Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
2 Samuel 13:1-33. - (JERUSALEM.)1 Samuel 3:13; 1 Kings 1:6) in connection with polygamy (2 Samuel 3:1-5). "This institution is the absolutely irrepressible source of numberless evils of this description. It ever furnishes a ready stimulus to unbounded sensual desire in the sovereign, and, should he be exalted above it, is likely to introduce a dissolute life among the very different children of different mothers, by bringing the pleasures of sense so prominently and so early before their eyes. The subsequent troubles with Amnon, Absalom, and Adonijah were all connected with this fundamental wrong; and on the same thread hung many of the evils which were felt under David's successors" (Ewald). "Having grown up without strict paternal discipline, simply under the care of their different mothers, who were jealous of one another, his sons fancied that they might gratify their own fleshly lusts, and carry out their own ambitious plans" (Keil). Amnon his eldest son (by Ahinoam of Jezreel, whom David married during his exile, 1 Samuel 25:43; and born in Hebron, 2 Samuel 3:2) was now about twenty years of age. "His character and conduct were doubtless affected by the fact that he was the firstborn son, and of a mother apparently not of the noblest birth." In him (regarded as a warning especially to young men) we notice -
I. IMPURE AFFECTION, springing up in the heart, and not repressed, but fondly cherished. His passion was contrary to the Divine Law, not merely because the object of it was his half-sister (ver. 13), but also because of its licentious nature (Matthew 5:28). His subsequent conduct indicates that it was not
"True love, that ever shows itself as clear
II. INWARD MISERY, proceeding from restless passion and fretful discontent at hindrances and restraints in the way of its gratification (ver. 2). It is well that such hindrances and restraints exist (in Divine Law, public opinion, providential circumstances); for they afford opportunity for reflection, conviction of its sinful nature, and the adoption of all proper means whereby it may be overcome. Where it is still cherished, its strength increases and its force is felt more powerfully, as that of a river appears when a rock opposes its progress (Romans 7:7). "There is no peace to the wicked." "Amnon here neglected, indeed, the right means; viz. in time to have resisted his affections and not to have given way unto them; to have given himself to abstinence and some honest exercises which might have occupied his mind; then by some lawful matrimonial love to have overcome his unlawful lust; and to have prayed unto God for grace" (Willet).
III. DELIBERATE DISSIMULATION, displayed in crafty devices, adopted in accordance with evil suggestion, in order to selfish indulgence. He who suffers a sinful desire to reign within him is peculiarly susceptible to temptation, and readily yields to it; sometimes pursues a course of guile, and takes advantage of affection, kindness, and unsuspecting confidence. "The seducer is brother to the murderer." Blinded and infatuated, he resorts to the most subtle and contemptible expedients. And, alas! he too often succeeds.
IV. WILFUL PERSISTENCY in wickedness, notwithstanding the strongest inducements to the contrary (vers. 12, 13). "It is enough to suppose that the king had a dispensing power, which was conceived to cover even extreme cases." When persuasive craft is employed in vain to entice into sin, and the slave of passion meets with another merciful check by the opposition of virtue and piety ("in Israel"), he is driven on to more brutal, though less diabolical methods of accomplishing his base designs. The dishonour done to the highest claims (of God, religion, his people), the disgrace incurred, the misery inflicted, should be sufficient to deter from "foolish and hurtful lusts;" but with him they are of no avail. "The unjust knoweth no shame" (Zephaniah 3:5; Isaiah 26:10). Then one evil passion is replaced by another.
"Sweet love, I see, changing his property,
V. DELUSIVE SECURITY, arising from the persuasion that secret iniquity may escape retribution. The transgressor thinks, perhaps, that it cannot be proved, no one will venture to call him to account for it, and that it is not worse than other crimes that go unpunished. Whatever fears (ver. 21) or suspicions he may at first entertain, are laid asleep by the lapse of time (ver. 23). He is not led to repentance by the long suffering of Heaven, and he heeds not its wrath. But "judgment lingereth not," etc. (2 Peter 2:3).
VI. SUDDEN DESTRUCTION, inflicted by an unexpected hand (vers. 20, 28, 32). Where public law fails to do justice, private hostility finds means to take vengeance. One sin produces another, and is punished by it; craft by craft, violence by violence, hatred by hatred. "The way of trangressors is hard" (Proverbs 13:15; Proverbs 6:15; Proverbs 29:1). - D.
2 Samuel 13:3. - (JERUSALEM.)1 Samuel 18:1-4), of the latter in Amnon and Jonadab (his cousin, a son of Shammah, 1 Samuel 16:9; 2 Samuel 21:21), "one of those characters who in great houses pride themselves on being acquainted and on dealing with all the secrets of the family" (Stanley). In Jonadab, the daily companion of Amnon (ver. 4), we see the kind of friend that should not be chosen.
