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2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33 - A head caught between heaven and earth

Updated: Aug 6, 2021

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The king, David, ordered Joab and Abishai and Ittai, saying, “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” And all the people heard when the king gave orders to all the commanders concerning Absalom. So the army went out into the field against Israel; and the battle was fought in the forest of Ephraim. The men of Israel were defeated there by the servants of David, and the slaughter there was great on that day, twenty thousand men. The battle spread over the face of all the country; and the forest claimed more victims that day than the sword. Absalom happened to meet the servants of David.

Absalom was riding on his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak. His head caught fast in the oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.

And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him, and killed him.

Then the Cushite came; and the Cushite said, “Good tidings for my lord the king! For the Lord has vindicated you this day, delivering you from the power of all who rose up against you.” The king said to the Cushite, “Is it well with the young man Absalom?” The Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up to do you harm, be like that young man.”

The king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said, “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”


This is the Track 1 Old Testament optional reading for the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost [Proper 14], Year B, according to the lectionary for the Episcopal Church. If chosen, this will be accompanied by a reading from Psalm 130, which sings, “Out of the depths have I called to you Yahweh; adonay hear my voice; let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.” Those will be followed by the Epistle reading from Ephesians, where Paul wrote, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” All will accompany the Gospel reading from John, where Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets.”

I wrote about this and published my thoughts in 2018. That commentary can be found here. I offer background insight, which is valuable; but I see how my view of David and the division of Israel was not properly presented. I will offer new insights that have come to me recently, leaving the insights of 2018 as still valid. I welcome all readers to read what I offered for consumption three years ago.

Last Sunday Yahweh spoke through Nathan, who told David, “I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun.” All of this would come to be through David’s third son, Absalom, whose mother was Maacah, the daughter of the King of Geshur.

This is the meaning of those names:

Absalom means “King of Peace.”

Maacah means “Oppression,” “Squeezed,” or “Crushed.”

Geshur means “Stronghold” or “Fortress.”

Talmai [the name of the father of Maacah, King of Geshur] means “Plowman” or


There is some report of Jewish insight, which says David was cursed by taking a non-Jewish wife, when he married Maacah. They use symbolism that says one bad deed brings about another; and, they equate David’s plight to this marriage out of his ‘race-religion,’ which did not exist at that time [i.e.: that opinion is hogwash]. The marriage between David and Maacah must be seen as led by Yahweh, for a specific purpose. That purpose was broken when David sinned. Therefore, one punishment would be the loss of a wife, with her given to David’s neighbor.

Geshur means “Stronghold,” which was the place taken by David, named Jebus. The land that was called Geshur is that area east of the Sea of Galilee, which was where Jesus fed the five thousand spiritual food. The name of the king’s daughter being Maacah should be seen as a word meaning to crush grapes, in order to make wine. Her name should not be seen as a slave captured by David taking a conquest, as the Geshurites were like the Jebusites, as peoples never able to be overcome by the people of the Tribe of Manasseh. Thus, the King of Geshur gave his daughter to David to unite the Israelites to the Geshurites, it was a symbolic marriage between soul and Spirit, as the metaphor of David being an elohim of Yahweh. Maacah represented the blood of the Spirit mixed with the blood of David in their offspring. The third child of that marriage was named for David, as he was then a “King Of Peace.”

When Nathan spoke for Yahweh, saying, “I will take your wives,” the removal of Maacah becomes a divorce that ceased that divine union that made David a judge of Israel and Judah, reducing him to just a man. The trouble that befell his house would destroy all his children of that divine marriage.

In the story of Absalom, he declared that he should become the judge of Israel. That says David was the judge sent by Yahweh, who the people of Israel and Judah chose to be their king. As the judge of the people, the people followed the divinity of the judge. When David sinned and was punished by Yahweh, that divinity as the judge of Israel vanished. With that, so did the divine influence over the hearts and souls of the people. That led Absalom to begin natural human lusts for power and influence; and, that human drive won him the hearts and souls of both Israel and Judah. It was so strong that David was forced to abandon his kingdom.

David went back to where he lived, when Saul was trying to kill him. Absalom is then symbolic of a fallen king of Israel being resurrected. That failure would be the way of Israel and Judah, until both collapsed in ruin. David found his closest allies with him in Gath. It was Gath where David went and preached the divinity of Yahweh to the Philistines, so two hundred soldiers willingly converted to faith in Yahweh and allowed themselves to be circumcised. David took their foreskins to Saul, claiming his right to royalty, which came through his marriage to Michal [the promised benefit of the foreskins being delivered]. While David had followers who knew his soul was still filled with Yahweh’s Spirit, there were those who were allied to David because of hatred for Absalom.

