2 Samuel 18:18
Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale: for he said…
The contrast between ver. 17 and ver. 18 is touching. Absalom, whose three sons (2 Samuel 14:27) were dead, desirous that his name should not therefore die, erected a monument to perpetuate it, probably connecting with it a tomb in which he purposed that his body should lie, and in which possibly he may have placed the remains of his deceased children. But he was buried in another sepulchre, and had another monument reared to his memory. A pit in the forest of Ephraim became his grave, and "a very great heap of stones" his memorial. The contrast appears more marked in the original than in our version. The same Hebrew word is translated "laid" in ver. 17, and "reared" in ver. 18. "They took Absalom ... and raised a very great heap of stones upon him... Absalom in his lifetime had taken and raised up for himself a pillar," etc. The desire to have our name perpetuated is natural, and in some becomes a passion. It is one of the pleasures parents have, that, when they are gone, their children (especially their sons) will keep their names in the memory of men. Failing this, the hope of a tombstone to fulfil in some measure the same purpose may give satisfaction; it is only a very few who can hope for a "pillar" as a monument. But, after all, these are poor memorials, and they may preserve a very undesirable memory of a deceased person. There are better methods of ensuring that we shall not be soon forgotten amongst men, and, at the same time, that the image thus perpetuated shall be both desirable and useful. These methods, moreover, are open to the multitude who cannot hope for either pillar or tombstone to commemorate them, "The righteous shall be in everlasting remembrance" (Psalm 112:6).
I. HOW TO BUILD MONUMENTS TO OUR MEMORY.
1. By eminent piety and holiness. "The memory of the just is blessed; but the name of the wicked shall rot" (Proverbs 10:7).
2. By the faithful discharge of private and public duties.
3. By zeal for the spiritual good of others. Instructing them ourselves. Providing for their instruction. Those who have wealth may erect a house of prayer, which will be a better monument than a pillar. The childless man may thus have spiritual children that shall perpetuate his memory and good influence. Loving work amongst the young is likely to be most successful, both in respect to their good and the long perpetuation of our memory. Our name will be written on their hearts, and repeated by them with gratitude in their conversation and in their thanksgivings to God.
4. By large general benevolence. Devotedness in the relief of suffering and the promotion in other ways of the good of others. Some secure a lasting name by building, enlarging, or endowing hospitals, almshouses, or schools. But little acts of kindness, especially if they become the habit of a life, may secure even a warmer place in the memory and affection of those whom we benefit.
II. THE MONUMENTS THUS ERECTED. It follows from what has been said that these will be:
1. Souls saved or greatly profited.
2. Happiness produced or increased.
3. Grateful remembrance and mention of us. By those we have benefited. By all acquainted with our lives who rightly estimate goodness and benevolence.
4. In the case of some, religious and philanthropic institutions and agencies, which they have founded or greatly strengthened, and with which their names will continue to be associated.
III. THE SUPERIORITY OF SUCH MONUMENTS. In comparison with pillars, etc., erected to our memory.
1. In their nature. Memorials of stone bear no comparison with those written on the hearts, and in the characters and happiness, of men; or indissolubly associated with permanent agencies for their well being.
2. In their fruitfulness. The good done reproduces itself; the memory of the doer, thus perpetuated, more surely excites to imitation of his character and works.
3. In their duration. The less durable of such memorials will outlast any material monument; the spiritual ones will survive the last fires, and be everlasting. To conclude:
1. It is a solemn thing to reflect that shortly all that will.remain of us in this world will be our memorials. We ourselves must soon be gone, be we princes or peasants, rich or poor, learned or ignorant. The only advantage of the rich over the poor is that of more costly monuments. But the choicest monuments may be secured by the poor as well as the rich.
2. The securing for ourselves a lasting name amongst men ought not to be the chief motive, nor one of the chief motives, of our conduct, it should hardly be a motive at all. Of Christian conduct and works, it cannot be a main motive; for a life so produced is not Christian. To act in order to "have glory of men" (Matthew 6:2) after our death differs not in principle from seeking to have such glory now. Had Mary (Matthew 26:6-13) lavished her precious ointment on our Lord in order that she might be memorable to all ages, he would not have commended her. Our chief motives should be love to God and Christ and men, the desire to be approved of God, and to have our names recorded indelibly in the book of life (Philippians 4:3; Revelation 3:5).
3. An enduring name may be obtained by ill-doing as well as by well doing. The name of Judas will last as long as that of Mary, and be perpetuated by the same means. And the memory of a good man's failings may be as enduring as that of his virtues.
4. The grand instance of a Name after death synonymous with all that is great and good in the highest sense and degree, without any admixture of evil, and productive of the highest and most lasting good in others, is that of our blessed Lord. - G.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself a pillar, which is in the king's dale: for he said, I have no son to keep my name in remembrance: and he called the pillar after his own name: and it is called unto this day, Absalom's place.
WEB: Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and reared up for himself the pillar, which is in the king's dale; for he said, "I have no son to keep my name in memory." He called the pillar after his own name; and it is called Absalom's monument, to this day.