In 1971 the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was filmed. I’m of the opinion that it’s much better than the modern remake, but anywho…do you remember the boat ride scene? As they wind their way through the factory they all get on a boat and two Oompa Loompa’s begin rowing them down stream. As they enter into the tunnel images of all kinds of nasty things appear on the walls around them from spiders, insects, skeletons, etc. As all the riders are growing uneasy and asking Wonka to stop the boat ride, Wonka begins a reciting an eerie poem:

There’s no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There’s no knowing where we’re rowing
Or which way the river’s flowing

Is it raining, is it snowing
Is a hurricane a–blowing

Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of Hell a–glowing
Is the grisly reaper mowing

Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they’re certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing

As this poem progresses it brings all the riders (except Charlie and his grandfather) further and further into a frantic state that abruptly ends at the next factory room. It’s one of many strange scenes in a wonderfully strange movie. Why tell you of this today? I think the words to this poem and the frantic-ness the riders feel is exactly what we as readers feel when we begin 2 Samuel 13. All was once well in the Kingdom. David had defeated their enemies and won a deep rest and peace. We’re grieved when chapter 11 shows us David’s many sins though when chapter 12 shows us his repentance we happily think it’s over and done with. But as we come to chapter 13 we begin to witness the foul aftermath of David’s foul sins.[1]

The events of v22-39, our text today, are an overflow of what occurred in v1-21. Recall then, the horrific scene of these first verses where David’s son Amnon insatiably desires to have his sister Tamar. He made himself ill over her because he didn’t think there was a chance he could ever have her. Enter Jonadab, who lays out a deceitful plan to dupe David and have Tamar. The plans unfolds and despite Tamar’s resistance Amnon gets what he has so longed for. But don’t miss v15. Amnon had once ‘loved’ Tamar deeply, and once he got her he didn’t like what he got. He now he hates her with an intense hatred and commands her to leave. David hears of the vile deed and gets angry but does nothing more. He’s the king (!) and as the king he’s to dole out justice in a kingly and godly manner, but he leaves justice undone. Meanwhile, Tamar goes to Absalom her brother, tells him, he cares for her, gives her a place to stay, and all the while holds his hatred toward Amnon within. We’ve arrived at our text. Two scenes fill out the remainder of this chapter, see first…

Sneaking & Plotting (v22-29)

We wish in these verses that we’d see David ‘playing the man’ and being the king he’s supposed to be, but we don’t see that. Rather, we see a man grieving and seemingly unable to do the right he knows he should do. I think he’s overwhelmed at how long the shadow of his own sins has grown, and he remembers the consequence given back in 12:10. Because he despised the Lord and His ways and His Word, the sword shall never depart his house. The same house that had received such covenant promise in chapter 7, that house now forever has a sword in it. And here in our text, it strikes a heavy blow.

The Plot Conceived (v22)

“But Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad, for Absalom hated Amnon, because he had violated his sister Tamar.”

Since David wasn’t upholding justice for Tamar as he should’ve done, his inaction creates much reaction in Absalom. Absalom hates his brother Amnon, which is on one hand is natural. Tamar is his sister! It would’ve been commendable for him to bring Amnon to justice properly, or even to go to him personally and plead with him to repent and right this wrong. But on the other hand it’s beyond the bounds plot his assassination out of his hatred. Amnon did break the seventh commandment, but now Absalom seeks to right this wrong by breaking the sixth, as if murder could cover up adultery?[2]James 2:11 has a wise reminder for us in this, “For He who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the Law.” Just as Amnon thrust aside God’s Law and did what he wanted to do, so too Absalom is plotting to do the same.

It says in v22 Absalom spoke to Amnon neither good nor bad and in v23 we learn he did this for two years. Just watching and waiting for the opportunity to present itself in just the right manner he so desired. Of course during this time he outwardly maintained a proper appearance, an appropriate posture and politeness toward Amnon, even though disgust was brewing deep within. Psalm 55:21 describes him, “His speech was smooth as butter, yet war was in his heart; his words were softer than oil, yet they were drawn swords.” Pause here Church. Now, some of you don’t do this, no. Some of you when something bothers you, or rubs you the wrong way you just open up and let everyone know about it. There’s great danger in that for sure, but that response isn’t what’s in view here. What’s in view here is those of you who quietly stew, for you, Absalom is a great warning. You know what I mean right? Some of you will hear something, experience something, or see something that offends you or rubs up against you, and rather than just coming out with it and making it known that you’ve been angered or wronged or offended…you stay quiet, so quiet that no one would know from outward appearances that you’re boiling within. You’re like ducks. Above the water you appear calm and collected but underneath you’re churning rapidly. Heed the warning of Absalom Church, if Ephesians 4:26-27 says only one sunset on our anger gives room for the devil, can you image what two full years of sunsets did to Absalom’s anger?[3] The terrible consequences of his stewing anger largely occupy the rest of 2 Samuel. Well, what initially comes of all his stewing?