1. He is distinguished for subtlety, not for virtue and piety. "In the choice of a friend, let him be virtuous; for vice is contagious, and there is no trusting of the sound and the sick together" (Seneca). "Friendship is nothing else but benevolence or charity, under some modifications, viz. that it be in a special manner intense, that it be mutual, and that it be manifest or mutually known. It cannot be but between good men, because an ill man cannot have any true charity, much less such an intense degree of it as is requisite to friendship" (J. Norris, 'Miscellanies'). A companion is sometimes chosen solely for his cleverness and insinuating address; but his superior intelligence (however desirable in itself), unless it be combined with moral excellence, enables him to do all the greater mischief (Jeremiah 4:22).
2. In professing concern for another's welfare he seeks only to serve his own interests; his own pleasure, gain, influence, and advancement (ver. 4). True friendship is disinterested. Jonadab appears to have cared only for himself. Hence (to avoid getting himself into trouble) he gave no warning to others of what he foresaw (ver. 32). "This young man, who probably desired to make himself of some importance as David's nephew, was clever enough to guess the truth from the first; but it is sad to think that his thought and his advice were never founded on anything but a knowledge of the devil in man" (Ewald).
3. When he is acquainted with the secret thoughts of another, he fails to give him faithful counsel. (Ver. 5.) Such acquaintance is often obtained by flattery - "thou a king's son" - and frequent questioning; but it is not followed, in the case of improper desires and purposes, by admonition. "No flatterer can be a true friend." "Had he been a true friend, he had bent all the forces of his dissuasion against the wicked motions of that sinful lust" (Hall). "Faithful are the wounds of a friend."
4. Whilst he devises means for another's gratification, he smoothes his way to destruction. His aim is only to please. He advises what is agreeable, but what is morally wrong; and thus incites to sin; for which, with all its consequences, he is, in part, responsible. "In wise counsel two things must be considered that both the end be good, and the means honest and lawful. Jonadab's counsel failed in both." "The rapacious friend, the insincere friend, the friend who speaks only to please, and he who is a companion in vicious pleasures, - recognizing these four to be false friends, the wise man flies far from them, as he would from a road beset by danger" (Contemporary Review, 27:421). "A companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20; Proverbs 1:10). - D.
I. A KIND OF FRIENDSHIP TO BE ABHORRED AND AVOIDED. At first view the friendship of Jonadab and Amnon seems natural and proper. They were first cousins; Jonadab was a man of intelligence ("subtil," equivalent to "wise," not necessarily "subtle" in the bad sense); he "showed himself friendly" by noticing his friend's doleful appearance and inquiring the cause. Not until we observe the advice he gave, and see how it was accepted and followed, do we discover how base he was, how base they both were. Amnon's vileness appears, indeed, earlier, in his indulgence of a passion for his beautiful half-sister, and that so violent, while so seemingly hopeless, that it affected his health. A case, surely, calling for pity and sympathy! No wonder that his dear friend so feelingly inquired after his health, and employed his subtlety to find a remedy! They must have known each other very well for one to acknowledge so disreputable a cause of his ill looks, and the other to suggest so infamous a restorative. What a real friend would have advised is obvious. He would have urged Amnon, by every consideration of morality and religion, of regard for the honour of his family and nation, the happiness of his father, and the duty he owed to his sister, to conquer his guilty passion. But Amnon knew well that he was in no peril of being troubled with such counsel, or he would not have acknowledged his shameful lust. Observe, too, how utterly this pair of friends, like all their tribe, disregarded the ruin and misery which they were plotting for the innocent Tamar. They seem to have been tolerably sure that the offence would not be thought very serious by "society," and that the law would not be put in force by David. His own sins of a similar kind would give them confidence of impunity. Even after committing the foul crime, Amnon does not seem to have thought it necessary, for the sake either of safety or decency, to retire for at least a time from Jerusalem until the affair had "blown over." What a contrast between this friendship and that of David and Jonathan! Many such friends, alas! are to be found in the world; men who are counselling and aiding and hardening each other in licentiousness, whose delight is to ruin the innocent, and bring dishonour and misery on their families; and who are preparing each other for well-merited damnation. Yet their debauchery is overlooked by "society," especially if they be of high rank, while their victims receive no pity. It would be of little use to address such wretches, even if we could gain access to them. But we may warn young men who have not yet come under their deadly influence, but who may be in danger of doing so. For in all classes of society persons are to be found who, corrupt themselves, delight in corrupting others. Young men coming from the country to great cities, where at present they have no friends, are in peril, not only from prostitutes or sometimes from loose married women, but from men of the class referred to. These will test them by using double entendres, advancing to outspoken ribaldry and freer conversation about sexual indulgences. If discouraged, they will laugh at the "innocence" and "squeamishness" of the youth they would corrupt. If he at all encourage them, they will introduce him to indecent books, or offer themselves as guides to the places where he may safely indulge his passions. To an inexperienced youth, not yet well grounded in Christian principles, such approaches present very powerful temptations. The assault from without meets with auxiliaries within, in the awakening passions themselves, and in a curiosity "to see a little life." The manner in which such temptations are met at the beginning is likely to determine the character of the youth's whole future life. To yield is to be undone; to resist and conquer is to gain new strength for future conflict and victory. Let, then, those who are thus tempted shrink back from their tempter as from a viper. At the first indication of such depravity let them "cut" those who display it,, however related to them by blood, however agreeable as companions (the more agreeable the more dangerous), however able to help them in their worldly career. If their counsel be not followed, yet friendly association with them in any degree must exercise a debasing influence. It may not be possible to avoid them altogether; they may be employed in the same establishment, and indulge themselves in loose language in the hearing of their fellows; but let a loathing of them be cherished, and every practicable effort be made to silence and suppress them.
