Deal Gently with Absalom

By Chidi Otamiri

“And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.” 2 Samuel 18:5.

A bitter rivalry began to develop between David and his son Absalom. Absalom was the third son of Kind David (2 Samuel 3:3). His beauty was flawless. The Bible records that in all of Israel none was as beautiful as Absalom (2 Samuel 14:25). Three distinct creatures in the Bible were described as being flawless in their beauty; they are Adam, Absalom and Lucifer.

Absalom’s beauty was one of his greatest assets given to him by God. Unfortunately, he could not manage it properly. Both ladies and men admired him. He was masculine beauty personified. Even his gesticulations and gait were faultless. “…from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.” (2 Samuel 14:25).

I could imagine how proud David felt to have such a beautiful son. Absalom’s beauty brought so much satisfaction and joy to David. David would prefer to take Absalom along for a stroll or visit to some places just to parade his (David’s) beauty being expressed in his son. This is typical of parents who have exceptionally beautiful children.

Unfortunately for Absalom and very ironically, he had a very ugly heart. His heart was evil, dirty and depraved; indeed a direct opposite of his physical features. He nursed grudge and bitterness against his brother Amnon for two full years for raping his sister Tamar. As a way consummating his hideous intentions, he killed his elder brother Amnon in cold blood. Absalom’s physical looks were so angelic that you could hardly imagine him harbouring such evil in his heart.

As a result of Absalom’s escapade, he could not see his father’s face for about five years. (2 Samuel 13:37-38; 14:28). He ran to his maternal home at Geshur and stayed with his uncle. The Bible is silent as to all that could have happened to Absalom while he was at Geshur. I believe while he was there he got more depraved and this time even became power drunk and possibly took a study on how to effectively plan and execute a coup.

A reconciliation between father and son was brokered and soon Absalom was back home, which gladdened David’s heart.

Absalom’s return was for him to immediately begin the execution of what he had probably nursed and rehearsed in his heart for five years. He came to take over King David’s throne. His action was treasonable and punishable by death.

Absalom has fully implemented his evil agenda by causing disaffection and dissatisfaction in the hearts of the people of Israel. He has succeeded in expelling his father from the capital city. The stage is now set for him to take over his father’s throne. Treason!

The final and epic battle is set between Absalom’s army and David’s army. It is this battle that will determine who sits permanently on the throne of Israel. David is advised by his men not to be part of the battle.

As David’s men get set to leave for the battle, David gives Joab and all the soldiers this instruction:

“And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.” 2 Samuel 18:5.

The above account illustrates the relationship between God and man. Man was created as a beautiful and perfect being. God Himself affirmed that man was very good after his creation. Unfortunately, man committed treason. He challenged God’s authority and ate the forbidden fruit with the intention that he will become as God. Our concern in this study is not how man fell from God’s glory but the type of heart God has for mankind, in spite of their sins.

David’s instruction to Joab to deal gently with an opposing military leader seems strange. This was not the way David dealt with Goliath; or with the cities of the Geshurites, the Girzites and the Amalekites (1 Samuel 27:8-9); or with the kings and generals of the Philistines, the Moabites, the Ammonites and the Syrians (2 Samuel 8-10).

David saw in Absalom his true image; his likeness. Absalom was not one of the gentile enemies of Israel, but an offspring of David. In spite of his treasonable acts he was still David’s son. Though Absalom was determined to dethrone his father even if it meant killing his father, yet he was David’s son. The young man was so evil and promiscuous to the point of sleeping with his father’s concubines in the public just to spite his father, yet he remained David’s son.

David’s love for Absalom was unique and awesome. He was willing to make any sacrifice for his son, including dying for him.

“… O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Samuel 18:33.

David’s desire was to lead the battle against Absalom’s army. You can be sure that if David had led that battle every other enemy could have been killed but Absalom. The main reason why David wanted to lead his army was to ensure the safety of his son – his image. Even when they persuaded him to stay back he rather chose to stand at the gate waiting to hear news about the battle and the safety of his son.

David’s love for Absalom typifies God’s love for mankind. God’s love for man by far exceeds David’s love for Absalom. God had to give Himself (Jesus Christ) to die for the sins of the world.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 3:16.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8.

In every man on earth is the true image of God, despite their depravity and hostility towards God. They may curse God, persecute and kill believers, burn down our church buildings, oppose the gospel of Jesus Christ, form a strong alliance with hell to fight against God’s righteous course, yet they remain God’s image.

And yet there is a battle raging between light and darkness. The army of light is led by Christ through the church, while the army of darkness is led by these depraved image of God. The hearts of these sinners are bitter against God. They consider themselves God’s avowed enemies; eternally estranged from God. The battle must be fought and the kingdom restored to our God. However, how do we execute this warfare in such a way that our victory will not be the Father’s loss? How do we combat hell with the whole armour of God without human casualties? This matter is very delicate and calls for divine wisdom in dealing with it.

