing the king back, because
      2. Judah did not invite the other tribes to join in.
    2. Judah answered back that the king was their relative.
      1. Israel answered back that they had more shares in David.
      2. However, Judah continued to argue and prevailed over the other tribes.


  1. Beware of Honoring Yourself 
    1. Absalom set up a pillar,
    2. naming it after himself,
      1. wanting to be remembered.
      2. Psalm 49 shows the futility of what Absalom did,

        11 Their inner thought is that their houses will last forever,
        Their dwelling places to all generations;
        They call their lands after their own names.
        12 Nevertheless man, though in honor, does not remain;
        He is like the beasts that perish.
        (Psa 49.11–12)
    3. Live for God and man, and
      1. both God and man
      2. will see that you are remembered.
  2. Do Not Assume that You Have Heard the Whole Truth 
    1. When your children were small and
    2. one told on the other,
      1. did you believe what the first child said
      2. without hearing from the second child?
        1. Why then do we fail to operate this way with adults?
        2. In John 7, Nicodemus asked a good question,

          51 “Does our law judge a man before it hears him and knows what he is doing?” (John 7.51).
        3. Please remember Second Corinthians 13.1,
          1. which is based upon Deuteronomy 19,
          2. that one witness cannot stand against someone, but
            1. two or three witnesses established the matter,
            2. enabling the priests to then investigate,

              1 This will be the third time I am coming to you. “By the mouth of two or three witnesses every word shall be established” (2Co 13.1).
  3. The Holy Spirit teaches us 
    1. to know these stories from the Hebrew Bible, and
    2. to learn how to conduct ourselves today as Christians.
      1. Read the Old Testament.
      2. Meditate upon it.
        1. You will learn not to fall away, and
        2. you will learn repentance, obedience, and God’s forgiveness.