II. THE SUREST SAFEGUARDS AGAINST SUCH FRIENDSHIP.
1. Close and decided friendship with Christ. Begun early, cultivated diligently by daily communion with him in secret, through devout study of his Word, believing meditation, fervent prayer. Thus the heart will become filled with the purest and noblest affections, leaving no room for the vile; and thus will the youth become "strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might," and "be able to withstand in the evil day" (Ephesians 6:10, 13).
2. Friendship with the best Christians. Union and communion with them in Church fellowship, in Divine ordinances, in Christian work, in social life and its pure enjoyments. Christian people should interest themselves in the young (especially young men from home), and welcome them to their confidence, their friendship, their homes. For the young must have friends; and if there be difficulty in associating with the good, they are in so much greater danger of contenting themselves with the evil or the doubtful. But if they form Christian friendships, these will be as an impassable barrier against the advances of such as would lead them astray.
3. Constant watchfulness and prayer. Against everything that, if indulged, would make the society of the wicked welcome. Guard the heart, for out of it springs the life (Proverbs 4:23). Seek of God a clean heart (Psalm 51:10). Suppress every impure thought and feeling (see Matthew 5:28), and every impulse to utter impure words (Ephesians 4:29; Ephesians 5:3). Let the psalmist's prayers (Psalm 141:3, 4; Psalm 139:23, 24) be yours. Ever cherish the thought, "Thou God scent me" (Genesis 16:13).
4. Consideration of the certain result of following evil counsellors. "A companion of fools shall be destroyed" (Proverbs 13:20). Amnon found it so. Let the young man think, when sinners entice him, "They are inviting me to misery, death, hell!" Finally, it is not only those who are unchaste, and the abettors of unchastity whose close acquaintance and counsel are to be avoided, but the irreligious and immoral in general; all who are "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:4, Revised Version); all who adopt, practice, and tempt to infidelity, sabbath breaking, intemperance, gambling, untruthfulness, dishonesty, or any other form of evil. "Be not deceived: evil company" of any kind "doth corrupt good manners" (1 Corinthians 15:33, Revised Version). - G.W.
1. Purity pursued by licentious desire (ver. 2).
2. Simplicity beset by wily designs (ver. 5).
3. Kindness requited by selfish ingratitude (vers. 9, 10).
4. Confidence exposed to enticing persuasions and perilous temptation (ver. 11).
5. Virtue overpowered by brutal violence (ver. 14).
6. Innocence vilified by guilty aversion (ver. 17). "So fair had she gone forth on what seemed her errand of mercy, so foully had she been driven back" (Edersheim). "Let no one ever expect better treatment from those who are capable of attempting their seduction; but it is better to suffer the greatest wrong than to commit the least sin" (Matthew Henry).
7. Sorrow assuaged by brotherly sympathy (ver. 20).
8. Injury avenged with terrible severity (ver. 28). - D.
in Israel." A similar sentiment as to what is statable and becoming is appealed to in the New Testament. Christians are exhorted to act "as becometh saints" (Ephesians 5:3; Romans 16:2), to "walk worthy of the Lord," "worthy of their vocation," etc. (Colossians 1:10; Ephesians 4:1).
I. THE GROUNDS OF SUCH A SENTIMENT. Why should the people of God regard themselves as under special obligations to live pure and holy lives?
1. The character of their God. "Ye shall be holy, for I am holy" was the language of God to Israel (Leviticus 11:44); and it was repeated to Christians (1 Peter 1:15, 16). The injunction could not have been addressed - cannot now - to the worshippers of other gods.