Because Yahweh was still spiritually with David, with David knowing his kingdom was doomed, Yahweh would not allow a return to a Saul-like ruler. The symbolism of Absalom being caught in the branches of “a tenebenth” tree [“hā·’ê·lāh,” or “elah”], which is not truly an “oak tree,” but more like a “turpentine tree.”

The metaphor from reading, “His head caught fast in the tenebenth, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth,” says the “branches” of Israel’s paths would not allow the “head” of a fool-sinner overrun one anointed by Samuel, married divinely to Yahweh. Absalom became “suspended between heaven and earth” as a pretender to the throne. His rise was not fully to the top; and, his fall was not fully to the bottom. Absalom becomes the Song of the Bow revisited, while being an example that all who live by the sword will die by the sword, in the sense that Yahweh said through Nathan that Uriah was killed by the “swords of Ammon,” so too would sword would cut David’s house. Absalom becomes a reflection of the “sword” of battle between enemies.

Th element of armor bearers being the ones depicted in this ‘cut and paste’ reading as the killers of Absalom needs to be seen as a reflection of David having been of the same age when he slew Goliath. This makes Absalom the reflection of the true line of David having become an ugly monster that then hung from the branches of the Promised Land. That turpentine tree becomes metaphor for the vast number of peoples, all who sought to destroy the invading Israelites, so Absalom became the giant that was the tree, whose head hanging was like the head of Goliath, where David’s stone sunk in. The young boys did not throw the three spears or javelins into the chest of Absalom; but they finished him off, much like the bodies of Saul and his son Jonathan [and another] were mutilated after death.

David gave a clear instruction about the defeat of Israel’s army under the lead of Absalom, saying: “Deal gently for my sake with the young man Absalom.” The reality of what David said [“lə·’aṭ-lî lan·na·‘ar lə·’aḇ·šā·lō·wm”] is this: “gentleness of me is in this young man Absalom.” That is David explaining the “Father of Peace” was built into the name of Absalom, as he was born of David when his soul-flesh was at peace with Yahweh and Israel and Judah were divinely led by David. This means what David said metaphorically was, “The gentleness of my soul rests on this young man Absalom.” That said, if Absalom dies, I die with him. It is a prophecy, more than a request to take it easy on Absalom.

The character that is Joab is enigmatic. He always seems to play ‘devil’s advocate,” as he is routinely shown to be behind evil acts, whether necessary or not. Joab is the nephew of David, the son of David’s sister. He would be condemned by David, when David lay on his deathbed, and executed by Solomon; so, he is not a hero figure in Israelite history. Still, Joab becomes a reflection of what Freud called the “Id” and Jung called the “Shadow.” In this way Joab becomes the character David would have been, had he not been married to Yahweh, submitting his soul to the Will of God. By David not condemning Joab much sooner, while having access to the Mind of Yahweh [with appointed prophets to advise him], this says David was no different than his predecessor Saul. By seeing that connection symbolically, Joab killing Absalom with javelins was an act condoned by David.

When David weeps and bemoans the death of Absalom, he is actually crying over his own death as the King of Israel. His plan was to have Absalom take his place, even though Absalom had committed similar crimes as had David. The sorrow David felt for a wicked son says David was no different than was Eli or Samuel, both holy men whose sons were nothing like them. David was not looking at his young son Solomon as his replacement, because he knew Solomon was the product of his wicked self. The death of Absalom was like the death of Jonathan in reverse, as Jonathan was the good son of an evil king.

Solomon would not be a great King of Israel, as the nation would split after his death. The whole element of sons and birthrights and inheritances must be seen as a flawed system, because the only system that leads a soul to eternal life is that when a soul is led to marry Yahweh and submit fully to His Will. All who do that cannot make any other soul do likewise; and, the more likely scenario is the codling of an offspring spoils that soul and drives it away from divine marriage. Thus, no human can ever become a king of anything other than failure.

As a reading for the eleventh Sunday after Pentecost, when one’s own personal ministry to Yahweh should be well underway, the lesson is to see how powerless one is to make things happen in the world. While victories can be planned and arranged, they will never come without some form of loss accompanying the gains. The loss of Absalom must be seen as the part of each self-soul, which is always seen as some form of reserve to self-ego and self-will. This is the symbolism of a Big Brain, as our heads always get tangled up in the branches. The hair of one’s head is then the flowing mane of a king lion – king of the jungle that is a deadly world. If we do not totally release our souls in submission to Yahweh, there will always be a chink in the armor that will be one’s downfall. Absalom reflected the Achilles heel of David, where he thought some gentle form of self could survive. David then reflects the wails over self-sacrifice.

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