After Absalom was killed and the trumpet of victory was sounded, the news of the death of Absalom turned the victory song into great mourning for David. How could the army be celebrating victory and the captain is mourning? How could the church and its leadership be rejoicing over the death of souls and the Lord is grieving for the eternal damnation of the souls of those created in His image.

“And it was told Joab, Behold, the king weepeth and mourneth for Absalom. And the victory that day was turned into mourning unto all the people: for the people heard say that day how the king was grieved for his son. 2 Samuel 19:1,2.

On several occasions our victories have been the Lord’s loss. When the church celebrates great victories and testimonies of “God’s” divine intervention, if our eyes can be opened to see what goes through the heart of the Father we will actually see Him weeping for the deaths of His Absaloms.


Let the Lord Lead His Army

“… And the king said unto the people, I will surely go forth with you myself also. But the people answered, Thou shalt not go forth…”

2 Samuel 18:2,3.

David was determined to lead this battle but was opposed by his men. This was how David began having the ominous sign that his son may not survive the battle. Often times as believers, we have been engaging in several battles without the Lord leading the army. We have succeeded in leaving the Lord behind at the “gate” standing and watching, while we are away in the battle field. The battle is the Lord’s and not ours. If our victory in this battle of life must gladden the heart of the Father, we must let Him lead the battle.

We should never be tempted to push the Lord aside because of the obvious wickedness and evil of the enemy. When we hear about their witchcraft and how they kill our brethren we may want to act on impulse without allowing the Lord take the lead in the battle.

Onward, Christian soldiers!
Marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus
Going on before,

Christ, the royal Master,
Leads against the foe;
Forward into battle
See His banners go!

When the Lord leads the army, He knows how to handle the enemies. He is the Potter and reserves the right to choose who to kill or keep alive. The Lord knows how to deliver the captives whose hearts the devil has blinded and bring them back into His fold. In the early church, Herod stood against the church and even killed James the apostle. The church never took the battle away from the Lord. They allowed the Lord to fight His battle. They never prayed that Herod, Saul or anyone persecuting them should die. The Lord in His wisdom chose to save Saul and killed Herod, and the church had rest.

“And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word.” Acts 4:29

 “Peter therefore was kept in prison: but prayer was made without ceasing of the church unto God for him [prayer was made FOR Peter, not AGAINST Herod].” Acts 12:5

The church prayed for Peter, not against Herod. Peter was the object of their prayer. In our warfare against the kingdom of darkness, we should concern ourselves more with praying for our brethren and for the expansion of the kingdom. Our battle is not against flesh and blood but against principalities, powers and spiritual wickedness in high places who use these human vessels. Let us deal with these spirits and set their captives free.

Deal Gently with Absalom

“And the king commanded Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom. And all the people heard when the king gave all the captains charge concerning Absalom.” 2 Samuel 18:5.

One thing that strikes my heart in this scripture is, “And ALL the people heard when the king gave ALL the captains charge concerning Absalom.” The charge by David concerning Absalom was public. The charge was to ALL the captains and ALL the people heard it. Our captains, leaders, pastors, evangelists, prophets, apostles, and teachers must heed this charge. It is a charge, not an advice or appeal that concerns the Lord’s image. No one could give any excuse that he did not hear this charge.

“Deal gently for my sake with the young man, even with Absalom…”

Absalom deserved no gentleness or mercy. What he deserved was violence, revenge, brutality and death. However, for the sake of his father, the captains were charged to deal gently with him. Fight the good fight of faith, destroy the works of darkness, but when you come in contact with Absalom, deal gently with him for the father’s sake. Absalom’s death was a great loss to David. David had great plans for his son. He hoped that one day Absalom would repent from his evil ways and become a responsible child. David remembered the circumstances surrounding the conception of Absalom, the months of pregnancy, his birth, infancy and upbringing. He remembered all the great times he had with his boy. David thought about the unique beauty of Absalom and how no child of his could ever replace Absalom. For his (David’s) sake he wanted Absalom spared.

In dealing with the Absaloms of this age, even if they die, let it not be said that they died because of your brutality but in your showing them kindness.

“Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” Romans 12:20.

 We must be tough on the devil and gentle on his human agents. We must be violent against sin but show love to sinners. Some of us were once with the devil fighting against the Lord. The Lord dealt very gently with us, saved us and brought us back into His fold.

Let us allow the love of Jesus fill our hearts. That same love that made Him die for our sins on the cross should permeate our whole being. We can only conquer the world through love and not hate or violence.


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