What Solomon says of the beginning of strife is as true of the beginning of all sin, it is as the letting forth of water; when once the flood-gates are plucked up, an inundation follows; one mischief begets another, and it is hard to say what shall be in the end thereof.
I. We are here told how David resented the tidings of Amnon’s sin: He was very wroth, 2 Sam. 13:21. So he had reason to be, that his own son should do such a wicked thing and draw him to be accessory to it. It would be a reproach to him for not giving him a better education; it would be a blot upon his family, the ruin of his daughter, a bad example to his kingdom, and a wrong to his son’s soul. But was it enough for him to be angry? He ought to have punished his son for it, and have put him to open shame; both as a father and as a king he had power to do it. But the LXX. here adds these words: But he saddened not the spirit of his son Amnon, because he loved him, because he was his first-born. He fell into Eli’s error, whose sons made themselves vile, and he frowned not on them. If Amnon was dear to him, his punishing him would have been so much the greater punishment to himself for his own uncleanness. But he cannot bear the shame those must submit to who correct that in others which they are conscious of in themselves, and therefore his anger must serve instead of his justice; and this hardens sinners, Eccl. 8:11.
II. How Absalom resented it. He resolves already to do the part of a judge in Israel; and, since his father will not punish Amnon, he will, from a principle, not of justice or zeal for virtue, but of revenge, because he reckons himself affronted in the abuse done to his sister. Their mother was daughter to a heathen prince (2 Sam. 3:3), which perhaps they were upbraided with sometimes by their brethren, as children of a stranger. As such a one Absalom thought his sister was now treated; and, if Amnon thought her fit to be made his harlot, he would think him fit to be made his slave. This enraged him, and nothing less than the blood of Amnon will quench his rage. Here we have,
1. The design conceived: Absalom hated Amnon (2 Sam. 13:22), and he that hateth his brother is a murderer already, and, like Cain, is of that wicked one, 1 John 3:12, 15. Absalom’s hatred of his brother’s crime would have been commendable, and he might justly have prosecuted him for it by a due course of law, for example to others, and the making of some compensation to his injured sister; but to hate his person, and design his death by assassination, was to put a great affront upon God, by offering to repair the breach of his seventh commandment by the violation of his sixth, as if they were not all alike sacred. But he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill, Jas. 2:11.
2. The design concealed. He said nothing to Amnon of this matter, either good or bad, appeared as if he did not know it, and maintained towards him his usual civility, only waiting for a fair opportunity to do him a mischief. That malice is the worst, (1.) Which is hidden closely, and has no vent given to it. If Absalom had reasoned the matter with Amnon, he might have convinced him of his sin and brought him to repentance; but, saying nothing, Amnon’s heart was hardened, and his own more and more embittered against him; therefore rebuking our neighbour is opposed to hating him in our hearts, Lev. 19:17. Let passion have vent and it will spend itself. (2.) Which is gilded over with a show of friendship; so Absalom’s was, his words smoother than butter but war in his heart. See Prov. 26:26. (3.) Which is harboured long. Two full years Absalom nursed this root of bitterness, 2 Sam. 13:24. It may be, at first, he did not intend to kill his brother (for, if he had, he might have had as fair an opportunity to do it as he had at last), and only waited for an occasion to disgrace him or do him some other mischief; but in time his hat 3b77 red ripened to this, that he would be no less than the death of him. If the sun going down once upon the wrath gives such place to the devil (as is intimated, Eph. 4:26, 27), what would the sunsets of two full years do?