The Plot Commences (v23-27)

“After two full years Absalom had sheepshearers at Baal-hazor, which is near Ephraim, and Absalom invited all the king’s sons. And Absalom came to the king and said, “Behold, your servant has sheepshearers. Please let the king and his servants go with your servant.” But the king said to Absalom, “No, my son, let us not all go, lest we be burdensome to you.” He pressed him, but he would not go but gave him his blessing. Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.” And the king said to him, “Why should he go with you?” But Absalom pressed him until he let Amnon and all the king’s sons go with him.”

In v23 we now see what we’ve spoken of, that two full years have gone by since the dreadful ordeal of Amnon and Tamar. Did you notice that in one verse two full years pass with no mention of anything happening? Why is that so? Because in these two years nothing did happen, nothing at least, visible to the eye. If you’re reading this for the first time you might even conclude the family had moved past the tragic events of the past and that Absalom is wanting to express some goodwill to his family by inviting David and all the king’s sons to come to his sheep-shearing.[4] Sheep-shearing was an annual feast where they would do just that, shear the sheep. And after a hard day’s labor they’d rest and rejoice in the evening with a great celebration.[5] Was this a goodwill move toward the rest of the family, Amnon included? Let’s see. Absalom comes before David and in respectful language requests that David and all his servants attend his feast. This is respectful indeed, how can one of the king’s sons have a feast and not invite the king? But it’s clearly out of the question for David and all his many servants to come. David even mentions in v25 that it would be far too expensive to provide for such a large gathering. Absalom keeps on asking him again, but David still says no. Then in v26 another question comes out, “Then Absalom said, “If not, please let my brother Amnon go with us.” David responds how we would respond after reading the first half of chapter 13, “Why should he go with you?” David remembers, all too well, how Amnon raped Tamar, how Absalom took her in, how an ill will between these two brothers had to be thick, but also how nothing ever came of it. Suspicion and doubt were surely present in David prompting him to pause and ask this question. But guilt and shame were probably present as well remembering how he hadn’t dealt with the situation at all. Imagine David on the throne weighed down with his own past, the trouble in his family, unsure of how to interpret this situation thinking to himself, ‘Is Absalom up to something? Is he manipulating me? Or is he being truthful?’ Just as Absalom pressed before, he keeps pressing, and David finally gives in and agrees to let all the sons attend, including Amnon. Notice Church, we now see David being manipulated into a decision by one of his sons for the second time.[6] Amnon did it to him before, now Absalom does it him again. Hint, this isn’t going to end well.

The Plot Concludes (v28-29)

After all has been planned and the sheep-shearing is about to begin we read in v28-29, “Then Absalom commanded his servants, ‘Mark when Amnon’s heart is merry with wine, and when I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon,’ then kill him. Do not fear; have I not commanded you? Be courageous and be valiant.’” So the servants of Absalom did to Amnon as Absalom had commanded. Then all the king’s sons arose, and each mounted his mule and fled.”

There it is. The plan is given in v28, and the plan is carried out in v29. It’s quite chilling to read isn’t it? Two years of planning and plotting, of stewing hatred culminating in a successful murder. Absalom announces it to his servants as if murdering his own brother is an honorable thing to do as he says, ‘Be courageous and be valiant…kill him at my command.’ The notion of being ‘valiant’ ought to be reserved for deeds of virtue, not vice![7] As appalled as we might be, remember David here. He had given way to his lust and took a woman he shouldn’t have, just like Amnon did. And afterwards David murdered a man to try and bring the mess to a conclusion, just like Absalom did. Lesson? Like father like son. These two boys are just like their Dad. Fathers, does this bring you to repentance? It ought to. We all sin in many ways, both in front of and against our children. May we be men who repent when we sin, who ask for forgiveness, and who point our children beyond us to Christ, the One who’ll never sin against or hurt His children. Look how v29 ends after the deed had been done, “Then all the king’s sons arose, and each mounted his mule and fled.” The rest of Absalom’s brothers flee because they’re unsure how far he’ll go in his bloody designs.[8] Sin is creating chaos in this family as the foul aftermath continues…

We’ve seen sneaking and plotting in v22-29, now look to v30-39 where we see…

Mourning & Fleeing (v30-39)

In this second chunk of our text there are also three headings to see.

What David Heard (v30-33)

“While they were on the way, news came to David, “Absalom has struck down all the king’s sons, and not one of them is left.” Then the king arose and tore his garments and lay on the earth. And all his servants who were standing by tore their garments. But Jonadab the son of Shimeah, David’s brother, said, “Let not my lord suppose that they have killed all the young men, the king’s sons, for Amnon alone is dead. For by the command of Absalom this has been determined from the day he violated his sister Tamar. Now therefore let not my lord the king so take it to heart as to suppose that all the king’s sons are dead, for Amnon alone is dead.”

