Rev. Dr. Niveen Ibrahim Sarras
2 Samuel 18—Absalom and David
August 8, 2021
It's difficult to say exactly when the first tear bottles came into being, however, we can be certain that the legends began in antiquity. The Old Testament of the Bible references collecting tears in a bottle in Psalm 56:8 when David prays to God, "You have kept count of my tossings;
put my tears in your bottle.
Are they not in your record?
Tear bottles were fairly common in Roman times, around the time of Christ, when mourners filled small glass bottles or cups with tears and placed them in burial tombs as symbols of respect. Sometimes women were even paid to cry into these vessels, as they walked along the mourning procession. Those crying the loudest and producing the most tears received the most compensation, or so the legend goes. The more anguish and tears produced, the more important and valued the deceased person was perceived to be.
Tear bottles reappeared during the Victorian period of the 19th century, when those mourning the loss of loved ones would collect their tears in bottles with special stoppers that allowed the tears to evaporate. When the tears had evaporated, the mourning period would end.
In some American Civil War stories, women were said to have cried into tear bottles and saved them until their husbands returned from battle. Their collected tears would show the men how much they were adored and missed.
David sheds tears over the death of his son, Absalom, who plots a coup and tries to overthrow him. Absalom betrayed his father, David, and stabbed him in the back. It is highly possible that Absalom sought revenge against his father, David because he did not take an action against Amnon, who raped his half-sister, Tamar. The scripture tells us that when Absalom kills Amnon in revenge for his sister, David banishes him for three years, but his cousin Joab reconciles him to David. Absalom hides his anger until he declares himself a king in Hebron. He gathers men to fight David, but the rebellion is defeated, and Absalom is killed.
Absalom's betrayal leaves David in shock, anger, hurt, and disappointment. Despite Absalom's betrayal, David feels undone at hearing the news of his death. His fatherly love moves him to seek Absalom's safety. So, he orders his military officers not to harm him (v. 5). David must have hope to reconcile with Absalom again. The bad news comes to David about the death of Absalom breaks his heart. David expresses agony over his death. His parental grief is expressed in intense sadness and pain. I believe that while David is grieving Absalom, he remembers his sin against Bathsheba and the prophet Nathan's prophecy that a member of his family would rebel against him (2 Sam. 12:11).
The scripture tells us that Joab does not give David enough time to mourn Absalom. He threatens to take David's kingdom if he continues to grieve. As a commander of David's army and his nephew (1 Chronicle 2:15-16), Joab was close to his uncle David. Joab represents those in charge to protect us from harm but instead harm us. Joab also represents a dear relative who betrays you. David hired Joab to do his dirty work. For example, Joab follows David's order to put Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba, on the frontlines to die. David trusts Joab to lead his army and to fight his enemies, even his son Absalom. Joab hears David ordering him not to harm Absalom, but Joab allows his armor-bearers to kill him. On the brink of death, David advised his son Solomon to kill Joab because his hands are covered with innocent people blood (1 Kings 2:5-6).
What a troubling story! David's son, Absalom, and nephew, Joab, betray him and left him in utter devastation.
As parents, you grieve when your children hurt and betray you or even when they get themselves in trouble. You might shed tears or not get enough sleep, or you might find yourself fighting depression and anxiety. As parents, you always hope to reconcile with your rebellious child. I do not think that any of you wish to harm your rebellious children, but you always hope that they will acknowledge their sins, repent, and reconcile with you.
When you grieve because of your rebellious child or a relative, I assure you that God sympathizes with your pain. The psalmist says, "God is close to brokenhearted" (Psalm 34:18). God cries when we rebel against God and follow our desires and immature wisdom. However, God rejoices when we repent. Imagine how many times we grieved Jesus' heart and made him shed tears because of our rebellion. All of us are like Absalom. Many of us are tempted to overthrow our heavenly Father and King and take over God's place to lead our lives and the world. We become very proud and arrogant by trusting in our immature wisdom and trusting ungodly friends rather than God.
King David wailed, saying, "O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!" David was unable to die instead of his son. All the power and wealth he enjoyed did not prevent the death of Absalom or resurrect him from death. Like David, God cries loudly over our sinful life, "O my son and daughter, my son, my son, O my daughter, my daughter! I will die instead of you, O my son, O my daughter!" Unlike King David, God the Son, Jesus Christ, volunteered to die for us, covered our sins, and reconciled us with God the Father.
Even though we act like Absalom, we have a better chance than him. We have an opportunity to repent through the Holy Spirit that leads us to repentance and our Lord Jesus Christ, who reconciled us to God the Father. Remember, my friends; God will always give you a chance when you sincerely repent. Also, remember Exodus 34:6-7 " 6 And he [God] passed in front of Moses, proclaiming, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, 7 maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.”