2. Their own consecration to God. Israel was separated by God from other people to be his own people, devoted to the practice of purity and righteousness (Leviticus 20:24, 26). All their history, laws, and institutions had this for their aim, and were adapted to it. In like manner Christians are "called to be saints" (Romans 1:7), chosen of God, "that they should be holy and without blame before him in love" (Ephesians 1:4). The Son of God is called Jesus, because he came to "save his people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The purpose of his love and self-sacrifice for them is to "redeem them from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a people for his own possession, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:14, Revised Version). This aim is expressed by the rite by which they are consecrated to God and introduced into his kingdom - it is a baptism, a washing from uncleanness. For this they are united into a holy fellowship, with sacred ministries and services, and godly discipline; and all the inspired instructions and admonitions addressed to them, and expounded to them by their teachers, have manifestly the same end and tendency. With all and above all, the Spirit which dwells amongst them and gives life and reality to all their communion, worship, and service, is the Holy Spirit, and his work is to regenerate and sanctify their nature, and produce in them all goodness.
3. The wonders by which they have been redeemed and consecrated. Ancient Israel, by a long succession of supernatural revelations, marvellous miracles, and providential interpositions. The Church of Christ, by the incarnation of the Eternal Word, and all that followed in the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord, and the miraculous bestowment and works of the Holy Ghost. Yea, every true Christian is himself, as such, a product of the Spirit's supernatural power, being "born again," "born of the Spirit" (John 3:3, 6). Thus it is that this "holy nation" is perpetuated in the earth.
4. Their privileges and hopes. "The children of Israel" were "a people near unto God" (Psalm 148:14). He was their "Portion;" they enjoyed his special presence, guidance, government, and defence. In a yet more emphatic sense Christians have God as their God, enjoy constant union and communion with him, and are assured of his love and sympathy, care and protection. Moreover, to them is given, more clearly and fully than to the Old Testament Church, the hope of eternal life. And what is this hope? It is that of seeing God and being like him (1 John 3:2), of becoming "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but...holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27), presented "faultless before the presence of his glory" (Jude 1:24). It is to be admitted into the "New Jerusalem," into which nothing unholy can enter (Revelation 21:27). The condition of realizing this blessedness is purity of heart - that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord" (Matthew 5:8; Hebrews 12:14). it is clear that in such a community nothing unholy "ought to be done," however common elsewhere. Such things are utterly inconsistent with their position, their knowledge, their professions, and their prospects.
II. THE CONDUCT WHICH THIS SENTIMENT CONDEMNS. We need not dwell on gross sensuality, such as that against which the words of the text were first used. They were appropriate then, because the standard of morality "in Israel" was so much higher in respect to such practices than in the surrounding nations. But the respectable part of general society in our time and country recognizes "no such thing" as Amnon proposed as lawful. And as to many other departments of morality, the moral standard of society has been elevated by the influence of Christianity. In using the words, therefore, we do well to think of practices which are permitted or at least thought tightly of by others, but which are nevertheless contrary to the precepts or spirit of our religion. Amongst these may be named:
1. Selfishness. Including covetousness, worldly ambition, illiberality, etc., with the disregard or violation of the claims and rights of others that are allied to them. These are common enough in Christian countries, but ought not to exist amongst Christian people, whose religion is a product of Divine love, whose great Leader and Master is the incarnation of love, who have received numberless precepts enjoining the love of others as of themselves, and have been assured that love is greater than faith and hope (1 Corinthians 13:13), much greater, then, than religious ceremonies, and ecclesiastical forms and observances. Covetousness in particular is closely associated in the New Testament with sensuality, as a vice not even to be named amongst Christians, and is declared to be idolatry (Ephesians 5:3, 5; Colossians 3:5; 1 Corinthians 5:10, 11);
2. Pride. Whether of rank, or wealth, or intellect. Holy Scripture, in both Testaments, abounds in precepts and examples against pride. The Lord Jesus "humbled himself" in becoming man, and in the whole of his life on earth, and frequently enjoined humility on his disciples, and reproved every indication of a proud spirit in them. Common, therefore, as pride is in the world, "no such thing ought to be" in the Church.
3. Similar remarks may be made as to unkindness, the revengeful spirit, the unforgiving spirit, quarrelsomeness, uncharitableness, evil speaking, and the like.
4. To these may be added .frivolity, gaiety - dissipation, a life of mere amusement, with no serious, worthy purpose or pursuit. These are not becoming in those who are enjoined to work out their salvation with fear and trembling; to be sober and vigilant because of the activity of Satan in seeking their destruction; to deny themselves, etc. (Philippians 2:12; 1 Peter 5:8; Luke 9:23).
