“So he was left hanging between heaven and earth”—II Samuel 18:9.
A man suspended between two points– do you know who this passage was written about? It is David’s son, Absalom. He is his third son. Not only will he hang from a tree, but his advisor will kill himself in Judas fashion.
Grab a rope and hold on tight as we look at one of the most dysfunctional families listed in the Bible.
David, a man after Adonai’s own heart has multiple children by multiple women. After his father in law, King Saul, chases him over hills with an army of thousands hunting him like a wild animal, he eventually takes the crown. Saul is wounded in battle, stripped of his honor and beheaded in more ways than one. Flash forward in time, and David is king. David is a great warrior, mighty in battle, but he lacks skills dealing with those in his own household. He doesn’t take care of issues. He acts as if nothing happened when his daughter, Tamar is raped by his firstborn son, Amnon. There is no healing or validation for his daughter. Tamar wearing her royal robe rips her ornate coat from her soiled body. She cries out wailing the loss of multiple things. Her tears get stored in bottles. A note is written in ink and the exact number of salty droplets are counted from heavens throne.
But Tamar’s father will never comfort her. He will never make the guilty party pay. Tamar, like most rape victims, will be isolated. She probably felt dirty even though she was kind and innocent. Many times the women blame themselves.
After Amnon fulfills his lust for her, he has her thrown out and the door bolted. Tamar warns her half-brother before this saying, “No, my brother; for this wrong in sending me away is greater than the other that you did to me” (2 Samuel 13:15-16). This response refers to Deuteronomy 22:28 which states that a man who rapes a virgin must marry her. Ouch! Why would a woman want to marry a man who rapes her? The victim is not required to marry the rapist; the rapist is required to marry his victim (if she consents), after paying her a very heavy fine.
Something happens after we love someone with the kind of love Amnon had for Tamar. It doesn’t have to be a person of the opposite sex; it doesn’t need be lustful—it can be anyone in our lives that we love in an unhealthy manner. They become a false idol of worship. Through fear of rejection or coveting their gifts, positions, and more, we can fall into sin. Amnon is pretending to be physically sick but he is far more spiritually sick than we can imagine. He wants his sister to bake him cakes and feed him out of her own hands. He wants his cake and to eat it too. Something dreadful arises out of the place where he imagined love lingered—it’s called hatred.
“Then Amnon hated her with a very great hatred; for the hatred with which he hated her was greater than the love with which he had loved her.”
His love for her was a love to fulfill his desires and fleshly appetites. It was not a holy love. Love is defined as patient, kind, long-suffering. He has none of these qualities. We can have a false love for people. We can love the idea of them. Love has rules. The Father of Glory set up each rule for love carefully.
“You shall not uncover the nakedness of your sister, your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether brought up in the family or in another home” (Lev 18:9).
There is an order to His Love. We place the Father and His commandments first, then our spouses, then our children and honoring our parents/ family. We love our neighbor as ourselves. Anything out of this order causes chaos. If your brother hates your sister yet calls you brother and says he loves you, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
One does not have to be literally raped to be assaulted and defiled in such a manner. We, humans, are capable of doing this with our tongues and our actions. We can harm others through ignorance, gossip, and harmful words that are far greater than murder. If I shoot you, I take your life—you cease to exist, but if I shoot you with my mouth, and my fingers type out curses, I can cause people to shame you, isolate you and destroy your character. You end up living in pain daily. I know it sounds rather bizarre, but many of the wisest Sages say this can be far worse than murder.
What does all of this have to do with a man hanging between heaven and earth? A lot actually!
One event, one moment, one decision, yes, just one choice can change a person’s path forever and even change the dynamics of a whole family. Amnon did just that.
What happens to rape victims? Isn’t the victim often shamed? Of course, they are. The very ones who rape, sodomize, and destroy people’s lives often go living with no conscious or need felt to repent, meanwhile the victim is treated like a leprous outcast. Let’s look at the advice given to Tamar.
“But now keep silent, my sister, he is your brother; do not take this matter to heart.” So Tamar remained and was desolate in her brother Absalom’s house.” (II Sam. 13:20).
They are hushed. They are desolate–abandoned. The victim is often treated like the criminal or whispered about in certain circles as deserving it.
