“O my son Absalom! My son, my son Absalom! If only I had died instead of you – O Absalom my son, my son.”
Are there words more sorrowful than these in all the Bible?
How many fathers do you know who would cry the same cry over a son whose waywardness cost them their lives?
Probably more than a few. No matter how hardened the man, it is a rare father who can lose a son – even due to the son’s foolishness – without wishing the son’s end had come upon himself instead. I suppose that’s one of the reasons David’s life is so attractive to us: in so many ways, it’s the life of everyman.
What I find here is the contrast between the loss of David’s first son with Bathsheba, and the loss of Absalom. David mourned during the whole illness of Bathsheba’s child, but at the death, stopped mourning altogether. When asked why the abrupt change, David replied: “While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept. I thought, ‘Who knows? The Lord may be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.”
I do not know how advanced David’s understanding of the after-life was, but this much seems certain,: the thought of seeing Absalom again does not seem to cross David’s mind, or if it does, he does not want to go where Absalom has ended up.
We all live in view of death, and death is the great seal to life. Nothing about life can be changed after death. We need to live in such a way that nothing need be changed, and as death closes the door to this life, it opens a door to a new life we can all look forward to. That didn’t happen for Absalom. You can blame his destiny on the inattentiveness of David if you like, but in the end, we are all responsible for our own destiny.