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The Defiling Root of Bitterness

Here is a study I did a week ago at Calvary Chapel Santa Cruz.

Click here to listen:

http://www.billholdridge.com/2 Samuel/2 Samuel 15.mp3

Below are the notes, if you’d like to follow along.

God bless you!

In Christ,

Bill Holdridge


“The Defiling Root of Bitterness”

2 Samuel 15

Calvary Chapel Santa Cruz



When David sinned against the LORD, the prophet Nathan came to him and said “Why have you despised the commandment of the LORD, to do evil in His sight? You have killed Uriah the Hittite with the sword; you have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the people of Ammon. Now therefore, the sword shall never depart from your house, because you have despised Me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the LORD: ‘Behold, I will raise up adversity against you from 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 sun. For you did it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel, before the sun.’” (Samuel 12:9-12)

This discipline upon David and his household began to be fulfilled shortly thereafter.

Amnon, David’s firstborn, raped his ½ sister Tamar. Amnon was the son of Ahinoam the Jezreelitess. Tamar was the daughter of Maacah, and the granddaughter of Talmai, king of Gath. Tamar was the full sister of Absalom.

We can point to three specific reasons for the sin of Amnon in raping Tamar: first was the horrible example of David’s obvious weakness for women (multiple wives, numerous concubines, and his actions re: Bathsheba). Second was the domestic situation brought about by multiple wives … it was chaos. Third was Amnon’s choices, as he would be held accountable for his own sins, and David would be held accountable for his.

Ezekiel 18:2-4 “What do you mean when you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying: ‘The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’? As I live,” says the Lord GOD, “you shall no longer use this proverb in Israel. Behold, all souls are Mine; the soul of the father as well as the soul of the son is Mine; the soul who sins shall die.”

In any case, sin has its consequences, and they can be horrible indeed.

When David heard about the rape of Tamar by Amnon, he was very angry (2 Samuel 13:21). But that’s it. Nothing else happened, and nothing is recorded concerning any discipline or accountability for what Amnon had done.

Leviticus 18:9 The nakedness of your sister, the daughter of your father, or the daughter of your mother, whether born at home or elsewhere, their nakedness you shall not uncover.

Leviticus 18:29 For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

Amnon should have either been judged by the civil magistrates, or by the priests. But David did nothing. He kept things within the family. This inaction on David’s part provoked even more hatred within Absalom’s heart. Not only did he hate Amnon because he’d raped his sister Tamar, but even more so because David did nothing and judgment had not fallen upon Amnon. No consequences for Amnon’s behavior.

Consider Ephesians 6:4 … And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.

Even though it was true that adversity and the sword would come to David’s house, it was also true that David still had responsibility to act as a father, and also as king over Israel.

NOTE: we cannot allow our own imperfections keep us from fulfilling our parental responsibilities. There are no perfect parents.

Why hadn’t David dealt with Amnon? Perhaps he felt that since God had put away his own sin, he should do the same for his son. Or perhaps he felt it was inevitable and unavoidable behavior on Amnon’s part. David deserved these things to happen, so he just accepted it. In either case, it was shortsightedness on David’s part … there would be horrible results in the future, especially within Absalom.

So Absalom waited two whole years, and in an act of revenge had Amnon killed.

Beware of vengeance, and of taking matters into your own hands. Romans 12:19 says “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” Rather, we’re to feed our hungry enemy, and give our thirsty enemy something to drink.

After the murder, Absalom fled to his grandfather on his mother’s side, Talmai king of Geshur (east of the Galilee on the other side of what is now called the Golan Heights). [SEE MAP]

Absalom remained in Geshur for three years until David, upon Joab’s insistence, finally brought Absalom back to Jerusalem.

We saw last week that even though Absalom was back in Jerusalem, David refused to see him. So Absalom returned to his own house (14:24). For two years he was in Jerusalem, without seeing his father even once. He grew upset and impatient over this and forced Joab to arrange a face to face meeting with David. Absalom was ready to be executed if necessary—just end this silence.

The last verse of chapter 14 tells us what happened when David and Absalom saw each other for the first time in five years.

Even though there had been “reconciliation,” seeds of bitterness toward his father had been growing inside of Absalom’s heart for years. David was wrong for not having dealt with Amnon, and for not bringing Absalom back, but so was Absalom for harboring these feelings.

Where does bitterness come from? It grows when we come short of God’s grace … failing to receive God’s grace for ourselves, or failing to extend God’s grace to others.

Hebrews 12:15 …looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled…

A word of strong caution here: beware of bitterness or lack of forgiveness against fathers or mothers. 

I. Absalom’s Cunning Methods Used to Gain Power and Influence (15:1-6)

v. 1- “Absalom provided himself…”

…this was Absalom’s plan, to gain power. He was very unlike David in this regard. Whereas David never lifted a finger of his own to gain power (he waited for God to raise him up), Absalom used both hands!

