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The Law Applied with Mercy--Part 4, Absalom and Adonijah

Feb 02, 2008

David's sin with Bathsheba affected him throughout his 40-year reign all the way to the end. The most dramatic and prophetic of God's judgments upon David was the story of Absalom. Absalom took the law into his own hands, killing Amnon. Then he went into exile to Geshur, an Aramean kingdom to the north of Israel but beyond Israel's borders. This detail of the story foreshadowed the Babylonian exile on account of Judah's lawlessness.

Absalom later returned, even as Judah later returned from Babylon in the days of Ezra. But the end of Absalom's exile did not change his basic lawlessness and rebellion, and it was not long before he staged a revolt against David and usurped his throne in Jerusalem. This was a prophetic type of the chief rulers in Judah usurping the throne that rightfully belonged to Jesus Christ, the Son of David.

Absalom was crowned in Hebron in the presence of Ahithophel (Bathsheba's grandfather and David's counselor and friend). A thousand years later, Judas, who betrayed Jesus, came from Hebron. His name was Judas Iscariot, or Ish-Kiriath, "man from Kiriath-arba." This was the old name for Hebron (Gen. 35:27).

Ahithophel later hanged himself (2 Sam. 17:23), and Judas later met the same fate (Matt. 27:5). So it is clear that Judas played the role of Ahithophel in betraying Jesus. In Acts 1:20 Peter quotes from Psalm 69:25 and 109:8, applying these passages to Judas, which David had originally written about Ahithophel.

This being the case, it is plain that the role of Absalom was played by the chief priests who usurped Jesus' throne for themselves. The ordinary Jews of the day played the role of Absalom's army--those who had less understanding of the real motives of their leaders, and yet were used to accomplish their will.

When Absalom overthrew David, David recognized the hand of God in it and did nothing to stop Absalom. In fact, he simply left Jerusalem, leaving the throne to Absalom. Jesus submitted as a lamb to the slaughter (Isaiah 53:7), knowing that this was the judgment of God being laid upon Him (Isaiah 53:6), even as his father, David, had submitted to God's judgment a thousand years earlier. Jesus was crucified on the top (rosh, "summit, top, head, skull") of the Mount of Olives, where David proophetically made a sacrifice as he left Jerusalem (2 Sam. 15:32). He did this on the "top of the mount," and the word translated "top" is rosh, the place of the "skull" (John 19:17).

We are not told how long Absalom was allowed to remain upon David's throne in Jerusalem, but we know that David eventually returned to reclaim His throne. In the battle, Absalom was killed (2 Sam. 18:14). This portion of the prophecy has to do with the second coming of Christ and has not yet been fulfilled. It is plain, however, that the Israeli state, which has usurped not only the throne of Judah but also now the birthright of Joseph, will not survive the event.

2 Sam. 18:14 tells us that Joab thrust Absalom through with three spears while he was hanging by his hair from the oak. Absalom's abundance of hair (2 Sam. 14:26) speaks of his great pride, or arrogance. Does this prophesy of a war involving three nations, which will eventually bring the Israeli state to an end? Will the Israeli state become vulnerable because of its arrogance and over-confidence? Time will tell. It is sufficient for now to know the story and to recognize that it is a prophecy of the overthrow of the Israeli state. This is something that very few Christians understand today, for it is hidden from their eyes.

One final point must be made. In spite of all that Absalom had done to his father, David loved him with all of his heart. He did not rejoice when Absalom was killed. He mourned for him (2 Sam. 18:33 to 19:4). This too speaks of Jesus Christ. Joab, David's general, objected in 19:6,  accusing him of "loving those who hate you, and by hating those who love you." He did not understand the love of Christ in David's heart. We today should follow the example of David, not hating those who usurped the throne of Christ, but recognizing that Jesus continues to love them as always.

Getting back to God's judgment upon David, it is apparent from this story that God knows how to work all things together for good (Rom. 8:28). Although this story appears on its surface to be a story of judgment upon David for his sin, it also prophesies of Jesus, who took upon Himself the sin of the world. Though David was being judged for his own sin, God turned it into a story of how Jesus, sinless though He was, took upon Himself the sin of the world as the greatest act of Love in history.

This is how the judgments of God upon David were turned into a great message of Mercy, Love, and Hope for the world.

So far, however, David had lost three sons: the baby, Amnon, and Absalom. A fourth was yet to be lost in order for David to pay fourfold restitution according to the judgment he had pronounced upon himself. The final son, who was lost toward the end of David's life, was Adonijah.

It was the will of David that Solomon would become king after him. Solomon means peace, and he was a type of the "Prince of Peace." His half-brother, Adonijah, desired the throne for himself, and when David was old, he declared himself king (1 Kings 1:11). When David was informed of this, he immediately gave Solomon the crown in the presence of Zadok the priest, Nathan the prophet, and Benaiah the general (1 Kings 1:32). Solomon was then paraded through the streets of Jerusalem and proclaimed king in public.

Adonijah was then afraid for his life and went to the altar of sacrifice, where he took hold of the horns on the altar (1 Kings 1:50). He was given mercy and released. But later, he requested to marry Abishag, who had been hired as David's nurse in his old age (1 Kings 1:4). Solomon recognized that Adonijah still had ambitions to take the throne for himself, and so he had him executed (1 Kings 2:25).

If we look at the prophetic side of this story, perhaps Abishag's name itself is prophetic. A Dictionary of the Bible, by John D. Davis, suggests that her name means "father of wandering." Smith's Bible Dictionary suggests that it means "cause of error," taking father in the symbolic sense of "cause" and wandering in the sense of "going off the path of truth into error."

If that is the case, it might be argued that Adonijah is a prophetic picture of those who claim that "My Lord is Jehovah" (the meaning of his name), but whose actions prove that they have gone into error. If this has reference to a particular group of people, ethnic or religious, it may become clearer when the day of fulfillment arrives.

So ended the long story of God's judgment upon King David. Though God did not execute him with the sword for his sin, there is no doubt that David "died" in other ways. First, repentance itself is a form of death. Crucifying the flesh and the "old man" is a way in which we "die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31). It is how God in His mercy hews us by words of His mouth, instead of by using the physical sword (Hos. 6:5).

Repentance fulfills the corrective purpose of divine judgment and brings an alternate form of death penalty. So even with capital crimes, the law may be fulfilled without necessarily executing the guilty person. But such things are only apparent to those who understand the mind of God and the purpose of the law. Those who study the law without knowing its Author's intent have a tendency to apply the law without mercy, thinking that any alternate form of judgment puts away the law and destroys it. But that is legalism, not lawfulness.

This is the final part of a series titled "The Law Applied with Mercy." To view all parts, click the link below.

The Law Applied with Mercy

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Category: God's Law
Blog Author: Dr. Stephen Jones