Tamar’s brother Absalom takes his sister to live in his house. King David is angry but he never punishes his son. Absalom waits for his father, the king, to do what kings do–penalize those who break the Torah and cause harm and especially to someone of a gentle nature as his beloved virgin sister. But his father is weak in this area. The man who can clean sever the head of a giant and circumcise a 100 philistines cannot do justice in his own household. He loves his oldest son more than he loves justice, mercy, and covering his daughter. He acts passive-aggressive. The silent treatment—simmering and brooding with intense anger, and yet acting as if nothing is unfolding before his eyes.
Years go by–A father, daughter, and son is separated by the sins of their very own flesh and blood. Is blood thicker than water? The blood of His covenant is thicker than any family tragedy. There is a family in Him that nothing can come in-between because the people in that family keep His commandments and they address issues right then. They go directly to the person to settle disputes. The sin of silence can’t live. Amnon is David’s oldest son, but even Dinah’s rapist wanted to marry her and make it right. Even he circumcised himself, but the circumcised son of a man after God’s own heart will act more wickedly with each action. He has her thrown out after he takes her virginity, even bolting the door.
If someone sees his fellow sinning, it is a commandment to make him return to the good and to make known to him that he is sinning, as it is said, “You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him” (Lev. 19:17). Are we bearing sin? Are we holding on to hatred and bitterness until its a putrid rancid aroma that we have grown used to like a dead skunk in the attic?
Katy bar the door! Yes, there’s trouble ahead.
In order to serve justice that was never served, Absalom comes up with a plan to invite his brothers during sheep shearing season and have Amnon killed. When we shear sheep, we remove the outer layer and get straight to the heart. Sheep shearing happened in the spring and it was considered a great festival with much drunkenness.
“As a final observation: both sheep shearing’s in Samuel involve the demise of drunken participants whose deaths aid the protagonists in their ascent to the throne: David gains land and livestock in Hebron, his future capital, and Absalom eliminates the heir to his father’s throne, placing himself next in line.”
Not only do we have these stories, but we also have another woman named Tamar, Judah’s daughter-n-law, who disguises herself as a harlot and sleeps with her father-n-law during sheep shearing season.
“Now when King David heard of all these matters, he was very angry. 22But Absalom did not speak to Amnon either good or bad; for Absalom hated Amnon because he had violated his sister Tamar. Now it came about after two full years that Absalom had sheepshearers in Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons” (II Sam 13:21-23).
Two years of hatred in his heart. He doesn’t speak good or bad. Ironically, this is the same thing Adonai warns Laban concerning Jacob and at the very season of sheep shearing. “When Laban chases after Jacob, God warns him not to speak to Jacob “from good to bad” (Gen 31:24).
Don’t speak anything good (tov) or bad (ra). Don’t say anything with intent to act or not act. Don’t act overly nice or overly cruel. But Absalom has hatred in his heart and for two years the seed has birthed murder.
Have you ever been in a room with people plotting your destruction and planning your death, but they are careful with their words. All the while, they strategically are planning your assault. Absalom is acting low key. He is giving his enemy no warning of his intentions.
Soon King David will experience what Tamar felt in a moment. He too will tear his royal robes and fall on the ground. Not once, but twice. Death. It comes in multiple colors. Sometimes we can be standing upright walking around and be deader than any corpse six feet under. This family full of dysfunction takes it to a greater level. Before the story ends there is suicide, secret messages, advisers who are said to have more wisdom than the greatest of men yet end up dangling by ropes. Kingdoms and concubines, adultery and treason, honor and shame and why such unrest? Ironically, Absalom’s name means The Father is Peace.
Finally, years go by and Absalom returns to his father. He now seeks to usurp the kingdom for himself and kill his own father. Once you’ve shed blood, it’s easier to do it again– with your hands or your words.
(II Samuel 15:10-14) Then Absalom sent secret messengers throughout the tribes of Israel to say, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpets, then say, ‘Absalom is king in Hebron.’ (11) Two hundred men from Jerusalem had accompanied Absalom. They had been invited as guests and went quite innocently, knowing nothing about the matter. (12) While Absalom was offering sacrifices, he also sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, to come from Giloh, his hometown. And so the conspiracy gained strength, and Absalom’s following kept on increasing. (13) A messenger came and told David, “The hearts of the men of Israel are with Absalom.” (14) Then David said to all his officials who were with him in Jerusalem, “Come! We must flee, or none of us will escape from Absalom. We must leave immediately, or he will move quickly to overtake us and bring ruin upon us and put the city to the sword.”