Apparently an exaggerated account of what occurred had gotten around and when David heard it he and his servants responded in grief…tearing their clothes and laying in the dust. Of course this is tragic and they all know it. But I wonder if David responds like this because if all his sons are truly dead it means his line – the Davidic line, through whom God had promised to bring about the Messiah, was over and done with.[9] Surely that’s part of it, along with the memory of his own sins, and his part he played in the rape of Tamar and the death of (what he now thinks) all his sons. But in v32 the tall tale comes into clarity by none other than the devious Jonadab. We saw him in v3 give Amnon horrid advice, and now we see him sneaking still. It just so happens that he remained in Jerusalem and didn’t go the feast. He comes to David, tells the true tale and adds the minor detail that the death of Amnon was Absalom’s plan all along. Did you hear that? Jonadab not only knew about this plot, he never told David about it! He then had the audacity to give David advice about how to feel about this tragedy. “…let not my lord the king so take it to heart…for Amnon alone is dead.” Goodness gracious!  As appalling as Jonadab’s sudden appearance is here, it might be more appalling that David believes him. I think this is evidence of how paralyzing grief can be. That’s what David heard, now look ahead to…

What David Saw (v34-36)

“But Absalom fled. And the young man who kept the watch lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, many people were coming from the road behind him by the side of the mountain. And Jonadab said to the king, “Behold, the king’s sons have come; as your servant said, so it has come about.” And as soon as he had finished speaking, behold, the king’s sons came and lifted up their voice and wept. And the king also and all his servants wept very bitterly.”

v34 begins by letting us know of Absalom’s flight. Why did he flee? He was likely afraid of the rest of his brothers, of what they’d do to him, or what David might do, so off he goes. After this detail the text quickly returns to David. What Jonadab told him now unfolds before his eyes. All his sons and their servants come around the corner, they meet David and his servants, and they all together weep over what had occurred. The chapter now closes showing where it all stands with a painful ending.

Conclusion: Where It Stands (v37-39)

“But Absalom fled and went to Talmai the son of Ammihud, king of Geshur. And David mourned for his son day after day. So Absalom fled and went to Geshur, and was there three years. And the spirit of the king longed to go out to Absalom, because he was comforted about Amnon, since he was dead.”

Absalom flees to Talmai, his grandfather who’s the king of Geshur (3:3). In other words, he flees out of David’s reach. And he stays there three years. Meanwhile David mourns…for his past, for Tamar, for Amnon, for Absalom, and for the sad state his kingdom is in. The two-year masquerade is now over. Tamar’s dishonor has been avenged and Amnon is dead. We might conclude at this point that all the evil is done and the family can move on, but sadly that’s not the case. The murder of Amnon doesn’t bring a happy ending. In fact, these actions are just the beginning of a whole host of new complications that prepare the way for more tragic events to come.[10]

What are we to say at the end of this chapter? I think I’ll just ask this: as this chapter ends how goes it with your soul? There are all kinds of reactions we could have after witnessing these events. Do you find yourself being pro-Tamar and hate all the men in this chapter? Or do you sympathize with Absalom, and understand the reason underneath why he did what he did? Do you identify with Jonadab, the sneaky trickster who wields everyone around him for his own gain? Or perhaps some of you are just sad, because like David you always feel used and manipulated for everyone else’s agenda and you can’t just seem to get straight yourself. All of these responses are valid from all the mess here in this chapter. Church, David’s kingdom is a mess, isn’t it?

I mentioned earlier that David in this chapter seems to be a weakened and deteriorated shadow of his former self, used by others, and unable to do the right he ought to have done.[11] He remembers the consequence of 12:10, the sword shall never depart his house. The same house that had received such covenant promise in chapter 7, that house now forever has a sword in it. Though it dealt a blow here, the heaviest blow was yet to come when in the fullness of time God sent forth David’s Son who was also David’s Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ. He came from David’s family line and He would also have to face this sword, and face it He did, head on, taking it’s blow in full. All of these folks deserve that sword, Christ didn’t, but He willingly took it. Why? Because the family He came from resembles the family He came for. Sinners. Only in Him do we see perfect justice and perfect grace at the same time.

All the heart responses from this chapter above yearn out for action, for vengeance in different ways, so how goes it with your soul? Christ and Christ alone is the remedy for all that our hearts ache for.

[1] John L. Mackay and J. Gary Millar, ESV Expository Commentary: 1 Samuel-2 Chronicles, ed. Iain M. Duguid, Hamilton Jr James M., and Jay Sklar (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2019), 385.

[2] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary: Joshua to Esther (Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson, 1991) 398.

[3] Henry, 398.

[4] John Woodhouse, 2 Samuel: Your Kingdom Come, ed. R. Kent Hughes (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 352–353.

[5] Mackay and Millar, ESV Expository Commentary, 383.

[6] Mackay and Millar, 383.

[7] John Calvin, quoted in Richard D. Phillips, 2 Samuel (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P & R Publishing, 2018), 261.

[8] Henry, 399.

[9] Mackay and Millar, ESV Expository Commentary, 384.

[10] A. A. Anderson, Word Biblical Commentary Vol. 11, 2 Samuel, First Edition (Waco, Texas: Thomas Nelson Inc, 1989), 181.

[11] Mackay and Millar, ESV Expository Commentary, 385.

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