5. Indifference to the spiritual welfare of others. The gospel brings into prominence the claims which men have upon Christians in this respect. Jesus very solemnly warns against "offending," others, even the least, by doing or saying what would lead them into sin or hinder their salvation (Matthew 18:6, 7). He repeatedly teaches his disciples that he gave them light in order that they might "shine before men," and so lead them to glorify God (Matthew 5:14-16; Mark 4:21, 22). St. Paul commends the Philippians for their "fellowship in furtherance of the gospel," and urges them to "strive" on its behalf (Philippians 1:5, 27, Revised Version). St. Peter enjoins that "as every man hath received the gift," he should use it for the good of others, in teaching and ministering (1 Peter 4:10, 11). And in general, the cause of Christ is committed to his disciples, that they may sustain and extend it both by active service and by pecuniary gifts. To the discharge of this duty by others we owe our own Christian privileges and character. If we disregard it, we display ingratitude, unfaithfulness to our Lord, insensibility to his great love to ourselves. Unconcern as to the salvation of men is natural enough in men of the world, but "no such thing ought to be" found amongst Christians. Finally, in the absence of specific precepts, we may settle many a doubt as to our duty by considering whether the act or habit in question is suitable and becoming in those who profess themselves earnest disciples of Jesus Christ; whether it is in harmony with his spirit and character, and conducive, or at least not hostile, to our spiritual benefit, or that of others. - G.W.
I. WICKED MEN ARE "FOOLS." The term is often used in Holy Scripture as synonymous with "godless," "lawless," "sinful;" especially in the Book of Proverbs, where piety and holiness are designated "wisdom." The folly of sinners appears in that:
1. Their life is opposed to right reason. To wisdom, as recognizable by the intellect and moral sense, and as revealed in the Sacred Word. They reject the guidance of "the only wise God" - the Infinite and All-perfect Wisdom. This is true, not only of gross and brutal sinners like Amnon, but of the most refined and intellectual. Either they know not how to live, or, worse, will not live according to their knowledge. Of many in our day we may use the words of St. Paul (Romans 1:22), "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools."
2. They act contrary to their own well being. They reject the greatest blessings for this life and the next; and choose for themselves degradation, destruction, and misery. They sell their souls for transient gain or pleasure, or surrender them to destruction because they are too proud to learn or to accept salvation as a free gift of God to the undeserving.
3. They are in many instances the subjects of strange and fatal delusions. Believing themselves Christians, though destitute of the most essential characteristics of Christ's true disciples; imagining themselves safe for eternity because of their devotion to ritual observances and dutiful submission to their priests, although they continue in their sins.
II. SUCH FOOLS ARE TO BE FOUND "IN ISRAEL." In the most enlightened communities; in Christian congregations; in the purest Churches.
III. FOOLS "IN ISRAEL" ARE THE WORST TOOLS. The most guilty, the most hopeless of the class. Because of:
1. The light which shines there. Revealing God, truth, duty, sin and holiness, life and death. They "rebel against the light" (Job 24:13), either by ignoring it, or hating and consciously rejecting it.
2. The influences enjoyed there. From the examples of good men; from the institutions and life of the Church; from the presence and operation of the Holy Spirit.
3. The privileges accessible there. The friendship of Christ and Christians; approach with assurance to the throne of grace in prayer for all needful Divine guidance and strength.
4. The convictions produced there. Living "in Israel," it is scarcely possible to escape impressions and convictions which especially bring wisdom within reach, and render continuance in folly and sin the more deplorable. They furnish opportunities of repentance and salvation which, being neglected, greatly increase guilt.
5. The heavier doom incurred there. By those, that is, to whom the advantages there enjoyed become occasions of greater sin. To them belong the "many stripes" (Luke 12:47) and the "sorer punishment" (Hebrews 10:29). Let each of us, then, be concerned not to be "as one of the fools in Israel." - G.W.
1 Samuel 3:13); which must be looked upon as -
I. AN OMISSION OF MANIFEST DUTY. If he had been only a father, he would have been bound to chastise his children for their misbehaviour; but, being also a king, he was under still stronger obligation to punish the guilty. To do this:
1. Properly belonged to the authority delegated to him.
2. Was expressly enjoined in the Divine Law (Leviticus 20:17).
3. Urgently demanded by the sense of justice.
4. Indispensably necessary to the protection of his subjects. "Kings, then, have not absolute power to do in their government what pleases them; their power is limited by God's Word; so that if they strike not where God has commanded to strike, they and their throne are criminal and guilty of the wickedness which abounds upon the face of the earth for lack of punishment" (John Knox).
II. UNWARRANTED BY ADEQUATE REASONS. In Israel (as in Persia and other Eastern countries) the king, as vicegerent of heaven, had a large discretionary power of dispensing with the penalties of the Law; but it behoved him to exercise it without partiality and on sufficient grounds. Although David's omission to punish is not expressly condemned, yet the consequences by which it was followed show that it took place (not, as some have supposed, on "principle," or because it was "impossible" for him to do otherwise, but) without such grounds.
1. The affection of a father. This, however, ought not to have prevented punishment by a father or judge; as it did, being inordinate and blamable, in Eli (1 Samuel 2:22, 30).
2. The rank of the offender; the king's son, his firstborn, heir to the crown. But he was not above the law; nor less guilty than another of inferior position would have been. "God is no respecter of persons."
