2 Samuel 14:25
But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty…
This remark, thrown in by the way, has more to do with the main course of the narrative than at first appears. The personal beauty of Absalom accounts in part for the excessive fondness of David for him, for his vanity and ambition, and for his powerful influence over others; and, so far as it consisted in abundance of fine hair, appears to have been the immediate occasion of his miserable end. It may serve us as the starting point of some remarks on beauty of person.
I. ITS WORTH.
1. It is in itself good as a fair work and gift off God. A sober divine (Manton) calls it "a beam of the majesty of God."
2. It is pleasant to look upon.. Beautiful people are so many pictures moving about in society for the innocent gratification of beholders, with this superiority to other pictures, that they are alive and present continual variety.
3. It may be off great advantage to its possessor. It attracts others; makes it easier to secure friends. A comely face and form are an introduction to notice and favour.
4. It may be a power for good to others. In a ruler, a preacher, any leader in society, it is an element of influence. Is not, therefore, to be despised either by its possessor or by others;
II. ITS PERILS.
1. It is apt to excite vanity and pride - themselves the parapets of many sins.
2. When overvalued, it leads to the neglect of higher things - the culture of mind, heart, and character.
3. In children it may awaken in their parents a foolish fondness which hinders parental discipline. (Comp. 1 Kings 1:6.)
4. It attracts flatterers and seducers, and thus often occasions moral ruin. It was Tamar's beauty that kindled Amnon's lust (2 Samuel 13:1). It is a very perilous endowment to young women, especially among the poor.
5. It may lead its possessor to become a tempter of others; and renders his (or her) temptations all the more seductive. Lord Bacon (in his essay 'On Beauty') says, "For the most part it makes a dissolute youth, and an age a little out of countenance; but yet certainly again, if it light well, it maketh virtues shine and vices blush."
III. ITS INFERIORITY. In comparison with mental, moral, and spiritual beauty.
1. In essential nature. The latter belong to a far higher region, are a far more valuable product of the Divine hand. The beauties of holiness are the features of the Divine Father appearing in his children, and manifesting their parentage.
2. In appearance. Moral loveliness is far more beautiful than physical in the sight of God and the good (comp. 1 Samuel 16:7), and it has the power of rendering very plain faces interesting and attractive, if not beautiful.
3. In value to its possessor and to others. Beauty of character is a priceless treasure (1 Peter 3:4), indicating one still more precious - the character itself; it excites the deepest and best kind of admiration and commendation (Proverbs 31:30); and it gives those in whom it appears a power over others for their good which incalculably surpasses the influence of mere beauty of person; and which "adorning the doctrine of God our Saviour" (Titus 2:10) - the chief instrument of good to men - wins for it a readier acceptance.
4. In facility of attainment. Beauty of person, if not a gift of nature, cannot be acquired; but that of the soul can. The Lord Jesus came to earth to make it possible for the ugly and deformed to become lovely; he lives to effect this great transformation. Those who are in him become the subjects of a new creation: "Old things are passed away; all things are become new" (2 Corinthians 5:17). The Holy Ghost adorns the soul with heavenly grace and attractiveness (Galatians 5:22, 23). And when the process is complete on the whole Church of Christ, he will "present it to himself" as his beauteous bride, "a glorious Church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but... holy and without blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). Faith in, and habitual converse with, him who is "altogether lovely," is the way to experience for ourselves this wondrous change. "Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18). Even the body will at length be beautified (Philippians 3:21).
5. In duration. The beauty which is of earth fades and passes away, but that which is of heaven abides evermore. The former may vanish even in youth through the ravages of disease; will almost certainly in afterlife, unless heightened and ripened by sense and goodness; and certainly will turn to corruption after death. But the latter will survive the decay and destruction of all things, and adorn the "Father's house" forever. In conclusion, this subject appeals especially to the young. Let them seek with all their heart the beauty which is spiritual and everlasting; and regard as of small account that which is in itself of little value, and at best of short duration; and which, if separate from moral excellence, is like the beauty of a sepulchre, covering death and corruption. - G.W.
Parallel VersesKJV: But in all Israel there was none to be so much praised as Absalom for his beauty: from the sole of his foot even to the crown of his head there was no blemish in him.