“Absalom, Absalom, my son”

Stories from the Old Testament often have a raw quality that may cause us to turn away from them. They may not seem uplifting; too much murder, rape, lies and disloyalty in them, we say.

After the Prophet Nathan accuses David of his sins of murder and adultery, he tells him “the sword shall never depart from your house.” (2 Samuel 12, 10) In our first reading today at Mass the prophet’s message is fulfilled. David’s son Absalom  betrays his father and tries to take his throne. (2 Samuel 15, 13 ff) All that’s said about Absalom points him out as a bad kid.

“An informant came to David with the report, ‘The children of Israel have transferred their loyalty to Absalom.’” David flees from Jerusalem to escape Absalom and his army; he crosses the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives and then heads for the wilderness around the Jordan River for safety.

Jesus came to Jerusalem by that same route, we remember. He also crossed the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives to pray as he faced betrayal and death.

David’s advisors want him to kill his scheming son, but David refuses, because of his deep love for him. He becomes inconsolable when the young man meets a tragic death. “Absalom, Absalom, my son!” His love seems unexplainable.

And so is the love of Jesus, unexplainable.

3 thoughts on ““Absalom, Absalom, my son”

  1. Gail Smyder

    Thanks Fr. Victor, I was going to go to the book of Samuel and refresh my memory on all of this. All this great love is unexplainable in human terms–only in the light of Jesus can we explain it and so we keep our own Faith, Hope and Love alive. You make Scripture alive.


  2. Gloria Ziemienski

    David’s anguished cry for Absalom, even though his son betrayed him, is so
    heartbreaking every time I read this passage in 2 Samuel.
    So true, Fr. Victor: the OT is very difficult reading. Sometimes I skip the OT
    reading for the day if it’s too violent, bloody, cruel, etc. I wish I had your
    insight and knowledge of Scripture; and I’m grateful that you share them with
    your readers and listeners.


  3. vhoagland Post author

    Gloria, One reason we read the Old Testament is for its earthiness and dark edges. The church that follows shares its humanity and contradictions. We’re the same human family whom God calls and saves.


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