3. The transgression and forgiveness of the king himself. Nevertheless, whilst both may have exerted a pernicious influence, Amnon was responsible for his own conduct; and David's exemption (only from legal punishment) rested on grounds which did not exist in the case of his ungodly and impenitent son. The king's wrath proves his full conviction of Amnon's guilt and his moral abhorrence of its enormity: his failure to "grieve," or inflict suffering upon him, indicates his own weakness and dereliction of duty. "Punishment is an effort of man to find a more exact relation between sin and suffering than this world affords us. A duty is laid upon us to make this relationship of sin to suffering as real, and as natural, and as exact in proportion as it is possible to be made. This is the moral root of the whole doctrine of punishment. But if the adjustment of pain to vice be the main ground of punishment, it must be admitted that there are other ends which society has in view in its infliction. These secondary elements in punishment appear to be
(1) the reformation of the offender;
(2) the prevention of further offences by the offender;
(3) the repression of offences in others" (Edward Fry, Nineteenth Century, No. 79, p. 524).
III. PRODUCTIVE OF DISASTROUS EFFECTS.
1. It does not appear to have produced any other effect on the offender than to confirm him in recklessness and fancied security. "Punishment connected with sin operates towards reform in two ways:
(1) by the association of ideas - the linking together of that from which our nature shrinks with that from which it ought to shrink, so that the temptation to sin recalls not only the pleasure of sin, but the pain of suffering;
(2) by the shock to the habits of thought and of practice which suffering produces, by the solution of continuity in the man's life which it causes, by the opportunity for reflection and thought which it thus affords" (Lord Justice Fry).
2. On others, also, it was injurious; weakening respect for royal authority and public justice, causing the law to be despised, furnishing grounds for private revenge, leading to further impunity (ver. 39; 2 Samuel 14:24, 33), more daring crimes (2 Samuel 15:7; 2 Samuel 16:21), widespread disaffection and rebellion.
3. On the king himself. Further impairing his personal, moral, kingly energy, and accumulating "sorrow upon sorrow" (vers. 31, 37; 2 Samuel 15:13). It was another link in the chain of painful consequences resulting from his great transgression; naturally, slowly, effectually wrought out under the direction and control of the perfect justice of the supreme King; accomplishing a beneficent end, in purifying his heart, restoring him to God, averting his final condemnation, and teaching, warning, benefiting mankind. "The dark sin of which he had been guilty spoke of a character that had lust its self-control, its truthfulness, its generosity. His penitence was not able to undo all its consequences and to bring back the old energy and life. Over and above its direct results in alienating the hearts of his most trusted counsellors, and placing him at the mercy of a hard taskmaster, that dark hour left behind it the penalty of an enfeebled will, the cowardice of a hidden crime, the remorse which weeps for the past, yet cannot rouse itself to the duties of the present. He leaves the sin of Amnon unpunished in spite of the fearful promise it gave of a reign of brutal passion, 'because he loved him, for he was his firstborn.' Half suspecting, apparently, that Absalom had some scheme for revenging the wrong which he had failed to redress, he has no energy to stop its execution. He shrinks only from being present at a meeting the meaning and issues of which he does not comprehend, and yet dimly fears. When the exaggerated report is brought back that Absalom had slain all his brothers - sure sign, if it had been so, that he was claiming the throne, and marching to it through the blood of his kindred - David's attitude is that of passive, panic stricken submission" (E.H. Plumptre, 'Biblical Studies,' p. 89). Who can say that he sinned with impunity? "Thenceforward the days of his years became full of evil, and if he lived (for the Lord caused death to pass from himself to the child by a vicarious dispensation), it was to be a king, with more than kingly sorrows, but with little of kingly power; to be banished by his son; bearded by his servant; betrayed by his friends; deserted by his people; bereaved of his children; and to feel all, all these bitter griefs, bound, as it were, by a chain of complicated cause and effect, to this one great, original transgression" (Blunt, 'Undesigned Coincidences,' p. 146).
"It often falls, in course of common life,
2 Samuel 13:22-29. - (BAAL-HAZOR.)
1. Third son (Chileab, probably, being dead) of David, by Maacab, daughter of Talmai, King of Geshur; born at Hebron, his name ("father of peace") indicating, perhaps, the hope entertained at his birth (2 Samuel 3:1-5). "The young handsome hero must have been conspicuous among the soldiers of Israel, and taken his place among the sons of David, who were 'chief rulers.'"
2. Hatred (when about eighteen years old) and murder (after two years).
3. Flight to Geshur (ver. 38) and residence there (three years).
4. Return (2 Samuel 14:23, 24) and partial reconciliation (during two years); married about this time, and father of three sons (dying in infancy, 2 Samuel 14:27; 2 Samuel 18:18) and one daughter (Tamar, named after his sister).
