19 Word soon reached Joab that the king was weeping and mourning for Absalom.2 As all the people heard of the king’s deep grief for his son, the joy of that day’s victory was turned into deep sadness.3 They crept back into the town that day as though they were ashamed and had deserted in battle.4 The king covered his face with his hands and kept on crying, “O my son Absalom! O Absalom, my son, my son!”
5 Then Joab went to the king’s room and said to him, “We saved your life today and the lives of your sons, your daughters, and your wives and concubines. Yet you act like this, making us feel ashamed of ourselves.6 You seem to love those who hate you and hate those who love you. You have made it clear today that your commanders and troops mean nothing to you. It seems that if Absalom had lived and all of us had died, you would be pleased.
Yesterday you read the story of David and his first wife, Michal. Today you get to hear about the relationship he had (or didn't have) with one of his sons. Absalom was the king's third, whose mother had been the daughter of the king of Gesher. He had a sister, also, a beautiful girl named Tamar.
Years before his death, Absalom's older half-brother, Amnon, who was heir to the thrown, had lured Tamar into his home and brutally raped her, then cast her aside. She sought refuge with her brother, and Absalom convinced her to carry her shame in silence. It didn't stop the King from hearing about it, though. I guess Amnon, the spoiled, devious, creep that he was, had probably bragged about it to all his friends, and certainly to his cousin Jonadab, who had encouraged him to hook up with Tamar in the first place.
One would think that King David, as wise a man of God as he was, would have found some sort of punishment worthy of what he'd done, but he didn't. He didn't like what his first-born had done, but he gave him a free pass on it. That didn't set well with Amnon. In fact, it royally ticked him off, no pun intended. So he bided his time, and two years later, he avenged his sister by murdering her attacker.
Then he fled. He was bannished from the kingdom for three long years before David finally allowed him to return to his home and his family. But he was stripped of his privilege of rank within his fathers court. Eventually David reconciled with his son, at least he thought he did. Apparently David didn't restore Absalom's rank though, because if he had, surely Absalom wouldn't have taken his anger to the next level.
To abbreviate the story a little, Absalom grew in popularity, and eventually decided to de-throne the king. He gathered his own army from among the Israelites who had grown to adore him, and chased his dad out of the kingdom, plotting to kill David and step into his shoes.
You would think that David would see his son as an enemy at that point, but he didn't. To him, that was still his boy. He instructed his own armies not to kill Absalom in battle. But war is war, and Absalom died.
Oh, how David grieved. Even after Absalom had murdered his brother, even after he'd turned much of the kingdom against his father, and even after trying to overthrow the kingdom with attempts on David's life, that was still his kid, and he still loved him, dearly. He wept so hard that as his armies returned, jubilant in their victory, the king's despair made them tuck their tails like naughty pups.
This did infuriate Joab, David's nephew and commander in chief (who had actually participated in the death of Absalom). He took a moment to go into the King's room and chew his butt out for not showing gratitude to his troops.
He accused him of caring more about the scoundrel of a son who'd tried to wipe out his whole family than about the welfare of the family whose lives were saved through the death of Absalom.
Joab's rebuke did bring David out of his gloom, and he did go down to greet the returning troops, and it appears that he set aside his anguish at that point. But Joab was wrong. David deserved time to mourn. In David's heart, he hadn't lost an enemy that day, he'd lost a child. It didn't make him love the rest of his family any less, but a parent just can't cut their child out of his heart, no matter how rebellious the child is.
That's the kind of unconditional love that most parents have for their children. I do wish I could say all parents come by that naturally, but I've seen enough of human nature to know that not all parents have that ability. I think all who love the Lord do, though. Just as our heavenly Father loves us unconditionally, so He teaches us to love our own children.