3. The design laid. (1.) Absalom has a feast at his house in the country, as Nabal had, on occasion of his sheep-shearing, 2 Sam. 13:23. Attentive as Absalom was to his person (2 Sam. 14:26), and as high as he looked, he knew the state of his flocks and looked well to his herds. Those who have no other care about their estates in the country than how to spend them in the town take a ready way to see the end of them. When Absalom had sheep-shearers he would himself be with them. (2.) To this feast he invites the king his father, and all the princes of the blood (2 Sam. 13:24), not only that he might have this opportunity to pay his respects to them, but that he might make himself the more respected among his neighbours. Those that are akin to great folks are apt to value themselves too much on their kindred. (3.) The king would not go himself, because he would not put him to the expense of his entertainment, 2 Sam. 13:25. It seems Absalom had an estate in his own hands, on which he lived like himself; the king had given it to him, but would have him to be a good husband of it: in both these he is an example to parents, when their children have grown up, to give them a competency to live upon, according to their rank, and then to take care that they do not live above it, especially that they be no way accessory to their doing so. It is prudent for young house-keepers to begin as they can hold out, and not to spend the wool upon the shearing of it. (4.) Absalom got leave for Amnon, and all the rest of the king’s sons, to come and grace his table in the country, 2 Sam. 13:26, 27. Absalom had so effectually concealed his enmity to Amnon that David saw no reason to suspect any design upon him in that particular invitation: “Let my brother Amnon go;” but this would make the stroke more cutting to David that he was himself drawn in to consent to that which gave the opportunity for it, as before, 2 Sam. 13:7. It seems, David’s sons, though grown up, continued to pay such a deference to their father as not to go such a small journey as this without leave. Thus ought children, even when they have become men and women, to honour their parents, consult them, and do nothing material without their consent, much less against their mind.
4. The design executed, 2 Sam. 13:28, 29. (1.) Absalom’s entertainment was very plentiful; for he resolves that they shall all be merry with wine, at least concludes that Amnon will be so, for he knew that he was apt to drink to excess. But, (2.) The orders he gave to his servants concerning Amnon, that they should mingle his blood with his wine, were very barbarous. Had he challenged him, and, in reliance upon the goodness of his cause and the justice of God, fought him himself, though that would have been bad enough, yet it would have been more honourable and excusable (our ancient law, in some cases, allowed trial by battle); but to murder him, as he did, was to copy Cain’s example, only that the reason made a difference: Abel was slain for his righteousness, Amnon for his wickedness. Observe the aggravations of this sin:—[1.] He would have Amnon slain when his heart was merry with wine, and he was consequently least apprehensive of danger, least able to resist it, and also least fit to go out of the world; as if his malice aimed to destroy both soul and body, not giving him time to say, Lord, have mercy upon me. What a dreadful surprise hath death been to many, whose hearts have been overcharged with surfeiting and drunkenness! [2.] His servants must be employed to do it, and so involved in the guilt. He was to give the word of command—Smite Amnon; and then they, in obedience to him, and, upon presumption that his authority would bear them out, must kill him. What an impious defiance does he bid to the divine law, when, though the command of God is express, Thou shalt not kill, he bids them kill Amnon, with this warrant, “Have not I commanded you? That is enough. Be courageous, and fear neither God nor man.” Those servants are ill taught who obey their masters in contradiction to God, and those are wicked masters who have taught them to do so. Those are too obsequious that will damn their souls to please their masters, whose big words cannot secure them from God’s wrath. Masters must always command their servants as those that know they also have a Master in heaven. [3.] He did it in the presence of all the king’s sons, of whom it is said (2 Sam. 8:18) that they were chief rulers; so that it was an affront to public justice which they had the administration of, and to the king his father whom they represented, and a contempt of that sword which should have been a terror to his evil deeds, while his evil deeds, on the contrary, were a terror to those that bore it. [4.] There is reason to suspect that Absalom did this, not only to revenge his sister’s quarrel, but to make way for himself to the throne, which he was ambitious of, and which he would stand fair for if Amnon the eldest son was taken off. When the word of command was given Absalom’s servants failed not to execute it, being buoyed up with an opinion that their master, being now next heir to the crown (for Chileab was dead, as bishop Patrick thinks), would save them from harm. Now the threatened sword is drawn in David’s house which should not depart from it. First, His eldest son falls by it, himself being, by his wickedness, the cause of it, and his father, by his connivance, accessory to it. Secondly, All his sons flee from it, and come home in terror, not knowing how far their brother Absalom’s bloody design might extend. See what mischief sin makes in families.