6. Conspiracy in Hebron (2 Samuel 15:12, 13).
9. Slain by Joab (2 Samuel 18:9-18). 10. Lamented by David (2 Samuel 18:33; 2 Samuel 19:1-4). Revenge is sinful resentment. It is felt, on account of real or supposed injury, toward the person rather than the conduct of the offender; desires his suffering, not his improvement; and seeks it maliciously, deliberately, and unlawfully. "All pain occasioned to another in consequence of an offence or injury received from him, further than what is calculated to procure reparation or promote the just ends of punishment, is so much revenge" (Paley, 'Mot. Ph.'). It is "a kind of wild justice" (Bacon, 'Essays'). Of the spirit of revenge, which was embodied in Absalom, and too often finds a place in others, observe -
I. ITS SEEMING JUSTIFICATION; for he who indulges it commonly seeks to justify himself therein (2 Samuel 14:32), it may be, on account of:
1. The grievous wrong suffered, directly or in the person of another with whom he is closely connected. The more this is brooded over, the greater it appears and the more it incites to wrath.
2. The natural instinct of anger and retaliation, which is
"Far, far too dear to every mortal breast,
3. The culpable failure of justice, on the part of the civil magistrate, "the minister of God," etc. (Romans 13:4). It may be a temptation to private vengeance; but it does not warrant any one in taking the law into his own hands; whilst by doing so he becomes a breaker of the law and justly liable to its penalty. "The revenge which he took for the foul wrong that his sister had suffered at the hands of Amnon did not shock the men of Israel as it shocks us. To him, by the feeling of all Oriental nations, belonged the special guardianship of her honour; and subtly as the punishment was inflicted, it was nothing more than the monstrous turpitude of the guilt deserved. Had David been true to his kingly calling, instead of passing the crime over with a weak sorrow and a yet weaker leniency, there would have been no occasion for the vengeance which Absalom felt himself bound to take. The two long years of waiting which followed on his revenge, must have been a time in which disappointment, irritation, bitterness against his father, were gaining, slowly but surely, the mastery over him" (Plumptre).
II. ITS SPECIAL CHARACTERISTICS.
1. Enduring and implacable hatred (ver. 23); a malicious purpose formed from the first (as his intimate companion read in his countenance, ver. 32), but concealed that it might be the more effectually accomplished when opportunity served. "A man that studieth revenge keeps his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well" (Bacon).
2. Subtle and deceitful scheming (vers. 24, 26); under pretence of kindness; and taking a base advantage of affection, consideration, and confidence. Ver. 25 is "the first instance history offers of the ruinous cost of royal visits to those who are honoured with them" (Kitto).
3. Pitiless and treacherous cruelty (ver. 28; 2 Samuel 11:13). Another instance of indulgence in intoxication (1 Samuel 25:36, 37; 2 Samuel 11:13). "Absalom calls the execution of this base cruelty in his servants, courage and valour; being indeed but treacherous and cowardly murder; which shows that vices are ofttimes coloured with the name of virtues, as drunkenness is called good fellowship, avarice good husbandry, subtlety to deceive wisdom, and pride magnanimity" (Guild). It is not improbable that he wished to get rid of Amnon as an obstacle in the way to the throne. "The wild acts of Absalom's life may have been to some extent the results of maternal training; they were at least characteristic of the stock from which he sprang" (Smith, 'Dict.'). "From his father he inherited nothing but his regal pride" (Ewald). "He was a man who could scheme deeply, bide his time patiently, and then strike with decision and daring" (D. Macleod).
III. ITS EXCEEDING SINFULNESS.
1. Disbelief in the presence and justice of God, who, though man fails to punish, "will by no means clear the guilty."
4. Fruitfulness in wickedness and crime (1 John 3:15), with all their evil consequences to others and to a man himself (vers. 36, 37). "Absalom fled from man, who only could kill the body; but he could not fly from blood guiltiness and an accusing conscience, nor yet from the hand of God's justice, which did reach him afterwards" (Guild). "It was asked of the sage, 'In what one virtue are all the rest comprised?' 'Patience,' was his answer. 'And in what single vice are all others concentrated?' 'Vindictiveness'" (Rabbi Salomon Ibn Gabirol). "Whereas some may be apt to suspect that the patient bearing of one injury may invite another, I believe it will be found quite otherwise, that the revenging of one injury brings on another; the one is like the withdrawing of fuel or combustible matter, which will soon put out the fire, and the other is continually furnishing fresh fuel, mixed with oil and gunpowder and such inflaming materials as are apt to spread the fire of contention, but not to extinguish it" (J. Blair: 1740).
CONCLUSION. How odious is the spirit of revenge! He who gives way to it might as well cherish a venomous serpent in his bosom. "Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" (Romans 12:21). - D.