…Adam Clarke: “Of this man Calmet collects the following character: ‘He was a bold, violent, revengeful, haughty, enterprising, magnificent, eloquent, and popular prince; he was also rich, ambitious, and vain of his personal accomplishments: after the death of Amnon, and his reconciliation to his father, he saw no hindrance in his way to the throne. He despised [his brother] Solomon because of [the meanness of] his birth, and his tender years. He was himself of the blood royal, not only by his father David, but also by his mother Maacah, daughter to Talmai, king of Geshur: and, doubtless, in his own apprehension, of sufficient age, authority, and wisdom, to sustain the weight of government. There was properly now no competitor in his way: Amnon, David’s first-born, was dead. Of Chileab, his second son by Abigail, we hear nothing; and Absalom was the third: see 2 Samuel 3:2-5. He, therefore, seemed to stand nearest to the throne; but his sin was, that he sought it during his father’s life, and endeavored to dethrone him in order to sit in his stead.’

…an excellent book which delves into the hearts of three kings, Saul, David, and Absalom is called A Tale of Three Kings by Gene Edwards.

II. Absalom’s Plan to Take Over the Kingdom (15:7-12)

v. 7- “after forty years”

…Adam Clarke: “There is no doubt that this reading is corrupt, though supported by the commonly printed Vulgate, the Septuagint, and the Chaldee. But the Syriac has [Syriac] arba shanin, FOUR years; the Arabic the same [Arabic] arba shinin, FOUR years; and Josephus has the same; so also the Sixtine edition of the Vulgate, and several MSS. of the same version. Theodoret also reads four, not forty; and most learned men are of opinion that arbaim, FORTY, is an error for arba, FOUR; yet this reading is not supported by any Hebrew MS. yet discovered. But two of those collated by Dr. Kennicott have yom instead of shanah, i.e., forty DAYS, instead of forty YEARS; and this is a reading more likely to be true than that in the commonly received text. We know that Absalom did stay THREE years with his grandfather at Geshur, 2 Samuel 13:38; and this probably was a year after his return: the era, therefore, may be the time of his slaying his brother Amnon; and the four years include the time from his flight till the conspiracy mentioned here.”

v. 8- “Hebron”

…why Hebron?

…it was the first place of David’s rule as king, perhaps a symbolic gesture to give off the idea that he was the true king

…it was out of sight to Jerusalem, 25 miles to the south. He could carry out his plans undetected.

NOTE: beware of power grabs. I’ve seen them even in churches, and they always produce ugly results.

v. 12- “Ahithophel”

…some commentators consider him to have been Bathsheba’s grandfather … which would help explain his actions in defecting from David to Absalom.

ISBE- “Some hold that he was the grandfather of Bathsheba, and make much of this in forming their estimates of him. Does the evidence sustain this view? In the latter half of the list of David’s mighty men, not among the older veterans with whom the list begins, appears ‘Eliam the son of Ahithophel the Gilonite’ (2 Samuel 23:34), the corresponding name in the other copy of the list being ‘Ahijah the Pelonite’ (1 Chronicles 11:36). It is assumed that this is the same Eliam who was father to Bathsheba (2 Samuel 11:3). Apparently the Chronicler testifies (1Ch_3:5) that the mother of Solomon was ‘Bath-shua the daughter of Ammiel.’ Bathshua may easily be a variant of Bathsheba, and the names Eliam and Ammiel are made up of the same parts, only in reversed order. It is not strange that men have inferred that the son of Ahithophel was the father of Bathsheba.”

…this would be very difficult for David … Ahithophel was his old familiar friend

Psalms 41:9 Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.

Psalms 55:12-14 For it is not an enemy who reproaches me; then I could bear it. Nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me; then I could hide from him. But it was you, a man my equal, my companion and my acquaintance. We took sweet counsel together, and walked to the house of God in the throng.

NOTE: this pictures the betrayal of Jesus by Judas

v. 12- “offered sacrifices”

…no temple in Hebron, this was totally out of God’s will (as was everything else in his life)

III. David Flees from Absalom (15:13-23)

v. 14- “let us flee”

…why didn’t David stay and defend himself? It would appear that he sees all of this as having come from the hand of God … something he deserved.

v. 23- “crossed over the Brook Kidron”

…as Jesus did over 1,000 years later

IV. The Ark Is Returned to Jerusalem (15:24-31)

v. 25- “carry the ark of God back into the city”

…the ark in Jerusalem would allow God’s people to continue to worship; David did not want to prevent that from happening. It was not all about David, but about the Lord.

V. Hushai Is Returned to the City (15:32-37)

v. 32- “where he worshiped God”

…he worshiped in the midst of some of his greatest pain; perhaps his worship was similar to Job’s:

Job 1:20-21 Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped. And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD.”


David the king (arguably the greatest that ever lived), a worshiper, an able general, a brave soldier, a poet of the most sublime genius and character, a prophet of the Most High God, and the deliverer of his country, driven from his dominions by his own son, abandoned by his fickle people, and for a time even by his God!

Yet even he went through a horrible time such as this … part of it was just due to his sin with Bathsheba and Uriah, and part of it the result of David’s inaction and unwillingness to deal with matters in his own family and to defend himself against his own son.

But the Lord brought him back eventually. His latter years would prove to be fruitful ones, as he prepared his son to rule and prepared the plans and materials for the temple to be built.

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