The knowledge that your son is your number #1 enemy is enough to crush the hearts of most men.
When Absalom starts his rebellion he wants to get Ahithophel on his side. Ahithophel was thought to be the grandfather of Bathsheba, so that would make him possibly a grand-father in law to David. He was his first appointed counselor and confidant.
“The advice of Ahithophel, which he gave in those days, was as if one inquired of the word of God; so was all the advice of Ahithophel regarded by both David and Absalom.” (II Sam. 16:23).
Tragedy, betrayal, and destruction are not with a foreign nation or military leader, no, it started right where it did in the garden with Cain and Abel. It’s the members of their own households.
Amnon rapes Tamar. Tamar is shamed and not taken as a wife. Absalom is angry and confronts his father. David does nothing. Two years go by and Absalom has his half-brother killed. Three years go by and the silent treatment between the father and son are brought to reconciliation by a wise woman from Tekoa. The next thing we see is Absalom trying to usurp the kingdom from his father and have him killed. One adviser, Ahithophel has him sleep with all his father’s concubines on the roof for all to see. Absalom pitches his tent-like Lot and his eyes are towards sin, his heart is now consumed with victory—a victory of his father and the kingdom given to his father by Adonai. Absalom is handsome and his hair is dark and long. He cuts it every year and it weighs it. It’s his pride and glory. He wins the hearts of the people and deceives them. He appears to be someone he is not.
Both Yeshua and Absalom have followers who hang themselves (Judas and Ahithophel). Both rode on a donkey. Absalom’s donkey will keep going as his thick tresses wrap around a branch. Absalom’s hair was caught in a thicket. Yeshua was adorned in a crown of thorns. Absalom will hang suspended between two points, the heavens and the earth.
“(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.)” (Ephesians 4:9-10). Yeshua will fill the whole universe with His Glory!
The life and death of Absalom offered to the rabbis a welcome theme wherewith to warn the people against false ambition, vainglory, and unfilial conduct. The vanity with which he displayed his beautiful hair, the rabbis say, became his snare and his stumbling-block.
“By his long hair the Nazarite entangled the people to rebel against his father, and by it he himself became entangled, to fall a victim to his pursuers” (Mishnah Soṭah, i. 8). And again, elsewhere: “By his vile stratagem he deceived and stole three hearts, that of his father, of the elders, and finally of the whole nation of Israel, and for this reason three darts were thrust into his heart to end his treacherous life” (Tosef., Soṭah, iii. 17). More striking is the following: “Did one ever hear of an oak-tree having a heart? And yet in the oak-tree in whose branches Absalom was caught, we read that upon its heart he was held up still alive while the darts were thrust through him [Mek., Shirah, § 6]. This is to show that when a man becomes so heartless as to make war against his own father, nature itself takes on a heart to avenge the deed.”
Notice that when sin is not dealt with it causes more sin. Dysfunction can be found in all families. Many people hope that the sins will evaporate and dissipate and eventually disappear, but sadly, these things usually get passed down. We need the blood of Yeshua and His Torah to become greater than any fleshly desires to be king. Let us place Yeshua Messiah as King of Kings and Lord of Lord’s. Let us cut our hair and cover our nakedness less we hang ourselves.
Could this story have had a different outcome? What if the king would have punished his firstborn son right when he raped his daughter? Could this type of authority along with action make someone like Absalom think twice before usurping authority? Our choices and actions do cause a ripple effect. What are your thoughts on this story?
“For the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset of the Ruach is life and shalom.
For the mindset of the flesh is hostile toward God, for it does not submit itself to the law of God—for it cannot.
So those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
However, you are not in the flesh but in the Ruach—if indeed the Ruach Elohim dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Ruach of Messiah, he does not belong to Him.
But if Messiah is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is alive because of righteousness.
And if the Ruach of the One who raised Yeshua from the dead dwells in you, the One who raised Messiah Yeshua from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Ruach who dwells in you.” (Romans 8:6-11, TLV).