2 Samuel 13:30-39. - (JERUSALEM)
I. OFTTIMES PECULIARLY SEVERE.
1. Their misbehaviour. "A 'house cross' is the heaviest of all earthly crosses. The gall which is mingled in our cup by those who are nearest to us surpasses all others in bitterness" (Krummacher).
"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
2. Their misfortune (ver. 19).
3. Their disappointment of his hopes; his consternation, trembling anxieties, exaggerated fears (ver. 30); his bereavement by death (ver. 32) and by enforced exile through crime (ver. 34); his son a fratricide, like Cain, alive yet dead. What a heavy burden of trouble was thus laid upon David! It is not surprising that it was followed by serious and protracted bodily affliction, favourable to the designs of his enemies and conducive to still deeper distress (2 Samuel 15:4, 30), as several psalms seem to indicate (Psalm 38., 39., 41., 55.).
O Jehovah, rebuke me not in thine anger, II. SOMETIMES DUE TO HIS OWN FAULT. 1. His sinful example. Children are more ready to imitate their father's vices than his virtues. 2. His defective discipline. "David's failure in the government of his family was due in part to the excessive, even morbid, tenderness of his feelings towards his children, especially some of them. He may also have thought of his family circle as too exclusively a scene for relaxation and enjoyment; he may have forgotten that even there there is a call for much vigilance and self-denial" (Blaikie). "By this example we see that children whom their parents spare to correct will in the end be a grief unto them" (Wilier). "Chastisement without love is an outrage; no father is at liberty to plague or torture his child; but a love that cannot chastise is no love, and reaps a poor reward. A child that does not at the proper time feel the father's rod becomes at last a rod for his father" (Schlier). "Ofttimes the child whom the father loves most (as David did Amnon) becomes his greatest grief by too much indulgence" (Guild). 3. His culpable clemency in the case of a great crime (ver. 21). Even if David did inflict some punishment on Amnon, as it has been supposed (Chandler), yet it was altogether inadequate to the offence. The sorrows of a father over the sins and sufferings of his children are intensified by the knowledge that they are, in some degree, the result of his own errors and transgressions. "A parent can have no sharper pang than the sight of his own sin reappearing in his child. David saw the ghastly reflection of his unbridled passion in his eldest son's foul crime (and even a gleam of it in his unhappy daughter) and of his murderous craft in his second son's bloody revenge" (Maclaren). III. NOT WITHOUT MERCIFUL ALLEVIATION. 1. The occasion of trouble is less calamitous than it might have been; less than it was feared to be (ver. 32). 2. Grief is assuaged by the lapse of time (vers. 37, 38). 6. Their purpose is morally beneficial (Hebrews 12:11). "It may seem strange to say it, but it is most true, that the tears which flow from the eyelids of a man are as needful to the fruitfulness of his heart as the dews which descend from the eyelids of the morning are to the thirsty ground" (E. Irving). - D.
II. SOMETIMES DUE TO HIS OWN FAULT.
1. His sinful example. Children are more ready to imitate their father's vices than his virtues.
2. His defective discipline. "David's failure in the government of his family was due in part to the excessive, even morbid, tenderness of his feelings towards his children, especially some of them. He may also have thought of his family circle as too exclusively a scene for relaxation and enjoyment; he may have forgotten that even there there is a call for much vigilance and self-denial" (Blaikie). "By this example we see that children whom their parents spare to correct will in the end be a grief unto them" (Wilier). "Chastisement without love is an outrage; no father is at liberty to plague or torture his child; but a love that cannot chastise is no love, and reaps a poor reward. A child that does not at the proper time feel the father's rod becomes at last a rod for his father" (Schlier). "Ofttimes the child whom the father loves most (as David did Amnon) becomes his greatest grief by too much indulgence" (Guild).
3. His culpable clemency in the case of a great crime (ver. 21). Even if David did inflict some punishment on Amnon, as it has been supposed (Chandler), yet it was altogether inadequate to the offence. The sorrows of a father over the sins and sufferings of his children are intensified by the knowledge that they are, in some degree, the result of his own errors and transgressions. "A parent can have no sharper pang than the sight of his own sin reappearing in his child. David saw the ghastly reflection of his unbridled passion in his eldest son's foul crime (and even a gleam of it in his unhappy daughter) and of his murderous craft in his second son's bloody revenge" (Maclaren).
III. NOT WITHOUT MERCIFUL ALLEVIATION.
1. The occasion of trouble is less calamitous than it might have been; less than it was feared to be (ver. 32).
2. Grief is assuaged by the lapse of time (vers. 37, 38).
6. Their purpose is morally beneficial (Hebrews 12:11). "It may seem strange to say it, but it is most true, that the tears which flow from the eyelids of a man are as needful to the fruitfulness of his heart as the dews which descend from the eyelids of the morning are to the thirsty ground" (E. Irving). - D.